Psalm 128:3
Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
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(3) By the sides—No doubt the inner part of the house is meant (see Psalm 48:2)—the gynecœum or woman’s quarter—or perhaps the sides of the inner court or quadrangle. This is no more out of keeping with the figure of the vine than the table is with that of olive plants. Though the Hebrews had not yet developed the fatal habit of secluding their women, as later Orientals have done, still there was a strict custom which allotted a more private tent (Genesis 18:9) or part of a house to them. And doubtless we are here also to think of the good housewife who is engaged within at the household duties, and is not like the idle gossip, sitting “at the door of her house on a seat in the high places of the city” (Proverbs 9:14). The vine and olive are in Hebrew poetry frequent symbols of fruitfulness and of a happy, flourishing state. (See Psalm 52:8; Jeremiah 11:16.) The comparison of children to the healthy young shoots of a tree is, of course, common to all poetry, being indeed latent in such expressions as “scion of a noble house.” (Comp. Euripides, Medea 1,098: “a sweet young shoot of children.”)

Psalm 128:3. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine — “He will bless thee also in thy wife, and make her as fruitful as the vine, which spreads itself, laden with full clusters, over all the sides of thy house; and in thy hopeful children too, who shall grow up and flourish like the young olive-plants that are set in thy arbour, round about thy table.” Thus Bishop Patrick interprets the verse, and certainly the text, in its most obvious and literal sense, seems to countenance his interpretation. Mr. Harmer, however, in his Observations on Divers Passages of Scripture, questions the propriety of it, remarking that it does not appear, from the accounts of any travellers, that it was ever the custom of the Jews to conduct vines along the sides of their houses, and that we find no such arbours in the Levant as the bishop supposes, composed of young olive-plants, in the midst of which tables were set. He therefore understands the words thus: “Thy wife shall be in the sides, or private apartments of thy house, fruitful as a thriving vine:” considering the sides of the house as referring to the wife, not to the vine; and the table, in the other clause, to the children only, not to the olives. Cocceius, however, and Rabbi Kimchi, agree with Bishop Patrick, as does Dr. Hammond also, whose words are, “Vines, it seems, were then planted on the sides of houses, as now they are among us, and not only in vineyards, and to that the psalmist here refers. So likewise of olive-plants it is observable, not only that tables were dressed up with the boughs of them, ramis felicis olivæ, but that, in the eastern countries, they were usually planted, as in arbours, to shade the table, entertainments being made without doors, in gardens, under that umbrage, which gave all the liberty of the cool winds and refreshing blasts. An image whereof we have Genesis 18:4, Wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and a full expression Esther 1:5, The king made a feast in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.” Dr. Horne also, after weighing what Mr. Harmer had advanced against it, adopts this interpretation, observing that Mr. Merrick, in his Annotations, produces some very good arguments in favour of it. The doctor’s comment is, “The vine, a lowly plant, raised with tender care, becoming, by its luxuriance, its beauty, its fragrance, and its clusters, the ornament and glory of the house to which it is joined, and by which it is supported, forms the finest imaginable emblem of a fair, virtuous, and fruitful wife. The olive-trees planted by the inhabitants of the eastern countries around their tables, or banqueting-places in their gardens, to cheer the eye by their verdure, and to refresh the body by their cooling shade, do no less aptly and significantly set forth the pleasure which parents feel at the side of a numerous and flourishing offspring.”

128:1-6 The blessings of those who fear God. - Only those who are truly holy, are truly happy. In vain do we pretend to be of those that fear God, if we do not make conscience of keeping stedfastly to his ways. Blessed is every one that fears the Lord; whether he be high or low, rich or poor in the world. If thou fear him and walk in his ways, all shall be well with thee while thou livest, better when thou diest, best of all in eternity. By the blessing of God, the godly shall get an honest livelihood. Here is a double promise; they shall have something to do, for an idle life is a miserable, uncomfortable life, and shall have health and strength, and power of mind to do it. They shall not be forced to live upon the labours of other people. It is as much a mercy as a duty, with quietness to work and eat our own bread. They and theirs shall enjoy what they get. Such as fear the Lord and walk in his ways, are the only happy persons, whatever their station in life may be. They shall have abundant comfort in their family relations. And they shall have all the good things God has promised, and which they pray for. A good man can have little comfort in seeing his children's children, unless he sees peace upon Israel. Every true believer rejoices in the prosperity of the church. Hereafter we shall see greater things, with the everlasting peace and rest that remain for the Israel of God.Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house - It is not uncommon in the East, as elsewhere, to train a vine along the sides of a house - partly to save ground; partly because it is a good exposure for fruit; partly as an ornament; and partly to protect it from thieves. Such a vine, in its beauty, and in the abundant clusters upon it, becomes a beautiful emblem of the mother of a numerous household. One of the blessings most desired and most valued in the East was a numerous posterity, and this, in the case of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was among the chief blessings which God promised to them - a posterity that should resemble in number the sands of the sea or the stars of heaven. Compare Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12. These two things - the right to the avails of one's labor Psalm 128:2, and a numerous family - are the blessings which are first specified as constituting the happiness of a pious household.

Thy children like olive plants round about thy table - Compare the notes at Psalm 52:8. Beautiful; producing abundance; sending up young plants to take the place of the old when they decay and die. The following extract and preceding cut from "The land and Book," vol. i., pp. 76, 77, will furnish a good illustration of this passage: "To what particular circumstance does David refer in the 128th Psalm, where he says, Thy children shall be like oliveplants round about thy table? Follow me into the grove, and I will show you what may have suggested the comparison. Here we have lilt upon a beautiful illustration. This aged and decayed tree is surrounded, as you see, by several young and thrifty shoots, which spring from the root of the venerable parent. They seem to uphold, protect, and embrace it. We may even fancy that they now bear that lead of fruit which would otherwise be demanded of the feeble parent. Thus do good and affectionate children gather round the table of the righteous. Each contributes something to the common wealth and welfare of the whole - a beautiful sight, with which may God refresh the eyes of every friend of mine."

3. by the sides—or, "within" (Ps 48:2).

olive plants—are peculiarly luxuriant (Ps 52:8).

As a fruitful vine; like the vine for fruitfulness; or like that sort of vines known by this name for its eminent fruitfulness, as some trees amongst us are for the same reason called the great bearers. By the sides of thine house, where the vines are commonly planted for support and other advantages; which being applied to the wife, may signify either,

1. The wife’s duty to abide at home, Titus 2:5, as the harlot is deciphered by her gadding abroad, Proverbs 7:11,12. Or rather,

2. The legitimateness of the children, which are begotten at home by the husband, and not abroad by strangers.

Like olive plants, numerous, growing and flourishing, good both for ornament and manifold uses, as olive trees are.

Round about thy table; where they shall sit at meat with thee, for thy comfort and safety.

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house,.... The vine being a weak and tender tree, which needs propping and supporting; and often is fastened to the sides of a house, to which the allusion here is; whereunto it cleaves, and on which it runs up, and bears very agreeable fruit; it is properly used to express the weakness and tenderness of the female sex, their fruitfulness in bearing children, and their care of domestic affairs, being keepers at home; see 1 Peter 3:7. Kimchi observes, that the vine is the only tree men plant within doors; which, when it is grown up, they bring out at a hole or window of the house without, to have the sun and air; and so its root is within the house, and the branches without: and he observes, that a modest woman is within the house, and does not go without, and is only seen by her husband; but her children, like the branches of the vine, go out to work. This may be applied to Christ and his church; to him the other characters agree: he, as man, is one that feared the Lord; the grace of fear was in him; the spirit of fear rested on him; and he was in the exercise of it, and walked in all the ways of the Lord, Isaiah 11:1; he now sees and enjoys the travail or labour of his soul to satisfaction, and is made most blessed for evermore, Isaiah 53:11. The church is the bride, the Lamb's wife, the spouse of Christ; and may be compared to a vine for her weakness in herself, her fruitfulness in grace and good works, and in bringing forth souls to Christ, through the ministry of the word; all which is pleasant and grateful to him; see Psalm 80:14;

thy children like olive plants round about thy table; a numerous offspring was always accounted a very great blessing; and it must be very pleasant to a parent to see his children round about his table, placed in their proper order according to their age, partaking of what it is furnished with: Job, in his time of prosperity, had many children; and, next to the presence of the Almighty with him, he mentions this of his children being about him; see Job 1:2. This may be applied to the spiritual seed and offspring of Christ, which are like to olive trees or olive plants; to which David is compared, Psalm 52:8; the two anointed ones in Zechariah 4:11; the two witnesses in Revelation 11:4; and all true believers in Christ may; because of their excellency, these being choice plants; because of their fruitfulness and beauty; because of their fatness, and having oil in them; and because of their perpetuity, being ever green; see Jeremiah 11:16. Now Christ has a table, which he has well furnished, at which he himself sits, and places these his children all around; and whom he welcomes to the entertainment he makes, and takes delight and pleasure in them, Sol 1:12. Kimchi observes, the olive trees do not admit of a graft from other trees; see Romans 11:24; and so this denotes the legitimacy of those children, being free from all suspicion of being spurious, being born of such a wife as before described; and being green and moist all the year long, denotes their continuance in good works.

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy {c} children like olive plants round about thy table.

(c) Because God's favour appears in no outward thing more than in the increase of children, he promises to enrich the faithful with this gift.

3. as a fruitful vine] The fruitfulness, gracefulness, and preciousness of the vine are obvious points of comparison: its dependence and need of support may also be alluded to.

by the sides of thine house] Rather, in the innermost chambers of thy house (Jer. in penetralibus domus tuae), to be connected with thy wife, as in the next line round about thy table obviously belongs to thy children. The women’s apartments were at the back of the tent or house, furthest from the entrance.

thy sons like olive plants] The picture is that of the young olive trees springing up round the parent stem, fresh and full of promise. Cp. Thomson, Land and Book, p. 57. The evergreen olive is an emblem of vitality and vigour (Psalm 52:8; Jeremiah 11:16, &c.).

round about thy table] Cp. 1 Samuel 16:11, “We will not sit round till he come hither.”

Verse 3. - Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides (rather, in the inner chambers) of thine house. The second point of blessedness is a fruitful wife, content to dwell in the female apartments of the house, to keep at home (Titus 2:5) and guide the household. Thy children like olive plants; or, "olive shoots" - the vigorous offsets from an aged olive tree, which spring up around it, ready to take its place. Round about thy table. Clustering around thy board, at once a source of cheerfulness and strength (see Psalm 127:5). This is the third point of blessedness. Psalm 128:3The כּי in Psalm 128:2 signifies neither "for" (Aquila, κόπον τῶν ταρσῶν σου ὅτι φάγεσαι), nor "when" (Symmachus, κόπον χειρῶν σου ἐωθίων); it is the directly affirmative כּי, which is sometimes thus placed after other words in a clause (Psalm 118:10-12, Genesis 18:20; Genesis 41:32). The proof in favour of this asseverating כּי is the very usual כּי עתּה in the apodoses of hypothetical protases, or even כּי־אז in Job 11:15, or also only כּי in Isaiah 7:9, 1 Samuel 14:39; "surely then;" the transition from the confirmative to the affirmative signification is evident from Psalm 128:4 of the Psalm before us. To support one's self by one's own labour is a duty which even a Paul did not wish to avoid (Acts 20:34), and so it is a great good fortune (טוב לך as in Psalm 119:71) to eat the produce of the labour of one's own hands (lxx , τοὺς καρποὺς τῶν πόνων, or according to an original reading, τοὺς πὸνους τῶν καρπῶν);

(Note: The fact that the τῶν καρπῶν of the lxx here, as in Proverbs 31:20, is intended to refer to the hands is noted by Theodoret and also by Didymus (in Rosenmuller): καρποὺς φησὶνῦν ὡς ἀπὸ μέρους τὰς χεῖρας (i.e., per synecdochen partis pro toto), τουτέστι τῶν πρακτικῶν σου δυνάμεων φάγεσαι τοὺς πόνους.)

For he who can make himself useful to others and still is also independent of them, he eats the bread of blessing which God gives, which is sweeter than the bread of charity which men give. In close connection with this is the prosperity of a house that is at peace and contented within itself, of an amiable and tranquil and hopeful (rich in hope) family life. "Thy wife (אשׁתּך, found only here, for אשׁתּך) is as a fruit-producing vine." פּריּה for פּרה, from פּרה equals פּרי, with the Jod of the root retained, like בוכיּה, Lamentations 1:16. The figure of the vine is admirably suited to the wife, who is a shoot or sprig of the husband, and stands in need of the man's support as the vine needs a stick or the wall of a house (pergula). בּירכּתי ביתך does not belong to the figure, as Kimchi is of opinion, who thinks of a vine starting out of the room and climbing up in the open air outside. What is meant is the angle, corner, or nook (ירכּתי, in relation to things and artificial, equivalent to the natural ירכי), i.e., the background, the privacy of the house, where the housewife, who is not to be seen much out of doors, leads a quiet life, entirely devoted to the happiness of her husband and her family. The children springing from such a nobel vine, planted around the family table, are like olive shoots or cuttings; cf. in Euripides, Medea, 1098: τέκνων ἐν οἴκοις γλυκερὸν βλάστημα, and Herc. Fur. 839: καλλίπαις στέφανος. thus fresh as young layered small olive-trees and thus promising are they.

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