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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 72

 

 

Verses 1-20

Psalm 72

A Psalm for Solomon

1 Give the king thy judgments, O God,

And thy righteousness unto the king’s son.

2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness,

And thy poor with judgment.

3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people,

And the little hills, by righteousness.

4 He shall judge the poor of the people,

He shall save the children of the needy,

And shall break in pieces the oppressor.

5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure,

Throughout all generations.

6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass:

As showers that water the earth.

7 In his days shall the righteous flourish;

And abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.

8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,

And from the river unto the ends of the earth.

9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him;

And His enemies shall lick the dust.

10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents:

The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.

11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him:

All nations shall serve him.

12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth;

The poor also, and him that hath no helper.

13 He shall spare the poor and needy,

And shall save the souls of the needy.

14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence:

And precious shall their blood be in his sight.

15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba:

Prayer also shall be made for him continually;

And daily shall he be praised.

16 There shall be a handful of corn upon the top of the mountains;

The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon:

And they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

17 His name shall endure for ever:

His name shall be continued as long as the sun:

And men shall be blessed in him:

All nations shall call him blessed.

18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,

Who only doeth wondrous things.

19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever:

And let the whole earth be filled with his glory.

Amen, and amen.

20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Its Contents and Title.—The Psalm begins with supplication for a king who is at the same time a king’s Song of Solomon, who thus is of a royal race or birth, that his government may be righteous and a blessing to the land ( Psalm 72:1-4); then follows the wish that his rule may be of everlasting duration and bloom ( Psalm 72:5-7); then it is promised that his kingdom shall embrace the whole world ( Psalm 72:8-11); next the reason for this universal homage is disclosed in the character of his government as benevolent, merciful and righteous ( Psalm 72:12-14); finally the duration of his gracious activity, of the blessings which descend upon his land and the everlasting praise of his name is implored in prayer and is predicted ( Psalm 72:15-17). The doxology of Psalm 72:18-19 did not belong originally to the Psalm, but is a liturgical addition (comp. Introd, § 4), with especial reference to the Elohim Psalm of this second book, and it is placed before the historical remark, Psalm 72:20, in order to be read in the church service. The contents of this Psalm 72:20 show that it is older than the entire collection of the Psalm. Yet it does not follow from this that David is likewise the author of this Psalm (comp. Introd, § 2,8), and that we have to regard the title as: about Solomon (Sept, Vulg, Aben Ezra, et al.), or composed for Solomon (Kimchi: by David on his deathbed), and designed to be his song (Clauss), as the mirror of his government (Stier). The לְ must be interpreted here as usual. The usage of the titles demands this, which excludes the many references which are in themselves possible (Stier), among which the most suitable would be the respectful reference=to Solomon. Then the contents demand so much the more a decided advance beyond the supposition of a poetic congratulation (De Wette) of some king of Israel. We must at least recognize the fact, that the Psalm is a prayer whose expressions flow forth from the ideal character of the Hebrew monarchy as the kingdom of God (Hupfeld). Then these expressions are not merely poetical, but prophetical, and thus have a Messianic character, so that the wishes and hopes are not, as it were, “extravagant” (Hupfeld), but take the form of definite promises, and that these promises not only have as their contents the universal extent and the everlasting duration of this kingdom, but at the same time the righteous, peaceful and saving government of the theocratic king as well as the perpetual blessing of all nations by the power of his name. By their personal bearing they transcend the reference to the kingdom of Solomon (according to the promise, 2 Samuel 8 developing itself as the kingdom of God throughout history) (Calvin), or the Davidic dynasty (Hofmann), and find in the circumstances of the time of Solomon a historical support and occasion (most recent interpreters), which is overlooked or undervalued by the exclusive Messianic interpretation (Chald. and most of the older interpreters). There is no reason either in the contents or in the language to put the Psalm in the time of king Josiah, or even later (Ewald). The reference to Ptolemy (Olsh.), particularly to Ptolemy Philadelphus, as the benefactor of the Jews (Hitzig) is far fetched and untenable. The ancient church, on account of the reference of the Psalm to David, Solomon and the Messiah, made it the chief Psalm of Epiphany as the *festum trium regum.

Str. I, Psalm 72:1. Thy judgments.—These are hardly the rights transferred by God as king of Israel to the theocratic king (Delitzsch), the Messianic authority (Geier, et al.) to rule; for the exercise of which the righteousness directly mentioned as the corresponding official endowment is then implored, but in accordance with the parallelism, the way of judging (De Wette, Hupf.), the decisions (Hitzig), the latter not in the sense of the commandments and directions given to the king, the norm of his judging and sentences (Olsh.), but as the sentences and decisions flowing forth from the Spirit of God (Chald, Hengst.), for which Solomon obtained wisdom for himself, 1 Kings 3:9; 1 Kings 3:28; comp. Isaiah 11:2 (Isaki, kimchi). There is no reference here to righteousness which avails before God (Seb. Schmidt).

Psalm 72:2. May he judge Thy people, &c.—It is better to regard the futures in this and the following verses as optatives.

[ Psalm 72:3. May the mountains bear peace for the people, and the hills, by righteousness.—Mountains and hills are mentioned as the characteristic features of the land of Palestine. They were cultivated in ancient times, being terraced from top to bottom. Remains of these terraces are visible and in use at the present time not only for the vine and fig, but likewise for grain. It is unnecessary to supply a verb in the latter clause. Righteousness is the means by which this fruit of peace is to be produced by the mountains and the hills.—C. A. B.]

Str. II, Psalm 72:5. May they fear Thee.—The supposition that here it is not God who is addressed, but the king (Hupfeld, Hitzig), cannot be proved from Psalm 89, and is against the context, which puts the constantly abiding fear of God as the blessed effect of the righteous rule in the closest connection with its other fruits.As long as (there is) a sun, and before the moon (through) generation of generation.—עִם is used of contemporaneous existence as Daniel 3:33. Before the moon, as Job 8:16=as long as it shines=exists (comp. Psalm 72:7). The same may be said of before the sun ( Psalm 72:17), to be distinguished from the expression: in presence of the sun ( Numbers 25:4)=as long as it is day; and from the phrase: before the eyes of the sun ( 2 Samuel 12:11)=in clear daylight.[FN6]

Psalm 72:6. Let him come down as rain.—The figure of the rain reminds us of 2 Samuel 23:4. גֵּז is not the fleece of the sheep (the ancient versions, Luther, et al.), as Deuteronomy 18:4, here with a reference, perhaps, to Judges 6:37 sq.; so likewise not the mown grass (De Wette, et al.), as Amos 7:1, as needing rain for the after-growth (Kimchi), or in order not to be dried up to the roots by the heat of summer (Calvin), still less the meadows eaten off by locusts (Chald, J. D. Mich.), but the meadows ready for the mowing (Hupf, Delitzsch).

Psalm 72:7. Till there be no more moon.—עַד בְּלִי might mean: even to the destruction, the ruin (J. H. Mich.), as Job 14:12; Isaiah 38:17. The prevailing use of the word בל, however, is not as a substantive, but as a particle.

Str. III, Psalm 72:8-11. From sea to sea.—Since the reference here is to the extension of the Theocracy over the earth ( Zechariah 9:10) and already in the time of Solomon the limits of the kingdom were no longer those of Exodus 23:31, the meaning cannot be here of its extension between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. But it is not entirely indefinite: from every sea to every sea (Hengst.); but as the parallel member shows, it begins with a well known limit, namely, the Mediterranean and the stream, that Isaiah, the Euphrates, and from thence to the opposite sea which is parallel with the ends of the earth (Chald.). Amos 8:12 mentions as such far-off regions those from the north to the east, here at the same time those in the west and south, and indeed with reference to their riches, namely, the Phœnician colony in southern Spain called by the Greeks Tartessos, with the islands, namely, of the Mediterranean Sea, and שְׁבָא in south Arabia at the same time with םְבָא in Ethiopia. Many understand by צִיִּים likewise, the Ethiopians after Sept, Aquil, and Symmach, it can only mean Arabic Beduins (Hitzig) or Nomads in general, unless we should accept a false reading instead of צָרִים, that is to say, adversaries (Olshausen, Hupfeld), because the word of the text elsewhere does not seem to designate men, but beasts of the wilderness ( Psalm 74:14; Isaiah 23:13).

[Str. IV, Psalm 72:12-14. For he delivereth.—Perowne: “The reason is given why all kings and nations should thus do homage to him who sits on David’s throne. He has merited such submission by the exercise of every royal virtue, by the justice and the mercy of his sway, by his deep sympathy with and compassion for the poor, by the protection which he extends to them against the ministers of fraud and violence. It is not that he merely covers with the shadow of his throne all neighboring nations, and is acknowledged as their political head, but that the bright example which he sets, the majesty of righteousness enthroned in his person, compels all to bow before him.”—Precious is their blood.—Compare Psalm 116:15 “precious is the death of His saints.” Their life is precious to God, and He will avenge their blood upon those who seek to injure them, and He will ward off injury from them.—C. A. B.]

Str. V. Psalm 72:15. And may he live and give him of the gold of Sheba, and pray for him continually, bless him all the day.—It is disputed whether the subject is the same in all the clauses of this verse, or whether there is a change of subject, and in the latter case (in favor of which Delitzsch appeals to the Oriental style and his Geschichte der jüdischen Poesie, S189), whether the Messianic king is the subject of live, and the following verbs are to be taken as impersonal or passive (the ancient versions, Isaki, Luther, Calvin, Umbreit), or whether the poor man is to be regarded the subject of live and bless, and the king as the subject of give and pray (J. H. Mich.), or yet of give (Maurer, Hofmann, Delitzsch). In the former case, on the other hand, it is again disputed whether the Messianic king is the subject of all the clauses (Cocc, De Dieu, Stier, Böhl), or the protected subject (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Geier and most interpreters). The last supposition is not in opposition to the immediate context, even when the aim of sparing and delivering is not regarded as directly expressed, (Ewald, Olsh.), but the consequences of the deliverance, the life and the expression of thanks. The mention of the gold of Sheba, however, is difficult. For the delivered give this, not, as it were, as the most precious and best (Geier, J. H. Mich.), which would have been called the gold of Ophir, or because he was a native of Sheba (Hupf.) as the product of his land, which does not suit Psalm 72:10 at all. We might rather suppose that the poor man ( Psalm 72:13) had been again restored by the king to his possessions (Hengst.); or since the singular then refers back to Psalm 72:12 sq, that here as there the poor man is parallel to the miserable in the comprehensive and typical sense of Biblical usage (Hupfeld). Then we should have, not a return to Psalm 72:4 (De Wette), but an expansion of the thought there expressed. But this Isaiah, to a still greater extent, the case if the king is regarded as the subject of this clause as of all the preceding.

Psalm 72:16. Let there be abundance of corn in the land, even to the top of the mountains, let its fruit rustle as Lebanon.—The derivation of פִּסָּה is doubtful. The word seems to mean not only a crowd (Syr.), but after the Aramaic פסא and the Arabic, a spreading out (Isaki). There is little probability in the derivation from פסם in the meaning of: end, that is to say, the limits of grain on the top of the mountains (Hofmann), or: piece, handful (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Calvin, Geier, most interps.)=there is a handful of corn, yet it will rustle. Besides the latter is against the accents. Abundance of corn as the sign of blessing ( Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 31:12; Zechariah 10:17) in connection with the bloom of the people ( Jeremiah 27:6), whose increase as herbs of the land or grass of the field ( Psalm 92:8; Job 5:25) likewise belongs to the blessings of the Messianic time, Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 49:20; Zechariah 2:8; Psalm 110:3; Sirach 44:21. A historical support in the time of Solomon is given in 1 Kings 4:20. The comparison with Lebanon refers to the movement of its trees in the wind. The translation: its fruits culminate or tower above as Lebanon (Sept, Ewald), presupposes a different Hebrew verb.

Psalm 72:17. Before the sun let his name sprout.—This hardly refers to his posterity, through whom his name would transplant itself (Hupfeld), but to the occasions which would repeat themselves in the coming generations for the breaking forth of the glory of this name, in which all nations may bless themselves ( Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4; Genesis 48:20). The subject which is at first general and indefinite is finally very clearly expressed.

[The doxology which closes this book is fuller than that of the 1 st Book. The use of Jehovah Elohim instead of Jehovah is characteristic, and is in accordance with the use of the Divine names in the two books.—C. A. B.] The predicate of God, Psalm 72:18 b, is like Psalm 88:6; Psalm 136:4; Job 9:8; His name bearing the impression of glory is as Nehemiah 9:5, the construction and contents of Psalm 72:19 b are from Numbers 14:21.

[The historical remark, Psalm 72:20, was apparently attached to an original collection of the Psalm of David made by Song of Solomon, or under his superintendence, to which Psalm of Solomon of a Messianic character formed the introduction and conclusion. Vid. Psalm 1, 2. This collection was composed mainly of the Psalm of the first two books, although changes in taking from and adding to may have been made in subsequent times, especially when the Psalter was completed in its present form. This historical remark may be compared with Job 31:40.—C. A. B.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Nothing can be implored for a king more rich in blessing than the capacity and power for a righteous and mild government whose fruit is peace ( Isaiah 32:17) and prosperity throughout the land. From the righteous king such a fructifying effect goes forth that the fear of God is spread abroad through the coming generations, and his rule gains an unlimited extent.

2. Yet this king will not extend his rule by the sword, but only by his righteousness and his helping love will he rule and conquer. Voluntarily other kings and their peoples will do homage to him, uneasy and hostile neighbors will sink impotent in the dust, those who have been delivered, protected and blessed by him will thankfully offer their gifts, prayers and homage. Thus will his rule endure in the power of the blessing of piety, his kingdom increase, his land prosper, his people bloom, and his name be a means of blessing from generation to generation, Psalm 45:2; Psalm 102:12.

3. Such wishes and hopes as these do not float in the air like human phantasies or empty dreams without prospect of realization; they have their sure ground in the promises of God respecting the son of David, their historical support in the Divine guidance of Israel and his kingdom, their constant type in the Theocracy, their transient type in Solomon’s peaceful rule, their final fulfilment by the Messiah and his kingdom of God, their lasting power in the faith in the blessings, by which God has decreed and promised to overcome in all generations the curse resting upon them.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Peace as the wholesome fruit of righteousness.—The fear of God as the source of earthly and heavenly blessings.The welfare of nations: a, in what it consists; b, how it is gained; c, whereby it is assured.—The blessing in the name of the Lord.—When prince and people pray with and for one another, they are blessings to one another.—Righteous judgment, mild government, and a pious mind are the jewels of the king, the happiness of the people, and are well pleasing to God.—Willing obedience, thankful love, devoted trust as testimonies of the sprouting power of the name of the Lord.—The prayers of believers have their yea and amen in the name of the Lord.—The promises respecting the duration, extent, and the happiness of the kingdom, set up by God’s king, ruled and filled with blessings by him.

Starke : The office of the magistrate is not only to punish the wicked with righteous judgment, but likewise to protect the poor and miserable.—Since God calls men to His service from all places and quarters, it is very clear that His will is that all men should be blessed.—In the world those are helped who are the least needy, whilst those who are most needy are often allowed to sink into misery; but with Christ it is not Song of Solomon, the poor are the especial objects of His compassion and deliverance.—God’s works have often to the reason a slight beginning, but afterwards a wonderful, blessed, and agreeable progress.—As sure as the true mouth of the Lord has said, that all the world shall be full of His glory, it will be fulfilled in the most complete manner.

Selnekker: O thou poor reason, and miserable flesh and blood, what art thou frightened at, and why dost thou fear death and suffering? Is my blood precious with God, what wish I more?—Renschel: The chief subjects of thanksgiving: 1) That God the Lord has done and still does such great wonders in the kingdom of Christ; 2) that He declares His name and gospel therein; 3) that He spreads it abroad in all lands; 4) that He will eternally preserve His word and His Church.—Umbreit: The love of the king is the ground of the universal conversion of nations to Him. Because He helps the poor, all the rich bow before Him.—Tholuck: As the eternal God wields the sceptre of His righteousness for the good of His oppressed congregation on earth, He has appointed His anointed to conquer the earth for His meek ones.—Guenther: Heathendom will have an end, this kingdom of sorrow and misery will blossom into the glorious kingdom of peace.—Taube : The kingdom of God comes in its royal glory only at the advent of the Lord; now are the times of preparation.

[Matth. Henry: As by the prayer of faith we return answers to God’s promises of mercy, so by the promises of mercy God returns answers to our prayers of faith.—Christ is the poor man’s King.—Subjects ought to speak well of the government that is a blessing to them; and much more ought all Christians to praise Jesus Christ, daily to praise Him; for they owe all to Him, and to Him they lie under the highest obligations.—Spurgeon: Each crystal drop of rain tells of heavenly mercy which forgets not the parched plains; Jesus is all grace, all that He does is love, and His presence among men is joy. We need to preach Him more, for no shower can so refresh the nations. Philosophic preaching mocks men as with a dust shower, but the gospel meets the case of fallen humanity, and happiness flourishes beneath its genial power.—If we can do no more than cry, it will bring omnipotence to our aid. A cry is the native language of a spiritually needy soul; it has done with fine phrases and long orations, and it takes to sobs and moans, and Song of Solomon, indeed, it grasps the most potent of all weapons, for heaven always yields to such artillery.—Christ’s subjects shall be as plentiful as blades of grass, and shall as suddenly appear as eastern verdure after a heavy shower.—C. A. B.]

Footnotes:

FN#6 - 6[Perowne: “The sun and the moon are mentioned here, and again ver7, and in Psalm 89:37, as witnesses to an everlasting order, and as it were figures of eternity, things fixed and unchangeable, compared with the fleeting, dying generations of men, as Jeremiah 31:35; Jeremiah 33:20; though as compared with God, themselves subject to decay and destruction, Psalm 102:26; Isaiah 51:6; comp. Job 14:18.”—C. A. B.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 72:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-72.html. 1857-84.

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