The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 72

Psa 72:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "OF SOLOMON". This title simply means "Solomon's", just as the title of Psa 69 means "David's". But the contents of the psalm rule out Solomon as author (vv 1,20). The title simply means "A psalm about or belonging to Solomon". It is written by David ("the king": v 1) re, in the first instance, Solomon ("the king's son"), and, in the last instance, the king who is "greater than Solomon" (Mat 12:42). David's prayer was that Solomon would prove to be the great Messiah already promised to David, or at least a fitting forerunner of the Messiah (as the great Hezekiah proved to be). Time after time the language of that promise (2Sa 7:12-16; 1Ch 17:11-14) had been repeated with evident ref to Solomon, but always linked with the all-important word IF (1Ch 22:10,13; 28:6, 7,9; 1Ki 2:4,5; 5:5; 6:12; 8:17-20; 9:4,5; Psa 132:11,12). The psalm's links with Solomon are easy to identify:
* 1-4. Judging in righteousness: 1Ki 3:9; 4:29; 1Ch 28:7; 29:19.
* 3,7. Peace: 1Ki 4:21,25 (cp the name Solomon).
* 4. Supplication for the people: 1Ki 8:28.
* 8. Dominion: 1Ki 4:24.
* 10. Sheba, gifts, gold: 1Ki 10:1,2,10; 2Ch 9:1-9.
* 19. Praise to the name of God: 1Ch 29:13; also see 1Ki 4:20-25.

But note that v 17 was definitely not true of Solomon. In fact, his abysmal failure in spite of enjoying unparalleled advantages and blessings (arguably the greatest failure in Bible history) only serves to emphasize the need for a Greater King.

"This psalm of David was not fulfilled in either David's day or his son Solomon's or in the life of any other king of Israel or Judah. It will come to pass when Jesus returns and is king. But to share in that time described here will not happen because we are just lucky. Our life now is the time to get ourselves right with God and to prepare for the kingdom.

"This glimpse we have of the wonderful time when Jesus is king, describes what his personal reign will be like. It will be like nothing we have ever experienced before from any other ruler -- any place or any time.

"He will judge the people in righteousness and justice. He will defend the needy and afflicted and he will care for his people. All the decisions he makes will be the right ones. Not only will he be the best ruler ever, but his reign will last forever and ever. It will be refreshing to have Jesus as king. The righteous will flourish and prosperity (the 'economy' will boom.) There will even be changes in nature when food grows freely on the tops of the mountains. All the earth will be filled with his glory.

"Now is the time to decide whether we will be there or not. Luck has nothing to do with it" (RP).

MESSIAH?: The two-fold application of this psalm, to Solomon and to Christ, is delightfully anticipated in Psa 71:18: "...till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." Marked resemblances to Isa 60.

ENDOW THE KING WITH YOUR JUSTICE: This first v is a prayer. All the rest of the psalm depends on it. Vv 2-17 are all future tenses: "he shall"! (It is to be regretted that the NEB cuts the "shall's" down drastically, substituting "may's" in the form of appeals: ie 'May he hold sway...'; 'May he have pity'; etc -- thus diminishing the psalm's prophetic power.)

YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS: The parallelism here prob means "Your righteous judgment". But it stands true that even this divine King needed the righteousness of his Father, since he was afflicted with a nature of "sin" (Psa 18:23; 25:11,15; 38:1,3,5,20; 40:8,10,12; 41:12,14; 51:5).

Psa 72:3

THE MOUNTAINS WILL BRING PROSPERITY: Prob means 'those who come from the mountains': see Isa 52:7.

PEACE: "Shalom": See also Psa 85:8,10; Isa. 2:2-4; 9:6,7; 26:12; 32:17; 54:13; 66:12; Eze 34:25.

Psa 72:4

HE WILL DEFEND THE AFFLICTED: Ct Isa 1:23; Mic 3:1-3. Cp Isa 11:1-10; 32:1,17; Jer 23:5,6; 33:15,16.

HE WILL CRUSH THE OPPRESSOR: Cp Isa 11:4, which should read "smite the oppressor with the rod of his mouth".

Psa 72:5

AS LONG AS THE SUN... MOON: Verses 7,17. Lit? Or used, as elsewhere (Gen 37:9,10; Isa 60:20; Joe 2:30,31; 3:15; Jer 31:35,36), as figures of Israel?

Psa 72:6

LIKE RAIN FALLING: Also used by David in 2Sa 23:4. "The new grass of humanity, no longer mown down by Time's ruthless scythe, but allowed growth unto fruition to be gathered into the garners of eternity; full, fresh, and upspringing, a glistening greenery over the whole earth reflecting the glory of the Eternal King and the righteousness of the King's Son" (NPH). See Hos 6:3, also be an allusion to this place. See also Isa 55:10,11; Eze 34:26.

ON A MOWN FIELD: Sw translated "fleece" in Jdg 6:36-40 (Heb gizzah), lit "that which is cut" -- whether it be wool, grass, or hair (root "gahzaz" = to cut or shear). Is this Messianic psalm of the kingdom in some way related to the time of Gideon?

The aspects of nature that bring about plant growth -- mainly water and light -- are used throughout scripture as metaphors for the way that God cares for us and deals with us, and for what He makes available to us to enhance our growth in Him (Deu 32:2; 2Sa 23:4; Pro 16:5; Hos 14:5-7), or what He withholds as a punishment for willful faithlessness (Isa 5:6). Eze 34:23-26 paints a picture of the kingdom using the same language.

Psa 72:8

HE WILL RULE: As in, all things put under his feet (Zec 14:9; Heb 2:6-9; 1Co 15:25,26; Eph 1:22).

FROM SEA TO SEA: That is, from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea -- the western and eastern boundaries of the land of promise. Or, as JT suggests: 'the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf' (Elp 236).

FROM THE RIVER (THE EUPHRATES) TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (ERETZ = LAND): Zec 9:10 is a quotation of this v. These are the northern and southern boundaries as foretold to Abraham (Gen 15:18).

Psa 72:9

THE DESERT TRIBES WILL BOW BEFORE HIM: The Arab Bedouin, who have been the age-long implacable enemies of His people.

AND HIS ENEMIES WILL LICK THE DUST: Ref back to Gen 3:14, where the serpent is cursed to "eat" dust all the days of its life. The Messianic context here, about the One who will subdue the "serpent" and all his works (ie sin), is picked up in Isa 65:25 and also in Mic 7:17.

Psa 72:10

Biblical geographical identifications should be sought locally and not in the furthest corners of the world:

TARSHISH (Psa 48:7) was a son of Javan (Gen 10:4); it is a name which came to ref to the Phoenicians, a seafaring and trading people (hence such refs as Jon 1:3; Eze 27:12; 1Ki 9:26; 10:22; 2Ch 9:21). That Tarshish repr a latter-day power is evident both here and in Eze 38:13 (where it appears as an ally of Sheba and Dedan). In Isa 23 -- a prophecy concerning Tyre, there is plainly a strong link with "the daughter of Tarshish" and "the ships of Tarshish" (vv 1,6,10,14) -- this leads to the reasonable conclusion that Tarshish is another name for Tyre. (The proposed identification of Tarshish with England merely on the basis that the latter is -- or rather was -- a significant sea power is extremely tenuous at best.) See Lesson, Tarshish.

DISTANT SHORES: The coastlands, or maritime cities, associated with Tyre.

SHEBA: Mentioned as a trading partner of Tyre in Eze 27:23, apparently in close proximity to Arabia, Kedar, Haran, and Asshur. This would suggest an area south and east of Palestine. The Sabeans (or men of Sheba) raided Job's oxen and asses (Job 1:15) -- which suggests a land fairly close to Uz, in Edom (Lam 4:21). Since Sheba and Dedan are often linked (Gen 10:7; 25:3; Eze 38:13), and since Dedan is even more plainly connected with Edom (Jer 49:7-22; Eze 25:12-14), the identification of Sheba with Edom seems fairly strong. Now Sheba may be seen as // to "those of the wilderness" (v 9). (The proposed link of Sheba with Yemen, on the far southern edge of the Arabian peninsula, would seem therefore to be several hundred miles in error!)

THE KINGS OF SHEBA: "Kings of Sheba" here -- together with Isa 60:6,7 (about the Arabian peoples) -- suggests that the "wise men" of the east who brought presents to the child Jesus (Mat 2:1-12) were not from Babylon or Persia, but from Edom and Arabia. Popular opinion has generally favored those regions further east, where "magi" or wise men were well-known; but the Scriptural evidence all points in another direction. One cannot refrain from musing that wise men from the same areas today would bring the precious gift (at least to the industrialized world) of oil. On further reflection, such a thought might not be so far-fetched after all. History could well repeat itself in the twentieth century, when the King of the Jews returns to Israel. Both Psa 72 and Isa 60 mention that the Gentiles were kings. In this case, the common Xmas tradition has some basis in Scripture.

SEBA: There are several poss identifications of Seba given in various commentaries, but there is a lot of guesswork and no real agreement among them. "Seba" is prob no more than a variation of "Sheba" -- as if to say 'Sheba, even Seba'.

WILL PRESENT HIM GIFTS: Cp Psa 45:12; 68:29; Isa 60:3-11. To 'bring presents', in Bible vernacular, is to 'pay tribute' (1Ki 4:21; 2Ki 17:4; etc).

Psa 72:11

ALL KINGS... ALL NATIONS: Goyim = Gentiles; sw v 17. Whereas in v 8 Jesus is King of the Jews, here he is now King of the World (Rev 5:8-14; 11:15; 12:10; Phi 2:8,10; Dan 4:17,25; Isa 24:23; 45:23; etc). Dominion, begun in Palestine (v 8), becomes at last worldwide dominion -- in fulfillment of Gen 1:28.

Psa 72:12

THE AFFLICTED WHO HAVE NO ONE TO HELP: Even a poor and needy man, if he can find a friend at court or an influential benefactor, can expect to receive some justice or consideration for his cause. But, naturally speaking, a poor man who has no "helper" at all is truly without hope. Christ and his saints, however, not being burdened by mortal weakness, will be able to help all men -- even those who have no friends or helpers at all!

Psa 72:14

HE WILL RESCUE THEM: The verb "ga'al" (rescue) implies kinship. In an Israelite family it was the duty of the firstborn to redeem those in debt, slavery, difficulty or danger. Cp, and ct, the usage in Psa 69:18.

PRECIOUS IS THEIR BLOOD: Because a very precious price has been paid for it (1Pe 1:18,19; Heb 10:22,29; 12:24). Cp also Psa 49:8; 116:15; Rev 6:9,10.

Psa 72:15

LONG MAY HE LIVE!: Cp 1Sa 10:24; 2Sa 16:16; 1Ki 1:25,34,39 and also the Coronation Psa 21:4.

MAY PEOPLE PRAY FOR HIM... ALL DAY LONG: The Heb text here allows more than one poss. Rather, read thus: 'And he shall make intercession, he especially, and shall bless them.' A Melchizedek king-priest, as in Psa 110! (See also Heb 6:19,20; 10:19,22; Joh 16:23,24.)

Psa 72:16

MAY IT WAVE: "Handful" (AV). The Heb "pasach" occurs nowhere else. The translation is a guess. But, if read as "pasah" (a negligible difference), the meaning is: Passover grain, with ref to the wave-sheaf of Lev 23:10,11. Further, the wave-sheaf of Pentecost (Lev 23:15-17), reltd "firstfruits" of 1Co 15:23,24.

ON THE TOPS OF THE HILLS: Or "mountains" (AV): the temple at Jerusalem (Isa 2:2; Eze 40:2). Also cp Rev 14:1.

LET ITS FRUIT FLOURISH LIKE LEBANON: That wave-sheaf representing Christ will become a multitude dedicated to the Lord. The word "shake" is used with ref to the wave-sheaf. More generally, this v most certainly does suggest the absence of famine in the Kingdom of God, through increased fertility (Isa 35:1,6,7; Amo 9:13; Joe 3:18; Eze 36:30).

LET IT THRIVE LIKE THE GRASS OF THE FIELD: A link with the grass of v 6.

Psa 72:17

MAY IT CONTINUE AS LONG AS THE SUN: Better read: "His name shall be as a Sun to continue his Father's Name for ever." It was the desire of Christ's enemies that he would die and his name would perish (Psa 41:5). The first, of course, happened -- but the second, never! Cp Luk 1:30-33. The sun is used elsewhere of the Messiah: Psa 19:4,5; Mal 4:2; Isa 60: 1-3; cp Joh 8:12; Rev 22:16.

ALL NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED THROUGH HIM: 'Men shall bless themselves [RV mg] in him' -- conscious effort is necessary on the part of the recipients of blessing -- ie, faith and baptism! The blessing in general alludes back to Gen 22:18; 26:4; and forward to Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2; Act 3:25,26; and Gal 3:8,9. It suggests the benediction of the High Priest in Num 6:23-27; the king who brings blessing here is a King-Priest (Psa 110:1-4; cp v 15 here).

Psa 72:18

Quoted by Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, in his song of praise (Luk 1:68).

Psa 72:19

MAY THE WHOLE EARTH BE FILLED WITH HIS GLORY: Not only does this "doxology" appropriately close Book 2 of the Psalms, but it is also beautifully fitting to conclude this individual psalm. See Num 14:21; Hab 2:13,14; Isa 6:3; 11:9. And how will this be accomplished... forever? By the everlasting praise of everlasting men!

AMEN AND AMEN: "Verily, verily"!

Psa 72:20

THIS CONCLUDES: That is, for the purposes of this immediate compilation. The presence of psalms beyond Psa 72 that clearly belong to David merely demonstrates that several different compilations of psalms were made, prob at different times, and that the whole was only later put together in the form we possess today.

THE PRAYERS OF DAVID: Who composed at least 60 of the 72 psalms in Books 1 and 2.

SON OF JESSE: A lovely note of humility in this kingly man, who despite his wealth and power still spoke of himself as the lowly son of a lowly family in Israel (cp the sense of 2Sa 23:1; Isa 11:1,10).

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