Psalms Lecture 9: Psalm 72

THE FOLLOWING ARE NOTES FOR LECTURES GIVEN AT NEW COLLEGE, BIRMINGHAM. I AM NOT AN EXPERT AND BOOKS WILL BE CREDITED TO SHOW WHERE MY INFORMATION IS COMING FROM. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, COMMENT ON THIS POST AND I WILL TRY MY BEST TO ANSWER.

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Of Solomon.

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
May he endure[a] as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

May he rule from sea to sea
and from the River[b] to the ends of the earth.
May the desert tribes bow before him
and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
present him gifts.
11 May all kings bow down to him
and all nations serve him.

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
16 May grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon
and thrive[c] like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.

Then all nations will be blessed through him,[d]
and they will call him blessed.

18 Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.

20 This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.

There is a little debate about what “of Solomon” means here; some translate it as of, or by, meaning that Solomon wrote it. On the other hand, the psalm itself insinuates it was written by David, and so of could mean that the psalm was about Solomon as he took the throne. It is even suggested, that this prayer of David was spoken by him, but written down by Solomon as David was too weak to do so.

This would seem to make sense as this Royal psalm refers to the coronation of a king, and could be connected with 1 Kings 1:48

“Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne. 47 Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!’ And the king bowed in worship on his bed 48 and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.’””Another option is that the final statement “This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.” is the end of the second book within Psalms. This would mean that David was finishing off a section of which he was the main, but not the only, author. This could allow Solomon as the author.

And Spurgeon, as he often does, sees Jesus mainly within this psalm. This makes some sense when the language seems to blur from king to God “glory”, nations being blessed through him, there is some messiah-like imagery with the Jewish text and the description of a king seems almost too good for a simple king to be.

Spurgeon is not the only one to suggest it; Isaac Watts‘ hymn “Jesus Shall Reign” (as well as “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” by James Montgomery) use this psalm as inspiration and relate it to Jesus’ kingship over the world.

We are going to move quickly through the psalms parts, mainly because it’s really long:

Part A: 1-4 Royal righteousness. This focuses on the righteousness, and justice of the king. He is the protector of those who are vulnerablr. This is God-given justice and it is God’s will that His people be protected. Prosperity is not just the modern idea of wealth, but harmonious wholeness and peace. It could also be seen as “proper functioning” of the world.

Part B: 5-7 Endless reign. This speaks of an enduring dominion, with the allusion to the sun and moon. The just king is like sun and rain in that he helps to create the conditions for his subjects to flourish. This king is good for the country as a whole, and so goodness increases not just for him but for everyone.

Part C: 8-11 Boundless realm. The words “sea to sea” can be taken literally to mean the promise of land between the Red Sea and the sea of the Phillistines as mentioned in Exodus 23:31, however, this is just the start as verses 10 and 11 see this as the center of a realm stretching world-wide.
“Tarshish” may have been Tartessus in Spain but it was more often a name associated with long voyages, like Timbucktu might mean for us now.
“Sheba and Seba” may relate to peoples in Saudi Arabia. The Queen of Sheba was one who brought gifts in 1 Kings 10:1, but this psalm does not think of those gifts. Instead people will pay homage, giving themselves. This could be seen as prophetic ideas of the first gentiles after Christ who gave themselves as an offering.

Part D: 12-14 Compassionate king. If we accept that Solomon was the author of this psalm, he speaks more wisely than he ever acted. He obviously admires the king who he describes here, but his people judged that “he made our yoke heavy”. This was the opposite to what this king, and kings son, was meant to be which could lead us to believe, that Solomon’s admiration was aimed at the Messiah-king and the psalm inspired by the spirit.

Part E: 15-17 Endless blessing. There are many kinds of blessings prayed down upon this son, but one specific is strongly reminiscent of the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:2. This as a whole is a magnificent prayer for a king, his kingdom, and his reign.

Part F: Doxology & Conclusion. A doxology is a short hymn of praise often added onto the end of psalms and hymns. This one rounds off both the psalm and the second book of Psalms. The world-wide vision lends itself to be finished off in this way – with praise to God (as we have seen in other psalms where something before inspires praise).
Prayers was the earliest collective term for the psalms, they are now entitled praises, and these two terms do describe the Book of Psalms in its entirety: both being praises/hymns and prayers.

Echoes can obviously be seen in similar royal songs of modern day, particularly the UK national anthem “God Save the Queen”:

God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save The Queen!
O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall:
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.
Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen!
  • Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Book I and II of the Psalms (Inter-Varsity Press, England, 1973).
  • Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David, Volume II, Psalm LVIII to CX (Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts).
  • Society of Biblical Literature. The Harper Collins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version).
  • Walton, John H. Chronolgical and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Zondervan, Michigan, 1978).

 

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