by John M. Riddle, England
This magnificent Psalm is entitled “A Psalm for Solomon” or simply, “For Solomon”, with a marginal note, “or ‘of’ or ‘concerning’ Solomon” J.N.D., and this identifies its immediate connection. Since the Psalm concludes with the words, “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended” v.20, there can be no doubt about the identity of the writer!
The Psalm is located at the end of the ‘Exodus’1 section of the Book of Psalms. It is in a perfect position. It has been said that ‘The Exodus Book’ is “the story of Israel’s ruin and redemption. It is a story of a remnant nation crying for deliverance and finding salvation in the coming King, their Redeemer”2. The Book of Exodus ends with Divine glory filling the Tabernacle; this section in the Book of Psalms ends with Divine glory filling the world!
1. The Psalms are divided into five ‘Books’ (Pss.1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 90-106; 107-150), which show a close correspondence with the five Books of Moses. Hence the second ‘Book’ (Pss.42-72) parallels the Book of Exodus.
- 2. Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock, 2001.
It was written in connection with Solomon’s reign, but remained unfulfilled in its fullest extent during his lifetime. Some Solomonic references should be noted. For example:
- “He shall judge Thy people with righteousness” v.2, recalls his solution of the problem posed by two women and one baby, 1Kgs.3.16-28;
- “Abundance of peace” v.7, recalls that in his reign “Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon” 1Kgs.4.25;
- “The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts” v.10, recalls the visit of the queen of Sheba, 1Kgs.10.1-13.
However, these are but faint glimpses of another King. The Psalm goes well beyond Solomon and points to “a greater than Solomon” Matt.12.42! Solomon presided over a past ‘golden age’; the Lord Jesus will preside over a future ‘golden age’! The Psalm remains to be fulfilled by Christ and can therefore be rightly called a Messianic Psalm, although it is not quoted in the New Testament. It describes His Millennial reign. The features of that reign may be set out in the following way:
- Equity – vv.1-4
- Perpetuity – vv.5-7
- Universality – vv.8-11
- Sensitivity – vv.12-14
- Continuity – v.15
- Prosperity – v.16
- Felicity – v.17
- Doxology – vv.18-20
“Give the king Thy judgments, O God [the only occurrence of the name of God in the Psalm until the concluding doxology: it is Elohim], and Thy righteousness unto the king’s son. He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.” As J.M. Flanigan observes, “It is fitting that prayer for the earthly ruler should be made to the heavenly”.3
- 3. Ibid
The Identity of the King
The titles “the king” and “the king’s son” v.1, are both appropriate in the case of Solomon. He was a king in his own right, and the son of David. Solomon means ‘peaceable’, and at his birth it was said, “Bath-sheba … bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him” 2Sam.12.24. The name Solomon derives from shalom, meaning peace, and the word occurs in v.3 (“the mountains shall bring peace to the people”) and v.7 (“abundance of peace”). The Lord is “the Prince of Peace [shalom]” Isa.9.6.
But Solomon had another name: “And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah [meaning ‘beloved of the LORD’], because of the LORD” 2Sam.12.25. Psalm 72 therefore describes the reign of the beloved Son. The Lord Jesus is the King, but He is also the king’s son (the hymnwriter calls Him ‘great David’s greater Son’4). He is “King of kings” in His own right, and yet He is “the Son of David”: Mary was told, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the LORD God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David” Lk.1.32.
- 4. “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed”, by James Montgomery.
The Ability of the King
David knew only too well that a king requires ability and authority in order to reign, and therefore prays: “Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the king’s son” v.1. His prayer was certainly answered, and Solomon was told at Gibeon, “Lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart” 1Kgs.3.12. Of the Lord Jesus, the “greater than Solomon”, it is said, “the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” Isa.11.2.
It was not long before Solomon’s God-given ability became apparent: “all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment” 1Kgs.3.28.
The Authority of the King
The Righteousness of His Reign
In his “last words” David said: “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” 2Sam.23.3. Hence his prayer for Solomon. The words “judgments” v.1, and “judge” vv.2,4, together with the word “righteousness” vv.1,2,3, should be noted. The Kingdom will bear the character of the King. When the King reigns in righteousness, v.1, His Kingdom will be characterised by righteousness in every relationship and in every transaction. He will not “judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: but with righteousness shall He judge the poor” Isa.11.3-5. Unlike cities today, which are hotbeds of unrighteousness, Israel’s capital will be known for its righteousness: “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, ‘The city of righteousness, the faithful city’” Isa.1.26.
The Peace of His Reign
Notice particularly the words “peace … by righteousness” v.3. This reminds us that Melchisedec was “first being by interpretation ‘King of righteousness,’ and after that also ‘King of Salem,’ which is ‘King of peace’” Heb.7.2. The connection between peace and righteousness is often stressed in the Scriptures, for example, “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” Isa.32.17,18. In the Lord Jesus “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” Ps.85.10.
Both Psalm 72 and Isaiah chapter 32 refer to the peace and quietness that regenerate Israel will enjoy when Messiah reigns. Their troubled and uncertain history will give place to lasting security and abiding peace. In Messiah’s reign, there will be peace between creature and creature: “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid” Isa.11.6; between man and man, and between nation and nation: “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” Isa.2.4. It has been observed that “mountains” v.3, are often the habitat of bandits, but not so in the Millennium!
The Care in His Reign
“He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the needy” v.4. The prophets, including Amos, thundered against inequity in Israel’s society: “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, ‘When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? … (Making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?) That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?’” Amos 8.4-6.
The Deliverance in His Reign
While the words “shall break in pieces the oppressor” v.4, may refer in the first place to the removal of internal oppression, there is probably an allusion to the invading forces at the end time, which will meet their doom when the Messiah will “smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked” Isa.11.4. This is intimated in Isaiah chapter 32: while God’s people will dwell in a “peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” v.18, their enemies will suffer Divine judgment: “And it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low [‘laid low’, margin] in a low place” v.19, J.N.D. Since God uses hail as His artillery, Josh.10.11; Job 38.22,23; Rev.16.21, and the word “forest” is used to describe an invading army, Isa.10.18,33,34, the words “And it shall hail, coming down on the forest” evidently refer to the destruction of an invader. Whilst “the city” is unidentified, it may be concluded that it refers to the invader’s capital.
Solomon’s reign began with judgment on three men, Adonijah, Joab and Shimei, by the hand of Benaiah, 1Kings chapter 2; the Lord’s reign will begin with judgment on the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet, Rev.19.20,21; 20.2,3.
Believers today enjoy Millennial conditions in their own hearts and lives. The passage is a beautiful picture of the peace, quietness and assurance enjoyed by all who are justified by faith: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Rom.5.1. Not only so, the Lord’s people are to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” Phil.1.11.
But those ‘Millennial conditions’ should be accompanied by the care that will characterise the Millennial reign: “there should be no schism in the body … the members should have the same care one for another” 1Cor.12.25. See 1Jn.3.7-18; Jms.2.14-17.
“They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.”
The words, “They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure” v.5, cannot refer to Solomon or any other earthly monarch. It could hardly refer to an earthly mortal king. The Messiah, “the Son of David”, yet a Divine Person, will “command everlasting, enduring, reverence and adoration”5. The perpetuity of the Kingdom is stressed by the words “as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations … so long as the moon endureth”. His presence will ensure moral prosperity:
- 5. Flanigan, J.M., ibid.
“He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth” v.6. Compare Hos.6.3: “He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” His presence (“He shall come down”) will be as refreshing and beneficial as the rain in the Middle East. The immense benefit of His presence and blessing follows:
“In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth” v.7. Not just “peace”, but “abundance of peace”. The Kingdom will be marked by plenitude. Note again the relationship between righteousness (“shall the righteous”) and peace: flourishing righteousness will result in abundant peace.
“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him; and His enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him.”
This envisages a kingdom vastly larger than Solomon’s kingdom. The extent of His Kingdom and reign is universal: it is “from sea to sea” and “unto the ends of the earth” v.8, and includes “all kings” and “all nations” v.11. Notice that “He shall have dominion”, reminding us that He will “put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet” 1Cor.15.24,25.
While there can be no doubt that these verses emphasise the global extent of the Kingdom, there are some interesting geographical pointers:
First, “From the river unto the ends of the earth”: this takes us eastward. The expression “the river” refers to the Euphrates. The land promised to Abraham was “from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” Gen.15.18, but the Kingdom described here is vastly greater.
Second, “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him”. The reference to the “wilderness” takes us southward and refers to the warlike and stubborn nomadic tribes who hate bowing down to anybody!
Third, “The kings of Tarshish … shall bring presents”: this takes us westward. Tarshish has been variously explained. Some commentators understand the name as a general designation for ships plying their trade, but it seems more likely that it is a place name, with suggestions ranging from Cilicia to India. Tartessos in Spain or a district near Tunis in North Africa seem more feasible. It seems rather unlikely that Jonah was going to India, Jonah 1.3; 4.2!
Fourth, “The kings … of the isles shall bring presents”. This takes us everywhere! The expression “the isles” is amplified in Gen.10.5: “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.” The world will wait for Divine commands and Divine directions. The expression “Surely the isles shall wait for Me” Isa.60.9, indicates “that the far off nations of the world will act under God’s decree and direction, and Gentile activity will be exercised in these matters, not by way merely of a political scheme, but with the definite objective of honouring the Lord”6. At the end-time, “men shall worship Him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen” Zeph.2.11.
- 6. Vine, W.E. “Isaiah, Prophecies, Promises, Warnings”. Oliphants Ltd., London, 1946.
Fifth, the reference to “Sheba and Seba” takes us south and south-west respectively. Whilst Sheba was a grandson of Cush, Gen.10.7, it seems more likely that this refers to a grandson of Abraham. According to Gen.25.1-4, Midian, Ephah and Sheba were descendants of Abraham by Keturah. Keturah bore Abraham six sons, including Midian and Jokshan. Midian begat, amongst others, Ephah: Jokshan begat Sheba and one other. Sheba was evidently a district in Arabia, and is probably what is known today as Yemen. According to Isa.60.6, “the multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.”
Seba evidently refers to Ethiopia, a nation springing from Cush: “And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah” Gen.10.7. See also Isa.43.3: “I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.”
One thing is clear: these all-embracing verses were never fulfilled by Solomon! The words “bring presents” means ‘offer gifts’. They do not refer to tribute, but to a religious offering, implying recognition of the Deity of the Messiah.
But the entire Gentile world will be involved. “Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him” v.11. Isaiah enlarges the picture: “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” Isa.60.3; “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory” Isa.62.2. When “the dayspring from on high” Lk.1.78, came to earth two thousand years ago, “wise men from the east” Matt.2.1, came to worship Him. They were the forerunners of many more who will come when the “Redeemer” returns to Zion, Isa.59.20. They will not come to worship the “King of the Jews” in His infancy, as did the wise men, but the “King of kings” in His majesty.
The offering of “presents” and “gifts” also reminds us of the wise men, bearing gifts of “gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” Matt.2.11. According to Rev.15.4, heaven will resound with the song, “Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee.” Worshippers today “offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” 1Pet.2.5.
The fact that “all nations shall come and worship before Thee” reminds us that the Millennial Temple, Ezekiel chapters 40-47, will be “a house of prayer for all people” Isa.56.7. In this connection we should note the following:
- The outer court, the inner court and the altar at the centre of the inner court are all square. This stresses the universality of the Temple: “a house of prayer for all people”;
- The square altar at the centre of the inner court will be a constant reminder to “all people” (Jew and Gentile alike) of the death of the Lord Jesus. In His death, God has made salvation available to all men;
- The ascent within the Temple precincts is immensely significant. In our worship we ascend. In the Millennial Temple men will ascend from ground level to the outer court: seven steps, Ezek.40.22,26; from the outer court to the inner court: eight steps, Ezek.40.31,34,37; from the inner court to the Temple itself: probably ten steps, Ezek.40.49, R.V. margin/J.N.D. margin;
- With respect to the entrances in the Temple, the gate of the porch is evidently fourteen cubits wide (on the assumption that the porch was twenty cubits wide and deducting “three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that side”), Ezek.40.48,49; the entrance to the holy place is ten cubits wide, Ezek.41.2; the entrance to the ‘Holy of holies’ is six cubits wide, Ezek.41.3. The decreasing width illustrates that greater holiness is required in those who desire greater nearness to God;
- There is a conspicuous absence of both Tabernacle furniture and fittings and the breathtaking adornment of the previous Temple. The Millennial Temple will be a comparatively plain building, with no high priest present, because of the presence of the glory of the Lord! Nothing will draw the eye or heart away from Him!
“For He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in His sight.”
The compassion of the King is another pillar of Messiah’s Kingdom: His care for His people! The universal King serving His people! This is true at the moment: “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry” Ps.34.15, and “we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” Heb.4.15. This will also be true in the Millennial Kingdom. Notice the words, “He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence” v.14. The word “redeem” refers to the work of the kinsman-redeemer (the goel), the near-relative who paid the price to recover his family’s property and to deliver his brother from servitude. The Messiah will regard His people as “precious” v.14.
There are important lessons for us here. We have already noted His sympathy and compassion towards us! He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”. We too have been redeemed. But what a lesson for ourselves! The Lord Jesus pointed out to His disciples that true greatness lies with those who are prepared to be “servant of all” Mk.9.34,35; “whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” Mk.10.44,45; “but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” Lk.22.26. If true greatness lies in humble service, the Lord Jesus must be immeasurably and incomparably great!
“And He shall live, and to Him shall be given the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for Him continually; and daily shall He be praised.” It is tempting to understand this with reference to the Messiah Himself by comparing 1Kgs.1.34, where David said, “And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, ‘God save king Solomon’ [or ‘Long live king Solomon’ J.N.D.]”, and recalling Heb.1.8, “But unto the Son He saith, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom.’”
However, it has been suggested by A.G. Clarke that “the best interpretation seems to be that which carries on the thought from the preceding verse; read, ‘And he (the ‘poor and needy’) shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba; and prayer shall He (Messiah) make for him continually. All the day shall he be blessed’”. Clarke adds, “Messiah’s priestly office as the true Melchizedek is emphasised. Gifts He has received He dispenses to others.”7 With this in mind, we should notice:
- 7. Clarke, A.G. “Analytical Studies in the Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
Continuity of Life
“And he shall live.” That is, he shall continue to live, having been delivered, spared, saved and redeemed, vv.13,14. The blood of His people is “precious … in His sight”. What He will receive, He will pass to “the poor and needy”. None of His people will ever be impoverished: “to him [the man redeemed] shall be given of the gold of Sheba.” We too, once poverty-stricken in sin, have been made wealthy! See 2Cor.8.9.
Continuity of Prayer
“Prayer also shall be made for him continually.” Those redeemed will be the subjects of His priestly intercession. We too have the support of His intercession, Rom.8.34.
Continuity of Praise
“And daily shall he be praised” or “all the day shall he be blessed” J.N.D. We too are marvellously “blessed”: we have been “blessed … with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” Eph.1.3.
“There shall be a handful of corn in the earth, upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth”, or “There shall be abundance [margin: ‘handfuls’] of corn in the earth, upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall bloom like the herb of the earth” J.N.D. Two areas of prosperity are indicated:
Prosperity in Agriculture
Barrenness will be abolished: “There shall be abundance [handfuls] of corn in the earth, upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon” J.N.D. That is, even the most inhospitable places will be fruitful. A.G. Clarke puts it like this: “The terraced cornfields stretch right to the hilltops, which are usually rocky and bare – a picture of extraordinary fertility.”8 This awaits “the manifestation of the sons of God” Rom.8.19, and until this takes place “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” Rom.8.22. But then, “the ploughman shall overtake the reaper” Amos 9.13.
- 8. Ibid
Prosperity in City Life
“And they of the city shall bloom like the herb of the earth” J.N.D.
Or ‘happiness’! “His name shall endure for ever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed.” Unlike the names of men, prominent for a while but fading away as the years pass, “His name shall endure for ever”.
As J.M. Flanigan points out, “The glorious Millennial reign of Messiah is but an earthly phase of His kingdom. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.”9 It will “never be destroyed … it shall stand for ever” Dan.2.44.
- 9. Flanigan, J.M., ibid.
The words, “men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed” indicate the fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant: “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” Gen.12.3. The different words rendered “blessed” should be noted. In the first case the word means ‘to bless oneself’ and carries the idea of blessing one another, in Him. In the second case, the word means ‘to declare happy’. J.M. Flanigan puts it together by saying, “It is the joy of the Messiah as He witnesses the blessing of His subjects.”9
In v.17, God blesses men (“and men shall be blessed in Him”): in v.18 men bless God: “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen, and Amen. The prayers [so he prayed frequently] of David [his individual prayers] the son of Jesse are ended.” He still calls himself “the son of Jesse”. After all his great exploits and achievements, at the end he is still ‘little in his own eyes’.
Men bless God, both for what He has done: “who only doeth wondrous things” v.18, and for Who He is: “blessed be His glorious name for ever” v.19. Notice that it is “for ever”: this could not be said of Solomon!
This is a fitting doxology to the Second Book of Psalms as well as to Psalm 72. The exaltation of the Messiah engenders praise to God: “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.” The current and coming exaltation of the Lord Jesus brings honour to God today: it is “to the glory of God the Father” Phil.2.11.
The Psalm closes on a note of finality: there is nothing more to pray for; all is fulfilled; all his desire is accomplished. So it will be when the King reigns!