Psalmistry, Week 1: Psalm 129

Psalm 129 (ICEL)

(1)    A song of ascents.
      Let Israel say it:
     "They often oppressed me,
(2)   oppressed me from my youth,
      but they never crushed me."

(3)   They plowed into my back,
      cutting deep furrows,
(4)   but God has proved just
      and broke their wicked chains.

(5)   Let those who hate Zion
      be ashamed and retreat!
(6)   Let the east wind dry them up
      like weeds on a rooftop.

(7)   Reapers cannot cut a handful,
      nor harvesters gather enough to hold.
(8)   No passer-by will say,
     "The Lord's blessing upon you.
      We bless you in God's name!"

Day 1: Relationship

Israel:Enemy (those who hate Zion)
The psalmist encourages Israel not to keep silent, but to speak about their experience. Israel sings joyously of their not only having gained freedom from their oppressors, but in remaining unbroken during the period of their subjugation. Now, they curse the enemy. They want to see the enemy retreat in shame, with nothing to show for their work.

Israel praises God for their freedom, which they call justice. Israel has been freed from oppression and sing joyously of their unbroken spirit, giving the credit to God. They seem only obscurely to be addressing God in their curse of their enemy. It is more abstract than concrete that way.

Day 2: Environment

Clearly the visionary in this psalm is familiar with agrarian society. The poem evokes images of farming in quite a disturbing way. I can see the "deep furrows" in the back of this dreamer, raw and red and so painful, juxtaposed with a field of grain ripe for harvest.

Day 3: Situation/Context

Israel's enemy is depicted as a farmer, plowing into the back of the people Israel to plant their crop there. But the God of the oppressed has freed Israel from this subjugation, and Israel cheers. Their spirits have not been broken, and the enemy cannot harvest Israel's will. As far as Israel is concerned, the enemy should be ashamed of themselves!