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Psalm 72

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Reign of the Righteous King
MT Intro
A Psalm of Solomon
Glory and Universality of the Messiah's Reign Prayer for God's Blessing On the King A Prayer for A King The Promised King
72:1-4 72:1-4 72:1-4 72:1-5 72:1-2
        71:3-4
72:5-7 72:5-7 72:5-7   72:5-6
      72:6-7  
        72:7-8
72:8-11 72:8-11 72:8-11 72:8-11  
        72:9-10b
        72:10c-11
72:12-15 72:12-15 72:12-14 72:12-14 72:12-13
        72:14-15
    72:15-17 72:15-17  
72:16-17 72:16     72:16
  72:17     72:17
72:18-19 72:18-19 72:18-19 72:18-19b 72:18-19
      72:19c  
72:20 72:20 72:20 72:20 72:20

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This is an extended prayer (i.e., "Give" — BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperative) for a righteous king and his son (possibly an allusion to 2 Samuel 7, which ultimately refers to the Messiah).

1. Your judgments — NASB, NKJV, JPSOA

— your justice — NRSV, REB,

— your own fair judgment — NJB

2. Your righteousness — NASB, NKJV, NRSV, JPSOA, REB

— your own saving justice, NJB

 

B. This Psalm captures the OT understanding of the "New Age." The covenant requirements and promises come to fruition. It if is a coronation hymn, it is royal hyperbole, but if it is imagery of the new age, it finds fulfillment in Christ. This Psalm is not quoted in the NT but Jewish and Christian sources have seen it as Messianic. See Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendix IX, p. 719.

 

C. This Psalm is dominated by imperfect verbs. The NASB, NRSV, and JPSOA see verses 2-4,5-7,8-11,15-17,19 as imperfects used in a jussive sense (i.e., "may. . .," "let. . ."), but NKJV and NJB see them all as imperfects (i.e., statements of what the Messiah will do). There are four jussives in this context (i.e., vv., 8,15,16,17).

 

D. Verse 20 is a concluding remark by a later editor/compiler of Book Two (i.e., Psalm 42-72) of the Psalter.

It is also possible that verses 18-19 comprise a closing doxology to Book Two of the Psalter.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 72:1-4
 1Give the king Your judgments, O God,
 And Your righteousness to the king's son.
 2May he judge Your people with righteousness
 And Your afflicted with justice.
 3Let the mountains bring peace to the people,
 And the hills, in righteousness.
 4May he vindicate the afflicted of the people,
 Save the children of the needy
 And crush the oppressor.

72:1-4 This strophe prays for the godly manner in which the new king (i.e., Messiah) should reign.

1. judge (plural in MT possible, expresses quality) with righteousness, cf. Isa. 9:7; 11:2-5; 32:1; for "righteousness" see Special Topic at Ps. 1:5

2. judge with justice (see Special Topic at Ps. 9:5-6), cf. Ps. 82:3

3. bring peace (the righteous king's reign will cause the land to prosper, i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30)

4. vindicate, cf. Isa. 11:4

5. save

6. crush the oppressor

Notice the different terms used to describe God's people.

1. Your people, Ps. 72:2

2. Your afflicted, Ps. 72:2,4 (JPSOA, "lowly ones")

3. the children of the needy, Ps. 72:4

All of God's family will be protected and encouraged.

There developed a tension within the covenant community between the rich and poor. This tension was transferred after the exiles to believing, faithful followers and the pagan invaders/occupiers. It is the afflicted/poor/needy who will be restored. YHWH will care for and defend them (development of Deuteronomy themes). He is their only hope and savior (cf. Ps. 103:6; 146:7).

72:3 This imagery can have several meanings.

1. mountains. . .hills refer to godly leaders

2. mountains. . .hills are functioning as personified messengers of prosperity (i.e., covenant blessings)

3. mountains. . .hills refer to the permanent stability of the Promised Land

 

▣ "water" This word (BDB 284, KB 283) is found only here in the OT. It seems to be from the Hiphil verb "dripping"; in Arabic the root means "tears flow."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 72:5-7
 5Let them fear You while the sun endures,
 And as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
 6May he come down like rain upon the mown grass,
 Like showers that water the earth.
 7In his days may the righteous flourish,
 And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

72:5-7 This strophe emphasizes two requests.

1. that God's people continue to fear/revere Him

2. that this devotion continue through time (i.e., while the sun and moon endure, cf. Gen. 8:22; Ps. 89:36-37)

If they do, then the promises of abundance from the Mosaic covenant will continue (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30). The king and the people (cf. Ps. 1:9; 2:12) must meet the covenant conditions.

72:5

NASB, JPSOA"them"
NKJV"they"
NRSV, NJB,
REV, LXX"he"

The MT has the plural, therefore, it could refer to

1. the covenant people's reverence

2. the Messianic king's (i.e., the plural of majesty) reverence

 

NASB, NKJV,
REB, JPSOA"fear"
NRSV, NEB"live"
TEV"worship"
NJB, LXX"endure"

The UBS Text Project (p. 309) gives "last" a "C" rating (considerable doubt). This follows the LXX. It fits the parallelism better.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 72:8-11
 8May he also rule from sea to sea
 And from the River to the ends of the earth.
 9Let the nomads of the desert bow before him,
 And his enemies lick the dust.
 10Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents;
 The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.
 11And let all kings bow down before him,
 All nations serve him.

72:8-11 The reign of the Messiah will be

1. universal (i.e., using terms from the ANE)

a. from sea to sea (cf. Zech. 9:10)

b. from the river (i.e., Euphrates) to the ends of the earth (i.e., Solomon ruled this area)

2. all peoples will honor Him and bring tribute, cf. Isa. 49:23

This universal reign (cf. Ps. 2:8; 59:13; 65:2; 67:7; Isa. 45:22; 52:10; Micah 5:4) is the obvious conclusion from Gen. 1:26-27 and 12:3. If monotheism is true, the redemption of all the children of Adam is the goal (see Special Topic at Psalm 2 Introduction; Psalm 2 is another Messianic Psalm).

72:9

NASB"the nomads"
NKJV (MT)"those who dwell in the wilderness"
NRSV"foes"
TEV"peoples of the desert"
NJB"beasts"
LXX"Ethiopians"
REB"desert tribes"

The word (צי, BDB 850 II, KB 1020) can mean

1. foes from צר, BDB 865 III (emendation, but fits the parallel "enemies" of Ps. 72:9b better)

2. desert animals — Ps. 74:14; Isa. 13:21; 23:13; 34:14; Jer. 50:39 (from ץיה, "dryness," cf. Jer. 50:12; 51:43)

3. it is possible (cf. NEB) that #2 refers to desert demons (see Special Topic below)

4. envoy or messenger — ציר (BDB 851 II), cf. Isa. 18:2

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

▣ "his enemies lick the dust" This is an ANE picture (i.e., wall carving and paintings) of someone bowing (cf. Ps. 72:9a) to the ground. To this was added a literary idiom of "lick the dust" (BDB 535, KB 525, Piel imperfect, cf. Isa. 49:23; Micah 7:17), which denoted the defeat and subservience of the one bowing.

72:10 "Tarshish" This place name (BDB 1077) could refer to

1. a city in southern Spain on the Atlantic side, which was a Phoenician colony (i.e., Tartessus, verse 7)

2. the island of Sardinia (cf. Gen. 10:4)

3. a city on the north African coast (Carthage was a colony of Phoenicia)

4. a metaphor for a far distant port

5. a type of large sea-going commercial ship

6. a rival maritime nation (cf. 1 Kgs. 10:22)

 

▣ "islands" This word (BDB 15 I) usually means "coast" or "island." It denotes far away nations (cf. Isa. 40:15; 66:19; Jer. 25:22; 31:10). This fits the imagery of this strophe (i.e., the universal reign of the Messiah).

▣ "Sheba" This refers to the nation or tribe from Ham living in southern Arabia.

▣ "Seba" This refers to the area of northeast Africa, often identified with Egypt and Cush (cf. Isa. 43:3; 45:14).

The purpose of mentioning these place names is to back up the assertion of verses 8 and 11.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 72:12-15
 12For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help,
 The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
 13He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
 And the lives of the needy he will save.
 14He will rescue their life from oppression and violence,
 And their blood will be precious in his sight;
 15So may he live, and may the gold of Sheba be given to him;
 And let them pray for him continually;
 Let them bless him all day long.

72:12-15 In verses 12-14 the imperfects characterize the Messiah's reign (not used in a jussive sense). However, in verse 15 the NASB returns to imperfects used in a jussive sense.

Notice the variety in the names and characterizations of God's people (cf. Ps. 72:2-4).

1. the needy, Ps. 72:12

2. the afflicted, Ps. 72:12

3. the poor, Ps. 72:13

4. the needy, Ps. 72:13

As verse 4 named their enemies "the oppressor," here they are described as "oppressors" and "those of violence." It is difficult to identify these people in Psalms.

1. unfaithful Israelites

2. pagan neighbors

3. foreign invaders

The Messianic king will

1. deliver the needy and afflicted

2. have compassion on the poor and needy

3. save the lives of the needy (cf. Ps. 69:18)

4. rescue the covenant people from oppression and violence

5. their blood/lives are precious in His sight (cf. Ps. 116:15)

 

72:14 "their blood will be precious in his sight" The Messiah is contrasted with "the oppressor" (cf. Ps. 72:4). He will genuinely care for the poor, needy, and afflicted (cf. Ps. 116:15). He has the heart of the Creator (cf. Gen. 1:26,27)! All humans are important to Him!

72:15 This verse has two thrusts.

1. the first two verbs relate to the Messianic king

a. may he live — BDB 310, KB 309, Qal jussive

b. may he be given tribute — BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. the next two verbs relate to His people

a. let them pray for Him continually — BDB 813, KB 933, Hithpael imperfect used in a jussive sense

b. let them bless Him all day long — BDB 138, KB 159, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

It is obvious that verse 15a is using a common royal expression (i.e., "long live the king"), but it takes on new meaning in light of NT revelation of the Messiah's incarnation and triumphal entry into Jerusalem!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 72:16-17
 16May there be abundance of grain in the earth on top of the mountains;
 Its fruit will wave like the cedars of Lebanon;
 And may those from the city flourish like vegetation of the earth.
 17May his name endure forever;
 May his name increase as long as the sun shines;
 And let men bless themselves by him;
 Let all nations call him blessed.

72:16-17 Both verse 16 and verse 17 start with a jussive verb, which gives a context to see all the imperfect verbs in these two verses as jussive in meaning.

This strophe continues the abundance theme begun in verses 3,5-6. This abundance is the covenantal promises of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-30.

Verse 17 focuses on the Messiah's reign.

1. may His name endure forever — used of YHWH in Ps. 135:13

2. may His name increase as long as the sun shines (cf. Ps. 72:5-7); the verb "increase" is found only here in the OT (BDB 630, KB 696, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1161); the LXX has "endure" in the parallel of verse 17a

3. let men bless themselves by Him (i.e., an allusion to Gen. 12:3; 22:18; the Abrahamic covenant, see Special Topic at Psalm 2 Introduction

4. let all the nations call Him blessed (parallel to #3)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 72:18-19
 18Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
 Who alone works wonders.
 19And blessed be His glorious name forever;
 And may the whole earth be filled with His glory.
 Amen, and Amen.

72:18-19 Notice how verse 17 (about the Messiah) is paralleled in verse 18 (about the covenant God of Israel). The king, as well as the Messiah, is to reflect the character of YHWH.

Notice the universal element again in verse 19b (cf. Num. 14:21; Isa. 6:3).

72:18 "works wonders" See Special Topic at Psalm 9:1.

72:19 "Amen" See Special Topic at Psalm 41:13.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 72:20
 20The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

72:20 This verse is an editorial note showing the close of the second book of Psalms. It is possible that verses 18-19 are also a doxological close (cf. Ps. 41:13; 89:52) to the whole second book.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this Psalm about Solomon or the future Messiah?

2. Did Solomon's reign fit verse 8?

3. How do these OT Scriptures about Israel's dominance of all nations fit with the NT?

4. Who do the "afflicted" represent?

5. How is verse 16 related to Genesis 12?

6. Are verses 18-19,20 a part of this Psalm or a close to Book II?