שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלֹות לִשְׁלֹמֹה אִם־יְהוָה לֹא־יִבְנֶה בַיִת שָׁוְא עָמְלוּ בֹונָיו בֹּו אִם־יְהוָה לֹא־יִשְׁמָר־עִיר שָׁוְא 127:1
Psal. 127:1 A song of the ascendance of Solomon's:
If the Lord would not have established the house,
in vain labor its builders on it.
If the Lord would not guard the city,
in vain the watchman watch.
שָׁוְא לָכֶם מַשְׁכִּימֵי קוּם מְאַחֲרֵי־שֶׁבֶת אֹכְלֵי לֶחֶם הָעֲצָבִים כֵּן יִתֵּן לִידִידוֹ שֵׁנָא׃ 127:2
Psal. 127:2 It is vain for you,
ones early of rising,
delayers of sitting,
eaters of the bread of toil;
forasmuch as He would give sleep to His beloved.
I believe this verse is saying the following: You who rise early, and work hard all day, then delay the day’s end to do
a bit more accomplish nothing without the Lord’s help. He even watches over his beloved people in sleep.
הִנֵּה נַחֲלַת יְהוָה בָּנִים שָׂכָר פְּרִי הַבָּטֶן׃ 127:3
Psal. 127:3 Behold! Children are the heritage of the Lord.
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
כְּחִצִּים בְּיַד־גִּבּוֹר כֵּן בְּנֵי הַנְּעוּרִים׃ 127:4
Psal. 127:4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
so are the children of the youthful years.
אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּא אֶת־אַשְׁפָּתוֹ מֵהֶם לֹא־יֵבֹשׁוּ כִּי־יְדַבְּרוּ אֶת־אוֹיְבִים בַּשָּׁעַר׃ 127:5
Psal. 127:5 Happy is the man who fills his quiver with them;
they will not be ashamed
when they must speak with enemies at the gate.
Many scholars assume little connection between the first two verses of this psalm and the last three. But I suspect
these last three subtly continue the thought of the first two, all five emphasizing the same theme: That of the Lord’s
watching over us, even giving us children that they may help and protect us. If I’m right, I have some difficulty with
this idea. If you carry it to the extreme, the psalmist is saying that we don’t need to do anything, because the Lord
takes care of us. So all we do is in vain, except maybe having children. I can’t agree with this notion; I believe that
while the Lord does watch over us, I also believe He expects us to live in this world and learn from our mistakes and
our successes. I believe that is our purpose as faithful servants of a loving God.
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