Psalm 127:1-2

Psalm 127:1-2
Narrative Lectionary 422


A Song of Ascents.A Of Solomon.B

Unless the LordC buildsD the house,E

Notes on superscript-verse 1a

A “Ascents” = ma’alah. From ma’aleh (ascent, platform, slope, stairs, cliff, elevation, a rise; figuratively, a priority); from alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is something that arises, elevation, a journey to a higher pane. This can be used figuratively to mean having a though or being of a superior status. It is often used in a specific sense for something the mounts to a climax. This is step, stair, or high degree.
B “Solomon” = Shelomoh. From shalam (to be complete or sound; to have safety mentally, physically, or extending to one’s estate; so, if these things are safe and complete, the implication is that one would be friendly; and, if being friendly, one would make amends and that friendship would be reciprocated). This is Solomon or Shelomoh, meaning “peaceful.” It is the same word as the Hebrew word for peace – shalom.
C “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
D “builds” = banah. This is to build, make, set up, restore, repair, or obtain children. It is to build literally or figuratively.
E “house” = bayit. Related to “builds” in v1. Probably from banah (see note D above). This is house, court, family, palace, temple.

    those who build it laborF in vain.G
Unless the Lord guardsH the city,I
    the guard keeps watchJ in vain.

Notes on verse 1b

F “labor” = amal. 11x in OT. This is to labor – work that is hard and intensive. It is a Late Hebrew word.
G “in vain” = shav. Perhaps from the same as sho (ruin, desolation, storm; from a root that means rushing over – hence a storm and hence devastation). This is emptiness, false, worthless, deceit. It can also refer to evil, guile, idolatry, or something being in vain.
H “guards” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
I “city” = iyr. From uwr (to awaken or wake oneself up). This can mean excitement in the sense of wakefulness or city. Properly, this is a place that is guarded. Guards kept schedules according to watches. This sense of the word would include cities as well as encampments or posts that were guarded.
J “keeps watch” = shaqad. 12x in OT. This is to watch, be alert, remain awake, be on guard for good or evil reasons.

It is in vain that you rise upK earlyL
    and go lateM to rest,N

Notes on verse 2a

K “rise up” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
L “early” = shakam. This is leaning one’s shoulder into a burden or load, whether a person or an animal. Thus, it meant starting or rising early.
M “go late” = achar. 17x in OT. This is to remain behind, linger, continue, be behind, or delay. It can also imply procrastination.
N “rest” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.

eatingO the breadP of anxious toil;Q

Notes on verse 2b

O “eating” = akal. This is to eat, devour, burn up, or otherwise consume. It can be eating in a literal or figurative sense.
P “bread” = lechem. From lacham (to eat, feed on). This is bread, food, loaf. It can refer to food more generally for people or for animals.
Q “anxious toil” = etseb. 7x in OT. From atsab (to hurt, grieve, displease; to carve, make, worry). This is hurt, sorrow, work that causes pain, physical or mental pain, idol, a pot.

    forR he givesS sleepT to his beloved.U

Notes on verse 2c

R “for” = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
S “gives” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
T “sleep” = shenah. From yashen (to be languid or go slack; it can mean to sleep, become old or stale, or die). This is sleep or asleep.
U “beloved” = yadid. 9x in OT. Perhaps from the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle, love token; root may mean to boil). This is lovely, amiable, beloved.

Image credit: “The House on the Rock” by Rawderson Rangel.

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