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Psalm 128

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Blessedness of the Fear of the Lord
MT Intro
A Song of Ascents
Blessing of Those Who Fear the Lord A Large and Prosperous Family Is A Reward for Devotion to the Lord
(Wisdom Psalm)
The Reward of Obedience to the Lord Blessings on the Faithful
128:1-4 128:1 128:1-4 128:1 128:1
  128:2-4   128:2-4 128:2-3
        128:4-6
128:5-6 128:5-6a 128:5-6a 128:5-6  
  128:6b 128:6b    

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 128:1-4
 1How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
 Who walks in His ways.
 2When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
 You will be happy and it will be well with you.
 3Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
 Within your house,
 Your children like olive plants
 Around your table.
 4Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed
 Who fears the Lord.

128:1 "blessed" See note on this word (BDB 80) at Ps. 1:1. There are two major terms in Hebrew for the concept of "blessed" or "happy," both relating to God and humans. Let me use Deuteronomy 33 as an example.

1. bless (see SPECIAL TOPIC: BLESSING [OT])

a. noun - BDB 139, cf. Deut. 33:1,11

b. verb - BDB 138, cf. Deut. 33:1,13,20,24

2. bless - BDB 80, used in Ps. 1:1 and 18 more times in Psalms but not in Genesis or Deuteronomy

YHWH's blessings are directly related to those covered by His covenant. It is based on obedience (see Special Topic: Keep). This whole concept of prosperity and contentment is part of the OT's "two ways," seen in Psalm 1; Deut. 30:15,19 and described as "cursing" and "blessing" in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-30.

The truly blessed person is the one who is rightly related to (1) God, (2) his/her family, and (3) the people of God. All three spheres must be in harmony!

▣ "everyone" Notice how this is limited.

1. those who fear the Lord, Ps. 128:3,4 (see Special Topic: Fear [OT])

2. those who walk in His ways (cf. Ps. 119:2-3)

So the blessing is not for "everyone," not even for covenant people, but only for faithful followers!

This has implications on how Christians should view the modern state of Israel. Covenant obedience is a prerequisite to covenant promises!

▣ "ways" See Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation.

128:2-3 Notice the covenant promises for faithful followers (here, to one individual).

1. enjoy the fruit of their labors

2. be happy

3. good life

4. good home life

5. many, healthy children

6. a long life

This is the essence of OT blessings. YHWH wanted to get the attention of the nations by blessing Israel. Once they noticed, Israel was to share the source of their blessing and peace—YHWH.

It should be stated that abundant population growth was a command of God in

1. Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7

2. it was part of the promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:2; 13:16; 16:10

3. it was also the reality of the family of Jacob (cf. Gen. 28:14) in Egypt that caused the Egyptian leaders to fear and persecute Israel (Exodus 1-2).

 

128:2a Just a note to mention that this promise is the exact opposite of the threat of exile! The exiles were God's judgment on faithless covenant followers. It was the very opposite of His intended purposes. It was the epitome of irony!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 128:5-6
 5The Lord bless you from Zion,
 And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
 6Indeed, may you see your children's children.
 Peace be upon Israel!

128:5-6 This is a closing prayer for both the individual faithful follower and national Israel (cf. Ps. 128:6b).

1. Ps. 128:5a - bless (BDB 138, KB 159, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense)

2. Ps. 128:5b - may you see. . . (BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative)

3. Ps. 128:6a - same as #2

4. Ps. 128:6b - no verb but an assumed prayer (cf. Ps. 125:5)

It is interesting that Paul's allusion to the church in Gal. 6:16 uses similar phrasing to Ps. 128:6. Whether it is a direct, conscious allusion is uncertain.

Notice that "the prosperity of Jerusalem" is parallel to "see your children's children." This refers to long term peace, prosperity, and societal stability.

128:5 "from Zion" This refers to YHWH dwelling in the temple (cf. Ps. 1234:3). See Special Topic: Zion.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Define the Hebrew term "blessed" (Ps. 128:1a).

2. Define the Hebrew term "fear" (Ps. 128:1a).

3. Why is "many children" considered a blessing?

4. How are the categories of faith, home, and nation linked?