Psalm 127:1
Parallel Verses
New International Version
A song of ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.

New Living Translation
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.

English Standard Version
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

New American Standard Bible
A Song of Ascents, of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.

King James Bible
A Song of degrees for Solomon. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
A Solomonic song of ascents. Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the LORD watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain.

International Standard Version
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor uselessly. Unless the LORD guards the city, its security forces keep watch uselessly.

NET Bible
A song of ascents, by Solomon. If the LORD does not build a house, then those who build it work in vain. If the LORD does not guard a city, then the watchman stands guard in vain.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
If Lord Jehovah does not build the house, its builders labor uselessly, and if Lord Jehovah does not keep the city, its keepers wake up uselessly.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
[A song by Solomon for going up to worship.] If the LORD does not build the house, it is useless for the builders to work on it. If the LORD does not protect a city, it is useless for the guard to stay alert.

Jubilee Bible 2000
Unless the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain that build it; unless the LORD keeps the city, the watchmen watch in vain.

King James 2000 Bible
Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain that build it: unless the LORD keeps the city, the watchman wakes, but in vain.

American King James Version
Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.

American Standard Version
Except Jehovah build the house, They labor in vain that build it: Except Jehovah keep the city, The watchman waketh but in vain.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.

Darby Bible Translation
{A Song of degrees. Of Solomon.} Unless Jehovah build the house, in vain do its builders labour in it; unless Jehovah keep the city, the keeper watcheth in vain:

English Revised Version
A Song of Ascents; of Solomon. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Webster's Bible Translation
A Song of degrees for Solomon. Except the LORD shall build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD shall keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain.

World English Bible
Unless Yahweh builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless Yahweh watches over the city, the watchman guards it in vain.

Young's Literal Translation
A Song of the Ascents, by Solomon. If Jehovah doth not build the house, In vain have its builders laboured at it, If Jehovah doth not watch a city, In vain hath a watchman waked.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

127:1-5 The value of the Divine blessing. - Let us always look to God's providence. In all the affairs and business of a family we must depend upon his blessing. 1. For raising a family. If God be not acknowledged, we have no reason to expect his blessing; and the best-laid plans fail, unless he crowns them with success. 2. For the safety of a family or a city. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen, though they neither slumber nor sleep, wake but in vain; mischief may break out, which even early discoveries may not be able to prevent. 3. For enriching a family. Some are so eager upon the world, that they are continually full of care, which makes their comforts bitter, and their lives a burden. All this is to get money; but all in vain, except God prosper them: while those who love the Lord, using due diligence in their lawful callings, and casting all their care upon him, have needful success, without uneasiness or vexation. Our care must be to keep ourselves in the love of God; then we may be easy, whether we have little or much of this world. But we must use the proper means very diligently. Children are God's gifts, a heritage, and a reward; and are to be accounted blessings, and not burdens: he who sends mouths, will send meat, if we trust in him. They are a great support and defence to a family. Children who are young, may be directed aright to the mark, God's glory, and the service of their generation; but when they are gone into the world, they are arrows out of the hand, it is too late to direct them then. But these arrows in the hand too often prove arrows in the heart, a grief to godly parents. Yet, if trained according to God's word, they generally prove the best defence in declining years, remembering their obligations to their parents, and taking care of them in old age. All earthly comforts are uncertain, but the Lord will assuredly comfort and bless those who serve him; and those who seek the conversion of sinners, will find that their spiritual children are their joy and crown in the day of Jesus Christ.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 1. - Except the Lord build the house; rather, a house; i.e. any house whatsoever. They labor in vain that build it. They will effect nothing - no house will be built. Except the Lord keep the city; rather, a city. The watchman waketh but in vain. Human watching is of no use unless accompanied by Divine watching.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it,.... Whether it be understood literally of an artificial house, as Solomon's own house; or the house of the Lord, or any other: let a man be ever so bent upon building one, or have ever so much skill in drawing the plan of it, or be ever so well provided to go through the expense of it, or have ever so many hands employed in it, yet, if the Lord does not give success, it will all be in vain; the building will fall down, or be consumed by fire before it is finished; or by one providence or another he will be obliged to desist from it, as in the case of the builders of the tower and city of Babel. Or whether it be understood of a family, which is built up by an increase and multiplication of children; so Leah and Rachel built up the house of Israel, Ruth 4:11; this depends upon the providence of God; for, as it is after said, "children are an heritage of the Lord", Psalm 127:3. Or whether it be understood, figuratively and mystically, of the church God, the house of the living God; the house of Christ, a spiritual one; a Gospel church, whose materials are lively stones, or true believers. Now there are builders in this house, some indeed very bad ones; and it is no wonder that they labour in vain, who reject and lay aside the foundation and corner stone, Christ; who deny his deity, despise his righteousness; or mix grace and works, law and Gospel, together, and pluck down with one hand what they build with another: and though there are others that are good ones, and lay the foundation, Christ; and build on this foundation precious truths, comparable to gold, silver, and precious stones; minister the word, and administer the ordinances, truly and faithfully; and in all direct to Christ for grace, strength, peace, comfort, and eternal life; speak to edification, and are the means of reviving the graces of God's people, and of establishing their souls; as well as of the conversion of sinners, whereby the house of God is built up; yet if the Lord does not prosper their work, all is in vain. For the principal builder is God, Father, Son, and Spirit; this is mostly applied to the second Person, the Word and Wisdom of God, Proverbs 9:1; but not to the exclusion of the Father, who has laid in Zion a foundation, a precious corner stone, and builds souls on it; nor of the Spirit, through whom saints are built up an habitation for God, Isaiah 28:16. The Targum here is,

"if the Word of the Lord does not build the city.''

It follows,

except the Lord keep the city; the city Jerusalem, as the Targum; who also here makes mention of the Word of the Lord: or any other city: God, with the Heathens (t) was called the keeper of cities; this title is given to Minerva by Pindar (u), and is one of Jupiter's titles (w);

the watchman waketh but in vain; to preserve it from riots, robberies, fires, &c. This may be applied to the church of God, the city of the living God, of which saints are fellow citizens: now in this city there are watchmen, some indeed that are blind and asleep, and so quite unfit for this office; but there are others who are awake and diligent, and watch in all things; and for the souls of men, and the good of the city, the church, to prevent heresies, errors, and immoralities; and yet all their watchfulness is in vain, unless the Lord keep it, who watches over his people for good, and that none hurt them; he wakeful, never slumbers nor sleeps, and constant night and day; and keeps his people by his power, and as tenderly as the apple of his eye.

(t) Aristotel. de Mundo, c. 7. Apuleius de Mundo, prope finem. Phurnutus de Natura Deor. c. 9. (u) Olympiad. Ode 5. (w) Pausaniae Attica, sive l. 1. p. 43, 53. Vid Theoph. ad Autolye. l. 1. p. 76.

The Treasury of David

1 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it, except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

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.

3 Lo, children arc an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them - they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:1

"Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it." The word vain is the key-note here, and we near 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 unsleeping 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.

Psalm 127:2

"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!

Psalm 127:3

continued...

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

PSALM 127

Ps 127:1-5. The theme of this Psalm, that human enterprises only succeed by the divine blessing, was probably associated with the building of the temple by Solomon, its author. It may have been adopted in this view, as suited to this series especially, as appropriately expressing the sentiments of God's worshippers in relation to the erection of the second temple.

1, 2. suggest the view of the theme given.

Psalm 127:1 Additional Commentaries
Context
Unless the Lord Builds
1A Song of Ascents, of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. 2It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.…
Cross References
Leviticus 26:20
Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.

Psalm 78:69
He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever.

Psalm 121:3
He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber;

Psalm 121:4
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 126:6
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
Treasury of Scripture

Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.

A Song.

Psalm 120:1 In my distress I cried to the LORD, and he heard me.

Psalm 121:1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where comes my help.

Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said to me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

Psalm 123:1 To you lift I up my eyes, O you that dwell in the heavens.

Psalm 124:1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say;

Psalm 125:1 They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot …

Psalm 126:1 When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

for Solomon. or, of Solomon

Psalm 72:1 Give the king your judgments, O God, and your righteousness to the king's son.

The Lord

Psalm 33:16-18 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man …

Proverbs 16:9 A man's heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps.

Proverbs 21:30,31 There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD…

Ecclesiastes 9:11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, …

1 Corinthians 3:7 So then neither is he that plants any thing, neither he that waters; …

build

1 Chronicles 22:10,11 He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and …

1 Chronicles 28:10,20 Take heed now; for the LORD has chosen you to build an house for …

1 Chronicles 29:19 And give to Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep your commandments, …

1 Corinthians 3:9-15 For we are laborers together with God: you are God's husbandry, you …

they labour

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your …

Galatians 4:11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed on you labor in vain.

that build it. Heb. that are builders of it in it
except

Psalm 121:3-5 He will not suffer your foot to be moved: he that keeps you will not slumber…

Isaiah 27:3 I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt …

Zechariah 2:4,5 And said to him, Run, speak to this young man, saying…

the watchman

Songs 3:3 The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw …

Songs 5:7 The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they …

Isaiah 21:5-12 Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, you …

Isaiah 56:10 His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb …

Isaiah 62:6 I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never …

Jeremiah 51:12,31 Set up the standard on the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, …

Ezekiel 33:2-9 Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them, …

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