“When they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses” (2 Kings 19:35; Isa. 37:36).
When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion . In
the RSV this is, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion”.
Though the AV implies a return from captivity (and of course there was such a
return), the Hebrew seems to allow for a more spiritual application. The same
phrase has the general sense of restoring of fortunes (and/or healing of
diseases) in Job 42:10, where the blessings include, incidentally, long life and
many children (cp. Psa. 127:3; 128:3,6)!
We were like them that dream means either: ‘We
just couldn’t believe it’, or, ‘It was like coming out of a
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue
with singing. The word rinnah signifies “songs of
joy” and appears also in vv. 5,6. The joyous songs employed on this
occasion are undoubtedly before us in Isa. 38:10-20 and Psalms 120-134, to
mention but a few. And even among the Gentiles are the mighty deeds of Yahweh
magnified and glorified (see 2 Chron. 32:23). It is conceivable, to go a step
further, that the returning captives of Assyria (Psa. 120:5) bring with them a
“mixed multitude”: “We will go with you,” they seem to
say, “for we perceive that God is with you [Immanuel!]” (Zech. 8:23;
cp. Psa. 122:1,2).
The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath
done great things for us; whereof we are glad. What an effective
repetition here, and made all the more effective when the italicized whereof
Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the
“Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses
(aphikim: channels or gorges) in the Negeb” (RSV). Job
compared his three companions to such deceitful brooks of the south country,
which in the spring are filled with water, but in the heat of summer are dried
up to the dismay of thirsty travelers (6:15-20). This annual phenomenon
eloquently describes the vacillating fortunes of Israel throughout her history.
Perhaps more to the point, this vivid figure of speech may
refer to the 200,000 returning captives: Picture a wadi in the Negeb without a
sign of moisture in it (not a difficult task in Texas! or Australia? but in
England?!). Then, as a result of a thunderstorm in the hills, there comes a
mighty rush of floodwaters. So also with the road back to Zion — first it
is empty of travelers, and then suddenly it is inundated with an eager
continuous stream of rejoicing former captives intent on getting back home as
fast as their legs can carry them!
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth
forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with
rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. The literal reference is surely to
the amazing prosperity which the God-blessed Year of Jubilee brought after the
preceding year of devastating invasion (2 Kings 19:29; Isa. 37:30; v. 31 there
describes the return of the captives, according to Lev. 25:10). But the
anticipation of such extraordinary fertility would require the faith of the
farmer, to sacrifice perhaps his last stores of seed in hope of the wonderful
harvest. Compare also the “kingdom” picture of Amos
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman
shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and
the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will
bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste
cities, and inhabit them [Psa. 127:1]; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink
the wine thereof [128:3]; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of
“Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24).
We were like them that dream. The word is often
associated with a new revelation (Acts 2:17).
Then was our mouth filled with laughter. The language
in Jer. 33:11 is very close: “The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness,
the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that
shall say, ‘Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy
endureth for ever’: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise
into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the
land, as at the first, saith the Lord.”
And our tongue with singing. Joel 2:21; Acts 2:11
(s.w.) might also imply singing, as here.
Bringing his sheaves with him. See Lev. 23:11, and the
symbolism of the “wave sheaf”.
“He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:8,9).
“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (20:4).
“He shall walk, and walk with weeping,
Bearing his handful of seed;
He shall come, and come with singing,
Bearing his sheaves.”
“And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground: and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knoweth not how” (Mark 4:26,27).
Then sow; — for the hours are fleeting,
And the seed must fall today;
And care not what hands shall reap it...
Sow; and look onward, upward,
Where the starry light appears —
Where, in spite of the coward’s doubting,
Or your own heart’s trembling fears,
You shall reap in joy the harvest
You have sown today in tears.
Break up, break up your fallow ground;
Pluck out the noxious weed;
Nor heed the cold and piercing blast;
Cast in the precious seed.
The time of harvest surely comes
Whether we work or sleep —
But harvest sheaves will be for those
Who work, although they weep.
Beside all waters sow the seed;
The increase is of God.
We know not how the seed doth grow
Beneath the mouldering clod;
But if the sower stay his hand,
What shall the harvest be?
Then work, while it is called “Today”,
That sheaves be brought by thee.