Psalm 72 is a royal psalm, one of two ascribed to Solomon. The other is psalm 127. This psalm is quite Messianic, speaking in terms of the coming of the great king. On the basis of the ideals of the ancient Middle Eastern royalty, this psalm calls for a good king to govern Israel under God’s blessing. Ultimately this king is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This royal psalm closes out book two with verses 18-20 serving as an doxology for all of book two, as well as psalm 72. The psalmist reflects on the prospects of David’s royal line and Zion. He prays that Israel’s kings will be good and prosperous, extending the Lord’s blessing on His people throughout the whole earth. The surpassing righteousness and dominion sought in this prayer foreshadow the coming of Jesus, the Son of David.
If the inscription of this psalm is translated ‘of Solomon’ then he was the author and wrote of himself in the third person. This would make the psalm a prayer for God’s help as he sought to rule over the people of Israel. But some translate this ‘for Solomon’ which means the author then is most likely David. This then would be a prayer for the people to use to ask God’s blessing on their new king. If Solomon did write this it would have been early in his reign because in his later years he turned away from the Lord and began to worship the idols of his many wives. But really the focus here is on the one beyond both David and Solomon and every other earthly king and ruler…Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel. This psalm is not quoted in the New Testament but it describes the elements that will make up the promised kingdom when Jesus returns.
The first four verses are a call for a reign of judgement, with the psalmist believing that the blessings of justice create a balance in nature resulting in harmony, prosperity, and fertility. Kings in the ancient Near East were expected to represent justice and the standard for Israel’s Kings was much higher because the Lord was their model. A just ruler would defend the poor against injustice, rescue them from violence, and bring their oppressors to account for their wrongdoing. The Lord was King over His people and the man on the throne in Jerusalem was His representative, obligated to lead the people according to the law of God. He was to be impartial in his dealings. If you remember when Solomon first became king the Lord asked him what he wanted and Solomon asked for wisdom to lead God’s people. We know that one day Messiah will reign in righteousness and execute judgement. In the whole land of Israel, Solomon’s reign would bring peace and prosperity because both of those things would depend on righteousness. And it is because Jesus fulfilled God’s righteousness in His life and death that sinners can be forgiven and have peace with God.
The fear you that Solomon uses here is an expression of wonder, awe, reverence, worship, and obedience. In Hebrew this phrase seems to be a response to the enforcement of justice. The Greek version reads May they endure, which makes this a prayer for longevity. This verse really is proclaiming long live the king and we will see the same again in verse 15. God promised David an endless dynasty but it is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus and not an earthly king. This great king coming down is pictured as the gentle rains of God’s blessings on the earth and His reign will lead to true peace…the way things were originally intended to be. The administration of justice is as refreshing as the gentle spring rains and this allows the godly to flourish. Godly leaders are also like lamps that light the way, shields that protect, and the very breath of life that sustains us.
In verses 8-11 we read that the anointed king will rule over the whole world. Solomon’s kingdom extended from the Euphrates River in the east to Philistine territory in the west where the Mediterranean Sea appeared to be the ends of the earth. Everyone will bow down to this great king including the nomads in the desert. The glorious king would have the Euphrates as his near border and then his kingdom would go to the ends of the earth. No one will escape the power of his reign and everyone will submit to his authority and majesty. The phrase from sea to sea meant the whole world. If you look at the promise of land God made to Abraham you will see that the land described here is that land. Both David and Solomon ruled over great kingdoms but neither of them ruled all the land God had promised. But the great king to come would rule over everything. King David gained the kingdom through war and conquest. Solomon expanded it through treaties and the marrying of the daughters of foreign kings. Many nations paid tribute to Solomon. However, there is only one King of kings and that is Jesus, the Son of God. There will be no real peace on earth until the Prince of Peace is reigning and the nations have submitted to Him. All the kings and nations must submit to the Messianic king.
This great king’s reign will be compassionate. He will rescue the poor which means He will bring an end to their oppressors. And just like a father, the king feels pity on those in need. The king of Israel was looked at as God’s shepherd who lovingly cared for God’s flock. In Solomon’s time any citizen had access to the king to get help in solving legal problems. The king was to make sure the local judges were being fair and honest in their decisions. Solomon was not entirely successful in this, nor was anyone else. The only one who will be, is Jesus. The psalmist writes that the blood of the poor and needy will be precious in the sight of this great king. The blood shed by the needy here points to the blood that Jesus will shed on the cross. No wonder Jesus finds the shed blood of others to be precious.
God’s covenant with Israel ensured them of prosperity and blessings as long as they were obedient. He also assured David he would always have someone on his throne, but only if the kings too were obedient. Jesus will reign according to the power of an endless life. The just kingdom of Jesus will be long standing and universal. The promise of life in the words ‘He shall live’ is a Messianic theme because the Messiah is the only One who grants true life. The NAME of the great king will be regarded as the greatest name in the universe. Israel’s prosperity would not only be political, , but it would also be economic (gold), spiritual (prayer), and commercial (thriving crops). In fulfillment of His covenant with Abraham, God would bless all the nations through Israel. And He has done this in sending His Son Jesus Christ.
Verses 18-19 are a doxology for the conclusion of book two of the psalter. They are also the beautiful ending of this psalm. The conclusion here focuses on the glory of the Lord. Solomon’s kingdom had its fair share of glory but this glory did not last. When Jesus reigns on earth the glory of God will be revealed as never before. That the word praise or blessed is repeated here as well as the focus in the name and the double amen all indicate this psalm was used in the worship of God in His temple. And just a bit of church music trivia here; Isaac Watts used this psalm as the basis for his hymn “Jesus shall reign”.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W