Bruce K. Dahlberg










                     Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements

                            for the degree of Master of Theology in

                                     Grace Theological Seminary

                                                    May 1984





                   Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt, Gordon College, 2007.
Title:               AN EXEGETICAL STUDY OF PSALM 127

Author:           Bruce K. Dahlberg

Degree:          Master of Theology, 1984

Advisers:        John J. Davis and D. Wayne Knife


            Proper exegetical study of Psalm 127 is often clouded by

unnecessary baggage. Presuppositions have torn this psalm away from

its historical situation. These presuppositions hindered the understanding

of the psalm and the resolution of specific problems in the psalm.

            By way of a contextual analysis that is confirmed

and developed through an exegetical study of this psalm, a

proper focus for exegetical study can be achieved. The

Hebrew text is clear of any textual difficulties. It is the

LXX that has created textual difficulties which can be

cleared up by proper exegesis. This wisdom psalm is com-

posed of two aphorisms that are unified in one psalm. These

two aphorisms or proverbs seek to describe and prescribe the

way to achieve the good life. The psalm evidences a

eudaemonistic or prudential wisdom flavor. The Sitz im

Leben is probably seen in the pilgrimages of the Israelite

to the annual feasts in Jerusalem. The authorship and date

are tied together. The trustworthiness of the psalm titles,

the nature of wisdom literature, and biblical evidence point

to a Solomonic authorship and a date around 971-941 B.C. It

is important to note that wisdom literature does not indicate lateness.

            The dictum of Yahweh's sovereignty is spelled out in

verses 1-2. If the activity of life providing shelter and

security is done without acknowledgement of Yahweh in the

attitude of the worker, the thing which is done is evil.

xvw speaks primarily of wickedness, that which is done

against the will of God. The dictum of God also speaks to

the livelihood of man. The life that stretches that day

beyond normal limits because of anxiety or licentiousness is

declared evil. xnAwe means sleep as traditionally understood,

is the reward of the diligent worker (Ecc 5:18-6:2).

Because of the literary device used, it is unnecessary to

seek other meanings for the word xnAwe. The blessing of

Yahweh is spelled out in verses 3-5. The themes began in

verse one tie in the second proverb.  Sons become a heritage

of earthly parents who are like arrows to be used by the

mighty warrior. In time of need the father can depend on

them for support against unfair judiciary practice in the city gate.

            The beauty of the psalm is not only in the meaning

of it, but the literary production is truly superb. Many

types of parallelism are used along with verbal figures that

tie the psalm together and guide one in the understanding of

the semantical aspects of the psalm.












               Accepted by the Faculty of Grace Theological Seminary

                   in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree

                                             Master of Theology


                                                  John J. Davis

                                                D. Wayne Knife


                               TABLE OF CONTENTS


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS                                                                                     vi

INTRODUCTION AND STATEMENT OF PURPOSE                              1


I. CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS                                                                                 3

            Textual Critical Note                                                                                    3

            Gattung                                                                                                           4

            Sitz im Leben                                                                                                 7

            Structure                                                                                                        10

                        Unity of Psalm 127                                                                           10

                        Outline of Psalm 127                                                                       14

            Authorship and Date                                                                         15

                        Psalm Titles                                                                                       15

                        Wisdom Literature                                                                            17

                        Biblical Evidence                                                                              23


II. EXEGETICAL STUDY PROPER                                                                       28

            Introduction                                                                                                   28

            Verse One                                                                                                      29

                        Grammatical Observations                                                               29

                        Semantical Studies                                                                            31

                                    tyiba/ ryfi                                                                                32

                                    xv;wA                                                                                        37

                        Interpretative Summary                                                                    39

            Verse Two                                                                                                      42

                        Grammatical Observations                                                               42

                        Semantical Studies                                                                            48

                                    xnAwe--A Resolution                                                                49

                                    xnAwe---Other Explanations                                                    55

                        Interpretative Summary                                                                    58

            Verse Three                                                                                                   59

                        Grammatical Observations                                                               59

                        Semantical Studies                                                                            61

                        Interpretative Summary                                                                    63

            Verse Four                                                                                                     65

                        Grammatical Observations                                                               65

                        Semantical Studies                                                                            65

                        Interpretative Summary                                                                    68

            Verse Five                                                                                                      69

                        Grammatical Observations                                                               69



                        Semantical Studies                                                                            71

                        Interpretative Summary                                                                    75

            Conclusion                                                                                                     76


III. A SUGGESTED TRANSLATION                                                                      78

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

APPENDICES                                                                                                           79

            I. Structural Schematic                                                                                 79

            II. House/City                                                                                                80

            III. Quiver/Arrows                                                                                         82

            IV. City Gate                                                                                     84

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF CONSULTED WORKS                                                      86

                                       LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS


AB                   Anchor Bible

ANE                Ancient Near East

ANET              J. B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern


BA                   Biblical Archaeologist

BDB                Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, C. A. Briggs,

                        Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament

BHS                Biblia hebraica stuttgartensia

DJD                Discoveries in the Judean Desert

DSS                 Dead Sea Scrolls

ExpTim           Expository Times

GKC               E. Kautzsch, A. E. Cowley, Gesenius' Hebrew


HUCA             Hebrew Union College Annual

ICC                 International Critical Commentary

JANESCU      Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of

                        Columbia University

JAOS              Journal of the American Oriental Society

JSOT               Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

LXX                Septuagint

MSS                Manuscripts

MT                  Massoretic Text

VT                   Vetus Testamentum





            In a few terse verses, Psalm 127 delineates the

spectrum of God's sovereignty--a spectrum that moves from

the realm of judgment to the realm of blessing. The verses

which open up this spectrum are superficially familiar to

many. They present simple truths that are often used with-

out consideration for the context from which they come.

Consequently, the literary beauty and total impact of the

psalm are lost.

            The psalm is not a difficult one. Yet, there are

problems in it that perplex interpreters. The unity of the

psalm and the final colon of verse two are problematic areas

of this psalm.1 It is usually the latter problem which

draws the most attention. Apart from these two areas of

concern the psalm has not been inundated with serious study.

Not only does the psalm speak of tremendous theological

truths, but, it also provides a sphere in which to see the

literary hand of a poet at work. Both of these areas tease

the interpreter for further study. Above all of these, the

canonicity of the psalm is a major factor for the pursuit of

study. It is part of God's word which reveals God and any


            1Patrick D. Miller, "Psalm 127--The House that

Yahweh Builds," JSOT (1982):119.



study in which one's knowledge of God is expanded is worth-

while (2 Tim 3:16).

            The purpose of this thesis is to exegetically under-

stand this psalm as a basis for valid application for the

modern day believer. In order to accomplish this goal,

introductory matters must be dealt with such as the Gattung,

Sitz im Leben, structure, authorship, and date; an exegeti-

cal study of the verses must be undertaken; and finally the

application of the psalm is necessary.


                                   CHAPTER I


                       CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS


            The matters dealt with in this chapter should not

be viewed apart from the exegetical study. These matters

are derived from and confirmed by exegetical study. They

are presented here prior to the exegetical study proper to

alleviate some unnecessary baggage from the exegetical study

and to provide a proper focus for the study.


                                 Textual Critical Note

            The text of Psalm 127 is not problematic as it

relates to the Hebrew text. The MT is substantiated by the

Qumran materials. The Qumran texts are filled with many

lacunae in regards to Psalm 127, but what is found agrees

with the MT.1 The LXX, however, presents some problems.


            1J. A. Sanders, The Dead Sea Psalm Scroll (New York:

Cornell University Press, 1967), pp. 40-41. Cf. John M.

Allegro, Qumran Cave 4, DJD (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968),

pp. 51-52 and D. Barthelemy and J. T. Milik, Qumran Cave 1,

DJD (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), p. 71. It should be

observed that an orthographic variant exists between the two

texts. The Qumran text uses a waw instead of the holem.

Comments on this variant can be found in David Noel Freedman,

"The Massoretic Text and the Qumran Scrolls: A Study in

Orthography," in Textus, vol. 2, edited by C. Raben (Jeru-

salem: Magnes Press, 1962), pp. 87-102. This difference

supports the text rather than detracts from it. Even though

the Essene scribes decided to adapt the plenary spelling,

this did not change the meaning. Furthermore, it shows the

scribes were willing to change the text, but they did not




There are a number of variants which appear to be misunder-

standings of the MT or interpretations of the MT. These

differences will be brought to light in the next chapter.

The outcome of these variants will be readily seen as the

meaning of the psalm is unfolded.



            The Gattung of Psalm 127 has been generally classi-

fied as a wisdom psalm.1 Yet, there are some who see wisdom

influence but are unwilling to classify it as a wisdom

psalm.2 Walter Kaiser has compiled two lists from various

authorities which delineate the distinctive style and themes

of wisdom psalms.3 Using these lists one can readily iden-

tify Psalm 127 as a wisdom psalm. Drawing from the list of

stylistic distinctives, Psalm 127 evidences a few of these

distinctives: (1) A "blessed" saying (yrew;xa) is used in

verse five; (2) A comparison is found in verse four; (3)

Admonitions are accounted for in verses one and two; (4) The


where many recent scholars would do so. This would support

the earlier text.

            1A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms, in New Century

Bible (London: Oliphants, 1972), p. 866. Artur Weiser, The

Psalms (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962), p. 764.

            2Roland E. Murphy, "A Consideration of the Classifi-

cation 'Wisdom Psalms,'" in Studies in Ancient Israelite

Wisdom, edited by James L. Crenshaw (New York: KTAV Pub-

lishing House, 1976), p. 464.

            3Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids:

Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), pp. 165-66.



use of wisdom vocabulary such as "vanity" and "sons";1 (5)

The employment of proverbs of which this psalm is composed.2

Westermann amplifies this proverbial idea with these com-


            These three 'psalms (127:1-2; 127:3-5; 133)' could

            appear in the book of Proverbs without changing a word,

            and no one would imagine that they were supposed to be


            The use of thematic criteria according to Kaiser

would classify this psalm as a wisdom psalm.4 Themes such

as "the contrast between the 'rasha ' and 'saddiq "' and

"practical advice as regards conduct" find expression in

this psalm.5

            The literary form associated with "wisdom litera-

ture" can also be broken down into different styles. Psalm

127 would fall into the didactic genre.6 C. Hassell Bullock

would group this psalm with the "lower" wisdom contained in

the Old Testament. This lower wisdom would be contrasted


            1James L. Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom (Atlanta:

John Knox Press, 1981), p. 184.

            2Claus Westermann, The Psalms: Structure, Content

and Message, translated by Ralph D. Gehrke (Minneapolis:

Augsburg Publishing House), p. 115.


            4Kaiser, Old Testament Theology, p. 166.

            5Murphy, "A Consideration," p. 460. Also cf. Pius

Drijvers, The Psalms: Their Structure and Meaning (New

York: Herder and Herder, 1965), p. 230.

            6Leupold Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin and

Meaning, vol. 2 (New York: Alba House, 1969), p. 257.



with the "higher" wisdom such as the book of Job.1 Higher

wisdom is reflective. It takes an issue and probes it from

various angles.2 Lower wisdom is more eudaemonistic in

nature. It seeks to "describe and prescribe the way to

achieve the good life,"3 which would include moral obliga-

tions.4 Walter Kaiser notes that this psalm falls into a

"prudential type of wisdom writing consisting of smaller

units of thought which are disconnected and often isolated


            Clarifying the Gattung of this psalm helps in under-

standing it. Being a wisdom psalm, it mingles the religious

expression of the individual (i.e. a psalm)6 and the means

to live life skillfully (i.e. wisdom)7 with the goal of

instruction (i.e. didactic). Its eudaemonistic motif is

developed and defined in the content of the psalm which will

be explored in the next chapter.

            Horace D. Hummel gives an appropriate perspective on


            lAn Introduction to the Poetic Books of the Old Tes-

tament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), p. 140.

            2Ibid., p. 25.                                        3Ibid., p. 140.

            4Kaiser, Old Testament Theology, p. 178.

            5Ibid., p. 94.

            6Cf. John J. Davis, "The Psalms: Studies in the

Hebrew Text" (Winona Lake, IN: Grace Theological Seminary,

1977), p. 3.

            7Cf. Bruce K. Waltke, Understanding the Old Testa-

ment: A Syllabus (Grand Rapids: Outreach, Inc., 1976),

pp. 29-30.



the role of wisdom literature.

            In a word, the main dogmatic category for properly

            approaching wisdom is the 'third use of the Law.' It

            represents an alternate mode of expression and type of

            approach to the illustration of faithful living found in

            the 'legal' sections of the Pentateuch, and thoroughly

            harmonious and compatible with it. It concentrates on

            those aspects of living which the believer shares with

            all men, and where the motivations or any uniqueness

            will often be unapparent to men.1


                                     Sitz im Leben

            Roland E. Murphy is correct when he states, "All

things considered, however, it must be admitted that the

precise life setting of these poems [wisdom psalms] eludes

us."2 He speaks of the original setting of composition.

But perhaps some light can be shed if the Sitz im Leben is

expanded to include the use of the psalm.

            The first hint of the possible use of the Psalm is

found in the inscription of the Psalm tOlfEma.ha rywi. Psalm 127

falls into a group of fifteen psalms (120-134) which contains

this same inscription. The meaning of rywi is not disputed.

The meaning BDB assigns to it is "song"3 and there is no

reason to doubt this meaning.4 Doubt arises, however, in

regards to tOlfEma.ha. It is often translated "degrees,"


            1The Word Becoming Flesh (St. Louis: Concordia

Publishing House, 1979), p. 396.

            2Murphy, "A Consideration," p. 461.

            3P. 1010.

            4Weston W. Fields, "Solomon's Most Excellent Song"

(Th.D. dissertation, Grace Theological seminary, 1979), p.





"ascents," or "goings up."1 These meanings are within the

lexical range suggested by BDB.2

            An extended treatment of this subject is beyond the

scope of this thesis. Cuthbert C. Keet's work, A    Study of

the Psalms of Ascents, overviews this subject and is bene-

ficial for a more indepth study.3 Of the various views,

four explanations have possibilities: (1) This particular

term denotes a peculiar rhythmical structure of these psalms;

(2) The psalms were sung upon the fifteen steps leading from

the court of the men to the court of the women; (3) These

psalms were sung by exiles on their return from Babylon; (4)

These fifteen songs were sung by the pilgrims as they went

up to Jerusalem for the three great annual feasts (Ex 23:17;

Deut 16:16; 1 Kgs 12:28).4

            The fourth view is the generally accepted view today,

but is far from being unrefutable. Adopting this view would

suggest a cultic use of Psalm 127. Mowinckel suggests that

Psalm 127 be included with those psalms that appear to be


            1A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms (Fincastle,

VA: Scripture Truth, n.d.), p. xxviii.

            2P. 752. The root can be traced to hlf which adds

further dimension to the meaning.

            3(Greenwood, SC: The Attic Press, 1969), pp. 1-17.

            4J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms (George

Bell and Sons, 1.878; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan

Publishing House, 1976), pp. 87-88.



non-cultic.1 Furthermore, Mowinckel denies the possibility

of any of these fifteen psalms being associated with

"pilgrimages."2 The content of Psalm 127 implies the

acknowledgement of Yahweh as supreme and would not be diffi-

cult to see this psalm being sung by the pilgrims as they

journeyed to the temple to worship their sovereign God.

            The second hint is contained in the phrase hmolow;li.

This phrase will be discussed more completely in the follow-

ing section. But some of its ramifications can be pursued

here. Accepting the validity of this expression, it would

not be difficult to see this psalm composed for or by

Solomon to remind him in his activities3 that God is the

ultimate builder. Another situation in which this psalm

might have been composed is for the use in scribal schools.

Solomon might have developed schools to train his nobles in

the way of Yahweh to counteract the secular teachings in

which they were also trained.4

            In summary, the Sitz im Leben is not readily obtain-

able. However, the suggested situations, if retained, would


            1Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship,

trans. by D. R. Ap-Thomas (New York: Abingdon Press, 1967),

vol. 1, p. 111.

            2Ibid., p. 209.

            3See 1 Kings 9:10-26.

            4Barry D. Halvorsen, "Scribes and Scribal Schools in

the Ancient Near East: A Historical Survey" (Th.M. thesis,

Grace Theological Seminary, May 1981), pp. 149ff.



not present any serious objections by the writer to eluci-

date the setting of the psalm.



                          Unity of Psalm 127

            Diverse opinion exists on the unity of this psalm.

Some hold that this psalm is actually two separate psalms

and must be treated as such.1 Others see the psalm as

unified but made up of two original psalm fragments.2 A

third view is that the psalm is an original unified psalm

composed of two aphorisms.3

            Three avenues can be used to bolster the unity of

this psalm. First the thematic aspect of the psalm under-

girds its unity. Both proverbial sayings speak of the

sovereign nature of God. He is the one who determines what

is worthwhile (v. 1) and He is the one who decides to give

reward (v. 3). Other variations of this theme are seen

underlying the two sections of this psalm. Kidner states,

"Both parts proclaim that only what is from God is truly

strong."4 Scroggie sees "the underlying thought throughout


            1E.g. Charles Briggs, The Book of Psalms, vol. 1, 2,

ICC (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909), p. 458.

            2W. O. E. Oesterley, The Psalms (London: S. P. C. K.,

1962), p. 517.

            3A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms, in New Century

Bible (London: Oliphants, 1972).

            4Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150 (London: Inter-Varsity

Press, 1975), p. 441.



is the uselessness of all human effort which does not rely

on the will, power, and goodness of the Lord."1

            Second, the literary and semantic expressions bond

the psalm together. From the literary vantage point,

Mitchell Dahood observes,

            the alliteration of 'b' sounds in vs. la, yibneh

            bayit . . . bonayw bo is echoed by vs. 5b, yebosu

            . . . yedabberu . . .  'oyebim bassa.'ar; and the

            repetition of 's' (=sh) sounds in vs. lb, yismor . . .

            saw' saqad somer recurs in vs. 5a, 'asre . . . 'aser

            . . aspato.2

Semantically, there are a number of subtle attractions that

hold the psalm together. In verse one the city is mentioned

which creates a semantic bond with verse five which speaks

of the gate of the city.3 This member-class relation shows

off the inclusio technique of Hebrew poetry. Another

semantic bond between the two sayings is the concept behind

the words NTeyi (v. 2) and tlaHEna/rkAWA (v. 3). Yahweh is one who

possesses something to give. Another connection is seen in

the ideas of "house" and "sons." It is in the house that

sons are born and reared. It is only natural to see these

concepts as associated.

            Conceivably, the best treatment on the unity of this

psalm is found in Patrick D. Miller's article. He brings


            1William Graham Scroggie, The Psalms (London: Pick-

ering ering and Inglis Ltd., 1948), p. 245.

            2Psalms, vol. 3, AB (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and

Co., 1970), pp. 222-23.

            3Ibid., p. 222.


together both the thematic and semantic avenues when he so

appropriately says,

            Placing this picture or these verses (3-5) following

            verses 1-2 leads to a hearing and understanding of the

            second part of the Psalm in the light of the first. One

            does not enjoy sons as blessing unless the 'house' that

            is built in and through them is built by and under the

            Lord. The banah-banim connection holds together the two

            parts of the Psalm in a single hold. But the admonition

            of the first part has moved to a positive assurance and

            declaration. The transition is in the final colon of

            verse 2 which clearly belongs to the first part of the

            Psalm but anticipates the second part by the moving from

            speaking of Yahweh's gift (natan), which is the subject

            of the second part of the psalm and indicated immedi-

            ately by referring to children as nahalat yhwh and sakar.

            When Abraham hears from Yahweh that his sakar will be

            very great, he asks: 'What will you give me seeing that

            I go childless?' The banim like the sena' are activities

            under Yahweh's direction. That gift is a rich blessing

            for those who receive it.l

            A very striking feature of this psalm is the liter-

ary schematic. Observing some of the key terms in the text,

an interesting pattern unfolds. Beginning with verse one,

the word pair house/city opens up the Psalm.  tyb lies in

the first line of the first proverb. Its semantic relative

MyniBA also lies in the first line of the second proverb. The

author is tying the two sayings together. Following this

same rationale, ryfi appears in the second line but cannot be

divorced from the word pair, so that its position cannot be

secondary to tyiBa. Its semantic cousin is found in the last

line of the second saying and of the entire psalm. It seems

that the following aphorism is controlled and contained by


            1Miller, "The House," pp. 127-28.



the first verse. Continuing this analysis with the last

line of the first proverb, the verb NTeyi appears. But its

semantic friends appear in the first line of the second

saying, again tying the two aphorisms physically together.1

            A third avenue that strengthens the homogeneity is

Psalm 128. It was no accident that Psalm 128 was juxtaposed

to Psalm 127. Their content is very similar. Their juxta-

position provides insight into the meaning of Psalm 127 and

specifically into its unity. Verses 2-3 of Psalm 128 incor-

porate similar motifs as in Psalm 127. tyiBa and MyniBA are

combined in Psalm 128 showing the compatibility of the two

strophes in Psalm 127. Enlarging the thematic field in

Psalm 128 we see the activity of man (v. 2), the city of

Jerusalem (v. 2), and the blessing of Yahweh (v. 5) all

intermingled which demonstrates the feasibility of the unity

of Psalm 127.2

            Moving outside the biblical sphere, additional

material can be found to support the apparent divergent

themes in Psalm 127. There are a few ANE hymns that combine

the thoughts of "houses," "cities," and "sons (or children)."

It should be noted that examples of these hymns do not place

these ideas side by side, yet, they are in the same hymn

showing they can be tied together.


            1See Appendix I for physical layout.

            2Cf. Miller, "The House," p. 128.



            Miller points out a Sumerian hymn for the goddess

Nisaba that uses the notions of divine involvement in the

activities of building housesl and cities and the giving of

fertility to the womb.2 Another example that reminds its

recipients that deity is involved in the building of houses

and involved in the lives of children is the Hittite "Ritual

for the Erection of a House." Again one should note the

interlude between the mention of house3 and children.

            In conclusion, there is a strong foundation for the

unity of the psalm. The underlying themes, the literary and

semantic facets, the relationship with Psalm 128, and the

ANE material all provide sure footings for the unity of the

Psalm. However, orthodoxy will not be questioned if the

unity of the psalm is denied, unless the prevailing motives

are less than orthodox. Breaking the psalm apart destroys

the beauty of thought which permeates the two strophes.


                         Outline of Psalm 127

            Outlines are good for seeing the overall picture of

literary pieces. Although, many times they fail to allow

one to see the delicate inner workings of the composition.

This outline is offered to see the gross structure of the


            1“House” is missing in this text, but noting other

hymns of similar nature allows house to be inserted.

            2Miller, "The House," pp. 121-22.

            3"House" is used cultically, referring to the temple

and is translated "temple."



Psalm and to help show how the Psalm flows together.

            Theme: The Sovereign Activity of God

            I. The Dictum of Sovereignty (vv. 1-2)

                        A. The Dictum on Shelter (v. 1)

                        B. The Dictum on Livelihood (v. 2)

            II. The Blessing of Sovereignty (vv. 3-5)

                        A. The Definition of Blessing (vv. 3-4)

                        B. The Result of Blessing (v. 5)


                                Authorship and Date

            In this psalm the authorship and date are inter-

related. Both issues simultaneously confirm or deny each

other. Therefore it is not profitable to isolate the two,

but rather allow each to speak in harmony on the specific

items of discussion. Three lines of reasoning are founda-

tional to the solution of authorship and date.


                               Psalm Titles

            The first line of reasoning centers on the general

subject of the psalm titles. If the psalm titles are reli-

able, this conclusion will bolster the significance of hmolow;li  

in Psalm 127. The response to the headings has been primar-

ily from two directions. First, the titles are considered

late and unreliable.1 Second, they are reliable historically


            1Mowinckel, Israel's Worship, p. 103.



and of value.1 A third mediating position also exists.

This position regards the headings as preserving certain

Jewish traditions. These traditions will fluctuate as to

their trustworthiness.2 This issue is not within the scope

of this thesis. However, in summary, four arguments can be

briefly stated to show the credibility of the headings.

            1. There is Biblical evidence that David was a

                sacred poet (Amos 6:5; Ezra 3:10; Neh 12:24;

                1 Chr 6:31; 16:7).

            2. An inductive study of Psalm 90 shows Mosaic


            3. There are evidences from Ugaritic and the Ras

                 Shamra that Psalms are not post-exilic, but


            4. The witness of Christ and the Apostles to the

                 Psalms confirms the titles' information.3

These four pieces of rationale demonstrate select psalm

rubrics as reliable. Consequently, if these specific super-

scriptions are historically accurate, then there is reason


            1Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduc-

tion (Chicago:: Moody Press, 1964), pp. 443-45.

            2R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament

(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1.969), pp.

897-903. Also cf. Christoph Barth, Introduction to the

Psalms (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1966), p. 6.

            3Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Psalms: A Syllabus

(Grand Rapids: Outreach, Inc., 1972), p. 8. Also see

Gleason Archer, Old Testament Survey, pp. 443-45.



to see other titles as being accurate. In turn, Psalm 127's

preface can be of value for resolving the authorship of the



                               Wisdom Literature

            The second line of reasoning revolves around the

nature of the Psalm. It was concluded that Psalm 127

belongs to the family of wisdom literature. This conclusion

will have a bearing on the question of authorship. This

second point deals with time periods. It has been held that

wisdom literature arrived on the Israelite scene rather

late.1 Perhaps the earliest date would be put in Hezekiah's

time around the eighth century according to critical opin-

ion.2 These late dates are attributed to the theory of

evolutionary development of the Israelite's religion which

was initiated by Wellhausen. As this theory relates to the

psalm understudy, this particular psalm would fall into the

category of "learned psalmography."3 Briefly what this

jargon says is that Psalm 127 is very late. Psalm 127 is

non-cultic but demonstrates a literary link with the other


            1Derek Kidner, The Proverbs (Downers Grove, IL:

Inter-Varsity Press, 1964), p. 25.

            2R. B. Y. Scott, "Solomon and the Beginnings of Wis-

dom in Israel," in Studies in Ancient Israelite Wisdom,

edited by James L. Crenshaw (New York: KTAV Publishing

House, 1976), p. 101.

            3Sigmund Mowinckel, "Psalms and Wisdom," in Wisdom

in Israel and in the Ancient Near East, edited by M. Noth

and D. Winton Thomas (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1969), p. 206.



cultic psalms. Whereby Psalm 127 is a piece of literature

that was produced by scribes that learned poetic composition

from the preceding poetic material of the former cultic era.

Furthermore, the wisdom style which was late, probably later

than the cultic origin of the psalms, gives evidence of a

learned trait employed in the writing of psalms.l Conse-

quently, the conclusion reached through this type of ratio-

nale is that "the headings 'by David,' 'by Moses,' 'by

Solomon' tell us nothing, therefore, of the real authors."2

            In essence, what the preceding has said is that

because of the wisdom element, Psalm 127 cannot be dated

early and the heading "by Solomon" is not credible because

of its early historical allusions. Now the question must be

asked, does Psalm 127 need to be dated late because of the

wisdom element? In answering this question, another ques-

tion needs to be answered, Does wisdom literature need to be

dated late? The answer to this question is no. Yielding to

the limits of this paper a laconic ratiocination can be

given to support this answer.

            Before building a proper foundation to support the

superstructure of an early date, some debris needs to be

cleared away. An examination is needed of the infrastruc-

ture of the opposing position so that the benefits of it


            1Cf. Mowinckel, "Psalms and Wisdom," pp. 205-8, pp.

213-17; and Psalms in Israel's Worship, pp. 95-103.

            2Mowinckel, Psalms in Israel's Worship, p. 103.



will not be hindered by the shortcomings. In this investi-

gation, data from the study of the psalms and of wisdom

literature will be used. These two areas are related from

a literary standpoint and from a methodological standpoint.

Also both areas relate to the present study of Psalm 127.

            The basal case for the lateness of wisdom literature

rests in the viewpoint of Scripture. Comments such as, "was

based partly on folk tales and the writer's fancy"1 and "the

romantic and fanciful elements"2 reflect two writers' opin-

ions of the account of Solomon's literary achievements in

Scripture. But more importantly they indicate the appraisal

of Scripture. Without the acceptance of the soundness of

the Word, one can follow his own inclinations or those of

others and formulate his own hypothesis.

            Without this control the second level in the infra-

structure can be easily exposed. Those writers in the wis-

dom movement recognized the importance of Mowinckel's work.

But much of Mowinckel's work is based upon the subjective

element. He says, "the age of an individual psalm must be

decided on 'internal grounds,' from what may be more or less

clearly read out of it . . . !”3 As seen before, any


            1R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament

(New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1941), p. 383.

            2Roland E. Murphy, Wisdom Literature and Psalms

(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1981), p. 17.

            3Mowinckel, "Psalms in Israel," p. 153.



historical allusions (i.e. psalm titles) are disregarded

unless they fit in one's system. This is what is done with

the writings associated with Solomon. Even though Solomon

is mentioned in a book, for example Proverbs, Solomon's

potential authorship is disregarded because of the precon-

ceived notion of the origin of wisdom.1

            This preconceived notion leads into a third sub-

stratum of a late date for wisdom literature. Mowinckel

delimits the use of internal grounds by stating that due

regard is given to ". . . what is otherwise known to us

about the spiritual and religious history and state of

Israel at different times."2 The interrogative that natu-

rallys comes to mind is, What is known? In discussing the

origins of Wisdom literature, Roland Murphy suggests a

couple3 and then makes this comment, "How does one 'prove'

that these are the likely origins? There are no sources

that uncover this for us. These [suggested origins] are

only inferences, but not unreasonable ones."4 The point

here is that like Murphy, others seek elsewhere, ignoring

the data in the Scriptures. So, apart from Scripture, what


            1See: R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs-Ecclesiastes, in AB,

(Garden City: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1965), pp. 10-13.

            2Mowinckel, op. cit.

            3He suggests the family or tribe and the court


            4Murphy, "Wisdom Literature," p. 18.



is known? Israel's religion developed in lineal fashion,

from the primitive to the sophisticated, the Wellhausen

approach. So just as Mowinckel will not admit that all but

a grudging few are post-Davidic because the cult was not

matured until the Solomonic temple,1 at which time there was

reason to put the psalms into literary form. Most of those

who late date the wisdom materials do so because Israel at

an early period was not capable of such literary thought.2

            In transition the denial of Scripture has opened up

the imagination of scholars to develop models of origin

which are losing ground to recent Biblical research--research

that is confirming the veracity of Scripture.

            Derek Kidner in his commentary on the book of

Proverbs summarizes the conservative reaction to the research

going on in the area of Wisdom.

            . . . A growing knowledge of Egyptian and Babylonian

            teachings from the millennium before Solomon, and of

            Phoenician literature from fourteenth century Ugarit

            (Ras Shamra) had made it clear that the content of

            Proverbs (whatever the date of its editing) is at home

            in the world of early Israel rather than post-exilic

            Judaism, in its thought, vocabulary, style and, often,

            its metric forms. The idea that the wisdom movement in

            Israel belonged to the late Persian and early Greek

            period is seen now to have been 'a curious myth' of our

            times, and Gunkel's form-criterion (which is belied by

            these early literatures) a 'strait jacket' too long



            1Mowinckel, op. cit., p. 152.

            2R. B. Y. Scott, "Solomon," p. 266.

            3Derek Kidner, Proverbs, pp. 25-26. Cf. also Ken-

neth A. Kitchen, The Bible in its World (Downers Grove, IL:


Some of these materials that Kidner mentions have been

available to some of the most prolific writers on the wisdom

movement. R. B. Y. Scott takes note of the Egyptian witness

to wisdom literature in 1955 but concludes that Israel was

not mature enough to react to this literature.1 Ten years

later, this same author begins to shift in his conclusions.

He first stated the improbability of Solomonic usage of wis-

dom literature, but in 1965 he sees some probability that

“ . . . the Wisdom movement flourished at the court of Solo-

mon and under his patronage.”2 It seems the conclusions

being drawn now could have been drawn earlier, but the

attestation was not strong enough to warrant different con-


            But both Kidner3 and Scott4 were writing about the

same time but with seemingly different conclusions. So why

the different conclusions? Undoubtedly presuppositions were

at the heart of the matter. Scott still seems impressed by

the thesis of evolutionary development in the religion of


            Fresh inquiry is confirming an early date for wisdom


Inter-Varsity Press, 1977), pp. 92-107.

            1R. B. Y. Scott, op. cit., p. 266.

            2R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs, p. xxxiii

            3Derek Kidner, Proverbs, copyrighted in 1964.

            4R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs, copyrighted in 1965.


literature. With an early acceptable date, one can agree

with J. H. Eaton in regards to Psalm 127.

            The tentative nature of Mowinckel's identification of

            such psalms (Pss. 1, 19B, 34, 37, 49, (73), 78, 105,

            106, 111, 112, (119), 127) is significant. For the

            lateness of the psalms in question is far from certain.

            It is likely that the Wisdom schools were active in the

            vicinity of the Temple from Solomon's time: Wisdom

            style can hardly be a proof of lateness.l

            The early date which is attested to by Scripture is

now coming into vogue. If Scripture would be given its

proper place, heuristic conclusions would cease. Also this

early date strengthens the historical significance of the

rubric of Psalm 127 and opens up another field of data for

the solution of authorship and date, the Scriptures.


                                  Biblical Evidence


            This section should be seen in connection with the

preceding. Simply because it is labeled "Biblical evidence"

does not isolate it as the only line of reasoning demarcated

as dealing with the Bible. This division seeks to take the

data available in the Psalm itself and compare it with other

data in the Scriptures. In other words, letting the Bible

speak for itself.

            Psalm 127 is attributed by the MT to Solomon. The

preliminary issue is the meaning of hmolow;li. This phrase


            1J. H. Eaton, "The Psalms and Israelite Worship,"

in Tradition and Interpretation, edited by G. W. Anderson

(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979).


appears in the DSS1 but not in the majority of LXX mss.2

Rahlfs' edition of the LXX contains this superscription.3

There is no question to the lexical meaning of hmolow;. It

refers to King Solomon (971-941 B.C.).4 The enigma is the

use of the l. GKC observes the l used in the capacity of

Lamed auctoris--introduction of author.5 He further states

that this was a customary idiom of other semitic dialects.6

This use has been substantiated by Ugaritic studies.7 Gram-

matically it is permissible to see authorship in this phrase.

However, it is possible to see this psalm composed "for"

Solomon too.8 This is Dahood's preference, who in turn sees

this psalm as a royal psalm.9 Sequentially, this royal

character gives the psalm a pre-exilic date.10


            1J. A. Sanders, Psalm Scroll, p. 40.

            2Charles Briggs, Book of Psalms, p. 458.

            3A. Rahlfs, ed., Septuagint (Stuttgart: Wur

Hembergische Biblelanstalt, 1971), p. 144.

            4BDB, p. 1024.

            5GKC, p. 298.

            6Ibid., p. 420.

            7Cyrus H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (Rome: Pontifi-

cal Biblical Institute, 1965), p. 92.

            8Lamed of advantage. See Ronald J. Williams, Hebrew

Syntax: An Outline (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,

1976, reprint 1980), p. 48.

            9Mitchell Dahood, Psalms, pp. 222-23. The royal

character is seen in the verbal clue, Mybyvx, p. xxxviii.

            10Ibid., p. 223.


            Apart from this phrase there is no direct statement

of authorship. Yet, by comparing this psalm with other

Solomonic passages some circumstantial evidence appears for

Solomonic authorship.

            This evidence encompasses several items. (1) The

term "house" in verse one has been referred to as Solomon's

temple.1 (2) The nomina "beloved" in verse two is a reflec-

tion of 2 Samuel 12:25 where Solomon was called h.yAd;ydiy;--

"beloved of Yahweh."2 (3) The evidence of Solomon's wisdom

(1 Kgs 3:4-28; 2 Chr 1:1-12; 9:1-8, 23).   (4) The associa-

tion of Solomon with extant pieces of wisdom literature

(Prov 1:1-6; 10:1; 25:1; Song of Solomon; identification of

Koheleth of Eccl as Solomon).3

            Most commentaries will acknowledge these pieces of

evidence. But the conclusions vary. Some will see these as

evidence for authorship,4 while others will see them as

reasons why Solomon's name is used on this psalm by the



            1A. A. Anderson, Psalms, p. 867.

            2G. Rawlinson, Psalms, in The Pulpit Commentary (New

York: Funk & Wagnalls Co., n.d.), p. 227.

            3Weston W. Fields, "Ecclesiastes: Koheleth's Quest

for Life's Meaning" (Th.M. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary,

1975), pp. 16-81.

            4John P. Lange, ed., Psalms, in Commentary on the

Holy Scriptures, trans. by Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids:

Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), p. 619.

            5Delitzsch, F., Psalms, in Commentary on the Old


            The worth of each piece of data varies from one to

another. At this point of the thesis, it is not feasible to

discuss each one in depth. It is sufficient to state that

the evidence of Solomon's use of wisdom is appealing enough

to assign the authorship to Solomon.1 In addition, the

activities of Solomon's building program2 can be easily seen

as the background for verse one. Others have seen the time

of Zerubbabel as the setting for the Psalm, during she

rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem.3

            In summary, there is more than enough Biblical evi-

dence to identify the composer of the Psalm as Solomon.

This aspect will be admitted by most commentators. It is

the Septuagint's lack of hmolow;li and the late date of wisdom

literature of the old Testament that prevents most from

acknowledging Solomonic authorship. It has been demonstrated

sufficiently that the inscription of Psalm 127 is credible

and wisdom literature can be dated to Solomon's time. There-

fore, the identification of Solomon as author is not hin-

dered. The desire for some to see the Psalm composed "for"

Solomon do so for the same reasons as those who deny

Solomon's authorship. It will be admitted, that it is


Testament, trans. by James Martin (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

Eerdmans Publishing Co., reprint 1975), pp. 295-96.

            1Dahood, Psalms, p. 223.

            21 Kings 9:10-26; 2 Chronicles 8.

            3F. Delitzsch, Psalms, p. 202.


possible, that the composition was written for Solomon

during his life, but it is an unnecessary view.

            Consequently, the authorship gives the date of

composition. The general time span of Solomon runs from

971-941 B.C. It would probably be safe to date the psalm

in the midst of the tenth century B.C. For this would have

been the greatest building period of Solomon's rule.




                                           CHAPTER II


                          EXEGETICAL STUDY PROPER




            Artur Weiser says in his commentary on Psalm 127,

            Since the psalm is couched in general terms it is not

            possible to assign it to any particular historical situ-

            ation; it belongs to the timeless world of the proverb.1

There is truth to what he says, but the logical outcome of

his words is that any interpretation of this psalm is per-

missible within reason. This is the exact opposite of what

this section seeks to do. It is correct to say that the

timeless factor of the proverb speaks to all ages, but all

ages do not interpret the proverb. This chapter seeks to

elucidate the meaning of this psalm. By assigning the psalm

to Solomon, historical direction is given to the exegetical

process. Solomon does speak in general terms, but these

terms find meaning in history and culture. It should be

remembered that wisdom seeks to deal with life. The activi-

ties of one life may be similar to another because of the

nature of the activity.

            Exegetically, Psalm 127 is not difficult in general.

But verse two does perplex the exegete. Also this psalm

presents a literary elegance that captivates the exegete


            1Artur Weiser, Psalms, p. 764.



tugging for exploration. In order to understand the psalm,

to resolve its perplexities, and to digest its literary

refinement, a methodology is needed to control the exegeti-

cal trek. For the sake of the writer a three pronged plan

is to be implemented. Each verse will be dealt with indi-

vidually but not in isolation. Each verse will be divided

as such: (1) grammatical studies; (2) semantical studies;

and (3) interpretational summary will bring both avenues


                                      Verse One

                    OB vynAOb Ulm;fA xv;wA tyiba hn,b;yi-xlo hvAhy;-Mxi

              rmeOw dqawA xv;wA ryfi rmAw;yi-xlo hvAhy;-Mxi

                          Grammatical Observations

            It is immediately realized that this passage exudes

poetry. The semantic hint of rywi and the parallelismus

membrorum of verse one indicate a poetical passage. Taking

note of this fact will alert the interpreter to certain

grammatical features which may seem incongruous with Hebrew

prose, but admissible in Hebrew poetry.

            One of the primary characteristics of Hebrew poetry

is parallelism1 which is very evident in lines two and

three.2 The first half of these lines exhibits what Adele


            1George Buchanan Gray, The Forms of Hebrew Poetry

(New York: KTAV Publishing House, reprint 1972), p. 7.

            2Line numbering according to MT found in BHS.


Berlin calls "morphilogical and syntactical repetition."1

The word order, the parts of speech, and even semantical

aspects are parallel. The lines can be roughly diagrammed

as such,

            Line 2a object + verb + neg. + subject + part.

            Line 3a object + verb + neg. + subject + part.

Both lines follow usual Hebrew word order except that the

subject occurs at the beginning of the line in the emphatic


            Although similarities are evident so are dissimilar-

ities. The main variants occur in the verb and objects of

the lines. It is these differences that motivate Berlin to

categorize these two lines as parallel. The first differ-

ence is found in the verbs. They are lexically different,

or what Berlin would call lexically parallel.2 The objects

of the verbs are different in gender and meaning. Again

these differences highlight the parallel structure.

            The parallel structure of the apodosis of these two

lines is continued into the protasis, but not dominant. No

formal connectives are used to combine the two parts of the

conditional sentence, only juxtaposition. Once more the

syntactical parallelism can be diagrammed to show off the

literary style of Solomon.


            1Adele Berlin, "Grammatical Aspects of Biblical

Parallelism," in HUCA (1980): 20-21.

            2Ibid., p. 20.



            Line 2b PrePh + subject + verb + Adverb. acc.

            Line 3b (gap) + subject + verb + Adverb. acc.

From a class standpoint the apodoses are identical. The

lack of the prepositional phrase in line three could be due

to the phenomenon of "gapping."1

            The dissimilarities of these lines are first seen in

the participles.  vynAOb has a 3ms pronominal suffix and is

grammatically linked to tyiba, its antecedent. It is also

plural whereas rmeOw is singular. This difference in number

is probably due to the inherent nature of the activities.

There are more builders than watchers, perhaps only one


            In the apodosis xv;wA is found in the emphatic posi-

tion. It is a masculine noun functioning as an adverbial

accusative.2 Particular attention should be given to this

remote part of speech given such a prominent position in the


                               Semantical Studies

            The grammatical parallelism is only superceded by

the semantic parallelism in this bi-colon of verse one. The

parallelism, is one of the most outstanding features of this

psalm. The psalm develops all three aspects of parallelism

as will be seen. Those three include: (1) grammatical


            1Michael O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure (Winona

Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1980) , pp. 122ff. and 402-4.

            2Williams, Hebrew Syntax, pp. 81-82.



parallelism; (2) semantical parallelism; and (3) rhetorical

parallelism.l As noted two of the three are evident in this

first verse. Even though most recent studies on Biblical

parallelism seek to define Hebrew poetry on syntactics, the

driving force is the meaning which the poet is conveying.

            James L. Kugel has received some criticism for his

simplistic elucidation of Biblical parallelism, but he is

basically right when he states that the B-clause of the line

continues the A-clause thought by echoing it, defining it,

restating it, etc.,--that is, carrying A further in meaning.2

Psalm 127 reveals this concept. However, the poet of this

psalm uses the grammatical medium to convey and emphasize a

particular truth. This style of parallelism is not only a

literary tool, but a pedagogical tool. Solomon didactically

seeks to incorporate religious truth into life.



            The truth that the psalmist desires to communicate

lies in the realm of semantic parallelism. One of the pre-

dominant clues to parallelism is word pairs.3 The word pair

in verse one includes the words tyiba and ryfi. There is a


            1Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theol-

ogy (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), p. 2.19.

            2James L. Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry (New

Haven: Yale University Press), p. 51.

            3William R. Watters, Formula Criticism and the

Poetry of the Old Testament (New York: Walter de Gruyter,

1976), p. 42.



member-class union that naturally draws these words together.

Dahood brings both Ugaritic support and scriptural attesta-

tion together, giving credence to the corollary usage of

these words.1 The psalmist uses this word pair to cultivate

a merismatic situation with which to confront his audience.

Solomon does not use these words as a basis for thought

maturation, but draws them into the truth he seeks to teach.

These two words help isolate the sphere of life which

Solomon, the poet, addresses.

            To determine what these words mean, it is necessary

to widen the scope of study to include other related words

in the two lines.  tyiba and ryfi are objects of two verbs hn,b;yi

and rmAw;ye, respectively. Lexically, they are not difficult

words.  hn,b;yi comes from hnABA "to build."2  rmAw;yi is from the

stem rmawA, which can be translated "keep, watch, preserve."3

            The second half of these lines contains similar

ideas. Whereas the leading clauses identify Yahweh as the

actor, the following clauses seek to identify the human

counterpart and his role in life. Again the terminology is

not unusual. In line 2b the author describes the activity

of building tyiba. Ulm;fA simply means to labor.4 The


            1Mitchell Dahood and Tadeuz Renar, "Ugaritic-Hebrew

Parallel Pairs," in Ras Shamra Parallels, vol. 1 (Roma:

Pontificium Institution Biblicum, 1972), p. 330.

            2BDB, p. 124.                        3BDB, p. 1036.

            4BDB, p. 765.



participal identifies those who do the labor, presumably

their trade is construction. In line 3b, a protection

agency is described by rmeOw dqawA.  rmeOw identifies a "keeper"

whose job it is to alert the inhabitants of ryfi to danger.1

His activity is to watch and be alert as denoted by dqawA.

            In brief the author is comparing the activities of

God with those of man. Those activities center around the

word pair tyiba/ryfi or more particularly the phrases tyiba hnaBA

and ryfi rmawA. The use of the tetragrammaton narrows the

semantic field of these two phrases.

            In reference to tyiba hnabA, Patrick Miller has limited

its meaning to four possibilities:

            1. Building Zion (Jerusalem), Yahweh's sanctuary

            2. Building the temple or the palace

            3. Building the Davidic line/house

            4. Building anyone's line/house.2

All four suggestions are found in scripture but their appli-

cability to this passage needs to be questioned.

            The first suggestion is not demanded by context and

no suitable explanation is given for its connection with

this psalm. The aspect of Jerusalem can be relegated to the

discussion on ryfi. The second meaning has been used to


            1Cf. Song of Solomon 3:3; 5:7. Also see Delitzsch,

Psalms, p. 293, especially his comment on "'dqw."

            2Miller, "The House," p. 124.



explain Solomon's connection with the Psalm. The word

"house" has been used by the writers of 1 Kings and 2 Chroni-

cles to refer to the temple.l This explanation has definite

implications for the ultimate truth Solomon wants to convey.

But it, too, is not demanded by the context. Usually when

"house" refers to the temple there is a modifier connected

with it. For example the phrase is often used "the house of

the Lord" which is many times rendered "the temple of the

Lord."2 In Psalm 127 this modifying phrase is not used.

            The third proposal is only acceptable as far as it

is connected with Solomon. But the link of David with the

Psalm is not particularly clear. Granted Solomon is in the

Davidic line, but there is no reason to specify Davidic

intimations into this Psalm.

            Of all four, the fourth has reason to be held up as

the meaning of tyb hnb. Furthermore, the suggestion that

tyb contains two ideas--the physical structure3 and the

dynastic "house"'4--is contextually apropos. The literary

genius of the author is revealed by the use of "house."

This general meaning is preferred because of the nature of


            11 Kings 6:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1.

            2The NIV renders hvAhyla tyiBaha as "the temple of the

Lord" consistently.

            3Cf. Genesis 33:17; Deuteronomy 8:12.

            4Cf. Deuteronomy 25:9; Ruth 4:11.



the didactic saying or proverb.l Verse one presents the

first half of the first proverb in this Psalm. As charac-

teristic of the proverb, generalizations are the tenor. The

didactic saying does not address specific situations.2

Another reason which fits with the other suggestions is

Solomon's background in building. A third reason is that

the nouns tyiba and ryfi are indefinite. It is generally

recognized that Hebrew poetry avoids the definite article.

But in this context the article is used frequently. So if

the nouns were to be definite, statistically the article

would have been used.3

            These same arguments are applicable to the word ryfi.

Although there is a remote possibility that "city" refers to

"Jerusalem." The heading of the psalm, defined as relating

to the pilgrimages, would indicate Jerusalem was the goal of

the journey.4 Also the juxtaposition of Psalm 128 would

give some credence to Jerusalem. It is preferable to see

"city" as a generalization.


            1Roland E. Murphy, Wisdom Literature, in The Forms

of the Old Testament Literature (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerd-

mans, 1981), p. 5.


            3Six out of the nine lines contain the article.

Also it is realized that the burden of translation deems the

use of an article.

            4Miller, "The House," p. 124.



            Before an interpretative analysis is made of the

verse en toto, another key word in this verse and in verse

two needs to be explored. xv;wA is a word of dictum, in this

psalm as elsewhere. The lexicon defines the word as "worth-

less, vanity."1 Other meanings attached to the word are,

“unsubstantial, worthless, unreal,”2 "failure,"3 "futile,"4

"pointless,"5 and "wickedness."6 It is not the same word

used in Ecclesiastes.7

            In contrast to the word lbahA in Ecclesiastes, xv;wA

seems to have moral connotations. It is used in Exodus 20:7

to characterize the improper use of Yahweh's name. In

Isaiah 59:4 it is translated "lies." The aspect of simply

something not worth doing without moral connotations is the

least common usage.8 Perhaps a general definition of the

word could be, "that which does not have positive effect."


            1BDB, p. 996.

            2Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, s.v.

"xvw," by Victor P. Hamilton.

            3Dahood, Psalms, p. 223.

            4Weiser, The Psalms, p. 127.

            5Kidner, Psalms 72-150, p. 441.

            6Gerhard Lisowsky, Koncordanz zum Hebraischen Alten

Testament (Stuttgart: Wurthembergische Bibelanstalt, 1958),

p. 1406.

            7Kidner, Psalms 72-150, p. 441.

            8Cf. Jer 4:30.



This effect could apply both to the physical sphere as well

as the spiritual sphere. In Exodus 23:1 xvawA is used to

describe a report as false. The report did not produce a

positive effect. In Jeremiah 6:29 xv;wA is used to describe

the actions of Israel, their actions were worthless, for

they did not purge out the wicked from among them. The case

is a physical situation where a positive effect was not


            The word is often used to speak of deceit. Psalms

144:8, 4 and 26:4 are passages where "deceit" is an accepta-

ble translation. The moral connotation is brought into the

picture at this point. An interesting passage which uses

xv;wA is Malachi 3:14. The context is moral in nature and is

speaking to the people of their sinful behavior and words.

Amidst their sinful words are "It is futile to serve God."

The idea is that the people did not gain anything from their

service, but they have the arrogance to belie God's desires.

            The primary meaning of this word is moral in nature.

Whereas Ecclesiastes speaks of transitoriness, brevity and

the like without moral connotation, when Solomon uses the

word here it speaks of the moral implications of the action-

involved. It is permissible to go so far as to say that

this "vanity" that Solomon speaks of is "wickedness." The

most common usages of xv;wA are in contexts that speak of the

desires of Yahweh. When those desires are not met, xv;wA is

declared. In other words, when God's will is not done,



sin-wickedness is the result.


                          Interpretative Summary

            Psalm 127:1 initiates the topic of the proverbial

sayings. The topic is the sovereignty of God. The topic is

developed in two admonitions which make contact with the

world in which the audience of the psalm lives. The use of

the word pair sums up the life situation that plays a vital

role in the peoples' lives. The life situation is composed

of two universal preoccupations--the erection of shelter and

the provision of security.1

            It is not hard to see Solomon as the author of this

psalm. For he was the master builder and military genius.

The use of "house" and "city" bring into view stone houses

cramped inside a walled existence.2 One of Solomon's goals

was to build up the defense of the land.3 Even though the

situation was peaceful, the threat of war still existed.

Where the house provided shelter it was the city that pro-

vided security with its watchman stationed throughout,

making his rounds through the night.4

            When Solomon speaks concerning building and security,


            1Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 440.

            2Frank S. Frich, The City in Ancient Israel (Mis-

soula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977), pp. 25-42.

            32 Chr 8:1-10.

            4Song of Solomon 3:3, 5:7.



he has the experience from which to draw.1 And his experi-

ence prepared him to utter the dictum of God's sovereignty.

Without the acknowledgement of Yahweh's sovereign will, all

that is done is in vain. But what does Solomon mean by this

statement? Is it a physical calamity that will result from

disavowing God? Or is he speaking of an eschatological


            Looking at Israel's history in the Old Testament,

physical calamity would show the worthlessness of the acti-

vity. A building project that was undertaken against the

acknowledged will of God was the tower of Babel.2 It was a

project consummated without the sanction of God; it was in

vain. The project was physically interrupted. But probably

the freshest experience for Solomon was his own undertaking

of the building of the temple. His father acknowledged the

rule of God and did, not seek to build the temple. But God's

will was to allow Solomon to build the temple. It was within

the will of God; it was worthwhile for Solomon to build.

            But the question arises, What of the building

enterprises of the wicked who build apart from a proper

attitude toward God? Perhaps this psalm does not deal with

man in general. This psalm is found in the psalm collection

that is used to acknowledge God by those who are of Him.


            1Cf. 1 Kings 3:1-11.

            2Gen 11:1-9.



This collection has in mind those who understand the Will,

not those who contradict it. Like those of Malachi that

knew what was right, but openly refused to serve God. What

awaits these? The judgment of God. Here the eschatological

picture enters the scene. Psalm 37:28 speaks of the

sovereign pronouncement of God regarding protection.

            For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his

            faithful ones.

            They will be protected (rmw) forever, but tie offspring

            of the wicked will be cut off.l

There is no question as to the eschatological future of

those who shrug off Yahweh's security. What ever security

is arranged for in this life will be of no avail in the end.

            When the author declares that those who work, without

the proper attitude are laboring in vain, he is saying that

they are doing that which is in contradiction to God's will.

From that standpoint it is evil. The psalmist is not so

concerned with the prosperity2 of the action, but rather the

corollation of the individual or community to the will of


            It should not be a burden for the individual to sub-

mit to the sovereign will of God. Within the same collec-

tion of psalms exists a psalm that exalts the divine watch-

man. Psalm 121 divulges the comforting theme, "The Lord is


            1All quotations will be taken from the New Inter-

national Version unless otherwise noted.

            2Weiser, Psalms, p. 764.


my guardian."1 He is the guardian that never slumbers and

who is there in time of need. Yahweh is not only the

Supreme Guardian but also the Supreme Architect. The

psalmist declares in Psalm 89:2,

            I will declare your loyal love is established (hnb)


            Psalm 127 is a wisdom song of admonition in verse

one. But an admonition that promotes a blessed prognosis.

The themes of verse one will continue throughout the Psalm.

The psalmist leaves the figure of the city and the house and

develops a minor theme inherent in verse two. This minor

theme revolves around the labor that is also prevalent in

the activities of building and watching. The theme of the

city as noticed before will be brought back into view in

verse five. In verse four the concept of the house will be

drawn into the composition. More particularly the idea of

lineage contained in "house" may tie verse one in with verses

three and four.


                                           Verse Two

                              tb,w,-yreHExam; MUq ymeykiw;ma Mk,lA xv;wA

           xnAwe Odydiyli NTeyi NKe MybicAfEhA MH,l, ylek;xo

                              Grammatical Observations

            Grammatically, verse two presents no problems. Yet,


            1D. Wayne Knife, "The Lord is My Guardian," Spire 10

(Spring 1982):10.

            2Author's own translation.


it is an interesting verse from the grammatical perspective.

Unfortunately, the syntactical arrangement presents some

semantical problems. Or does it? The enigma of this verse

occurs in line 5b. Basically, the word xnAwe causes the stir

among commentaries. Part of the solution or at least guid-

ing hand toward the solution lies in the grammatical

features of this verse and also in the entire psalm.

            The strong parallelism of verse one is not as

dominant in verse two, but still present. Verse two

exhibits a more subtle family of parallelism which is

referred to as rhetorical parallelism.1 Once the subtleties

are recognized, the parallelism of the verse stands out

markedly. Within this family of rhetorical parallelism

emerges a genus which is often called climactic parallelism.2

            Climactic parallelism is a literary tool to capture

one's attention too. "Climactic parallelism or stair-case

parallelism involves the repetition and development of a

group of two or three words in successive lines."3 In Psalm

127 the first two lines have developed the word xv;wA as a key

concept. In a climactic instance the Psalmist switches word

order and throws xv;wA first to alert the reader. Kugel sees

xv;wA as an "interruptive vocative."4 The thought of the


            1Kaiser, Exegetical Theology, p. 222ff.


            3Ibid., p. 225.

            4Kugel, The Idea, p. 32.


the lines is progressing smoothly and expectedly until an

interruption. The sudden switch in literary structure

startles the recipient and forces him to reanalyze the

thought before him.1

            This literary interruption is only the beginning of

the literary genius in this psalm. The rhetoric in this

psalm continues into the genus of chiastic parallelism.2

The immediate recognizable chiastic element is seen in the

apparent word play between xv;wA (line 3a) and xnAwe (line 4b).3

xnAwe is the object of NTeyi, which reverses the word order.

Delitzsch interprets xnAwe as an adverbial accusative.4 If

taken as an adverbial accusative it is proper to speak of it

as an accusative of time which would indicate duration of

time.5 Grammatically this is allowable but not demanded.

            The significance of xnAwe is diametrically stated in

literary fashion. The poet has used word order and parono-

masia to convey his truth. But the author is not finished.

Orthographically he could not align his words any closer.

Where man reaps xv;wA, God gives xnAwe. This play on words


            1Edward Greenstein, "Two Variations of Grammatical

Parallelism in Canaanite Poetry and Their Psycholinguistic

Background," JANES 6 (1974):87-104.

            2Kaiser, Exegetical Theology, p. 225.

            3Dahood, Psalms, p. 223.

            4Psalms, p. 293.

            5Theophile J. Meek, "The Hebrew Accusative of Time

and Place," JAOS 60 (1940):224-25.


should give direction to the semantical studies of this

passage. Grammatically, the passage demands that inter-

pretation begin with xnAwe rather than end there last and try

to fit into a preconceived plan.

            This chiastic arrangement not only applies to the

words but to syntactical units. Part of the solution to

the puzzle of verse two lies in the grammatical structure of

the verse. This is not minimizing the necessity of dealing

with the meaning of NKe and xnAwe. But, it is necessary to see

the placement of the clause in question (line 5b) in the

entire psalm, more particularly in the first half of the


            Before developing the chiasmus of this verse any

further, a couple of observations are pertinent. The first

is the words that close lines 4 and 5. Apart from their

semantic corollation, there is an orthographical similarity

that translates into alliteration. Both words begin with w.

Is this only a coincidence? Solomon intentionally chose

this word. It is fair to say that he chose it to coincide

with xv;wA because of the orthographic similarity of xnAwe with

xv;wA. Solomon could have chosen another word to use such as

HaUn. Also this corollation helps decide dogmatically that

tb,w, is a nomina verbalia from the verbal stem tbawA.1 xnAwe is

a noun when traditionally defined semantically parallels tb,w,


            1BDB, pp. 991-92.


and with its grammatical symmetry.

            The second observation concerns the psalm as a whole.

Looking at every line except lines four and five, a phenom-

enon appears. Every line except these two is a complete

thought.1 That is, if one were to pull each line out of

the psalm, the basic understanding would still be discerni-

ble.  The entire thought may not be comprehended en toto,

but enough of it would. Why should the author abandon this

practice for these two lines? He does not have to and a

plausible literary scheme can be seen.

            Line four out of context can be readily understood

as a complete thought. "Vanity is to them who arise early

in the morning and who delay rest." There is no conceptual

vagueness present. Line five can also be understood as a

complete unit of thought. If one allows for poetic license

where structural elements are often abandoned, difficulties


            The first difficulty arises from the string of

participals. Most translations take them to grammatically

relate pack to Mk,lA.2 Consequently they are not seen in


            lA quest for the determination of what constitutes a

line in Hebrew poetry has been undertaken in past years.

Parallelism, metrics, syntactic constraints have been sug-

gested for line determination. Is it possible to define a

line by the conceptual pattern?

            2American Standard Version, New English Bible,

Jerusalem Bible, New International Version, New American

Standard Bible, Revised Standard Version.


separate contexts. However, if the structure of verse two

is seen in a chiastic fashion, the separating of the third

participial phrase is not too harsh a measure. A rough

diagram can be used to display the concept proposed.

            Line 4 nominal clause + participial phrase (2)


            Line 5 participial phrasel + nominal clause

In this display the author uses the chiastic structure to

contrast the thought of the lines. Specifically, the con-

trast involves two different subjects and two different life


            If this is the case, one would expect some sort of a

disjunctive, such as v, to proceed lkexo. But given the

poetic nature of the material, this grammatical anomoly is

not surprising.3 This lack of connective is evident in the

conditional sentences of verse one, where the protasis is

connected to the apodosis by juxtaposition.

            Also the syntactical particle NKe is not a problem if

it is seen as relating back to the participial phrase in the

same line. There is no reason to pursue the textual variant


            1Gray, Hebrew Poetry, p. 76. He points out the use

of a participial phrase in a chiastic arrangement.

            2The separation of lines is a concept adapted from

the article, Samuel Diaches, "Psalm cxxvii.2, ExpTim 45

(1933):24-26. C. Keet draws attention to this article. How-

ever, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Diaches develops

the separation of the lines semantically, but fails to iden-

tify the grammatical plausibility for separation.

            3Kaiser, Exegetical Theology, p. 213.


of yKi,1 for NKe makes perfect sense in this clause.2


                           Semantical Studies


            The problem of verse two has caused one commentator

to express, concerning Psalm 127:2b, that it "has probably

caused as much difficulty to translators and interpreters as

any in the whole book of Psalms."3 The problem is not of

such a nature that a plausible explanation is impossible.

Verse two is so designed that the semantical elements and

grammatical elements point to the word xnAwe. This is the

controlling concept in the verse. The meaning of the

various clauses and phrases need to be interpreted in light

of this word. Therefore, the semantical studies will begin

with this word and in turn deal with the other semantic

facets as they relate to xnAwe.


            1J. A. Emerton, "The Meaning of SENA in Psalm CXXVII

2," VT 24 (1974):16, 19, 30. Also a textual variant appears

on Odydiyli.  The LXX, Jerome, etc. support plural and is

preferred by some, e.g. Edward Edwards, "A New Interpreta-

tion of xnAwe Odydiyli NTeyi NKe (Psalm cxxvii.2b) ," ExpTim 54

(October 1942-September 1943): 25. The singular reading can

be explained by the fact that switching between plural and

singular is common. See: Daiches, "A New Explanation," p.


            2In a recent publication, Psalms 101-150, in Word

Bible Commentary, edited by David A. Hubbard (Waco, TX:

Word Books, 1983), Leslie Allen on page 176 supports the

separation of lines three and four into separate thoughts.

It is based primarily on metrical evidence, but he does

incorporate grammatical considerations.

            3Edwards, "A New Interpretation," p. 25.


            It is both an unprofitable and prodigious task to

interact with all the various views.1 It seems that the

views studied may lead to similar conclusions but always

have a little different nuance to them and this makes it

difficult to properly respond to each one. Therefore, the

method proposed here is to present a feasible explanation,

then to deal with some major views that have been proposed.


xnw--a resolution

            Most, if not all, biblical students see the tradi-

tional meaning of xnAwe to be "sleep." It is the Aramaic

spelling of xnAwe which also means sleep.2 Kirkpatrick

astutely observes, "If it were not for the exegetical dif-

ficulty, no one would hesitate to take "sleep," as the

Ancient Versions take it, as the object of the verb

giveth."3 He is absolutely correct.

            Of the proposed answers to this puzzling verse, two

primary perspectives of its meaning emerge. On the one hand

the verse is dealt with from the perspective that xnAwe means

"sleep." The other perspective seeks to solve the puzzle by

seeking to define xnAwe differently. The former position is

the correct realm to work in. For the meaning of xnAwe as

"sleep" is well attested and presents minimal difficulty


            1Emerton discusses quite a few, but misses, Samuel

Daiches' article.

            2GKC, p. 82. 

            3Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 752.


from the lexical standpoint.

            The difficulty of this verse arises from the context

of the verses 1-2. Verse one deals with the labor of man

and contrasts that with Yahweh's work. Then most see this

work motif carried on into verse two. The motif is usually

seen in the three participial phrases generally translated,

            Vanity is it to those of you who rise up early and go

                        late to rest,

            Eating bread of anxious toil.l

On top of the work motif is the result of that motif--bread.

So the problem set forth is the relationship of "sleep" to

"work" and its product. The particle NKe sets up a compara-

tive aspect which indicates that what God gives to his

beloved must compare to "the bread of toil."2 The meaning

of "sleep" does not compare in quality to that which is

produced by work.

            The first response to this issue is that xnAwe does

not compare to MH,l, but that it relates to MH,l,. It is cor-

rect to see that the work motif continues into verse two.

But as the work of man was critiqued in verse one, it is

critiqued in verse two.

            As the sovereignty of God is taught in verse one, an

underlying implication of sovereignty is also seen in the

first verse. That implication is the dependence of God on


            1Miller, "The House," p. 120.

            2Emerton, "SENA," p. 20.


man. Verse one contrasts the independence of man with the

desire for dependence. And this secondary theme is evident

in verse two. Conceivably the first two verses could be

thematically diagrammed.

            Line two         Independence Dependence

                                    (xv;wA)                          (hvAhy; Mxi)

            Line three       Independence              Dependence

            Line four                                Independence


            Line five                                 Dependence

            When the psalmist cries xv;wA, he is uttering a pro-

nouncement on the lifestyle of the person as he does in verse

one. In line four the psalmist is describing a lifestyle

that is vain, not in accord with the desires of Yahweh. The

participial clauses tb,w, yreHExam; MUq ymeyKiw;ma express relative

clauses which elucidate the phrase Mk,lA. They are not diffi-

cult to understand.1 MUq MyKiw;ma denotes the activity of

arising early. MyKiw;ma is a hiphil participle which could

denote a causative aspect.2 Those described by this word

determine to arise early so as to get an early start. The

second relative clause, tb,w, yreHExam;, contrasts with the former

clause. It looks at the other end of the day and speaks of

delaying rest, cessation of activities.3 This meaning would


            1MUq ymeyKiw;ma is not a common syntactical structure.

But Patrick Miller notes that the construct is not unique

(cf. 2 Kings 6:15, 1 Sam 16:17), "The House," p. 131.

            2GKC, pp. 350, 145.

            3BDB, p. 992.


parallel the traditional meaning of xnAwe.l

            Both these participals are active and indicate a

continuing action2 or habitual practice. The habit that is

described is one that extends the day. The reasons for this

extended day are two. Both fit with the context. First,

Samuel Daiches sees a connection between this line and

Isaiah 5:11.3 This reference contains both participles that

are found in the present study. The passage in Isaiah

describes men who extended their days for the sake of drink-

ing. These men idled their time away on drinking. Daiches

paraphrases Psalm 127:2a like this,

            'It is vain for you who rise up early and sit up late

            (and drink strong drinks, or, do nothing useful).' This

            is no good. You neither work nor sleep. You idle away

            your days, and at night you have no rest.4

            This rationale has good potential if this idleness

is contrasted with "the bread of toil." bc,f, is defined by

BDB as "hurt, pain, toil."5 It is used in Genesis 3:17 when

Moses writes, "In toil you shall eat of it (i.e. ground)."

The bread here is that which is procured with toil and

trouble.6 This bread of toil can be compared with the


            1The view that tb,w, is from bwayA is possible. See F.

Delitzsch, Psalms, p. 293.

            2Thomas Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew

(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), p. 19.

            3"A New Explanation," p. 25.                        4Ibid.               5P. 780.

            6Delitzsch, p. 293. Also cf. Prov 14:23; 5:10 for

the use of bc,f, for labor.


"bread of idleness" in Proverbs 31:27.1 This verse states,

            She watches over the affairs of her household

            and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Here work is contrasted with idleness in the excellent wife

of Proverbs 31. So the concept of idleness is very appro-

priate. It would draw a negative response such as xv;wA. The

only problem with this view is other supportive evidence of

these two participial phrases used this way.

            The opposite of this idleness is found in line five

where work is valued and the result of "toil," or that which

is expected because of the curse, is "sleep." Conceivably

this sleep is the sweet sleep of Ecclesiastes 5:12a.

Qoheleth says "The sleep (tnaw;) of a laborer is sweet." So

Daiches concludes that line 5 is saying the same thing as

Ecclesiastes 5:12a. Also by understanding the verse as

such, NKe can be taken as "thus." "Those who eat the bread

of labour--thus (through the labour, by which they eat their

bread) he gives to his beloved sleep."2 So "his beloved" of

line 5b refers to those who eat the bread of toil.

            Perhaps the psalmist is indicating the independence

of man by showing the idleness of man. Or another remote

idea is that the man who understands what has been said in


            lEmerton, SENA, p. 17.

            2Daiches, "Psalm cxxvii.2," p. 25. Or as a resul-

tant clause--the result of toil is God-given sleep. Cf.

Psalm 48:6 for result or consequence usage of Nk. See A. B.

Davidson, Hebrew Syntax, p. 201.


verse one, sees no reason to work because God will provide.

            A second possible explanation for the extended day

is that man needs to extend his day to such a point to meet

his needs. An extension so far that sleep is squeezed out

of his routine. Anxiety is what rules the life. Again, an

independence from God causes an unnatural reaction to life.

It is those who expected to labor for their bread knowing

where it came from, to these God grants sleep. The ability

to end the day without anxiety. So the psalmist maintains

a contrast in this view between the quality of work. One

type of work is declared vain. The other is considered

proper and sleep is the reward.

            In Ecclesiastes 5:12ff. a similar theme appears. As

mentioned earlier Ecclesiastes 5:12 speaks of the sweet

sleep of the laborer no matter what the results of labor are.

But the verse continues and speaks of the rich man who can

not find sleep. The men in verse two of Psalm 127 put off

rest, perchance they cannot find. Their abundance als a

result of their labor does not permit sleep. The passage in

Ecclesiastes develops the work motif and speaks of the

results of work in 5:18-6:2,

            Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man

            to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his

            toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life

            God has given him--for this is his lot. Moreover, when

            God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables

            him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his

            work--this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the

            days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with

            gladness of heart. I have seen another evil under the


            sun, and it weighs heavily on men, God gives a man

            wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing

            his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy

            them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is

            meaningless, a grievous evil.

Psalm 127:2 speaks of a similar idea of the man who extends

his day because he is not satisfied and unable to enjoy that

which he reaps because God is not fitted into his attitude.

This is in contrast to the man who toils and does that which

is expected but has considered God in his work and God gives

him sleep. The ability to enjoy life is reflected in the

sleep he experiences.

            This view is both semantically feasible and gram-

matically allowable. The contrast developed between these

two aspects fits the context very well and does not distract

from the entire psalm.


xnAwe--other explanations

            Other views accept xnAwe as only an object of NTeyi. In

these views the three participial phrases are seen together.

Perowne reacts to the generally held position of God giving

to his beloved bread--the necessities of life--in sleep or

during their sleep. He sees this position as unacceptable

because "bread" must be supplied and because of the ques-

tionable use of the adverbial accusative.1 So his conclu-

sion is this:

            I am inclined, therefore, to prefer the rendering "So He


            1GKC, p. 374.


            giveth His beloved sleep,' though it is no doubt diffi-

            cult to explain the reference of the particle 'so.' I

            suppose it refers to the principle laid down in the

            previous verse, there being a tacit comparison, 'as all

            labour is vain with out God's providence, as He builds

            the house, as He watches the city, so He gives the man

            who loves him and leaves all in His hands, calm refresh-

            ing sleep.'l

He later says,

            God's 'beloved' are not exempted from the great law of

            labour which lies upon all, but the sting is taken from

            it when they can leave all results in a Father's hand,

            with absolute trust in His wisdom and goodness.2

Perowne's words sum up the general feelings on this passage

by those who hold to sleep as the meaning of xnAwe, even

though different twists are taken in interpretation such as

the adverbial accusative.

            The positions that hold to the meaning of sleep,

find support in Proverbs 10:22 which reads, "The blessing of

the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble (bcf--toil)

to it." This phrase is often taken to mean that God gives

without labor.3 But does this verse have to mean this?

Emerton believes that human effort is not spoken about in

this verse.4 Or can it mean that God gives wealth that will


            1J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms (Grand

Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, reprint: from 4th

ed., George Bell and Sons, 1878), pp. 395-96.

            2P. 395.

            3F. Delitzsch, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solo-

mon, in Commentary on the old Testament, trans. by James

Martin (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975),

p. 223.

            4Emerton, "Sena," pp. 20-21. He further comments,


not cause pain or sorrow as in Ecclesiastes 6:2? This verse

can be taken either way and is not determinative of this


            Another option some have taken to resolve the prob-

lems of this verse is to emend the text. The only reason

for this procedure is that xnAwe does not make sense.1 In

response to emendation, Emerton is correct in saying, ". . .

it is better not to resort to conjectural emendation unless

there is no satisfactory alternative."2 Sense can be

made out of the received text and the textual attestation

also favors xnAwe.3

            The most recent solutions for the text are seen in

Dahood's4 and Emerton's5 works. Both seek to find a differ-

ent semantic root for xnAwe. Dahood suggests that xnAwe means

"prosperity."6 The translation fits the context very well


"It may be doubted whether the idea that God blesses men

when they do nothing would have been congenial to the ethos

of Israelite wisdom literature, to which this passage (i.e.

Prov. 10:22) belongs." There may be some truth to this.

But it must be remembered that Psalm 127 deals with God's

sovereignty. If He chooses to bless a man who does nothing

that is His prerogative (cf. Deut 6:10-12).

            1W. 0. E. Oesterley, The Psalms (London: S.P.C.K.,

1962), p. 518.

            2Emerton, "SENA," pp. 20-21.

            3Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 753.

            4Psalms, vol. III, pp. 223-24.

            5"SENA," pp. 25ff.

            6Ibid., p. 25.


according to Emerton. But Emerton has problems with the

etymology of the root Dahood suggests for xnAwe.l In a

rejoinder, Dahood levels some convincing arguments against

Emerton's suggestion for a root that would give xnAwe the

meaning of "high estate or honor."2 Of both solutions,

Dahood's etymology and meaning would be preferable. It

would fit with the context--"human effort alone is in vain,

for it is God who gives prosperity."3 But is it prosperity

that the Psalmist is concerned about when he speaks of

vanity? It does not have to be or if so it would not be the

common semantic realm of the usages of the word xv;wA.

            But again, xnAwe as it is traditionally understood

does not have to be abandoned; it makes viable sense in this



                           Interpretative Summary

            Verse one has demonstrated that Yahweh is sover-

eignly in control; His sovereignty demands submission. Man

is to be dependent on Yahweh. Independence translates into

vanity. Verse two continues the themes of sovereignty and

dependence. Those who exercise independence by trying to do


            1Mitchell. Dahood, "The aleph in Psalm CXXVII 2

sena," Orientalia 44 (1975):103-5.

            2Emerton, "SENA," p. 24.

            3Dahood suggests that Nk is a divine name. This is

unconvincing and is not necessary for the passage. Yahweh

serves as a natural antecedent to Nty.


much work themselves, extend the day beyond natural limits.

The work is an anxious work that has become a lifestyle for

them. This lifestyle has also been brought under the sover-

eign dictum of God and it is declared vain. It is in contra-

diction to the will of God to live a lifestyle that ignores

the existence of God. It is those who toil--do the expected

labor for substance--that receive the blessing of God.

Their action is of such a nature that it conforms to the

will of God. For these the blessing is sleep. Sleep that

escapes those who live a life of independence en contra to

those who live lives of divine dependency.

            Viewing verse two as two complete thoughts allows

one to perceive the literary beauty of the passage. This

perspective highlights that gift of Yahweh which is opposed

to the dictum of Yahweh. As the passage continues, this

gift of Yahweh alerts and links the next strophe in the mind

of the recipient.


                                         Verse Three

          NF,BAh yriP; rkAWA MyniBA hvAhy; tlaHEna hne.hi


                               Grammatical Observations

            Verse three begins a section where the exegetical

problems are minimal. The grammatical perspective of verse

three presents some interesting concepts. Concepts that

continue the sovereignty of God and challenge the freedom of



            Verse three promotes the sovereignty of God on a

positive note. The psalm began with conditional clauses

that translated into admonitions. But verse three starts

with a different tenor which is indicated by the deitic

particle hn..ehi.

            hne.hi is a structural marker in this psalm. This word

is an interjection that draws the attention of the reader to

a particular item.1 The content of the psalm changes here,

and the placing of this particle here is appropriate. It

sets off the second strophe of the psalm. One of its basic

functions is to syntactically point out noun clauses.2

            Two noun clauses follow the particle. The first

consists of a bound structure and a noun. It is the bound

structure that helps link the strophes of the psalm together.

It is the semantical aspect that brings out the unity. In

the bound structure, Yahweh defines tlaHEna. This genitive

indicates possession3 which would fit with the meaning of

tlaHEna. The predicate of the sentence is MyniBA. Being a sub-

stantive it is emphatically linked to hvAhy; tlaHEna.4 The two

grammatically speak of the same thing.

            The subject of the second clause is rkAWA. The


            1Dennis J. McCarthy, "The Use of wehinneh in Bibli-

cal Hebrew," Biblica 61 (1980):330-42.

            2GKC, p. 469.

            3Williams, An Outline, p. 11.

            4GKC, p. 452.




predicate is a bound structure. The genitive NF,BAha is a

subjective genitive which looks at the activity of the womb.

            In this verse perhaps there is some structural

chiasmus evident.

                                    Predicate                               Subject

            Line 6a           noun                                        bound structure


            Line 6b           bound structure                      noun

This might be pushing the parallel phenomena, but there are


            Grammatically, through simple juxtaposition, an

equative existence is evident between the two clauses as

well as within the clauses themselves. Thus, these two

clauses should not be isolated, for they have semantical

value for each other.


                           Semantical Studies

            "Inheritance of the Lord" is a good translation.

However, the word for "inheritance" must not be confused

with the modern terminology. The primary meaning "is pos-

session, rightful possession rather than succession."1 So

initially Yahweh's possession is in view. But the concept

of inheritance gives the idea that someone is receiving

something which is congruent with the passage. In verse two


            1Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v.

"Inheritance," by F. M. Blaiklock.



God gives sleep and this eleemosynary theme is picked up by

verse three which is modified by the second clause. Since

it is God's possession, He is free to decide what portion is

to be allotted.1 So the sense that an inheritable right is

in view is incorrect. It is God's possession and he alone

is responsible for its being passed along. It becomes an

inheritance when God gives his possession out.

            That which is seen as the inheritance of the Lord is

MyniBA. The primary meaning of this word is "sons."2 The

context of verse four and five point to the strength of sons

and their value because of this. Yet, the general nature of

the proverb would include the extension of meaning to

include the classification of children.

            In the Old Testament the birth of sons was highly

prized. It is evident that the promise (Gen 16:11; 17:16,

19; 18:10; etc.) and birth (Gen 16:15; 21:2; 41:50-52; etc.)

of a son were very important events in the life of a man and

his wife.3 Amidst his woes, Jeremiah cries out, "Cursed be

the man who brought my father the news, who made him very

glad, saying, 'A child is born to you--a son!"'

            This exaltation of the birth of the son is emphasized


            1A Theological Wordbook of the Bible, s.v.

"Inherit," by C. E. B. Cranfield.

            2Miller, "The House," p. 131.

            3Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, s.v.

"NBe," by Jan Bergman, Helmer Ringgren, and H. Haag.


by the clause "a reward is the fruit of the womb." Dahood

correctly states that the suffix on Odydiyli does double duty

and shares it with rkAWA.1 So it would be the Lord's reward.

The blessing of the womb would be that which is received by

Yahweh. The term fruit indicates the product of the womb as

the product of the tree is fruit. Psalm 128 picks up this

theme, "Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your

house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your

table." This psalm magnifies the blessing of sons. In

Deuteronomy, the presence of sons is seen as a blessing and

their absence a curse.2 This concept of the blessing of the

womb is seen in the customary blessing bestowed on brides.

Genesis 24:60 expresses, in respect to Rebekah, "Our sister,

may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your off-

spring possess the gates of your enemies."3 So when the

psalmist speaks of the blessing of the womb, he does so in

contextual setting that rejoices at the birth of a son, or



                       Interpretative Summary

            The sovereignty of God continues but in a positive

manner. For now Solomon declares that it is Yahweh who


            1Psalms, vol. 3, p. 22.

            2Deut 7:13; 28:4, 11; 30:9; 28:18.

            3T. Mendelson, "The Family in the Ancient Near

East," BA 11 (1948): 38ff.


gives fruit of the womb. It is his possession that he

freely gives to whom he chooses and it is a reward. Some-

thing that is desirous. But since it is God's decision to

give and ultimately the sons are the possession of God this

should alert the parent that sons or children deserve

special attention. They are not to be taken for granted nor

abandoned--physically or emotionally. Parents, especially

the father, have the responsibility of taking care of that

which is God's.

            It should be a joyous opportunity to receive

children in one's family. It must be remembered that the

saints of the Old Testament highly cherished children. This

should be true of the New Testament saint too.1 But, in

contrast, the life of the Old Testament saint was concerned

about the physical blessing of his life. Whereas the New

Testament emphasis is on a spiritual concern.2 This does

not mean the Old Testament concept was a shallow belief for

the physical blessing is connected with the return of the

Messiah. But in both contexts it is the sole free choice of

God to bestow blessing of the womb. The childless couple

should not be despondent. Children are not the only bless-

ing given by God. A wise and beneficial God has decided not

to bring children into their lives. For now the New


            1Matt 19:20; Eph 6:1.

            2Co1 3:1-4.


Testament family can concern themselves with the New Testa-

ment emphasis of spreading the gospel.1


                                      Verse Four

         MyriUfn;.ha yneB; NKe rOBGi-dyaB; Myc.iHiK;

                           Grammatical Observations

            The fourth verse of this psalm is free of grammati-

cal problems. The grammar of this verse sets up a compara-

tive thought, with the use of K; and NKe. GKC notes that

when K; is used with NKe, they should be viewed not as con-

junctives but as substantives with their following geni-

tives.2 This would produce a translation such as "the like

of arrows in the hand of a mighty man are sons of one's

youth." This simply defines the figurative language a little

more clearly.

            The second clause can be interpreted a couple of

ways as indicated by the grammar. MyriUfn.;ha can be seen as an

adjective or a subjective genitive. It is either describing

MyniBA or indicating the involvement of the rb,G, of verse five.


                            Semantical Studies

            The figurative part of the simile here in verse four

involves military terminology. The first of the terminology

mentioned is MycaHi. "Arrows" were no doubt in use during


            1Luke 14:25-27.

            2P. 499.


Solomon's time, even though they are not specifically men-

tioned. But reliefs of surrounding empires show the promi-

nant and decisive usage of the bow and arrow.1 With the

advancement of the chariot in Solomon's army, evidence

indicates the archer was associated with them.2

            These arrows play a vital role for the soldier as

indicated by rOBGi. As Roland DeVaux notes, the word ROBGi  

was "applied to a warrior of noted valor usually specified

by name, a 'hero,' a ‘brave.’”3 So the man that Solomon

brings into the picture is a warrior or champion. A man

that is not of the common stock, but one that is noticed.

This figure of arrows in a warrior's hands indicates

strength. The arrows are the warrior's decisive force that

sustain his existence. The use of this figure of arrows as

a sign of effective strength is seen in Psalm 45:5. Verse

four sets up the power motif,

            In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf

            of truth, humility and righteousness;

            Let your right hand display awesome deeds.

            Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the

            king s enemies;

            Let the nations fall beneath your feet.

Arrows in the hand of the warrior are intended to be used by


            lYigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands

(London: Weiden and Nicholson, 1963), p. 295.

            2Roland DeVaux, Ancient Israel (New York: McGraw-

Hill, 1961), pp. 243-44.

            3Idem, The Bible and the Ancient Near East (Garden

City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1971), p. 125.


the warrior. They are for the benefit of the warrior.

            The arrows of the passage are the "sons of youth."

Most authors, like Kimhi, take this bound structure to refer

to the sons of a man's youth rather than youthful sons.1

This phrase is contrasted with the "sons of old age" in

Genesis 37:3. So we have sons born in the vigor of their

father's years.2 If the sons are born in the young days of

the Father, they will be able to defend him in his old age.3

The adjectival use of MyriUfn.;ha should not be ignored. For

maintaining the congruence of metaphor here, the designation

of youthful sons, those of vigor and youth would fit the

context. The figure in this verse indicates that the war-

rior is intending to use them. They are not to remain idle.

The arrows also must function as they were intended to. In

order for the mighty man to win his battle, what is better

than a large strong stock of arrows from which to fight?

Youthful sons full of vigor would provide such a stock.

They would have the strength to perform the tasks set before

them. Admittedly, the term MyriUfn; is not definitive in its

temporal setting, but this would not rule out sons of any


            1Joshua Baker and Ernest W. Nicholson, editors, The

Commentary of Rabbi David Kimhi on Psalms CXX-CL (Cambridge:

University Press, 1973), p. 27.

            2Oesterley, Psalms, p. 519.

            3Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 753.


age that would be beneficial to the father.1 As verse five

continues, they would still be able to support their father

at any age. Taking note of Psalm 128:3, sons are referred

to as "olive shoots." Looking at the similarities between

Psalm 128 and 127, it is not unreasonable to see that the

sons in 127:4 are youthful, full of vigor.2


                        Interpretative Summary

            Verse four builds the unity of the psalm. For it

develops the theme of the family which is probably linked to

"house" in verse one. So as God prospers the building of

the house he also prospers the family. The prosperity of

Yahweh is revealed in the sons. For they, being youthful,

have the strength to support and accomplish the tasks set

before them by their father. As the warrior controls the

arrow, so should the father his sons. It is his sons that

will make an indelible mark in the life of the father. So

the blessing given by Yahweh in verse three is described in

verse four in terms that any father would understand--any

father, that is, who knows the Giver of sons.


            1Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v.

"Youth," by W. White, Jr.

            2The LXX translates tw?n e]ktetinagme<nwn . Most likely

the authors misunderstood the root RcanA--to shake--instead of



                                     Verse Five

       Mh,me OtPAw;xa-tx, xle.mi rw,xE rb,G,ha yrew;xa

        rfawA.Ba Mybiy;Ox-tx, UrB;day;-yKi Uwboye-xlo

                          Grammatical Observations

            Verse five is the capstone of the second proverb and

the final unifying substratum to the psalm. This verse is

primarily a declarative sentence that describes a certain

type of man.

            Line eight is composed of a construct unit which is

often translated as a simple equative clause, "Blessed is

the man." As the line continues a relative clause is added

to describe what it takes to be a blessed man.

            The relative clause revolves around the idea of

sons. A perusal of various translations will show that this

relative clause can be translated as follows, "Who has his

quiver full of them" or "Who has filled his quiver with

them." The restrictive phrase Mh,me conveys a partitive

sense, that is the idea of separation out of a larger class.

he class is. defined by Mh. The logical antecedent is NBe of

verse four. Both translations end up with a stative idea,

that is the quiver is full of sons. But a distinction is

seen in the way the quivers have been filled. The transla-

tions offered give a stative idea and a factitive idea

respectively. Both ideas are permissible in the Piel,1 and


            1Williams, Syntax, p. 27.


both are applicable to the passage.

            One translation looks at the result whereas the

other gives the idea of intention. The translation, "who

has filled his quiver" gives the idea that the man was pur-

poseful in filling his quiver. An active role of the man is

in the picture. The translation "who has his quiver full of

them" approaches the idea from a passive standpoint, perhaps

a providential perspective. Both are grammatically possible.

The semantics of the context will ultimately decide which

one is the best.

            Some other problems crop up in the verse as it con-

tinues. Of the problems here, one has particular signifi-

cance for this verse.1 The subject of Uwboyi and UrB;day; is

rb,G,ha. But the concord between the verbs and subject seems

to be more desirous. To deal with this apparent difficulty,

Dahood has offered that the 3ms verb is often seen in the

Psalms as a 3mp verbal form.2 This would solve the problem

and prevent any emendation. However, the LXX has plural

verbs in its translations. One wonders how much weight to

put on the LXX, but it cannot be wrong all of the time.

            Perhaps the plural idea does make sense. The author


            1The other problem concerns the LXX which translates

OtPAw;xa tx, with e]pi<qumi<an. Again perhaps a misunderstanding

of the LXX, although "desires" is not altogether inappropri-

ate. Dahood suggests that the congruence of metaphor

"arrows" in verse five makes "quivers" a logical choice and

rules out "desires" correctly so.

            2Psalms, vol. III, p. 225.


could be collectively speaking of the father and his sons,

for both would be present at the gate so that the father can

stand his ground. Therefore, it is not difficult to under-

stand the plural concept in this verse.1


                             Semantical Studies

            The man which is described in this verse is denoted

by the word rb,G,. Even though this word is used in greater

frequency in the Psalm than other portions of the Old Testa-

ment, it was unexpected. Girdlestone observes that this

term is used to represent a mighty man.2 He admits, though,

that the term is not always that clear in the book of

Psalms. But this meaning (mighty man) may not be too far

off for this passage. The LXX does not translate this word

in this passage. Perchance the translators saw some liter-

ary technique that they were not able to deal with. If they

did, they were correct. For what has been seen earlier in

the passage shows that the author is capable of some drama-

tic effects. There is a close orthographic similarity

between rb,G, and the preceding term rOBGi. This similarity

has caused a few to repoint the text in line eight from rb,g,

to rOBGi. Dahood correctly recognizes that "proposals to

repoint geber, 'man,' to gibbor, 'warrior,' receive a


            1Miller, "The House," pp. 131-32.

            2Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testa-

ment (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976),

pp. 52-53.


setback from the 4QPs Commentary on Psalms . . . ."1 But if

those who set out to repoint the text would pay attention to

the text, these changes sought in this passage would not

have been taken. For the word rb,G, is an appropriate word

here. It orthographically parallels the word rOBGi bringing

a unified concept. Also the concept of 'mighty man' paral-

lels the meaning of 'warrior' giving good evidence for the

choice of this word. So the author again displays his

literary genius in this choice of the word. Even though the

meaning of the word 'mighty man' is not necessary, the use

of rb,G, for man is acceptable, it brings in an interesting

concept of a man who has sons to be seen in the light of

strength which fits this context of opposition in the city


            The wisdom style is seen in the term "blessed."2 it

is interesting to note that it is in the plural yrew;xa. The

uses of the plural would allow the translation of "Oh the

happinesses of the man," or "how completely happy is the

man." It has been noted that this expression "denotes the

fullness of the man's blessing."3 This idea fits well with

the filling of the quiver.

            The blessed man is depicted as the one with a full


            1Ibid., p. 224.

            2Murphy, "Classification," pp. 163-64.

            3Davis, The Psalms, p. 60.


quiver. The factitive use of xle.mi is preferable here. For

it is the man who realizes the blessing of God and seeks it.  

The military figure is continued in this line with the use

of "quiver." It is an appropriate figure in relation to the

arrows of the preceding. Again the author demonstrates his

poetic ability. The quiver in use during Solomon's day or

of the military history of Israel is not easily described

because of the lack of pictorial reliefs in Israel's history  

Jwx is a loan word from Akkadian.l It is from surrounding

areas that pictorial reliefs show the configuration of the

quiver. One authority states that quivers were made of

leather with a shoulder strap and were long and cylindrical.2

They are reported to be able to hold between twenty and

thirty arrows.3 Indubitably, the psalmist was speaking

about large families.

            As the psalmists began with the building of a house  

so he continues with the theme of building up the family.

This dynastic connotation is not out of line with the term

"house."4 The result of the building of the house is that

the blessed man and his family, specifically boys, will not


            1Maximilian Ellenbogen, Foreign Words in the Old

Testament: Their Origin and Etymology (London: Luzac &

Company, Ltd., 1962), p.. 45.

            2Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. "War and Warfare," by

Yitzhah M,argowsky.


            4Miller, "The House," p. 127.


be ashamed when they confront their enemy at the gate.

            The practical wisdom of the Psalm appears here, for

the psalmist brings the contents of this second saying into

the daily realm of the man. For it is at the gates that

many activities take place. The gate during Solomon's reign

was designed primarily for the defense of the city. But his

design allowed a space for the prominent affairs of the city

to take place. It is where both public and private gather-

ings could meet. It was the place for social, economic, and

judicial activities.1 According to this psalm, it is a

place where the father would find himself.

            At the gate the father would often meet his Mybiy;Ox.

The reference to the 'enemies' suggests a negative activity

in which the father would have to show strength. Dahood

suggests that UrB;day; continues the military motif. The word

would translate as "he shall drive back the enemies."2

There may be some uses of UrB;day; used in this way, but Dahood

wants to develop a royal character in the psalm and this

suits his purpose. The royal motif is interesting but

probably not the focus of the psalm. The most common use of

the word rB,Di is associated with speaking.3 This use fits

with the context of the psalm. Also the suggestion of the


            1Frick, The City, p. 84.

            2Dahood, Psalms, vol. 3, p. 225.

            3BDB, pp. 180-84.


military strength of the father may not be necessary during

the time of Solomon. For he kept and modified the standing

armies of Israel, which would deal with the enemies at the

gates of the city if need be.l But most agree that judicial

activity is involved in which the father would be backed by

his sons to prevent unfair practices. These unfair judicial

practices are denounced by the prophet Amos in 5:12,

            For I know how many are your offenses and how great

            your sins.

            You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you

            deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

The presence of many sons will prevent the father from being

humiliated or ashamed. For he can speak with authority and

assurance and need not fear that he will be mocked.


                            Interpretative Summary

            Verse five closes the psalmist's words of wisdom.

Wisdom provides practical insight into the lives of the

Israelites. The psalmist started out in the realm of

shelter and security. He progressed from the external to

the internal. Through his literary design he has declared

the blessing of sons for the father. So that the father can

uphold justice in the presence of his sons.

            Just as the warrior is able to use his arrows to

accomplish the battle before him. The father has trained

his sons well, fashioned them as well tamed arrows. So at


            1Yadin, Art of Warfare, pp. 275-90.


the time of need he is able to depend upon them. Surely

this has instructive truth for the modern day believer. It

is rare any more to find sons that at the pull of the bow

string they are there to support their father against the

perversion of his faith. But just as the warrior must prac-

tice with his bow and arrows to master his weapon so that it

is available to him in time of need, fathers need to prac-

tice with their sons to train them right also.

            But of the general nature of the proverb, it is not

out of reach to bring in the entire family itself. There is

blessing to be gained from a well ordered family. When the

enemies are at the gate, surely the father can rest assured

that his children will not depart. As the psalmist began,

all is vain unless the Lord is acknowledged in the lifestyle

of the family.



            Psalm 127 is two wisdom sayings composed by Solomon

around the mid-tenth century B.C. It has been seen that the

two sayings which appear separate at first really have a

unifying structure between them. The unification of the

psalm lies predominantly in the semantic sphere where the

house and family are seen in connection and the city and

gate are of a member class association.

            Solomon who with experience speaks of the dictum of

God's sovereignty. Those who attempt to deal with life's


necessities of shelter, security, and sustenance without the

acknowledgement of God in their lives are striving in vanity.

Vanity that declares these endeavors to be wicked and void

of spiritual effect. But those who live in submission to

God, depending on His guiding, protecting, and feeding hand

can rest assured at night that all will be well.

            But the sovereignty of God has a positive side also,

the blessing of sons. Sons are given from God's possession

into the care of the father. So as a mighty archer he can

train up his sons properly so that in the time of need, they

can be depended upon. They will fly straight and not veer

off course. So as the father defends justice, he will come

away victorious, a mighty man.

            Psalm 127 is a mighty psalm composed by a mighty

man. Only if he himself would have listened to his own

words as his days drew to a close.1


            11 Kings 11:1-13.




                                CHAPTER III



Unless God builds the house,

            Its builders labor on it in vain

Unless God protects the city

            Its watchman watches (it) in vain

Vanity is to them who get up early and delay rest

But, those who eat the bread of toil, He gives

            to his beloved sleep

Behold, the inheritance of God are sons

            His reward is the fruit of the womb

Like arrows in the hand of the warrior

            so are youthful sons

Blessed is the man who fills his quiver from them

They will not be ashamed when they speak with his

            enemies at the gate.













                                           APPENDIX I






                                         APPENDIX II




            1The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. "House," by

M. J. Selman.




                         Town planning at Tell beit Mirsim in 8th-7th

                        cent. BC Palestine. Typical jour-roomed

                        houses are grouped in blocks or ranged against

                        the surrounding city walls.




                        1Selman, "House," p. 670.

                                         APPENDIX III



                                       Left: An Assyrian quiver

                                       Right: An Elamite quiver


                                        Sennacherib's archers


                        1Yadin, Art of Warfare, p. 296.





            Ashurnasirpal's Chariot


                                                  Sargon's Chariot


           lYadin, Art of Warfare, p. 300.

                                       APPENDIX IV

                                        CITY GATE



            lOthmar Keel, The Symbolism of the Biblical World,

trans. by Timothy J. Hallett (New Jersey: The Seabury

Press, 1978).



       One of six chambers of the Solomonic City Gate at Megiddo


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_________. The Psalms, vol. 5. Translated by James Marten.

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            mans Publishing Co., 1968.

Emerton, J. A. "The Meaning of SENA in Psalm CXXVII 2."

            Vetus Testamentum 24 (January 1974): 15-31.

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_________. S.v. "War and Warfare," by Yitzhah Margowsky.

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            Really Solomonic?" Biblical Archaeology Review 9

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            tament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg.

            Chicago: Moody Press, 1981.

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            Life's Meaning." Th.M. thesis, Grace Theological

            Seminary, May 1975.

_________. "Solomon's Most Excellent Song: A Linguistic,

            Hermeneutical, Historical, and Philological Dis-

            quisition on the Hebrew Love Poetry of the Song of

            Solomon." Th.D. dissertation, Grace Theological

            Seminary, 1979.

Freedman, David Noel. "The Massoretic Text and the Qumran

            Scrolls: A Study in Orthography." In Textus, vol.

            2. Edited by C. Rabin. Jerusalem: Magnes Press,



__________. Pottery, Poetry, and Prophecy: Studies in Early

            Poetry. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1980.

Frick, Frank S. The City in Ancient Israel. Missoula, MT:

            Scholars Press, 1977.

Frymer-Kensky, Tikva. "Patriarchal Family Relationships and

            Near Eastern Law." Biblical Archeologist 44 (Fall

            1981): 209-14.

Gaebelein, Arno C. The Book of Psalms. Neptune, NJ:

            Loizeaux Brothers, 1965.

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            Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Ginsburg, Christian D. Introduction to the Massoretico-

            Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible. New York:

            KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1968.

Girdlestone, Robert B. Synonyms of the Old Testament. 2nd

            edition. 1897; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

            Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Goodwin, Eneas B. "The Gradual Psalms." American Ecclesi-

            astical Review 14 (May 1896): 385-95.

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Goshen-Gottstein, M. H. "The Psalms Scroll (11QPsa): A

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            Edited by S. Talmon. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1966.

__________. "Theory and Practice of Textual Criticism." In

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            Magnes Press, 1963.

Gray, George B. The Forms of Hebrew Poetry. London: Hod-

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Greenstein, Edward. "Two Variations of Grammatical Paral-

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Guthrie, Harvey H., Jr. Israel's Sacred Songs. New York:

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Halvorsen, Barry D. "Scribes and Scribal Schools in the

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            cal Criticism: Historical, Literary, and Textual.

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Hastings, James, editor. Dictionary of the Bible. S,.v.

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Hayes, John H. An Introduction to Old Testament Study.

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__________. Understanding the Psalms. Valley Forge, PA:

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Hirsch, E. D., Jr. Validity in Interpretation. New Haven:

            Yale University Press, 1967.

Holladay, William L. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon

            of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerd-

            mans Publishing Co., 1971.

Horne, George. A Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1,

            3. London: Joseph Rickerby, 1836.

Hoy, D. C. "Poetics and Hermeneutics: The Methodology of

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            sity, 1972.



Hummel, Horace D. The Word Becoming Flesh. St. Louis:

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The Illustrated Bible Dictionary. S.v. "Fortification and

            Siegecraft," by G. G. Garner.

_________. S.v. "House," by M. J. Selman.

_________. S.v. "Psalms, book of," by J. G. S. S. Thompson.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised edition.

            S.v. "House," by A. C. Dickie and J. B. Payne.

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. S.v. "City," by

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_________. S.v. "Poetry, Hebrew," by M. Dahood.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. Toward an Exegetical Theology.

            Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981.

__________. Toward an Old Testament Theology. Grand Rapids:

            Zondervan Publishing House, 1978.

Kantenwein, Lee L. "The Principles of Typological Inter-

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            Testament Writers and Twentieth Century Interpre-

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Kautzsch, E. and Cowley, A. E. Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar.

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            Seabury Press, 1978.

Keet, Cuthbert C. A Study of the Psalms of Ascents. Green-

            wood, SC: The Attic Press, 1969.

Kelman, John. "The God of House and City." The Expository

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Kenyon, Kathleen. Royal Cities of the Old Testament.

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            Varsity Press, 1964.




________. Psalms 1-72. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973.

________. Psalms 73-150. London: Inter-Varsity Press,


Kirkpatrick, A. F. The Book of Psalms. Fincastle, VA:

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            Fortress Press, 1966.

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"Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament

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            Zondervan Publishing House, 1974.

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_________.  S.v. "tyiBa," by Harry A. Hoffner.

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_________. S.v. "hnABA," by Siegfried Wagner.

A Theological Wordbook of the Bible. S.v. "Inherit," by

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Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. S.v. "tyiBa," by

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_________. S.v. “hnABA,” by Bruce K. Waltke.

_________. S.v. "ddy," by Ralph H. Alexander.

_________. S. v . “lHanA,” by Leonard J. Coppes.

_________.  S. v. “bcf,” by Ronald B. Allen.

_________. S. v. “tbawA,” by Victor P. Hamilton.

_________. S. v. "xvw," by Victor P. Hamilton.

_________. S. v. "MkawA" by Victor P. Hamilton.

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_________. S.v. "Youth," by W. White, Jr.




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