The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 89

Psa 89:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "A MASKIL OF ETHAN THE EZRAHITE." See Lesson, Psalms, "Maschil". Ethan was one of the leading Levites in the sanctuary service, along with Heman and Asaph. The repeated mention of both Ethan and Jeduthun in the same context as Asaph suggests that the two names may identify the same person (1Ch 6:42,44; 15:17,19; 25:1,3,6). Jeduthun (see Psa 38, 61, 76) could well mean "Praising Ethan", ie the one who had special responsibility in the praise of God (vv 1,15 here). Along with Heman, Ethan is called the Ezrahite, or "Zerahite" (see Psa 88) -- which poss means 'son of Zerah' (1Ch 6:41,42). Like Heman, Ethan came to be noted for his exceptional wisdom (1Ki 4:31). Apparently he was the father of Obed-edom (1Ch 16:38), who was given care of the ark at the time of the abortive attempt to bring it to Zion.

ETHAN: The mention of a Jeduthun (ie Ethan) in the time of Hezekiah and again in the time of Josiah suggests that this name came to be attached as a title to certain temple offices (2Ch 29:14; 35:15), as certainly was the case re the name Asaph. Cp also Neh 11:17.

Psa 89:3

I HAVE MADE A COVENANT WITH MY CHOSEN ONE, I HAVE SWORN TO DAVID MY SERVANT: This covenant is made not just with David, but through his greater Son, Jesus, and thus also with us: vv 28,34,39, 2Sa 7:10-16; 23:5; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:20,21; Acts 2:30; Heb 7:21.

Psa 89:4

V 4 should end with "...saying...".

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 89:5

ASSEMBLY: Heb "kedesh" = the sanctuary.

Psa 89:7

COUNCIL: Heb "cowd", a gathering in secret to share secrets; a secret council! See Gen 49:6; Job 15:8; Psa 25:14; 64:2; 83:3; 89:7; Pro 3:32; 25:9; Eze 13:9.

Psa 89:9

THE SURGING SEA: Sym the stilling of the great raging army of the Assyrian (Isa 8:7,8; 17:12,13; 37:36; 57:20,21; cp Psa 65:7; 93:3,4; Luk 21:25). (NT) The stilling of the storm on the sea of Galilee (Mar 4:37-41). And of course this is a kind of acted parable of the peace to be imposed by Christ on the troubled nations at his return.

Psa 89:10

RAHAB: Sig lit "pride" or "boasting". (1) Egypt, in Psa 87:4; 89:10; Isa 30:7. (2) Apparently, a mythological sea-monster in Isa 51:9; Job 9:13; 26:12. Poss ref to the crocodile of the Nile, sym of proud Egypt and her gods. (See Lesson, Rahab (Egypt).) In one v the shattering of the military might of Egypt and Assyria is coolly summarized. Both judgments were the work of God's angels (Exo 14:19-25; Isa 37:36). This v can be read as an allusion back to Israel's deliverance from Egypt ("Rahab": Psa 87:4) under Moses (Psa 77:15,16; Isa 51:9,10; 63:5,11,12). But it may be intended as specific ref to contemporary events -- a massive Egyptian army defeated by Sennacherib (cp Isa 30:1-7; 31:1-3; WIsa 232,316), followed by the decimation of the Assyrians by the angel of the Lord at Jerusalem. (Also see Lesson, Leviathan -- esp the "Creation".)

Psa 89:11

Vv 11,12: These vv clearly spell out the creation context of this conflict, as if the destruction of "Rahab" (Egypt) along with Assyria is the beginning of God's "new creation"!

Psa 89:12

TABOR AND HERMON SING FOR JOY AT YOUR NAME: An easy figure for the northern tribes which, overrun by the Assyrians, showed signs of returning to their former allegiance to the Lord and His temple in Jerusalem (2Ch 30; see Psa 133, notes). These are also the people alluded to in v 15, who know the "joyful sound". Tabor and Hermon ref, firstly, to the northern tribes joining David, and also Hezekiah. But cp also the northern -- that is, Galilean -- scope of Christ's preaching (Isa 9:1; Mat 4:13-23).

Psa 89:15

THOSE WHO HAVE LEARNED TO ACCLAIM YOU: "Who know the joyful sound" (AV), or "festal shout" (RSV). Special Messianic meaning: those who not only hear but also respond readily to the angelic call in Mat 24:31 (ct the foolish virgins in Mat 25:8-13).

WHO WALK IN THE LIGHT OF YOUR PRESENCE, O LORD: A unique Day of Atonement (Num 6:24-26). Ct those who could not face the light of Christ's countenance (Joh 3:19; cp 2Co 4:6,7).

Psa 89:19

I HAVE EXALTED A YOUNG MAN FROM AMONG THE PEOPLE: Every word here befits Christ perfectly (cp. Phi 2:5-11). What do Trinitarians make of this last phrase? How could an eternally-existent "God the Son" have been chosen out of the people? Christ was first "exalted" by being "lifted up" on the cross (Joh 3:14; 12:32), and then truly exalted by resurrection and glorification (cp the 3-fold "exalted... extolled... very high" of Isa 52:13).

Psa 89:20

DAVID MY SERVANT: "David" means "Beloved". The true ref is to Jesus, King of the Jews, as in Eze 34:23,24; 37:24; Eph 1:6 ("the Beloved").

WITH MY SACRED OIL I HAVE ANOINTED HIM: This mention of the holy oil implies priesthood also. So Messiah is to be a king and a priest (Psa 110)!

Psa 89:25

His (left) hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers (ie great river, Euphrates). This impl Hezekiah is facing north, toward Assyria (Isa 8:7). Here is a picture of surpassing dominion, over all God's Land (Psa 72:8,17)

Psa 89:26

MY FATHER: (NT) A term used only by Jesus in address to God (Mat 10:32; 20:23; 26:39,42; Luk 22:29; Joh 8:19,28,38,49; etc). All others must pray, collectively, 'Our Father' (Mat 6:9; Luk 11:2; Rom 1:7; 1Co 1:3; 2Co 1:2; Phi 4:20; 2Th 1:1; 2:16; etc).

The Virgin Birth in the OT: Psa 71:6; 89:26,27; 110:3, LXX; Gen 3:15; 49:1,25; Isa 7:14; 49:1; Jer 31:22; Mic 5:1,2; 2Sa 7:14.

Psa 89:27

MY FIRSTBORN: This implies other children in God's spiritual family; but Christ is first of them all, "the beginning of the (New) Creation of God" (Col 1:15-18; Rom 8:29; Heb 1:6; 12:23; Rev 1:5). In Hebrew the term "firstborn" is not so much a designation of natural birth order, as it is a designation of the one who will receive the inheritance. Natural "firstborns" in Scripture almost always failed (Cain, Ishmael, Esau, Reuben, Amnon, etc, etc), and were then replaced by spiritual, and appointed, "firstborns" -- to whom glorious promises were given. Israel, God's "firstborn" nation (Exo 4:24; Hos 11:1; Jer 31:9), failed, but Christ -- the true "Israel" -- succeeded. The "first Adam" failed, but the "last Adam" succeeded (1Co 15:45; Rom 5:15-19)! And, in his success, many others, through faith, may be called the sons and daughters of God.

So Paul alludes to Psa 89 in 2Co 6:18: " 'I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty." And likewise in Gal 3:29: " If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

(NT) This proves that Jesus was not the "firstborn" prior to the creation of Gen 1; 2. Rather, Jesus was not to be made firstborn until many years after this psalm was written. So, when Paul uses the term, the "firstborn of all creation" (Col 1:15) is equivalent to "the firstborn from the dead" (Col 1:18); and the "creation" intended by Paul is the "New Creation" of men and women who believe in Christ (Eph 2:10; Col 3:9,10; Gal 6:15; 2Co 5:17; etc).

THE MOST EXALTED OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH: Psa 2:2 has this very phrase. And "exalted" is Elyon, "Most High" -- the divine name used often in a Gentile context. In Rev 1:5 Jesus is described as "the prince of the kings of the earth" -- thus establishing (see above and v 37 below) three separate contacts between Psa 89 and Rev 1:5.

Psa 89:30

HIS SONS: (NT) Cp the idiom of Isa 9:6; 53:10,11: Jesus is the "father" of the "ages" (cp v 27 note), who shall have a great "seed" through the travail of his soul. Also cp Isa 8:18 with Heb 2:10-15.

Psa 89:32

This quotes 2Sa 7:14, a part of the Promise which has been a sore trial to many students: eg Clarke, who attempted a rather shaky retranslation: "In his suffering for iniquity, I will chasten him...." This has been adopted (apparently, for want of any better solution) by a number of Christadelphian students. (But there is no OT precedent for adding the word 'suffering' in such a context.) Yet here, in the psalm which is a sort of commentary on 2Sa 7, there is the inspired interpretation of this troublesome verse: It is not Christ who will be chastened for his "iniquity", but rather the ref is to "his seed" (v 29), "his children" (v 30), "they" (v 31), and "their" breaking of his statutes and commandments (v 32). (Note also the refs to "his seed" in Isa 53:8,10; Psa 22:30; and the "stripes" in Isa 53:5.)

Psa 89:37

THE FAITHFUL WITNESS IN THE SKY: the rainbow, the token of God's faithfulness and the guarantee of His promise not to destroy the earth again by water (Gen 9:14,15; Eze 1:28; Rev 4:3). Thus Christ himself is the faithful witness (Rev 1:5; 3:14; cp Isa 55:4), because through him the Father has guaranteed all His promises and covenants.

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 89:41

ALL: The word "all" here is expressive and accurate, for nations round about Judah had become allies in Sennacherib's attack in order to save themselves from being spoiled by his army (Psa 47:3; 48:4; 76:12; 79:6; Isa 5:26,30; 29:7; 30:28; Mic 4:11).

Psa 89:44

SPLENDOR: "Splendor" or "glory" (AV) is really clearness or cleanness or purity. Related words occur numerous times re leprosy in Lev 13; 14. So prob this is related to Hezekiah's leprosy. (Most translations -- including the AV -- miss this connection here: for example, the RSV has "scepter" by an emendation.)

Psa 89:45

YOU HAVE CUT SHORT THE DAYS OF HIS YOUTH: Cp vv 47,48. Hezekiah was cut off in the midst of his days (Psa 102:11; Isa 38:10; cp Isa 53:8).

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 89:48

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 89:49

In the crucifixion the great Promise to David seemed to come to naught (v 39). And indeed without his resurrection it would have been "void". Yet throughout 2,000 years David has not lacked a man to sit on his throne (Jer 33:20-22), for ever since the Ascension the Messiah has stood ready to assume his royal dignity. Therefore, "it is not a question of uninterrupted succession; but of the everlasting occupation of the throne according to the covenant. When the time comes for this to be fulfilled, noted by David's resurrection, from thenceforth shall his son fill the throne of Israel's kingdom for ever" (Elp 306).

Psa 89:50

HOW I BEAR IN MY HEART: Or "in my bosom" (AV) (cp Psa 79:12). Allusion to Moses' leprous hand thrust into his bosom and miraculously healed. So also Hezekiah was miraculously healed of the same disease. Also see Isa 40:11. Hezekiah suffered as the representative of his people (Isa 1:5,6; 53:4-6); and so also did Christ: The reproach that belonged most esp to his "sheep" fell also upon him (1Pe 2:21-25), ie into his own bosom.

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