Psalm 126:1
When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
126:1-3 It is good to observe how God's deliverances of the church are for us, that we may rejoice in them. And how ought redemption from the wrath to come, from the power of sin and of Satan, to be valued! The sinner convinced of his guilt and danger, when by looking to a crucified Saviour he receives peace to his conscience, and power to break off his sins, often can scarcely believe that the prospect which opens to him is a reality.When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion - Margin, as in Hebrew, "returned the returning of Zion." The Hebrew word which is rendered in the text captivity means properly return; and then, those returning. The ancient versions render it captivity. The reference clearly is to those who were returning to Zion, and the psalmist fixes his eye on them as returning, and immediately says that it was the Lord who had thus restored them. The whole was to be traced to God.

We were like them that dream - The Latin Vulgate and the Septuagint render this, "we were comforted." The meaning is, "It seemed like a dream; we could hardly realize that it was so; it was so marvelous, so good, so full of joy, that we could scarcely believe it was real." This state of mind is not uncommon, when, in sudden and overpowering joy, we ask whether it can be real; whether it is not all a dream. We fear that it is; we apprehend that it will all vanish away like a dream.

Margin A Song of degrees

See title note; See Scofield Note: "Ps 120:1".

turned...: Heb. returned the returning
When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion,.... Or returned the Jews from their captivity in Babylon; who are called Zion, from the city of David, built on Mount Zion, which was in Judea, and adjoined to Jerusalem, the metropolis of the kingdom; and because they were the godly who were concerned for Zion in a spiritual sense, or the church of God, and the interest of religion, whose spirits the Lord stirred up to come out of Babylon, upon the proclamation by Cyrus, when those that were more worldly and carnal stayed behind; as also because the chief mercy in returning the captives was the rebuilding the temple on Mount Zion, and the restoration of religious worship; which gave the religious captives in Babylon great concern, Psalm 137:1. This deliverance of the captives, though it was by Cyrus as an instrument, yet it was the Lord's work; which he employed him in, and stirred him up to do, and therefore is ascribed to him. And though this is expressed in the past tense, yet it may be put for the future; and be considered as a prophecy of it, and which the following word seems to confirm; and especially the prayer, Psalm 126:4; for the return of the captivity seems to require it should: and may not only literally respect the return of the captives in Babylon, but the conversion of the Jews in the latter day, and their deliverance from their present captivity; which is expressed sometimes by the Lord's bringing again Zion, and returning the captivity of the Jews, and their being turned to the Lord, Isaiah 52:8; and may be applied to spiritual and eternal redemption by Christ, of which the deliverance from Babylon was a type; and is sometimes expressed in the same language, Psalm 14:7; and the people redeemed are often signified by Zion, and are by nature captives to sin, Satan, and the law; from whence they are redeemed by Christ, whose work alone it is, Isaiah 1:27;

we were like them that dream; or "shall be" (p); that is, as persons that know not whether they are asleep or awake; and whether what they see and enjoy is in reality or only a vision, as Peter's deliverance from prison was to him, Acts 12:9; When the proclamation by Cyrus was first heard of by the Jews, and they had their liberty upon it, they could hardly tell whether it was a real thing or a vision, and could scarcely believe it for joy; it seemed too good news to be true, as the news of Joseph's being alive was to Jacob, Genesis 45:26; and so the appearance of Christ, his resurrection, and redemption by him, were to the disciples, Luke 24:11. The Targum is,

"we were like the sick that are recovered;''

which sense the word has in Job 39:4; and will be the case of the Jews, when they are converted; who will be recovered out of the sick state and condition in which they now are, and have all their diseases healed, and sins forgiven; yea, their conversion will be as life from the dead, a resurrection of them from their graves, Romans 11:15. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, render it, "as those that are comforted"; and the Syriac version, "as those that rejoice"; each of the seasons mentioned being times of comfort and joy: Joseph Kimchi interprets it of the passing away and forgetfulness of affliction and trouble at the time of redemption, like a dream that flies away upon awaking.

(p) "erimus", Musculus, Gejerus, Schmidt; so the Targum, Syr. Arab.

<> When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that {a} dream.

(a) Their deliverance was incredible and therefore took away all excuse for ingratitude.

1 When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.

3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

4 Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.

5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:1

"When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream" Being in trouble the gracious pilgrims remember: for their comfort times of national woe which were succeeded by remarkable deliverances. Then sorrow was gone like a dream, and the joy which followed was so great that it seemed too good to be true, and they feared that it must be the vision of an idle brain. So sudden and so overwhelming was their joy that they felt like men out of themselves, ecstatic, or in a trance. The captivity had been great, and great was the deliverance; for the great God himself had wrought it: it seemed too good to be actually true: each man said to himself, -

"Is this a dream? O if it be a dream,

Let me sleep on, and do not wake me yet."

It was not the freedom of an individual which the Lord in mercy had wrought, but of all Zion, of the whole nation; and this was reason enough for overflowing gladness. We need not instance the histories which illustrate this verse in connection with literal Israel; but it is well to remember how often it has been true to ourselves. Let us look to the prison-houses from which we have been set free. Ah, me, what captives we have been! At our first conversion what a turning again of captivity we experienced. Never shall that hour be forgotten. Joy! Joy! Joy! Since then, from multiplied troubles, from depression of spirit, from miserable backsliding, from grievous doubt, we have been emancipated, and we are not able to describe the bliss which followed each emancipation.

"When God reveal'd his gracious name

And changed our mournful state,

Our rapture seem'd a pleasing dream.


After the fact of the divine succour has been expressed, in Psalm 124:6 follows the thanksgiving for it, and in Psalm 124:7 the joyful shout of the rescued one. In Psalm 124:6 the enemies are conceived of as beasts of prey on account of their bloodthirstiness, just as the worldly empires are in the Book of Daniel; in Psalm 124:7 as "fowlers" on account of their cunning. According to the punctuation it is not to be rendered: Our soul is like a bird that is escaped, in which case it would have been accented בפשׁנו כצפור, but: our soul (subject with Rebia magnum) is as a bird (כּצפור as in Hosea 11:11; Proverbs 23:32; Job 14:2, instead of the syntactically more usual כּצּפור) escaped out of the snare of him who lays snares (יוקשׁ, elsewhere יקושׁ, יקוּשׁ, a fowler, Psalm 91:3). נשׁבר (with ā beside Rebia) is 3rd:praet.: the snare was burst, and we - we became free. In Psalm 124:8 (cf. Psalm 121:2; Psalm 134:3) the universal, and here pertinent thought, viz., the help of Israel is in the name of Jahve, the Creator of the world, i.e., in Him who is manifest as such and is continually verifying Himself, forms the epiphonematic close. Whether the power of the world seeks to make the church of Jahve like to itself or to annihilate it, it is not a disavowal of its God, but a faithful confession, stedfast even to death, that leads to its deliverance.

Ps 126:1-6. To praise for God's favor to His people is added a prayer for its continued manifestation.

1-3. When the Lord, &c.—The joy of those returned from Babylon was ecstatic, and elicited the admiration even of the heathen, as illustrating God's great power and goodness.

turned again the captivity—that is, restored from it (Job 39:12; Ps 14:7; Pr 12:14). Hengstenberg translates: "When the Lord turned Himself to the turning of Zion" (see Margin), God returns to His people when they return to Him (De 30:2, 3).

When the Lord turned again the captivity - When Cyrus published his decree in favor of the Jews, giving them liberty to return to their own land, and rebuild their city and temple.

We were like them that dream - The news was so unexpected that we doubted for a time the truth of it. We believed it was too good news to be true, and thought ourselves in a dream or illusion. When the Romans had vanquished Philip, king of Macedon, they restored liberty to the Grecian cities by proclamation. It was done at the time of the Isthmian games, and by the crier, who went into the circus to proclaim them; none but the Roman general T. Quintius knowing what was to be done. Multitudes from all Greece were there assembled; and the tidings produced nearly the same effect upon them, according to Livy, that the publication of the decree of Cyrus did on the Jews, according to what is here related by the psalmist. I shall give the substance of this account from the Roman historian. When the Romans had sat down to behold the games, the herald with his trumpet went into the arena according to custom, to proclaim the several games. Silence being obtained, he solemnly pronounced the following words: -

Senatus romanus et t. Quincius imperator, philippo rege macedonibusque devictis; liberos, immunes, suis legibus esse jubet corinthios, phocenses, locrensesque omnes, et insulam euboeam, et magnetas, thessalos, perrhaebos, achaeos, phthiotas.

"The Roman Senate, and T. Quintius the general, having vanquished king Philip and the Macedonians, do ordain that the Corinthians, Phocensians, all the Locrensians, the island of EubOea, the Magnesians, Thessalians, Perrhaebians, Acheans, and Phthiotians, shall be free, be delivered from all taxes, and live according to their own laws."

The effect that this produced on the astonished Grecians who were present, is related by this able historian in a very natural and affecting manner; and some parts of it nearly in the words of the psalmist.

Audita voce praeconis, majus gaudium fuit, quam quod universum homines caperent. Vix satis se credere se quisque audisse: alii alios intueri mirabundi velut somnii vanam speciem: guod ad guemque pertineret, suarum aurium fidei minimum credentes, proximos interrogabant. Revocatur praeco, cum unusquisque non audire, sed videre libertatis suae nuncium averit, iterum pronunciaret eadem. Tum ab certo jam gaudio tantus cum clamore plausus est ortus, totiesque repetitus, ut facile appareret, nihil omnium bonorum multitudini gratius quam Libertatem esse.

T. 54: Hist., lib. xxiii., c. 32.

This proclamation of the herald being heard, there was such joy, that the people in general could not comprehend it. Scarcely could any person believe what he had heard. They gazed on each other, wondering as if it had been some illusion, similar to a dream; and although all were interested in what was spoken, none could trust his own ears, but inquired each from him who stood next to him what it was that was proclaimed. The herald was again called, as each expressed the strongest desire not only to hear, but see the messenger of his own liberty: the herald, therefore, repeated the proclamation. When by this repetition the glad tidings were confirmed, there arose such a shout, accompanied with repeated clapping of hands, as plainly showed that of all good things none is so dear to the multitude as Liberty.

O that God may raise up some other deliverer to save these same cities with their inhabitants, from a worse yoke than ever was imposed upon them by the king of Macedon; and from a servitude which has now lasted three hundred years longer than the captivity of the Israelites in the empire of Babylon!

Constantinople was taken by the Turks in 1453; and since that time till the present, (October, 1822), three hundred and sixty-nine years have elapsed. Why do the Christian powers of Europe stand by, and see the ark of their God in captivity; the holy name by which they are called despised and execrated; the vilest indignities offered to those who are called Christians, by barbarians the most cruel, ferocious, and abominable that ever disgraced the name of man? Great God, vindicate the cause of the distressed Greeks as summarily, as effectually, as permanently, as thou once didst that of thy oppressed people the Jews! Let the crescent never more fill its horns with a victory, nor with the spoils of any who are called by the sacred name of Jesus: but let it wane back into total darkness; and know no change for the better, till illuminated by the orient splendor of the Sun of righteousness! Amen! Amen!

How signally has this prayer been thus far answered! Three great Christian powers, the British, the French, and the Russian, have taken up the cause of the oppressed Greeks. The Turkish fleet has been attacked in the Bay of Navarino by the combined fleets of the above powers in October, 1827, under the command of the British Admiral, Sir Edward Codrington, and totally annihilated. After which, the Mohammedan troops were driven out of Greece and the Morea; so that the whole of Greece is cleared of its oppressors, and is now under its own government, protected by the above powers - March, 1829.

126:1 Turned - Brought the captive Israelites out of Babylon into their own land. Dream - We were so surprized and astonished.
Psalm 125:5
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