Psalm 128:3

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 3. Thy wife. To reach the full of earthly felicity a man must not be alone. A helpmeet was needed in Paradise, and assuredly she is not less necessary out of it. He that findeth a wife findeth a good thing. It is not every man that feareth the Load who has a wife; but if he has, she shall share in his blessedness and increase it.

Shall be as a fruitful vine. To complete domestic bliss children are sent. They come as the lawful fruit of marriage, even as clusters appear upon the vine. For the grapes the vine was planted; for children was the wife provided. It is generally well with any creature when it fulfils its purpose, and it is so far well with married people when the great design of their union is brought about. They must not look upon fruitfulness as a burden, but as a blessing. Good wives are also fruitful in kindness, thrift, helpfulness, and affection: if they bear no children, they are by no means barren if they yield us the wine of consolation and the clusters of comfort. Truly blessed is the man whose wife is fruitful in those good works which are suitable to her near and dear position.

By the sides of thine house. She keeps to the house: she is a home bird. Some imagine that she is like a vine which is nailed up to the house wall; but they have no such custom in Palestine, neither is it pleasant to think of a wife as growing up by a wall, and as bound to the very bricks and mortar of her husband's dwelling. No, she is a fruitful vine, and a faithful housekeeper; if you wish to find her, she is within the house: she is to be found both inside and outside the home, but her chief usefulness is in the inner side of the dwelling, which she adorns. Eastern houses usually have an open square in the centre, and the various rooms are ranged around the sides, -- there shall the wife be found, busy in one room or another, as the hour of the day demands. She keeps at home, and so keeps the home. It is her husband's house, and she is her husband's; us the text puts it -- "thy wife", and "thy house"; but by her loving care her husband is made so happy that he is glad to own her as an equal proprietor with himself, for he is hers, and the house is hers too.

Thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Hundreds of times have I seen the young olive plants springing up around the parent stem, and it has always made mc think of this verse. The Psalmist never intended to suggest the idea of olive plants round a table, but of young people springing up around their parents, even as olive plants surround the fine, well rooted tree. The figure is very striking, and would be sure to present itself to the mind of every observer in the olive country. How beautiful to see the gnarled olive, still bearing abundant fruit, surrounded with a little band of sturdy successors, any one of which would be able to take its place should the central olive be blown down, or removed in any other way. The notion of a table in a bower may suit a cockney in a tea garden, but would never occur to an oriental poet; it is not the olive plants, but the children, that are round about the table. Moreover, note that it is not olive branches, but plants, -- a very different thing. Our children gather around our table to be fed, and this involves expenses: how much better is this than to see them pining upon beds of sickness, unable to come for their meals! What a blessing to have sufficient to put upon the table! Let us for this benefit praise the bounty of the Lord. The wife is busy all over the house, but the youngsters are busiest at meal times; and if the blessing of the Lord rest upon the family, no sight can be more delightful. Here we have the vine and the olive blended -- joy from the fruitful wife, and solid comfort from the growing family; these are the choicest products earth can yield: our families are gardens of the Lord. It may help us to value the privileges of our home if we consider where we should be if they were withdrawn. What if the dear partner of our life were removed from the sides of our house to the recesses of the sepulchre? What is the trouble of children compared with the sorrow of their loss? Think, dear father, what would be your grief if you had to cry with Job, "Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when my children were about me."

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 3. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine, etc. The comparison would perhaps be brought out more clearly by arranging the verse as follows: --

"Thy wife shall be in the inner part of thy house
Like a fruitful vine;
Thy children round about thy table
Like the shoots of the olive."

In the inner part, literally, "the sides of thy house", as in Amos 6:10 , i.e., the women's apartments, as marking the proper sphere of the wife engaged in her domestic duties, and also to some extent her seclusion, though this was far less amongst the Jews than amongst other Orientals.

The "vine" is an emblem chiefly of fruitfulness, but perhaps also of dependence, as needing support; the "olive", of vigorous, healthy, joyous life. The same figure is employed by Euripides, Herc. Fur., 839. Med. 109S. -- J. J. Stewart Perowne.

Verse 3. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine, etc. We do not remember to have met with a single instance, in the East, of vines trained against the walls of a house, or of olives near or about a house. Neither have we read of such instances. The passage doubtless derives its figures from the fertility of the vine, and from the appearance of the olive, or the order in which olive trees are planted. The construction would then be: "Thy wife, in the sides (interior apartments) of thy house, shall be as the fruitful vine, and thy children round about thy table, like olive plants." -- John Kitto (1504-1854), in "The Pictorial Bible."

Verse 3. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house. The wife is likened not to thorns or briers, nor even to oaks or to other fruits and trees, but to the vine; and also to a vine neither in a vineyard nor in a garden, but set by the walls of the house; also not barren, but fertile and fruit bearing. This admonishes husbands as well as wives of their duties. For as the walls support the vine, and defend it against the force of winds and tempests, so ought husbands, as far as is in their power, to defend their wives by their godly conversation and wholesome teachings and institutions against the pestilential wind of the old serpent; also against the injuries of evil disposed men. "He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church": Ephesians 5:28-29 .

Further, the vine is exceedingly fragile wood, and not meet for any work, Ezekiel 15:4 . Husbands, therefore, should remember that they ought to behave towards their wives patiently and prudently, as with the weaker vessel; not keeping in mind the fragility of the wood, but the abundance and sweetness of the fruit. If husbands observe this, that will happen to them which Scripture says concerning the peaceful time of Solomon, "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree": 1 Kings 4:25 . Such was the married life of Abraham with Sarah, Isaac with Rebecca, Jacob with, Leah and Rachel. --Solomon Gesner.

Verse 3. A fruitful vine by the sides of thine house. It does not say on the sides of the house, but by the sides. The passage probably refers to the trellissed, bowers which often lead up to the houses, and are covered with vines, the grapes, hanging over head. Sitting in these bowers is sitting under our own vines: Micah 4:4 . I have seen in Constantinople grapes hanging over the people's heads in the principal streets, the vines being trained from one side of the street to the other. --John Gadsby, in "My Wanderings", 1860.

Verse 3. By the sides of thine house. Not on the roof, nor on the floor; the one is too high, she is no ruler; the other too low, she is no slave: but in the sides, an equal place between both. --Thomas Adams.

Verse 3. By the sides of thine house. The house is her proper place, for she is "the beauty of the house"; there her business lies, there she is safe. The ancients painting them with a snail under their feet, and the Egyptians denying their women shoes, and the Scythians burning the bride's chariot axle tree at her door, when she was brought to her husband's house, and the angel's asking Abraham where Sarah was (though he knew well enough), that it might be observed, she was "in the tent", do all intimate, that, by the law of nature, and by the rules of religion, the wife ought to keep at home, unless urgent necessity do call her abroad. --Richard Steele (--1692), in "The Morning Exercises."

Verse 3. As it is visible that the good man's sons being "like olive plants round about his table", means not that they should be like the olive plants which grew round his table, it being, I presume, a thought in Bishop Patrick that will not be defended, that the Psalmist refers to a table spread in an arbour composed of young olive trees, for we find no such arbours in the Levant, nor is the tree very proper for such a purpose; so in like manner the first clause must signify, thy wife shall be in the sides, or private apartments, of thy house, fruitful as a thriving vine: the place here mentioned (the sides of the house) referring to the wife, not to the vine; as the other (the table) refers to the children, not to the olives. Nor is this a new thought, it is a remark that Musculus and other interpreters have made.

The Hebrew word, translated sides, is very well known to signify the more private apartments of a house, as they have also remarked; and he that reads Dr. Shaw's description of an Eastern house, must immediately see the propriety of calling the private apartments its sides. Such a house consists of a square court, which the doctor observes, is called the midst of the house: and private apartments round it, which may as properly be called its sides in consequence: into this middle of the house, or this quadrangle, company, he tells us, are sometimes received, in which other authors tell us their wives remain concealed at such times. --Thomas Harmer, 1719-1788.

Verse 3. Thy children like olive plants, etc. Follow me into the grove, and I will show you what may have suggested the comparison. Here we have hit upon a beautiful illustration. This aged and decayed tree is surrounded, as you see, by several young and thrifty shoots, which spring from the root of the venerable parent. They seem to uphold, protect, and embrace it, we may even fancy that they now bear that load of fruit which would otherwise be demanded of the feeble parent. Thus do good and affectionate children gather round the table of the righteous. Each contributes something to the common wealth and welfare of the whole -- a beautiful sight, with which may God refresh the eyes of every friend of mine. --W. M. Thomson.

Verse 3. Man by nature, uninfluenced by grace, is "a wild olive tree"; and the object of most parents is merely to cultivate this wild olive tree. What anxiety is there about accomplishments which, how attractive soever, are but the dying blossoms of this wild olive tree! --Richard Cecil, 1748-1810.

Verse 3. Although the world is carried away by irregular desires after various objects, between which it is perpetually fluctuating in its choice, God gives us in this Psalm a description of what lie considers to be a blessing beyond all riches, and therefore we ought to hold it in high estimation. If a man has a wife of amiable manners as the companion of his life, let him set no less value upon this blessing than Solomon did, who, in Proverbs 19:14 , affirms that it is God alone who gives a good wife. In like manner, if a man be a father of a numerous offspring, let him receive that goodly boon with a thankful heart. -- John Calvin.

Verse 3. Before the fall Paradise was man's home; since the fall home has been his Paradise. --Augustus William Hare (1792-1834), and Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855), in "Guesses at Truth."

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 3. The blessing of children.

  1. They are round our table -- expense, anxiety, responsibility, pleasure.
  2. They are like olive plants -- strong, planted in order, coming on to succeed us, fruitful for God -- as the olive provided oil for the lamp.

Verse 3. A complete family picture. Here are the husband, the wife, the children, the house, the rooms in the side, the table. We should ask a blessing upon each, bless God for each, and use each in a blessed manner.