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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 89

A.M. 3405. B.C. 599.

As this Psalm manifestly treats of the declining state of the house and kingdom of David, it is probable the author of it lived either in the time of Jehoiachin or Zedekiah, about the beginning of the Babylonish captivity. He praises God and rejoices in him, Psalms 89:1-18 . He builds all his hopes on God’s covenant with David, Psalms 89:19-37 . He laments the present calamities of the king and royal family, Psalms 89:38-45 . Expostulates with, prays to God, and praises him, Psalms 89:46-52 .

Title. Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite Not the Ethan mentioned 1 Kings 4:31, but some other person of the same name who lived long after, but was inspired by the same spirit.

Verses 1-2

Psalms 89:1-2. I will sing of the mercies of the Lord He speaks this by way of preface, lest the following complaints of present miseries should argue ingratitude for former mercies. I will make known thy faithfulness Assuring posterity, from my own observation and experience, that thou art true to every word that thou hast spoken, and that whatsoever hath befallen us, it proceeded not from thy unfaithfulness. For I have said That is, within myself. I have been assured in my own mind; Mercy shall be built up for ever As thou hast laid a sure foundation of mercy to David’s family, by that everlasting covenant which thou hast made with it; so I concluded that thou wouldest carry on the same project of mercy toward it; that thou wouldest build it up, and not destroy it. Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens That is, in thy eternal counsels, which are above the changes of this lower region, and out of the reach of the opposition of earth and hell. Or, as the Hebrew may be rendered, with the very heavens; that is, as firmly and durably as the heavens themselves, as with the sun, in the Hebrew text, Psalms 72:5, is by most interpreters rendered, As long as the sun endureth, as it is in our translation. And so this phrase, in this last branch of the verse, answers to for ever in the former.

Verses 3-5

Psalms 89:3-5. I have made a covenant with my chosen With David, whom I have chosen to the kingdom. Thy seed will I establish for ever, &c. I will perpetuate the kingdom to thy posterity; which was promised upon condition, and was literally accomplished in Christ, who was of the seed of David. And the heavens shall praise thy wonders That is, the inhabitants of heaven, the holy angels, who clearly discern and constantly adore thy mercy and faithfulness; when men upon earth are filled with doubts and perplexities about it. Thy faithfulness also Understand, shall be praised; (which supplements are usual in Scripture;) in the congregation of the saints Either, 1st, Of thy saints on earth in their public assemblies; who always acknowledge and celebrate thy truth, though they cannot always discern the footsteps of it: or, rather, 2d, Of the angels in heaven, of whom he speaks in the foregoing clause; and who are often called saints, or holy ones.

Verses 6-7

Psalms 89:6-7. Who among the sons of the mighty That is, of the most mighty princes upon earth: or among the highest angels; who well may and needs must admire and adore thee, because thou art incomparably and infinitely more excellent than they. God is greatly to be feared With a fear of reverence; for dread and terror have no place in those blessed mansions, and holy spirits. In the assembly of the saints The whole society of angels, called saints, or holy ones, again, as in Psalms 89:5. And to be had in reverence of all about him The angels, who are always in his presence, and encompass his throne.

Verses 8-10

Psalms 89:8-10. Who is a strong Lord like unto thee? Who is equal to thee in power, or, as it follows, in faithfulness. Or to thy faithfulness round about thee Hebrew, and thy faithfulness is round about thee, encompassing and adorning thee like a girdle. It appears in all thy paths and actions, in thy words and works. Thou rulest the raging of the sea Giving commands, and setting bounds to its waves when they are most impetuous and unruly. Thou hast broken Rahab Egypt, as Psalms 87:4. As one that is slain Thou didst wound them not slightly, but unto death.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 89:11-12. The earth also is thine, and the fulness thereof All the creatures wherewith it is replenished, as Psalms 24:1; Psalms 50:12. Thou hast founded them They are all thy creatures, and of consequence are wholly subject to thy power and pleasure; and therefore all the monarchs and kingdoms of the earth cannot hinder thee from making good thy promise to the house and kingdom of David. The north and the south thou hast created them That is, the northern and southern parts of the world, yea, even the remotest ends thereof, though not yet known to us, were made and are ruled by thee. Tabor and Hermon Two eminent mountains in the land of Canaan; Tabor in the west, and within Jordan, Hermon on the east, and without Jordan. By which he may intend either, 1st, The western and eastern parts of the world, and so all the four parts of it are contained in this verse. Or, 2d, Only the several parts of the land of Canaan, both within Jordan and without it. And the mountains may be named rather than the valleys, because, when their fertility is expressed, the fertility of the valleys is more strongly supposed. Shall rejoice Shall be fruitful and prosperous, and so give their inhabitants cause to rejoice; in thy name In or by thy favour, and the fruits thereof.

Verses 13-14

Psalms 89:13-14. Thou hast a mighty arm, &c. Thy power, extending itself throughout the whole, always effects, in every place, whatsoever thou designest, and that with an irresistible force; whether it be to punish evil- doers, or to preserve and exalt them that do well. Justice and judgment That is, just judgment, or justice in judging; are the habitation of thy throne, or the basis, or foundation, as the word מכון mechon, is used, Ezra 2:68; Ezra 3:3; Psalms 97:2; Psalms 104:5. They are the ground- work of all thy proceedings, and the stability of thy throne and government. For God could not be the Ruler and Judge of the world if he did not in all things act according to the most perfect righteousness, which indeed is the result of his most holy and righteous nature, Genesis 18:25. Mercy and truth shall go before thy face As thy harbingers and companions whithersoever thou goest. Thou art neither unjust, nor unmerciful, nor unfaithful in any of thy dealings with thy creatures: none shall be able to say thou doest them any wrong; for thou dost not rule the world merely by thy absolute power; but placest thy principal glory in justice and equity, mercy and fidelity; from which thou never swervest.

Verse 15

Psalms 89:15. Blessed are the people, &c. Next to the praises of Jehovah, is declared the happiness of those who have him for their God, who are his worshippers and servants, living under his righteous and merciful government; that know That hear, from time to time, acknowledge and obey; the joyful sound “The sound of the trumpet, by which the festivals of the Jewish Church were proclaimed, and the people were called together to the offices of devotion;” that is, who have God’s word and ordinances among them, and are favoured with his presence, and with the tokens of his mercy and grace, in and by these means; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance Being blessed with the light of truth, and being enabled to walk therein, they shall live under the comfortable influences of thy love and favour. Remember, reader, “these blessings are now become our own; the evangelical trumpet hath sounded through the once heathen world; the Sun of righteousness hath risen upon all nations. Let us attend to the joyful sound; let us walk in the glorious light.” Horne.

Verses 16-18

Psalms 89:16-18. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day That is, in the knowledge and remembrance of thy name, or of thy infinite power and goodness, revealed and imparted to them; and in thy righteousness Whereby thou art both inclined, and, in some sort, engaged to hear the prayers of thy people, and to save them from all their enemies; or, in and by thy mercy, for righteousness frequently means mercy; or in and through the obedience unto death of him who is the Lord our righteousness, and is made of God unto us righteousness, and through the righteousness of faith in him, Romans 4:3; Romans 4:22-24, shall they be exalted To the dignity of thy sons and daughters here, and to the heavenly inheritance hereafter. For thou art the glory of their strength All that strength in which they do, or may glory, is from thee as the gift of thy grace: and to thee alone belongs the glory of all their victories over their enemies, and of all their achievements. In thy favour our horn shall be exalted The efforts of our power shall be crowned with victory and success. For the Lord is our defence Here the psalmist assigns the reason of his confidence, that their horn should be exalted. And the Holy One of Israel is our King Having therefore so powerful a deliverance and protector, we have no reason to despair of our restitution to our former felicity. Hebrew, ליהוה מגננו , to Jehovah belongs our shield, or, as the margin reads it, our shield is of the Lord, our King is the Holy One of Israel. Our relation to God, as his worshippers and subjects, is the ground of our confidence for deliverance and protection. If God be our ruler, he will be our defender, and who is he then that can harm us?

Verses 19-22

Psalms 89:19-22. Then That is, of old; thou spakest in vision Which then was the usual way by which God spake to the prophets; to thy Holy One To thy holy prophets, the singular number being put for the plural; especially to Samuel and Nathan; for part of the following message was delivered to the former: and part to the latter; I have laid help upon one that is mighty I have provided help and relief for my people through a person of singular courage and wisdom, whom I have properly qualified for so great an undertaking. I have exalted one chosen out of the people

One whom I have singled out as the fittest of all others for the kingly office. I have found David my servant In saying I have found, God speaks after the manner of men, to intimate the great scarcity of such persons and the difficulty of finding them; with my holy oil I have anointed him Both with material oil, (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 5:3,) and with the gifts and graces of my Holy Spirit, which are often signified by oil or unction, as Psalms 45:7, compared with Isaiah 61:1; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27. With whom my hand shall be established That is, constantly abide to protect and assist him. The enemy shall not exact upon him Not conquer him to make him tributary. Hebrew, לא ישׁיא , lo jashi, shall not deceive, or circumvent him, as this word is often rendered; nor the son of wickedness afflict him Namely, so as to overthrow or destroy him.

Verses 24-26

Psalms 89:24-26. My faithfulness and mercy shall be with him Faithfulness in making good all my promises to him; and mercy in doing more for him than I promised, and in pardoning his sins, for which I might justly make him to know my breach of promise. And in my name That is, by my favour and help; shall his horn be exalted He shall have both power and victory. I will set his hand also in the sea That is, I will extend his dominion, and establish his power over the countries westward, as far as the Mediterranean sea. And his right hand in the rivers Namely, eastward, as far as the Euphrates and Tigris, and the various branches of these rivers. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father He shall find me to be a true and a kind father to him, and shall familiarly and confidently make his addresses to me as such, for all necessary supplies and assistances, which parents willingly afford to their children.

Verse 27

Psalms 89:27. I will make him my firstborn As he calls me father, so I will make him my son, yea, my firstborn; the firstborn had divers privileges above other sons. This and the following passage, in some sort, agree to David, but are much more fully and properly accomplished in Christ, and seem to be ascribed to David here chiefly as he was a type of Christ, and that the mind of the reader might be led through him to Christ. Higher than the kings of the earth If this be, in some sense, applicable to David, because he had a greater power and dominion than any of the neighbouring kings, or because he excelled all other kings of the earth in privileges, as he also probably did in honour and renown, obtained by his military achievements, and by that wisdom and justice by which he governed his dominions; and especially because he was a king chosen and advanced by the immediate appointment of God himself; was set over God’s peculiar and beloved people, and was intrusted with the care and patronage of the true religion and the worship of God in the world; if, on these accounts, it might be said that David was higher than the kings of the earth, how much more may it be affirmed of him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, and God blessed for ever?

Verses 28-34

Psalms 89:28-34. My mercy Declared and promised to him and his seed, as it here follows; will I keep for him for evermore Nothing shall alter my kind intentions, but I will mercifully fulfil all my promises to him; and my covenant shall stand fast, &c. Of which see notes on 2 Samuel 7:12-13. His seed will I make to endure for ever That is, to sit upon the throne for ever, as the next words explain it. This was accomplished only in Christ, the eternal king of the church and of the world, who was of David’s seed according to the flesh. And his throne as the days of heaven As long as the world shall have a being, or for ever, as was now said. It shall be as unchangeable and durable as the heavens themselves, which are of an incorruptible nature. If his children forsake my law Of this and the following verses, to Psalms 89:34, see the notes on 2 Samuel 7:14-16.

Verse 35

Psalms 89:35. Once have I sworn by my holiness, &c. Here he assigns some reasons why he would not break his covenant with David, though he should have just cause so to do, and though he had, upon such just cause, broken his covenant made with others; 1st, Because this covenant was confirmed by his oath, which added, not only more solemnity, but more stability and certainty to it, according to the apostle’s reasoning, Hebrews 6:13-18, whereby he shows that God added an oath to his promise made to Abraham, to make and prove it to be immutable; and Hebrews 7:20, &c., where he proves the priesthood of Melchisedek to be unchangeable, because it was confirmed by an oath. And although judgments, simply threatened, have not always been executed, but sometimes prevented; yet those comminations, which were confirmed by oath, were thereby rendered and declared to be irrevocable, as we see Numbers 14:28-30; Jeremiah 44:26. 2d, Because God sware by his holiness; in or by which he is but seldom said to speak or swear, and when he is, it constantly adds more weight and confirmation to what is declared, as Psalms 60:6; Psalms 108:7; Amos 4:2.

Verses 36-37

Psalms 89:36-37. His throne as the sun before me In respect of perpetual duration, as appears, both from the foregoing and following words. It shall be established as the moon As the moon, though subject to eclipses, and frequent and manifold changes, yet doth constantly and perpetually remain in heaven, as a witness of my covenant of the night, as it is called Jeremiah 33:20, so shall the house and kingdom of David continue for ever. And as a faithful witness in heaven By which may be meant either, 1st, The moon last mentioned, which was to be a faithful witness to this promise of God so long as it continued in the heavens; or the rainbow, which, though in itself it be unstable and transient, and doth but seldom appear, yet in Scripture is mentioned as God’s faithful and perpetual witness, being called a token of God’s everlasting covenant, between him and every living creature for perpetual generations, Genesis 9:12-16.

Verses 38-45

Psalms 89:38-45. But thou hast cast off Having hitherto declared the certainty of God’s promises, he now proceeds to show the unsuitableness of the present dispensations of God’s providence thereunto, and humbly expostulates with God about it. Thou hast been wroth with thine anointed That person and family that thou hast invested with the kingdom. Thou hast made void, &c. Which seems contrary to thy word given, Psalms 89:34. Thou hast profaned his crown By exposing that sacred person, and family, and kingdom to contempt, and giving his sceptre and power into the hands of the uncircumcised. Thou hast broken down all his hedges All the means of his protection and safety. He is a reproach to his neighbours An object of their scorn and reproach. Is this the anointed of the Lord? Is this the everlasting family and kingdom? Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries Thou hast given them courage, and power, and success. Thou hast turned the edge of his sword So that he can neither offend his enemies nor defend himself. And hast not made him to stand But to flee and fall before his enemies; for more is understood than what is expressed. The days of his youth hast thou shortened The youthful and flourishing estate of David’s kingdom was very short, and reached not beyond his next successors, and it had been languishing, by degrees, till this time, when it seemed to be dead and buried.

Verse 47

Psalms 89:47. Remember how short my time is That is, our time, the time of our king and kingdom, in whose name the psalmist put up this petition, and about whom he was much more solicitous than about himself, as is evident, both from the following verses and from the whole body of the Psalm. The sense seems to be this: Our king and all his people, and I among the rest, are short-lived and perishing creatures, who of ourselves, and according to the course of nature, must shortly die, and therefore there is no need that thou shouldest add further afflictions to sweep us away before the time. Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? Wherefore hast thou made us and our king, and consequently all other men, (whose condition is in nothing better than ours,) in vain, or to so little purpose? Didst thou raise up us and him, establish us for thy people, settle the crown upon David and his seed by a solemn covenant, erect a magnificent and glorious temple, and vouchsafe so many and great promises and privileges, and all this but for a few years; that our crown and glory should be taken from us within a little time after it was put upon our heads? It is not strange that such considerations as these should fill the psalmist’s mind with amazement and sad perplexing thoughts. Nor doth he accuse or upbraid God here with, but only useth it as an argument to move him to repair and restore their decayed state, that they might live to praise, serve, and glorify him.

Verses 48-50

Psalms 89:48-50. What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? All men, at their best estate, are mortal and miserable; kings and people must unavoidably die by the condition of their natures. Lord, where are thy former loving-kindnesses? Hast thou forgotten or repented of all that mercy and kindness which thou hast promised and sworn, and sometimes performed, unto David, and his family and kingdom? Remember, Lord, how I do bear That is, we, thy servants, as he now said, our king and his people, of whom he speaks as of one person; the reproach of all the mighty people Of the great potentates and princes of the world, who now reproached the house of David with their vain and confident boasting of the everlastingness of their kingdom, which was now in a desperate and lost condition. Or, all the reproaches of many people.

Verse 51

Psalms 89:51. Wherewith thine enemies have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed Or, of the Messiah. By whom he seems to understand, either, 1st, The kings of Judah, the singular number being put for the plural; and by their footsteps may be meant either their ways or actions, and the sad consequences thereof, or the memorials of their ancient splendour. Or, 2d, The Messiah himself, whose coming the Jews continually expected, for a long time together before he came, and supported themselves with the expectation of him under all their calamities. All which being well known to many of the heathen, they reproached the Jews with the vanity of this belief and expectation. And by the footsteps of the Messiah he may understand his coming.

Verse 52

Psalms 89:52. Blessed be the Lord for evermore Let thine enemies reproach thee, and thy promises concerning the sending of the Messiah, and the deliverance of thy people; I do, and will, heartily bless and praise thee for them, and encourage myself with them, not doubting but thou wilt take away all our reproaches, and in thine own due time send Him who is the consolation and expectation of Israel, and the desire of all nations. Thus, “whatever at any time may be our distress, either as a community, or as individuals, still we are to believe, still to hope, still to bless, and praise Jehovah, whose word is true, whose works are faithful, whose chastisements are mercies, and all whose promises are, in Christ Jesus, yea and amen, for evermore.” Horne.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 89". Benson's Commentary. 1857.