<> Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Verse 1. - Except the Lord build the house; rather, a house; i.e. any house whatsoever. They labor in vain that build it. They will effect nothing - no house will be built. Except the Lord keep the city; rather, a city. The watchman waketh but in vain. Human watching is of no use unless accompanied by Divine watching.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Verse 2. - It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late (comp. Isaiah 5:11); i.e. to be "careful and troubled" about your work in the world, whatever it is. To eat the bread of sorrows. To feed, as it were, on sorrow - and trouble and care - to make your lives a burden to yourselves through your carefulness. For so he giveth his beloved sleep; rather, surely he giveth to his beloved in sleep; i.e. in their sleep. The teaching is similar to that of Exodus 14:14; Isaiah 30:7, 15; Matthew 6:25-34. God gives to men that which he knows they have need of, if they have only the faith to "sit still" and "wait."
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Verse 3. - Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord. The teaching is enforced by an example. The prosperity, alike of states and of individuals, depends on nothing so much as on an abundant progeny of children. But children are manifestly the free gift of God. And the fruit of the womb is his reward. One of the ways in which he rewards his faithful ones (see Deuteronomy 28:10:11).
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Verse 4. - As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth; rather, the children of youth; i.e. children born to a man in his youth. Such children protect their aged parents as effectually as arrows in the hand of a warrior.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
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.