Psalm 127

Psalm 127
A Women’s Lectionary – Proper 26


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.

3 VSonsW are indeed a heritageX from the Lord,

Notes on verse 3a

V {untranslated} = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!
W “sons” = ben. Related to “builds” and “house” in v1. From banah (see note D above). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.
X “heritage” = nachalah. Related to nachal (to inherit, occupy, distribute, take as heritage). This is properly something that was inherited. It can mean occupancy generally or, more particularly, an heirloom or an estate. This can be an inheritance, gift, possession, or portion.

    the fruitY of the wombZ a reward.AA

Notes on verse 3b

Y “fruit” = peri. From parah (to bear fruit, grow, be fruitful, increase; bearing fruit in a literal or figurative sense). This is fruit or reward.
Z “womb” = beten. Root may mean to be hollow. This is the belly or womb. It can also refer to a body more broadly.
AA “reward” = sakar. From sakar (to hire, reward, earn). This is wages, payment, service, salary, worth, reward, or benefit.

4 Like arrowsBB in the handCC of a warriorDD
    areEE the sons of one’s youth.FF

Notes on verse 4

BB “arrows” = chets. From chatsats (to divide, chop, pierce, distribute, shoot an arrow, an archer). This is an arrow or archer, shaft, staff. Properly, it is someone or something that pierces, such as an arrow. It can imply a wound. Used figuratively of God’s thunder bolt.
CC “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
DD “warrior” = gibbor. From gabar (to be strong or mighty; to prevail or be insolent). This is strong, mighty, or powerful. This can imply a warrior, hero, or tyrant.
EE “are” = ken. Same as “for” in v2. See note R above.
FF “youth” = naur. From naar (child or a servant; a child in their active years so they could be aged anywhere from infancy to adolescence); perhaps from naar (to shake, toss up and down, tumble around). This is youth or childhood.

5 HappyGG is the manHH who has
    his quiverII fullJJ of them.

Notes on verse 5a

GG “happy” = esher. From ashar (to go straight, lead, guide; to be level and so to be right, blessed, honest, happy). This is happy or blessedness.
HH “man” = geber. Related to “warrior” in v4. From gabar (see note DD above). This is man, warrior, a person generally, or a valiant person.
II “quiver” = ashpah. 6x in OT. Perhaps from the same as ashshaph (may be from a word referring to a lisp; it is a conjurer, someone who does magic). This is a quiver as used for arrows.
JJ “has…full” = male. This is fill, satisfy, replenish, accomplish, fulfill, confirm, or consecrate. It is fill in a literal or figurative sense.

He shall not be put to shameKK
    when he speaksLL with his enemiesMM in the gate.NN

Notes on verse 5b

KK “be put to shame” = bosh. Properly, this means to be pale, which implies shame, disappointment, or confusion.
LL “speaks” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
MM “enemies” = oyeb. From ayab (to hate or be hostile to). This is a foe or enemy as one that you are hostile to.
NN “gate” = shaar. May be related to sha’ar (to calculate or reckon; may come from a root that means to open up or split). This is a gate, door, or other opening like a port.

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

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