Verse 1. - When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion; literally, when the Lord turned again the returning of Zion; i.e. "brought back those who returned from the Captivity." We were like them that dream. We could scarce credit our senses; we seemed to be in a happy "dream" (comp. Acts 12:9).
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.
Verse 2. - Then was our mouth filled with laughter. The Orientals weep when they are disappointed, and, when they are pleased, laugh (Genesis 21:6; Job 8:21) and shout for joy (Herod., 8:99). And our tongue with singing; rather, with a cry of joy. Then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them; literally, hath magnified to do with them. The heathen, among whom the Israelites had dwelt, marveled at their deliverance. It was an event without a parallel.
The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
Verse 3. - The Lord hath done great things for us. "What the heathen said was true - the Lord hath indeed done great things for us." Whereof we are glad. For these great things we rejoice and give thanks. The first part of the psalm - the absolutely pure joy-song - here ends; and the second part - the mixed joy and sorrow - begins.
Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.
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.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Verse 5. - They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Then we, who are now "sowing in tears" (Ezra 3:12, 13; Neb. 1:4), re-establishing Israel in its own land amid grief and pain and distress, shall "reap in joy," see the fruit of our exertions, and rejoice thereat.
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Verse 6. - He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed; literally, going he goes and weeping; i.e. weeping every step as he goes - "bearing the draught of seed," i.e. the seed which he has drawn forth from his bag, and is about to scatter on the earth. Thus it is that he "goes forth." How differently does he return! He shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him; literally, coming he comes with a cry of joy, bearing with him his sheaves. He obtains in the end an ample return for all his labors.