Psalm 129:1
Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Many a time.—Or more literally, much. (See margin.)

From my youth.—Here, of course, not the youth of a person, but of the nation. The poet glances back even to the Egyptian bondage. (See Hosea 2:15, “as in the days of her youth, and as in the days when she came up out of the land of Egypt;” comp. Ezekiel 23:3; Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 22:21, recalling all the long series of oppressions suffered by the race.)

May Israel now say.—There is in the original no adverb of time: “let Israel say.”

Psalm 129:1. Many a time have they — Namely, my enemies or oppressors; afflicted me from my youth — From the time that I was a people; when I was in Egypt, and after I came out of it, which is called the time of Israel’s youth, Jeremiah 2:2; Ezekiel 23:3. I am the people that has been oppressed more than any people, that has been as a speckled bird, pecked at by all the birds round about; attacked by all the beasts of the field assembled to devour, Jeremiah 12:9. It is true they brought their troubles upon themselves by their sins, for which it was that God punished them; but it was for the peculiarity of their covenant, and the singularities of their religion, that their neighbours hated and persecuted them. God’s real people have always had many enemies, and the state of the church, from its infancy, has frequently been an afflicted state.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.Many a time - Margin, as in Hebrew, "much." Probably, however, the idea is, as expressed in our translation, "many a time;" "often." So it is in the Latin Vulgate and the Septuagint; and this accords better with the connection.

Have they afflicted me from my youth - Have I been afflicted; have others dealt unjustly by me. The youth here is the beginning. of the history of that people: since we began to be a people; since the nation was founded.

May Israel now say - May the nation now say. It is clear from this that the psalm was not written at an early period of their history.

PSALM 129

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).

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.

Psalm 129:1

"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.

Psalm 129:2

"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.

Psalm 129:3

"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.

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm contains a joyful and thankful remembrance of the church’s former and manifold calamities from barbarous enemies, and of God’s wonderful mercy in delivering them out of their hands.

The various manifold afflictions of the church described, but delivered out of all, Psalm 139:1-4. The haters thereof cursed, and devoted to judgment, Psalm 139:5-8.

They; mine enemies or oppressors; which is easily understood, both from the nature of the thing, and from Psalm 129:3, where they are expressed under the name of ploughers.

From my youth; from the time that I was a people, when I was in Egypt and came out of it, which is called the time of Israel’s youth, Jeremiah 2:2 Ezekiel 23:3.

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.

<> Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may {a} Israel now say:

(a) The Church now afflicted should remember how her condition has always been such from the beginning to be molested most grievously by the wicked, yet in time it has always been delivered.

1. Much have they vexed me from my youth up, let Israel now say.

The history of Israel is often compared to the life of an individual. Israel’s life began in Egypt Cp. Hosea 2:3; Hosea 2:15; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 2:2; &c. From the Egyptian bondage onward it has repeatedly been oppressed by enemies. For let Israel say, i.e. let Israel thankfully recall the lessons of its history, cp. Psalm 118:2; Psalm 124:1.

1–4. Throughout its history Israel has been harassed by enemies, but in His faithfulness Jehovah has preserved His people from destruction.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. The 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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