The Kingdom of the Messiah
1 Of Solomon.
O God, endow the king with your judgment,
the son of kings with your righteousness.
2 [b]He will govern your people fairly
and deal justly with your poor ones.
3 The mountains will yield peace for the people,
and the hills, righteousness.
4 He will defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor,
and overwhelm the oppressor.
5 He will reign as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
6 He will descend like rain on the meadow,
like showers that water the earth.
7 Justice will reign in his days,
and peace will abound
until the moon is no more.
8 His rule will extend from sea to sea,[c]
and from the river to the ends of the earth.
9 His foes[d] will bow down before him,
and his enemies will lick the dust.
10 The kings of Tarshish[e] and the Islands
will offer him tribute;
the kings of Sheba and Seba
will present him with gifts.
11 All kings will pay him homage,
and all nations will serve him.
12 For he will save the poor who cry out
and the needy who have no one to help them.
13 He will have pity on the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the needy he will save.
14 He will free them from oppression and violence,
for their blood is precious in his sight.
15 [f]Long may he live!
May the gold of Sheba be given to him.
May people pray for him unceasingly
and invoke blessings[g] on him all day long.
16 May grain abound throughout the land,
even growing abundantly on the mountain tops.
May its crops[h] be as plenteous as those of Lebanon,
and may its people flourish like the grass of the field.
17 May his name[i] be blessed forever;
may it endure as long as the sun.
May all peoples be blessed in him;
may all the nations proclaim his greatness.
18 [j]Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone can perform such wondrous deeds.
19 May his glorious name be blessed forever,
and may the whole world be filled with his glory.
20 The end of the psalms of David, son of Jesse.[k]
- Psalm 72:1 Only the expected Savior will fulfill all the hopes placed on the ideal leader described in this psalm, of whom the Prophets also speak (see Isa 9:7; 11:1-9; Jer 23:5f; 33:15f; Zec 9:9-17). The portrait bears more than one facet of King Solomon the Sage, but it is Messianic, i.e., it sketches a mysterious King who is to come. Promised a reign without end (v. 5), he will rescue the needy and poor from oppression and uphold their rights (vv. 12-14). He will establish definitive peace (v. 7), and the pagan nations that he subdues—even the most distant—will come to do homage to him (vv. 10-11). Finally, he will rule over the idealized Promised Land (v. 8) and transform it into a new heavenly paradise (vv. 6, 16).
Since Israel has never yielded to the temptation to make gods out of its kings, this king, too, is not divinized; the psalmist prays for him. This psalm is like a chart or mirror for a true reign in the name of God. It will be marked by the work of justice and peace, the effort for the deliverance of the poor and needy.
In proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus was to provide the authentic content of this perfect happiness that is promised for the reign of the Messiah. In the adoration of the Magi, Matthew (Mt 2:11) sees a visit from pagan kings who prostrate themselves at the feet of the promised Savior (vv. 10-11); hence, this psalm is read in the Liturgy during the Epiphany time.
- Psalm 72:2 Righteousness will rain down God’s blessings on the people (see Pss 5:13; 65:10-14; 133:3; Lev 25:19; Deut 28:8).
- Psalm 72:8 From sea to sea: the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. The river is the Euphrates. Both details indicate the universality of the Messianic reign. Ends of the earth: an alternative translation is: “end of the land.”
- Psalm 72:9 His foes: literally, “the Beast,” a word referring to the tribes of the Arabian Desert, east of the Promised Land. Lick the dust: a sign of abject fear and defeat (see Mic 7:17).
- Psalm 72:10 All kings, whether near or far, will acknowledge the Messiah’s rule. Tarshish: a seaport located in southern Spain, hence to the far west; Sheba: a city of southwest Arabia, hence to the far south; Seba: probably a region in modern Sudan, south of Egypt (see Gen 10:7; Isa 43:3). This verse is applied by Matthew to the visit of the Magi at Christ’s birth (see Mt 2:11).
- Psalm 72:15 The psalmist prays that the Messiah-King may enjoy a long and prosperous reign acknowledged by the whole world and be a blessing for all the nations.
- Psalm 72:15 May people pray . . . and invoke blessings: an obscure passage. As it is translated, it means: may the people pray for the Messiah, that he will benefit the poor with the treasures he has received, and may they bless and thank him. But Israel could also pray to ask God for a perfect Messiah and so offer vows for the extension of the Messianic kingdom (see Ps 61:8f). Hence, one could also translate: “He [the Messiah] will pray [intercede] for him [the poor] / and bless him” (see 1 Ki 8:14, 28).
- Psalm 72:16 Fertility of the land was one of the blessings of the Messianic age (see Hos 14:6f; Am 9:13). May its crops . . . Lebanon: may its crops possess the same vital power that the majestic cedars of Lebanon display.
- Psalm 72:17 Name: see note on Ps 5:12. All peoples: an echo of the promise to the patriarchs (see Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14).
- Psalm 72:18 This doxology is not part of the psalm; it concludes the second of the five Books of the Psalter (see Pss 41:14; 89:53; 106:48; 150). Praise of the Lord is the most profound religious attitude and ends every authentic prayer.
- Psalm 72:20 Colophon added by a redactor.