Psalms 127:2 MEANING

Psalm 127:2
(2) It . . . sleep.--This verse, of the literal rendering of which there is no question, has met with many different interpretations. About the first clause there is no difference. Early rising, to pursue the business of the day, is vain without the Divine blessing on the labour. The next two clauses admit two different interpretations. Some connect the sitting down with the meal: "delaying to sit down and eat the bread of cares" (or sorrow), i.e., so immersed in business as to allow hardly time for meals. But it seems far more natural to take the Hebrew in its more extended sense of resting, and so explain, nearly as the Authorised Version:--

"It is in vain to rise early;

To delay the hour of rest,

To eat the bread that has been won by toil;

At His pleasure He giveth to His beloved (in) sleep."

As to the last clause, it seems right, from its use in Genesis 1, "it was so," to give so the sense "at His pleasure," this being also indicated by the general drift of the psalm. The word "sleep" may be either the direct object, as in the LXX. and Vulg., or the accusative used adverbially, "in sleep," "while they sleep." That the latter suits the context best there can be no question. The whole intention of the psalm is to assert the truth which the Book of Proverbs sums up in one sentence (Proverbs 10:22): "The blessing of Jehovah maketh rich, and toil can add nothing thereto," the truth which was so impressively taught in the Sermon on the Mount, by the contrast of man's restless ambition with the unconscious dependence on the Divine bounty of birds and flowers. To say that what others toil for from morning till night in vain, God gives to His beloved without all this anxiety and exertion, while they sleep, puts this truth forcibly, and with that disregard of apparent paradox which was natural to a Hebrew, and which appears so prominently in our Saviour's treatment of the subject. Labour is decried as unnecessary neither here nor in the Sermon on the Mount, but "carking care" is dismissed as unworthy those who, from past experience, ought to trust the goodness of the great Provider. The Greek proverb, "The net catches while the fisher sleeps," and the German, "God bestows His gifts during the night," bring common expressions to confirm this voice of inspiration, which was, in almost so many words, recalled in our Lord's parable (Mark 4:27). But old association pleads for the equally true and equally beautiful rendering which makes sleep the gift of God. If there is one thing which seems to come more direct from Heaven's bounty than another, that in its character is more benign, in its effects more akin to the nature of God, it is the blessing of sleep. In all times men have rendered thanks to Heaven for this boon. The ancients not only spoke of sleep as "most grateful of known gifts," but made itself a god. The psalmist unconsciously, but most truly, teaches us the further lesson that it is not only a Divine blessing, but a proof of Divine love:

"Of all the thoughts of God that are

Borne inward unto souls afar,

Across the psalmist's music deep,

Now tell me if that any is

For gift or grace surpassing this--

He giveth His beloved sleep."


Verse 2. - It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late (comp. Isaiah 5:11); i.e. to be "careful and troubled" about your work in the world, whatever it is. To eat the bread of sorrows. To feed, as it were, on sorrow - and trouble and care - to make your lives a burden to yourselves through your carefulness. For so he giveth his beloved sleep; rather, surely he giveth to his beloved in sleep; i.e. in their sleep. The teaching is similar to that of Exodus 14:14; Isaiah 30:7, 15; Matthew 6:25-34. God gives to men that which he knows they have need of, if they have only the faith to "sit still" and "wait."

127:1-5 The value of the Divine blessing. - Let us always look to God's providence. In all the affairs and business of a family we must depend upon his blessing. 1. For raising a family. If God be not acknowledged, we have no reason to expect his blessing; and the best-laid plans fail, unless he crowns them with success. 2. For the safety of a family or a city. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen, though they neither slumber nor sleep, wake but in vain; mischief may break out, which even early discoveries may not be able to prevent. 3. For enriching a family. Some are so eager upon the world, that they are continually full of care, which makes their comforts bitter, and their lives a burden. All this is to get money; but all in vain, except God prosper them: while those who love the Lord, using due diligence in their lawful callings, and casting all their care upon him, have needful success, without uneasiness or vexation. Our care must be to keep ourselves in the love of God; then we may be easy, whether we have little or much of this world. But we must use the proper means very diligently. Children are God's gifts, a heritage, and a reward; and are to be accounted blessings, and not burdens: he who sends mouths, will send meat, if we trust in him. They are a great support and defence to a family. Children who are young, may be directed aright to the mark, God's glory, and the service of their generation; but when they are gone into the world, they are arrows out of the hand, it is too late to direct them then. But these arrows in the hand too often prove arrows in the heart, a grief to godly parents. Yet, if trained according to God's word, they generally prove the best defence in declining years, remembering their obligations to their parents, and taking care of them in old age. All earthly comforts are uncertain, but the Lord will assuredly comfort and bless those who serve him; and those who seek the conversion of sinners, will find that their spiritual children are their joy and crown in the day of Jesus Christ.It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late,.... A description of an industrious and laborious person, who takes great pains to get a livelihood, or increase his substance; see Psalm 104:23; which, yet, as in the former instances, depends upon the blessing of divine Providence, Proverbs 10:4. For, after all, it may come to nothing more at last than

to eat the bread of sorrows; that is, to eat bread gotten with much sorrow and labour; such get bread, and that is all, and not that without the providence of God;

for so he giveth his beloved sleep; that is, the Lord: such who are partakers of his grace, that fear and love him; to them, thus diligent and industrious, he gives not only bread to eat, but sleep, which to a labouring man is sweet; and having food and raiment, he gives them contentment, quietness, and satisfaction of mind, which is the greatest blessing of all. Sleep, even bodily sleep, was reckoned with the very Heathens a divine gift (x). Some think respect is had to, Solomon, whose name was Jedidiah, and signifies the beloved of the Lord, 2 Samuel 12:24; to whom God gave peace, rest, and safety all around; or, as others, the kingdom without labour, when Absalom and Adonijah toiled for it: Christ, who is the Beloved of the Lord, the Son of his love, his well beloved Son, may be thought of, whose rest is glorious; his sleep in the grave, where his flesh rested from his labours and sufferings, in hope of the resurrection of it: and it may be applied to all the Lord's beloved ones; to whom he gives spiritual rest in this world, sleep in the arms of Jesus at death, and an everlasting rest in the world to come; all which depends not on their endeavours, but on his grace and goodness.

(x) "----prima quies--dono divum gratissima serpit", Virgil. Aeneid. l. 2. v. 264, 265. , Homer. Iliad. 7. v. 482. & 9. v. 709. & Odyss. 16. v. ult.

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