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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 72


psa 72:0

Prayer for the Dominion of Peace of the Anointed One of God

This last Psalm of the primary collection, united to Ps 71 by community of the prominent word tsdqtk, appears, as we look to the superscription, Psa 72:20, to be said to be a Psalm of David; so that consequently לשׁלמה designates Solomon as the subject, not the author. But the Lamed of לשׁלמה here and in Psa 127:1 cannot have any other meaning than that which the Lamed always has at the head of the Psalms when it is joined to proper names; it is then always the expression denoting that the Psalm belongs to the person named, as its author. Then in style and general character the Psalm has not the least kinship with the Psalms of David. Characteristic of Solomon, on the other hand, are the movement proverb-like, and for the most part distichic, which has less of original freshness and directness than of an artificial, reflective, and almost sluggish manner, the geographic range of view, the richness in figures drawn from nature, and the points of contact with the Book of Job, which belongs incontrovertibly to the circle of the Salomonic literature: these are coincident signs which are decisive in favour of Solomon. But if Solomon is the author, the question arises, who is the subject of the Psalm? According to Hitzig, Ptolemy Philadelphus; but no true Israelite could celebrate him in this manner, and there is no reliable example of carmina of this character having found their way into the song-book of Israel. The subject of the Psalm is either Solomon (lxx εἰς Σαλωμών) or the Messiah (Targum, "O God, give Thy regulations of right to the King Messiah, למלכּא משׁיחא"). Both are correct. It is Solomon himself to whom the intercession and desires of blessing of this Psalm refer. Solomon, just as David with Psa 20:1-9 and Psa 20:1, put it into the heart and mouth of the people, probably very soon after his accession, it being as it were a church-prayer on behalf of the new, reigning king. But the Psalm is also none the less Messianic, and with perfect right the church has made it the chief Psalm of the festival of Epiphany, which has received its name of festum trium regum out of it.

Solomon was in truth a righteous, benign, God-fearing ruler; he established and also extended the kingdom; he ruled over innumerable people, exalted in wisdom and riches above all the kings of the earth; his time was the most happy, the richest in peace and joy that Israel has ever known. The words of the Psalm were all fulfilled in him, even to the one point of the universal dominion that is wished for him. But the end of his reign was not like the beginning and the middle of it. That fair, that glorious, that pure image of the Messiah which he had represented waxed pale; and with this fading away its development in relation to the history of redemption took a new turn. In the time of David and of Solomon the hope of believers, which was attached to the kingship of David, had not yet fully broken with the present. At that time, with few exceptions, nothing was known of any other Messiah than the Anointed One of God, who was David or Solomon himself. When, however, the kingship in these its two most glorious impersonations had proved itself unable to bring to full realization the idea of the Messiah or of the Anointed One of God, and when the line of kings that followed thoroughly disappointed the hope which clung to the kingship of the present, - a hope which here and there, as in the reign of Hezekiah, blazed up for a moment and then totally died out, and men were driven from the present to look onward into the future, - then, and not until then, did any decided rupture take place between the Messianic hope and the present. The image of the Messiah is now painted on the pure ethereal sky of the future (though of the immediate future) in colours which were furnished by older unfulfilled prophecies, and by the contradiction between the existing kingship and its idea; it becomes more and more, so to speak, an image, super-earthly, super-human, belonging to the future, the invisible refuge and invisible goal of a faith despairing of the present, and thereby rendered relatively more spiritual and heavenly (cf. the Messianic image painted in colours borrowed from our Psalm in Isa. 11, Mic 5:3, Mic 5:6; Zac 9:9.). In order rightly to estimate this, we must free ourselves from the prejudice that the centre of the Old Testament proclamation of salvation [or gospel] lies in the prophecy of the Messiah. Is the Messiah, then, anywhere set forth as the Redeemer of the world? The Redeemer of the world if Jahve. The appearing (parusia) of Jahve is the centre of the Old Testament proclamation of salvation. An allegory may serve to illustrate the way in which the Old Testament proclamation of salvation unfolds itself. The Old Testament in relation to the Day of the New Testament is Night. In this Night there rise in opposite directions two stars of Promise. The one describes its path from above downwards: it is the promise of Jahve who is about to come. The other describes its path from below upwards: it is the hope which rests on the seed of David, the prophecy of the Son of David, which at the outset assumes a thoroughly human, and merely earthly character. These two stars meet at last, they blend together into one star; the Night vanishes and it is Day. This one Star is Jesus Christ, Jahve and the Son of David in one person, the King of Israel and at the same time the Redeemer of the world, - in one word, the God-man.

Psalms 72:1

psa 72:1

The name of God, occurring only once, is Elohim; and this is sufficient to stamp the Psalm as an Elohimic Psalm. מלך (cf. Psa 21:2) and בּן־מלך are only used without the article according to a poetical usage of the language. The petition itself, and even the position of the words, show that the king's son is present, and that he is king; God is implored to bestow upon him His משׁפּטים, i.e., the rights or legal powers belonging to Him, the God of Israel, and צדקה, i.e., the official gift in order that he may exercise those rights in accordance with divine righteousness. After the supplicatory teen the futures which now follow, without the Waw apodoseos, are manifestly optatives. Mountains and hills describe synecdochically the whole land of which they are the high points visible afar off. נשׂא is used in the sense of נשׂא פּרי Eze 17:8 : may שׁלום be the fruit which ripens upon every mountain and hill; universal prosperity satisfied and contented within itself. The predicate for Psa 72:3 is to be taken from Psa 72:3, just as, on the other hand, בּצדקה, "in or by righteousness," the fruit of which is indeed peace (Isa 32:17), belongs also to Psa 72:3; so that consequently both members supplement one another. The wish of the poet is this: By righteousness, may there in due season be such peaceful fruit adorning all the heights of the land. Psa 72:3, however, always makes one feel as though a verb were wanting, like תּפרחנה suggested by Bttcher. In Psa 72:4 the wishes are continued in plain unfigurative language. הושׁיע in the signification to save, to obtain salvation for, has, as is frequently the case, a dative of the object. בּני־אביון are those who are born to poverty, just like בּן־מלך, one who is born a king. Those who are born to poverty are more or less regarded, by an unrighteous government, as having no rights.

Psalms 72:5

psa 72:5

The invocation of Psa 72:1 is continued in the form of a wish: may they fear Thee, Elohim, עם־שׁמשׁ, with the sun, i.e., during its whole duration (עם in the sense of contemporary existence, as in Dan. 3:33). לפני־ירח, in the moonlight (cf. Job 8:16, לפני־שׁמשׁ, in the sunshine), i.e., so long as the moon shines. דּור דּורים (accusative of the duration of time, cf. Psa 102:25), into the uttermost generation which outlasts the other generations (like שׁמי השּׁמים of the furthest heavens which surround the other heavens). The first two periphrastic expressions for unlimited time recur in Psa 89:37., a Psalm composed after the time of Solomon; cf. the unfigurative expression in Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple in Kg1 8:40. The continuance of the kingship, from the operation of which such continuance of the fear of God is expected, is not asserted until Psa 72:17. It is capricious to refer the language of address in Psa 72:5 to the king (as Hupfeld and Hitzig do), who is not directly addressed either in Psa 72:4, or in Psa 72:6, or anywhere in the Psalm. With respect to God the desire is expressed that the righteous and benign rule of the king may result in the extension of the fear of God from generation to generation into endless ages. The poet in Psa 72:6 delights in a heaping up of synonyms in order to give intensity to the expression of the thoughts, just as in Psa 72:5; the last two expressions stand side by side one another without any bond of connection as in Psa 72:5. רביבים (from רבב, Arab. rbb, densum, spissum esse, and then, starting from this signification, sometimes multum and sometimes magnum esse) is the shower of rain pouring down in drops that are close together; nor is זרזיף a synonym of גּז, but (formed from זרף, Arab. ḏrf, to flow, by means of a rare reduplication of the first two letters of the root, Ew. 157, d) properly the water running from a roof (cf. B. Joma 87a: "when the maid above poured out water, זרזיפי דמיא came upon his head"). גּז, however, is not the meadow-shearing, equivalent to a shorn, mown meadow, any more than גּז, גּזּה, Arabic ǵizza, signifies a shorn hide, but, on the contrary, a hide with the wool or feathers (e.g., ostrich feathers) still upon it, rather a meadow, i.e., grassy plain, that is intended to be mown. The closing word ארץ (accus. loci as in Psa 147:15) unites itself with the opening word ירד: descendat in terram. In his last words (2 Sam. 23) David had compared the effects of the dominion of his successor, whom he beheld as by vision, to the fertilizing effects of the sun and of the rain upon the earth. The idea of Psa 72:6 is that Solomon's rule may prove itself thus beneficial for the country. The figure of the rain in Psa 72:7 gives birth to another: under his rule may the righteous blossom (expanding himself unhindered and under the most favourable circumsntaces), and (may there arise) salvation in all fulness עד־בּלי ירח, until there is no more moon (cf. the similar expression in Job 14:12). To this desire for the uninterrupted prosperity and happiness of the righteous under the reign of this king succeeds the desire for an unlimited extension of his dominion, Psa 72:8. The sea (the Mediterranean) and the river (the Euphrates) are geographically defined points of issue, whence the definition of boundary is extended into the unbounded. Solomon even at his accession ruled over all kingdoms from the Euphrates as far as the borders of Egypt; the wishes expressed here are of wider compass, and Zechariah repeats them predictively (Psa 9:10) with reference to the King Messiah.

Psalms 72:9

psa 72:9

This third strophe contains prospects, the ground of which is laid down in the fourth. The position of the futures here becomes a different one. The contemplation passes from the home relations of the new government to its foreign relations, and at the same time the wishes are changed into hopes. The awe-commanding dominion of the king shall stretch even into the most distant corners of the desert. ציּים is used both for the animals and the men who inhabit the desert, to be determined in each instance by the context; here they are men beyond all dispute, but in Psa 74:14; Isa 23:13, it is matter of controversy whether men or beasts are meant. Since the lxx, Aquila, Symmachus, and Jerome here, and the lxx and Jerome in Psa 74:14, render Αἰθίοπες, the nomadic tribes right and left of the Arabian Gulf seem traditionally to have been associated in the mind with this word, more particularly the so-called Ichthyophagi. These shall bend the knee reverentially before him, and those who contend against him shall be compelled at last to veil their face before him in the dust. The remotest west and south become subject and tributary to him, viz., the kings of Tartessus in the south of Spain, rich in silver, and of the islands of the Mediterranean and the countries on its coasts, that is to say, the kings of the Polynesian portion of Europe, and the kings of the Cushitish or of the Joktanitish שׁבא and of the Cushitish סבא, as, according to Josephus, the chief city of Meroכ was called (vid., Genesis, S. 206). It was a queen of that Joktanitish, and therefore South Arabian Sheba, - perhaps, however, more correctly (vid., Wetzstein in my Isaiah, ii. 529) of the Cushitish (Nubian) Sheba, - whom the fame of Solomon's wisdom drew towards him, 1 Kings 10. The idea of their wealth in gold and in other precious things is associated with both peoples. In the expression השׁיב מנחה (to pay tribute, Kg2 17:3, cf. Psa 3:4) the tribute is not conceived of as rendered in return for protection afforded (Maurer, Hengstenberg, and Olshausen), nor as an act repeated periodically (Rdiger, who refers to Ch2 27:5), but as a bringing back, i.e., repayment of a debt, referre s. reddere debitum (Hupfeld), after the same idea according to which obligatory incomings are called reditus (revenues). In the synonymous expression הקריב אשׁכּר the presentation appears as an act of sacrifice. אשׁכּר signifies in Eze 27:15 a payment made in merchandise, here a rent or tribute due, from שׂכר, which in blending with the Aleph prostheticum has passed over into שׂכר by means of a shifting of the sound after the Arabic manner, just as in אשׁכּל the verb שׂכל, to interweave, passes over into שׂכל (Rdiger in Gesenius' Thesaurus). In Psa 72:11 hope breaks through every bound: everything shall submit to his world-subduing sceptre.

Psalms 72:12

psa 72:12

The confirmation of these prospects is now given. Voluntative forms are intermingled because the prospect extending into the future is nevertheless more lyrical than prophetic in its character. The elevation of the king to the dominion of the world is the reward of his condescension; he shows himself to be the helper and protecting lord of the poor and the oppressed, who are the especial object upon which God's eye is set. He looks upon it as his task to deal most sympathizingly and most considerately (יחס) just with those of reduced circumstances and with the poor, and their blood is precious in his eyes. Psa 72:12 is re-echoed in Job 29:12. The meaning of Psa 72:14 is the same as Psa 116:15. Instead of יקר, by a retention of the Jod of the stem it is written ייקר. Just as in Psa 49:10, ייקר here also is followed by ויחי. The assertion is individualized: and he (who was threatened with death) shall live (voluntative, having reference to the will of the king). But who is now the subject to ויתּן-? Not the rescued one (Hitzig), for after the foregoing designations (Psa 72:11.) we cannot expect to find "the gold of Sheba" (gold from Jeman or Aethiopia) in his possession. Therefore it is the king, and in fact Solomon, of whom the disposal of the gold of Sheba (Saba) is characteristic. The king's thought and endeavour are directed to this, that the poor man who has almost fallen a victim shall live or revive, and not only will he maintain his cause, he will also bestow gifts upon him with a liberal hand, and he (the poor one who has been rescued and endowed from the riches of the king) shall pray unceasingly for him (the king) and bless him at all times. The poor one is he who is restored to life and endowed with gifts, and who intercedes and blesses; the king, however, is the beneficent giver. It is left for the reader to supply the right subjects in thought to the separate verbs. That clearly marked precision which we require in rhetorical recital is alien to the Oriental style (vid., my Geschichte der jdischen Poesie, S. 189). Maurer and Hofmann also give the same interpretation as we have done.

Psalms 72:16

psa 72:16

Here, where the futures again stand at the head of the clauses, they are also again to be understood as optatives. As the blessing of such a dominion after God's heart, not merely fertility but extraordinary fruitfulness may be confidently desired for the land פּסּה (ἁπ. λεγ..), rendered by the Syriac version sugo, abundance, is correctly derived by the Jewish lexicographers from פּסס = פּשׂה (in the law relating to leprosy), Mishnic פּסה, Aramaic פּסא, Arabic fšâ, but also fšš (vid., Job, at Psa 35:14-16), to extend, expandere; so that it signifies an abundance that occupies a broad space. בּראשׁ, unto the summit, as in Psa 36:6; Psa 19:5. The idea thus obtained is the same as when Hofmann (Weissagung und Erf׬llung, i. 180f.) takes פסּה (from פּסס = אפס) in the signification of a boundary line: "close upon the summit of the mountain shall the last corn stand," with reference to the terrace-like structure of the heights. פּריו does not refer back to בארץ (Hitzig, who misleads one by referring to Joe 2:3), but to בּר: may the corn stand so high and thick that the fields, being moved by the wind, shall shake, i.e., wave up and down, like the lofty thick forest of Lebanon. The lxx, which renders huperarthee'setai, takes ירעשׁ for יראשׁ, as Ewald does: may its fruit rise to a summit, i.e., rise high, like Lebanon. But a verb ראשׁ is unknown; and how bombastic is this figure in comparison with that grand, but beautiful figure, which we would not willingly exchange even for the conjecture יעשׁר (may it be rich)! The other wish refers to a rapid, joyful increase of the population: may men blossom out of this city and out of that city as the herb of the earth (cf. Job 5:25, where צאצאיך also accords in sound with יציצוּ), i.e., fresh, beautiful, and abundant as it. Israel actually became under Solomon's sceptre as numerous "as the sand by the sea" (Kg1 4:20), but increase of population is also a settled feature in the picture of the Messianic time (Psa 110:3, Isa 9:2; Isa 49:20, Zac 2:8 [4]; cf. Sir. 44:21). If, however, under the just and benign rule of the king, both land and people are thus blessed, eternal duration may be desired for his name. May this name, is the wish of the poet, ever send forth new shoots (ינין Chethib), or receive new shoots (ינּון Ker, from Niph. ננון), as long as the sun turns its face towards us, inasmuch as the happy and blessed results of the dominion of the king ever afford new occasion for glorifying his name. May they bless themselves in him, may all nations call him blessed, and that, as ויתבּרכוּ בו

(Note: Pronounce wejithbārchu, because the tone rests on the first letter of the root; whereas in Psa 72:15 it is jebārachenu with Chateph. vid., the rule in the Luther. Zeitschrift, 1863, S. 412.)

implies, so blessed that his abundance of blessing appears to them to be the highest that they can desire for themselves. To et benedicant sibi in eo we have to supply in thought the most universal, as yet undefined subject, which is then more exactly defined as omnes gentes with the second synonymous predicate. The accentuation (Athnach, Mugrash, Silluk) is blameless.

Psalms 72:18

psa 72:18

Closing Beracha of the Second Book of the Psalter. It is more full-toned than that of the First Book, and God is intentionally here called Jahve Elohim the God of Israel because the Second Book contains none but Elohim-Psalms, and not, as there, Jahve the God of Israel. "Who alone doeth wonders" is a customary praise of God, Psa 86:10; Psa 136:4, cf. Job 9:8. שׁם כּבודו is a favourite word in the language of divine worship in the period after the Exile (Neh 9:5); it is equivalent to the שׁם כּבוד מלכוּתו in the liturgical Beracha, God's glorious name, the name that bears the impress of His glory. The closing words: and let the whole earth be full, etc., are taken from Num 14:21. Here, as there, the construction of the active with a double accusative of that which fills and that which is to be filled is retained in connection with the passive; for כבודו is also accusative: let be filled with His glory the whole earth (let one make it full of it). The אמן coupled by means of Waw is, in the Old Testament, exclusively peculiar to these doxologies of the Psalter.

Psalms 72:20

psa 72:20

Superscription of the primary collection. The origin of this superscription cannot be the same as that of the doxology, which is only inserted between it and the Psalm, because it was intended to be read with the Psalm at the reading in the course of the service (Symbolae, p. 19). כּלוּ = כּלּוּ, like דּחוּ in Ps 36:13, כּסּוּ, Psa 80:11, all being Pual forms, as is manifest in the accented ultima. A parallel with this verse is the superscription "are ended the words of Job" in Job 31:40, which separates the controversial speeches and Job's monologue from the speeches of God. No one taking a survey of the whole Psalter, with the many Psalms of David that follow beyond Ps 72, could possibly have placed this key-stone here. If, however, it is more ancient than the doxological division into five books, it is a significant indication in relation to the history of the rise of the collection. It proves that the collection of the whole as it now lies before us was at least preceded by one smaller collection, of which we may say that it extended to Ps 72, without thereby meaning to maintain that it contained all the Psalms up to that one, since several of them may have been inserted into it when the redaction of the whole took place. But it is possible for it to have contained Ps 72, wince at the earliest it was only compiled in the time of Solomon. The fact that the superscription following directly upon a Psalm of Solomon is thus worded, is based on the same ground as the fact that the whole Psalter is quoted in the New Testament as Davidic. David is the father of the שׁיר ה, Ch2 29:27, and hence all Psalms may be called Davidic, just as all משׁלים may be called Salomonic, without meaning thereby that they are all composed by David himself.

Next: Psalms Chapter 73