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Restore Our Fortunes, O Lord

A Song of Ascents.

1When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

4Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
5Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.


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5. They who sow in tears shall reap in joy. This sentence, in my opinion, ought not less to be extended to the future than understood of the past. The carrying away of the Jews into Babylon was to them as a seed-time; 9494     “Fuit Judteis sun migratio sationis instar.” — Lat. Le tranaport des Juifs en Babvlone leur a este comme un temps de semence ” — Fr God having, by the prophecy of Jeremiah, encouraged them to hope for the harvest. Still, it was not without very great heaviness and anguish of heart that they were dragged into such long continued captivity. It was, as if in the time of dearth the poor husbandman, who already experiences the gnawings of hunger, were compelled to abridge himself of his ordinary food in order to provide for the coming year; and although this is a hard and distressing case, he is yet moved to sow from the hope of the harvest. The Jews then, when led into captivity, were, doubtless, no less sorrowful than he who, in the time of scarcity, casts the precious seed into the ground; but afterwards a joyful harvest followed, when they were delivered; for the Lord restored to them gladness, like that which is experienced in a most abundant increase. 9595     The word then may be prefixed to this verse: then, ie., when thou hast brought back the captives, they that sowed in tears shall reap in joy.” — Cresswell. I, however, also conceive that the Prophet exhorts the faithful to patience in reference to the future. The restoration of the Church was not yet completed, and even, for the two reasons which I have a little before specified, that period was evidently the time of sowing. Although the edict of the king frankly invited the Jews to return, yet only a few of many returned, gradually and fearfully, in small companies. Moreover, those who did so were unkindly and harshly welcomed by their neighbors, and to so much trouble were they subjected that their former bondage appeared equally tolerable. Whence we gather, that they had still to suffer — the full time of harvest, not having yet arrived; and, therefore, the Prophet, not without cause, exhorts them strenuously to labor, and to persevere in the midst of continual difficulties without fainting, until they found themselves placed in more favorable circumstances. With respect to the words, some translate. משך, meshech, a price; and others, a basket or seed vessel. 9696     “משך. This word has been variously interpreted; for as it is found only here and in Job 28:18, its signification is uncertain. In the Syriac we have it rendered by a word which signifies a skin and hence J. D. Michaelis proposes to take משך for a sack made of skin. So Aben Ezra thinks ‘that it is the name of a measure in which there is seed.’ The author of Mendlessohn’s Beor, approves of this comment, and observes, that משך was a small cup made of skin.’ The root is משך, to draw out.’ We should, however, adhere as strictly to the meaning of the root if we render the expression as Gesenius has done, by the drawing of the seed, i.e., the strewing or sowing of the seed. I think, however, Michaelis’s rendering is the best, as fitting with the preceding word גסא; and so we have carrying the sack of seed, at the end of the first hemistich, which corresponds with carrying his sheaves at the end of the second.” — Phillips. On the margin of our English Bible it is “seed-basket.” Street reads, “Bearing the vessel with the seed;” Horsley, “He that goeth, and weeping beareth the seed to be drawn forth; French and Skinner, “Bearing seed for his sowing;” Fry, “Sowing his seed,” observing, that משך expresses the action of casting the seed into the ground; and Walford, “Carrying seed for sowing.” “Literally it is,” says Cresswell, “a drawing forth of seed, i.e., as much as the sower, putting his hand into whatever contained the seed, could take out at once. Amos 9:13.” For the latter translation there is no foundation. Those who translate price quote in support of their version that passage in the book of Job 28:18 “The price of wisdom is above rubies.” But as the verb משך, mashach, from which this noun is derived, signifies to extend or to draw out, it may perhaps, both here and in that other place, be more fitly taken in its proper signification. In the text quoted from Job it is profound wisdom, and not intellectual acuteness, which is commended, and thus the extending of wisdom, that is to say, a continual course of wisdom, is, from its being deeply grounded, better than pearls. In like manner, in the passage before us, the drawing out of the seed is applied to the husbandmen themselves, implying, that they extend and prolong their life when they sow. If, however, the word price is preferred, the sense will be, that when corn is scarce, seed is committed to the ground with tears, because it is precious and costly. This doctrine extends still farther. Our life is, in other parts of Scripture, compared to the seed-time, and as it will often happen that we must sow in tears, it becomes us, lest sorrow should weaken or slacken our diligence, to raise our minds to the hope of the harvest. Besides, let us remember that all the Jews who were carried captives into Babylon did not sow; for as really among them, who had hardened themselves against God and the Prophets, had despised all threatenings, so they lost all hope of returning. Those in whom such despair brooded were consumed in their miseries; but those who were sustained by the promise of God, cherished in their hearts the hope of harvest, although in a time, of extreme scarcity they cast their seed into the ground, as it were, at venture. In order then that joy may succeed our present sorrow, let us learn to apply our minds to the contemplation of the issue which God promises. Thus we shall experience that all true believers have a common interest in this prophecy, That God not only will wipe away tears from their eyes, but that he will also diffuse inconceivable joy through their hearts.




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