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Psalm 127:4-7:

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

Does this mean "Have a lot of kids"? And to whom does the they refer to in the last sentence?

  • Yes, and "they" refers to the children. – Mark Hubbard Apr 25 '19 at 19:54
  • "born in one's youth". So have lots of kids when you are young? – MikeJRamsey56 Apr 25 '19 at 20:25
  • @Carly see my answer as an attempt at an English explanation :-) – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Apr 26 '19 at 2:18
  • yes thank you =) – Carly Apr 26 '19 at 4:12
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Your question is more about literature than language, although, of course, it is not so easy to separate the two. The poet (I assume) is making a simile. He or she is comparing them with arrows: they are like arrows. But they are not like any arrows: just those fired by ("in the hands of) a warrior. Indeed, we are not just talking of all children: just those "born in ones youth".

Who or what are they being fired at? The question is necessary because most modern (western, at least) people might think the idea of a child being likened to something being fired at anything or anyone is a little inappropriate. Apparently, though, these children are being launched into a royal household ("court"), where they are going to try to gain favour and influence with the ruler. Gaining influence in 'court' is not easy for the simple reason that lots of other young people are competing for just the same royal favour. So they are being fired "like arrows" into a political battle, the targets being their rivals for royal favour.

So the simile is sustained and works. And "them" is indeed the children (presumably all male, since the sort of society referred to sounds to be a male dominated one). So you are right

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  • Does this mean "Have a lot of kids"?

Yes. There is of course other Biblical instruction to multiply and fill the Earth, and the previous verse of this Psalm (127:3) reformulates the message :

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

The following verses about arrows, children and contenders provide a practical reason for having a lot of kids at an early age.

  • And to whom does the they refer to in the last sentence?

The pronoun refers to the children, but the assumption is that the children have grown to be adults in the context of "contending with opponents".

Note that in those days, adult simply meant old enough to take on adult duties such as marrying, managing one's own farm/business, etc – say, 15 or 16 years old. If the man had fathered five kids by age 21, he would be 36 by the time the youngest of those five turned 15 and thus would still be in the prime of his life. Not a bad age to have your kids old enough to come to your defence when there's a difficulty!

Note also that "court" is given as "the gate" in the King James and other versions:

They shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

The gate of the city was typically where both commerce and justice took place. So the Psalm is saying that if there's a difficulty regarding a business dealing or a matter of law, there's an advantage in having your loyal sons to back you up in the dispute – whether by the threat of their physical presence, or by the financial resources they can contribute, or by their loyal testimony.

There are plenty of internet resources for exploring the meaning of Biblical passages; of the many I looked through in researching this answer, this interpretation seemed the most useful.

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