Where the world comes to study the Bible

Psalm 89


The Lord's Covenant with David, and Israel's Afflictions
MT Intro
A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite
Remembering the Covenant with David, and Sorrow for Lost Blessings A King Prays for Deliverance From His Enemies A Hymn in Time of National Trouble Hymn and Prayer to God the Faithful
89:1-4 89:1-2 89:1-2 89:1-4 89:1-2
  89:3-4 89:3-4   89:3-4
89:5-10 89:5-10 89:5-18 89:5-14 89:5-6
89:11-18 89:11-18     89:11-12
      89:15-18 89:15-16
      God's Promise to David 89:17-18
89:19-29 89:19-23 89:19-37 89:19-29 89:19
  89:24-29     89:24-25
89:30-37 89:30-37   89:30-34 89:30-31
      Lament Over the Defeat of the King 89:36-37
89:38-45 89:38-45 89:38-45 89:38-45 89:38-39
89:46-48 89:46-48 89:46-48 89:46-48 89:46-48
89:49-51 89:49-51 89:49-51 89:49-51 89:49-51
89:52 89:52 89:52 89:52 89:52

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


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. Etc.



A. This Psalm affirms YHWH's permanent choice of Abraham and his descendants by covenant promise (cf. Gen. 12:1-3; 15:12-21). These covenant promises are fully embodied in David and his royal Judean seed (cf. 2 Samuel 7; 1 Kgs. 8:16).

B. YHWH is the creator and sustainer of His people (Ps. 89:11-18). He is the leader of the heavenly council (Ps. 89:5-10,19), which exists to accomplish His purposes.

C. But a tragedy has occurred: His people and their leaders are not faithful, not obedient (Ps. 89:38-45). Now there is a problem.

1. God has made promises

2. His people have failed

What will He do (Ps. 89:46-48,49-51)?

D. It is interesting that this Psalm, unlike most Psalms, does not focus on Jerusalem (but Ps. 89:1-2,15 implies temple worship) and the temple, but on the Davidic seed. It is surely drawing from 2 Samuel 7, which is about both

1. the building of the temple

2. the continuing of the Davidic dynasty

Number 1 is not even specifically mentioned in this Psalm.

E. Just a note about how the NT reinterprets these OT promises to Israel. Please see my commentaries online ( on Romans 2:28-29; 9:6; Gal. 3:7-9,26; 6:16; 1 Pet. 3:6! The NT has widened the promises of God to include all the children of Adam (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

F. On the theological tension between conditional and unconditional covenant promises, see notes at Ps. 89:30-37.



 1I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever;
 To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.
 2For I have said, "Lovingkindness will be built up forever;
 In the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness."
 3"I have made a covenant with My chosen;
 I have sworn to David My servant,
 4I will establish your seed forever
 And build up your throne to all generations."  Selah.

89:1-4 This strophe in NASB is divided into two strophes (Ps. 89:1-2, 3-4) by NKJV, NRSV, NJB because there are two speakers.

1. the psalmist in Ps. 89:1-2

a. I will sing - BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal cohortative

b. I will make known - BDB 393, KB 390, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

c. I have said. . . - BDB 55, KB 65, Qal perfect

2. YHWH Himself in Ps. 89:3-4

a. I have made a covenant - BDB 503, KB 500, Qal perfect

b. I have sworn - BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal perfect

c. I will establish - BDB 465, KB 464, Hiphil imperfect

d. I will build up - BDB 124, KB 139, Qal perfect with waw (links to perfects in a and b)


89:1 There are three words that occur several times in this Psalm.

1. lovingkindness, Ps. 89:1,2,14,24,28,33,49 - see SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED)

2. forever, Ps. 89:1,2,4,28,37,52 - see Special Topic: Forever ('olam)

3. faithfulness, Ps. 89:1,2,5,8,24,33,49 - see Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT

They establish the hope of Israel in God's call, grace, protection, and provision forever.

The term "forever" is parallel to "all generations" (Ps. 89:1b, 4b).

89:3 "covenant" See Special Topic: Covenant.

▣ "My chosen. . .David" This probably refers to

1. the choice of David as king over Saul, 1 Samuel 16; 2 Sam. 7:8

2. the promise to David about his descendants, 2 Sam. 7:12-17


▣ "My Servant" This becomes an honorific title (some examples).

1. Moses - Num. 12:7; Jos. 1:2

2. Joshua - Jdgs. 2:8

3. David - 1 Kgs. 8:24,25,26; Ps. 89:20

4. Solomon - 1 Kgs. 8:28

5. Messiah - Isa. 42:1; 52:13-53:12

6. Israel - Isa. 41:8; 42:19; 43:10; 44:1,21


89:4 This is an allusion to 2 Samuel 7. This Psalm has several allusions to YHWH's promise to David and his descendants.

1. Ps. 89:4 - 2 Sam. 7:13,16

2. Ps. 89:22 - 2 Sam. 7:10

3. Ps. 89:23 - 2 Sam. 7:9

4. Ps. 89:29 - 2 Sam. 7:13,16

5. Ps. 89:33 - 2 Sam. 7:15

6. Ps. 89:35 - 2 Sam. 7:8-17


▣ "your throne to all generations" This same promise is made in Isa. 9:7; Dan. 2:44; 7:14,18,27; Luke 1:33. YHWH has an eternal redemptive plan for all humans. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

The term "generations" is used of

1. promise to Noah - Gen. 9:12

2. promise to Abram - Gen. 17:7,9

3. promise to Israel - Deut. 7:9

4. promise to David - Ps. 89:4 (reflecting 2 Sam. 7:13,16)


▣ "Selah" This occurs at the end of Ps. 89:4, 37, 45, 48. It often serves to close a strophe. On the meaning of the word (BDB 699) see note online at Ps. 3:2.

 5The heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord;
 Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
 6For who in the skies is comparable to the Lord?
 Who among the sons of the mighty is like the Lord,
 7A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones,
 And awesome above all those who are around Him?
 8O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord?
 Your faithfulness also surrounds You.
 9You rule the swelling of the sea;
 When its waves rise, You still them.
 10You Yourself crushed Rahab like one who is slain;
 You scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm.

89:5-10 This strophe has two themes.

1. YHWH is the leader of the angelic council (Ps. 89:5-8)

a. the heavens - personified angelic council, Ps. 89:5a

b. the assembly of the holy ones, Ps. 89:5b - BDB 874 construct BDB 872

c. the sons of gods, Ps. 89:6 - BDB 119 construct BDB 42, see notes at Ps. 29:1 and 82:1

d. the council of the holy ones, Ps. 89:7a - BDB 691 construct BDB 872

e. all those who are around Him, Ps. 89:7b

f. for a good discussion of the Hebrew terminology see Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., p. 412

2. YHWH as creator (i.e., over watery chaos) and holy warrior for Israel (i.e., over Egypt and Canaan, Ps. 89:9-10)

There are two Special Topics that help clarify the use of "son"


2. Special Topic: The Sons of God (Genesis 6)

Also note the excellent article in NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 671-677, esp. 676.

89:5 "the heavens" This is either

1. a personification of

a. earth

b. God's abode (parallel to "who in the skies")

2. another way to refer to the angelic council (see note above)


▣ "O Lord" Notice the number of names/titles for Deity in this strophe.

1. Lord, Ps. 89:2, 5, 6 (twice), 8 - YHWH

2. God, Ps. 89:7 - El

3. God of hosts, Ps. 89:8 - Eloah Sabaoth

4. O mighty Lord, Ps. 89:8 - Yah (cf. Ps. 68:4); the adjective "mighty" (BDB 340) is found only here in the OT


89:6-8 These questions are often used in two senses.

1. an affirmation of monotheism, see Special Topic: Monotheism

2. a way of depreciating the pagan idols (possibly Ps. 82:1)


89:8 "Your faithfulness also surrounds You" This phrase is difficult to understand. Some possibilities:

1. faithfulness is like a robe wrapped about YHWH

2. He is faithful in all things (TEV)

3. He is constant (NJB, i.e., to His word)


89:10 "Rahab" This (BDB 923) can refer to

1. watery chaos monster (cf. Ps. 74:12-17, i.e. Babylonian creation accounts, see my notes online on Intro. to Genesis 1-11)

2. Egypt (i.e., it's defeat by YHWH and the exodus, cf. Isa. 51:9-11)


 11The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours;
 The world and all it contains, You have founded them.
 12The north and the south, You have created them;
 Tabor and Hermon shout for joy at Your name.
 13You have a strong arm;
 Your hand is mighty, Your right hand is exalted.
 14Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
 Lovingkindness and truth go before You.
 15How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
 O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance.
 16In Your name they rejoice all the day,
 And by Your righteousness they are exalted.
 17For You are the glory of their strength,
 And by Your favor our horn is exalted.
 18For our shield belongs to the Lord,
 And our king to the Holy One of Israel.

89:11-18 This strophe praises YHWH and expresses how blessed His people are.


a. the heavens are His

b. the earth is His because He founded them (i.e., YHWH as creator, cf. Ps. 24:1-2; 78:69b; 102:25; Isa. 51:13,16)

c. the north and south were created by Him (imagery similar to Job 26:7)

d. the mountains of Tabor and Hermon are personified and shout at His name (cf. Ps. 65:12; 98:8)

e. His power (i.e., hand or arm, cf. Ps. 89:10, see SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND) to act is praised

(1) He has a strong arm 

(2) His hand is mighty

(3) His right hand is exalted

f. four of His characteristics are personified as characterizing His person and reign (cf. Ps. 97:2)

(1) righteousness (see Special Topic: Righteousness)

(2) justice (see Special Topic: Judge, Justice, Judgment)

(3) lovingkindness (see Special Topic: Lovingkindness [hesed])

(4) truth/faithfulness (see Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT)

g. He is "the Holy One of Israel" (cf. Ps. 71:22; 78:41: Isa. 1:4; see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HOLY ONE)

2. His people

a. blessed are those who hear the trumpet (i.e., temple worship)

b. walk in the light of His countenance (lit. "face," which denotes YHWH's personal presence, cf. Ps. 90:8)

c. rejoice all day in His name (i.e., worship setting or military victory)

d. exalted by YHWH's righteousness (i.e., holy character and revelation)

e. YHWH is their glory and strength (cf. Ps. 28:8)

f. horn (i.e., power, prestige)

g. protection (lit. "shield") is YHWH (cf. Ps. 47:9)

h. the king is also of YHWH

The pronoun "our" in Ps. 89:17-18 shows that YHWH uses the king of Israel as His "protecting/victorious horn and shield" (i.e., f-h).

89:12 "the north and the south" It is possible these two terms are the names of two more mountains (i.e., Zaphon, i.e., the name of the Mt. of Ba'al, north of Ugarit; and Yamin or the emendation linking Amana, a mountain in southern Turkey, cf. Sol. 4:8). This would form a parallel with Tabor and Hermon.

Most translators take them as opposite points of the compass showing YHWH's universal reign as creator.

89:16 "Your name. . .Your righteousness" These are parallel and both refer to YHWH Himself.

9:17 "horn" This is an idiom of power (cf. Ps. 75:10; 89:24; 92:10; 148:14), taken from the animal realm.

89:18 "shield. . .king" These could both refer to YHWH or they could refer to the Davidic king (cf. Ps. 89:19-29; Ps. 84:10), God's anointed one to accomplish His purposes.

 19Once You spoke in vision to Your godly ones,
 And said, "I have given help to one who is mighty;
 I have exalted one chosen from the people.
 20I have found David My servant;
 With My holy oil I have anointed him,
 21With whom My hand will be established;
 My arm also will strengthen him.
 22The enemy will not deceive him,
 Nor the son of wickedness afflict him.
 23But I shall crush his adversaries before him,
 And strike those who hate him.
 24My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him,
 And in My name his horn will be exalted.
 25I shall also set his hand on the sea
 And his right hand on the rivers.
 26He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father,
 My God, and the rock of my salvation.'
 27I also shall make him My firstborn,
 The highest of the kings of the earth.
 28My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever,
 And My covenant shall be confirmed to him.
 29So I will establish his descendants forever
 And his throne as the days of heaven."

89:19-29 This strophe is specifically about King David and his royal Judean descendants (cf. 2 Samuel 7). He becomes a type/symbol of the Messiah (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH).

YHWH has spoken to His people (lit. Your godly/faithful [BDB 339] ones) about His special choice for the King of Israel (Ps. 89:19).

1. he was exalted, Ps. 89:19

2. he was chosen from among the people, Ps. 89:19

3. he was found, Ps. 89:20

4. he was anointed, Ps. 89:20 (cf. 1 Sam. 16:1-13; this is the Hebrew verb from which the title "Messiah" comes, see SPECIAL TOPIC: OT TITLES OF THE SPECIAL COMING ONE)

5. he was established, Ps. 89:21

6. he was strengthened, Ps. 89:21

7. he will not be deceived (BDB 674 II) or afflicted, Ps. 89:22

8. his adversaries will be crushed, Ps. 89:23

9. YHWH's personified characteristics (i.e., faithfulness and lovingkindness) will accompany him, Ps. 89:24

10. YHWH's name will exalt his horn, Ps. 89:24

11. he will control his territory, Ps. 89:25 (i.e., from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates River, cf. Exod. 23:31; Deut. 1:7-8)

12. he will call God in intimate ways, Ps. 89:26

a. my Father (see SPECIAL TOPIC: FATHERhood of God and SPECIAL TOPIC: FATHER)

b. my God (El)

c. the rock of my salvation (cf. Ps. 95:1)

13. He will be appointed (no sexual generation) the honorific title "My firstborn" (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chr. 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps. 2:7), Ps. 89:27

14. he will be made the highest of the kings of the earth (cf. Ps. 72:11, obviously a Messianic title, cf. 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 1:5; 17:14; 19:16, a title for YHWH from Dan. 2:47; the kingdom will be universal, cf. Micah 5:4), Ps. 89:27

15. like #9, another personified characteristic of YHWH, will keep him forever, Ps. 89:28

16. YHWH's covenant will confirm him, Ps. 89:28 (cf. Ps. 89:3,34)

17. his descendants will be established and reign forever, Ps. 89:29 (cf. Ps. 89:4; 2 Samuel 7)


89:19 "Once You spoke in visions" This refers to Nathan speaking to David in 2 Sam. 7:14-17.

▣ "I have given help" The verb (BDB 1001, KB 1438, Piel perfect) means to set or to place.

The word "half" (עזר, BDB 740 I) is understood by some translators as

1. "diadem" - Godspeed

2. "crown" - NRSV, NAB

The term "crown" would involve an emendation to the MT, by changing the first letter, i.e., נזר, BDB 634, cf. Exod. 29:6; 39:30; Lev. 8:9; 21:12; 2 Sam. 1:10; 2 Kgs. 11:12; Ps. 89:39; 132:18; Pro. 27:24; Zech. 9:16.  The UBS Text Project gives "help" an A rating (very high probability, p. 354).

 30"If his sons forsake My law
 And do not walk in My judgments,
 31If they violate My statutes
 And do not keep My commandments,
 32Then I will punish their transgression with the rod
 And their iniquity with stripes.
 33But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him,
 Nor deal falsely in My faithfulness.
 34My covenant I will not violate,
 Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.
 35Once I have sworn by My holiness;
 I will not lie to David.
 36His descendants shall endure forever
 And his throne as the sun before Me.
 37It shall be established forever like the moon,
 And the witness in the sky is faithful."  Selah.

89:30-37 This strophe is the shocking contrast to the wonderful plans and purposes of YHWH for His people (note "if" at Ps. 89:30 and 31).

1. they left His law, Ps. 89:30

2. they did not walk in His judgments, Ps. 89:30

3. they profaned His statutes, Ps. 89:31

4. they did not keep His commandments, Ps. 89:31

Yet YHWH makes a series of statements about what He will and will not do, even in light of Israel's failure to be faithful. He is faithful!

1. I will punish them for their sin, Ps. 89:32

2. but I will not break off My lovingkindness, Ps. 89:33

3. but I will not deal falsely because of My faithfulness, Ps. 89:33

4. I will not violate My own covenant, Ps. 89:34

5. I will not alter My words, Ps. 89:34

6. once I have sworn, I will not lie to David, Ps. 89:35

a. his descendants (lit. "seed") will endure forever, Ps. 89:36

b. his throne is as secure as the sun, moon, sky, Ps. 89:36b-37 (for the secure order of creation see Jer. 31:35-37)

This illustrates the tension between conditional and unconditional promises. I have discussed this issue in two places.


2. Crucial Intro. to Revelation, see Special Topic: OT Predictions of the Future vs. NT Predictions, especially the "third tension" 

This same tension between a conditional and unconditional promise is illustrated by the contrast between Isaiah's emphatic statements that Jerusalem would never fall (Isaiah 37) and Jeremiah's insistence that it will fall because of Judah's idolatry and covenant disobedience.

The best guess at the historical crisis that elicited this Psalm is the exile of the Davidic King, either by Pharoah Necho II or Nebuchadnezzar II. This is only a guess; the Psalm itself does not clearly indicate the historical setting. Some kind of divine judgment has affected the Davidic king.

89:30-31 "law. . .judgments. . .statutes. . .commandments" These are all parallel terms for YHWH's revelation in Scripture. See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

 38But You have cast off and rejected,
 You have been full of wrath against Your anointed.
 39You have spurned the covenant of Your servant;
 You have profaned his crown in the dust.
 40You have broken down all his walls;
 You have brought his strongholds to ruin.
 41All who pass along the way plunder him;
 He has become a reproach to his neighbors.
 42You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries;
 You have made all his enemies rejoice.
 43You also turn back the edge of his sword
 And have not made him stand in battle.
 44You have made his splendor to cease
 And cast his throne to the ground.
 45You have shortened the days of his youth;
 You have covered him with shame.  Selah.

89:38-45 In light of YHWH's statements about His faithfulness to the covenants (esp. Abraham and David) He has judged His people for their sin (cf. Ps. 89:32). This judgment was severe and seemingly unexplainable to Israel (series of perfects).

1. He cast off His anointed

2. He rejected (rare word, BDB 611, KB 658, cf. Lam. 2:7) His anointed

3. He is full of wrath for His anointed

4. He spurned the covenant of His servant

5. He profaned his crown

6. He broke down the walls (of Jerusalem)

7. He brought his stronghold to ruin

8. He allowed foreigners to plunder him

9. He allowed him to become a reproach to his neighbors

10. He exalted the power of his enemies

11. He made his enemies rejoice

12. He allowed him to be defeated

13. He allowed his splendor to cease (see note below)

14. He cast his throne to the ground

15. He shortened his life (cf. Ps. 102:23)

16. He covered him in shame

Wow! What a judgment! Thank God for Ps. 89:33-37. Thank God for the NT, the gospel, the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus!


NKJV, Peshitta"glory"
NJB"scepter from his hand"

The term (מטהרו, BDB 372, UBS "A" rating) appears only here in the OT. The masculine noun's basic meaning is "clearness" or "luster," which comes from the verb. The UBS Text Project (p. 356) suggests that NASB or LXX be followed. The emendation (מטה) of NRSV fits the parallelism of Ps. 89:44b better.

89:41-48 This strophe asks the questions that have been repeated often in Psalms: "How long?" (cf. Ps. 6:3; 13:1; 74:10; 79:5; 80:4; 90:13; 94:3).

The unique aspect of this strophe is not the questions but the reasons given for YHWH to act (Ps. 89:47-51).

1. remember (Qal imperative) the frailty of human existence, Ps. 89:47-48

2. remember (Qal imperative) Your lovingkindness and faithful oaths to David

3. remember the reproach of Your people among the nations

4. remember that Your anointed has been reproached

There is a larger redemptive plan involving Israel and her Messiah. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

 46How long, O Lord?
 Will You hide Yourself forever?
 Will Your wrath burn like fire?
 47Remember what my span of life is;
 For what vanity You have created all the sons of men!
 48What man can live and not see death?
 Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?  Selah.

89:46 "fire" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

 49Where are Your former lovingkindnesses, O Lord,
 Which You swore to David in Your faithfulness?
 50Remember, O Lord, the reproach of Your servants;
 How I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples,
 51With which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord,
 With which they have reproached the footsteps of Your anointed.

89:49 "O Lord" This is the term Adon (i.e., Lord, owner, master). Notice it reappears in Ps. 89:50, but is YHWH in Ps. 89:51. The covenant name for God dominates this Psalm (5 times).

 52Blessed be the Lord forever!
 Amen and Amen.

89:52 God will work it out! He will be both just and merciful. He will be true to His word!

This phrase is not part of Psalm 89 but the closing doxology of Book III of the Psalter (i.e., the other books also close with doxologies, Ps. 4:14; 72:18-19; 106:48).



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. Read this Psalm as a whole; what is the subject of the Psalm?

2. Explain the difference between an unconditional covenant and a conditional covenant.

3. Define "lovingkindness" and "faithfulness."

4. How is this Psalm related to 2 Samuel 7?

5. Does the OT use Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Canaanite mythology? If so, why?

6. How is the Israeli king a son of God?

7. Does this Psalm have a Messianic aspect? If so, how?

Report Inappropriate Ad