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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 89

Verses 1-52

The time of this ode is gathered from the text; it was written after Rahab, the proud Egyptian kingdom, Psalms 87:4, was broken to pieces, Psalms 89:10; and after the hedge, the wall of Jerusalem, was taken away; and after the crown of David’s house was cast down to the ground: Psalms 89:38-45. Therefore it is a pensive ode, sung in Babylon when all the Hebrew hopes rested on the Messiah, the true David, and shepherd of Israel, as in Ezekiel 34:0. The Chaldee paraphrase, like the doctors of the christian church, refers all those expressions to the Messiah.

Psalms 89:27 . I will make him higher than the kings of the earth. David, the youngest son of Jesse, was by adoption God’s firstborn as king of Israel; but the view of faith, over the tops of the mountains, regards Christ, who is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Psalms 89:35 . Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie to David. Here are first to be understood, the temporal covenant given to David; and secondly, the spiritual covenant in Christ. The first waxed old like the tabernacle, the second shone like the sun; and the church, like the full orbed moon, reflected the glory. All covenants therefore are frail in man, but sure in Christ. Thus the church in time of trouble hung all her hopes on Christ, who is called “The sure mercies of David.” Isaiah 55:4. God has said of Zion, here is my rest for ever and ever.


This psalm, after a fine versification of the promises God had made to David by Nathan the prophet, 2 Samuel 7:0., fervently looks to the Messiah, and pleads for restoration.

We have first, the covenant itself; and the grace of this covenant made the church sing of mercies in the time of sorrow and distress. God by an oath promised David that he would not take the throne from him, as he had done from the house of Saul: and then in the most delightful language of faith, he celebrates the perfections of God who had promised. Who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to him? He stilleth the raging of the sea. Judgment and justice are the habitation of his throne. Blessed then are the people who know the joyful sound. When the silver trumpet sounded in the camp, the courts and the people crowded to hear the law, and listen to its gracious promises. Numbers 10:9-10. Vowing obedience, they walked in the light of truth and love, were exalted to national glory and personal purity, not by their own, but by the Lord’s righteousness; for enthroned among them, he fulfilled all his gracious words. He exalted their horn by his favour, and the Holy One was their defence.

In David we have an illustrious type of Christ. He spoke in vision to Samuel, the holy one, saying, I have laid help on one that is mighty. When the nine nations conspired against Zion, David vanquished them all; and when the kings of the earth took counsel against the Lord Christ, he that sits in the heavens laughed them to scorn. God has laid help on one that is mighty, whose own arm brought salvation; and he is still able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him. He broke the Jewish and the Roman power in pieces, and he will soon include all seas and rivers in the bounds of his empire; for he sits upon the throne of his father David for ever.

The end of God’s covenant is connected with means. To introduce the Messiah, and effectuate the redemption of man, God promised that if David’s children should sin, he would visit their iniquities with stripes, but not eject his family from the throne. This for a long time the Lord did, and by singular interpositions of providence. After the Babylonian captivity, the Asmonean family were mostly governors in Judea, and were regarded as the lawful heirs of the crown, though sometimes the highpriest, and others, swayed the sceptre as viceroys.

The rod and the stripes here claim serious attention, and providence must give its own comment. Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah came to a tragic end. Ahaziah king of Judah, and forty two of his brethren, perished by their connection with Ahab’s house. Athaliah, on the death of her husband, slew all the rest in Jerusalem, except Joash an infant. And Nebuchadnezzar slew all the princes of Judah before the eyes of Zedekiah; the very men who had used all their influence with the king, that Jeremiah might be put to death. If this then is the rod, and these the stripes, there is danger lest backsliders and apostates should wrest the scriptures to their own destruction; and while they expect but a few crosses and afflictions, they may, like Absalom and others, die in the grossest sins. David, who best understood the conditions of his own covenant, after charging Solomon to serve his father’s God, closed with this sanctifying caution: But if thou forsake him, and rebel, he will cast thee off for ever.

From the Selah, Psalms 89:4, we have Israel’s and the church’s prayer for healing and restoration. Hence at the worst of times, the promises can yield us comfort and support. Hope, rounded on the promise, is our anchor-hold which bears up the ship in the tempest, as in the calm. Blessed then be the name of the Lord for ever.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 89". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.