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Songs of Ascent- Psalm 128- What it means to be blessed

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posted on Oct, 29 2021 @ 05:00 PM
Cards on the table. The Psalms are not really my thing. Even in poetry, I prefer narrative to lyric. So while I’m looking at this group of Psalms, I won’t rely entirely on my own conclusions. I’ll separate out my own observations (in this first post) from what I find in commentaries and add in the later posts..

Psalm 128

This is a carefully constructed psalm on the theme of “blessing”.
God gives a blessing to the living things of the world, and he blesses them by giving them life. All Biblical talk about “blessing” goes back to that fundamental gift.

V1 “Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!”
This defines those who are qualified to receive blessing.
The two halves of the definition have the same basic meaning. “Fearing the Lord” means wanting to walk in bis ways.

The next two verses make the promise of blessing more specific.

V2 “You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands.”
Here is the most basic need. By the labour of his own hands, in the crops and among the herds, a man nurtures his own food.
The usual problem is that he does not “eat the fruit”, because insect or animal or human predators get there first. So the above promise is a very welcome blessing. “You SHALL…”

“You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.”
This really repeats the first half of the verse. “Happy” is in the sense of being “fortunate”. Such a man will prosper, and escape the troubles which might have hindered his livelihood.

“v3 “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.”
This verse combines two metaphors. Apparently the psalmist can’t make up his mind whether the children are grapes or olives.
Actually, they are different kinds of image. “Fruitful vine”, for the wife, is a fertility image. “Olive shoots”, for the children, is probably about appearance. As far as I can gather from pictures, it implies “small and thin but multiple, with promise of future growth”.

V4 repeats the statement of the first verse about fearing the Lord. So the end of this first part returns to the beginning. This is the literary structure which the scholars call “chiastic”.

The second part of the psalm is a prayer that the hearers might be blessed. This is how men “bless” one another; we cannot ourselves give the gifts which are in God’s hand, but we can ask him to give them to others. That is what is really happening when, for example, Isaac “blesses” Jacob and Esau.

V5 “The Lord bless you from Zion!”
“Zion”, here, is the place where God dwells. Almost the “heavenly Jerusalem” of Galatians ch4.

“May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!”
This combines two prayers.
There is a prayer for the community of Jerusalem, that it might prosper, and a prayer for individuals, that they might share in the community’s prosperity.
There is a delicate distinction between “Zion” and “Jerusalem”, one being the dwelling-place of God and the source of the blessing; the other being the dwelling-place of man, and the receiver of the blessing.

V6 “May you see your children’s children!”
Again, this combines two prayers.
There is a prayer for the community, that there might be children’s children, and a prayer for individuals, that they might live long enough to see them.

“Peace be upon Israel!”
This echoes 2The Lord bless you” in v5, so the second half of the psalm also has a chiastic structure.

So this psalm resembles Psalm 126 and Psalm 127 in having two parts, and in expressing concern for the community’s need of children.

edit on 29-10-2021 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 29 2021 @ 05:01 PM
The above are my own independent thoughts on the psalm. Having got that far, I will now open up Weiser’s commentary bought a couple of years ago, discover (probably) a number of insights which haven’t occurred to me, and add them here.

The inner logic of the psalm is based on this thought; “If God is the Lord of life, then his power operates as blessing precisely in those cases in which his ordinances for man’s life are obeyed.”

V2- The man is able to enjoy the fruits of his labours without groaning or breaking down under the burden of them.
He experiences God’s goodness in the knowledge that “all is well with him”.
“For man’s grateful enjoyment of the fruit of his labour links him spiritually with God’s care for him, and this link brings with it a blessing and a joy which do not belong to work as such.” So this verse represents a universal truth and need not be associated with a time when the people were under oppression.

V3 The vine and the olive-tree were themselves both regarded as blessings bestowed upon man by God. So a man’s delight in his family is experienced as joy in God, and the happiness of the family is recognised as God’s blessing.

The message at the end is that the happiness of the nation, like that of individuals, depends on receiving a blessing, which depends on a foundation of fear of God.

posted on Oct, 29 2021 @ 05:02 PM
Hear also what Matthew Henry saith.

In “Thou shalt eat the labour of thy hands”, there is a double promise.
One is that they shall have something to do and the capacity to do it. They shall not be unemployed and forced to live on charity.
The other is that they shall succeed in their employments and enjoy what they get.

The vine (the wife) s a weak and tender plant and needs to be supported and cherished, but it is a very valuable plant.
It is good for parents to have the children round the table and not scattered. They shall be like olive-plants, “straight and green, sucking in the sap of their good education”.

“Thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem as long as thou shalt live, though thou shouldest live long, and shalt not have thy private comforts allayed and embittered by public troubles.”

posted on Oct, 31 2021 @ 02:20 PM

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