Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. A Song of Degrees for Solomon. It was meet that the
builder of the holy house should be remembered by the pilgrims to its sacred
shrine. The title probably indicates that David wrote it for his wise son, in
whom he so greatly rejoiced, and whose name Jedidiah, or "beloved of the Lord",
is introduced into the second verse. The spirit of his name, "Solomon, or
peaceable", breathes through the whole of this most charming song. If Solomon
himself was the author, it comes fitly from him who reared the house of the
Lord. Observe how in each of these songs the heart is fixed upon Jehovah only.
Read the first verses of these Psalms, from Psalm 120 to the present song, and
they run thus: "I cried unto the Lord", "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills",
"Let us go unto the house of the Lord." "Unto thee will I lift up mine eyes",
"If it had not been the Lord", "They that trust in the Lord." "When the Lord
turned again the captivity." The Lord and the Lord alone is thus lauded at each
step of these songs of the ascents. O for a life whose every halting place shall
suggest a new song unto the Lord!
SUBJECT. God's blessing on his people as their one great
necessity and privilege is here spoken of. We are here taught that builders of
houses and cities, systems and fortunes, empires and churches all labour in vain
without the Lord; but under the divine favour they enjoy perfect rest. Sons, who
are in the Hebrew called "builders", are set forth as building up families under
the same divine blessing, to the great honour and happiness of their parents. It
is THE BUILDER'S PSALM. "Every house is builded by some man, but he that built
all things is God", and unto God be praise.
Verse 1. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain
that build it. The word vain is the keynote here, and we hear it ring
out clearly three times. Men desiring to build know that they must labour, and
accordingly they put forth all their skill and strength; but let them remember
that if Jehovah is not with them their designs will prove failures. So was it
with the Babel builders; they said, "Go to, let us build us a city and a tower";
and the Lord returned their words into their own bosoms, saying, "Go to, let us
go down and there confound their language." In vain they toiled, for the Lord's
face was against them. When Solomon resolved to build a house for the Lord,
matters were very different, for all things united under God to aid him in his
great undertaking: even the heathen were at his beck and call that he might
erect a temple for the Lord his God. In the same manner God blessed him in the
erection of his own palace; for this verse evidently refers to all sorts of
house building. Without God we are nothing. Great houses have been erected by
ambitious men; but like the baseless fabric of a vision they have passed away,
and scarce a stone remains to tell where once they stood. The wealthy builder of
a Non such Palace, could he revisit the glimpses of the moon, would be perplexed
to find a relic of his former pride: he laboured in vain, for the place of his
travail knows not a trace of his handiwork. The like may be said of the builders
of castles and abbeys: when the mode of life indicated by these piles ceased to
be endurable by the Lord, the massive walls of ancient architects crumbled into
ruins, and their toil melted like the froth of vanity. Not only do we now spend
our strength for nought without Jehovah, but all who have ever laboured apart
from him come under the same sentence. Trowel and hammer, saw and plane are
instruments of vanity unless the Lord be the Master builder.
Except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in
vain. Around the wall the sentinels pace with constant step; but yet the
city is betrayed unless the alert Watcher is with them. We are not safe because
of watchmen if Jehovah refuses to watch over us. Even if the guards are wakeful,
and do their duty, still the place may be surprised if God be not there. "I, the
Lord, do keep it", is better than an army of sleepless guards. Note that the
Psalmist does not bid the builder cease from labouring, nor suggest that
watchmen should neglect their duty, nor that men should show their trust in God
by doing nothing: nay, he supposes that they will do all that they can do, and
then he forbids their fixing their trust in what they have done, and assures
them that all creature effort will be in vain unless the Creator puts forth his
power, to render second causes effectual. Holy Scripture endorses the order of
Cromwell --"Trust in God, and keep your powder dry": only here the sense is
varied, and we are told that the dried powder will not win the victory unless we
trust in God. Happy is the man who hits the golden mean by so working as to
believe in God, and so believing in God as to work without fear. In Scriptural phrase a dispensation or system is called a
house. Moses was faithful as a servant over all his house; and as long as the
Lord was with that house it stood and prospered; but when he left it, the
builders of it became foolish and their labour was lost. They sought to maintain
the walls of Judaism, but sought in vain: they watched around every ceremony and
tradition, but their care was idle. Of every church, and every system of
religious thought, this is equally true: unless the Lord is in it, and is
honoured by it, the whole structure must sooner or later fall in hopeless ruin.
Much can be done by man; he can both labour and watch; but without the Lord he
has accomplished nothing, and his wakefulness has not warded off evil.
Verse 2. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late,
to eat the bread of sorrows. Because the Lord is mainly to be rested
in, all carking care is mere vanity and vexation of spirit. We are bound to be
diligent, for this the Lord blesses; we ought not to be anxious, for that
dishonours the Lord, and can never secure his favour. Some deny themselves
needful rest; the morning sees them rise before they are rested, the evening
sees them toiling long after the curfew has tolled the knell of parting day.
They threaten to bring themselves into the sleep of death by neglect of the
sleep which refreshes life. Nor is their sleeplessness the only index of their
daily fret; they stint themselves in their meals, they eat the commonest food,
and the smallest possible quantity of it, and what they do swallow is washed
down with the salt tears of grief, for they fear that daily bread will fail
them. Hard earned is their food, scantily rationed, and scarcely ever sweetened,
but perpetually smeared with sorrow; and all because they have no faith in God,
and find no joy except in hoarding up the gold which is their only trust. Not
thus, not thus, would the Lord have his children live. He would have them, as
princes of the blood, lead a happy and restful life. Let them take a fair
measure of rest and a due portion of food, for it is for their health. Of course
the true believer will never be lazy or extravagant; if he should be he will
have to suffer for it; but he will not think it needful or right to be worried
and miserly. Faith brings calm with it, and banishes the disturbers who both by
day and by night murder peace.
"For so he giveth his beloved sleep." Through faith the
Lord makes his chosen ones to rest in him in happy freedom from care. The text
may mean that God gives blessings to his beloved in sleep, even as he gave
Solomon the desire of his heart while he slept. The meaning is much the same:
those whom the Lord loves are delivered from the fret and fume of life, and take
a sweet repose upon the bosom of their Lord. He rests them; blesses them while
resting; blesses them more in resting than others in their moiling and toiling.
God is sure to give the best thing to his beloved, and we here see that he gives
them sleep--that is a laying aside of care, a forgetfulness of need, a quiet
leaving of matters with God: this kind of sleep is better than riches and
honour. Note how Jesus slept amid the hurly burly of a storm at sea. He knew
that he was in his Father's hands, and therefore he was so quiet in spirit that
the billows rocked him to sleep: it would be much oftener the same with us if we
were more like HIM. It is to be hoped that those who built Solomon's temple were
allowed to work at it steadily and joyfully. Surely such a house was not built
by unwilling labourers. One would hope that the workmen were not called upon to
hurry up in the morning nor to protract their labours far into the night; but we
would fain believe that they went on steadily, resting duly, and eating their
bread with joy. So, at least, should the spiritual temple be erected; though,
truth to tell, the workers upon its walls are all too apt to grow cumbered with
much serving, all too ready to forget their Lord, and to dream that the building
is to be done by themselves alone. How much happier might we be if we would but
trust the Lord's house to the Lord of the house! What is far more important, how
much better would our building and watching be done if we would but confide in
the Lord who both builds and keeps his own church!
Verse 3. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD. This
points to another mode of building up a house, namely, by leaving descendants to
keep our name and family alive upon the earth. Without this what is a man's
purpose in accumulating wealth! To what purpose does he build a house if he has
none in his household to hold the house after him? What boots it that he is the
possessor of broad acres if he has no heir? Yet in this matter a main is
powerless without the Lord. The great Napoleon, with all his sinful care on this
point, could not create a dynasty. Hundreds of wealthy persons would give half
their estates if they could hear the cry of a babe born of their own bodies.
Children are a heritage which Jehovah himself must give, or a man will die
childless, and thus his house will be unbuilt. And the fruit of the womb is his reward, or a reward from
God. He gives children, not as a penalty nor as a burden, but as a favour. They
are a token for good if men know how to receive them, and educate them. They are
"doubtful blessings" only because we are doubtful persons. Where society is
rightly ordered children are regarded, not as an incumbrance, but as an
inheritance; and they are received, not with regret, but as a reward. If we are
over crowded in England, and so seem to be embarrassed with too large an
increase, we must remember that the Lord does not order us to remain in this
narrow island, but would have us fill those boundless regions which wait for the
axe and the plough. Yet even here, with all the straits of limited incomes, our
best possessions are our own dear offspring, for whom we bless God every day.
Verse 4. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are
children of the youth. Children born to men in their early days, by
God's blessing become the comfort of their riper years. A man of war is glad of
weapons which may fly where he cannot: good sons are their father's arrows
speeding to hit the mark which their sires aim at. What wonders a good man can
accomplish if he has affectionate children to second his desires, and lend
themselves to his designs! To this end we must have our children in hand while
they are yet children, or they are never likely to be so when they are grown up;
and we must try to point them and straighten them, so as to make arrows of them
in their youth, lest they should prove crooked and unserviceable in after life.
Let the Lord favour us with loyal, obedient, affectionate offspring, and we
shall find in them our best helpers. We shall see them shot forth into life to
our comfort and delight, if we take care from the very beginning that they are
directed to the right point.
Verse 5. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.
Those who have no children bewail the fact; those who have few children see them
soon gone, and the house is silent, and their life has lost a charm; those who
have many gracious children are upon the whole the happiest. Of course a large
number of children means a large number of trials; but when these are met by
faith in the Lord it also means a mass of love, and a multitude of joys. The
writer of this comment gives it as his own observation, that he has seen the
most frequent unhappiness in marriages which are unfruitful; that he has himself
been most grateful for two of the best of sons; but as they have both grown up,
and he has no child at home, he has without a tinge of murmuring, or even
wishing that he were otherwise circumstanced, felt that it might have been a
blessing to have had a more numerous family: he therefore heartily agrees with
the Psalmist's verdict herein expressed. He has known a family in which there
were some twelve daughters and three sons, and he never expects to witness upon
earth greater domestic felicity than fell to the lot of their parents, who
rejoiced in all their children, as the children also rejoiced in their parents
and in one another. When sons and daughters are arrows, it is well to have a
quizzer full of them; but if they are only sticks, knotty and useless, the fewer
of them tim better. While those are blessed whose quiver is full, there is no
reason to doubt that many are blessed who have no quiver at all; for a quiet
life may not need such a warlike weapon. Moreover, a quiver may be small and yet
full; and then the blessing is obtained. In any case we may be sure that a man's
life consisteth not in the abundance of children that he possesseth.
They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the
enemies in the gate. They can meet foes both in law and in fight. Nobody
cares to meddle with a man who can gather a clan of brave sons about him. He
speaks to purpose whose own sons make his words emphatic by the resolve to carry
out their father's wishes. This is the blessing of Abraham, the old covenant
benediction, "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies"; and it is sure to
all the beloved of the Lord in some sense or other. Doth not the Lord Jesus thus
triumph in his seed? Looked at literally, this favour cometh of the Lord:
without his will there would be no children to build up the house, and without
his grace there would be no good children to be their parent's strength. If this
must be left with the Lord, let us leave every other thing in the same hands. He
will undertake for us and prosper our trustful endeavours, and we shall enjoy a
tranquil life, and prove ourselves to be our Lord's beloved by the calm and
quiet of our spirit. We need not doubt that if God gives us children as a reward
he will also send us the food and raiment which he knows they need. He who is the father of a host of spiritual children is
unquestionably happy. He can answer all opponents by pointing to souls who have
been saved by his means. Converts are emphatically the heritage of the Lord, and
the reward of the preacher's soul travail. By these, under the power of the Holy
Ghost, the city of the church is both built up and watched, and the Lord has the
glory of it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. "A Song of Degrees for Solomon." This Psalm
has Solomon's name prefixed to the title, for the purpose that the very builder
of the Temple may teach us that he availed nothing to build it without the help
of the Lord. --The Venerable Bede (672-3-735), in Neale and
Whole Psalm. Viewed as one of the "Degrees" in Christian
virtue, the ninth, the Psalm is directed against self reliance. --H. T.
Whole Psalm. The steps or degrees in this Psalm, though
distinctly marked, are not so regular as in some others.
The twice repeated "in vain" of Ps 127:1 may be regarded
as the motto or "degree" for Ps 127:2. The correspondence between the two
clauses in Ps 127:1 is also very striking. It is as if, on entering on some
spiritual undertaking, or even in referring to the present state of matters, the
Psalmist emphatically disclaimed as vain every other interposition or
help than that of Jehovah. And of this "in vain" it is well constantly to
remind ourselves, especially in seasons of activity and in times of peace; for
then we are most liable to fall into the snare of this vanity.
The next "degree" is that of success and prosperity (Ps
127:3-4), which is ascribed to the same Jehovah whose help and protection
constituted the commencement and continuance, as now the completion of our well
being. Hence also Ps 127:5 goes not beyond this, but contemplates the highest
symbol of full security, influence, and power, in the figurative language of the
Old Testament, which St. Augustine refers to "spiritual children, shot forth
like arrows into all the world." --Alfred Edersheim, in "The Golden Diary of
Heart Converse with Jesus in the Book of Psalms," 1877.
Whole Psalm. Solomon, the wisest and richest of kings,
after having proved, both from experience and careful observation, that there
was nothing but vanity in the life and labours of man, comes to this conclusion,
that there is nothing better for a man in this life than that he should moderate
his cares and labours, enjoy what he has, and fear God and keep his
commandments: to this end he directs all that is debated in the Book of
Ecclesiastes. Very similar are the argument and intention of the Psalm; the
authorship of which is ascribed to Solomon in the Inscription, and which there
is no reason to doubt. Nor would it be safe, either to call in doubt any
inscription without an urgent reason, or to give any other sense to the letter l than that of authorship, unless
it be meant that all the inscriptions are uncertain. Again, if the collectors of
the Psalms added titles according to their own opinion and judgment,
there would be no reason why they should have left so many Psalms without any
title. This Psalm, therefore, is Solomon's, with whose genius and
condition it well agrees, as is clear from Ecclesiastes, with which it
may be compared, and from many proverbs on the same subject...The design
is, to draw men away from excessive labours and anxious cares; and to excite
godliness and faith in Jehovah. To this the Psalm manifestly tends: for since
men, desirous of the happiness and stability of their houses, are unable to
secure this by their own endeavours, but need the blessing of God, who gives
prosperity with even lighter labours to those that fear him; it is their duty to
put a limit to their labours and cares, and to seek the favour of God, by
conforming their life and conduct to his will, and confiding in him. --Hermalt
Verse 1. Except the LORD build. It is a fact that
Nb, ben, a son, and
tk, bath, a daughter, and
tyb, beith, a house, come
from the same root, tnk, banah, to
build; because sons and daughters build up a household, or constitute a
family, as much and as really as stones and timber constitute a building.
Now it is true that unless the good hand of God be upon us we cannot
prosperously build a place of worship for his name. Unless we have his blessing,
a dwelling house cannot be comfortably erected. And if his blessing be not on
our children, the house (the family) may be built up; but instead of its being
the house of God, it will be the synagogue of Satan. All marriages that are not
under God's blessing will be a private and public curse. --Adam Clarke.
Verse 1. Except the LORD build the house, etc. He does not
say, Unless the Lord consents and is willing that the house should be built and
the city kept: but, "Unless the Lord build;unless he keep." Hence,
in order that the building and keeping may be prosperous and successful, there
is necessary, not only the consent of God, but also his working is required: and
that working without which nothing can be accomplished, that may be attempted by
man. He does not say, Unless the Lord help; but unless the Lord build, unless he
keep; i.e., Unless he do all himself. He does not say, To little purpose he
labours and watches; but to no purpose he labours, both the builder and the
keeper. Therefore, all the efficacy of labours and cares is dependent on the
operation and providence of God; and all human strength, care, and industry is
in itself vain. It should be noticed, that he does not say, Because the Lord
builds the house he labours in vain who builds it, and, because the Lord keeps
the city the watchman waketh in vain: but, If the Lord do not build the house,
if he do not keep the city; he labours in vain who builds the house; lie waketh
in vain who keeps the city. He is far from thinking that the care and human
labour, which is employed in the building of houses and keeping of cities, is to
be regarded as useless, because the Lord builds and keeps; since it is then the
more especially useful and effectual when the Lord himself is the builder and
keeper. The Holy Spirit is not the patron of lazy and inert men; but he directs
the minds of those who labour to the providence and power of God. --Wolfgang
Verse 1. Except the LORD build the house. On the lintel of
the door in many an old English house, we may still read the words, Nisi
Dominus frustra --the Latin version of the opening words of the Psalm. Let
us also trust in him, and inscribe these words over the portal of "the house of
our pilgrimage"; and beyond a doubt all will be well with us, both in this world
and in that which is to come. --Samuel Cox, in "The Pilgrim Psalms," 1874.
Verse 1. Except the LORD build the house, etc. In the
beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had
daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were
heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the
struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in
our favour. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting
in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we
now forgotten this powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need his
assistance? I have lived for a long time 81 years; and the longer I live
the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs
of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it
probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in
the sacred writings, that "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain
that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his
concurring aid we shall proceed in this political building no better than the
builders of Babel: we shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests;
our prospects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a
byword down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this
unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom, and
leave it to chance, war, or conquest. I therefore beg leave to move that
henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our
deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to
business; and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to
officiate in that service. --Benjamin Franklin: Speech in Convention for
forming a Constitution for the United States, 1787.
Verse 1. Note, how he puts first the building of the house,
and then subjoins the keeping of the city. He advances from the part to the
whole; for the city consists of houses. --Wolfgang Musculus.
Verse 1. Except the LORD keep the city, etc. Fires may break
out in spite of the watchmen; a tempest may sweep over it; bands of armed men
may assail it; or the pestilence may suddenly come into it, and spread
desolation through its dwellings. --Albert Barnes (1798-1870), in
"Notes on the Psalms."
Verse 1. One important lesson which Madame Guyon learned
from her temptations and follies was that of her entire dependence on Divine
grace. "I became", she says, "deeply assured of what the prophet hath said,
"Except the Loud keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
When I looked to thee, O my Lord? thou wast my faithful keeper; thou didst
continually defend my heart against all kinds of enemies. But, alas! when left
to myself, I was all weakness. How easily did my enemies prevail over me! Let
others ascribe their victories to their own fidelity: as for myself, I shall
never attribute them to anything else than thy paternal care. I have too often
experienced, to my cost, what I should be without thee, to presume in the least
on any wisdom or efforts of my own. It is to thee, O God, my Deliverer, that I
owe everything! And it is a source of infinite satisfaction, that I am thus
indebted to thee." --From the Life of Jeanne Bouvier de la Mothe Guyon, 1648-1717.
If God build not the house, and lay
The groundwork sure--whoever build,
It cannot stand one stormy day.
If God be not the city's shield,
If he be not their bars and wall,
In vain is watchtower, men, and all.
Though then thou wak'st when others rest,
Though rising thou prevent'st the sun,
Though with lean care thou daily feast,
Thy labour's lost, and thou undone;
But God his child will feed and keep,
And draw the curtains to his sleep.
Verse 2. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up
late, etc. The Psalmist is exhorting to give over undue and anxious labour
to accomplish our designs. The phrases in the Hebrew are "making early to rise"
and "making late to sit" --not "up", but down. This means an artificial
lengthening of the day. The law of work is in our nature. The limitations of
effort are set forth in nature. In order that all may be accomplished by the
human race which is necessary to be done for human progress, all men must work.
But no man should work beyond his physical and intellectual ability, nor beyond
the hours which nature allots. No net result of good to the individual or to the
race comes of any artificial prolonging of the day at either end. Early rising,
eating one's breakfast by candlelight, and prolonged vigils, the scholar's
"midnight oil", are a delusion and a snare. Work while it is day. When the night
comes, rest. The other animals do this, and, as races, fare as well as this
anxious human race. The bread of sorrows means the bread of toil, of wearisome
effort. Do what you ought to do, and the Lord will take care of that which you
cannot do. Compare Pr 10:22: "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he
addeth no sorrow with it," which means," The blessing of Jehovah maketh rich,
and toil can add nothing thereto." Compare also Mt 6:25: "Take no thought be
not anxious for your life," etc. For so he giveth his beloved sleep. The "for" is not
in the original. "So" means "with just the same result" or "all the
same", or "without more trouble." That is the signification of the Hebrew word
as it occurs. "His beloved" may work and sleep; and what is needed will
be provided just as certainly as if they laboured unduly, with anxiety. It has
been suggested that the translation should be "in sleep". While they are
sleeping, the Heavenly Father is carrying forward his work for them. Or, while
they wake and work, the Lord gives to them, and so he does when they rest and
sleep. --Charles F. Deems, in "The Study", 1879.
Verse 2. The Lorries Temple was built without any looking
unto or dependence on man; all human wisdom and confidence was rejected on the
whole; the plan was given by the Lord God himself; the model of it was in
Solomon's possession; nothing was left to the wit or wisdom of men; there was no
reason to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows, whilst
engaged in this good work; no, I should conceive it was a season of grace to
such as were employed in the building; somewhat like what it was with you and me
when engaged in God's holy ordinances. I should conceive the minds of the
workmen at perfect peace, their conversation together much on the grand subject
of the Temple, and its intention as referring to the glorious Messiah, its grand
and glorious antitype. I should conceive their minds were wholly disencumbered
from all carking cares. They did not rise early without being refreshed in body
and mind; they did not sit up late as though they wanted; they were not careful
how they should provide for their families; they were, as the beloved of the
Lord, perfectly contented; they enjoyed sweet sleep and refreshment by it, this
was from the Lord; he giveth his beloved ones sleep. --Samuel Eyles
Verse 2. It is vain, etc. Some take this place in a more
particular and restrained sense; as if David would intimate that all their
agitations to oppose the reign of Solomon, though backed with much care and
industry, should be fruitless; though Absalom and Adonijah were tortured with
the care of their own ambitious designs, yet God would give Jedidiah, or his
beloved, rest; that is, the kingdom should safely be devolved upon Solomon, who
took no such pains to court the people, and to raise himself up into their
esteem as Absalom and Adonijah did. The meaning is, that though worldly men fare
never so hardly, beat their brains, tire their spirits, rack their consciences,
yet many times all is for nothing; either God doth not give them an estate, or
not the comfort of it. But his beloved, without any of these racking cares,
enjoy contentment; if they have not the world, they have sleep and rest; with
silence submitting to the will of God, and with quietness waiting for the
blessing of God. Well, then, acknowledge the providence that you may come under
the blessing of it: labour without God cannot prosper; against God and against
his will in his word, will surely miscarry. --Thomas Manton, 1620-1677.
Verse 2. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to
eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. No
prayer without work, no work without prayer.
By caring and fretting,
By agony and fear,
There is of God no getting,
But prayer he will hear.
--From J.P. Lange's Commentary on James, 1862.
Verse 2. Eat the bread of sorrows. Living a life of misery
and labours, fretting at their own disappointments, eaten up with envy at the
advancement of others, afflicted overmuch with losses and wrongs. There is no
end of all their labours. Some have died of it, others been distracted and put
out of their wits; so that you are never like to see good days as long as you
cherish the love of the world, but will still lie under self tormenting care and
trouble of mind, by which a man grates on his own flesh. --Thomas Manton.
Verse 2. So he giveth his beloved sleep. hnv wdykyl Nty Nk. These latter words are variously
rendered, and sufficiently obscurely, because all take this Nk as a particle of comparison, which does not seem to
be in place here: some even omit it altogether. But Nk also signifies "well", "rightly": 2Ki 7:9 Nu
27:7. Why should we not render it here, "He giveth to His beloved to
sleep well": i.e., While those who, mistrusting God, attribute all
things to their own labour, do not sleep well; for truly they "rise early and
sit up late"; he gives to his beloved this grace, that reposing in his fatherly
care and goodness, they fully enjoy their sleep, as those who know that such
anxious labour is not necessary for them: or, "Truly, he giveth to his
beloved sleep; "as Kn may be the same
as Nka. But hnv may betaken for hnvb,
and rendered, "Truly, he giveth to his beloved in sleep; "viz., that he
should be refreshed by this means. --Louis De Dieu, 1590-1642.
Verse 2. (last clause). The sentence may be read
either, he will give sleep to his beloved, or, he will give in sleeping; that
is, he will give them those things which unbelievers labour to acquire by their
own industry. The particle Nk, ken,
thus, is put to express certainty; for with the view of producing a more
undoubted persuasion of the truth--that God gives fool to his people without any
great care on their part--which seems incredible and a fiction, Solomon points to
the thing as it were with the finger. He indeed speaks as if God nourished the
slothfulness of his servants by his gentle treatment; but as we know that men
are created with the design of their being occupied, and as in the subsequent
Psalm we shall find that the servants of God are accounted happy when they eat
the labour of their hands, it is certain that the word sleep is not to be
understood as implying slothfulness, but a placid labour, to which true
believers subject themselves by the obedience of faith. Whence proceeds this so
great ardour in the unbelieving, that they move not a finger without a tumult or
bustle, in other words, without tormenting themselves with superfluous cares,
but because they attribute nothing to the providence of God! The faithful, on
the other hand, although they lead a laborious life, yet follow their vocations
with composed and tranquil minds. Thus their hands are not idle, but their minds
repose in the stillness of faith, as if they were asleep. --John Calvin,
Verse 2. He giveth his beloved sleep. It is a peculiar
rest, it is a rest peculiar to sons, to saints, to heirs, to beloved ones.
"So he gives his beloved rest", or as the Hebrew hath it, dearling, or
dear beloved, quiet rest, without care or sorrow. The Hebrew word akv, shena, is written with a, a quiet dumb letter, which is not usual, to denote
the more quietness and rest. This rest is a crown that God sets only upon the
head of saints; it is a gold chain that he only puts about his children's necks;
it is a jewel that he only hangs between his beloved's breasts: it is a flower
that he only sticks in his darlings' bosoms. This rest is a tree of life that is
proper and peculiar to the inhabitants of that heavenly country; it is
children's bread, and shall never be given to dogs. --Thomas Brooks,
Verse 2. (last clause). As the Lord gave a
precious gift to his beloved, the first Adam, while he slept, by
taking a rib from his side, and by building there from a woman, Eve, his bride,
the Mother of all living; so, while Christ, the Second Adam, the true Jedidiah,
the Well beloved Son of God, was sleeping in death on the cross, God formed for
him, in his death, and by his death, --even by the life giving streams flowing
from his own precious side, --the Church, the spiritual Eve, the Mother of all
living; and gave her to him as his bride. Thus he built for him in his
sleep the spiritual Temple of his Church. --Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 2. Quiet sleep is the gift of God, and it is the love
of God to give quiet sleep.
1. 'Tis God's gift when we have it: quiet sleep does
revive nature as the dew or small rain does refresh the grass. Now, as the
prophet speaks (Jer 14:22), "Are there any of the gods of the heathen can cause
rain, or can the heavens give showers?" so it may be said: Are there any of the
creatures in earth or heaven that can give sleep? That God which gives showers
of rain must give hours of rest: peaceable repose is God's peculiar gift.
2. 'Tis God's love when he gives it, "for so he
giveth his beloved sleep"; that is, sleep with quietness: yea, the
Hebrew word, shena, for sleep, being with aleph, a quiet or
resting letter, otherwise than is usual, it signifies the greater quietness in
time of sleep. And whereas some apply the peace only to Solomon, who was called
Jedidiah, the beloved of the Lord, to whom God gave sleep; the Septuagint turns
the Hebrew word plurally, so God giveth his beloved ones sleep; to
his saints in general God gives quiet sleep as a token of his love; yea, in the
times of their greatest peril. Thus Peter in prison when he was bound with
chains, beset with soldiers, and to die the next day, yet see how fast he was
found asleep (Ac 12:6-7): "The same night Peter was sleeping, and behold the
angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison", yet Peter
slept till the angel smote him on the side and raised him up: so God "gives his
beloved sleep", and let his beloved give him the honour; and the rather because
herein God answers our prayer, herein God fulfils his promise.
Is it not our prayer that God would prevent fear, and
afford refreshing sleep? and is it not God's answer when in sleep he doth
sustain us? "I cried (says David) unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me
out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept, for the Lord sustained me": Ps
Is it not God's promise to vouchsafe sleep free from
frights? "When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie
down, and thy sleep shall be sweet": Pr 3:24. Hence God's servants while they
are in the wilderness and woods of this world, they sleep safely, and devils as
wild beasts can do them no harm. Eze 34:25. Have we through God's blessing this
benefit, let us abundantly give praise and live praise unto God hereupon. Yea,
large praise belongs to the Lord for quiet sleep from men of all sorts.
--Philip Goodwin, in "The Mystery of Dreams," 1658.
Verse 2. So he giveth his beloved sleep. The world would
give its favourites power, wealth, distinction; God gives "sleep." Could
he give anything better? To give sleep when the storm is raging; to give sleep
when conscience is arraying a long catalogue of sins; to give sleep when evil
angels are trying to overturn our confidence in Christ; to give sleep when death
is approaching, when judgment is at hand--oh! what gift could be more suitable?
what more worthy of God? or what more precious to the soul? But we do not mean to enlarge upon the various senses which
might thus be assigned to the gift. You will see for yourselves that sleep, as
denoting repose and refreshment, may be regarded as symbolising "the rest which
remaineth for the righteous", which is the gift of God to his chosen. "Surely he
giveth his beloved sleep", may be taken as parallel to what is promised in
Isaiah--"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee."
Whatever you can understand by the "peace" in the one case, you may also
understand by the "sleep" in the other. But throughout the Old and New
Testaments, and especially the latter, sleep, as you know, is often put for
death. "He slept with his fathers" is a common expression in the Jewish
Scriptures. To "sleep in Jesus" is a common way of speaking of those who die in
the faith of the Redeemer.
Suppose, then, we take the "sleep" in our text as
denoting death, and confine our discourse to an illustration of the passage
under this one point of view. "Surely he giveth his beloved sleep." What
an aspect will this confer on death--to regard it as God's gift --a gift which he
vouchsafes to those whom he loves! It is not "he sendeth his beloved sleep", which might be
true whilst God himself remained at a distance; it is "he giveth his
beloved sleep"; as though God himself brought the sleep, and laid it on the eyes
of the weary Christian warrior. And if God himself have to do with the
dissolution, can we not trust him that he will loosen gently the silver cord,
and use all kindness and tenderness in "taking down the earthly house of this
tabernacle"? I know not more comforting words than those of our text, whether
for the being uttered in the sickroom of the righteous, or breathed over their
graves. They might almost take the pain from disease, as they certainly do the
dishonour from death. What is bestowed by God as a "gift on his beloved" will
assuredly occupy his care, his watchfulness, his solicitude; and I conclude,
therefore, that he is present, in some special and extraordinary sense when the
righteous lie dying; ay, and that he sets his seal, and plants his guardianship
where the righteous lie dead. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is
thy victory?" Let the saint be but constant in the profession of godliness, and
his last hours shall be those in which Deity himself shall stand almost visibly
at his side, and his last resting place that which he shall shadow with his
wings. Sickness may be protracted and distressing; "earth to earth, ashes to
ashes, dust to dust, "may be plaintively breathed over the unconscious dead; but
nothing in all this lengthened struggle, nothing in all this apparent defeat,
can harm the righteous man--nay, nothing can be other than for his present good
and his eternal glory, seeing that death with all its accompaniments is but
joy--God's gift to his beloved. Dry your tears, ye that stand around the bed of
the dying believer, the parting moment is almost at hand-- a cold damp is on the
forehead--the eye is fixed--the pulse too feeble to be felt--are you staggered at
such a spectacle? Nay! let faith do its part! The chamber is crowded with
glorious forms; angels are waiting there to take charge of the disembodied soul;
a hand gentler than any human is closing those eyes; and a voice sweeter than
any human is whispering--"Surely the Lord giveth his beloved sleep."
--Henry Melvill (1798-1871), in a Sermon entitled "Death the Gift
Verse 2. For so he giveth his beloved sleep. One night I
could not rest, and in the wild wanderings of my thoughts I met this text, and
communed with it: "So he giveth his beloved sleep." In my reverie, as I
was on the border of the land of dreams, I thought I was in a castle. Around its
massive walls there ran a deep moat. Watchmen paced the walls both day and
night. It was a fine old fortress, bidding defiance to the foe; but I was not
happy in it. I thought I lay upon a couch; but scarcely had I closed my eyes,
ere a trumpet blew, "To arms! To arms!" and when the danger was overpast, I lay
me down again. "To arms! To arms!" once more resounded, and again I started up.
Never could I rest. I thought I had my armour on, and moved about perpetually
clad in mail, rushing each hour to the castle top, aroused by some fresh alarm.
At one time a foe was coming from the west; at another from the east. I thought
I had a treasure somewhere down in some deep part of the castle, and all my care
was to guard it. I dreaded, I feared, I trembled lest it should be taken from
me. I awoke, and I thought I would not live in such a tower as that for all its
grandeur. It was the castle of discontent, the castle of ambition, in which man
never rests. It is ever, "To arms! To arms!" There is a foe here, or a foe
there. His dear loved treasure must be guarded. Sleep never crossed the
drawbridge of the castle of discontent. Then I thought I would supplement it by
another reverie. I was in a cottage. It was in what poets call a beautiful and
pleasant place, but I cared not for that. I had no treasure in the world; save
one sparkling jewel on my breast: and I thought I put my hand on that and went
to sleep, nor did I wake till morning light. That treasure was a quiet
conscience and the love of God--"the peace that passeth all understanding." I
slept, because I slept in the house of content, satisfied with what I had. Go,
ye overreaching misers! Go, ye grasping, ambitious men! I envy not your life of
inquietude. The sleep of statesmen is often broken; the dream of the miser is
always evil; the sleep of the man who loves gain is never hearty; but God
"giveth", by contentment, "his beloved sleep." --C.H.S.
Verse 2. He giveth his beloved sleep.
Of all the thoughts of God that are
Borne inward unto souls afar,
Along the Psalmist's music deep,
Now tell me if that any is,
For gift or grace surpassing this--
"He giveth his beloved sleep."
--Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1809-1861.
Verse 3. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD. There is
no reason, therefore, why you should be apprehensive for your families and
country; there is no reason why you should weary yourselves with such great and
such restless labour. God will be with you and your children, since they are his
heritage. -Thomas Le Blanc.
Verse 3. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD. That is,
to many God gives children in place of temporal good. To many others he gives
houses, lands, and thousands of gold and silver, and with them the womb that
beareth not; and these are their inheritance. The poor man has from God a number
of children, without lands or money; these are his inheritance; and God shows
himself their father, feeding and supporting them by a chain of miraculous
providences. Where is the poor man who would give up his six
children with the prospect of having more, for the thousands
or millions of him who is the centre of his own existence,
and has neither root nor branch but his forlorn solitary self upon
the face of the earth? Let the fruitful family, however poor, lay this to heart:
Children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his
reward. And he who gave them will feed them; for it is a fact, and the maxim
formed on it has never failed, "Wherever God sends mouths, he sends meat."
"Murmur not", said an Arab to his friend, "because thy family is large; know
that it is for their sakes that God feeds thee." --Adam
Verse 3. Children are an heritage of the LORD. The Hebrew
seems to imply that children are an heritage belonging to the Lord, and not an
heritage given by the Lord, as most English readers appear to take it. The
Targum likewise bears this out. --H. T. Armfield.
Verse 3. Children are an heritage of the LORD, etc. The
Psalmist speaks of what children are unto godly and holy parents, for unto such
only is any blessing given by God as a reward, and the Psalmist expressly speaks
of blessings which God gives his beloved ones, and this blessing of children he
makes to be the last and greatest. It is also as certain that he speaks of
children as supposed to be holy and godly; for otherwise they are not a reward,
but a curse, and a sorrow to him that begat them. The Psalm was made, as appears
by the title of it, "of or for Solomon", and therefore, as it is
more than probable, was penned, as that other Psalm, the 72nd, which bears the
same title, by David the father, of and for Solomon his son, who was, for his
father's sake, "the beloved of God." (2Sa 12:24-25), and upon whom the sure
covenant and mercies of David were entailed, together with his kingdom. And what
is said in this Psalm, in the verses before, fitly agrees to him, for he it was
who was to build God's house, to keep and preserve Jerusalem the city, and the
kingdom in peace, and to have rest, or as the Psalmist calls it (Ps 127:3),
quiet sleep given him by God from all his enemies round about him. And for this,
compare the prophecy of him (1Ch 22:9-10) with the instructions here given him
in the three first verses of this Psalm, and ye will see how fitly this Psalm
concerns him. --Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 3. Children are an heritage of the LORD. Hence note,
'tis one of the greatest outward blessings to have a family full of dutiful
children. To have many children is the next blessing to much grace. To have many
children about us is better than to have much wealth about us. To have store of
these olive plants (as the Psalmist calls them) round about our table is better
than to have store of oil and wine upon our table. We know the worth of dead, or
rather lifeless treasures, but who knows the worth of living treasures? Every
man who hath children hath not a blessing in them, yet children are a blessing,
and some have many blessings in one child. Children are chiefly a blessing to
the children of God. "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and
the fruit of the womb is his reward." But are not houses and lands, gold and
silver, an heritage bestowed by the Lord upon his people? Doubtless they are,
for the earth is his, and the fulness of it, and he gives it to the children of
men. But though all things are of God, yet all things are not alike of him:
children are more of God than houses and lands. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 3. Children! --might one say as the word was uttered--I
left mine in my distant home, in poverty, their wants and numbers increasing,
with the means of providing for their comfort daily narrowing. Even should my
life be prolonged, they will be children of want, but with sickness and warnings
of death upon me, they will soon be helpless and friendless orphans. Yes I but
will God be neglectful of his own heritage? will he turn a gift into a sorrow?
Poor as thou art, repine not at the number of thy children. Though lions lack
thou shalt not, if thou seekest him; and know that it may be even for their
sakes that he feedeth thee. If even thou wouldst not part with one of them for
thousands of gold and silver, believe that he who is the fountain of all
tenderness regards them with yet deeper love, and will make them now, in thy
hour of trial, a means of increasing thy dependence on him, and soon thy support
Children! --might another say, as the Psalm referred to them-- on
their opening promise the breath of the destroyer has been poured. They are
ripening visibly for the grave, and their very smile and caress cause my wounded
heart to bleed anew. Yes, mourner; but God's heritage! may he not claim
his own? They are in safe keeping when in his, and will soon be restored to thee
in the better land, where death will make them ministering angels at his throne;
nay, they will be the first to welcome thee to its glories, to love and worship
with thee throughout eternity.
Children! this word to a third, of an even sadder and more
anxious spirit, might seem like the planting of a dagger in his heart. His
children have forsaken their father's God. Their associates were the vain and
vicious; their pleasures were the pleasures of folly and shame; their lives
barren of all promise, their souls destitute of all purpose, and steeled against
all reproof. True, but the heritage of the Lord still. Hast thou, sorrowing
parent, asked him for wisdom to keep it for him? Have due thought, prayer,
watchful and holy living been expended on that heritage of God? No culture, no
harvest in the soil; no prayer, no blessing from the soul. "Train up a child in
the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it", is a
promise that though sometimes, yet but seldom has missed fulfilment. Bring them
to Jesus, and, unchanged in his tenderness, he will still lay his hands upon
them and bless them. --Robert Nisbet.
Verse 3. The fruit of the womb is his reward. John Howard
Hinton's daughter said to him as she knelt by his death bed: --"There is no
greater blessing than for children to have godly parents." "And the next", said
the dying father, with a beam of gratitude, "for parents to have godly
children." --Memoir in Baptist Handbook, 1875.
Verse 4. As arrows. Well doth David call children
"arrows"; for if they be well bred, they shoot at their parents' enemies;
and if they be evil bred, they shoot at their parents. --Henry Smith.
Verse 4. As arrows. Children are compared to
"arrows". Now, we know that sticks are not by nature arrows; they do not
grow so, but they are made so; by nature they are knotty and rugged, but by art
they are made smooth and handsome. So children by nature are rugged and
untoward, but by education are refined and reformed, made pliable to the divine
will and pleasure. --George Swinnock, 1627-1673.
Verse 4. As arrows. "Our children are what we make them.
They are represented As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, and
arrows go the way we aim them."
Verse 4. As arrows. In a collection of Chinese Proverbs
and Apophthegms, subjoined to Hau Kiou Choaan, or, The
Pleasing History, I find a proverb cited from Du Halde, which
seems full to our purpose. It is this: --"When a son is born into a family, a bow
and arrow are hung before the gate." To which the following note is added: "As
no such custom appears to be literally observed, this should seem to be a
metaphorical expression, signifying that a new protector is added to the
family", equivalent to that of the Psalms, --"as arrows", etc. --James
Merrick (1720-1769), in "Annotations on the Psalms."
Verse 4. Children of the youth are arrows in the
hand, which, with prudence, may be directed aright to the mark, God's glory,
and the service of their generation; but afterwards, when they are gone abroad
in the world, they are arrows out of the hand; it is too late to bend them then.
But these "arrows in the hand" too often prove arrows in the heart, a
constant grief to their godly parents, whose grey hairs they bring with sorrow
to the grave. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 4. Children of the youth. Sons of youth, i.e.,
born while their parents are still young. See Ge 37:2 Isa 54:6. The allusion is
not only to their rigour Ge 49:3, but the value of their aid to the parent in
declining age. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 4. Children of the youth. If the right interpretation
is commonly given to this phrase, this Psalm greatly encourages early marriages.
It is a growing evil of modern times that marriages are so often deferred till
it is highly improbable that in the course of nature the father can live to
mould his offspring to habits of honour and virtue. --William Swan Plumer
(1802-1880), in "Studies in the Book of Psalms."
Verse 5. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.
Dr. Guthrie used to say, "I am rich in nothing but children." They were eleven
Verse 5. Quiver full. Many children make many prayers, and
many prayers bring much blessing. --German Proverb.
Verse 5. The Rev. Moses Browne had twelve children. On one
remarking to him, "Sir, you have just as many children as Jacob", he replied,
"Yes, and I have Jacob's God to provide for them." --G. S. Bowes.
Verse 5. I remember a great man coming into my house, at
Waltham, and seeing all my children standing in the order of their age and
stature, said, "These are they that make rich men poor." But he straight
received this answer, "Nay, my lord, these are they that make a poor man rich;
for there is not one of these whom we would part with for all your wealth." It
is easy to observe that none are so gripple and hard fisted as the childless;
whereas those, who, for the maintenance of large families, are inured to
frequent disbursements, find such experience of Divine providence in the
faithful management of their affairs, as that they lay out with more
cheerfulness what they receive. Wherein their care must be abated when God takes
it off from them to himself; and, if they be not wanting to themselves, their
faith gives them ease in casting their burden upon him, who hath more power and
more right to it, since our children are more his than our own. He that feedeth
the young ravens, can he fail the best of his creatures? --Joseph Hall,
Verse 5. They shall not be ashamed, etc. Able enough he
shall be to defend himself, and keep off all injuries, being fortified by his
children; and if it happen that he hath a cause depending in the gate, and to be
tried before the judges, he shall have the patronage of his children, and not
suffer in his plea for want of advocates; his sons will stand up in a just cause
for him. --William Nicholson (1671), in "David's Harp Strung and
Verse 5. But they shall speak. "But destroy" is the
marginal version, and is here much more emphatic than the rendering
"speak." For this sense see 2Ch 22:10. Others refer it to litigation,
when they shall successfully defend the cause of their parents. But as I do not
see how their number or rigour could add weight to their evidence in a judicial
cause, I prefer the sense given. --Benjamin Boothroyd, 1768-1836.
Verse 5. With the enemies in the gate. Probably the Psalmist
alludes here to the defence of a besieged city; the gate was very commonly the
point of attack, and the taking of it rendered the conquest of the place easy:
compare Ge 22:17 23:60. --Daniel Cresswell (1776-1844), in "The
Psalms...with Critical and Explanatory Notes," 1843.
This is the pride, the glory of a man,
To train obedient children in his house,
Prompt on his enemies to avenge his wrongs,
And with the father's zeal in honour high
To hold his friends.
--Sophocles' "Antigone." R. Potter's Translation.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. The human hand without the hand of God is in vain.
2. The human eye without the eye of God is in vain.
1. God is to be acknowledged in all our works.
a) By seeking his direction before them.
b) By depending upon his help in them.
c) By giving him the glory of them.
2. In all our cares.
a) By owning our short sight.
b) By trusting to his foresight. --G. R.
Verse 1. (first part). --Illustrate the principles:
1. In building up character.
2. In constructing plans of life and of work.
3. In framing schemes of happiness.
4. In rearing a hope of eternal life.
5. In raising and enlarging the church. --J. F.
1. What we may not expect: namely, God to work without our
building, watching, etc.
2. What we may expect: Failure if we are without God.
3. What we should not do: Fret, worry, etc.
4. What we may do: So trust as to rest in peace.
Verse 2. (with Ps 126:2). The labour of the law contrasted
with the laughter of the gospel.
Verse 2. The bread of sorrows.
1. When God sends it, it is good to eat it.
2. When we bake it ourselves, it is vain to eat it.
3. When the devil brings it, it is deadly meat.
Verse 2. (last clause). -- Blessings that come to us
1. Renewed health and vigour of body.
2. Mental repose and refreshment.
3. Sweeter thoughts and holier purposes.
4. Providential gifts. The rains fall, the fruits of the earth
grow and ripen, the mill wheel goes round, the ship pursues her voyage, etc.,
while we slumber. Often when we are doing nothing for ourselves God is doing
most. --W. H. J.P.
Verse 2. (last clause). See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No.
12: "The Peculiar Sleep of the Beloved."
Verse 3. Sermon by Thomas Manton. Works: vol. 18. pp. 84-95.
Verses 3-5. Children. Consider:
1. The effects of receiving them as a heritage from the Lord.
a) Parents will trust in the Lord for their provision and
b) Will regard them as a sacred trust from the Lord, of whose
care they must render an account.
c) Will train them up in the fear of the Lord.
d) Will often consult God concerning them.
e) Will render them up uncomplainingly when the Lord calls them
to himself by death.
2. The effects of their right training.
a) They become the parents' joy.
b) The permanent record of the parents' wisdom.
c) The support and solace of the parents' old age.
d) The transmitters of their parents' virtues to another
generation; for well trained children become, in their turn, wise parents. --J.
Verse 4. The spiritual uses of children.
1. When they die in infancy, awakening parents.
2. When they go home from Sunday school carrying holy
3. When they become converted.
4. When they grow up and become useful men and women.
1. The dependence of children upon parents.
a) For safety. They are in their quiver.
b) For direction. They are sent forth by them.
c) For support. They are in the hands of the mighty.
2. The dependence of parents upon children.
a) For defence. Who will hear a parent spoken against?
b) For happiness. "A wise son maketh", etc. Children elicit
some of the noblest and most tender emotions of human nature. Happy is the
Christian minister who with a full quiver can say, "Here am I, and the children
which thou hast given me." --G. R.
Verse 6. "The Reward of Well doing Sure." Sermon by Henry
Melvill, in "The Pulpit," 1856.