George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 2

Psalm 72

1. Title

A psalm of Solomon: This title simply means “Solomon’s”, just as the title of Psalm 69 means “David’s”. But the contents of the psalm disallow 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) concerning, in the first instance, Solomon (“the king’s son”), and, in the last instance, the king who is “greater than Solomon” (Matt. 12:42).

2. Structure

Prayer for the king

The blessings of his reign

All nations

The blessings of his reign

Praise of God and His Messiah

3. Solomon

It is important to read the words as David’s prayer 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 (2 Sam. 7:12-16; 1 Chron. 17:11-14) had been repeated with evident reference to Solomon, but always linked with the all-important word if (1 Chron. 22:10,13; 28:6, 7,9; 1 Kings 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:

Judging in righteousness: 1 Kings 3:9; 4:29; 1 Chron. 28:7; 29:19.
Peace: 1 Kings 4:21,25 (cp. the name Solomon).
Supplication for the people: 1 Kings 8:28 (see notes in next paragraph).
Dominion: 1 Kings 4:24.
Sheba, gifts, gold: 1 Kings 10:1,2,10; 2 Chron. 9:1-9.
Praise to the name of God: 1 Chron. 29:13; also see 1 Kings 4:20-25.

But note that verse 17 was emphatically not true of Solomon. In fact, his crashing 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.

4. Messianic reference

The two-fold application of this psalm, to Solomon and to Christ, is delightfully anticipated in Psa. 71:18: “... until I have shown thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.”

There are numerous and marked resemblances to Isaiah 60 — which are considered in the notes.

Give the king. This first verse is a prayer. All the rest of the psalm depends on it. Verses 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: i.e. ‘May he hold sway... ’; ‘May he have pity’; etc. — thus diminishing the psalm’s prophetic power.)

Thy righteousness. The parallelism here probably means “Thy 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).
The mountains shall bring peace (shalom) probably means ‘those who come from the mountains’:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isa. 52:7).
Peace: See also Psa. 85:8,10; Isa. 2:2-4; 9:6,7; 26:12; 32:17; 54:13; 66:12; Ezek. 34:25.
He shall judge the poor. Contrast Isa. 1:23; Mic. 3:1-3. Compare Isa. 11:1-10; 32:1,17; Jer. 23:5,6; 33:15,16.

And shall break in pieces the oppressor. Compare Isa. 11:4, which should read “smite the oppressor with the rod of his mouth”.
They shall fear thee, because of v. 4c; cp. Exod. 14:31.

As long as the sun and moon endure. Verses 7,17. Literally? Or used, as elsewhere (Gen. 37:9,10; Isa. 60:20; Joel 2:30,31; 3:15; Jer. 31:35,36), as figures of Israel?
He shall come down like rain. This lovely figure is used again, probably at about this time, by David in 2 Sam. 23:4: “As the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain”. “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” (N.P. Holt).

Hosea 6:3 might also be an allusion to this place: “And he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” See also Isa. 55:10,11; Ezek. 34:26.

Upon the mown grass. The word which is translated “fleece” in Judg. 6:36-40 (Hebrew gizzah) is literally “that which is cut” — whether it be wool, grass, or hair (from the root gahzaz = to cut or shear). This is the identical word which appears here in Psalm 72, where it is translated “mown grass”, but might just as well be “fleece”. This brings us to consider this Messianic psalm of the kingdom as in some way related to the time of Gideon. Consider the following parallels:

Psalm 72

Judges 6-8

Christ the true “One Man”, ruling in strength and wisdom, his saints with him as “one man (1 Cor. 12:12) in spirit and purpose.
“As one man”: the man of strength and valor (v. 12): Gideon and his divinely-chosen army.
“Unto the king’s son”
“As thou art... the children of a king”
“He shall judge”

Gideon was a judge.
“Mountains shall bring peace”
Dwelling in mountains, dens
“The poor and needy” (cp. vv. 12-14)
“My family is poor”
“Break in pieces the oppressor”
7:13, etc.
Midianite oppressors
Rain (not just dew) on the fleece and then on the earth (notice the order!)
Gideon’s two miracles
“Bow... lick the dust... ”
“... Subdued... lift up heads no more... ”
Gold, presents of Sheba
Gold earrings of Ishmaelites
Handful of grain
Gideon threshing grain
“The fruit thereof shall shake like (the cedars of) Lebanon”
The meager “barley-cake” of Gideon and his 300 would multiply greatly in strength, to rout the Midianites.

Considering the epilogue of Psalm 72:20, and other factors, Psalm 72 seems to be from David’s last days. It might thus be connected with the incident recorded in 2 Samuel 24, where David numbered Israel. For this presumption David (or more precisely, the nation) was punished severely. As He had done with Gideon’s 32,000 (Judg. 7), so God did again, thinning the proud ranks of Israel’s army. Thus God teaches that He needs not man’s numbers to effect deliverance, but can act as “One Man” (or with one man) when the occasion arises.

In 2 Samuel 24, an angel met David on Mount Moriah in a threshing-floor (just as an angel had met Gideon). And David (just as Gideon) built an altar, and the threat against Israel was turned aside. Never should men trust in numbers, because the One God of Israel is a Majority in Himself! Though all the world and all its armies oppose Him, He will realize His plan to bring blessings upon his chosen few!

He shall have dominion, i.e. all things put under his feet (Zech. 14:9; Heb. 2:6-9; 1 Cor. 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. (John Thomas says: ‘the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf’ in Elpis Israel, p. 236 — but with no special proof; see also the next note).

From the River (Euphrates) to the ends of the earth (Land). Zechariah 9:10 is a quote of this verse:

And his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.”

These are the northern and southern boundaries as foretold to Abraham (Gen. 15:18). Maps which show the future Holy Land as stretching from the Nile right across to the southern part of the Euphrates as it empties into the Persian Gulf (again, following John Thomas, as above) are quite mistaken. Gen. 15:19-21 demonstrates the error: the tribes mentioned there were all in Canaan!
They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him. the Arab Bedouin, who have been the age-long implacable enemies of His people.

And his enemies shall lick the dust, with reference 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 (i.e. sin), is picked up in Isa. 65:25 and also in Mic. 7:17.
Tarshish... Sheba... Seba. 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 refer to the Phoenicians, a sea-faring and trading people (hence such references as Jonah 1:3; Ezek. 27:12; 1 Kings 9:26; 10:22; 2 Chron. 9:21). That Tarshish represents a latter-day power is evident both here and in Ezek. 38:13 (where it appears as an ally of Sheba and Dedan). In Isaiah 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.)

The isles would then be the coastlands, or maritime cities, associated with Tyre.

Sheba is mentioned as a trading partner of Tyre in Ezek. 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; Ezek. 38:13), and since Dedan is even more plainly connected with Edom (Jer. 49:7-22; Ezek. 25:12-14), the identification of Sheba with Edom seems fairly strong. Now Sheba may be seen as parallel 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!)

Seba. There are several possible identifications of Seba given in various commentaries, but there is a lot of guesswork and no real agreement among them. “Seba” is probably no more than a variation of “Sheba” — as if to say ‘Sheba, even Seba’.

Presents... gifts. Compare Psa. 45:12; 68:29; Isa. 60:3-11. To ‘bring presents’, in Bible vernacular, is to ‘pay tribute’ (1 Kings 4:21; 2 Kings 17:4; etc.).

“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 (Matt. 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 Psalm 72 and Isaiah 60 mention that the Gentiles were kings. In this case, the common Christmas tradition has some basis in Scripture. However, it has been rightly remarked that just one line of a popular Christmas carol may contain three inaccuracies: the “three kings of Orient” were certainly not from the Orient, strictly speaking; they may or may not have been kings; and the only reason, rather fragile, for supposing they were three in number is that three gifts are mentioned. So much for song-writers as Bible students!

Yea, all kings... all nations (goyim = Gentiles; s.w. 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; Phil. 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.
For links with v. 7: Because righteousness and peace will flourish, the needy and poor and helpless will be cared for.

Him that hath no helper. 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!
He shall redeem their soul. The verb ga’al implies kinship. In an Israelite family it was the duty of the firstborn to redeem those in debt, difficulty or danger. Compare, and contrast, the usage in Psa. 69:18.

Precious shall their blood be, because a very precious price has been paid for it (1 Pet. 1:18,19; Heb. 10:22,29; 12:24). Compare also Psa. 49:8; 116:15; Rev. 6:9,10.
And he shall live. Compare 1 Sam. 10:24; 2 Sam. 16:16; 1 Kings 1:25,34,39 and also the Coronation Psalm: 21:4.

Prayer shall be made for him continually. The Hebrew text here admits of more than one possibility. 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; John 16:23,24.)
A badly misunderstood verse...

Handful. The Hebrew pasach occurs nowhere else. The translation is a guess. But, if read as pasah (a negligible difference), the meaning is: Passover grain, with reference to the wave-sheaf of Lev. 23:10,11.

The top of the mountains is the temple at Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2; Ezek. 40:2).

The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon. That wave-sheaf representing Christ will become a multitude dedicated to the Lord. The word shake is used with reference to the wave-sheaf.

More generally, this verse most certainly does suggest the absence of famine in the Kingdom of God, through increased fertility (Isa. 35:1,6,7; Amos 9:13; Joel 3:18; Ezek. 36:30).

And they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. A link with the grass of v. 6.
This would be 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! Compare Luke 1:30-33: “Of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Continue is the Hebrew nun, as in “Joshua, the son of Nun” = ‘Jesus the Son of continuance’!

The sun is used elsewhere of the Messiah: Psa. 19:4,5; Mal. 4:2; Isa. 60: 1-3; cp. John 8:12; Rev. 22:16.

And men shall be blessed in him should be: ‘Men shall bless themselves in him’ — this suggests plainly that conscious effort is necessary on the part of the recipients of blessing — that is, faith and baptism!

The blessing in general alludes back to Gen. 22:18 and 26:4; and forward to Isa. 65:16; Jer. 4:2; Acts 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).
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel is quoted by Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, in his song of praise (Luke 1:68).
Let 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? By the everlasting praise of everlasting men!

Amen, and Amen. “Verily, verily”!
The prayers of David, who composed at least 60 of the 72 psalms in Books 1 and 2.

The son of Jesse is 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 2 Sam. 23:1; Isa. 11:1,10).

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

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