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Wednesday, October 4th, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 72

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Verses 1-7


With Psalm 72, the second book of Psalms ends. Just as the second book of the Torah, Exodus, ends with the coming of the glory of the LORD in the tabernacle, so the second book of Psalms ends with the coming of the king-priest in justice and righteousness.

There is no mention in this psalm of suffering or persecution or strife, but of peace and blessing. The psalm presents the great Son of David as the Source and Guarantor of the blessings of the millennial realm of peace. It is the fulfillment of the prayer: “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:9-2 Samuel :).

The psalm is the answer to the prayer in Psalm 71, in which the remnant puts its trust in God. This answer is the revelation of the glory of the coming King. This can happen because the remnant has been redeemed (Psalms 71:19-Jeremiah :). The realm of peace can now begin.

Righteousness and Peace

The psalm is “of Solomon” (Psalms 72:1). Solomon is a picture of the Lord Jesus as King in the realm of peace, as the Prince of peace. Solomon means ‘peace’, ‘peaceable’, ‘peacemaker’. The psalm begins with a prayer to God for “the king”, that is Solomon, that God give him His “judgments” and His “righteousness” (Psalms 72:1). As a result, he will be able to speak God’s justice, that is, to reign in righteousness over “Your people” and especially over “Your afflicted” (Psalms 72:2). Judgments and righteousness and the afflicted recur in the two following verses.

Such a prayer is appropriate for an enthronement (1 Kings 1:38-Matthew :). Asking that God will give him His judgments means that God will give him an understanding of God’s justice and the authority to carry it out. He represents God in His government on earth. Then everything must be judged according to the law of God.

In the prayer God is also asked to give to “the king’s son” – that is again Solomon, the son of David, a type of the great Son of David – His righteousness. Here the demand is that Solomon will act in a righteous manner according to the law, without regard to any person. This means that evil must be punished and good rewarded.

We also see the importance of righteousness with respect to the realm of peace in this that ‘righteousness’ is mentioned once in every verse in Psalms 72:1-Leviticus :. It is the most important attribute of Christ’s government, an attribute that is not present in any human government. Justice and righteousness are the foundation of the Messiah’s throne (Psalms 89:14). A government in righteousness results in peace in the kingdom.

The psalm is in fact about the Lord Jesus, as we hear in the announcement of the birth of the Lord Jesus (Luke 1:32-Micah :). It speaks of a worldwide and eternal government and it will be exercised by Christ alone. On top of that, the Lord Jesus is the true Son of David and therefore “more than Solomon” (Matthew 12:42).

The psalm is set in the future tense from Psalms 72:2 onward, as the recurring word “may” indicates. This can also be read as a wish. Not Solomon, but the Lord Jesus will perfectly fulfill all that is spoken about in this prayer. What now follows in this prayer flows from Psalms 72:1.

The Lord Jesus will “judge” God’s “people with righteousness” (Psalms 72:2). Before nations have to deal with the justice of God, there is first justice for the people of God. All the wicked will be judged according to a perfectly righteous justice.

As already noted, the “afflicted” in particular will be judged “with justice”. They have persevered under severe oppression and slanderous accusations in their trust in God and have not denied His Name. Now they are shown – not ‘beneficence’ but – justice. That they are called “Your afflicted” means that they, that is, the believing remnant, have a special position in the heart of God. They are the ‘apple of His eye’ (Psalms 17:8; Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8).

By “the mountains” is possibly meant princes of God’s people (Psalms 72:3). They will no longer oppress and exploit their subjects, but “bring peace to the people”. They will work to maintain peace for their people. Because it is about the realm of peace we can think of “the mountains” as kingdoms or high powers, and of “the hills” as lower authorities or the judiciary. They will no longer abuse their responsible position to enrich themselves at the expense of others.

Peace (Psalms 72:3) comes after righteousness (Psalms 72:2). The coming King is the true Melchizedek. In Hebrews 7 the meaning of that name is explained: He is “first of all, by the translation [of his name], king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace” (Hebrews 7:2). By speaking of “first of all … and then also” the order – first righteousness and then peace – is emphasized. The reason is found in Isaiah 32, where we read: “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17; cf. James 3:18).

Once more it is said that the Messiah will “vindicate the afflicted of the people” (Psalms 72:4; Psalms 72:2; cf. Isaiah 11:4). This does prove how much the interest of the afflicted is on Messiah’s mind. He will reward them for the trials they have endured and do justice by giving them the promised blessing. This will not only compensate for the injustice they have suffered, but make them forget it completely.

He also thinks of “the children of the needy”. Children, willy-nilly, are the greatest victims of a situation of affliction into which parents, guilty or innocent, have fallen. They are taken by the creditors as ‘payment’ for the debts of the parents (cf. 2 Kings 4:1). The Messiah takes their fate to heart and will redeem them. He not only removes them from the power of the oppressor, but He crushes the oppressor so that they will never have to fear him again.

The Messiah’s performance of justice and righteousness will create fear among the inhabitants of the land (Psalms 72:5). One shall beware of doing anything evil. This respect or awe will be there “while the sun [endures], and as long as the moon” that is, for the thousand years of the realm of peace. “Throughout all generations” this fear will be present. In the people of Israel, the generations do not follow one another in the sense of one generation going and another coming (Ecclesiastes 1:4), but new generations are continually added to already existing generations (cf. Isaiah 59:21). The oldest generation will have to be characterized most by the fear of God. After all, they have enjoyed the blessing of the realm of peace for the longest period of time.

The coming of the Messiah is compared to the “coming down like rain on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth” (Psalms 72:6). That the rain falls on the mown field means that it falls on a field from which the harvest has been brought in. When the rain falls on this ground, it is on a field that is ready for the new crop that must now grow. This evokes the picture of abundant refreshment that is present in the Messiah and comes upon the people who are ready to receive Him.

The field has been mowed, that is, all the apostates have been judged. Mowing is a picture of judgment, the cutting off of life (Revelation 14:14-Nehemiah :; cf. Isaiah 26:9). It also means that the remnant has condemned themselves in acknowledgment of their guilt in the death of the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10-2 Chronicles :). What a relief it is for them to discover that through that same death the Messiah has made atonement for their sins with God. As a result, they also know that they are righteous before God.

A mowed field may look sad, dry and yellow after a dry spell. But when the rain comes, the dry field will look fresh and green again, full of new life (Isaiah 35:1; Ezekiel 34:26; Acts 3:19). Thus, the coming of Christ will change the earth. He will come first to reap, to bring judgment on the apostates. Then the realm of peace will dawn, which is also called “the regeneration” of the earth (Matthew 19:28). In other words, He “renews the face of the ground” (Psalms 104:30).

His coming with His refreshing has the effect that “in his days … the righteous flourish” (Psalms 72:7). “His days” are the days of His government. They are days marked by His presence on earth in power and blessing. His days are all the days of the realm of peace, days of an “abundance of peace till the moon is no more”. The peace is abundant because it is everywhere on earth. The peace is also abundant because there will be no end to it (Isaiah 9:6).

On the new earth there will be no more sea (Revelation 21:1). This verse seems to indicate that after the realm of peace, on the new earth that is then created, there will also be no more moon – “till the moon is no more”. After all, we also read that there will then be no more night (Revelation 22:5).

Verses 8-11

World Domination

The government of the Messiah is universal (Psalms 72:8; cf. Isaiah 42:4). There is no area that is not under His rule or can hide from it. His rule pervades everything and everyone. Obviously, this does not refer to the reign of Solomon. This applies only to the Messiah. It is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:8; cf. Zechariah 9:9-2 Samuel :; Psalms 2:8).

The inhabitants of the most desolate regions, the free-spirited “nomads of the desert”, who acknowledge no rule will, “bow before him” (Psalms 72:9). These are the nomads, the wanderers with no fixed abode, which also means with no fixed authority to which they must be obedient. They will acknowledge His authority. His adversaries, “His enemies”, will be humbled to the dust, which they will “lick” (cf. Isaiah 49:23).

The mighty of the earth, “the kings”, those who occupy a place of authority on earth, will also submit to Him (Psalms 72:10). There is mention here of the kings “of Tarshish and of the islands”. Tarsis is in southern Spain, a trading city with which Solomon traded (1 Kings 10:22). The islands are the coastal lands on the Mediterranean Sea. Both areas lie to the west of Israel. They will show their submission by bringing presents to the Messiah in Jerusalem. Also “the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts”. Sheba is in present-day Yemen and Seba in Upper Egypt. They are both rich countries that lie far to the south of Israel.

There is no ruler who will not bow before Him. “All kings” – this leaves no exception – will “bow down before him” (Psalms 72:11). There is no nation that will not serve Him. “All nations” – this leaves no exception – will “serve Him”. The Messiah is God. Kings bow down before Him and worship Him. The Messiah is Lord, the “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14). Every knee bows “of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-1 Kings :). The nations will serve Him in obedience.

The nomads (Psalms 72:9) on the one hand and the kings of Tarsis (Psalms 72:10) on the other represent nations near and nations far. All of them (Psalms 72:11) are to bow down before Him.

Verses 12-14

Nature of the Reign of Messiah

The word “for” (Psalms 72:12) indicates that the reason for what has been said above will now follow. His reign, for which everyone from high to low and from friend to foe will be in awe (Psalms 72:9-1 Kings :), turns out to be a reign of compassionate love. It is not about “Your afflicted” (Psalms 72:2), the afflicted of God’s people, but about the afflicted from among the nations, everyone who needs Him.

By His power He has put an end to all opposition and enmity. In His love He delivers “the needy when he cries for help”. He also delivers “the afflicted, and him who has no helper”. To those who have no helper, He is a Helper. Elihu testifies of Him to Job: “Behold, God is mighty but does not despise [any]” (Job 36:5). However, as long as we still have our own tools and use them, He cannot help us. He can only help us when we are at our wits’ end and we cry out to Him in our distress. Only then can and will He help us (Psalms 107:23-Jonah :).

Even “the poor and needy” will experience the benefits of His reign (Psalms 72:13). The considerable and rich have exploited and not spared them. The poor have been unable to repay their debts and therefore have had to sell their possessions, their children and themselves. This is how they ended up in slavery. But He will “save” them, spare them and not impose burdens (Malachi 3:17).

This will mean healing for them of the many wounds with which they have been beaten by their exploiters and oppressors. Thus He will save “the lives of the needy” from all their sufferings. “Save” has the meaning of release from the power of another, in this case from the exploiters and oppressors. This word is also used for “redeem”, as Boaz does in the case of Ruth.

They have so often been victims “of oppression and violence” (Psalms 72:14), but He will rescue their souls, that is, their very persons, from them. “Their blood” and their tears and their suffering will be “precious in his sight” (cf. Psalms 116:15). They were ransomed by the Messiah-King and thus delivered from their oppressed condition.

Their blood is so precious to Him that He will not allow it to be shed unjustly. He can do that by saving them when their lives are in danger. And if it is shed, He regards their blood as so precious that He will not leave it unrevenged. It means that to the King their life is as precious as His own. He will never be indifferent to their safety or their reputation.

They will realize that He has not forgotten them nor what was done to them. What they have suffered has called to Him and come to His ears (cf. Genesis 4:10; James 5:4). Now the time has come to answer all those prayers unanswered at the time.

Verses 15-17

Blessing of the Reign

The exclamation “so may He live” is a wish (Psalms 72:15). Life is the great characteristic of the Messiah. That He will live means that His life will have no end (Psalms 21:4). He lives “according to the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:15-Esther :). His kingdom is therefore an eternal kingdom. The blessing of the realm of peace is inseparable from His life. Where He reigns in blessing, life is enjoyed in all its fullness. Life is only really life and is only really lived when it is lived in fellowship with Him.

The appreciation of that life, which is visible everywhere in the realm of peace, is expressed by people in various ways:
1. “May the gold of Sheba be given to Him.” The gold that is given to Him is His (Haggai 2:8). That they give it to Him means that they acknowledge His right to the most precious thing in creation. In doing so, they are acknowledging His right to all of creation.
2. “Let them pray for him continually.” In the preceding verses, the King has brought blessings to the needy, to His people, and to the world. In response, they will pray for Him and wish Him God’s blessing. There will be prayed for him “continually” that He will continue His blessed reign throughout the realm of peace. These prayers reflect the desire for an endless continuation of His reign.
3. “Let them bless Him all day long.” To bless Him “all day long” means to wish Him well throughout ‘all day’ of the realm of peace, to speak good things of Him. Literally it says ‘always all the day’ and has the meaning of ‘every day’.

Under the blessed reign of the Messiah, there “may be abundance of grain in the earth, on the top of the mountains” (Psalms 72:16). Not only does the realm of peace have no lack, but it is characterized by abundance. Faith is already experiencing that a handful of grain can become a great quantity if we go to the Man of God with that little bit (1 Kings 17:12-Ezra :). In the realm of peace, there is an abundance of grain in the valleys and on the mountains. On the mountains, grain normally does not grow, but then it will. The full ears of corn will “wave like [the cedars] of Lebanon”.

Abundant harvests will keep pace with the growth and flourishing of the population in the cities (cf. 1 Kings 4:20; Genesis 15:5; Isaiah 9:3). There is no fear of over-population, no fear of shortage of food, no fear of mismanagement of supplies. Everything is perfectly managed and distributed by the Ruler in righteousness, Who also acts absolutely righteously in this.

Everything depends on Him, Whose Name will endure forever (Psalms 72:17). With His Name He guarantees the immediate enjoyment of all benefits and abundance of blessing. He also guarantees that this will not end. The eye is turned away from the blessing to Him Who blesses, to His Name. The blessing can only be enjoyed by the coming generations in connection with His Name. It is not the blessing that will increase or sprout forth, but His Name, and with it the blessing.

This will happen “as long as the sun [shines]”. He Himself is “the sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2). In the light of the Sun, the coming generations will be “blessed”. The blessing of the realm of peace will continue uninterrupted because He is and remains the Source of blessing. This He is not only for His people Israel, but for “all nations”. They, too, do not bless themselves because of the blessing, but bless Him through Whom they receive the blessing.

Verses 18-19


With this wish of blessing or this giving thanks the second book of Psalms closes. It is an elaborated version of the blessing or thanksgiving with which the first book concludes (Psalms 41:13). After describing the Messiah’s overall rule and the blessing this means for all creation, reference is made to Him Who is its source. This makes it obvious that fundamentally the LORD and He Who is King are the same Person. He is both at the beginning and at the end of all blessing.

He is “the LORD God, the God of Israel” (Psalms 72:18). God stands with this people in a special relationship. The blessing of the realm of peace is the blessing that flows from God’s relationship with this people to the ends of the earth. “LORD” is the name of God by which God has made Himself known to His people as the God of the covenant. On that basis He fulfills all the promises He has made to His people. The fulfillment of these promises is the realm of peace.

All the blessings He gives to His people in the realm of peace are wonders from Him. On the people’ part, there is no right. They have not kept the covenant. But God can fulfill all the promises because the Messiah has taken upon Himself all the obligations of the people, as well as the punishment for their failure. God’s righteous demands have been met by Him. That is the great wonder that He alone has done.

The response cannot be other than an exuberant and eternal praise of “His glorious Name” (Psalms 72:19). His glory will fill all the earth (Isaiah 6:3). All creation will radiate His perfections, both in the macrocosm, the vast universe, and in the microcosm, the smallest details. Above all, His glory will be seen in all who are full of the knowledge of Him. They are the special wonders of His grace through redemption that is their portion because of Christ’s work. They will proclaim His glory forever.

The praise, which goes on forever, is followed by a fitting “Amen, and Amen”. It is both a conclusion, and an assent: so it is, surely, so it is.

Verse 20

The Prayers of David Are Ended

That David’s prayers end here does not mean that no more prayers of David follow. We will still hear regular prayers of David in the following psalms, such as Psalms 86 and 138-145. The point here is that with the coming of the realm of peace, all of David’s prayers will be fulfilled.

David here calls himself “the son of Jesse” and not ‘the king of Israel’. By this he refers to his natural and humble origins. He takes a step back, as it were. It is not about him, but about the Messiah, the Son of David. The Lord Jesus is the Shoot that will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from His roots that will bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1-Exodus :).

Something similar to what is said here of David’s prayers is seen in “the last words of David” (2 Samuel 23:1). Nor are these his last words in a literal sense, for we hear more words from him afterward. His ‘last words’ are about the reign of the Messiah.

In those last words, as here in this psalm, he calls himself “the son of Jesse” (2 Samuel 23:1). The issue for him, in fact, is “He who rules over men righteously, Who rules in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3-Numbers :). With this Ruler he sinks into nothingness (2 Samuel 23:5), a place he is happy to take. Thus he makes way for the Messiah, the anointed King of God.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 72". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-72.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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