George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 21

1. Structure

The people praise God for their King
The people praise their King
The people praise the power of their King
The people praise their God

2. Psalms 20 and 21

Psalm 20

Psalm 21
Thine heart
strength, salvation
the King

3. Historical setting

Like Psalm 20, this is a coronation psalm (v. 3). But David was crowned more than once:

2 Samuel
2:4 — king of the southern tribes

5: 3 — king of the twelve tribes

12:30 — king of the conquered Ammonites

The last of these is very much like v. 3: Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head: the coronation of the king of Ammon (2 Sam. 12:30; see Whittaker, Samuel, Saul and David, p. 224). The severity of the language in vv. 8-12 matches that occasion. Doubtless there was a reason for it.

It is interesting to note that make ready (v. 12) and strength (v. 13) echo the names of Jachin (establish) and Boaz (strength) (1 Kings 7:21) which were associated with later coronations of kings in Jerusalem (2 Kings 11:14; 23:3).

4. Messianic fulfillment

Reference to Christ, the King of Glory, is demanded by such phrases as length of days for ever and ever (v. 4).

How greatly shall he rejoice. The joy set before him: Heb. 12:2.
Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, i.e. the travail of his soul, with which he is satisfied: Isa. 53:11.

The request of his lips is the translators’ guess of a unique expression. Kay has good linguistic parallels for reading, instead: the woman he asks for in betrothal (cp. v. 2a). When this King is crowned, he also receives his Bride (cp. Psa. 45, of course)!
Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. And that crown will not be removed, as was that of Saul’s: cp. Psa. 15:5; 16:8.
He asked life: John 10:18. Compare Psa. 16:8-11.

Length of days. True of those in Christ also: Psa. 22:26; Isa. 53:10.
Honour....majesty. These two Hebrew words are both much used for the Glory of God: Psa. 96:6; 104:1; 111:3; 145:5. This Divine glory is conferred first upon God’s Son (45:3; Rom. 1:4), and then upon those “in him” (145:12; 149:9; Rev. 5:9,10).
In Hebrew, Thou hast appointed him to be blessings for ever, as in Gen. 12:2; 22:18 — the Abrahamic covenant blessing, involving resurrection and eternal life; not just for Christ, but also for those to whom he will be a blessing: Gal. 3:16,26-28. This is the “sure mercies of David” (Isa. 55:3).
describe the righteous judgment of Messiah against a willful refusal to acknowledge the Lord’s Anointed: Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them. Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men.
For they intended evil against thee. This also looks back to the deliberate hostility shown against Jesus by his own nation.

5. Subscription

The mysterious heading to Psalm 22 — Aijeleth-Shahar — really belongs to Psalm 21, according to Thirtle. Its meaning is either The Hind of the Morning, or The Strength of the Morning: more probably the latter, with reference to 21:1,13. The “Morning” would then be a figurative expression for the new era which the king’s coronation inaugurates (2 Sam. 23:4).

6. Other details

Preventest = “dost meet” (RSV); a host coming forth to meet an honored and welcome guest. God crowns David with blessings, greater and sooner than he would ever have expected. Contrast how God “meets” the wicked in 17:13.
Thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance. Liter-ally, thy faces: i.e. in this case the divine chariot Cherubim with which David has won great victories (cp. 18:7-15; contrast 20:7).
Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven, or “furnace” (RV), to burn up the wicked: Mal. 4:1; Matt. 13:42,50; 2 Thes. 1:8; 2 Pet. 3:12; Rev. 11:18.
Their fruit = fruit of the womb (Psa. 127:3; 132:11), as parallelism with “Seed” would suggest.
Thou shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings against the face of them. NIV: “When you aim at them with drawn bow”. See Psa. 64:7; Isa. 49:1,2.
Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power. The “Hallelujah Chorus” of Rev. 19:1-7.

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