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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 129

Verse 1

Psalms 129:0.

An exhortation to praise God, for saving Israel in their great afflictions. The haters of the church are cursed.

A Song of Degrees.
Title. המעלות שׁיר Shiir hammangaloth.] This psalm is thought to have been written by Ezra, at the return of the Jews from their captivity: and then they that hate Zion, Psa 5:5 may well be supposed to mean the neighbouring nations, who maliciously obstructed the Jews in rebuilding their city.

Verse 3

Psalms 129:3. The ploughers ploughed, &c.— That is, "They reduced us to a state of abject slavery, and used us most cruelly in it. The ploughers ploughed, &c. they scourged us so severely, that the marks remained for a long while after, like the traces of a plough; and in this were represented the sufferings of the Lord Christ, who would meet with the like inhuman treatment." The same idea is continued in the next verse: The cords, rendered by Green the plough cords, mean those with which the yokes were tied. The sense is, "God hath delivered us from the yoke and tyranny of our enemies."

Verse 5

Psalms 129:5. Let them Or, They shall. And so in the next verse, the last clause of which may be rendered, Which withereth before it be plucked up. Mr. Maundrell, on his way from Tripoli to Aleppo, observed a particular method used by the country people in gathering their corn. "They plucked it up by handfuls from the roots, leaving the most fruitful fields as naked as if nothing had ever grown upon them. This was their practice (says he) in all the places of the east that I have seen; and the reason is, that they may lose none of the straw, which is generally very short, and necessary for the subsistence of their cattle, no hay being made here." I mention this, because it seems to give light to this passage of the Psalmist, where there seems a manifest allusion to this custom. Our Bible Translation renders it, afore it groweth up, but in doing so, it differs from most, or all other copies; and here we may truly say, the old is better. There is indeed mention of a mower in the next verse; but then it is such a mower as filleth not his hand; which confirms rather than weakens the former interpretation. See Maundrell's Travels. Mr. Mudge observes, that as the 7th and 8th verses cannot refer to the grass on the house-tops, it is necessary to understand something to which they may refer; as grass, or crop, or harvest, &c. He therefore renders the 7th verse, like that (namely, crop or harvest) wherewith the reaper, &c. See Bishop Lowth's 12th Prelection.

REFLECTIONS.—Afflictions are designed to prove the faith and patience of the saints. We have here,

1. The Psalmist reflecting upon the past distresses of Israel: many a time had they been a prey to Philistines, Ammonites, Egyptians; yea, even now, Israel, after the flesh, lies under its saddest state of captivity. From the days of their being first formed into a people, by their transgressions they often provoked God to leave them for a while under oppression, when ploughers ploughed their backs, and like the furrows of the field they were laid waste and desolate. This may also refer to Christ Jesus, whose name is Israel, Isa 49:3 from the days of youth persecuted and afflicted, and his back with scourges furrowed deep; and with him every member of his body mystical may expect more or less to share.

2. He gratefully acknowledges, They have not prevailed against me; whatever persecutions the church hath suffered, it hath risen fairer for the floods which have passed over it; and every faithful soul, though sore troubled and tempted, by experience is enabled to say, they have not prevailed against me: and the reason is given, the Lord is righteous, hath compassion on his people, is faithful to his promises, and just to avenge their quarrels. He hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked, the cords with which they enslaved his people; or their traces, with which they ploughed up their backs, and their treacherous devices, which are disappointed.

3. He prays that the enemies of Zion, of God's church and people, who hate and persecute them, may be confounded and turned back, withering like grass on the house-top, destitute of moisture, and exposed to the scorching sun, useless and fruitless: the mower filleth not his hand therewith, nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom; thus may all their designs be abortive, and their schemes be frustrated, and never ripen into execution: nor will any pious passenger pray for God's blessing upon them, as was usually done to the reapers, Rth 2:4 but rather curse their habitation, Job 5:3 and beg of God to defeat their malicious contrivances; that their harvest may be a heap in the day of grief, Isaiah 17:11.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 129". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.