Psalm 72:9
They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
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(9) They that dwell in the wilderness. . . .—The Hebrew word in other places is used of “wild animals” (Psalm 74:14; Isaiah 23:13). Here apparently it refers to the nomad tribes wandering over the desert. The LXX. and ancient versions generally have “Æthiopians.”

Lick the dust.—The allusion is to the Eastern etiquette of prostration before a sovereign.

Psalm 72:9. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him — That is, that inhabit solitary places. The Hebrew word, ציים, tziim, here used,

(from ציה, tziah siccitas, dryness, or a dry place,) is applied to barren grounds or deserts, parched up for want of springs and rains, and it here signifies the inhabitants of such countries, and particularly the people and kings of Arabia Deserta. These were tributary to Solomon, 1 Kings 10:15, and great numbers of them submitted to Christ, and received his gospel. And his enemies shall lick the dust — Shall prostrate themselves to the ground in token of reverence and subjection to him, as was the custom of the eastern people.

72:2-17 This is a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ; many passages in it cannot be applied to the reign of Solomon. There were righteousness and peace at first in the administration of his government; but, before the end of his reign, there were troubles and unrighteousness. The kingdom here spoken of is to last as long as the sun, but Solomon's was soon at an end. Even the Jewish expositors understood it of the kingdom of the Messiah. Observe many great and precious promises here made, which were to have full accomplishment only in the kingdom of Christ. As far as his kingdom is set up, discord and contentions cease, in families, churches, and nations. The law of Christ, written in the heart, disposes men to be honest and just, and to render to all their due; it likewise disposes men to live in love, and so produces abundance of peace. Holiness and love shall be lasting in Christ's kingdom. Through all the changes of the world, and all the changes of life, Christ's kingdom will support itself. And he shall, by the graces and comforts of his Spirit, come down like rain upon the mown grass; not on that cut down, but that which is left growing, that it may spring again. His gospel has been, or shall be, preached to all nations. Though he needs not the services of any, yet he must be served with the best. Those that have the wealth of this world, must serve Christ with it, do good with it. Prayer shall be made through him, or for his sake; whatever we ask of the Father, should be in his name. Praises shall be offered to him: we are under the highest obligations to him. Christ only shall be feared throughout all generations. To the end of time, and to eternity, his name shall be praised. All nations shall call HIM blessed.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.

9-11. The extent of the conquests.

They that dwell in the wilderness—the wild, untutored tribes of deserts.

bow … dust—in profound submission. The remotest and wealthiest nations shall acknowledge Him (compare Ps 45:12).

In the wilderness; in solitary places; even rude and barbarous people, who lived without order and government among themselves; of which sort great numbers submitted to Christ, and received the gospel.

Shall lick the dust, i.e. shall prostrate themselves to the ground, in token of reverence and subjection, as the custom of the Eastern people was. See Isaiah 49:23 Micah 7:17.

They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him,.... In token of subjection to him, reverence and worship of him, to whom every knee shall bow, Isaiah 45:23. The Septuagint version, and others, render the word "Ethiopians", who dwell in a dry land, parched and burnt with the sun; and so it is a prophecy of their conversion to Christ, as in Psalm 68:31; of which there is an instance, Acts 8:27; the word is used of the wild beasts of the field, in Isaiah 13:21; to which wicked men, for the malignity of their nature, may be compared; as they are to the wild ass, to lions, leopards, and bears; and yet these are so tamed by the power of divine grace as to be made subject to Christ. Kimchi explains it as we do, of the inhabitants of the wilderness; and so the word is rendered in Psalm 74:14; and instances in the Kedarenes; and it may in particular design those that dwell in the deserts of Arabia; and in general the Gentiles, the wilderness of the people, who in Gospel times should be brought to the knowledge of Christ, and submission to him: and it fitly describes the people of God in an unregenerate state; when they are as barren and unfruitful as the dry and parched ground, and as the heath in the wilderness; are in want of provision, and have nothing but husks to feed upon; in perplexity of ways, and know not which to take, or whither they are going; and in very dangerous circumstances, destruction and misery being in all their ways: in this wilderness state the Lord finds them, as he did Israel of old, and leads them about, and brings them to Christ; when they submit to him as a Saviour, being willing to be saved by him, and him only, and to his righteousness, as their justifying righteousness before God, and to the sceptre of his kingdom, to his laws and commands, to his Gospel, and the ordinances of it; all which they do not by constraint, but willingly. The Targum and Jarchi interpret it, the one of governors of provinces; the other of companies of princes. The Syriac version is, "the isles shall bow before him"; the inhabitants of the islands: but this is expressed in Psalm 72:10. Aben Ezra thinks masters of ships are meant;

and his enemies shall lick the dust; of the earth; which is an instance of their great subjection to him; see Isaiah 49:23; the allusion is to the custom of the eastern people, and which continues to this day with the Turks, that as soon as an ambassador sees the sultan, whether at the window, or elsewhere, he immediately falls down on his knees, and kisses the ground (a). The Jews particularly are the enemies of Christ, who rejected him, and would not have him to reign over them; and yet some of these became obedient to the faith of Christ, and more of them, even the whole nation, will in the latter day: all that are Christ's are, before conversion, enemies to him, to his people, to his Gospel and ordinances, to him as a King, and to all his laws and commands; but when his arrows are sharp in their hearts, they fall under him, and submit to him; throw off the yoke of sin, Satan, and the world, and own him, and obey him, as their King and Lawgiver.

(a) Mandevil. Itinerar. c. 7.

They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
9. Let them that dwell in the wilderness bow down before him, And let his enemies lick the dust.

Even the wild Bedouin tribes that roam at large through the desert, the freest of the free, submit to his rule. LXX, Aq., Symm., Jer., render, Ethiopians, the Targ., Africans; but the term is quite general. There is no need to alter the text. Cp. Psalm 74:14.

lick the dust] I.e. prostrate themselves with their faces on the ground in abject submission. Cp. Micah 7:17; Isaiah 49:23.

Verse 9. - They that dwell in the wilderness shall how before him (for the meaning here assigned to tsiyyim (ציּים), see Psalm 74:14; Isaiah 23:13). The wild tribes of the Syrian and Arabian deserts are probably intended (comp. Isaiah 60:6, 7). And his enemies shall lick the dust; i.e., prostrate themselves at his feet with their faces in the dust. See the Assyrian representations of Oriental prostrations ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1, pp. 266, 502). Psalm 72:9This third strophe contains prospects, the ground of which is laid down in the fourth. The position of the futures here becomes a different one. The contemplation passes from the home relations of the new government to its foreign relations, and at the same time the wishes are changed into hopes. The awe-commanding dominion of the king shall stretch even into the most distant corners of the desert. ציּים is used both for the animals and the men who inhabit the desert, to be determined in each instance by the context; here they are men beyond all dispute, but in Psalm 74:14; Isaiah 23:13, it is matter of controversy whether men or beasts are meant. Since the lxx, Aquila, Symmachus, and Jerome here, and the lxx and Jerome in Psalm 74:14, render Αἰθίοπες, the nomadic tribes right and left of the Arabian Gulf seem traditionally to have been associated in the mind with this word, more particularly the so-called Ichthyophagi. These shall bend the knee reverentially before him, and those who contend against him shall be compelled at last to veil their face before him in the dust. The remotest west and south become subject and tributary to him, viz., the kings of Tartessus in the south of Spain, rich in silver, and of the islands of the Mediterranean and the countries on its coasts, that is to say, the kings of the Polynesian portion of Europe, and the kings of the Cushitish or of the Joktanitish שׁבא and of the Cushitish סבא, as, according to Josephus, the chief city of Meroכ was called (vid., Genesis, S. 206). It was a queen of that Joktanitish, and therefore South Arabian Sheba, - perhaps, however, more correctly (vid., Wetzstein in my Isaiah, ii. 529) of the Cushitish (Nubian) Sheba, - whom the fame of Solomon's wisdom drew towards him, 1 Kings 10. The idea of their wealth in gold and in other precious things is associated with both peoples. In the expression השׁיב מנחה (to pay tribute, 2 Kings 17:3, cf. Psalm 3:4) the tribute is not conceived of as rendered in return for protection afforded (Maurer, Hengstenberg, and Olshausen), nor as an act repeated periodically (Rdiger, who refers to 2 Chronicles 27:5), but as a bringing back, i.e., repayment of a debt, referre s. reddere debitum (Hupfeld), after the same idea according to which obligatory incomings are called reditus (revenues). In the synonymous expression הקריב אשׁכּר the presentation appears as an act of sacrifice. אשׁכּר signifies in Ezekiel 27:15 a payment made in merchandise, here a rent or tribute due, from שׂכר, which in blending with the Aleph prostheticum has passed over into שׂכר by means of a shifting of the sound after the Arabic manner, just as in אשׁכּל the verb שׂכל, to interweave, passes over into שׂכל (Rdiger in Gesenius' Thesaurus). In Psalm 72:11 hope breaks through every bound: everything shall submit to his world-subduing sceptre.
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