Psalm 127:5
Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
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(5) They.—Not the sons. There is here one of the sudden changes of number in which Hebrew poetry abounds. (See especially Psalm 107:43.) Parents who have large families of sons are evidently intended. From the figure of the warrior and the arrows we should expect here, too, a martial image. They shall not be discomfited, but they shall challenge their enemies in the gates. In illustration may be quoted:

“Therefore men pray to have around their hearth,

Obedient offspring, to requite their foes

With harm, and honour whom their father loves;

But he whose issue is unprofitable,

Begets what else but sorrow to himself,

And store of laughter to his enemies?”

SOPH.: Antig., 641

On the other hand, it is the habit of Hebrew poetry to accumulate metaphors, and the gate is so commonly spoken of as the place of public resort, where legal cases were decided (Isaiah 29:21; Amos 5:12, &c), that it is quite as likely that the allusion here is to the support which a man’s just cause would receive when evidently backed up by a long retinue of stalwart sons. This view certainly receives support from Job 5:4, where we have the very opposite picture of a tyrant’s sons, not only unable to support their father, but themselves “crushed in the gate;” and the phrase “speak with their enemies” in this same verse may be illustrated from Joshua 20:4; Jeremiah 12:1.

127:1-5 The value of the Divine blessing. - Let us always look to God's providence. In all the affairs and business of a family we must depend upon his blessing. 1. For raising a family. If God be not acknowledged, we have no reason to expect his blessing; and the best-laid plans fail, unless he crowns them with success. 2. For the safety of a family or a city. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen, though they neither slumber nor sleep, wake but in vain; mischief may break out, which even early discoveries may not be able to prevent. 3. For enriching a family. Some are so eager upon the world, that they are continually full of care, which makes their comforts bitter, and their lives a burden. All this is to get money; but all in vain, except God prosper them: while those who love the Lord, using due diligence in their lawful callings, and casting all their care upon him, have needful success, without uneasiness or vexation. Our care must be to keep ourselves in the love of God; then we may be easy, whether we have little or much of this world. But we must use the proper means very diligently. Children are God's gifts, a heritage, and a reward; and are to be accounted blessings, and not burdens: he who sends mouths, will send meat, if we trust in him. They are a great support and defence to a family. Children who are young, may be directed aright to the mark, God's glory, and the service of their generation; but when they are gone into the world, they are arrows out of the hand, it is too late to direct them then. But these arrows in the hand too often prove arrows in the heart, a grief to godly parents. Yet, if trained according to God's word, they generally prove the best defence in declining years, remembering their obligations to their parents, and taking care of them in old age. All earthly comforts are uncertain, but the Lord will assuredly comfort and bless those who serve him; and those who seek the conversion of sinners, will find that their spiritual children are their joy and crown in the day of Jesus Christ.Happy is the man - Hebrew, The happiness of the man. See the notes at Psalm 1:1.

That hath his quiver full of them - The quiver is a case in which arrows are carried; and as a man - a hunter or warrior - feels secure when he has his quiver full of arrows, so a man is blessed in proportion to the number of his sons. This is in accordance with the idea often presented in the Bible, and the promise often made there of a numerous posterity as a proof of the divine favor.

They shall not be ashamed - They shall not turn back discomfited, hanging their heads with shame and confusion. See the notes at Job 6:20.

But they shall speak with the enemies in the gate - Margin, "shall subdue, or destroy." The Hebrew word, however, means "to speak;" and the meaning is, that they would "speak" to their foes in the place of conflict - for a battle occurred often in the gate of a city, as the possession of a gate, or an entrance to a city was of so much importance to those who attacked, and those who defended it. The idea is, that they would speak with effect; they would distinguish themselves; they would let their presence be known. The connection does not allow us to understand this of forensic controversy, or of transactions in business, though these were usually performed at the gates of cities. The meaning is, that they would do honor to the family, and gratify the heart of the parent, by their valor in defending their city and home, or in attacking the cities of the enemies of their country. The psalm is designed to inculcate the lesson of dependence on God for success in everything.

5. adversaries in the gate—or place of public business (compare Job 5:4; Ps 69:12). That hath his quiver full of them; who hath a numerous issue; which as it is a great blessing in itself, so Solomon’s want of it made it more valuable in his eyes.

They shall not be ashamed; such parents fear not the reproach of barrenness, which was grievous, especially among the Jews; of which see Luke 1:25; nor any other shame from their enemies.

They shall speak with the enemies in the gate; they shall courageously plead their cause in courts of judicature, which were in the gates, Deu 21:19 25:7, not fearing to be crushed by the might of their adversaries, as weak and helpless persons frequently are. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them,.... That is, his house full of them; called a quiver, referring to arrows before mentioned, this being the case in which they are put up: to have many children was always reckoned a great temporal blessing and happiness; see Job 1:2. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, render it, "that fills his desire" has as many as he desires or wishes for: the Targum,

"who fills his school of them:''

so Jarchi interprets the children, of the disciples of the wise men. It may be applied to young converts, the children of Christ and of the church; which, when numerous, is a blessing to him and her; see Isaiah 49:20;

they shall not be ashamed; the father and his children, as Aben Ezra; parents rather are meant, who are not ashamed when they have many children: with the Romans (z), those that had wives and children were preferred in honour to senior persons that had none; and they that had most to those that had fewest; and so with the Persians; See Gill on Esther 5:11;

but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate: where courts of judicature were kept; and so the Targum,

"in the gate of the house of judgment.''

The sense is, that their children should stand and plead the cause of their parents against their adversaries in courts of judicature; or publicly before the eyes of all, as Aben Ezra: and spiritually may design such of Christ's seed who are set for the defence of the Gospel, are valiant for the truth on earth, and earnestly contend for it; meet the enemy in the gate, publicly oppose him, and behave themselves like men, and are strong.

(z) A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 2. c. 15.

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they {g} shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

(g) Such children will be able to stop their adversaries mouths, when their godly life is maliciously accused before judges.

5. his quiver] The figure of the preceding verse is continued.

they] i.e. the fathers of such numerous families.

but they shall speak &c.] Rather, when they speak with enemies in the gate. The open space by the city gate was the place where justice was administered and the citizens met for business or social intercourse (Deuteronomy 21:19; Psalm 69:12). ‘Speak’ may be used in the technical sense of ‘pleading a cause’ (Joshua 20:4), or in a general sense; and the meaning will be that a man with a stalwart family to support him runs no risk of being wronged by powerful enemies through the maladministration of justice, as was too commonly the case (Job 5:4, and the prophets passim): or that in ordinary business and intercourse he will meet with respect as a man of influence and consideration. This explanation is preferable to that which supposes the reference to be to war. In that case ‘speak’ must denote the ‘parley’ which might take place before the assault on a town. When the enemy demands the surrender of the town, it may boldly defy its assailants if it is well manned by a numerous population.

Professor Bevan suggests that the allusion may be to ‘boasting-matches’ like the Mufâchara of the Arabs. Before a battle the champion of the tribe would step in front of the ranks, and proclaim to the enemy the nobility and prowess of his tribe. Even in times of peace it was a common occurrence in Arab society for poets to engage in such rivalries, and sometimes they led to fierce and bloody tribal feuds. In such contests the strength of a family would naturally form an important element. See Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien, 1. 54 ff.Verse 5. - Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. Happy the man whose quiver contains many such arrows, and who is thus sure of abundant protection. They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate; rather, when they shall speak (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). "The gate" was the place where judgment was given, and where consequently adversaries were apt to meet, as they pushed their respective causes. There might be collisions on such occasions; and, in any case, a man with several lusty sons to take his part would have an advantage.

But still the work so mightily and graciously begun is not completed. Those who up to the present time have returned, out of whose heart this Psalm is, as it were, composed, are only like a small vanguard in relation to the whole nation. Instead of שׁבותנו the Kerמ here reads שׁביתנוּ, from שׁבית, Numbers 21:29, after the form בכית in Genesis 50:4. As we read elsewhere that Jerusalem yearns after her children, and Jahve solemnly assures her, "thou shalt put them all on as jewels and gird thyself like a bride" (Isaiah 49:18), so here the poet proceeds from the idea that the holy land yearns after an abundant, reanimating influx of population, as the Negeb (i.e., the Judaean south country, Genesis 20:1, and in general the south country lying towards the desert of Sinai) thirsts for the rain-water streams, which disappear in the summer season and regularly return in the winter season. Concerning אפיק, "a water-holding channel," vid., on Psalm 18:16. If we translate converte captivitatem nostram (as Jerome does, following the lxx), we shall not know what to do with the figure, whereas in connection with the rendering reduc captivos nostros it is just as beautifully adapted to the object as to the governing verb. If we have rightly referred negeb not to the land of the Exile but to the Land of Promise, whose appearance at this time is still so unlike the promise, we shall now also understand by those who sow in tears not the exiles, but those who have already returned home, who are again sowing the old soil of their native land, and that with tears, because the ground is so parched that there is little hope of the seed springing up. But this tearful sowing will be followed by a joyful harvest. One is reminded here of the drought and failure of the crops with which the new colony was visited in the time of Haggai, and of the coming blessing promised by the prophet with a view to the work of the building of the Temple being vigorously carried forward. Here, however, the tearful sowing is only an emblem of the new foundation-laying, which really took place not without many tears (Ezra 3:12), amidst sorrowful and depressed circumstances; but in its general sense the language of the Psalm coincides with the language of the Preacher on the Mount, Matthew 5:4 : Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. The subject to Psalm 126:6 is the husbandman, and without a figure, every member of the ecclesia pressa. The gerundial construction in Psalm 126:6 (as in 2 Samuel 3:16; Jeremiah 50:4, cf. the more Indo-Germanic style of expression in 2 Samuel 15:30) depicts the continual passing along, here the going to and fro of the sorrowfully pensive man; and Psalm 126:6 the undoubted coming and sure appearing of him who is highly blessed beyond expectation. The former bears משׁך הזּרע, the seed-draught, i.e., the handful of seed taken from the rest for casting out (for משׁך הזּרע in Amos 9:13 signifies to cast forth the seed along the furrows); the latter his sheaves, the produce (תּבוּאה), such as puts him to the blush, of his, as it appeared to him, forlorn sowing. As by the sowing we are to understand everything that each individual contributes towards the building up of the kingdom of God, so by the sheaves, the wholesome fruit which, by God bestowing His blessing upon it beyond our prayer and comprehension, springs up from it.
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