The Structure, Genre, and Meaning of Psalm 129

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Psalm 129 depicts the distress of the people in exile. The common understanding is that vv. 6-8 is a lament for the downfall of its present adversaries. This article proves that this is not the meaning of the second half of the Psalm. It contains no appeal to God for salvation or thanksgiving for an ameliorated situation. Verses 6-8 depict the transience of the peoples exilic existence. The psalmist likens the people to the roof-top grass that withers rapidly. The rooftop grass evokes the poverty and the landlessness of the people that compel them to utilize their rooftops to grow crops that yield so little that there is almost nothing to harvest. This situation stands in contrast to the divine blessing of the agriculture in the Land of Israel. The psalmist’s objective is to convey the harsh reality of the exile. He juxtaposes this situation against the much awaited future and against the abundant Divine blessing of the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-154
Number of pages13
JournalScandinavian Journal of the Old Testament
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Editors of the Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament.


  • agriculture
  • divine blessing
  • exile
  • retribution
  • rooftop grass
  • structure


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