Psalm 126:4
Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.
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(4) Captivity.—Here there is a change. The joy of the great Return was too great not to last on through many vicissitudes. But the poet now thinks of the many exiles still dispersed among the nations, and prays for another manifestation of Divine favour and power.

The streams in the south.—Rather, the channels in the south. The allusion is to the sudden filling of the dry torrent-beds of the southern district of Palestine in the rainy season. So the poet prays that torrents of the returned may pour into the desolate and deserted country. (Comp. Isaiah 49:18 for the same feeling, but under a different figure.) The LXX. have “in the south wind,” evidently thinking of the melting of a frozen stream, instead of the filling of a dry river-bed.

Psalm 126:4. Turn again our captivity, O Lord — Perfect what thou hast begun, and as thou hast brought us home, bring home also the rest of our brethren, who still remain captives in Babylon, or are dispersed in that country, or in any other parts of the world; as the streams in the south — Which would be as welcome to this desolate country as streams of water to the dry and thirsty grounds. Or, that we may refresh and cultivate thy holy land, as the rivers of the south gladden, fructify, and replenish their dry and thirsty soil. The Hebrew word נגב, negeb, here rendered, the south, signifies, says Dr. Hammond, “a dry and parched soil; and, by a figure, is very well used to signify the south, as the soil of the southern countries is very hot, dry, and burned up with the sun. This particularly is the case in Egypt, where they would never have any crops at all, were it not for the annual overflowing of their rivers; so that the psalmist here prays that he would turn their captivity, as he doth the rivers of the south, or of Egypt, to gladden and replenish the otherwise parched and barren earth.” Bishop Lowth, however, and some others, think the image is taken from the torrents in the deserts to the south of Judea; in Idumea, Arabia Petræa, &c., a mountainous country; which torrents were constantly dried up in the summer, and as constantly returned after the rainy season, and filled again their deserted channels: see Job 6:17-18. Thus the Jews had left their country desolate, but now flowed into it again. 126:4-6 The beginnings of mercies encourage us to pray for the completion of them. And while we are in this world there will be matter for prayer, even when we are most furnished with matter for praise. Suffering saints are often in tears; they share the calamities of human life, and commonly have a greater share than others. But they sow in tears; they do the duty of an afflicted state. Weeping must not hinder sowing; we must get good from times of affliction. And they that sow, in the tears of godly sorrow, to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting; and that will be a joyful harvest indeed. Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be for ever comforted. When we mourn for our sins, or suffer for Christ's sake, we are sowing in tears, to reap in joy. And remember that God is not mocked; for whatever a man soweth that shall he reap, Ga 6:7-9. Here, O disciple of Jesus, behold an emblem of thy present labour and future reward; the day is coming when thou shalt reap in joy, plentiful shall be thy harvest, and great shall be thy joy in the Lord.Turn again our captivity, O Lord - literally, "Turn our captivity." The word "again" is inserted by the translators, and conveys an idea which is not necessarily in the original. It is simply a prayer that God would "turn" their captivity; that is, looking upon the captivity as not wholly ended, or as, in some sense, still continuing, that it might please him wholly to turn it, or to end it. The language would be applicable, if there was a new "captivity" similar to the one from which they had been delivered, or if the one mainly referred to was not complete; that is, if a part of the people still remained in bondage. The latter is probably the idea, that while a considerable part of the nation had been restored, and while an order had been issued for the restoration of all the captives to their native land, it was still true that a portion of them remained in exile; and the prayer is, that God would interfere in their behalf, and complete the work. A portion of the exiles, in fact, returned under Cyrus; a part under Darius; a part under Xerxes and his successors. The return was by no means accomplished at once, but occupied a succession of years.

As the streams in the south - In the southern parts of Palestine, or in the regions bordering it on the south - Idumea and Arabia. That is, As those streams when dried up by the summer heat are swelled by autumnal and winter rains, so let the streams of the returning people, which seem now to be diminished, be swelled by augmenting numbers coming again to their own land. Let the companies of returning emigrants be kept full, like swollen streams, until all shall have been brought back.

4. All did not return at once; hence the prayer for repeated favors.

as the streams in the south—or, the torrents in the desert south of Judea, dependent on rain (Jos 15:9), reappearing after dry seasons (compare Job 6:15; Ps 68:9). The point of comparison is joy at the reappearing of what has been so painfully missed.

Turn again our captivity; as thou hast brought us home, bring home also the rest of our brethren, who, are dispersed and yet remain captives in Babylon, or in any other parts oft he world. As the streams in the south; as thou art eased sometimes to send floods of water into dry and barren grounds, such as the southern parts of Canaan and the parts adjacent were; which is an act of thy great power and goodness; and no less will this reduction of thy people be, and no less shall we rejoice in it, and bless God for it. Turn again our captivity, O Lord,.... This prayer for the return of the captivity shows that it was not as yet: though some think that this is a petition of those that were returned from captivity, for those of their brethren that stayed behind; who, enjoying the sweets of their liberty, pray for their brethren to come and share with them, that so the mercy and blessing might be completed. This may very well be considered as a petition; either for the coming of the Redeemer, and redemption by him from the captivity of sin and Satan, and the law; or for the conversion of the Jews in the latter day. Either of which would be

as the streams in the south; as great and wonderful a work as causing rivers to be in dry places, and as grateful and acceptable as brooks and streams of water in southern countries: or like streams produced by the south wind, which brings rain, and melts the snow from the hills; which, running into the valleys, cause flows of water in great abundance: and so may denote the abundance of those that should share in the blessings of conversion, redemption, and salvation; as well as the wonderfulness and acceptableness of them; see Isaiah 41:18. The Targum seems to understand it of the change made upon them, like that made on the earth by those; paraphrasing the words,

"as the land is turned, when streams of water flow out in a time of drought.''

The allusion seems to be to Judea, lying south of Babylon; and to the southern parts of Judea, which were dry; see Joshua 15:19.

Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the {d} streams in the south.

(d) It is no more impossible for God to deliver his people than to cause the rivers to run in the wilderness and barren places.

4. Turn again our captivity] Or, Restore our fortunes.

as the streams in the South] The Negeb, or ‘South’ country, literally ‘the dry region,’ was the arid waterless district to the south of Judah (Jdg 1:15), where in summer all the brooks dry up, and are only filled by the autumn rains. Thus far the restoration of Israel has been only as it were a scanty thread of water trickling among the stones, but as in the due season Jehovah refills those stony stream-beds with abundance of sparkling rushing water, so He can re-animate the feeble community of Israel with fresh and vigorous life, and multiply its scanty numbers into the crowds which the prophet’s vision saw streaming to Jerusalem (Isaiah 49:18).

4–6. Prayer for fuller blessing, and the expression of confident faith that efforts however feeble must bear fruit. These verses evidently imply a background of disappointed hopes and anxious struggles.Verse 4. - Turn again our captivity, O Lord. The work is not half done - not half the nation has returned. We, who occupy the land, are but "a remnant" (Ezra 9:8; Nehemiah 1:3). Bring back, we pray thee, the rest of the captives. As the streams in the south. As thou bringest back, after the autumn rains, ample streams to the dry water-courses of the Negeb, or south country. The pressure of the worldly power, which now lies heavily upon the holy land, will not last for ever; the duration of the calamity is exactly proportioned to the power of resistance of the righteous, whom God proves and purifies by calamity, but not without at the same time graciously preserving them. "The rod of wickedness" is the heathen sceptre, and "the righteous" are the Israelites who hold fast to the religion of their fathers. The holy land, whose sole entitled inheritors are these righteous, is called their "lot" (גורל, κλῆρος equals κληρονομία). נוּח signifies to alight or settle down anywhere, and having alighted, to lean upon or rest (cf. Isaiah 11:2 with John 1:32, ἔμεινεν). The lxx renders οὐκ ἀφφήσει, i.e., לא ינּיח (cf. on the other hand יניח, He shall let down, cause to come down, in Isaiah 30:32). Not for a continuance shall the sceptre of heathen tyranny rest upon the holy land, God will not suffer that: in order that the righteous may not at length, by virtue of the power which pressure and use exercises over men, also participate in the prevailing ungodly doings. שׁלח with Beth: to seize upon anything wrongfully, or even only (as in Job 28:9) to lay one's hand upon anything (frequently with על). As here in the case of עולתה, in Psalm 80:3 too the form that is the same as the locative is combined with a preposition.
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