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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 72

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-20


THE "title" attributes this psalm to Solomon, and the contents of the psalm are very favourable to his authorship. The prayer in Psalms 72:1-4 is an echo of that recorded in 1 Kings 3:9. The stress laid upon "peace" (1 Kings 3:3, 1 Kings 3:7-16) accords with the peaceful reign (1 Kings 4:20-25) of "the peaceful one." The local allusions (1 Kings 3:10, 1 Kings 3:15) suit the circumstances of Solomon's time. The tone, cheerful, equable, and objective rather than subjective, is Solomonic. The psalm is thought to have been composed early in Solomon's reign for liturgical purposes. It is a prophetic prayer for a blessing on the king and on his reign, which is represented in colours and with circumstances, that make it typical of the reign of Messiah (see especially 1Ki 3:8, 1 Kings 3:11, 1 Kings 3:17). The concluding verses (18, 19) are a doxology, marking the end of the Second Book (compare the comment on Psalms 41:13).

Psalms 72:1

Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son. God had established in Israel, in the person of David, hereditary monarchy (2 Samuel 7:12-16), such as was usual in the East, and suited to Oriental notions. In speaking of himself, not only as "the king," but also as "the king's son," Solomon makes appeal to the sentiment of respect for hereditary royalty. Compare the inscription of Mesha, "My father was king over Moab thirty years, and I became king after my father" (line 1). In praying God to give him "his judgments," he is desiring a "spirit of judgment" which will enable him to deliver decisions as righteous as God's.

Psalms 72:2

He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment. Then will he have wisdom to judge thy people aright. The wish is in the closest possible agreement with the prayer in 1 Kings 3:6-9.

Psalms 72:3

The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. Through the general establishment prominent features.

Psalms 72:4

He shall judge the poor of the people. Not exclusively, but especially. The unjust rulers and judges of Israel neglected this duty. They judge not the fatherless … and the right of the needy do they not judge" (Jeremiah 5:28; see also Isaiah 1:23; Zechariah 7:10). He shall save the children of the needy. He shall preserve them, i.e; from oppression and wrong. And shall break in pieces the oppressor. (On God's hatred of oppression and oppressors, see Exodus 3:9; Le Exodus 25:14; Job 27:13; Psalms 12:5; Isaiah 16:14, etc.)

Psalms 72:5

They shall fear thee (i.e. God) as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. The righteous government of the king shall spread abroad the "fear of God," and establish pure religion in the land, while the world continues. Here the psalm first becomes distinctly Messianic, passing on from the reigning monarch to the ideal king whom he typifies.

Psalms 72:6

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; i.e. softly and gently, bringing refreshment (comp. Deuteronomy 32:2; Isaiah 55:10, Isaiah 55:11; and perhaps 2 Samuel 23:4). As showers that water the earth. The same idea as in the preceding clause (comp. Hosea 6:3).

Psalms 72:7

In his days shall the righteous flourish. In Messiah's days, when his kingdom is fully established, the righteous will flourish and prosper, since the wicked will not be suffered to hinder them (comp. Psalms 72:4; and see Butler's 'Analogy,' pt. 1, Psalms 3:1-8). And abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth; literally, till there be no longer a moon (comp. Psalms 72:5).

Psalms 72:8

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea. It does not appear that any particular seas are meant, as in Exodus 23:31 and Numbers 34:3, Numbers 34:6; rather, the idea is that the earth is set in the midst of the sea, and that Messiah's dominion will reach from shore to shore. And from the river (i.e. the Euphrates) unto the ends of the earth. Israel's promised dominion extended only as far as the great river (Genesis 15:18), which was also the boundary of Solomon's kingdom eastward (1 Kings 4:21, 1 Kings 4:24); Messiah's was to reach indefinitely beyond the river to the world's end.

Psalms 72:9

They that dwell in the wilderness shall how before him (for the meaning here assigned to tsiyyim (ציּים), see Psalms 74:14; Isaiah 23:13). The wild tribes of the Syrian and Arabian deserts are probably intended (comp. Isaiah 60:6, Isaiah 60:7). And his enemies shall lick the dust; i.e; prostrate themselves at his feet with their faces in the dust. See the Assyrian representations of Oriental prostrations.

Psalms 72:10

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents. "Tarshish" here is probably Tartessus in Spain, so well known to the Israelites in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21). According to Herodotus, Tartessus, when it first became known to the Greeks, was governed by kings (Herod; 1:163). By "the isles" are to be understood the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean generally. All these have, at one time or another, paid homage to Christ. The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. "Sheba" and "Seba" are distinguished by the writer of Genesis (Genesis 10:7), and appear not even to have been very near the one to the other. Sheba was in Southeastern Arabia, and was known to the Greeks and Romans as the country of the Sabaeans (Diod. Sic; 3.45; Strabo, 16.4, § 19; Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 6.23). Saba was in Africa, on the Middle Nile, and the Sebaeans (סְבָאִים) are closely connected by Isaiah with Ethiopia and Egypt (Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 45:14).

Psalms 72:11

Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him (comp. Isaiah 49:7, Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 60:3-14). This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled in the letter; but it may one day be exactly accomplished. Or it may not have been intended to be understood literally. General truths are often expressed by the sacred writers universally.

Psalms 72:12

For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper (comp. Psalms 72:4); rather, and the poor who has no helper. Two classes of persons are spoken of, not three (comp. Job 29:12).

Psalms 72:13

He shall spare the poor and needy; or, the weak and needy. And shall save the souls of the needy. He shall not merely deliver them from their cruel oppressors in this life (Psalms 72:4), but also give health and life to their souls.

Psalms 72:14

He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence. Messiah's especial tenderness towards the poor and lowly is a main feature in all descriptions of his kingdom (see Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 29:19; Isaiah 41:17, etc.), and was emphasized by our Lord when he came upon earth (Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18). And precious shall their blood be in his sight. Worth, therefore, a mighty ransom (comp. Psalms 116:15).

Psalms 72:15

And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba. He (i.e. Messiah) "shall live"—shall live on, and reign on, in his everlasting kingdom; and men shall bring to him of the gold of Sheba (1 Kings 10:10; Ezekiel 27:22), giving him of their best and rarest, in grateful acknowledgment of his goodness and protection. Prayer also shall be made for him continually. His subjects shall offer prayer for him continually, as Christians do when they pray, "Thy kingdom come" (Hengstenberg). And daily shall he be praised; rather, all day long shall they praise him.

Psalms 72:16

There shall be an handful of corn in the earth; rather, as in the Prayer book Version, an heap of corn; or, abundance of corn (Revised Version), "Abundance of corn" is put for general prosperity. Upon the top of the mountains. In flourishing times of agriculture, the very tops of the mountains were cultivated all over Palestine, as appears by the remains of terraces. The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon. Canon Cook's seems to be the best exposition: "The ripened corn on the heights shall rustle in the wind like the foliage on Lebanon." And they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. "They of the city" are the inhabitants of the "New Jerusalem" (Revelation 21:2), the citizens of Messiah's kingdom.

Psalms 72:17

His Name shall endure forever (comp. Psalms 45:2, Psalms 45:6; Psalms 102:12; Isaiah 9:7). "The eternity of the Name is based upon the eternity of the kingdom" (Hengstenberg). His Name shall be continued as long as the sun (comp. Psalms 72:5); or, his Name shall be renewed—shall spring again to fresh life. Dr. Kay compares an expression of Renan's, "Son culte se rajeunira." And men shall be blessed in him; literally, men shall bless themselves in him (comp. Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4). All nations shall call him blessed. With these words the psalm, properly speaking, ends. The doxology (Psalms 72:18, Psalms 72:19) and the note (Psalms 72:20) were probably appended by the arranger of the book.

Psalms 72:18, Psalms 72:19

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel (compare the other doxologies, which begin similarly (Psalms 41:13; Psalms 89:52; Psalms 106:42). Who only doeth wondrous things (comp. Psalms 86:8, Psalms 86:10; and Job 5:9). And blessed be his glorious Name forever (comp. Psalms 29:2; Psalms 34:3; Psalms 46:2; Psalms 69:30; Psalms 113:2, etc.). And let the whole earth be filled with his glory. The whole earth can no otherwise be filled with the glory of God, than by men everywhere glorifying him, and bowing clown in adoration before his Son. The promise had been made that so it should one day be (Numbers 14:21); and the psalmist anticipates the fulfilment of the promise. Amen, and Amen (comp. Psalms 41:13; Psalms 89:52; Psalms 106:48).

Psalms 72:20

The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended. This is a note appended, either by the collector of the first two Books of the Psalms, or by the collector of the Third Book, who thus marked the difference between the previous collection and his own, the former containing sixty psalms ascribed to David in their titles, and the latter one only (Psalms 86:1-17).


Psalms 72:17

Messiah's reign.

"Men shall be blessed in him." This great promise looks back to the glorious and amazing assurance thrice given to the Patriarch Abraham (and repeated to his son and grandson, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18). St. Paul says the gospel was thus "preached before" (Galatians 3:8). In the third of these passages, and in the text, the Hebrew word is strictly "bless themselves" (margin, Revised Version); but the sense is governed by the other two passages (so Genesis 26:4 compared with Genesis 28:14). As we are said to wash ourselves in water, though it is the water that cleanses; or to feed ourselves, though it is the food that nourishes; or to rest ourselves, though it is the resting place which yields us rest; so we bless ourselves when we take the blessings God gives us, and find cleansing, food, rest, in Christ. Ancient Hebrew expositors took this glorious psalm as a prophecy of Messiah. Modern Christian critics have spent great learning and ingenuity in dethroning Christ, and leaving Solomon in his stead. If Solomon really wrote this psalm concerning himself, it must be pronounced such a piece of self-glorification, with such Eastern exaggeration, as we nowhere else find in Scripture. Yet we may regard the peaceful glory of Solomon's reign, unlike anything before or since, as an earthly and typical fulfilment, in part, of this majestic, prophetic picture, taking it to refer not to Solomon personally, but to David's royal line, crowned and consummated in Christ (so of Abraham's line St. Paul says, "which is Christ," Galatians 3:16).

I. GOD'S WORD PROMISES BLESSING IN WHICH ALL NATIONS ARE TO SHARE. This wondrous chain of promises, stretching across, thousands of years, holds out a hope which has no root but in the Bible—the universal equal happiness of all nations of mankind. Men may discard the Bible, and yet cling, in the name of progress and civilization, to this splendid hope. But whence did it spring? National happiness or welfare, or, in the strong Bible word, "blessedness," depends on six things—justice, freedom, virtue, knowledge, distribution of wealth, peace (Psalms 144:15).

1. Justice is the first office and object of government (Romans 13:1-5), the first condition of national welfare (Deuteronomy 4:8). Great Charters, Petitions of Right, Declarations of Independence, and the like, are the outcry of oppressed peoples for this prime necessity of national life.

2. Freedom is really implied in justice, the only real guardian of right and nurse of true virtue.

3. Virtue is no less essential to real national happiness and greatness. Fraud, intemperance, impurity, covetous greed, wild love of pleasure, sloth, cowardice, suck the vitals and sap the roots of national life.

4. Knowledge is the parent of all progress. Not mere labour, but wisely directed labour, is the source of wealth. The mind that invents and foresees must guide the hand which toils.

5. Right distribution of wealth is the most urgent national problem of our own day in our own and all civilized nations. No nation is blessed in which immense wealth stagnates in a few hands, and the toiling millions are wretched and joyless.

6. Peace is the fence and crown of all the other elements of national welfare. War is a short name for all calamities, cruellest of misfortunes, if necessary and just; if unjust, avoidable, the greatest of crimes.


1. Possibility and reasonableness of this. It is not open to question that if even the bulk of a nation, its rulers, legislators, and individual citizens became real Christians, such as may be found by thousands, loving God truly and their neighbour unselfishly, hating vice, dealing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God,—that nation would soon be the envy of all nations. Let every nation undergo such a transformation, and war would be impossible; slavery and tyranny would be things of the past; social problems would be solved, not by legislation, but by every one's sense of what is due to others; mutual help would take the place of fierce competition; labour would become faithful, and wealth beneficent; even secular knowledge of all kinds would receive a mighty impulse from the new value given to each human life and the high moral tone of society. These things the gospel can certainly do, if only all men would believe.

2. Hopelessness of such a condition, except from the kingdom of Christ. Human nature has not in itself the tendency to produce such a state of things. Knowledge and progress do not change human nature, do not give life; Christ alone gives life (John 10:10).

3. Hopefulness of this prospect.

(1) God has provided for nothing less. What the gospel effects on a small scale it is equally fitted to effect on the largest scale. What Jesus Christ is actually doing forevery sinner who believes in him, every disciple who truly follows him, he is able to do for mankind.

(2) God has promised no less. In the Lord's Prayer we tray for the coming of his kingdom "on earth" (Psalms 2:8; Isaiah 2:4).


Psalms 72:1-20

The glory of Christ's kingdom.

It is written that Satan took our Lord "up into an exceeding high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them" (Matthew 4:8); but they had no charm, for him. In this psalm we are, so to speak, taken up by the Spirit, and shown the kingdom of Messiah; and as its glory opens to our sight our hearts are thrilled with admiration and delight. With renewed ardour we cry, "Thy kingdom come." Consider some things testified here as to the glory of Christ's kingdom.

I. THE GREATNESS OF THE SOVEREIGN. David and Solomon were in some respects great kings; and their greatness, so far as it was real, arose from their feeling their dependence upon God, and that it was their first duty to rule themselves and their people according to God's Law. We know how in many things they offended. But here is a King spoken of whose greatness is of a nobler kind, and who comes short in nothing of God's glory. As respects his nature, his character, his relationships, he is supremely fitted to rule. In him "righteousness" and "judgment" are found as in God. The will of God, on the one hand, and the welfare of his people are his highest ends. "God is light;" and this King saith, "I am the Light of the world." "God is love;" and this King's advent was proclaimed by angels as the Saviour who should bring down love to men: "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to the children of men."

II. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE ADMINISTRATION. (Psalms 72:2-4.) David, in his last words, describes Messiah's manner of government (2 Samuel 23:1-4). It is characterized by justice; there is no respect of persons; friends are not unduly favored, nor enemies unfairly punished (Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 11:5); the condition and interests of all are considered, and the poor are specially regarded; but justice is blended with mercy. It is the glory of Christ's government that it provides for the return of the rebellious, and for the restoration of the fallen.

III. THE HAPPINESS OF THE PEOPLE. (Psalms 72:6, Psalms 72:7.) The laws of the kingdom are not only adapted to the nature and necessities of man, but designed for the welfare of those who obey them (Deuteronomy 32:47; Isaiah 48:18); they are not arbitrary, but. founded in truth; they are not alterable, but eternally fixed. Earthly governments so far regulate their laws according to circumstances, and there may be improvements made and reforms carried out from time to time for the greater advantage of the people; but the laws of this kingdom do not need improvement—they are perfect as God is perfect. We see the result in the character and privileges of the people (Isaiah 43:21; Matthew 5:1-10). They are enlightened, contented, law-abiding; they strive to mould their lives according to the will of their King, and in loyalty and devotion to him they find their highest honour and their highest happiness. In this kingdom alone can liberty, equality, and fraternity, in the truest sense, be enjoyed.

IV. THE FUTURE TRIUMPHS THAT MAY BE CONFIDENTLY EXPECTED. This kingdom is destined to grow from more to more; it has an unlimited power of expansiveness (Psalms 72:8, Psalms 72:13); it is also marked by stability. Earthly kingdoms have their rise and fall; but this kingdom is unshakable and eternal. It begins on earth, but is carried up to heaven. Other kings may have successors, though often the direct succession fails; but this King has no successor, but will reign forever and ever.—W.F.

Psalms 72:15

Christ on the throne.

If it may be said of the twenty-second psalm that it lets us see Christ on the cross, it may be said of this that it shows us Christ on the throne. Instead of humiliation, there is exaltation; instead of the mockery of "the purple robe," there is the homage of angels; instead of the wicked cries of envious priests and a deluded people, "Crucify him!" there is the joyful song of the redeemed, "Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!" The saints on earth, as well as the saints in heaven, are partakers of this joy; they know whom they have believed, and they have had experience of his benign and righteous rule. We learn here—

I. THAT WHERE CHRIST REIGNS THERE IS LIFE. He is the Source and the Giver of life. Where the waters that Ezekiel saw came, there was life; and so where the gospel of Christ comes, there is life. The mind that before was dark has the life of truth; the conscience that before was dormant has the life of righteousness; the heart that before was dead in sins is quickened to the new life of love and holiness. Christ's rule ever tends to the well being of his people.

II. THAT WHERE THERE IS LIFE THERE WILL BE PRAYER. The first sign of infant life is breathing; and the first sign of the soul's life is the breathing of prayer to God. The life within expresses itself in accordance with its nature and needs. The mind that has light cries for more light; the conscience, awakened to a sense of sin, seeks deliverance; the heart that has been touched with the love of God yearns for more love and nearer fellowship. So it was with Paul. "Behold, he prayeth!" and so onward, through all the toils and struggles of his noble life, he continued instant in prayer.

III. THAT WHERE THERE IS PRAYER THE SUPREME DESIRE WILL BE THE GLORY OF CHRIST. Self will be lost in love. Concern about ourselves will be merged in concern for the glory of Christ our Lord. "Prayer shall be made for him."

1. For his cause. What interests him will interest us; what lies nearest his heart will be nearest ours. There is unity of life.

2. For his people. He identifies himself with them. He regards what is done to them as done to himself. When "prayer was made of the Church" for Peter, they were, in a sense, making prayer for Christ. Our sympathies should be as broad as the sympathies of Christ.

3. For his second coming. His first coming was the hope of Israel; his second coming is the hope of the Church of the gospel (Revelation 22:20; Titus 2:13). "Prayer for Christ" increases our love to him, binds us in closer union with the brethren, and enables us to transmit the blessed hope to future generations. Think of the prayers made every Lord's day! What cause for thankfulness and joy! Yea, "daily" prayer shall be made till prayer is consummated in praise.—W.F.


Psalms 72:1-7

The effect of the anger of a perfectly righteous King.

Most probably put into form by Solomon, even if David suggested the substance of it. It is the portrait of an ideal King, never yet realized completely by any earthly monarch, and finds its perfect fulfilment only in Christ and his kingdom. Solomon did not fulfil it. It shows the effects of the reign of a perfectly righteous King such as Christ.

I. HE PROCLAIMS AND ADMINISTERS ONLY RIGHTEOUS LAWS AND JUDGMENTS. (Psalms 72:1, Psalms 72:2.) In opposition to the injustice of the despot. but the true King has a passion for justice.

II. THE REIGN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS BRINGS IN THE REIGN OF PEACE. (Psalms 72:3.) "Mountains and hills are mentioned as being characteristic features of the country." Peace is always spoken of in the Scriptures as the fruit of righteousness—in public and in private.

III. IT UPHOLDS AND VINDICATES THE RIGHTS OF THE POOR AGAINST ALL OPPRESSION. (Psalms 72:4.) Those who are born to poverty are more or less regarded by an unrighteous government as having no rights. Christianity expresses the cause of the poor, and vindicates their rights against all injustice and selfishness.

IV. RIGHTEOUS RULE TEACHES THE PEOPLE THE FEAR OF GOD. (Psalms 72:5.) Corrupt government encourages licentiousness and irreligion among the people.

V. RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT QUICKENS AND FERTILIZES ALL THE AFFAIRS OF A NATION. (Psalms 72:6.) As rain quickens and fertilizes the dry earth.

VI. GOOD MEN PROSPER AND HAVE PEACE UNDER RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT. (Psalms 72:7.) But are mostly persecuted and despoiled of their liberty and rights under a tyrannical rule. It is the office of a righteous king to defend the righteous; but it is Christ's work to make men righteous by fashioning their minds anew by his Holy Spirit.—S.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 72". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/psalms-72.html. 1897.
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