on Psalms 126 :6
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed - The metaphor seems to be this: A poor farmer has had a very bad harvest: a very scanty portion of grain and food has been gathered from the earth. The seed time is now come, and is very unpromising. Out of the famine a little seed has been saved to be sown, in hopes of another crop; but the badness of the present season almost precludes the entertainment of hope. But he must sow, or else despair and perish. He carries his all, his precious seed, with him in his seed basket; and with a sorrowful heart commits it to the furrow, watering it in effect with his tears, and earnestly imploring the blessing of God upon it. God hears; the season becomes mild; he beholds successively the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear. The appointed weeks of harvest come, and the grain is very productive. He fills his arms, his carriages, with the sheaves and shocks; and returns to his large expecting family in triumph, praising God for the wonders he has wrought. So shall it be with this handful of returning Israelites. They also are to be sown - scattered all over the land; the blessing of God shall be upon them, and their faith and numbers shall be abundantly increased. The return here referred to, Isaiah describes in very natural language: "And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord," Isaiah 66:20.
on Psalms 126 :6
He that goeth forth and weepeth - He that goes forth weeping - still an allusion to the farmer. He is seen moving slowly and sadly over the plowed ground, burdened with his task, an in tears.
Bearing precious seed - Margin, "seed-basket." Literally, "bearing the drawing out of seed;" perhaps the seed as drawn out of his bag; or, as scattered or sown regularly in furrows, so that it seems to be drawn out in regular lines over the fields.
Shall doubtless come again - Shall come to this sown field again in the time of harvest. He will visit it with other feelings than those which he now has.
With rejoicing ... - Then his tears will be turned to joy. Then the rich harvest will wave before him. Then he will thrust in his sickle and reap. Then he will gather the golden grain, and the wain will groan under the burden, and the sheaves will be carried forth with songs of joy. He will be abundantly rewarded for all his toil; he will see the fruit of his labors; he will be filled with joy. The design of this illustration was, undoubtedly, to cheer the hearts of the exiles in their long and dangerous journey to their native land; it has, however, a wider and more universal application, as being suited to encourage all in their endeavors to secure their own salvation, and to do good in the world - for the effort is often attended with sacrifice, toil, and tears. The joy of heaven will be more than a compensation for all this. The following remarks by Dr. Thomson (Land and the Book, vol. i., pp. 118, 119) will furnish an illustration of the meaning of this passage: "I never saw people sowing in tears exactly, but have often known them to do it in fear and distress sufficient to draw them from any eye. In seasons of great scarcity, the poor peasants part in sorrow with every measure of precious seed cast into the ground. It is like taking bread out of the mouths of their children; and in such times many bitter tears are actually shed over it. The distress is frequently so great that government is obliged to furnish seed, or none would be sown. Ibrahim Pasha did this more than once within my remembrance, copying the example, perhaps, of his great predecessor in Egypt when the seven years' famine was ended. The thoughts of this psalm may likewise have been suggested by the extreme danger which frequently attends the farmer in his plowing and sowing.
The calamity which fell upon the farmers of Job when the oxen were plowing, and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them away, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword Job 1:14-15, is often repeated in our day. To understand this, you must remember what I just told you about the situation of the arable lands in the open country; and here again we meet that verbal accuracy: the sower goes forth - that is, from the village. The people of Ibel and Khiem, in Merj ‛Aiyun, for example, have their best grain-growing fields down in the ‛Ard Huleh, six or eight miles from their homes, and just that much nearer the lawless border of the desert. When the country is disturbed, or the government weak, they cannot sow these lands except at the risk of their lives. Indeed, they always go forth in large companies, and completely armed, ready to drop the plow and seize the musket at a moment's warning; and yet, with all this care, many sad and fatal calamities overtake the people who must thus sow in tears.
And still another origin may be found for the thoughts of the psalm in the extreme difficulty of the work itself in many places. The soil is rocky, impracticable, overgrown with sharp thorns; and it costs much painful toil to break up and gather out the rocks, cut and burn the briers, and to subdue the stubborn soil, especially with their feeble oxen and insignificant plows. Join all these together, and the sentiment is very forcibly brought out, that he who labors hard, in cold and in rain, in fear and danger, in poverty and in want, casting his precious seed in the ground, will surely come again, at harvest-time, with rejoicing, and bearing his sheaves with him."
on Psalms 126 :6