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To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
This psalm and the preceding are parts of one whole. The blessings desired and asked (Psalms 20:0) are herein acknowledged. The “day of straits” there pressing him (Psalms 21:1) no longer exists. The mature wisdom and experience which mark the psalm belong to David’s riper years, and seem to point to the taking of Rabbah, which terminated the second Syrian war. 2 Samuel 12:26-31. Many Jewish and Christian writers have considered the psalm Messianic, and such it is as to its spirit and strain. Bishop Horsley calls it “a thanksgiving of the Church on Messiah’s victory.” “The Targum renders melek ( king) by king Messiah; and Rashi observes, ‘Our old doctors interpreted this psalm of King Messiah, but, in order to meet the schismatics, (that is, the Christians,) it is better to understand it of David himself.’” Dr. Perowne.
The psalm divides into two parts: Psalms 21:1-7 contain an acknowledgment of the divine favours, with confession of the king’s trust in God; 8-12, an address to the king, giving him assurance of future success against all his enemies; 13, doxology.
1. The king shall joy Chaldee, the king Messiah.
In thy strength Because through the strength of Jehovah alone he had triumphed.
2. His heart’s desire Comp. Psalms 20:4. The cause of this answer is given in Psalms 21:7. As applied to Messiah, see John 11:41-42: “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.”
3. Thou preventest him Thou anticipatest him. God had provided for David’s want before he had finished his prayer.
A crown of pure gold Probably an allusion to 2 Samuel 12:30. The ancients were not unused to such. Pliny (b. 30, c. 3) says Claudius Cesar, (A.D. 54,) at his triumph after his subjugation of Britain, exhibited crowns of beaten gold, one of which weighed seven pounds and another nine pounds a barbaric way of asserting royalty. The throne of David was now established more firmly than ever.
4. He asked life A reference to David’s sickness after his great sin. See Psalm 6:38, 39, 41. He had repented, (Psalms 51:0) and had been forgiven. Psalms 32, 40, 103. All this had transpired during the two years that Joab was with the army besieging Rabbah. 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26. David was now again restored to national peace and divine favour.
Length of days for ever and ever Literally, to eternal and perpetual age realized only in “David’s seed,” Messiah. See Isaiah 53:10; Romans 6:9; and “Behold, I am alive for evermore,” Revelation 1:18
6. Thou hast made him most blessed for ever Thou hast constituted him blessings for ever. Compare “And thou shalt be a blessing.” Genesis 12:2; Genesis 28:4; Galatians 3:3-14.
Exceeding glad with thy countenance The parallel passage, almost verbatim, is Psalms 16:11, where “fulness of joy” is said to be in the divine presence: quoted by Peter, (Acts 2:28,) and applied to Christ.
7. The king trusteth in the Lord The son of Sirach repeats an inspired truth: ( Sir 2:10 ;) “Look at the generations of old, and see; did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded?” See Hebrews 10:35
8. Thine hand shall find out Shall take hold of, as the word often signifies, and as it is employed in Psalms 116:3; Psalms 119:143. The idea is, that God infallibly knows who and where his enemies are, and his justice shall arrest them.
9. As a fiery oven See Malachi 4:1. The ovens of the Hebrews were heated mostly with dry thorns and grass, (Matthew 6:30,) material the most inflammable and destructible, which is the point of the figure.
Swallow them up As the oven receives and quickly devours the light fuel thrown into it. See Psalms 18:8
10. Fruit… seed The words may be taken as synonymous for posterity; or, the first for the products of the earth, and the second for children. The idea is that of utter desolation.
11. They intended Rather, they extended, in a hostile sense, as the word more commonly means. They “extended,” or directed, their evil designs against God. Job 15:15; Jeremiah 21:5. So, also, the second hemistich.
12. Shalt thou make them turn their back Literally, Thou shalt set them the shoulder. This may mean, thou shalt set or place them in solid ranks, shoulder to shoulder, as if to call forth their utmost strength, and to show them how little they avail against God; or, thou shalt set them as a target, when “thou shalt fit thine arrows to the string,” etc. The phrase is military, and the idea seems to be the consolidation of their troops, as if to do their utmost.
13. Exalted… in thine own strength The closing verse is a call upon Jehovah to exalt himself by a manifestation of his own strength in the overthrow of his enemies and the deliverance of his Church. On this, compare Revelation 11:17.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 21". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28