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Deeper Commentary

Psa 72:1

A Psalm for Solomon-
David's hopes and expectations for Solomon are expressed in Psalm 72, "A Psalm for Solomon". The Hebrew title can equally mean "A Psalm of Solomon". David was so certain that his expectations would be fulfilled. David's prediction that Solomon would wisely judge his people (Ps. 72:2) was perhaps why Solomon asked God to give him wisdom to judge God's people. His wise judgment of the prostitutes, and his willingness to consider such cases, was surely a living out of David's expectation that he would deliver the poor, needy and those with no helper (Ps. 72:12). The prediction that Solomon would be given of the gold of Sheba (Ps. 72:15) was fulfilled by Solomon's willful trading with Sheba to get gold from there, and one wonders whether he in fact invited the Queen of Sheba to visit him in order to fulfil the prediction that the rulers of Sheba would come to him with gifts (Ps. 72:10).

God would only have a permanent physical house when His people were permanently settled, never to be moved again (2 Sam. 7:10), i.e. in the Kingdom. Yet Solomon perceived that his kingdom was in fact the final Kingdom of God. David made this mistake, in assuming in Ps. 72 that Solomon’s Kingdom would undoubtedly be the Messianic one… and Solomon repeated the error, yet to a more tragic extent.

Solomon abused his people and turned away from God (1 Kings 12:14). David's vision of his son as the Messianic ruler didn't come about. But these words were inspired, and they will come true- through reapplication to the Lord Jesus, his greater son. David had many sons, but clearly Solomon was the favourite, the love child, effectively, of David's relationship with Bathsheba, the married woman he had become besotted with. It was this favouritism which no doubt provoked Absalom and his other sons to make the rebellions they did, no doubt deeply irked by prophecies like this in Ps. 72, which served the same function as Jacob's giving the priestly coat to Joseph. And it led Solomon to ultimate spiritual failure, because he came to assume that he would automatically fulfil the promises to David about a Messianic son. And so he came to consider himself spiritually inviolate, and came to live a life of debauchery rather than spirituality. David of course claimed that God had chosen Solomon out of all his sons (1 Chron. 28:5), but there is no record of that happening; rather do we suspect that David came to imagine that his own choice was in fact God's. Psalm 72 was David's declaration that he believed Solomon would be the Messianic ruler; but that was proven wrong, because Solomon did not reign with justice and turned away from Yahweh. The words will come true in the person of the Lord Jesus, but David was wrong to insist they must apply to Solomon.

God, give the king Your justice; Your righteousness to the royal son-
The idea of a gift of righteousness had been learned by David after his sin with Bathsheba (Ps. 32:1-4)- when he had no righteousness of his own. But righteousness was imputed by grace through faith, and Solomon knew little of grace and faith. The Proverbs, true as they are so far as they go, reveal a self-congratulatory, works-based spirit which has little to say about grace.

Psa 72:2

He will judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice-
Solomon ultimately failed to do this, whipping the people and abusing them to complete his endless, obsessive building projects. The prophecy had possibility of later fulfilment in Zerubbabel, but that too didn't come about; and so it was reapplied finally to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus.

The majestic prophecy of Jer. 23:5-7 had prophesied that when Israel returned from Babylon, “the branch” would rise and save them “and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth”, i.e. establish the Messianic Kingdom (cp. Ps. 72:2; Is. 9:7). But Zerubbabel, the “branch-from-Babylon”, lead the people back from Babylon, half heartedly built a temple- which faithful men wept at, when they saw how feeble it was compared to that which should have been (Ezra 3:12). And then he beat it back to Babylon.

David so often parallels righteousness and justice / truth (Ps. 9:8; 33:5; 37:6; 72:2; 94:15; 99:7; 103:6; 106:3). Indeed, this parallel is so common in God's word. What it means is that the righteousness of God is a just righteousness. It's not fake, 'I'll turn a blind eye'. It is true, real, valid, and has integrity underpinned in the very essential justice of God Himself. Justice and righteousness may appear abstract ideas, mere theology. But the result is that the person who believes God's righteousness is imputed to him or her... will feel this, they will know it to be true, they can by grace, in faith, quietly hold their head up before God. And David after Bathsheba is our example. He believed and felt this imputed righteousness. It's not so much a case of 'forgiving ourselves' after God has forgiven us, but rather of being swamped by this very real and legitimate sense that truly, we have been counted righteous. And Paul in Romans holds up David after Bathsheba as the personal example to " every one who is Godly" in their time of spiritual need. See on Ps. 41:12.

Psa 72:3

The mountains shall bring prosperity to the people, the hills will bring the fruit of righteousness-
This is better translated to the effect that the mountains [an intensive plural for the one great mountain, Zion] would bring peace to the little hills. The vision was of the surrounding nations, the hills, being brought to peace with God through the function of the sanctuary in Zion which David planned for Solomon to build. But Solomon intermarried with the surrounding peoples, and was influenced by them to idolatry rather than bringing them to Israel's God.

Psa 72:4

He will judge the poor of the people, he will save the children of the needy and will break the oppressor in pieces-
The RV says that Ps. 72 is a Psalm of Solomon- in which case we have David or Solomon asking God to give him the throne, in return for which he would establish the Messianic Kingdom. His judging of the poor harlots would therefore have been in conscious fulfilment of the predictions he himself had made as to what his Messianic Kingdom would be like- as a time when the poor would be judged by him (Ps. 72:4,13). He came to articulate God’s Kingdom in terms of how he wanted his Kingdom to be. It could be truly said that there is an urgent need for us to be convicted - deeply convicted - of our desperate need for the person of Jesus, His second coming and Messianic Kingdom.  Solomon was so obsessed with himself, so inward-looking, so sure of his spiritual pedigree, so sure of the intellectual correctness of his spiritual knowledge that his need for salvation didn't enter his heart.   Because he never publicly sinned (unlike David) he lacked the awareness of his own sinfulness which would have helped him realize he was only a primary fulfilment of the Davidic promises.   Lack of  awareness of our own sinfulness is connected with a lack of true enthusiasm for the Messianic Kingdom.   Because he thought the kingdom was with him, Solomon evidently failed to discern the chronic need of his own nature, both physically and morally.   

Psa 72:5

They shall fear You while the sun endures; and as long as the moon, throughout all generations-
David imagined Solomon's kingdom morphing into the eternal Messianic kingdom. This was parental obsession, overlooking the fact that all men sin and must die, and are saved from the grave only by grace through faith.

Psa 72:6

He will come down like rain on the mown grass, as showers that water the earth-
In Prov. 19:12 Solomon speaks as if his own wisdom was like the dew coming down- as if he felt that the mere possession of wisdom made him the Messiah figure which his father had so hoped for him to be in Ps. 72:6. And he says as much in Prov. 29:3: “Whoso loveth wisdom [exactly what Solomon was commended for doing] rejoiceth his father”. He saw his wisdom and knowledge as some sort of a reward in themselves: “the prudent are crowned with knowledge” (Prov. 14:18). This is of course true in a sense, as all the Proverbs are. But Solomon surely had the idea that he, who was so renowned for his knowledge, was somehow thereby rewarded by having it. This assumption by Solomon was likely behind each of the many references he makes to the value of wisdom and the blessedness of the man who has it. It is rather like feeling that ‘we have the truth’ because somehow our correct understanding of doctrines is a reward for our righteousness, and mere possession of doctrinal truth means that we are acceptable to God.  

Micah’s description of how “the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass” (Mic. 5:7) is consciously alluding to the then-famous Messianic prophecy of Ps. 72:6: “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth”. The blessings Messiah brings are to be articulated through the witness of those in Him.

Psa 72:7

In his days, the righteous shall flourish-
Solomon's later statement that the righteous would flourish is therefore a reference to this (Prov. 11:28), assuming that David's fantasy of Solomon having an eternal kingdom was going to be fulfilled in him. In Ps. 92:11,12, David thinks that he himself will see the righteous flourishing (s.w. Ps. 72:7). So he may be imagining that he would somehow be resurrected and see this happening in Solomon's reign. His hope will come ultimately true, but through the kingdom of the Lord Jesus and not Solomon.

And abundance of peace-
This had been David's vision of the future Kingdom of God (s.w. Ps. 37:11), but he assumes and wishes that Solomon's kingdom would have become that.

Until the moon is no more- As discussed on :5, David liked to imagine that Solomon's kingdom would be eternal.

Psa 72:8

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the land-
Solomon was intended by David to fulfil the promises to Abraham; for Israel had never fully inherited the land area promised to him. This was David’s prayer for Solomon; that he should have been the Messiah, and his Kingdom should have been Messiah’s. 1 Chron. 28:6,7 definitely seems to imply that Solomon could have lived for ever had he been obedient: “I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments”. But  Solomon failed, what was potentially possible didn’t come true, due to his apostasy. But these words are alluded to in Zech. 8:5, as if to say that now, again, it could come true through the work of Joshua and Zerubbabel, and the priesthood and people being obedient to the temple prophecies of Ezekiel. If they wanted the Kingdom to come, then they had to live the Kingdom life. The coming King (and Joshua was prophesied as a king) was to free Judah from Persia’s dominion, and establish God’s Kingdom, with boys and girls playing in the streets of Jerusalem (Zech. 8:5). “From sea even to sea” is a conscious quote of this famous Messianic prophecy of Ps. 72:8.

David had prophesied that his great son would "have dominion from sea to sea" (Ps. 72:8). 'Have dominion' is the Hebrew word translated 'rule over' in 1 Kings 5:15. David's vision of his Messianic son having a world-wide Kingdom, in which all people blessed him for his grace and beneficence, was abused by Solomon into justifying 'having dominion' over people as his personal slaves; and they certainly didn't bless him for it but rather complained (1 Kings 12:11). It's as if Solomon grabbed the word 'rule over / have dominion', wrenched it out of context, and used it to justify his actions, giving a quasi-Biblical justification to his pure selfishness. This is where knowledge of God's word can be a dangerous thing; leading people into a stronger self-justification than they would otherwise have had if they were guided by self-recognized greed alone.

Psa 72:9

Those who dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; his enemies shall lick the dust-
We must read :9-11 in the context of David's vision of Solomon ruling over the entire eretz promised to Abraham (:8). The references to the Bedouins of the desert, the kings of Tarshish and Sheba (:10), therefore refer to the nations on the boundaries of that territory. The idea is that Solomon was to rule over the entire eretz- and even beyond, even over the peoples just over the borders of it.

Psa 72:10

The kings of Tarshish and of the islands will bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts-
See on :9. These were the areas on the edge of the eretz promised to Abraham, and indeed the queen of Sheba did come to Solomon with gifts. We note that "Tarshish" here doesn't refer to the United Kingdom. The earth was understood as the territory promised to Abraham, and anything beyond it is spoken of as the sea or islands.

Psa 72:11

Yes, all kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall serve him-
This homage and the gifts of :10 were not to be because these nations have been forced into submission, as was usually the case in kingdom building at that time. They fall before him with their gifts because ["for"] of his justice (:12,15). The queen of Sheba brought her gifts from respect (:10), not because she was forced to. And so it is and shall ever be in the extension of God's Kingdom upon earth. 

Psa 72:12

For he will deliver the needy when he cries; the poor, who has no helper-
As noted on :11, the astounding justice and loving care of the king of the kingdom would bring other nations to willingly submit and offer gifts (:10,11); not as signs that they had been forced into submission by military prowess. All visions of the Lord Jesus at His return forcing nations to accept Him at the point of a sword... are out of step with all we have seen and known of Him, as well as of these prophecies. These words were not fulfilled in Solomon as David confidently expected; Solomon whipped the people rather than delivering the needy who cried for help. And his throne hardly endured as long as the sun.

Psa 72:13

He will have pity on the poor and needy, he will save the needy persons- 
See on :4. Pity on the surrounding Gentiles is the language of Jonah 4:11 about Nineveh. The old covenant required that Israel show no pity to the nations of the eretz promised to Abraham, lest they lead the people into idolatry (s.w. Dt. 7:16). David, as so often, is looking beyond this to a new situation whereby Israel's king would show them pity, if like Nineveh they were repentant. But Solomon mixed with those nations and accepted their idols. David had seen himself as "poor and needy", needing grace after his sin with Bathsheba and its consequences (Ps. 40:17; 70:5; 86:1; 109:16,22). He wished Solomon to likewise have pity on the "poor and needy" amongst the Gentiles, those who had likewise repented (Ps. 72:13). And David was especially desirous to himself see the "poor and needy" blessed and accepted as he had been (Ps. 82:3,4; 113:7). It is our personal experience of needing grace which leads us to have a heart for those like us, the poor and needy. Any other motivation will ultimately not abide. Solomon appears to glorify his mother Bathsheba for likewise pitying the poor and needy (Prov. 31:9,20).

Psa 72:14

He will redeem their soul from oppression and violence, their blood will be precious in his sight-
The Hebrew word
hamas [basically meaning 'physical violence arising from wicked plans'] is quite common in Scripture, and the usages speak of how God is provoked by hamas to bring judgment upon the enemies of His people (Gen. 6:11-13; Mic. 6:12; Zeph. 1:9) and also to intervene in order to save His people (Ps. 18:49; Ps. 72:14). How amazingly appropriate that an organization actually called hamas has arisen in these last days to do violence to Israel! If Biblical history means anything to us, clearly enough God's intervention in appropriate judgment and salvation cannot be far off. Note how Hagar's persecution of Sarah- typical of the Arab-Jew conflict- is described as her hamas (Gen. 16:5).

In Ps. 49:8 David had used the same words for how the soul or life of persons should be treated as "precious". Saul used the same phrase of David's saving his life: "My soul was precious in your eyes" [s.w. "life is costly"] (1 Sam. 26:21). David is alluding to this; Saul's human life had been precious or costly to him, but he was unable to redeem Saul eternally. Only God could do that, if Saul by faith accepted God's grace. David wished that Solomon would have the same perspective, considering the soul or life of people to be "precious" or "costly", appreciating the value and meaning of human persons. But sadly Solomon abused his people later, as it were whipping them with whips.

Psa 72:15

They shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba. Men shall pray for him continually, they shall bless him all day long-
The idea is that because the poor and needy would be allowed to "live" and would be treated with justice and grace (:14), Sheba would give her gold and continual prayer be made for the king. It was usual that conquered peoples were forced to pray to the gods of their conquerors, and to give their gold. But as noted on :10,11, the growth of this Kingdom of God would be on a quite different basis. Peoples would be awed by the grace displayed, and would voluntarily come to worship Israel's God, acting as if they had indeed been conquered by Him- but by His love and grace, rather than His sword.

Psa 72:16

Abundance of grain shall be throughout the land, its fruit sways like Lebanon. Let it flourish, thriving like the grass of the field!-
As a result of just kingship, the blessings for obedience to the covenant would come about, in terms of agricultural fecundity. "Abundance of grain" recalls the situation in the seven years of plenty in Egypt, the implication being that this grain would be shared with the Gentile world around them, in order to lead them to Israel's God.

Psa 72:17

His name endures forever, his name continues as long as the sun-
Again David is imagining Solomon ruling eternally, but without due regard for the results of sin and the need for the grace of resurrection and forgiveness. And it was surely Yahweh's Name which should have been spoken of in this way and not Solomon's.

Men shall be blessed in him, all nations will call him blessed-
The allusion is to the Abrahamic promise of Gen. 18:18: "All the nations of the earth will be blessed in him". But the promise about Abraham personally and his seed is too quickly assumed by David to be relevant to Solomon personally. There is an intended ambiguity in the grammar, as to whether "be blessed" is purely a prediction, or a command- to chose to become blessed in him. That choice is now made in terms of choosing to be baptized into the Lord Jesus, the true seed of Abraham, so that we might receive the blessing of forgiveness and life eternal inheriting the earth (Acts 3:25,26; Gal. 3:27-29).

Psa 72:18

Praise be to Yahweh God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds-
This is an invitation for the "nations" of :17 to praise the God of Israel, not because they have been forcefully subjugated, but because they recognize that He is the one and only God, who can do such marvellous things as restoring His sinful people.

Psa 72:19

Blessed be His glorious name forever! Let the whole earth be filled with His glory! Amen and amen-
As noted on :18 this is David's desire that the entire eretz promised to Abraham be filled with peoples who genuinely wish to bless the name of Israel's God and thereby give glory to Him.

Psa 72:20

This ends the prayers by David, the son of Jesse-
I suggested on Ps. 1:1 that this means that for sure Psalms 1-72 were all written by David, although most of them were edited and reapplied, under inspiration, to later situations; and I gave reasons for thinking that the majority of the later Psalms, although not all, were likewise originally his inspired work.