Psalm 72:16-20

16. A handful of corn shall be in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall be shaken as of Lebanon:1 and they shall go forth from the city as it were a plant of the earth. 17. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued in the presence of the sun: and all nations shall bless themselves in him, and shall call him blessed. 18. Blessed be Jehovah God! the God of Israel! who alone doeth wonderful things. 19. And blessed be his glorious name [literally, the name of his glory] for ever; and let all the earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen. 20. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.


16. A handful of corn shall be2 in the earth upon the top of the mountains. The opinion of those who take a handful3 for a small portion appears to be well founded. They think that by the two circumstances here referred to, a rare and uncommon fertility is indicated. Only a very small quantity of wheat, not even more than a man can hold in the palm of his hand, has been sown, and that even upon the tops of the mountains, which generally are far from being fruitful; and yet so very abundant will be the increase, that the ears will wave and rustle in the winds as the trees on Lebanon. I do not, however, know whether so refined a comparison between seed-time and harvest is at all intended by David. His words may be considered more simply as denoting that so great will be the fertility, so abundant the produce of wheat which the mountain tops shall yield, that it may be reaped with full hand. By this figure is portrayed the large abundance of all good things which, through the blessing of God, would be enjoyed under the reign of Christ. To this is added the increase of children. Not only would the earth produce an abundance all kinds of fruits, but the cities and towns also would be fruitful in the production of men: And they shall go out 4 from the city as the grass of the earth. I have preferred translating the word Lebanon in the genitive case instead of the nominative; for the metonomy of putting the name of the mountain, Lebanon, for the trees upon it, which is renounced by others, is somewhat harsh.

17. His name shall endure for ever. The inspired writer again repeats what he had previously affirmed concerning the perpetual duration of this kingdom. And he doubtless intended carefully to distinguish it from earthly kingdoms, which either suddenly vanish away, or at length, oppressed with their own greatness, fall into ruin, affording by their destruction incontestible evidence that nothing in this world is stable and of long duration. When he says that his name shall endure for ever, it is not to be understood as merely implying that his fame should survive his death, as worldly men are ambitious that their name may not be buried with their body. He is rather speaking of the kingdom when he says that the name of this prince will continue illustrious and glorious for ever. Some explain the words smsaynpl, liphney-shemesh, which we have rendered, in the presence of the sun, as if he meant that the glory with which God would invest the kings of Judah would surpass the brightness of the sun; but this is at variance with the context, for he had said above, (verse 5th,) in the same sense, with the sun, and in the presence of the moon.

After having, therefore, made mention of the everlasting duration of the name of this king, he subjoins, by way of explanation, his name shall be continued in the presence of the sun. Literally it is, his name shall have children,5 (for the Hebrew verb is derived from the noun for son,) that is to say, it shall be perpetuated from father to son;6 and as the sun rises daily to enlighten the world, so shall the strength of this king be continually renewed, and thus will continue from age to age for ever. In like manner, we shall afterwards see that the sun and the moon are called witnesses of the same eternity, (Psalm 89:38.) Whence it follows that this cannot be understood of the earthly kingdom, which flourished only for a short time in the house of David, and not only lost its vigor in the third successor, but was at length ignominiously extinguished. It properly applies to the kingdom of Christ; and although that kingdom often totters upon the earth when assailed with the furious hatred of the whole world, and battered by the most formidable engines of Satan, it is yet wonderfully upheld and sustained by God, that it may not altogether fail. The words which follow, All nations shall bless themselves in him, admit of a twofold meaning. The Hebrews often use this form of expression when the name of any man is used as an example or formula of prayer for blessings. For instance, a man blesses himself in David, who beseeches God to be as favorable and bountiful to him as he proved himself to be towards David. On the other hand, he is said to curse in Sodom and Gomorrah who employs the names of these cities by which to pronounce some curse. If, then, these two expressions, they shall bless themselves in him, and they shall call him blessed, are used in the same sense; the expression, to bless themselves in the king, will just mean to pray that the same prosperity may be conferred upon us which was conferred upon this highly favored king, whose happy condition will excite universal admiration. But if it is considered preferable to distinguish between these two expressions, (which is not less probable,) to bless one's self in the king, will denote to seek happiness from him; for the nations will be convinced that nothing is more desirable than to receive from him laws and ordinances.

18. Blessed be Jehovah God! the God of Israel.7 David, after having prayed for prosperity to his successors, breaks forth in praising God, because he was assured by the divine oracle that his prayers would not be in vain. Had he not with the eyes of faith beheld those things which we have seen above, his rejoicing would have been less free and lively. When he says that God alone doeth wonderful things, this, no doubt, is spoken in reference to the subject of which he is presently treating, with the view not only of commending the excellence of the kingdom, but also to admonish himself and others of the need which there is that God should display his wonderful and stupendous power for its preservation. And certainly it was not owing to any of David's successors, a few excepted, that the royal throne did not fall a hundred times, yea, was not even completely ruined. To go no farther, was not Solomon's most disgraceful apostasy deserving of utter destruction? And as to the rest of his successors, with the exception of Josias, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, and a few others, did they not fall from evil to worse, as if each strove to outstrip his predecessor, and thus so provoked the wrath of God, as it were deliberately, that it is wonderful that he did not immediately launch the thunderbolts of his vengeance upon the whole race utterly to destroy them? Moreover, as David, being endued with the Spirit of prophecy, was not ignorant that Satan would always continue to be a cruel enemy of the Church's welfare, he doubtless knew that the grace of God, of which he presently speaks, would have great and arduous difficulties to overcome in order to continue for ever in his own nation. And the event afterwards unquestionably showed by how many miracles God accomplished his promises, whether we consider the return of his people from the captivity of Babylon, or the astonishing deliverances which followed until Christ as a tender branch sprung out of a dead tree. David, therefore, with good reason prays that the glory of the divine name may fill the whole earth, since that kingdom was to be extended even to the uttermost boundaries of the globe, And that all the godly, with earnest and ardent affection of heart, may unite with him in the same prayers, there is added a confirmation in the words, Amen, and Amen.

20. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended. We have before observed that this was not without cause added by Solomon, (if we may suppose him to have put the matter of this psalm into the form of poetical compositions) not only that he might avoid defrauding his father of the praise which was due to him, but also to stir up the Church the more earnestly to pour forth before God the same prayers which David had continued to offer even with his last breath. Let us then remember that it is our bounden duty to pray to God, both with unfeigned earnestness, and with unwearied perseverance, that he would be pleased to maintain and defend the Church under the government of his Son. The name of Jesse, the father of David, seems to be here introduced to bring to remembrance David's origin, that the grace of God may appear the more illustrious in having raised from the sheepfold a man of mean birth, as well as the youngest and the least esteemed among his brethren, and in having advanced him to so high a degree of honor, as to make him king over the chosen people.

1 "Ou, le Leban." -- Fr. marg. "Or, Lebanon."

2 In the French version, the word semee, i.e., sown, is supplied.

3 The noun hop, phissah, here translated handful, is found only in this passage. In explaining 1 Kings 18:44, the Chaldee interpreter, for the Hebrew words rendered "as a man's hand," has dy topk, ke-phissath yad, which strictly signify, "as if a part of the hand." On this authority several expositors, along with Calvin, have understood hop, phissah, as signifying "a small quantity of corn," as much as may lie on a man's hand, or as he may hold within it. And some at the beginning of the verse supply the conditional particle Ma, im, if. But Rosenmüller thinks that "others with more propriety consider the noun hop as having the same signification as Nwyop, diffusio, uberitas, 'spreading abroad, plenty,' and as derived from the verb aop, which, both in the Chaldee and in the Arabic, means expandit, diffudit se, 'he spread abroad, he enlarged himself.' The Syriac interpreter had, no doubt, this sense in view, when he rendered the words multitudinem frumenti, 'an abundance of corn.'"

4 The word Pyu, tsits, which Calvin renders shall go out, signifies to spring from, to spring up. It is used, says Rosenmüller, with respect to plants or herbs when, sprouting from the seed, they make their appearance above ground in beauty and gracefulness, (Numbers 17:8, 23.) It is used to denote also the reproduction of mankind in prosperous circumstances, (Isaiah 27:6.) From the noun ryem, [from the city,] we are at no loss to supply the proper nominative to the preceding verb; q. d., ex civitatibus singulis cives efflorescent, 'from the cities severally, the citizens shall spring forth.' The expression is somewhat similar to that in Psalm 68:27, where the descendants of Israel are said to be from the fountain of Israel." The extraordinary fertility and great increase of population here predicted took place in Palestine under the reign of Solomon, as is evident from 1 Kings 4:20, where it is said, that in the time of Solomon "Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry." But this prophecy is destined to receive its fullest accomplishment under the reign of the Messiah.

5 "Filiabitur nomen ejus." -- Henry. In the margin of our English Bibles it is, "He shall be as a son to continue his father's name." Bishop Patrick, therefore, paraphrases it, "His memory and fame shall never die, but be propagated from father to son, so long as the sun shall shine." Rosenmüller reads, "Sobolescet nomen ejus, 'his name shall increase,' that is, shall be continued as long as the sun endureth; the government shall continue to his posterity in perpetual succession." "The verb Nwn, nun," he adds, "which occurs only in this passage, is explained from the noun Nyn, nin, Genesis 21:23; Job 18:19; Isaiah 14:22. In these passages the word has obviously the meaning of offspring, and by the Chaldee interpreters, it is constantly rendered by the word rb, bar, falius, 'a son.' It may, therefore, be assumed with certainty, that the verb Nwn, nun, signifies sobolem procreare, 'to procreate descendants.' It may, however, be added, that the Alexandrine has here diamenei~, a rendering in which both the Vulgate and Jerome concur: 'perseverabit nomen ejus,' 'his name shall endure." Dathe takes this last mentioned view. He supposes, that instead of Nwny, yinnon, we should read Nwky, yikon, stabilietur, -- permanebit; "shall be established, -- shall continue." "The verb Nwn, nun," says he, "is not met with either in the Hebrew or in the cognate tongues, and is explained, -- merely by conjecture, -- augescere -- sobolescere, -- 'to increase or multiply,' because, as a noun in some of the dialects, it signifies a fish. In the Septuagint the word is rendered diamenei~ ; in the Vulgate and by Jerome, perseverabit; in the Chaldee, praeparatum est; in the Syriac, existet nomen ejus. All these, without doubt, read Nwky, yikon, 'prepared, -- established, -- fixed,' -- the word which we find in the parallel passage, Psalm 89:38. The letters k, caph, and n, nun, it is evident, may very easily be interchanged from their similarity in form."

6 ("Car c'est un verbe en la langue Hebraique qui vient du nom de Fils,) c'est a dire, sera perpetue de pere en fils." -- Fr.

7 This psalm concludes the second book of the Psalms, and this and the following verse are a doxology similar to that with which the first book and the other three are concluded. See volume 2, p. 126, note.


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