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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 128

Verse 1

Psalms 128:0.

The sundry blessings which follow them that fear God.

A Song of Degrees.

Title. המעלות שׁיר Shiir hammangaloth.] This psalm is thought to have been written by the author of the preceding one, and to have been used by the Jews as a hymn in their office of matrimony. The subject and occasion of it are the same with those of the former. The two last verses seem to have been spoken by the priest; as probably was the former psalm, and directed to the good man himself, who came at the head of his family to pay his homage and make his offerings. There is a beautiful and gradual rise observable in the blessings which are here promised.

Verse 2

Psalms 128:2. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands That is, provided thou thus fear the Lord: for it is observable, that all these blessings are promised as the reward of a religious conduct, or fearing the Lord. See the REFLECTIONS at the end.

Verse 3

Psalms 128:3. Thy wife shall be, &c.— The author of the Observations remarks, that it does not appear from the accounts of any traveller, that it was ever the custom of the Jews to conduct vines along the sides of their houses. However common this may be among us, it does not appear to be an eastern custom, or to make any part of the verdure with which they set off their courts; I doubt, therefore, the late very ingenious and learned Dr. Doddridge was mistaken in supposing the occasion of our Lord's comparing himself to a vine might be his standing "near a window, or in some court by the side of the house, where the sight of a vine might suggest this beautiful simile;" to which, after referring to the present passage, he adds, "That circumstance was, no doubt, common in Judea, which abounded with the finest grapes;" (see his Family Expositor, vol. 2: p. 475 note b.) and I am apprehensive that this is an additional proof of the necessity of attending to the customs of the east when we would explain the scriptures. The Jewish nation would not have admitted this illustration, had this management been common in the other parts of that country; for, according to their writers, Jerusalem was distinguished from all the other towns of Judea, as by several other peculiarities, so in particular by its having no gardens in it, or any trees, excepting some rose-bushes, which it seems had been customary from the days of the ancient prophets: consequently there could be no vine, in their opinion, about the side of the house in which our Lord was when he spoke these words. But this psalm is no proof, I apprehend, that it was practised any where else in that country; though it has been thus understood by other writers besides this author; and among the rest, by no less considerable persons than Cocceius, Hammond, Patrick, and Rabbi Kimchi. For, as it is evident that the good man's sons being like olive plants about his table, means not that they should be like the olive plants which grew round his table; (it being, I presume, a thought in Bishop Patrick which will not be defended, that the Psalmist refers to a table spread in an arbour composed of young olive trees; for we find no such arbours in the Levant, nor is the tree very fit for such a purpose;) so, in like manner, the first clause must signify, "Thy wife shall be, in the sides or private apartments of thy house, fruitful as a thriving vine:" The place here mentioned—the sides of the house—referring to the wife, not to the vine; as the other—the table—refers to the children, not to the olives. See Observations, p. 103.

REFLECTIONS.—The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction, says Solomon, Proverbs 1:7. They have none of that fear, because they care not for the benefits which attend it. If the wicked could be without fear, they would think themselves happy; but they have the full measure of it, of destroying, distracting, confounding fear, which always comes to pass. The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him; that which he fears most shall befal him; Pro 10:24 whereas the fear of the devout and pious man is comfortable and nourishing, and under God's blessing drives from him, and secures him from all the ill that he fears. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth do I hate; Proverbs 8:13. And whoever through grace hates these as much as he ought to do, need fear nothing else. Love is the natural parent of filial fear, and never was without it. No man ever loved with a very moderate passion, who did not exceedingly fear to offend or displease the object of his love. And truly, if we do not fear God, so as to hate every thing he hates, and love every thing he loves; if we be not afraid of offending him, and jealous lest our addresses and solicitations may not meet with acceptance from him, it must proceed from want of love, which can never be without this filial fear.

We have in this psalm,
1. The truly blessed character. He that feareth the Lord and walketh in his ways, making his will the rule of duty, desiring to be obedient in all things, and fearing nothing so much as to offend him.

2. The happiness promised. In general, all the felicity of God's people shall be the portion of that soul. Happy shalt thou be, and it shalt be well with thee; all needful blessings shall be thine; in particular, (1.) Thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands; he shall have strength to labour, a blessing upon his honest industry, and a heart to enjoy the good things God bestows. (2.) Thy wife shall be as the fruitful vine by the sides of thine house; of earthly blessings this is the chief; a wife that adorns the house of her abode; a keeper at home, as a vine fixed to the walls, leaning for support on him to whom her desire is, and fruitful in those tenderest pledges and cements of connubial love. (3.) Thy children like olive-plants round about thy table, a flourishing offspring, rising by steps like plants of different years; and round a table, which mercy plentifully spreads for their provision. If they but grow up trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified, then shall that father hang over them with delight, and pour forth his warmest benediction upon them. (4.) The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion, the blessing of the basket, the store, and the family are great, but infinitely more valuable are the spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus: those continue but the passing days of time, these endure to the ages of eternity. (5.) Thou shalt see thy children's children, the crown of old age, Proverbs 17:6 a rising generation, transmitting down from age to age, not only the resemblance of the persons, but also the piety of their fathers, who seem still to live in them. (6.) Thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life, national prosperity, and peace upon Israel, or the flourishing state of the church of God, and the abundance of spiritual peace and joy shed abroad upon the assemblies, and in the hearts of the Israel of God. Amen! So be it!

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 128". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.