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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 21

‘For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.’

This is another Psalm offered to the organiser of the sacred music, or the choirmaster, and dedicated to David. There is much in it that suggests that it was written by David, for it was to David that the promise was given that his house would continue for ever. It may be seen as a song of victory following the petition of Psalms 20:0. It is a song of triumph for the king and for the everlasting blessing that the Davidic house will bring. It can therefore also be seen as looking ahead to the Greater David, the Messiah Jesus Christ. The Targum (Aramaic paraphrase read out in the Synagogue) paraphrases ‘king’ in Psalms 21:1; Psalms 21:7 as ‘King Messiah’.

We may therefore see this psalm in three ways.

· Firstly in its original intention to declare God’s faithfulness in giving His anointed Davidic king victory and so protecting His people against the enemies who would devour them.

· Secondly as an encouragement to the leaders of God’s people that He will enable them and give them victory against all the assaults of the Enemy.

· And thirdly as depicting the glory of Jesus Christ, the King Messiah, and His future victories.

Verses 1-7

Praise and Worship Is Offered To YHWH For His Goodness And Faithfulness Towards His Anointed (Psalms 21:1-7 ).

Psalms 21:1

‘The king will joy in your strength, O YHWH,

And in your salvation how greatly will he rejoice!’

The psalmist declares that the king will rejoice in YHWH’s strength, especially His strength as revealed in His great deliverance on behalf of His people, because He has given them victory. As God’s anointed God has blessed him by revealing His saving power through him, and he can now rejoice in the fulfilment of the promises given to him as God’s chosen one. So should all rejoice who find themselves being used as His instruments as God goes before them to give them victory, although often only after the battle has been fierce.

Jesus Messiah also rejoiced in His Father’s strength and wisdom, and in the wonder of His salvation as worked out through Himself (Luke 10:20-22; John 12:28).

Psalms 21:2

‘You have given him his heart's desire,

And have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah’

For YHWH has given to His king the desire of his heart, victory over his enemies and the enemies of God’s people. He has not withheld from him anything of what he requested. Selah. ‘Think of that!’ Think also of the fact that in the end all triumphs by the people of God are due to Him.

This psalm is a reminder to us that the Davidic king was ever seen as having the responsibility of being a chief intercessor on behalf of his people, for as king of Jerusalem he was seen as a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (Psalms 110:4), responsible before God for the welfare of the city. This would also be why he was to have a special place in Ezekiel’s heavenly temple (Ezekiel 44:3).

How much more then will that be true of the Great Intercessor, the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek described in Hebrews, (see Hebrews 6:20 and regularly in the letter), Who makes intercession continually on behalf of His own.

It is a reminder that we too should never forget to rejoice in God when He hears and answers our prayers.

Psalms 21:3-4

‘For you meet him with the blessings of goodness,

You set a crown of fine gold on his head.’

‘He asked life of you, you gave it to him,

Even length of days for ever and ever.’

Indeed God goes to meet the king with ‘the blessings of goodness’. This probably signifies ‘the blessings that come from the goodness of God’. These blessings include his crown of fine gold, a symbol of his prosperity and victory, and the longevity promised to the house of David.

Kings were regularly greeted with the words, ‘May the king live for ever’ (1 Kings 1:31; Nehemiah 2:3). The thought was that he might have long days and be succeeded by his sons. Here that is extended to ‘forever and ever’. It is never to cease. The exaltation is in the fact that he is the chosen of YHWH, Who will give him long life and will give to him through his seed an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:16).

‘You set a crown of fine gold on his head.’ There may be an allusion here to 2 Samuel 12:30 as an illustration of the glory that He constantly gave him in the defeat of his enemies. It possibly especially has in mind the crown of gold he had received from the enemy he had recently defeated. For it was customary for the victor to take the defeated king’s crown. But it may rather simply indicate that he was God’s anointed and therefor crowned with the finest of crowns.

‘He asked life of you, you gave it to him, even length of days for ever and ever.’ Compare Psalms 61:5-6. Long life was always the request of kings both for their own sake, and because it was thought to evidence their righteousness. It was especially important in view of the fact that a king’s death could bring hardship on his people, especially if his successors were weak or quarrelsome (compare also Hezekiah’s concern in Isaiah 38:10-20 and see Exodus 23:26; 1 Kings 3:11-14; Proverbs 3:1-2 in respect of length of days). So the king is given ‘length of days’. But here the thought would seem to include life through a long and successful dynasty, ensuring the effective continuation of his rule (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

But far more wonderfully was it fulfilled in the One Who was crowned with glory and honour (Hebrews 2:9) and Whom God raised from the dead that He might be our everlasting King (Acts 2:24; Acts 2:32-36) and give us life for evermore.

Psalms 21:5-6

‘His glory is great in your salvation,

Honour and majesty you lay upon him.’

‘For you make him most blessed for ever,

You make him glad with joy in your presence.’

Further benefits that the king receives are now described. He gets great glory from the recent deliverance as plaudits are poured on him, honour and majesty are bestowed on him as a result of his conquest, as kings submit their kingdoms to him, but most importantly he continues in the everlasting blessing of God, revealed in continual triumphs, and enjoys gladness and joy in the presence of God. He enjoys peace with God and peace for his kingdom. No one ever loses by their faithfulness to God.

For the success of the king is evidence of the divine favour, so that he basks in His glory, and as a truly righteous king walks in the light of His presence (see Psalms 4:6; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 89:15; Psalms 140:13).

How much more then is the eternal glory poured out on the King Messiah Who receives all these things in even greater abundance as He takes His throne in Heaven, with all being made subject to Him. For glory, honour and majesty are divine attributes (Psalms 8:1; Psalms 8:5; Psalms 104:1).

‘For you make him most blessed for ever.’ This is literally ‘you make him blessings for ever’ (compare Genesis 12:2). He is not only blessed but he dispenses blessing and is the source of blessing to his people. The people are themselves blessed in the success of their king, both because his success brings peace and joy, and because it brings stability and wealth. And of none was this more true in the spiritual sphere than with the King of Kings.

Psalms 21:7

‘For the king trusts in YHWH,

And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be moved.’

And all this results from the king’s faith in God. It is because he trusts in YHWH, and through His lovingkindness, that nothing can move or defeat him. It is his trust in God that is the foundation of his success.

Again we see how true this also was of the King Messiah, for He too trusted His Father fully, and was confident in His mercy and goodness. That was the root of His own success. And it gained Him the victory.

Verses 8-12

Attention Now Turns To The King Declaring His Reward and His Success Because He Trusts In YHWH (Psalms 21:8-12 ).

Psalms 21:8

Your hand will find out all your enemies,

Your right hand will find out those who hate you.

The consequence of his faith is that the king will root out and defeat all his enemies. Neither their subtlety nor their strength will succeed against him. Wherever they hide he will discover them. Whatever their plots he will know of them. Compare Psalms 2:0.

There is also here the assurance that those who are God’s can always be sure that He will watch over them, and that He will know all that there is to know about their enemies.

And finally there is here the guarantee that the King Messiah will finally triumph over all His enemies who will not be able to avoid His searching eye. As the next verse makes clear, they will be brought into fiery judgment before Him.

Psalms 21:9

You will make them as a fiery furnace,

In the time of your anger (or ‘countenance’).

YHWH will swallow them up in his wrath,

And the fire will devour them.

For God’s anger, His antipathy to sin, is aroused against the enemies of His people, because their very sinfulness is revealed in their desire to attack those who are faithful to Him. That is why He allow their enemies’ cities to be burned and the fires to destroy them. For He will enable the king to capture their cities and make them like a blazing furnace, and when the king personally arrives (the time of his countenance) and reveals his anger at their behaviour against God’s people, they will be swallowed up before the face of God’s anointed, and this will be in accordance with God’s will. For God’s wrath is revealed, as well as the king’s, because He is determined that He will protect His own who obey His covenant and reveal their love for Him and His ways, against all that would come against them. That then is why He will allow the fire to devour their enemies. Fire is often used in Scripture as a metaphor for the wrath of God (see e.g. Exodus 19:18; Hebrews 12:29; Revelation 1:14; and often).

While in our day this may seem ferocious we must remember that the people then lived in dangerous circumstances in dangerous days. Enemies were ever likely to swoop on them in order steal their possessions, rape their wives, burn their cities, destroy their crops and slay their children (especially the males), taking over their land, and either driving them out or exacting penal tribute (See Judges for examples). The only alternative was for their armies to get in first and prevent it.

But as Scripture constantly reveals God does not directly intervene in the details of world affairs. He carries out His will by controlling men’s overall activity, leaving the details to men themselves. Thus Nebuchadnezzar could be His servant (Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 27:6) in spite of the terrible things he did. God was not responsible for the terrible things. He did not interfere with the detail. He had final overall direction as to what was or was not accomplished.

Psalms 21:10

‘Their fruit will you destroy from the earth,

And their seed from among the children of men.’

And the result will be that the ‘fruit’ of their enemy, their sons and daughters (Lamentations 2:20), will be destroyed from the face of the earth by the king and his armies. Their seed will be destroyed from among the children of men. This would ensure the future, for it was only by rendering the enemy weak that they could be subdued and prevented from being a constant threat.

And the king’s success in all this mirrors the success of King Messiah when He comes to judge the world.

Psalms 21:11

‘For they intended evil against you,

They conceived a device which they are not able to perform.’

For, as he points out here, these peoples that have been attacked by the king were not innocent. They had intended evil against them. They were constantly plotting and planning their raids. And the only reason that their plans failed was because the king got in first. That is the reason that they were not able to ‘perform’ their ‘devices’. So do we learn that God can deal with all our enemies, whatever their schemes, if we respond to what He asks of us.

Psalms 21:12

‘For you will make them turn their back,

You will make ready with your bowstrings against their face.

Thus the enemy will not be able to stand against them, but will turn their back to them, while their own bowstrings will cause havoc and devastation among the enemy. Their victory will be certain because God is with His anointed.

We are reminded here that God may allow chastening for His people for a little while, but He will not allow them finally to be destroyed. He will guide us in the use of whatever weapons we possess so as to discomfit our enemies.

Verse 13

A Final Cry is Now Made Directly To YHWH (Psalms 21:13 ).

Psalms 21:13

‘Be exalted, O YHWH, in your strength,

So will we sing and praise your power.’

And their final plea is that YHWH might be exalted, revealing His strength. Thus will they be able to sing and praise His power. In the end it is the glory of God that matters, not the success of men, and it is that which should be our main concern, and it should always lead us to praise and worship.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 21". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.