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Psalm 129:5-8

5. All who hate Zion shall be confounded, and turned backward. 6. They shall be as the grass 111111     Fry reads “corn,” “חציר,” says he, “evidently includes corn as well as grass.” of the housetops’, which is withered before it comes forth: 7. With which the mower hath not filled his hand, nor the gleaner his bosom. 112112     In the French version it is “son aisselle;” — “his arm-pit.” 8. Neither have they who pass by said, ­ The blessing of Jehovah be upon you: we bless you in the name of Jehovah. 113113     “Here is an allusion to the custom of blessing; the reapers at their work; as in that instance recorded in the book of Ruth 2:4, ‘And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you; and they answered him, The Lord bless thee.’” — Warner. “Precisely the same customs of salutation which are here indicated still prevail in Mohammedan Asia. Nearly the same form of words, implying the blessing and peace of God, is retained, and the neglect to give the salutation is still an indignity and an insult ” — Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible.


5. All who hate Zion shall be confounded, and tutored backward. Whether we take this as a prayer or a promise, the Prophet has a respect to the time to come. Since all the verbs are in the future tense, it is certainly a very appropriate interpretation to understand him as deriving from times past instruction as to what is to be hoped for in future, even to the end. In whichever way we understand the passage, he declares that the faithful have no reason to be discouraged when they behold their enemies raised on high. The grass which grows upon the house-tops is not, on account of its higher situation, more valuable than the blade of corn which in the low ground is trampled under foot; for although it stands elevated above men’s heads, it is, in the first place, unprofitable; and secondly, it quickly withers away. 114114     “In Judea, the roofs of the houses are flat, and covered with cement. On this the grass would not uncommonly grow: but, being thin and weak, and its situation hot and exposed, it was speedily ‘dried up and withered.’ The same sort of architecture, and the same appearances, are common in the East at this day.” — Warner. The verb, ףלש, shalaph, 115115     שלף differently interpreted. By the greater number of persons it is translated, to extract, to pull out; and thus it is used in Ruth 4:7, 8, and John 20:25, ‘Before any one extracts the grass it withereth.’ The Septuagint has πρὸ τοῦ εκσπασθὢναι, and the Vulgate, ‘priusquam evellatur.’ Our translators have rendered שקדמת שלף, ‘afore it groweth up,’ in which they are supported by Aquila and Symmachus. Theodoret observes that many MSS. of the Septuagint have ἐξανθὢναι for ἐκσπασθὢναι. In either case the sense is, that the haters of Zion shall be exterminated by the just and wonderful judgments of God, before they have time to accomplish their wicked intentions.” — Phillips. “Parkhurst adopts Harmer’s opinion, that the Hebrew verb in this place signifies, ‘to push out, unsheath, as corn its ear.’ It appears nowhere else but in the sense of ‘unsheathing a sword,’ or drawing off a shoe.’ The proper translation seems to be, ‘Which withereth before it unsheaths its ear.’ See Parkhurst on שלף.” — Mant. which we have translate comes forth, is by some rendered, is plucked up. According to this translation the sense is, that without the hand or labor of man the grass on the house-tops is dried up. But as the verb properly signifies to be brought forth, or to come forth, the meaning, in my opinion, is that the grass on the housetops, so far from continuing long in a state of freshness, withers and perishes at its first springing up, because it has no root under it, nor earth to supply it with sap or moisture for its nourishment. Whenever, then, the splendor or greatness of our enemies strikes us with fear, let us bring to our recollection this comparison, that as the grass which grows upon the house-tops, though high, is yet without root, and consequently of brief duration, so these enemies, the nearer they approach the sun by the height of their pride, shall be the sooner consumed by the burning heat, since they have no root, it being humility alone which draws life and vigor from God.

7 With which the mower hath not filled his hand. 116116     “Whereof the mower hath not filled his hand, etc. — i.e., It is too scanty to afford employment for a labourer to gather it by the hand, or for a reaper, who uses a sickle, depositing what he cuts in the fold of his garment, or as Le Clerc understands it, under his left arm. The Psalmist in effect prays, that the enemies of Israel may be reduced to such poverty, that none could become richer by despoiling them: in a word, that they might be altogether despicable. For binding up the sheaves, Hammond suggests, gathereth the handfuls, with reference to the gleaner, Ruth 2:2 ” — Cresswell. We have here an additional confirmation of the truth, that although the wicked mount high or elevate themselves, and form an extravagant opinion of their own importance, yet they continue mere grass, not bringing forth any good fruit, nor reaching a state of ripeness, but swelling only with fresh appearance. To make this obvious, the Psalmist sets them in opposition to fruit-bearing herbs, which in valleys and low grounds produce fruit for men. In fine, he affirms that they deserve to be hated or despised of all, whereas commonly every one in passing by the corn fields blesses them and prays for the harvest? 117117     “Au lieu que chacun communement en passant par les bleds les benit, et prie pour la moisson.” — Fr. Farther, he has borrowed this illustration of his doctrine from the affairs of ordinary life, we are taught that whenever there is a hopeful prospect of a good harvest, we ought to beseech God, whose peculiar province it is to impart fertility to the earth, that he would give full effect to his blessing. And considering that the fruits of the earth are exposed to so many hazards, it is certainly strange that we are not stirred ‘up to engage in the exercise of prayer from the absolute necessity of these to man and beast. Nor does the Psalmist, in speaking of passers by blessing the reapers, speak exclusively of rite children of God, who are truly taught by his word that the fruitfulness of the earth is owing to his goodness; but he also comprehends worldly men in whom the same knowledge is implanted naturally. In conclusion, provided we not only dwell in the Church of the Lord, but also labor to have place among the number of her genuine citizens, we will be able fearlessly to despise all fire might of our enemies; for although they may flourish and have a great outward show for a time, yet they are but barren grass, on which the curse of heaven rests.

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