<<A Psalm for Solomon.>> Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.
Give the king - Supposing the psalm to have been composed by David in view of the inauguration of his son and successor, this is a prayer that God would bestow on him the qualifications which would tend to secure a just, a protracted, and a peaceful reign. Though it is to be admitted that the psalm was designed to refer ultimately to the Messiah, and to be descriptive of "his" reign, yet there is no impropriety in supposing that the psalmist believed the reign of Solomon would be, in some proper sense emblematic of that reign, and that it was his desire the reign of the one "might," as far as possible, resemble that of the other. There is no improbability, therefore, in supposing that the mind of the psalmist might have been directed to both in the composition of the psalm, and that while he used the language of prayer for the one, his eye was mainly directed to the characteristics of the other.
Thy judgments - Knowledge; authority; ability to execute thy judgments, or thy laws. That is, he speaks of the king as appointed to administer justice; to maintain the laws of God, and to exercise judicial power. It is one of the primary ideas in the character of a king that he is the fountain of justice; the maker of the laws; the dispenser of right to all his subjects. The officers of the law administer justice "under" him; the last appeal is to him.
And thy righteousness - That is, Clothe him, in the administration of justice, with a righteousness like thine own. Let it be seen that he represents "thee;" that his government may be regarded as thine own administration through him.
Unto the king's son - Not only to him, but to his successor; that is, let the administration of justice in the government be perpetuated. There is no improbability in supposing that in this the psalmist may have designed also to refer to the last and the greatest of his successors in the line - the Messiah.
He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
He shall judge thy people with righteousness - On this verse see the notes at Isaiah 11:3-4. The fact that this so entirely accords with the description in Isaiah 11, which undoubtedly refers to the Messiah, has been alluded to above as confirming the opinion that the psalm has a similar reference.
The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
The mountains shall bring peace to the people - The idea in this verse is that the land would be full of peace and the fruits of peace. All parts of it would be covered with the evidences that it was a land of quietness and security, where people could pursue their callings in safety, and enjoy the fruit of their labors. On the mountains and on all the little hills in the land there would be abundant harvests, the result of peace (so strongly in contrast with the desolations of war) - all showing the advantages of a peaceful reign. It is to be remembered that Judea is a country abounding in hills and mountains, and that a great part of its former fertility resulted from terracing the hills, and cultivating them as far as possible toward the summit. The idea here is, that one who should look upon the land - who could take in at a glance the whole country - would see those mountains and hills cultivated in the most careful manner, and everywhere bringing forth the productions of peace. Compare Psalm 65:11-13. See also the notes at Psalm 85:11-12.
And the little hills, by righteousness - That is, By the prevalence of righteousness, or under a reign of righteousness, the little hills would furnish illustrations of the influence of a reign of peace. Everywhere there would be the effects of a reign of peace. The whole land would be cultivated, and there would be abundance. Peace always produces these blessings; war always spreads desolation.
He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
He shall judge the poor of the people - The afflicted; the down-trodden; the needy. He would vindicate their cause against their oppressors; his reign would be one of impartial justice, under which the rights of the poor as well as of the rich would be respected. See the notes at Isaiah 11:4.
He shall save the children of the needy - Those in humble life; those most likely to be oppressed by others; those who have no natural protectors.
And shall break in pieces the oppressor - Shall subdue, or destroy, those who live to oppress others. See the notes at Psalm 12:5.
They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
They shall fear thee - That is, "men" shall fear thee, or thou shalt be feared, or reverenced. The idea is, that his reign would continue, or that he would be obeyed during all the time mentioned here.
As long as the sun and moon endure - literally, "With the sun, and before the moon;" that is, as long as they have the sun with them, or have it to shine upon them, and as long as they are in the presence of the moon, or have its light. In other words, they would continue to the end of time; or to the end of the world. It does not denote "eternity," for it is not assumed in the Bible that the sun and moon will continue forever; but the idea is, that as long as the sun shall continue to shine upon the earth - as long as people shall dwell upon the earth - the kingdom would be perpetual. There would be no change of dynasty; no new empire would arise to displace and to supersede this. This would be the dynasty under which the affairs of the world would be wound up; this the kingdom which would be found at the consummation of all things. The reign of the Messiah will be the "final" reign in the earth; that under which the affairs of earth will close.
Throughout all generations - While the generations of people dwell on the earth.
He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
He shall come down - That is, The influence of his reign will be like fertilising showers. The word" he" in this place might have been "it," referring to his reign, or to the influence of his government.
Like rain upon the mown grass - The word rendered "mown grass" - גז gêz - means properly "a shearing," and is applied in Deuteronomy 18:4, and Job 31:20, to a fleece of wool. So it is understood here by the Septuagint, by the Latin Vulgate, by the Syriac, and by Luther; and, in accordance with this, it has been supposed by some that there is an allusion to the dew that descended on the fleece spread out by Gideon, Judges 6:37. The Chaldee Paraphrase renders it, "As the grass that has been eaten off by locusts;" where the idea would be that after locusts have passed over a field, devouring everything, when the rain descends the fields revive, and nature again puts on the appearance of life. This idea is adopted by Rosenmuller. The common interpretation, however, which refers the word to a "mowing," that is, a "mown meadow," is probably the correct one; and thus understood, the image is very beautiful. The reign of the Messiah would resemble the gently descending shower, under which the grass which has been mown springs up again with freshness and beauty.
As showers that water the earth - literally, "like showers, the watering of the earth." The original word rendered "that water" suggests the idea of distilling, or "gently" flowing.
Psalm 72:6My doctrine shall drop as the rain
My speech shall distil as the dew
As the small rain upon the tender herb,
In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
In his days shall the righteous flourish - It will be a period when just and upright people will be protected, or when they shall receive the countenance of him who reigns. The administration of the kingdom that is to be set up will be in favor of righteousness or justice. The word "flourish" here is derived from the growth of plants - as plants sprout, or spring up - an emblem of prosperity.
And abundance of peace - literally, "multitude of peace;" that is, The things which produce peace, or which indicate peace, will not be few, but numerous; they will abound everywhere. They will be found in towns and villages, and private dwellings; in the calm and just administration of the affairs of the State; in abundant harvests; in intelligence, in education, and in undisturbed industry; in the protection extended to the rights of all.
So long as the moon endureth - Margin, as in Hebrew, "until there be no moon." That is, until the moon shall cease to shine upon the earth. See Psalm 72:5.
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea - There is probably an allusion here to the promise in Exodus 23:31 : "And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river." This was the original promise in regard to the bounds of the promised land. A promise similar to this occurs also in Genesis 15:18 : "In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." The meaning here is, that what was implied in these ancient promises would be carried out under the reign of the king referred to in the psalm. The "immediate" allusion, therefore, in the phrase "from sea to sea," may have been from the Red Sea on the East to the Mediterranean on the West; but still the language is susceptible of a more enlarged application, and may mean from one sea to another; that is, embracing all the lands or countries lying between seas and oceans; or, in other words, that the dominion would be universal. Compare the notes at Psalm 2:8.
And from the river ... - The Euphrates. This was emphatically "the river" to the Hebrews - the great river - the greatest river known to them; and this river would be naturally understood as intended by the expression, unless there was something to limit it. Besides, this was expressly designated in the original covenant as the boundary of the promised land. See, as above, Genesis 15:18. The meaning here is, that, taking that river as one of the boundaries, or as a starting point, the dominion would extend from that to the utmost limits of the earth. It would have no other boundary but the limits of the world. The promise, therefore, is, that the dominion would be universal, or would pervade the earth; at once a kingdom of peace, and yet spreading itself all over the world. It is hardly necessary to say that this did not occur under Solomon, and that it could not have been expected that it would occur under him, and especially as it was expected that his reign would be one of peace and not of conquest. It would find its complete fulfillment only under the Messiah.
They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him - The word rendered "they that dwell in the wilderness" - ציים tsı̂yı̂ym, means properly those who abide in deserts, dry places, solitudes; and it might be applied either to animals or to people. It is applied to the former in Isaiah 13:21 (see the notes at that place); Isaiah 23:13; Isaiah 34:14; Jeremiah 50:39. In all these, except Isaiah 23:13, it is rendered "wild beasts of the desert," denoting jackals, ostriches, etc.; but here, and in Psalm 74:14, it is evidently applied to people, as denoting shepherds - nomadic tribes - people who have no permanent home, but who wander from place to place. The idea is, that these wild, wandering, unsettled hordes would become subject to him, or would bow down and acknowledge his authority. This can be fulfilled only under the Messiah.
And his enemies shall lick the dust - This is expressive of the most thorough submission and abject humiliation. It is language derived from what seems actually to occur in Oriental countries, where people prostrate themselves on their faces, and place their mouths on the ground, in token of reverence or submission. Rosenmuller (Morgenland, vol. ii., pp. 82, 83) quotes a passage from Hugh Boyd's Account of his embassage to Candy in Ceylon, where he says that when he himself came to show respect to the king, it was by kneeling before him. But this, says he, was not the case with other ambassadors. "They almost literally licked the dust. They cast themselves on their faces on the stony ground, and stretched out their arms and legs; then they raised themselves upon their knees, and uttered certain forms of good wishes in the loudest tones - May the head of the king of kings reach above the sun; may he reign a thousand years." Compare the notes at Isaiah 49:23.
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
The kings of Tarshish - On the situation of Tarshish, see the notes at Isaiah 2:16. Compare Psalm 48:7. The word seems to be used here to denote any distant region abounding with riches.
And of the isles ... - Representing also distant lands; or lands beyond the seas. The word "islands" among the Hebrews commonly denoted distant seacoasts, particularly those of the Mediterranean. See the notes at Isaiah 41:1.
Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
Yea, all kings shall fall down ... - That is, his reign will be universal. The kings and people mentioned in the previous verses are only specimens of what will occur. "All" kings - "all" nations - will do what these are represented as doing. They will submit to the Messiah; they will own him as their Lord. See the notes at Psalm 2:8. Compare Isaiah 49:23.
For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth - The sufferer; the down-trodden; the oppressed. See the notes at Psalm 72:4. Compare the notes at Isaiah 61:1.
The poor also ... - All who have no protector; all who are exposed to injustice and wrong from others. This is everywhere declared to be the characteristic of the reign of the Messiah. See the notes at Isaiah 11:4.
He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
He shall spare the poor and needy - He will have pity on; he will show mercy or favor to them.
And shall save the souls of the needy - Will guard and defend them; will be their protector and friend. His administration will have special respect to those who are commonly overlooked, and who are exposed to oppression and wrong.
He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence - He will rescue their lives; that is, he will deliver them from the hands of men who practice deceit, or who are dishonest and unjust - and from the hands of those who oppress. This is stating in another form the idea that his reign would be one of equity, protecting the rights of the poor, and delivering the oppressed.
And precious shall their blood be in his sight - That is, so precious that he will not permit it to be shed unjustly, but will come to their rescue when their life is in danger; or, that - being shed - he will regard it as so valuable that he will not permit it to go unavenged. He will never be indifferent to their safety, or their reputation.
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.
And he shall live - So far as the lanquage here is concerned, this may either refer to the king - the Messiah - or to the poor and the oppressed man. If the former, then it means that the life of the Messiah would be perpetual; that he would not be cut off as other sovereigns are; that there would be no change of dynasty; that he would be, as a king, the same - unchanging and unchanged - in all the generations of people, and in all the revolutions which occur on the earth. This would accord with the truth, and with what is elsewhere said of the Messiah; but, perhaps, the more correct interpretation is the latter - that it refers to the poor and the oppressed man - meaning that he would live to bring an offering to the Messiah, and to pray for the extension of his kingdom upon the earth.
And to him shall be given - Margin, "one shall give." Literally, "he shall give to him;" that is, the man who has enjoyed his protection, and who has been saved by him, will do this. As a token of his gratitude, and as an expression of his submission, he will bring to him a costly offering, the gold of Sheba.
Of the gold of Sheba - One of the gifts referred to in Psalm 72:10, as coming from Sheba. Compare Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 45:14. The meaning is, that those who are redeemed by him - who owe so much to him for protecting and saving them - will bring the most valued things of the earth, or will consecrate to him all that they are, and all that they possess. Compare Isaiah 60:5-7, Isaiah 60:13-17.
Prayer also shall be made for him continually - Not for him personally, but for the success of his reign, for the extension of his kingdom. Prayer made for "that" is made for "him," for he is identified with that.
And daily shall he be praised - Every day; constantly. It will not be only at stated and distant intervals - at set seasons, and on special occasions - but those who love him will do it every day. It is not necessary to say that this accords with the truth in reference to those who are the friends and followers of the Messiah - the Lord Jesus. Their lives are lives of praise and gratitude. From their dwellings daily praise ascends to him; from their hearts praise is constant; praise uttered in the closet and in the family; praise breathed forth from the heart, whether on the farm, in the workshop, on a journey, or in the busy marts of commerce. The time will come when this shall be universal; when he who can take in at a glance the condition of the world, will see it to be a world of praise; when he who looks on all hearts at the same moment will see a world full of thankfulness.
There shall be an handful of corn in the earth 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.
There shall be an handful of corn - "Of grain," for so the word means in the Scriptures. The "general" idea in this verse is plain. It is, that, in the time of the Messiah, there would be an ample supply of the fruits of the earth; or that his reign would tend to the promotion of prosperity, industry, abundance. It would be as if fields of grain waved everywhere, even on the tops of mountains, or as if the hills were cultivated to the very summit, so that the whole land would be covered over with waving, smiling harvests. There is a difference of opinion, however, and consequently of interpretation, as to the meaning of the word rendered "handful." This word - פסה pissâh - occurs nowhere else, and it is impossible, therefore, to determine its exact meaning. By some it is rendered "handful;" by others, "abundance." The former interpretation is adopted by Prof. Alexander, and is found in the older interpreters generally; the latter is the opinion of Gesenius, DeWette, and most modern expositors.
It is also the interpretation in the Syriac. The Vulgate and the Septuagint render it "strength" - meaning something "firm" or "secure," "firmamentum," στήριγμα stērigma. According to the explanation which regards the word as meaning "handful," the idea is, that there would be a great contrast between the small beginnings of the Messiah's reign and its ultimate triumph - as if a mere handful of grain were sown on the top of a mountain - on a place little likely to produce anything - a place usually barren and unproductive - which would grow into an abundant harvest, so that it would wave everywhere like the cedar trees of Lebanon. According to the other interpretation, the idea is simply that there would be an "abundance" in the land. The whole land would be cultivated, even to the tops of the hills, and the evidences of plenty would be seen everywhere. It is impossible to determine which of these is the correct idea; but both agree in that which is essential - that the reign of the Messiah would be one of peace and plenty. The former interpretation is the most poetic, and the most beautiful. It accords, also, with other representations - as in the parable of the grain of mustard-seed, and the parable of the leaven; and it accords, also, with the fact that the beginning of the Gospel was small in comparison with what would be the ultimate result. This would seem to render that interpretation the most probable.
In the earth - In the land; the land of Canaan; the place where the kingdom of the Messiah would be set up.
Upon the top of the mountains - In places "like" the tops of mountains. The mountains and hills were seldom cultivated to the tops. Yet here the idea is, that the state of things under the Messiah would be as if a handful of grain were sown in the place most unlikely to produce a harvest, or which no one thought of cultivating. No one needs to be told how well this would represent the cold and barren human heart in general; or the state of the Jewish world in respect to true religion, at the time when the Saviour appeared.
The fruit thereof - That which would spring up from the mere handful of grain thus sown.
Shall shake like Lebanon - Like the cedar trees of Lebanon. The harvest will wave as those tall and stately trees do. This is an image designed to show that the growth would be strong and abundant, far beyond what could have been anticipated from the small quantity of the seed sown, and the barrenness of the soil. The word rendered "shake" means more than is implied in our word "shake" or "wave." It conveys also the idea of a rushing sound, such as that which whistles among cedar or pine trees. "The origin of the Hebrew verb," says Gesenius, "and its primary idea lies in the "noise" and "crashing" which is made by concussion." Hence, it is used to denote the "rustling" motion of grain waving in the wind, and the sound of the wind whistling through trees when they are agitated by it.
And they of the city - Most interpreters suppose that this refers to Jerusalem, as the center of the Messiah's kingdom. It seems more probable, however, that it is not designed to refer to Jerusalem, or to any particular city, but to stand in contrast with the top of the mountain. Cities and hills would alike flourish; there would be prosperity everywhere - in barren and unpopulated wastes, and in places where people had been congregated together. The "figure" is changed, as is not uncommon, but the "idea" is retained. The indications of prosperity would be apparent everywhere.
Shall flourish like grass of the earth - As grass springs out of the ground, producing the idea of beauty and plenty. See the notes at Isaiah 44:3-4.
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.
His name shall endure for ever - Margin, as in Hebrew, "Shall be forever;" that is, "He" shall endure forever.
His name shall be continued as long as the sun - As long as that continues to shine - an expression designed to express perpetuity. See the notes at Psalm 72:5. The margin here is, "shall be as a son to continue his father's name forever." The Hebrew word - נון nûn - means "to sprout, to put forth;" and hence, to "flourish." The idea is that of a tree which continues always to sprout, or put forth leaves, branches, blossoms; or, which never dies.
All nations shall call him blessed - Shall praise him; shall speak of him as the source of their highest comforts, joys, and hopes. See Luke 19:38; Matthew 21:9; Matthew 23:39. The time will come when all the nations of the earth will honor and praise him.
Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel - The God who rules over Israel; the God who is worshipped by the Hebrew people, and who is recognized as their God. They adore him as the true God; and he "is" their God, their Protector, their Friend.
Who only doeth wondrous things - Things that can properly be regarded as "wonders;" things suited to excite admiration by their vastness and power. Compare Exodus 15:11.
And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
And blessed be his glorious name for ever - The name by which he is known - referring perhaps particularly to his name "Yahweh." Still the prayer would be, that all the names by which he is known, all by which he has revealed himself, might be regarded with veneration always and everywhere.
And let the whole earth be filled with his glory - With the knowledge of himself; with the manifestations of his presence; with the influences of his religion. Compare Numbers 14:21. This prayer was especially appropriate at the close of a psalm designed to celebrate the glorious reign of the Messiah. Under that reign the earth will be, in fact, filled with the glory of God; the world will be a world of glory. Assuredly all who love God, and who love mankind, all who desire that God may be honored, and that the world may be blessed and happy, will unite in this fervent prayer, and reecho the hearty "Amen and amen" of the psalmist.
Amen, and amen - So be it. Let this occur. Let this time come. The expression is doubled to denote intensity of feeling. It is the going out of a heart full of desire that this might be so.
The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.
The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended - This is not found in the Syriac. The following is added in that version at the close of the psalm: "The end of the Second Book." In regard to this twentieth verse, it is quite clear that it is no part of the psalm; and it is every way probable that it was not placed here by the author of the psalm, and also that it has no special and exclusive reference to this psalm, for the psalm could in no special sense be called "a prayer of David." The words bear all the marks of having been placed at the close of a collection of psalms, or a division of the Book of Psalms, to which might be given as an appropriate designation, the title "The Prayers of David, the son of Jesse;" meaning that that book, or that division of the book, was made up of the compositions of David, and might be thus distinguished from other portions of the general collection. This would not imply that in this part of the collection there were literally no other psalms than those which had been composed by David, or that none of the psalms of David might be found in other parts of the general collection, but that this division was more entirely made up of his psalms, and that the name might therefore be given to this as his collection. It may be fairly inferred from this, that there was such a collection, or that there were, in the Book of Psalms, divisions which were early recognized. See the General Introduction. Dr. Horsley supposes, however, that this declaration, "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended," pertains to this psalm alone, as if David had nothing more to pray for or to wish than what was expressed in these glowing representations of the kingdom of the Messiah, and of the happy times which would be enjoyed under his rule.