To contact us:
Psalm 72 -
The Coming Kingdom
1Endow the king with Your justice, O God,
the royal son with Your righteousness.
2 He will judge Your people in righteousness,
Your afflicted ones with justice.
3The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4He will defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
He will crush the oppressor.
5He will endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
6He will be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
7In his days the righteous will flourish;
prosperity will abound till the moon is no more.
8He will rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
9The desert tribes will bow before him
and his enemies will lick the dust.
10The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
will bring tribute to him;
The kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts.
11All kings will bow down to him
and all nations will serve him.
12For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
13He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
14He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
15Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
16Let grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon;
let it thrive like the grass of the field.
17May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.
All nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed.
18Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
19Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.
20This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.
This psalm contains a prayer (vss. 1-2), and then a prophecy (vss. 3-17) about a coming kingdom. On one level, the kingdom referred to is Solomon’s; and yet, there are passages in the psalm which could only refer to the coming kingdom of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. For instance, the Psalmist speaks of an everlasting kingdom, a universal kingdom, a kingdom of perfect peace, a kingdom of perfect submission of its inhabitants, and a kingdom through which all peoples on earth are blessed. These passages could only refer to the Kingdom of Christ, who will rule as a perfect ruler. “Though Solomon’s name is here made use of, Christ’s kingdom is here prophesied of under the type and figure of Solomon’s. David knew what the Divine oracle was, that ‘of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on His throne’ (Acts 2:30).” [Henry]. “Transported with joy and gratitude at the crowning of Solomon, David addressed this Psalm to God, in which he prays Him to pour out His blessings on the young king and upon the people. He then, rapt in a divine enthusiasm, ascends to a higher subject, and sings the glory of the Messiah, and the magnificence of His reign. So that in this Psalm we may see a great number of expressions which cannot relate to Solomon, unless in a hyperbolical and figurative sense: but applied to Christ, they are literally and rigorously exact” [Calmet, in Plumer].
There is a bit of a controversy among commentators as to who wrote this Psalm, Solomon or David. The last verse of the psalm seems to indicate that it was the last prayer psalm that David wrote. The inscription, “Of Solomon”, seems, at first glance, to indicate that Solomon wrote the psalm. Those who believe that Solomon wrote the Psalm argue that the last verse does not apply to this psalm only, but is a postscript tacked on to the entire second book of Psalms (this Psalm ends the second book of Psalms). Those who believe that David wrote it, interpret the inscription as not meaning “Of Solomon” in the sense that he wrote it, but meaning “Of Solomon” as if to say “About Solomon”. Though I tend to slightly lean toward the latter view, either view is sustainable. In my view, it seems unlikely that Solomon would write about his own reign such predictions as are found in this psalm. For the purposes of consistent commentary, I will assume for now that David wrote the psalm. Suffice it to say that, whoever is the true author, the meaning of the psalm is fairly straight-forward: It is a prayer for Solomon’s reign, with an eye toward the future reign of the Messiah.
David begins with a prayer: “Endow the king with Your justice, O God, the royal son with Your righteousness” (vs. 1). It is significant that, no matter how powerful a king may be on earth, there is one more powerful: the Lord of the Universe. Even the most powerful kings need our prayers. “A king may command within his kingdom many things, but he cannot command a blessing on his own government; he must make suit for this to God” [Dickson, 437].
David prays that Solomon would be endowed with God’s justice and God’s righteousness. “Nothing is more conducible to make a king’s government prosperous and blessed than equity and justice, according to the revealed will of God” [Dickson, 437]. “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” [Barnes]. “The best thing we can ask for children or rulers is that they may be governed by God’s decisions, and controlled by His Word” [Plumer, 707].
We should all pray for our governmental leaders, that they themselves would be governed by God’s justice and righteousness, that they would lead the land according to the will and purposes of God, that they would be guided and directed by God. We should pray for our leaders, even if we do not agree with them politically.
This prayer of David’s was not just a prayer for his leader. In this case, David was praying for his son, “the royal son”. “It is the prayer of a father for his child, a dying blessing, such as the patriarchs bequeathed to their children. The best thing we can ask of God for our children is that God will give them wisdom and grace to know and do their duty; that is better than gold” [Henry].
Starting in verse 2, David continues the psalm with an extended prophecy about the government of Solomon. And yet, as we shall see, the prophecy reaches far beyond Solomon’s government, to the government of the Messiah. While Solomon’s government partially fulfilled most of the elements of David’s prophecy, they could only be completely fulfilled by a perfect ruler, of a perfect government. Solomon’s government showed much promise early on, but Solomon was a sinful man, and his sin seemed to grow as he grew older. The Lord Jesus Christ’s government will persevere in perfect righteousness and perfect justice. In fact, in David’s enumeration of twenty or so attributes of Christ’s government, we may find a description of the perfect government: a model of governmental perfection, to which all governments should aspire.
David begins his prophecy: “He will judge Your people in righteousness, Your afflicted ones with justice” (vs. 2). To the extent governments are righteous and just, is the extent to which they are successful in the eyes of God. “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” [Barnes]. Solomon partially fulfilled this prophecy, especially at the beginning of his reign, but the complete fulfillment will be found in Christ’s kingdom. Isaiah prophecies similarly: “With righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth” (Isa. 11:4). Christ will ever and always judge righteously. There will be no need to worry about being unjustly imprisoned, or worry about the guilty getting off scot-free.
“The mountains will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness” (vs. 3). This describes the prosperity of the coming kingdom. Even “the mountains” and “the hills”, normally infertile areas, will be fruitful.
“He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; He will crush the oppressor” (vs. 4). In a good government, the weak and powerless need not worry: oppressors cannot thrive. A good government is a protector of the “afflicted” and “needy”.
“He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations” (vs. 5). This clearly points to Christ’s kingdom, not Solomon’s, for David knew that Solomon would not “endure as long as the sun, endure as long as the moon.” Now, interestingly, the phrase “as long as the sun, as long as the moon” is not, in the Bible, a synonym for “forever”. For, after Christ’s millennial reign at the end of the age, there will be “a new heaven and new earth” (see Rev. 21:1). At that time, “the city [will] not need the sun or the moon to shine on it for the glory of God gives it light” (Rev. 21:23); and the inhabitants “will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Rev. 22:5). And so, David, when he says, “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations”, is saying that Christ’s is the dynasty under which the affairs of the world will be wrapped up.
“He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth” (vs. 6). Clean, cool, refreshing: this is a beautiful picture of the reign of the King of Peace.
“In his days, the righteous will flourish; prosperity will abound till the moon is no more” (vs. 7). In this fallen world, it does not always happen that the “righteous flourish”. Some see this as proof that God does not exist. But this is not proof that God does not exist; rather, it is proof that men do not carry out the will of God, and that their governments—even the best of them—are imperfect.
(The study of this psalm will continue in the next issue, D.V.)