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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 72

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 72:0


The Reign of the Righteous King MT Intro A Psalm of Solomon Glory and Universality of the Messiah's Reign Prayer for God's Blessing On the King A Prayer for A King The Promised King
Psalms 72:1-4 Psalms 72:1-4 Psalms 72:1-4 Psalms 72:1-5 Psalms 72:1-2
Psalms 72:3-4
Psalms 72:5-7 Psalms 72:5-7 Psalms 72:5-7 Psalms 72:5-6
Psalms 72:6-7
Psalms 72:7-8
Psalms 72:8-11 Psalms 72:8-11 Psalms 72:8-11 Psalms 72:8-11
Psalms 72:9-10b
Psalms 72:10-11
Psalms 72:12-15 Psalms 72:12-15 Psalms 72:12-14 Psalms 72:12-14 Psalms 72:12-13
Psalms 72:14-15
Psalms 72:15-17 Psalms 72:15-17
Psalms 72:16-17 Psalms 72:16 Psalms 72:16
Psalms 72:17 Psalms 72:17
Psalms 72:18-19 Psalms 72:18-19 Psalms 72:18-19 Psalms 72:18-19b Psalms 72:18-19
Psalms 72:19c
Psalms 72:20 Psalms 72:20 Psalms 72:20 Psalms 72:20 Psalms 72:20

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This is an extended prayer (i.e., “Give” BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperative) for a righteous king and his son (possibly an allusion to 2 Samuel 7:0, which ultimately refers to the Messiah).

1. Your judgments NASB, NKJV, JPSOA

a. your justice NRSV, REB,

b. your own fair judgment NJB

2. Your righteousness NASB, NKJV, NRSV, JPSOA, REB

your own saving justice, NJB

B. This Psalm captures the OT understanding of the “New Age.” The covenant requirements and promises come to fruition. If it is a coronation hymn, it is royal hyperbole, but if it is imagery of the new age, it finds fulfillment in Christ. This Psalm is not quoted in the NT but Jewish and Christian sources have seen it as Messianic. See Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendix IX, p. 719.

C. This Psalm is dominated by imperfect verbs. The NASB, NRSV, and JPSOA see Psalms 72:2-4, Psalms 72:5-7, Psalms 72:8-11, Psalms 72:15-17, Psalms 72:19 as imperfects used in a jussive sense (i.e., “may. . .,” “let. . .”), but NKJV and NJB see them all as imperfects (i.e., statements of what the Messiah will do). There are four jussives in this context (i.e., Psalms 72:8, Psalms 72:15, Psalms 72:16, Psalms 72:17).

D. Psalms 72:20 is a concluding remark by a later editor/compiler of Book Two (i.e., Psalm 42-72) of the Psalter.

It is also possible that Psalms 72:18-19 comprise a closing doxology to Book Two of the Psalter.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 72:1-4 1Give the king Your judgments, O God, And Your righteousness to the king's son. 2May he judge Your people with righteousness And Your afflicted with justice. 3Let the mountains bring peace to the people, And the hills, in righteousness. 4May he vindicate the afflicted of the people, Save the children of the needy And crush the oppressor.

Psalms 72:1-4 This strophe prays for the godly manner in which the new king (i.e., Messiah) should reign.

1. judge (plural in MT possible, expresses quality) with righteousness, cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:2-5; Isaiah 32:1; for “righteousness” see SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS

2. judge with justice (see SPECIAL TOPIC: JUDGE, JUDGMENT, and JUSTICE (שפט) IN ISAIAH), cf. Psalms 82:3

3. bring peace (the righteous king's reign will cause the land to prosper, i.e., Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 27-30)

4. vindicate, cf. Isaiah 11:4

5. save

6. crush the oppressor

Notice the different terms used to describe God's people.

1. Your people, Psalms 72:2

2. Your afflicted, Psalms 72:2, Psalms 72:4 (JPSOA, “lowly ones”)

3. the children of the needy, Psalms 72:4

All of God's family will be protected and encouraged.

There developed a tension within the covenant community between the rich and poor. This tension was transferred after the exiles to believing, faithful followers and the pagan invaders/occupiers. It is the afflicted/poor/needy who will be restored. YHWH will care for and defend them (development of Deuteronomy themes). He is their only hope and savior (cf. Psalms 103:6; Psalms 146:7).

Psalms 72:3 This imagery can have several meanings.

1. mountains. . .hills refer to godly leaders

2. mountains. . .hills are functioning as personified messengers of prosperity (i.e., covenant blessings)

3. mountains. . .hills refer to the permanent stability of the Promised Land

“water” This word (BDB 284, KB 283) is found only here in the OT. It seems to be from the Hiphil verb “dripping”; in Arabic the root means “tears flow.”

Verses 5-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 72:5-7 5Let them fear You while the sun endures, And as long as the moon, throughout all generations. 6May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, Like showers that water the earth. 7In his days may the righteous flourish, And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

Psalms 72:5-7 This strophe emphasizes two requests.

1. that God's people continue to fear/revere Him

2. that this devotion continue through time (i.e., while the sun and moon endure, cf. Genesis 8:22; Psalms 89:36-37)

If they do, then the promises of abundance from the Mosaic covenant will continue (cf. Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 27-30). The king and the people must meet the covenant conditions.

Psalms 72:5

NASB, JPSOA“them” NKJV“they” NRSV, NJB, REV, LXX“he”

The MT has the plural, therefore, it could refer to

1. the covenant people's reverence

2. the Messianic king's (i.e., the plural of majesty) reverence

NASB, NKJV, REB, JPSOA“fear” NRSV, NEB“live” TEV“worship” NJB, LXX“endure”

The UBS Text Project (p. 309) gives “last” a “C” rating (considerable doubt). This follows the LXX. It fits the parallelism better.

Verses 8-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 72:8-11 8May he also rule from sea to sea And from the River to the ends of the earth. 9Let the nomads of the desert bow before him, And his enemies lick the dust. 10Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. 11And let all kings bow down before him, All nations serve him.

Psalms 72:8-11 The reign of the Messiah will be

1. universal (i.e., using terms from the ANE)

a. from sea to sea (cf. Zechariah 9:10)

b. from the river (i.e., Euphrates) to the ends of the earth (i.e., Solomon ruled this area)

2. all peoples will honor Him and bring tribute, cf. Isaiah 49:23

This universal reign (cf. Psalms 2:8; Psalms 59:13; Psalms 65:2; Psalms 67:7; Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 52:10; Micah 5:4) is the obvious conclusion from Genesis 1:26-27 and Psalms 12:3. If monotheism is true, the redemption of all the children of Adam is the goal (see SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN; Psalms 2:0 is another Messianic Psalm).

Psalms 72:9

NASB“the nomads” NKJV (MT)“those who dwell in the wilderness” NRSV“foes” TEV“peoples of the desert” NJB“beasts” LXX“Ethiopians” REB“desert tribes”

The word (צי, BDB 850 II, KB 1020) can mean

1. foes from צר, BDB 865 III (emendation, but fits the parallel “enemies” of Psalms 72:9b better)

2. desert animals Psalms 74:14; Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 23:13; Isaiah 34:14; Jeremiah 50:39 (from ץיה, “dryness,” BDB 851, cf. Jeremiah 50:12; Jeremiah 51:43)

3. it is possible (cf. NEB) that #2 refers to desert demons (see Special Topic below)

4. envoy or messenger ציר (BDB 851 II), cf. Isaiah 18:2


“his enemies lick the dust” This is an ANE picture (i.e., wall carving and paintings) of someone bowing (cf. Psalms 72:9a) to the ground. To this was added a literary idiom of “lick the dust” (BDB 535, KB 525, Piel imperfect, cf. Isaiah 49:23; Micah 7:17), which denoted the defeat and subservience of the one bowing.

Psalms 72:10 “Tarshish” This place name (BDB 1077, see Special Topic: Tarshish) could refer to

1. a city in southern Spain on the Atlantic side, which was a Phoenician colony (i.e., Tartessus)

2. the island of Sardinia

3. a city on the north African coast (Carthage was a colony of Phoenicia)

4. a metaphor for a far distant port

5. a type of large sea-going commercial ship

6. a rival maritime nation (cf. 1 Kings 10:22)

“islands” This word (BDB 15 I) usually means “coast” or “island.” It denotes far away nations (cf. Isaiah 40:15; Isaiah 66:19; Jeremiah 25:22; Jeremiah 31:10). This fits the imagery of this strophe (i.e., the universal reign of the Messiah).

“Sheba” This refers to the nation or tribe from Ham living in southern Arabia.

“Seba” This refers to the area of northeast Africa, often identified with Egypt and Cush (cf. Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 45:14).

The purpose of mentioning these place names is to back up the assertion of Psalms 72:8 and 11.

Verses 12-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 72:12-15 12For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, The afflicted also, and him who has no helper. 13He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. 14He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, And their blood will be precious in his sight; 15So may he live, and may the gold of Sheba be given to him; And let them pray for him continually; Let them bless him all day long.

Psalms 72:12-15 In Psalms 72:12-14 the imperfects characterize the Messiah's reign (not used in a jussive sense). However, in Psalms 72:15 the NASB returns to imperfects used in a jussive sense.

Notice the variety in the names and characterizations of God's people (cf. Psalms 72:2-4).

1. the needy, Psalms 72:12

2. the afflicted, Psalms 72:12

3. the poor, Psalms 72:13

4. the needy, Psalms 72:13

As Psalms 72:4 named their enemies “the oppressor,” here they are described as “oppressors” and “those of violence.” It is difficult to identify these people in Psalms.

1. unfaithful Israelites

2. pagan neighbors

3. foreign invaders

The Messianic king will

1. deliver the needy and afflicted

2. have compassion on the poor and needy

3. save the lives of the needy (cf. Psalms 69:18)

4. rescue the covenant people from oppression and violence

5. their blood/lives are precious in His sight (cf. Psalms 116:15)

Psalms 72:14 “their blood will be precious in his sight” The Messiah is contrasted with “the oppressor” (cf. Psalms 72:4). He will genuinely care for the poor, needy, and afflicted (cf. Psalms 116:15). He has the heart of the Creator (cf. Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27)! All humans are important to Him!

Psalms 72:15 This verse has two thrusts.

1. the first two verbs relate to the Messianic king

a. may he live BDB 310, KB 309, Qal jussive

b. may he be given tribute BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. the next two verbs relate to His people

a. let them pray for Him continually BDB 813, KB 933, Hithpael imperfect used in a jussive sense

b. let them bless Him all day long BDB 138, KB 159, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

It is obvious that Psalms 72:15a is using a common royal expression (i.e., “long live the king”), but it takes on new meaning in light of NT revelation of the Messiah's incarnation and triumphal entry into Jerusalem!

Verses 16-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 72:16-17 16May there be abundance of grain in the earth on top of the mountains; Its fruit will wave like the cedars of Lebanon; And may those from the city flourish like vegetation of the earth. 17May his name endure forever; May his name increase as long as the sun shines; And let men bless themselves by him; Let all nations call him blessed.

Psalms 72:16-17 Both Psalms 72:16 and 17 start with a jussive verb, which gives a context to see all the imperfect verbs in these two verses as jussive in meaning.

This strophe continues the abundance theme begun in Psalms 72:3, Psalms 72:5-6. This abundance is the covenantal promises of Leviticus 26:0 and Deuteronomy 27-30.

Psalms 72:17 focuses on the Messiah's reign.

1. may His name endure forever used of YHWH in Psalms 135:13

2. may His name increase as long as the sun shines (cf. Psalms 72:5-7); the verb “increase” is found only here in the OT (BDB 630, KB 696, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1161); the LXX has “endure” in the parallel of Psalms 72:17a

3. let men bless themselves by Him (i.e., an allusion to Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18; the Abrahamic covenant, see SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN

4. let all the nations call Him blessed (parallel to #3)

Verses 18-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 72:18-19 18Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders. 19And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.

Psalms 72:18-19 Notice how Psalms 72:17 (about the Messiah) is paralleled in Psalms 72:18 (about the covenant God of Israel). The king, as well as the Messiah, is to reflect the character of YHWH.

Notice the universal element again in Psalms 72:19b (cf. Numbers 14:21; Isaiah 6:3).

Psalms 72:18 “works wonders” See SPECIAL TOPIC: WONDERFUL THINGS.

Psalms 72:19 “Amen” See SSPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN.

Verse 20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 72:20 20The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

Psalms 72:20 This verse is an editorial note showing the close of the second book of Psalms. It is possible that Psalms 72:18-19 is also a doxological close (cf. Psalms 41:13; Psalms 89:52) to the whole second book.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this Psalm about Solomon or the future Messiah?

2. Did Solomon's reign fit Psalms 72:8?

3. How do these OT Scriptures about Israel's dominance of all nations fit with the NT?

4. Who do the “afflicted” represent?

5. How is Psalms 72:16 related to Genesis 12:0?

6. Are Psalms 72:18-19, and 20 a part of this Psalm or a close to Book II?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 72". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-72.html. 2021.
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