Psalm 128 – “Blessing for the Righteous”

3_grapevineHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Psalm 128 is a short blessing for those who “fear the Lord,” and it was most likely said to the pilgrims who journeyed to Jerusalem. Those who “fear the Lord” are blessed/assured sustenance, an exceptional family, the ability to return to Jerusalem, and long life.

II. Photo

The blessing in v. 3 says “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house”
III. Outline
1a. Superscription
1bc. Beatitude
2-3. Blessing/assurance
4. Rationale
5-6a. Blessing/assurance
6v. Closing benediction

IV. Comment
Psalm 128 begins with a beatitude, a way of conferring “extraordinary bliss on a person who lives up to certain standards of ethical and religious behavior, as implied in the descriptive designation.” (Gerstenberger) Due to the fact that Psalm 128 is in the shir hama’alot section, it is likely that this blessing was given to the pilgrims at Jerusalem (hence the mention of Zion and Jerusalem in v. 5). Like the beatitude of v. 1, the Psalter’s 25 other beatitudes begin with the word ashrei “praiseworthy is he who…” and are followed by participles or adjectives which describe the blessed person (in our case the adjective “all who fear the Lord” and the participle “those who follow his ways” are used). The beatitude in v. 1 unique is that it shifts from the third person to a second person address in vv. 2-3 (for a similar shift in person, see Deut. 33:29 and Eccl. 10:17).

The initial blessing, “You shall enjoy the fruit of your labors; you shall be happy and you shall prosper,” is similar to those of the Wisdom genre. This, and the fact that Psalm 128 speaks of the family, makes it very similar to 127.

The next blessing (v. 3) is a simile: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons, like olive saplings around your table.” Wine and oil were considered human luxuries (cf. Ps 104:14-16) and thus the subject of blessing. Gerstenberger notes how the style and message of v. 3 is related to other blessings in Tanach, namely those given to newlywed men or women (cf. Ruth 4:12; Gen. 24:60; 28:3). The psalm ends with a blessing to see Jerusalem throughout one’s lifetime (v. 5), and to live long enough to see one’s grandchildren (v. 6).

In terms of literary structure, the psalm repeats words such as ashrei, yare’, tov, yevorach, re’ei, and banim (3x).

V. Important Verses
v. 3: Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons, like olive saplings around your table
v. 5-6: May the LORD bless you from Zion; may you share the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life, and live to see your children’s children…

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