Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Thanksgiving for the King in Time of War
"Jahve fulfil all thy desires" cried the people in the preceding Psalm, as they interceded on behalf of their king; and in this Psalm they are able thankfully to say to God "the desire of his heart hast Thou granted." In both Psalms the people come before God with matters that concern the welfare of their king; in the former, with their wishes and prayers, in the latter, their thanksgivings and hopes in the latter as in the former when in the midst of war, but in the latter after the recovery of the king, in the certainty of a victorious termination of the war.
The Targum and the Talmud, B. Succa 52a, understand this Psa 21:1 of the king Messiah. Rashi remarks that this Messianic interpretation ought rather to be given up for the sake of the Christians. But even the Christian exposition cannot surely mean to hold fast this interpretation so directly and rigidly as formerly. This pair of Psalm treats of David; David's cause, however, in its course towards a triumphant issue - a course leading through suffering - is certainly figuratively the cause of Christ.
(Heb.: 21:2-3) The Psalm begins with thanksgiving for the bodily and spiritual blessings which Jahve has bestowed and still continues to bestow upon the king, in answer to his prayer. This occupies the three opening tetrastichs, of which these verses form the first. עז (whence עזּך, as in Psa 74:13, together with עזּך, Psa 63:3, and frequently) is the power that has been made manifest in the king, which has turned away his affliction; ישׁוּעה is the help from above which has freed him out of his distress. The יגיל, which follows the מה of the exclamation, is naturally shortened by the Kerמ into יגל (with the retreat of the tone); cf. on the contrary Pro 20:24, where מה is interrogative and, according to the sense, negative). The ἁπ. λεγ. ארשׁת has the signification eager desire, according to the connection, the lxx δέηεσιν, and the perhaps also cognate רוּשׁ, to be poor; the Arabic Arab. wrš, avidum esse, must be left out of consideration according to the laws of the interchange of consonants, whereas ירשׁ, Arab. wrṯ, capere, captare (cf. Arab. irṯ = wirṯ an inheritance), but not רוּשׁ (vid., Psa 34:11), belongs apparently to the same root. Observe the strong negation בּל: no, thou hast not denied, but done the very opposite. The fact of the music having to strike up here favours the supposition, that the occasion of the Psalm is the fulfilment of some public, well-known prayer.
(Heb.: 21:4-5) "Blessings of good" (Pro 24:25) are those which consist of good, i.e., true good fortune. The verb קדּם, because used of the favour which meets and presents one with some blessing, is construed with a double accusative, after the manner of verbs of putting on and bestowing (Ges. ֗139). Since Psa 21:4 cannot be intended to refer to David's first coronation, but to the preservation and increase of the honour of his kingship, this particularisation of Psa 21:4 sounds like a prediction of what is recorded in Sa2 22:30 : after the conquest of the Ammonitish royal city Rabbah David set the Ammonitish crown (עטרת), which is renowned for the weight of its gold and its ornamentation with precious stones, upon his head. David was then advanced in years, and in consequence of heavy guilt, which, however, he had overcome by penitence and laying hold on the mercy of God, was come to the brink of the grave. He, worthy of death, still lived; and the victory over the Syro-Ammonitish power was a pledge to him of God's faithfulness in fulfilling his promises. It is contrary to the tenour of the words to say that Psa 21:5 does not refer to length of life, but to hereditary succession to the throne. To wish any one that he may live לעולם, and especially a king, is a usual thing, Kg1 1:31, and frequently. The meaning is, may the life of the king be prolonged to an indefinitely distant day. What the people have desired elsewhere, they here acknowledge as bestowed upon the king.
(Heb.: 21:6-7) The help of God turns to his honour, and paves the way for him to honour, it enables him-this is the meaning of. Psa 21:6 - to maintain and strengthen his kingship with fame and glory. שׁוּה על used, as in Psa 89:20, of divine investiture and endowment. To make blessings, or a fulness of blessing, is a stronger form of expressing God's words to Abram, Gen 12:2 : thou shalt be a blessing i.e., a possessor of blessing thyself, and a medium of blessing to others. Joy in connection with (את as in Psa 16:11) the countenance of God, is joy in delightful and most intimate fellowship with Him. חדּה, from חדה, which occurs once in Exo 18:9, has in Arabic, with reference to nomad life, the meaning "to cheer the beasts of burden with a song and urge them on to a quicker pace," and in Hebrew, as in Aramaic, the general signification "to cheer, enliven."
(Heb.: 21:8-9) With this strophe the second half of the Psalm commences. The address to God is now changed into an address to the king; not, however, expressive of the wishes, but of the confident expectation, of the speakers. Hengstenberg rightly regards Psa 21:8 as the transition to the second half; for by its objective utterance concerning the king and God, it separates the language hitherto addressed to God, from the address to the king, which follows. We do not render Psa 21:8: and trusting in the favour of the Most High - he shall not be moved; the mercy is the response of the trust, which (trust) does not suffer him to be moved; on the expression, cf. Pro 10:30. This inference is now expanded in respect to the enemies who desire to cause him to totter and fall. So far from any tottering, he, on the contrary, makes a victorious assault upon his foes. If the words had been addressed to Jahve, it ought, in order to keep up the connection between Psa 21:9 and Psa 21:8, at least to have been איביו and שׁנאיו (his, i.e., the king's, enemies). What the people now hope on behalf of their king, they here express beforehand in the form of a prophecy. מצא ל (as in Isa 10:10) and מצא seq. acc. (as in Sa1 23:17) are distinguished as: to reach towards, or up to anything, and to reach anything, attain it. Supposing ל to represent the accusative, as e.g., in Psa 69:6, Psa 21:9 would be a useless repetition.
(Heb.: 21:10-11) Hitherto the Psalm has moved uniformly in synonymous dipodia, now it becomes agitated; and one feels from its excitement that the foes of the king are also the people's foes. True as it is, as Hupfeld takes it, that לעת פּניך sounds like a direct address to Jahve, Psa 21:10 nevertheless as truly teaches us quite another rendering. The destructive effect, which in other passages is said to proceed from the face of Jahve, Psa 34:17; Lev 20:6; Lam 4:16 (cf. ἔχει θεὸς ἔκδικον ὄμμα), is here ascribed to the face, i.e., the personal appearing (Sa2 17:11) of the king. David's arrival did actually decide the fall of Rabbath Ammon, of whose inhabitants some died under instruments of torture and others were cast into brick-kilns, Sa2 12:26. The prospect here moulds itself according to this fate of the Ammonites. כּתנּוּר אשׁ is a second accusative to תּשׁיתנו, thou wilt make them like a furnace of fire, i.e., a burning furnace, so that like its contents they shall entirely consume by fire (synecdoche continentis pro contento). The figure is only hinted at, and is differently applied to what it is in Lam 5:10, Mal 4:1. Psa 21:10 and Psa 21:10 are intentionally two long rising and falling wave-like lines, to which succeed, in Psa 21:11, two short lines; the latter describe the peaceful gleaning after the fiery judgment of God that has been executed by the hand of David. פּרימו, as in Lam 2:20; Hos 9:16, is to be understood after the analogy of the expression פּרי הבּטן. It is the fate of the Amalekites (cf. Psa 9:6.), which is here predicted of the enemies of the king.
(Heb.: 21:12-13) And this fate is the merited frustration of their evil project. The construction of the sentences in Psa 21:12 is like Psa 27:10; Psa 119:83; Ew. 362, b. נטה רעה is not to be understood according to the phrase נטה רשׁת (= פּרשׁ), for this phrase is not actually found; we have rather, with Hitzig, to compare Psa 55:4, Sa2 15:14 : to incline evil down upon any one is equivalent to: to put it over him, so that it may fall in upon him. נטה signifies "to extend lengthwise," to unfold, but also to bend by drawing tight. שׁית שׁכם to make into a back, i.e., to make them into such as turn the back to you, is a more choice expression than נתן ערף, Psa 18:41, cf. Sa1 10:9; the half segolate form שׁכם, (= שׁכם) becomes here, in pause, the full segolate form שׁכם. חצּים must be supplied as the object to תּכונן, as it is in other instances after הורה, השׁליך, ידה; כּונן חץ, Psa 11:2, cf. Psa 7:14, signifies to set the swift arrow upon the bow-string (מיתר = יתר) = to aim. The arrows hit the front of the enemy, as the pursuer overtakes them.
(Heb.: 21:14) After the song has spread abroad its wings in twice three tetrastichs, it closes by, as it were, soaring aloft and thus losing itself in a distich. It is a cry to God for victory in battle, on behalf of the king. "Be Thou exalted," i.e., manifest Thyself in Thy supernal (Psa 57:6, 12) and judicial (Psa 7:7.) sovereignty. What these closing words long to see realised is that Jahve should reveal for world-wide conquest this גּבוּרה, to which everything that opposes Him must yield, and it is for this they promise beforehand a joyous gratitude.