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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 20

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


A prayer for the king in his enterprises, that his prayers may

be heard, his offerings accepted, and his wishes fulfilled,


Confidence of victory expressed, 5, 6.

Vain hopes exposed; and supplication made for the king. 7-9.


It is most likely that this Psalm was penned on the occasion of David's going to war, and most probably with the Ammonites and Syrians, who came with great numbers of horses and chariots to fight with him. See 2 Samuel 10:6-8; 1 Chronicles 19:7. It is one of the Dialogue Psalms, and appears to be thus divided: Previously to his undertaking the war, David comes to the tabernacle to offer sacrifice. This being done, the people, in the king's behalf, offer up their prayers; these are included in the three first verses: the fourth was probably spoken by the high priest; the fifth, by David and his attendants; the last clause, by the high priest; the sixth, by the high priest, after the victim was consumed; the seventh and eighth, by David and his men; and the ninth, as a chorus by all the congregation.

Verse Psalms 20:1. The Lord hear thee — David had already offered the sacrifice and prayed. The people implore God to succour him in the day of trouble; of both personal and national danger.

The name of the God of Jacob — This refers to Jacob's wrestling with the Angel; Genesis 32:24, &c. And who was this Angel? Evidently none other than the Angel of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus, in whom was the name of God, the fulness of the Godhead bodily. He was the God of Jacob, who blessed Jacob, and gave him a new name and a new nature. See the notes on the above place in Genesis.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 20:2. Send thee help from the sanctuary — This was the place where God recorded his name; the place where he was to be sought, and the place where he manifested himself. He dwelt between the cherubim over the mercy-seat. He is now in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. This is the true sanctuary where God must be sought.

Strengthen thee out of Zion — The temple or tabernacle where his prayers and sacrifices were to be offered.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 20:3. Remember all thy offerings — The minchah, which is here mentioned, was a gratitude-offering. It is rarely used to signify a bloody sacrifice.

Burnt sacrifice — The olah here mentioned was a bloody sacrifice. The blood of the victim was spilt at the altar, and the flesh consumed. One of these offerings implied a consciousness of sin in the offerer; and this sacrifice he brought as an atonement: the other implied a sense of mercies already received, and was offered in the way of gratitude.

David presents himself before the Lord with offerings of both kinds.

This prayer of the people is concluded with Selah, which we have taken up in the general sense of so be it. Hear and answer. It will and must be so, &c.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 20:4. Grant thee according to thine own heart — May God give thee whatsoever thou art setting thy heart upon, and accomplish all thy desires! This was probably the prayer of the high priest.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 20:5. We will rejoice in thy salvation — We expect help from thee alone; it is in thy cause we engage; and to thee, as our war is a just one, we consecrate our banners, inscribed with thy name. It is said that the Maccabees had their name from the inscription on their banners; which was taken from Exodus 15:11, מי כמכה באלם יהוה mi camochah baelim Yehovah, "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?" The word being formed from the initial letters מ M, כ C, ב B, י I, מכבי Ma Ca B I, whence Maccabeus and Maccabees.

The words of this verse were spoken by David and his officers; immediately after which I suppose the high priest to have added, The Lord fulfil all thy petitions!

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 20:6. Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed — These are probably the words of the priest after the victim had been consumed; and those signs had accompanied the offering, which were proofs of God's acceptance of the sacrifice; and, consequently, that the campaign would have a successful issue. David is God's anointed; therefore, he is under his especial care. He will hear him. David must continue to pray, and to depend on God; else he cannot expect continual salvation. David has vast multitudes of enemies against him; he, therefore, requires supernatural help. Because of this, God will hear him with the saving strength of his right hand.

The HAND of God is his power, the RIGHT hand, his almighty power; the STRENGTH of his right hand, his almighty power in action; the SAVING strength of his right hand, the miraculous effects wrought by his almighty power brought into action. This is what David was to expect; and it was the prospect of this that caused him and his officers to exult as they do in the following verse.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 20:7. Some trust in chariots — The words of the original are short and emphatic: These in chariots; and these in horses; but we will record in the name of Jehovah our God. Or, as the Septuagint, μεγαλυνθησομεθα, "we shall be magnified." Or, as the Vulgate, invocabimus, "we shall invoke the name of the Lord." This and the following verse I suppose to be the words of David and his officers. And the mention of chariots and horses makes it likely that the war with the Ammonites and Syrians is that to which reference is made here; for they came against him with vast multitudes of horsemen and chariots. See 2 Samuel 10:6-8. According to the law, David could neither have chariots nor horses; and those who came against him with cavalry must have a very great advantage; but he saw that Jehovah his God was more than a match for all his foes, and in him he trusts with implicit confidence.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 20:8. They are brought down and fallen — They were so confident of victory that they looked upon it as already gained. They who trusted in their horses and chariots are bowed down, and prostrated on the earth: they are all overthrown.

But we are risen — We who have trusted in the name of Jehovah are raised up from all despondency; and we stand upright - we shall conquer, and go on to conquer.

Verse 9

Verse Psalms 20:9. Save, Lord — This verse was spoken by all the congregation, and was the chorus and conclusion of the piece.

The verse may be read, Lord, save the king! He will hear as in the day of our calling. The Vulgate, Septuagint, AEthiopic, Arabic, Anglo-Saxon, read the verse thus: Lord, save the king! and hear us whensoever we shall call upon thee. The Syriac reads differently: The Lord will save us: and our king will hear us in the day in which we shall call upon him. This refers all to GOD: while the others refer the latter clause to DAVID. Lord, save David; and David will save us. "If thou preservest him, he will be thy minister for good to us." This appears to be the easiest sense of the place, and harmonizes with all the rest.


This Psalm is a form of prayer delivered by David to the people, to be used by them for the king, when he went out to battle against his enemies.

In this Psalm there are the following parts: -

I. A benediction of the people for their king, Psalms 20:1-4.

II. A congratulation or triumph of the people after the victory, supposed to be already obtained, Psalms 20:5-8.

III. A petition, Psalms 20:9.

I. The benediction directed to David's person. The particulars; that he may have,

1. Audience in his necessity: "The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble."

2. Protection: "The name of the God of Jacob defend thee," Psalms 20:1.

3. Help and strength in battle: "Send thee help-strengthen thee;" which is amplified, 1. By the place: "Help from the sanctuary;" 2. "Strength out of Zion."

4. Acceptance of his person; testified by the acceptance of his offerings and sacrifices, Psalms 20:3.

5. Answers to his petitions: "Grant thee according to thy own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel," Psalms 20:4; which is plainly set down in the next verse: "The Lord fulfil all thy petitions," Psalms 20:5.

This benediction being ended, they persuade themselves that the prayer of it shall be granted, because it will redound to God's glory; and they will be thankful, and honour him for the victory.

1. "We will rejoice in thy salvation." Or Do this, "that we may rejoice."

2. "In the name of our God will we set up our banners." We will enter the city joyfully, with displayed banners, which we still erect as trophies to the honour of God.

II. Now follow the congratulation and triumph of their faith: for they give thanks as for a victory already obtained; as to their faith it was certain. Before they prayed for audience and protection: here they testify they are certain and secure of both.

1. Of protection: "Now know I that the Lord will save," c.

2. Of audience: "He will hear from his holy heaven."

3. Of help: "With the saving strength of his right hand," Psalms 20:6.

The certainty they had of this victory proceeded solely from their confidence in God. And this they illustrate by an argument drawn a dissimili: they were not like others who trust more to their arms than to their prayers more to their numbers than to God.

1. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;" as the Ammonites, Psalms 20:2; Psalms 10:6.

2. But we do not so: "We will remember the name of the Lord our God; the Lord of hosts, mighty in battle." Arms may be used by good or bad men; but the difference lies in the object, the end, and the confidence. A bad cause cannot have God's concurrence: a good cause will have his countenance and support.

3. And therefore the success was according to the confidence. 1. They who trusted in their arms, c., are brought down, and fallen. 2. We who trusted in the Lord our God, are risen, and stand upright, Psalms 20:8.

III. The third part contains a short ejaculation, and is the sum of the Psalm.

1. "Save, Lord!" Thou alone canst save us: in thee, and in none other, do we put our trust.

2. "Let the king hear us." We propose to continue in prayer and faith therefore, when we call, let the king, the Messiah, which thou hast set on thy holy hill, Psalms 2:6, hear us. Or, according to another arrangement of the words: 1. Lord, save our king. Make him wise and good, preserve his person, and prosper his government; that we may have peace in our time, and secular prosperity. 2. Hear thou us when we call. Let us have also spiritual prosperity, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy name.-[Anglo-Saxon] "O thou Lord, health give the king."-Anglo-Saxon.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 20". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-20.html. 1832.
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