|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
129:1-4 The enemies of God's people have very barbarously endeavoured to wear out the saints of the Most High. But the church has been always graciously delivered. Christ has built his church upon a rock. And the Lord has many ways of disabling wicked men from doing the mischief they design against his church. The Lord is righteous in not suffering Israel to be ruined; he has promised to preserve a people to himself.
Verse 1. - Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth. Israel's recollection is one of frequent, almost constant, "affliction." She has been downtrodden beneath the feet of Egyptians, Moabites, Mesopotamians, Canaanites, Ammonites, Philistines, Syrians. Assyrians, Babylonians. Her sufferings began in her extreme youth, as soon as she was a nation (Exodus 1:11-22). May Israel now say; rather, let Israel now say. The psalmist directs his countrymen to look back upon their past history.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth,.... That is, the enemies of Israel, afterwards called "ploughers". This may be understood of literal Israel, the posterity of Jacob; whose youth was the beginning of their constitution as a nation and church, or the first times of it; when they were greatly distressed by their enemies, and from thenceforward; as in Egypt, where, and in places near it, they were afflicted four hundred years, according to a prophecy given to Abraham their ancestor, and where their lives were made bitter with hard bondage; and in the times of the Judges, by several neighbouring nations, which was the time of their youth, or their settlement in Canaan; and afterwards in the times of their kings, particularly in the times of Ahaz king of Judah, by the Edomites and Philistines, and by Tiglathpileser, king of Assyria; and in the times of Hoshea, king of Israel, by Salmaneser, who carried away captive, ten tribes; and in the times of Jeconiah and Zedekiah, kings of Judah, by Nebuchadnezzar, who carried captive to Babylon the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. And the psalmist, by a spirit of prophecy, might have a further respect to the distresses of Israel in the times of Antiochus and the Maccabees, when the temple was profaned, the altar demolished, and the daily sacrifice made to cease, and many good men lost their lives; to which times the apostle may be thought to have regard, Hebrews 11:35; and also to their last affliction by the Romans, the greatest of all; and their present captivity, and deliverance from it;
may Israel now say; this now refers to the time of redemption, as Arama observes, whether at their return from Babylon, or at their future conversion; then reviewing their former troubles ever since they were a people, may say as before. This may be applied to mystical Israel, or to the church of God in Gospel times, which, in its infancy, and from its youth upwards, has been afflicted, many a time, and by many enemies; first, by the unbelieving Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus, and persecuted his apostles and members; then by Rome Pagan, under the ten persecutions of so many emperors; and afterwards by Rome Papal, the whore of Babylon, who many a time been drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus. Yea, this may be applied to the Messiah, one of whose names is Israel, Isaiah 49:3; who was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs all his days, even from his youth, Isaiah 53:3; he was the "Aijeleth Shahar", the hind of the morning, Psalm 22:1, title; hunted by Herod in his infancy, Matthew 2:13; and obliged to be carried into Egypt for safety when a child, from whence he was called, Hosea 11:1; and ever after was more or less afflicted by his enemies, men or devils, in mind or body; and at last endured great sufferings, and death itself. It may moreover be applied to every Israelite indeed, to every true believer and member of Christ; conversion is their time of youth; they are first newborn babes, and then young men; as soon as regenerated, they are afflicted with the temptations of Satan, the reproaches and persecutions of men; which are many, though no more than necessary, and it is the will of God should be, and all for their good.
The Treasury of David
1 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.
4 The Lord is righteous - he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.
5 Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.
6 Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up:
7 Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.
8 Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.
"Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say." In her present hour of trial, she may remember her former afflictions and speak of them for her comfort, drawing from them the assurance that he who has been with her for so long will not desert her in the end. The song begins abruptly. The poet has been musing, and the fire burns, therefore speaks he with his tongue: he cannot help it, he feels that he must speak, and therefore "may now say" what he has to say. The trials of the church have been repeated again and again, times beyond all count: the same afflictions are fulfilled in us as in our fathers. Jacob of old found his days full of trouble; each Israelite is often harassed; and Israel as a whole has proceeded from tribulation to tribulation. "Many a time," Israel says, because she could not say how many times. She speaks of her assailants as "they," because it would be impossible to write or even to know all their names. They had straitened, harassed, and fought against her from the earliest days of her history - from her youth; and they had continued their assaults right on without ceasing. Persecution is the heirloom of the church, and the ensign of the elect. Israel among the nations was peculiar, and this peculiarity brought against her many restless foes, who could never be easy unless they were warring against the people of God. When in Canaan, at the first, the chosen household was often severely tried; in Egypt it was heavily oppressed; in the wilderness it was fiercely assailed; and in the promised land it was often surrounded by deadly enemies. It was something for the afflicted nation, that it survived to say, "Many a time have they afflicted me." The affliction began early - "from my youth"; and it continued late. The earliest years of Israel and of the church of God were spent in trial. Babes in grace are cradled in opposition. No sooner is the man-child born than the dragon is after it. "It is," however, "good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth," and he shall see it to be so when in after days he tells the tale.
"Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth." Israel repeats her statement of her repeated afflictions. The fact was uppermost in her thoughts, and she could not help soliloquizing upon it again and again. These repetitions are after the manner of poetry: thus she makes a sonnet out of her sorrows, music out of her miseries. "Yet they have not prevailed against me." We seem to hear the beat of timbrels and the clash of cymbals here: the foe is derided; his malice has failed. That "yet" breaks in like the blast of trumpets, or the roll of kettledrums. "Cast down, but not destroyed," is the shout of a victor. Israel has wrestled, and has overcome in the struggle. Who wonders? If Israel overcame the angel of the covenant, what man or devil shall vanquish him? The fight was oft renewed and long protracted: the champion severely felt the conflict, and was at times fearful Of the issue; but at length he takes breath, and cries, "Yet they have not prevailed against me." "Many a time;" yes, "many a time," the enemy has had his opportunity and his vantage, but not so much as once has he gained the victory.
"The plowers plowed upon my back." The scourgers tore the flesh as ploughmen furrow a field. The people were maltreated like a criminal given over to the lictors with their cruel whips; the back of the nation was scored and furrowed by oppression. It is a grand piece of imagery condensed into few words. A writer says the metaphor is muddled, but he is mistaken, there are several figures, like wheel within wheel, but there is no confusion. The afflicted nation was, as it were, lashed by her adversaries so cruelly that each blow left a long red mark, or perhaps a bleeding wound, upon her back and shoulders, comparable to a furrow which tears up the ground from one end of the field to the other. Many a heart has been in like case; smitten and sore wounded by them that use the scourge of the tongue; so smitten that their whole character has been cut up and scored by calumny. The true church has in every age had fellowship with her Lord under his cruel flagellations: his sufferings were a prophecy of what she would be called hereafter to endure, and the foreshadowing has been fulfilled. Zion has in this sense been ploughed as a field.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 129:1-8. The people of God, often delivered from enemies, are confident of His favor, by their overthrow in the future.
1, 2. may Israel now say—or, "oh! let Israel say" (Ps 124:1). Israel's youth was the sojourn in Egypt (Jer 2:2; Ho 2:15).
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