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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 72



Verse 1

1. Judgments… righteousness—The latter the principle, the former the act or sentence, of justice. The one implies the discernment of the will of God, or wisdom to govern; the other, the executive energy to adjust the administration of government to that standard. This was partially fulfilled in the early part of Solomon’s reign, (see 1 Kings 3:28; 1 Kings 10:9,) but the state of society here described is realized fully only under King Messiah’s government, and is represented (Revelation 20:4) as belonging to the millennium: “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.”

The king… the king’s son—The one a designation of office, the other of royal descent, and hence of hereditary right to reign.

Verse 3

3. Mountains shall bring peace—The verb may be taken in the sense of to elevate, lift up, as a signal, and hence the ensigns of war upon the tops of the mountains shall give place to peace-signals and publishers of good tidings. See Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 52:7-8; or, it may be taken in the sense of bring forth, and allude to the fact that cities and villages were generally built upon mountains or hills for better military defence, and here, naturally, would be the centres of war. But those, being now at peace, would bring peace to the nation. Anciently nations were composed of municipalities. Country life was little known.

Verse 4

4. Children of the needy—The phrase specially signifies those who are born to poverty, and is an intensive advance in the sense of poor, in the former line of the verse. In the absolute monarchies of the East these were treated as though they had little claim to justice and protectiona horrible sin in the sight of God! Jeremiah 5:28-29; Amos 4:1; Amos 8:4; Amos 8:6. Compare, under Messiah’s government, Matthew 5:3; Matthew 11:4-5

Verse 5

5. They shall fear thee—On account of thy righteous judgments. See Revelation 15:4.

As long as the sun and moon endure—Literally, With the sun and before the moon: a proverbial expression for stability and perpetuity, equal to Isaiah 51:6; Isaiah 54:10; Matthew 5:18.

Throughout all generations—Literally, generation of generations. The repetition of the same word is a Hebraic form for suggesting the idea of uninterrupted continuance and boundless duration, (Ewald,) here applicable only in the prophetic sense to Messiah’s kingdom, as in Daniel 7:13-14; Psalms 33:11; Deuteronomy 3:15

Verse 6

6. He shall come down like rain—Giving life to vegetation and beauty to the earth. See Deuteronomy 32:2. Elsewhere David uses the same figure, which fully applies only to Christ. 2 Samuel 23:4

Verse 7

7. Shall the righteous flourish—The highest proof of a righteous government and of a prosperous people.

Moon endureth—See Psalms 72:5

Verse 8

8. In the preceding verses are set forth the character and duration of Messiah’s kingdom; Psalms 72:8-11 chiefly describe the extent of his dominion. The words from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth, are nowhere used to describe Palestine, or the political dominion of David or Solomon. Outside of Palestine the Hebrews, at this period, were acquainted with no seas but the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

These are specifically named in bounding the Hebrew dominion. Thus, in Exodus 23:31, God says: “I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea, even unto the Sea of the Philistines, [Mediterranean,] and from the Desert [of Arabia] unto the River” [Euphrates]. These are definite geographical limits, and this extent of dominion was literally attained and enjoyed under both David and Solomon. But very different from this is the language of the text. “From the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines,” is not the same as “from sea to sea;” and “from the Desert [of Arabia] to the River [Euphrates,]” bears no comparison with the all-comprehensive language, “from the River [Euphrates] to the ends of the earth.” No allowance for the oriental imagination can make them equal, or interpret the latter as less than universal, beginning, as it does, at the utmost limit of Solomon’s dominion, and carrying that of Messiah “to the ends of the earth.” And to this sense the connexion agrees. Psalms 72:9-11; Psalms 72:15. These words of the psalmist are quoted (Zechariah 9:10) in a passage confessedly Messianic, to describe the extent of the dominion of “Zion’s king.”

Verse 9

9. Wilderness—Of Arabia, as in Psalms 74:14. The Arabian tribes, from immemorial ages, have been a wild, independent, and unconquerable people, and their willing submission is here a notable feature.

Verse 10

10. Tarshish—Its location is not known, but is supposed to be the same as Tartessus, a colony and trading point of the Phoenicians, situated in the south of Spain, the most distant point west of Palestine known to the ancients.

The isles—The countries lying beyond the sea with regard to Palestine, particularly the countries bordering the Mediterranean on the north.

Sheba—Same as Arabia Felix, or Yemen, on the southern coast of Arabia. The Septuagint reads, “The kings of the Arabians.”

Seba— Ethiopia, strictly the old and rich kingdom of Meroe. If the description of Psalms 72:8, “From the river to the ends of the earth,” is to be understood of all the world lying east of the Euphrates, then “Tartessus” and “the isles” may represent all nations west of Palestine and the “wilderness,” (Arabia,)

(Psalms 72:9,) as “Sheba” and “Seba” may those lying south and south-west, the whole constituting a description as comprehensive of the whole world as the Hebrew knowledge of geography could poetically give.

Verse 11

11. All kings… all nations—This is a summing up of all that has been said, and clearly fixes the world-dominion of the “king” here prophetically extolled.

Verse 12

12. For—Again in this and the two following verses the reasons are assigned for this majesty and dominion. (See Psalms 72:2-4.) “He has merited such submission by the exercise of every royal virtue, by the justice and the mercy of his sway. The majesty of righteousness enthroned in his person compels all to bow before him.”Perowne.

And him that hath no helper—Phillips reads, “When he has no helper,” giving vauv ( ו ) the adverbial sense.

Verse 14

14. Deceit and violence— “Under the terms craft and violence the psalmist comprehends all kinds of misdealing; for a man in doing harm is either a lion or a fox: for some rage with open force, and others creep to misdealing insidiously and by stealthy arts.”Calvin.

Precious shall their blood be—How true of the reign of Christ, our king and avenger! See Psalms 116:15. He will requite innocent blood. Matthew 23:34-36; Revelation 18:20; Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2. Christ is identified with his saints in joy or suffering. Matthew 10:40; Acts 9:4-5

Verse 15

15. And he shall live— “Live,” here, should be referred to the king, not to the poor, as some suppose. “Let the king live!” (of which the English “God save the king!” is no translation,) was the common salutation to kings. See 1 Samuel 10:24; 2 Samuel 16:16; Daniel 2:4; Daniel 3:9, et al. Here, also, the optative form of the verb may be adopted, “and may he live,” instead of, “and he shall live.”

The gold of Sheba—The “gifts” of Sheba have already been mentioned in verge 10. Why is gold here mentioned as coming from thence? We know from Scripture (Genesis 2:11-12) and from ancient authorities that Arabia, in early times, produced gold. which the kingdom of Sheba enjoyed in great abundance. 1 Kings 10:1-2; 1 Kings 10:10. The mention of “Sheba” instead of Ophir, as a place of gold, is a strong internal indication that this psalm was written by David, not by Solomon, in whose reign the chief receipts of gold were from the latter place. 1 Kings 9:26-28

Verse 16

16. There shall be a handful of corn—Hebrew, There shall be a diffusion, or superabundance, of corn, etc., deriving פסה, translated handful, from פסס, to diffuse, (as Gesenius, Furst,) which is more in accordance with the connexion.

Upon the top of the mountains—Dr. Moll translates, Even to the top of the mountains, as if the allusion were to the terracing, which should extend to the summit. The mountains of Palestine were terraced for more perfect tillage, and, viewed from the summit, they presented an almost unbroken forest of grain fields and vineyards. The “mountains” are here specified, instead of the plains, perhaps either because the Israelites were forced to occupy chiefly the mountainous districts, being unable to expel the inhabitants of the great plains, who fought with war-chariots, (see Joshua 17:16; Judges 1:19; Judges 1:34,) or, because the mountains were of more difficult tillage, and more exposed to the depredations of wild beasts and the casualties of the season, especially the want of moisture. But even here should be plenty and thrift under the vigorous reign of this theocratic king.

The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon—Shall wave in the wind like the cedars of Lebanon.

They of the city shall flourish—The population shall spring up as grass. Thus the two great elements of national strength, a flourishing population and bountiful subsistence, should be realized. See Psalms 72:3. But this external prosperity would spring from the righteousness of the people responsive to that of the government.

Verse 17

17. His name shall endure—Shall live, as in Psalms 72:15. The verb takes the form of prayer, “may he live,” etc.

His name shall be continued—The verb here translated “continued,” has the sense of sprout, increase, growth, as if his name should be reproduced, or propagated, in successive generations, as the name of the father in the son. This is the idea given in the margin of our English Bibles. The Jewish rabbins took it as a proper name for Messiah,” His name is Yinnon before the sun,” Yinnon, (he shall propagate,) being the rabbinical name for Messiah. See Perowne. But the idea is that of continuance. The verb occur’s nowhere else, but the noun always means progeny, offspring. Dr. Pusey renders it, “His name shall propagate, gaining, generation after generation, a flesh accession of offspring.”

And men shall be blessed in him—Probably, in the sense of the covenant, (Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4,) that is, in Christ, as being the cause of blessing. But another form of blessing in or by any one is that of taking him as a model, or standard, by which to measure a wished-for blessing upon another, as Genesis 48:20, “God make thee as Ephraim,” etc. The former is undoubtedly the sense here.

Verse 18-19

18, 19. Blessed be the Lord—This doxology, which closes the second book of the Hebrew Psalter, is more full and rich than that which closes the first book, (Psalms 41:13,) or, indeed, any other, befitting the solemnity and triumph of David’s closing life as king, and as “the sweet psalmist of Israel.”

Verse 20

20. Prayers of David… ended—For the import of this verse see introductory note. The psalmist has given his ideal of a theocratic king, partially realized in Solomon’s reign, but to be fully so only in that of Messiah.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 72:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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