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the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 72

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


Psalms 72

THE Psalm, like many others, as for example the (Psalms 90) 90th, falls into two strophes, one of ten, and another of seven verses. The ten of the first strophe is divided into two fives. In the first half, Psalms 72:1-5, God grants righteousness to his king, in consequence of which, righteousness and the fear of God become prevalent among the people, and these again bring peace in their train. The second half, Psalms 72:6-10, depicts the extension of the dominion of the righteous, the righteously acting, and therefore the salvation-sending king: its extent is as wide as that of the earth itself. The seven of the second strophe is divided, as in Psalms 90, into a five and a two. In Psalms 72:11-15, the Psalmist directs attention to that which will induce all nations and kings to do homage to this king: it is that, which appears throughout the Psalm, as the root of the rest, viz. the absolute righteousness of the king. Psalms 72:16 and Psalms 72:17, which describe, in short and graphic terms, the fulness of blessings which await this king, and his glory and greatness, form the conclusion.

The verses, as far as the ( Psalms 72:14) 14th, consist of two clauses, with the exception of the fourth, which has three. Towards the end the verses become larger: the ( Psalms 72:15) 15th and the ( Psalms 72:16) 16th have, each three clauses, and the last verse has four.

The fundamental thought of the Psalm is this: That the realization of the idea of the king in a moral respect, to be looked for in future times, the developement of the ideal image of righteousness, below which even David remained at such a distance, will bring along with it the perfect realization of the kingdom of God, the righteousness of its subjects, their salvation, and its extension over the whole earth.

Solomon is named in the Title as the author of the Psalm. Attempts have been made, to no purpose, to interpret לשלמה here, as in Psalms 127, in another sense. The ל , when it occurs in the Titles, without anything to limit its application, always indicates, as here, the author: comp. page 86 of this volume. The remarks of Stier, (“it may by all means be understood: of Solomon, for Solomon, dedicated to, delivered to Solomon”), show what dreadful confusion would arise, were it used, in other senses than in this well ascertained one. What is meant by the expression, “by all means”, it is not possible to conceive:—such an expression, no cautious writer could have used. In favour of this announcement in the Title, we have first the remarkably objective character of the Psalm; common to it with the other writings of Solomon, and in striking contrast to that flow of feeling, which forms such a marked feature in the Psalms of David. And, in the second place, there is also the fact, that it is the relations of Solomon’s time, that form the ground work of the Psalm. The references to these circumstances, partake too much of an individual character, as will be seen in the progress of our exposition, to admit of our supposing with Stier again that they are prophetical. There are no reasons of any importance against considering Solomon as the author. It is maintained by Stier, that the typical reference to Solomon, compels us to assign the authorship to David. But, in reply to this, it is sufficient to advert to Psalms 2 and Psalms 110, where David himself, out of the grace imparted to him in his contests against the enemies of the kingdom of God, constructs a ladder, by which he may rise to the contemplation of the infinitely more glorious victories to be won in battle by his Descendant. And why should not Solomon, in like manner, see in his righteous reign of peace, a type of the kingdom of the Prince of Peace? Even the circumstance, that at the end of the Psalm, there is appended the subscription, that “the prayers of David are ended”, is by no means decisive against the authorship being Solomon’s; compare the Dissertation on the superscriptions at the end of the 3d volume. Ewald maintains that the kingdom of David appears in the Psalm, as sunk into a diminished, poor and low condition, “the dominion over the world was lost, and had to be recovered in some other way,” and that, therefore, the author cannot be Solomon. In opposition to this, we have to observe, that there is not one single trace throughout the whole Psalm, of anything like a diminution of the kingdom of David. It is, on the contrary, upon the basis of a glorious present, as in Psalms 2 and Psalms 110 that there rises the hope of a still more glorious future. This is particularly manifest in the ( Psalms 72:8) 8th verse. In the passages of the Pentateuch which give the boundaries of Israel, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Euphrates represent the extreme points. The points of termination in the Pentateuch are the points of beginning here, and the end of the dominion is the same as the end of the earth. It is hence evident, that the boundary spoken of in the Pentateuch had already been reached, and that the land between the sea and the Euphrates, had already been, and was still occupied. Had it been otherwise, this original land would not possibly have been passed over in silence; its occupation would have first of all been brought into notice. Finally, the idea of Hitzig, “that the diffuseness, the want of colouring, the absence of all arrangement in the Psalm, show that we have before us a worthless poem, belonging to a vitiated age,” disappears of itself, as soon as we become more intimately acquainted with the strophe-arrangement, and the train of thought in the Psalm; and the objection recoils upon the head of him who brought it forward.

It has been acknowledged by the Jews, that Messiah is the subject of the Psalm: compare Christ. I. i. p. 129. And nothing but a dependence upon tradition in “the progression party”, can account for the fact, that this exposition, which had been thoughtlessly abandoned in the heat of their destructive zeal, should still find so little favour, especially as a return has long since been made to the ecclesiastical interpretation, in these remarkably similar passages, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 11 and Zechariah 9. The beginning, however, of a return, even in this case, may be already perceived. The Messianic interpretation is defended by Köster, with the remark: “It would be inexplicable if an idea of such importance in the Hebrew religion, as that of the Messiah, should not have found a place in the Psalms.”

In the first place, the announcement as to the eternal duration of the dominion of the king, in Psalms 72:5, Psalms 72:7, and Psalms 72:17, is in favour of the Messianic interpretation. This announcement could be made either of the family of David, considered as one whole, as in 1 Samuel 7 and Psalms 89:36 and Psalms 89:37, or of the Messiah:—between these two, we must make our choice. Now, to maintain, with Hoffmann, (prophecy and its fulfilment, I. p. 177), according to whom Solomon prays generally for himself and the king of Israel, that the Psalm refers to the family of David, is altogether inconsistent with the fact, that throughout the whole Psalm, which in this respect, differs essentially from 2 Samuel 7, there does not occur one single trace of a personification, or of an ideal person:—the parallel passages also, such as Isaiah 9:5-6, may be added, which do not admit of this interpretation.

Farther, it is asserted, in as express terms as possible, that the kingdom of this great sovereign, as distinguished from that of his predecessors, shall extend over the whole earth, that all kings shall submit to him, and that all nations shall serve him; with the evident design of guarding this thought from every suspicion of being a poetical exaggeration. The Psalmist would have rendered himself ridiculous, if he had promised such a dominion to any of the ordinary posterity of David, and nothing similar ever occurs of any such. On the other hand, the announcement of the extension of the dominion over the whole earth, is what never fails to occur in Messianic prophecies; comp. Psalms 2:8, Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 11, Zechariah 9:10, Micah 5:4. Finally, the king gains his power over the world, according to Psalms 72:11-15, not by weapons of war, but by the righteousness and the love which he manifests in protecting and delivering the miserable. There is no example of any Israelitish king, of the ordinary stamp, having brought, in this way, even one single nation into a state of subjection. No such king was ever in circumstances to practice the virtues of righteousness and love in the midst of distant nations, powerful states not in subjection to his dominion. Such a king must have been one of a higher than human nature,—one who, in the language of the parallel passage, Isaiah 11 “smites the earth with the rod of his mouth, and slays the wicked with the breath of his lips.”

The violent assumptions which must be made, by those who do not adopt the Messianic interpretation, shew how imperatively that interpretation is demanded by the contents of the Psalm. The most common subterfuge is, that the futures in Psalms 72:2-11, and in Psalms 72:16-17, are to be taken in an optative sense. But, such a long succession of wishes, without hope and confidence, produces a mournful impression, and has no parallel in the whole Book of Psalms. Besides, this interpretation becomes embarrassed with difficulties, in the ( Psalms 72:12) 12th and following verses. To be consistent, you must adopt the optative sense there too:

Maurer really does so. But it is clear as day that this will not do. And if you take the futures there as promises, you find yourself doing what is inadmissible, speaking of the effects as wishes, and of the causes as promises. The frequent use of the fut. apoc. has been appealed to, in favour of the optative interpretation. But there are two cases of this form, יחס and יחי , in the sense of the future denoting a custom, as is frequent throughout the Psalms, and the two remaining cases, ירד , in Psalms 72:8 th, and יחי , in Psalms 72:16 th, must, according to the analogy of these, be interpreted in the same way: the first occurs, moreover, in the fundamental passage, Numbers 24:19, in the sense of the usual future. Besides, were the author expressing mere wishes, he would alternate imperatives with futures. But this does not occur after Psalms 72:1 st.

Moreover, it is clear as day, that this arbitrary change of promises into mere wishes, will not even gain the object. Wishes, if they are not to be utterly ridiculous, must keep within the range of possibility and probability. Several expositors, sensible of this, have added to the first, a second subterfuge. They suppose that, in Psalms 72:8 th, the dominion of the king, is not at all extended over the whole earth, but only over Canaan to its utmost limits, “from the south-east, or the Red Sea, to the north-west, or the Mediterranean, and again, from the north-east, or the Euphrates, to the south-west, where Canaan terminates in the desert without any well defined boundary.” We cannot but express our astonishment, that even Ewald should have adopted this exposition,—an exposition better fitted for the past century, than for the present time: רדה , which is always applied to dominion over the heathen, (compare for example, Psalms 68:27, 1 Kings 5:4), the fundamental passage, Numbers 24:19, from which even the form is taken, the expression, “from sea to sea,” which is always applied to the utmost circumference of the earth, (compare Amos 8:12, Micah 7:12), and finally, “even to the ends of the earth,” are all decisive against it. Compare the refutation of the reference to the boundaries of Palestine, as given in the commentary, on the passage borrowed from this Psalm in Zechariah 9:10, in the Christology, II. p. 139. But if there were any doubt whatever remaining, it would be removed by what follows. In Psalms 72:9 and Psalms 72:10, when the thought is individualized, only such nations are named, as were beyond the boundaries of Canaan, and in part at a great distance from it. The ( Psalms 72:11) 11th verse, which recapitulates what had gone before, mentions all nations, all kings.

Hoffmann, p. 176, endeavours to set aside the proof for the Messianic interpretation furnished by Psalms 72:11-15, by affirming that the sense is, “that the goodness and the righteousness of the king, with which God has adorned him, will incline God to grant him an unlimited extent of dominion.” But the matter appears as the result of the free-will inclinations of the people themselves; and the ( Psalms 72:15) 15th verse is specially against this view,—a verse which would be martyred, were it forced to favour this exposition. This verse, (compare “the gold of Seba,” with the ( Psalms 72:10) 10th verse), is decisive against those who, with the view of bringing out the influence of an ordinary Israelitish king, in favour of the poor and miserable, of which the Psalmist there speaks, take the sense to be, that the conduct of the righteous king among his own people, will induce foreigners to do him homage. The idea of De Wette, adopted to meet this exigency, that by the poor and miserable, we are to understand oppressed foreign nations, seeking protection from the Israelites, requires only to be looked at, in connection with the ( Psalms 72:4) 4th verse, (where manifestly it is oppressed individuals that are spoken of), to be abandoned.

We may well give up a view, which does so much violence to our sense of what is right in exegetical matters.

Verses 1-5

The first half of the first strophe is Psalms 72:1-5: God grants to his king righteousness, Psalms 72:1, and his righteous government produces righteousness among the people, in consequence of which peace advances; in like manner, his righteous government produces among the people in all time coming, the ascendancy of piety, ver. 4, 5.

Ver. 1. O, God, give thy judgments to the king, and thy righteousness to the king’s son. Ver. 2. He shall judge the people in righteousness, and thy miserable ones with judgment. Ver. 3. The mountains shall bring forth peace to the people, and the hills through righteousness. Ver. 4. He shall judge the miserable of the people, he shall help the sons of the needy, and crush the oppressor. Ver. 5. They shall fear thee with the sun, and before the moon through all generations.

That the petitions of Psalms 72:1, like those of the Lord’s prayer, and like all real prayer, are based on confidence, and do not partake of the wavering character, referred to in James 1:6, is obvious from the circumstance that, in the following verses, futures are made use of, on the supposition of the prayer being granted. Where prayer is based on the word of God, and is made in the strength of his Spirit, the transition from imperatives to futures, becomes exceedingly natural and easy. The “he will judge, &c.” in Psalms 72:2, is connected with the “thou shalt give,” which lies concealed in the “give” of Psalms 72:1 משפטים is very often “decisions,” “legal. sentences”; and Psalms 72:4 th, shows that this is the sense, and not that of “laws,” “commandments,” which must be adopted here. The decisions of God are opposed to the decisions, which the king gives at his own hand. The judgment is God’s, Deuteronomy 1:17: compare Exodus 21:6, Exodus 22:7, Proverbs 8:15, 2 Chronicles 19:6. It comes to this, that the essence of all justice lies in the conformity of the decisions of the earthly judge, to the decisions of the heavenly Lord of Justice; and this takes place, when there rests upon the former, “the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of the knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” The great king here spoken of, shall, according to Isaiah 11:2, obtain this without measure; and thus the prayer, “give thy judgments to the king”, is fulfilled to an unlimited extent. Solomon, in type, prayed, in 1 Kings 3:9, that the Lord would give him an understanding heart, (Vatabl. mentem docilem, deo et Spiritui S. audientem), that he might judge his people; and it is recorded of him, 1 Kings 3:28: “and all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.” מלך stands poetically without the article, as in Psalms 45:1; compare at the passage.

On Psalms 72:2 nd, compare Isaiah 11:3-4. The “miserable ones of God,” are the miserable among his people: comp. Psalms 72:4.

The mountains and hills are not at all named, because they were the most unfruitful places of the land,—which they really were not, in Palestine, compare Deuteronomy 33:15, Psalms 147:8, “who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains,” Psalms 65:12,—nor even because what is on them can be seen every where, and from all sides, (Tholuck),—compare against this, Joel 3:18, “the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk,”—but, as being the most prominent points, and ornaments of the country, and therefore, as representing it, well fitted to express the thought, that the country shall be every where filled with peace. [Note: It is obvious from Isaiah 9:6, compared with ver. 4, 2:4, Zechariah 9:10, among other passages, that שלום , has here its usual sense, and not that of salvation and prosperity.] Peace appears every where as a characteristic mark of the time of the Messiah: compare, for example, Isaiah 2:4, Isaiah 9:5-6, Isaiah 11:9, Isaiah 65:25, Micah 4:3, Zechariah 9:10. In the second clause, “shall bring forth peace to the people,” is to be supplied from the first. And, in like manner, the “through righteousness” of the second, is to be added to the first clause. For peace is brought forward, here and throughout, only in so far as it is the product and consequence of that righteousness, which is inherent in the king, and which has been introduced by him among his people. Peace appears, even in the law, as the product of righteousness: compare Leviticus 26:3-6, “if ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments and do them. . . . I will give peace in the land . . . . and the sword shall not come into your land.” Peace was represented in type as a reward of righteousness, in the time of Solomon, to whose name there is manifestly allusion made here: compare 1 Kings 5:4. Righteousness and peace are connected together, also in Isaiah 9:6, as cause and effect, in the time of the Messiah. Ewald, with his ungrammatical interpretation, “and the hills, blessings of grace,” (נשא never occurs with ב of the object, צדקה never signifies blessings of grace, and most assuredly cannot have this signification here, as is obvious from Psalms 72:1-2, and Psalms 72:4, which serve as a commentary), gains nothing except that he dissevers the consequence from its cause, and thus destroys the whole train of thought. The righteousness of the king, is the centre of the Psalm, that, on which every thing else absolutely depends.

Psalms 72:4 th is in intimate connection with Psalms 72:5 th, otherwise, it would be a mere idle repetition of Psalms 72:2 nd: the righteousness of the king, and, in consequence of this, the righteousness of the people and peace in Psalms 72:1-3, the righteousness of the king, and, in consequence of this, fear of God among the people, Psalms 72:4 and Psalms 72:5. Isaiah 11:4, remarkably agrees with this verse, and is probably dependent on it. The judging of the miserable, is not at all to pronounce a just sentence upon them, but stands in opposition to neglecting to take up their case: compare Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 1:23, “they judge not the fatherless, neither does the cause of the widow come before them.” The “needy” is here an ideal person, the personified species, and thus the particular needy individuals appear as his sons.

In Psalms 72:5 th, the address is directed, as it is throughout the whole Psalm, not to the king, but to God. The train of thought is lost, if this be not kept in view. The passage, however, does contain a proof in favour of the Messianic interpretation of the Psalm. For the fear of God, is an everlasting consequence of the righteous dominion of the king: and, therefore, this dominion itself also must be everlasting: the continued existence of the effect, presupposes the continued existence of the cause. That there is here at least an indirect assertion, as to the eternity of the dominion of the king, is obvious from the parallel passages, Psalms 72:7, Psalms 72:17, and Psalms 89:36, Psalms 89:38. “With the sun,” is “as long as it is by them”: “before the moon”, “as long as they are shone upon by it”: compare Job 8:16. According to the doctrine of the Old Testament, the heavens and earth, in their present form, shall pass away, Psalms 102:26, but not for a very long time, and the boundary line of this era is so distant, that it frequently disappears.

Verses 6-10

The second half of the first strophe, is Psalms 72:6-10. Psalms 72:6 and Psalms 72:7, resume the contents of the first strophe, the righteousness-creating, and therefore peace-producing, conduct of the righteous king, for the purpose of adding to this another subject, strictly connected with them, viz. the infinite extension of his dominion.

Ver. 6. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, and like showers that water the ground. Ver. 7. The righteous man shall flourish in his days, and abundance of peace until the moon is no more. Ver. 8. And he rules from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. Ver. 9. Before him the inhabitants of the wilderness shall bow down, and his enemies shall lick the dust. Ver. 10. The kings of Tarsus and of the islands shall pay gifts, the kings of Saba and Seba shall bring presents.

The figure of rain, which produces fresh verdure, occurs in reference to the blessings of Messiah’s time, also in the last words of David, in 2 Samuel 23:5. Ewald’s translation is flat: it shall fall down. The following verse also is against it, where the righteous man is spoken of as flourishing in consequence of the rain. גז is used of mown grass also, in Amos 7:1. Luther, falsely: “the skin.”

In Psalms 72:8, if we suppose that by the first sea is meant the Mediterranean, the second will denote any imaginary one. But the passages in Micah 7:12, and Amos 8:12, favour the idea that the first sea also is to be taken indefinitely, and then it will not be necessary to understand also the Euphrates by the word “river,” without the article. There is, also, as appears only a general reference to the passages of the Pentateuch, such as Exodus 23:31, where the boundaries of Canaan are marked out by naming the Mediterranean Sea and the Euphrates: the land which Moses gave to the Israelites stretched merely from the Mediterranean Sea to the river Euphrates; but, on the contrary, the dominion of this king extends from any one sea to any other sea, and from any river even to the ends of the earth,—it is a kingdom of boundless extent. Our verse is quoted word for word in Zechariah 9:10. It is more than can be established to invert the relation, as Ewald and Hitzig do. The fact that Zechariah, in the first half of the verse, has borrowed from Micah 5:9, is against this idea; compare the Christology on the passage.

In individualizing the thought expressed in Psalms 72:8, the Psalmist, in Psalms 72:9, mentions first the inhabitants of the wilderness, (ציים denotes here, as usually, the beasts of the wilderness, Psalms 74:14, Isaiah 23:13), on account of their wildness and love of liberty. They lick the dust, i.e. they indicate in the most humiliating way their reverence and submission: compare Isaiah 49:23. Next, in the 10th verse, there are the inhabitants of the distant wealthy West, and of the distant wealthy South. The historical basis of the announcement made in this verse, with which Psalms 68:29, Psalms 45:12, Isaiah 60:6-9, ought to be compared, is to be found in 1 Kings 4:21, “and Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents and served Solomon all the days of his life,” and in 1 Kings 10:24, “and all the world sought a sight of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart: and they brought every one his present, vessels of silver and vessels of gold,” all the more in the last passage, and also in the history of the visit of the Queen of Sheba and her presents, (comp. 1 Kings 10:10), which assuredly gave occasion to the naming of the Sabeans in this Psalm), as the free-will recognition made of Solomon from the heathen world was a prelude, though only a weak one, to the subjection of the world to the sceptre of his Son. Gousset has given the correct interpretation of the clause השיב מנחה , which also occurs in 2 Kings 3:4, 2 Kings 17:3. It signifies “to give gifts in the way of return or recompence”; and refers to gifts or tribute, when given as thank-offerings in return for acts of favour shown, as when the conqueror spared the conquered. The expression here is illustrated by Psalms 72:11-15; where the good deeds are detailed by which the king lays the heathen world under obligations, and induces it to do him homage. The ישיבו contains within itself the germ of this paragraph. It alone is sufficient to set aside the exposition of Hoffmann already adverted to.

Verses 11-15

The first part of the second strophe, Psalms 72:11-15, gives first, in Psalms 72:11, the substance, out of the second part of the first, for the purpose of adding, in Psalms 72:12-15, the explanation of the great fact which it announces. “True love conquers, men feel it at last, weep bitterly; and fall down at its knees like children.” Ver. 11. And all kings worship him, all the heathen serve him. Ver. 12. For he delivers the needy man who cries, and the miserable, and him who hath no helper. Ver. 13. He spares the poor and the needy, and he delivers the souls of the needy. Ver. 14. He delivers their souls from oppression and violence, and their blood is precious in his eyes. Ver. 15. And he lives and gives him of the gold of Seba, and prays for him continually, evermore he shall bless him.

The agreement of Psalms 72:12 th with Job 29:12, “For I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had no helper,” is too striking to admit of its being considered, with any appearance of probability, as accidental. As the words stand here in a very important connection, and on this account were the more easily impressed on the mind, and better adapted for being introduced with grace as an appropriate allusion, (“for I,” as a type of the mighty king of the future, etc.), and as, in other passages where Job and the Psalms come into contact, the originality of the latter is manifest, (compare at Psalms 39:13, Psalms 78), and finally, as the Book of Job belongs most assuredly to a period later than that of Solomon, the passage before us must be considered as the original one.

In reference to תוךְ? , oppression, in Psalms 72:14, compare at Psalms 10:7, Psalms 55:11. On “their blood is precious in his sight,” i.e. “he values their lives highly, and hence uses every effort to protect them,” compare Psalms 116:15, 1 Samuel 26:21, 2 Kings 1:14.

In Psalms 72:15, every exposition must be abandoned which implies a change of subject. It is only in a passage where there can be no ambiguity that such an interpretation, where the nominatives are not mentioned, can be adopted. The question may be asked, is it the king or the needy man that is the subject of the whole verse? Without hesitation we decide in favour of the latter. “He lives,” can be applied only to him who had been assailed or threatened with death; and the king, according to Psalms 72:10 th, must be the receiver, and not the giver of the gold of Seba. The verse before us returns back to the conclusion of the first strophe, after the basis of the fact announced there, had been detailed in the second. The reasons which have been adduced against the idea, that it is the poor man throughout that is the subject, are not of any consequence. The transition from the plural to the singular is of the less moment, as the singular is made use of also in Psalms 72:12 and Psalms 72:13. The subject is the ideal person of the needy man. The objection that the needy man has no gold, disappears with the remark, that by the righteousness of the king, he is restored to the possession of his goods:—there is therefore no reason for taking the gold of Seba, contrary to Psalms 72:10 th, in a figurative sense, as denoting the inward thanks of the delivered man. The assertion of Hitzig, “that intercessions are employed before God, who is near at hand, on behalf of those who are far off,” is met by the (Psalms 20) 20th Psalm, (a prayer of the people on behalf of their king), by 1 Timothy 2:1-2, and by the beginning of our Psalm itself. The anxiety of the old ecclesiastical expositors, lest the prayer for the king should be considered as derogatory to the divine nature of Christ, is quite uncalled for, because we do pray for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, and therefore for himself. The analogy of the apocopate. futures throughout the Psalm, is sufficient to show that ויחי must be translated, “he lives,” not “that he may live.”

Verses 16-17

Psalms 72:16 and Psalms 72:17 form the conclusion, in the first instance, to the second strophe, and next to the whole Psalm. Ver. 16. There shall be abundance of corn in the land, upon the top of the mountains, its fruit shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like the grass of the earth. Ver. 17. His name shall be for ever, his name shall endure before the sun, and men shall bless themselves by him, all the heathen shall praise him. The historical basis of Psalms 72:16 is furnished by 1 Kings 4:20, where it is said of Solomon’s reign: “Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is by the sea, eating and drinking and making merry.” In the first clause the blessings spread abroad under this righteous reign, is denoted by the individualizing description, “the abundance of corn”: compare Deuteronomy 11:14, Jeremiah 31:12, Zech. 10:17, (see the Christol. on the passage):—in the last passage, the idea occurs as it does here in connection with the abundance of the population. In like manner also, in Isaiah 27:6, “In future, Jacob shall strike his roots, Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” The translation of פסה by “abundance,” is not quite ascertained. But the translation, “there maybe want, still there will be,” etc. (פסס =אפס , compare Psalms 12:1), is opposed by the consideration, that יחי can scarcely be taken otherwise than the rest of the apoc. futures, particularly יחי in Psalms 72:15. The mountains are named, not as being unfruitful, but as being the most prominent points of the country, and, therefore, when covered with corn, presenting a picturesque appearance. Lebanon comes into notice as covered with its waving cedars, which occur to the mind as soon as Lebanon is named: it is never spoken of as fertile in corn. In the second clause, the subject is to be supplied from מעיר , the inhabitants of the city. The abundance of the population, as a sign of the joyful prosperity of the people, occurs also in Zechariah 2:8, Isaiah 49:20. “As the grass of the earth,” is to be found in Job 5:25. On “out of the city,” compare Numbers 24:19.

In Psalms 72:17, the eternity of the name is based upon the eternity of the kingdom, and of the deeds out of which the name continually grows up afresh: compare Isaiah 9:5-6, Psalms 45:2; Psalms 45:6, and Psalms 102:12, where it is said of Jehovah, “thy remembrance is to all generations.” The reading in the text ינין is the Hiph. of a denomin. verb from נין , offspring, which does not elsewhere occur, and was probably formed by the Psalmist himself: the name shall produce posterity, i.e. “shall renovate itself,” inasmuch as by the new deeds of the king, it always acquires fresh life. The Kri in the Hiph. has originated from the Massorites not understanding the boldness of poetical expression. The Hithp. of ברך signifies always “to bless one’s self,” with the ב of him from whom the blessing is desired, Isaiah 65:16, and Jeremiah 4:2, or whose blessing is desired, Genesis 48:20. That it is the latter of these senses that must be here adopted, that “they bless themselves by him,” is equivalent to, “they wish themselves to be as blessed as he is,” is obvious from the parallel clause, “they shall praise him,” and from the reference, which it is impossible to mistake, to the fundamental passage in Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4. What is there said of the posterity of the patriarchs, is fulfilled, in the first instance, in the glorious king, and through him, in his people. “To bless by,” is in that passage, as it is in this, followed by “to be blessed through,” as its consequence: the acknowledgment of the blessing calls forth the wish to partake of it, as in Isaiah 44:5, where, in consequence of the rich blessing which is poured out upon Israel, the nations become anxious to adopt Israel’s name. In Genesis, the Niphal, “ the blessing themselves by,” goes before and alongside of the Hithp., “ the being blessed through:” compare Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, Genesis 28:14. That we are not to explain the passages in which the Niph. occurs, from those in which the Hithp. occurs, but rather, on the contrary, that these latter are to be supplemented out of the former, is manifest from the fact, that the Niph. of ברךְ? has never been proved to occur in the sense of the Hithp., from the constant joyful repetition of this announcement which every where appears as forming the very summit of the promises made to the patriarchs, from the reference of the blessing upon all the tribes of the earth to the curse pronounced on the earth after the fall, from the connection with the prophecy of Japhet dwelling in the tents of Shem, Genesis 9:27, and the ruler proceeding from Judah to whom the people are to be obedient, Genesis 49:10. The union which binds these announcements to each other, would be destroyed, were we to force the sense of the Hiph. upon the Niph. in the promises made to the patriarchs.

Verses 18-19

Psalms 72:18 and Psalms 72:19 do not belong to the Psalm, but contain the doxology which forms the conclusion of the second book. This doxology, which is the most copious that occurs, agrees very well with the contents, and was undoubtedly composed in reference to these. “May the whole earth be full of his glory,” (as it shall be when all nations shall do homage to this his anointed), is taken, word for word, from Numbers 14:21. In reference to Psalms 72:20 th, see the treatises at the close.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 72". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-72.html.
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