Psalm 126-127 – Unless the Lord Builds the House…

Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United ...

Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These two psalms are two of the 15 psalms (Psalms 120-134) that are known as the Songs of Ascents (see this previous post for more information). Psalm 126 is a community lament that many ascribe to the people returning from captivity, but there is nothing in it that really affirms or denies that. Charles Spurgeon described it as “a narrative” (verses 1-2), “a song” (verse 3), ” a prayer” (verse 4), and “a promise” (verses 5-6). The promise is still true today – those who do the work of the kingdom (though they may suffer while doing it) will reap the rewards of their toil.

The next song of Ascents is 127, for which the superscription notes that Solomon is the author. Again, these superscriptions are not inspired, but those particularly of the Psalms are quite old and generally reliable. James Burton Coffman (citing George Rawlinson, Franz Delitzsch, and Derek Kidner) lists 4 reasons that seem to confirm Solomon’s authorship (Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Psalms 127”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”):

1) “In the Hebrew text, there is found in Psalms 127:2 here an allusion to the name Jedidiah, which Solomon received from Nathan (2 Samuel 12:25). That reference is in the English words ‘his beloved’; and Kidner referred to this as perhaps Solomon’s ‘concealed signature.'”

2) “The second reason cited by Delitzsch is that the giving of his beloved ‘sleep’ may be construed as a reference to the great wisdom which God gave to Solomon in that dream (while he slept) ‘At Gibeon (1 Kings 3:5-9).'”

3) “The third reason is ‘The Proverbs-like form of the psalm.'”

4) “Rawlinson states that the words `[~’etseb],’ `[~ne’urim],’ and `[~yedidow]’ found in the text are Solomonic words; also, this psalm agrees with the sentiment of Proverbs 10:22.”

The tie to Proverbs 10:22 that Rawlinson spoke of is indeed in line with verses 5-6. But it is the first two verses that caught our eye as we digested the comforting poetic words of God. Coffman noted that it was verse one upon which he witnessed Dwight David Eisenhower being sworn into office as President of the United States:

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is a reminder that despite all appearances to mortal man, nothing gets done without God’s blessing, and so verse 2:

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved asleep.

Even Jesus took time for proper rest. Would the Lord have you toil day after day without doing likewise? We are to do our work each day to the best of our ability, with reverence and thanksgiving to the Lord. And then we are to take our rest – because the Lord has given that to us. Our work is in good hands.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at  



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