Psalm 72

A Messianic Psalmcoverpic_mj10_sm

These be the last words of David … the son of Jesse … the sweet psalmist of Israel.—2 Samuel 23:1
This psalm may have been written after Solomon’s second investiture about a year before David’s death (1 Chronicles 29:22,23). It is one of many commonly-called Messianic psalms. After his resurrection Jesus said: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). Many of the psalms show the suffering and sacrifice of Christ as well as the glory of his kingdom rule. It is the glory of that rule that this psalm so beautifully expresses.

God promised David that his son would build a house for God’s name, and that his kingdom would be forever (2 Samuel 7:11-17). This was only partially fulfilled in Solomon; a much greater fulfillment can only be found in the “son of David,” Christ himself. This sets the scene for David’s grand word-picture of a future Messianic kingdom of peace and righteousness.

The Invocation—Psalm 72:1

A Psalm for Solomon.
Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son.

The Hebrew opening is simply “of Solomon” which could be construed as meaning “by Solomon.” The King James renders it “for Solomon,” undoubtedly because the psalm is a prayer for a king. As the object of this prayer, Solomon is both the king, and King David’s son. The Companion Bible suggests, however, that the king is David and the “king’s son” is Solomon.

Although the final verse says “the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended,” that verse is an addition to the collection of psalms comprising the second in a series of five books, and not evidence of the authorship of this particular psalm.

The noted biblical scholar Albert Barnes observed: “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 it was his desire that the reign of the one ‘might,’ as far as possible, resemble that of the other.”

His Righteousness—Psalm 72:2-11

He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

The afflicted, the poor, and the needy are repeatedly spoken of throughout the psalm as receiving help and blessing. Solomon was granted extraordinary wisdom to judge God’s people (1 Kings 3:9-12), and thus pictures the great and wise reign of the coming Messiah. Isaiah described the characteristics of earth’s future monarch using similar words: “With righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist” (Isaiah 11:4,5, NIV).

The mountains and small hills bring or publish peace and righteousness, perhaps as heralds might publish “good tidings.” As Isaiah expressed it: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith to Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7). This beautiful prophetic pen-picture of the kingdom declares that peace and righteousness will reign (see also Isaiah 32:17). Joel wrote: “The mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk” (Joel 3:18). The mountains and small hills, symbolic of all nations both great and small, will bring or publish peace and righteousness.

Through every measurement of time—sun, moon, or generations—mankind will reverence this king for the ages of eternity. This could never be true of mortal Solomon, but it aptly describes the great King of Kings who will rule in the kingdom to come.

The words of this psalm are similar to the last words of David: “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” (2 Samuel 23:2-4).

This kingdom extends to the ends of the earth, an expression used by the prophet Zechariah: “He shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10). Though never literally true of Solomon’s kingdom, Messiah’s kingdom will be worldwide in its domain.

The wilderness dwellers are those outside society, who go their own way and do not acknowledge any authority; these will bow before Messiah. The reference to enemies who will “lick the dust” means either their complete subjugation (see Isaiah 49:23) or complete destruction (Micah 7:17).

Although the psalm states that all kings will bow down in worship, the kings of Tarshish and the islands, and the kings of Sheba and Seba are specifically mentioned. Tarshish was a descendant ot Japheth (Genesis 10:4,5), Sheba a descendant of Shem{FOOTNOTE: This is not the Sheba of Genesis10:7 because Shem’s descendants were the founders of the ancient kingdom of Sheba.} (Genesis 10:28), and Seba a descendant of Ham (Genesis 10:7). Thus all three sons of Noah, from whom all mankind have descended, are represented as bringing offerings and gifts of appreciation to the king.

Robert Alter, in his translation of this psalm, comments on these place names: “[The expression] ‘from sea to sea’ would be from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean. The ‘River’ is the Euphrates. The ‘desert-folk’ would be somewhere to the east or to the south. ‘Tarshish and the islands’ are to the west, far out in the Mediterranean realm. ‘Sheba and Siba’ are to the far south, in the region on the Red Sea.”

A Glorious Reign—Psalm 72:12-17

For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight. 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. There shall be a 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. 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.

After speaking of kings the psalm continues by contrasting them with the poor who have been oppressed for so long. These poor are rescued or redeemed (the Hebrew word means to redeem by payment). From the greatest to the least, all will benefit from Messiah’s kingdom of peace and righteousness.

This king will be blessed with long life. In fact it will never end. Mankind will bring this king their best gifts represented by gold. The Queen of Sheba brought large amounts of gold to Solomon as a gift, not tribute since Solomon had no jurisdiction over her country. Other kings did pay tribute to Solomon (see 1 Kings 10:23-29). This pictures the gifts and tribute mankind will bring in the kingdom.

Verse 16 appropriately speaks of abundance as it describes a future time when the earth will yield her increase (Psalm 67:6). This abundance will occur even in the most remote places and be as verdant as the thick forests of Lebanon waving in the wind. The flourishing of those in the city suggests the great increase in numbers as the ransomed of the Lord return and are watered as grass by Messiah (Hosea 13:14; Isaiah 35:10).

Solomon was blessed by God and his name has continued to endure until now. But a grander fulfillment of these words is in Jesus Christ who shall forever be called blessed of God, and whose name will endure and increase for all eternity.

The Hebrew name of Jesus is Joshua which means Jehovah is Savior. For all eternity, as mankind honors their Messiah, they will be honoring God, the source of all life. In the kingdom God’s wonderful promise to Abraham will be fulfilled: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3; see also Galatians 3:8).

Praise for God—Psalm 72:18-20

Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

The psalm concludes with praise for God. Blessed eternally is God, and the name of God that speaks of his abiding faithfulness; he alone does great and wondrous things. Indeed, may the whole world be filled with his glory as perfected mankind reflects the glorious image of God in the kingdom of peace and righteousness under the King of Kings: So let it be, and So let it be. As Albert Barnes observed, “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 last words are not a part of the psalm. They mark the conclusion of the second of the five books into which the psalter was divided in ancient times. Note the similarity here to the ending of the last psalm in the first book: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.” (Psalm 41:13).