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Songs of Ascent- Psalm 129 Hostile farming

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posted on Nov, 5 2021 @ 06:01 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 129

The psalm will be depicting the enemies of Israel as bad farmers.

V1 “Surely they have afflicted me from my youth- Let Israel now say.”
Here Israel speaks as one corporate person, saying “me” instead of “us”. So “from my youth” must be taken as meaning “from the earliest days of Israel’s history”. Because Israel has not been a strong nation, there has always been a “they” who was oppressing her, from the times of the Egyptians.

This first verse gives us the same liturgical opening that was used in Psalm 124. That is, the singers or one of the singers opens up the topic, and the congregation as a whole are invited to add their voices, starting again from the beginning.

“Yet they have not prevailed against me.”
Despite even the Babylonian experience, Israel has not been extinguished.

V3 “The ploughers ploughed upon my back.”
A version of this graphic image was used in Amos, complaining about the kingdom of Damascus; “They have threshed Gilead with threshing sledges of iron” (Amos ch1 v3) Though arguably threshing is a more drastic operation then ploughing, because it breaks things up into smaller pieces.

V4 “The Lord is righteous”.
That is he brings “justice” in the sense that he vindicates and protects his people.

“He has cut the cords of the wicked”.
This is the operation which the old farmers would have recognised as “cutting the traces”. The ploughs are being pulled along by oxen. When the cords are cut, the oxen keep moving but the ploughs stop.

The rest of the psalm is a curse against all those who hate Zion.
May they be put to shame (i.e. defeated and humbled).
May they be turned backward (assuming that they have been coming forwards in attack).

Continuing the “bad farming” theme, the enemies of Israel are compared to a bad crop.
Specifically, the grass that grows on rooftops. Does this happen accidentally in the region, as wind-blown seeds plant themselves in the wind-blown dust on the flat rooves? And were people keeping animals up there overnight?
Anyway, the grass does not prosper, probably because the “soil” is too thin, and the only moisture comes from the occasional rain.
Therefore the reaper and the binder of sheaves could not find there the kind of harvest that they could get from a flourishing field of corn.
Let the enemies of Israel be as weak and useless as that bad crop.

V8 “The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

It is not unusual for a psalm to end with a blessing of some kind.
But this time, by a rather neat literary device, these words are serving a double function.
On the one hand, this verse is continuing the curse against the haters of Zion. In the immediate context. the final words are being quoted as an example of what passers-by will NOT say about the “bad crop” which represents these enemies.

At the same time, on the other hand, these words come in exactly the right place for the usual positive twist and final blessing, and that’s how they will sound in the ears of the congregation. Brilliant.

posted on Nov, 5 2021 @ 06:02 PM

The above are my own independent thoughts on the psalm. Having got that far, I will now open up Weiser’s commentary.

“The HEILSGESCHICHTE [“salvation history”] which the cut community experiences is the repeated emergence of the people from oppression into freedom, from fear and trembling into triumphant joy. And the psalm itself takes the same road from mournful lament to the affirmation of trust and of certainty that God sets a limit to every affliction which he sends, a limit will not be exceeded.”

He asserts, without offering any reason, that the term “those who hate Zion” would not be used of Gentiles. On that basis, he argues that the curse in the second half of the psalm is not being directed against the foreign enemies who are the subject of the first half. Instead, he thinks it applies to other Israelites, perhaps those in the northern kingdom, who are opposed to the Jerusalem cult rather than the worship of Yahweh as such. These are the people from whom the blessing at the end id being withheld.


Hear also what Matthew Henry saith;

Typically, he sees the opening complaint as coming from the church.
“When God permitted them to plough thus, he intended it for his people’s good, that, their fallow ground being thus broken up, he might sow the seeds of his grace upon them and reap a harvest of good fruit from them.”

He applies “cutting cords” not only to the traces used in ploughing, but also to the scourges used by the enemy, and to “the bonds of captivity”.

posted on Nov, 6 2021 @ 01:51 PM
good info
fair amount of agricultural imagery in the Bible.
Jesus spoke of the sower and of course shepherds.
almost everyone in the era would understand such motifs.

there's an obscure one (in Isaiah I think); 'you have sown the wind; you will reap the whirlwind'.

I think they put turf or thatch on their roofs. either one would sprout naturally I think.
they would also put sheaves on the roof to dry. inevitably some seeds would get out.

posted on Nov, 7 2021 @ 06:17 PM
The teaching of men for the word of God.


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