Verse 5. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. Those who have no children bewail the fact; those who have few children see them soon gone, and the house is silent, and their life has lost a charm; those who have many gracious children are upon the whole the happiest. Of course a large number of children means a large number of trials; but when these are met by faith in the Lord it also means a mass of love, and a multitude of joys. The writer of this comment gives it as his own observation, that he has seen the most frequent unhappiness in marriages which are unfruitful; that he has himself been most grateful for two of the best of sons; but as they have both grown up, and he has no child at home, he has without a tinge of murmuring, or even wishing that he were otherwise circumstanced, felt that it might have been a blessing to have had a more numerous family: he therefore heartily agrees with the Psalmist's verdict herein expressed. He has known a family in which there were some twelve daughters and three sons, and he never expects to witness upon earth greater domestic felicity than fell to the lot of their parents, who rejoiced in all their children, as the children also rejoiced in their parents and in one another. When sons and daughters are arrows, it is well to have a quizzer full of them; but if they are only sticks, knotty and useless, the fewer of them tim better. While those are blessed whose quiver is full, there is no reason to doubt that many are blessed who have no quiver at all; for a quiet life may not need such a warlike weapon. Moreover, a quiver may be small and yet full; and then the blessing is obtained. In any case we may be sure that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of children that he possesseth.
They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. They can meet foes both in law and in fight. Nobody cares to meddle with a man who can gather a clan of brave sons about him. He speaks to purpose whose own sons make his words emphatic by the resolve to carry out their father's wishes. This is the blessing of Abraham, the old covenant benediction, "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies"; and it is sure to all the beloved of the Lord in some sense or other. Doth not the Lord Jesus thus triumph in his seed? Looked at literally, this favour cometh of the Lord: without his will there would be no children to build up the house, and without his grace there would be no good children to be their parent's strength. If this must be left with the Lord, let us leave every other thing in the same hands. He will undertake for us and prosper our trustful endeavours, and we shall enjoy a tranquil life, and prove ourselves to be our Lord's beloved by the calm and quiet of our spirit. We need not doubt that if God gives us children as a reward he will also send us the food and raiment which he knows they need.
He who is the father of a host of spiritual children is unquestionably happy. He can answer all opponents by pointing to souls who have been saved by his means. Converts are emphatically the heritage of the Lord, and the reward of the preacher's soul travail. By these, under the power of the Holy Ghost, the city of the church is both built up and watched, and the Lord has the glory of it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 5. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. Dr. Guthrie used to say, "I am rich in nothing but children." They were eleven in number.
Verse 5. Quiver full. Many children make many prayers, and many prayers bring much blessing. --German Proverb.
Verse 5. The Rev. Moses Browne had twelve children. On one remarking to him, "Sir, you have just as many children as Jacob", he replied, "Yes, and I have Jacob's God to provide for them." --G. S. Bowes.
Verse 5. I remember a great man coming into my house, at Waltham, and seeing all my children standing in the order of their age and stature, said, "These are they that make rich men poor." But he straight received this answer, "Nay, my lord, these are they that make a poor man rich; for there is not one of these whom we would part with for all your wealth." It is easy to observe that none are so gripple and hard fisted as the childless; whereas those, who, for the maintenance of large families, are inured to frequent disbursements, find such experience of Divine providence in the faithful management of their affairs, as that they lay out with more cheerfulness what they receive. Wherein their care must be abated when God takes it off from them to himself; and, if they be not wanting to themselves, their faith gives them ease in casting their burden upon him, who hath more power and more right to it, since our children are more his than our own. He that feedeth the young ravens, can he fail the best of his creatures? --Joseph Hall, 1574-1656.
Verse 5. They shall not be ashamed, etc. Able enough he shall be to defend himself, and keep off all injuries, being fortified by his children; and if it happen that he hath a cause depending in the gate, and to be tried before the judges, he shall have the patronage of his children, and not suffer in his plea for want of advocates; his sons will stand up in a just cause for him. --William Nicholson (1671), in "David's Harp Strung and Tuned"
Verse 5. But they shall speak. "But destroy" is the marginal version, and is here much more emphatic than the rendering "speak." For this sense see 2 Chronicles 22:10 . Others refer it to litigation, when they shall successfully defend the cause of their parents. But as I do not see how their number or rigour could add weight to their evidence in a judicial cause, I prefer the sense given. --Benjamin Boothroyd, 1768-1836.
Verse 5. With the enemies in the gate. Probably the Psalmist alludes here to the defence of a besieged city; the gate was very commonly the point of attack, and the taking of it rendered the conquest of the place easy: compare Genesis 22:17 23:60. --Daniel Cresswell (1776-1844), in "The Psalms ...with Critical and Explanatory Notes," 1843.
Verse 5. --
This is the pride, the glory of a man,
To train obedient children in his house,
Prompt on his enemies to avenge his wrongs,
And with the father's zeal in honour high
To hold his friends.
--Sophocles' "Antigone." R. Potter's Translation.