Psalm 89

Psalm 89[a]

Prayer for the Fulfillment of God’s Promise

1 A maskil[b] of Ethan the Ezrahite.

2 [c]I will sing forever of the Lord’s kindness;
with my lips I will proclaim your faithfulness[d]
throughout the generations.
3 You said, “My kindness lasts forever;
my faithfulness is as firmly established as the heavens.
4 “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to my servant David:
5 ‘I will establish your descendants forever
and allow your throne to endure for all generations.’ ”[e] Selah
6 [f]Let the heavens[g] praise your wonders, O Lord,
your faithfulness in the assembly of your holy ones.
7 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
Is there any heavenly being[h] who is like the Lord,
8 a God who is feared in the council of the holy ones,
greater and more awesome than any who stand in his presence?
9 O Lord, God of hosts,[i] who is like you?
Almighty Lord, your faithfulness is never absent.
10 You control the raging sea,
calming its surging waves.
11 You crushed Rahab[j] with a deadly blow;
you scattered your foes with your mighty arm.
12 Yours are the heavens and yours is the earth;
you founded the world[k] and all that is in it.
13 You created the north and the south;[l]
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
14 Mighty is your arm and strong is your hand;
your right hand is forever raised high.
15 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
kindness and faithfulness go before your face.[m]
16 Blessed[n] are the people who know how to acclaim you, O Lord,
who walk in the light of your countenance.
17 In your name they rejoice all day long,
and they exult in your righteousness.
18 [o]You are the strength in which they glory,
and by your kindness our horn[p] is exalted.
19 For the Lord is our shield,
the Holy One of Israel, our King.
20 [q]On one occasion you spoke in a vision[r]
and said to your faithful servants:
“I have appointed as leader one who is mighty;
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
21 I have found David, my servant,
and with my holy oil I have anointed him.
22 “My hand will sustain him;
my arm will make him strong.
23 No enemy will overcome him;
no one who is wicked will oppress him.
24 “I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
25 My faithfulness and my kindness will be with him;
through my name his horn will be exalted.
26 “I will stretch his hand as far as the sea
and his right hand as far as the rivers.[s]
27 He will cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, the Rock of my salvation.’
28 [t]“I will designate him as my firstborn,
the highest of all earthly kings.
29 Forever I will maintain my kindness for him,
and my covenant with him will never end.
30 I will establish his dynasty forever
and his throne as long as the heavens.
31 [u]“If his descendants forsake my law
and refuse to conform to my decrees,
32 if they break my statutes
and do not keep my precepts,
33 I will punish their disobedience with the rod
and their iniquity with scourges.
34 “But I will not deprive him of my kindness
or fail to observe my faithfulness.[v]
35 [w]I will not violate my covenant
or alter the promise I have spoken.
36 “By my holiness I have sworn once and for all:
never will I break faith with David.
37 His dynasty will last forever,
and his throne will endure before me like the sun.
38 It will endure forever like the moon,
a faithful witness in the sky.” Selah
39 [x]But now you have spurned and rejected him,
you have become filled with wrath against your anointed one.[y]
40 You have repudiated your covenant with your servant
and dishonored his crown in the dust.
41 You have breached all his walls
and turned his strongholds into ruins.
42 Every passer-by has despoiled him;
he has become a laughingstock to his neighbors.
43 [z]You have exalted the right hand of his foes
and caused all his enemies to rejoice.
44 You have driven back his drawn sword
and left him to fight without your support.
45 You have put an end to his glory
and toppled his throne to the ground.
46 You have curtailed the time of his youth[aa]
and enveloped him in shame. Selah
47 [ab]How long, O Lord? Will you remain hidden forever?
How long[ac] will your wrath blaze like a fire?
48 Remember how brief is my span of life
and how weak you have made all mortals.
49 Who can live and never experience death?
Who can save himself from the power of the netherworld? Selah
50 [ad]Where is your kindness of old, O Lord,
which you swore to David in your faithfulness?
51 Remember, O Lord, the insults hurled at your servant;
recall how I have borne in my heart the slanders of all the peoples.
52 Your enemies have leveled insults at us, O Lord;
they have taunted the footsteps of your anointed one.
53 Blessed be the Lord forever.
Amen! Amen![ae]


  1. Psalm 89:1 This psalm constitutes a beautiful hymn to God the Creator and a grand acclamation to the Lord who has given his word and his promise to Israel. And although the facts in Israel’s history seem to give the lie to such splendid visions, the believer refuses to rely on appearances. God’s word and his promise are solid in spite of a temporary present roadblock, as a long history bears witness. The temporary roadblock may have been the attack on Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of King Jehoiachin in 597 B.C. (see 2 Ki 24:8-17) or the disappearance of the Davidic dynasty after the Exile (from the sixth century on).
    The psalmist sketches a wonderful catalog of God’s work: the origins of the world and the election of David; the order of the cosmos and the stability of the royal throne; heaven and earth and the present, past, and future. In time of incertitude, one must make use of this sublime contemplation and continue to believe in the faithfulness of God. Then the Messianic Hope will be renewed; it is the expectation of the coming of the Lord by his anointed, the Messiah.
    Through David, it is principally to his Son, Jesus Christ, that God the Father promised love and faithfulness, prosperity and perpetual royal stability upon the new Israel, the Church. Even though catastrophes of all kinds seem to belie God’s loving faithfulness, we can pray this psalm with complete confidence.
  2. Psalm 89:1 Maskil: see note on Ps 32:1a. Ethan the Ezrahite: he is thought to be the son of Zerah (hence, Ezrahite) and member of the tribe of Judah (see 1 Chr 2:6) as well as founder of one of the three choirs (see 1 Chr 15:19) and identical with the Jeduthun of Ps 39 (see 2 Chr 5:12).
  3. Psalm 89:2 God is true. If anything is certain, it is his kindness and faithfulness. They endure without fail in creation, and they endure in the covenant with David (see 2 Sam 7:8-16; 1 Chr 17:10-15), on which Israel’s Messianic Hope is based.
  4. Psalm 89:2 Kindness . . . faithfulness: see notes on Pss 6:5; 36:6f. These words are each repeated eight times in the psalm. Kindness: verses 2-3, 15, 18, 25, 29, 34, 50, and faithfulness: verses 2-3, 6, 9, 15, 25, 34, 50.
  5. Psalm 89:5 Despite the fall of the Davidic monarchy, God remains faithful to his covenant, which is an eternal covenant (see 2 Sam 7:16; Isa 54:10; 55:3; 61:8; Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 16:60; 37:26) and the foundation of the Messianic Hope.
  6. Psalm 89:6 The psalmist sings of God’s greatness in the secret of heaven where he is surrounded by angels (the holy ones and any heavenly being, vv. 6-7). He declares the power of the One who created the earth and rules the primitive chaos, symbolized by the mythological monster Rahab. The more deeply the believer divines the mystery of God, the more overwhelmed he becomes with joy.
  7. Psalm 89:6 The heavens: i.e., all beings who are part of God’s heavenly kingdom. Wonders: see note on Ps 9:2. Assembly of your holy ones: the great council in heaven (see Ps 82:1).
  8. Psalm 89:7 Heavenly being: literally, “son of God” (see note on Ps 29:1).
  9. Psalm 89:9 Lord, God of hosts: see note on Ps 59:6. Sea: see note on Ps 65:8.
  10. Psalm 89:11 Rahab: a mythical sea monster that may be another name for Leviathan (see Pss 74:14; 104:26) and is used in the Old Testament primarily as a personification of the primeval chaos. Here it is a symbol of God’s dominance of the sea and all rebellious creatures. You scattered . . . arm: cited in Lk 1:51.
  11. Psalm 89:12 Heavens . . . earth . . . world: the Lord is the almighty Creator of the heavens and the earth as well as everything in them. He is the benign Ruler of these same areas with a love that extends through them to the Messianic Kingdom, symbolized by David (vv. 4, 21). Thus, he not only created but also redeemed them.
  12. Psalm 89:13 The north and the south: some believe that the Hebrew words for these two geographical poles (saphon and yamin) are the names of two sacred mountains in northern Syria: Mount Zaphon (see Ps 48:3 and note; Jos 13:27; Jdg 12:1; Isa 14:13) and Mount Amana (see Song 4:8), paralleling the mountains Tabor and Hermon (which also stand for east and west). Tabor: a low mountain in the Valley of Jezreel in northern Israel. Hermon: a tall mountain in Lebanon that marks the southern limit of the Anti-Lebanon range. Joyously praise: see note on Ps 65:14.
  13. Psalm 89:15 The divine attributes are personified (see Pss 85:11-12; 97:2).
  14. Psalm 89:16 Blessed: see note on Ps 1:1. How to acclaim you: literally, “the joyful shout.”
  15. Psalm 89:18 These verses serve as a transition to the great oracle that follows. The Davidic dynasty and the coming of the Messiah-King depend completely on the Lord.
  16. Psalm 89:18 Horn: symbolizes strong one (see also Ps 18:3, and note, Ps 75:11).
  17. Psalm 89:20 This powerful and faithful God has revealed to his faithful servants (the prophets Samuel and Nathan) his plan for David and his posterity. It is a promise that cannot be effaced, a covenant that will never be revoked. It is guaranteed by God’s kindness and faithfulness.
  18. Psalm 89:20 Vision: the revelation made to Samuel (see 1 Sam 16:12) or to Nathan (see 2 Sam 7:4-16). Faithful servants: those faithful to his covenant.
  19. Psalm 89:26 Sea . . . rivers: David’s dominion would extend from the Mediterranean Sea (west) to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (east). See Pss 72:8; 80:1.
  20. Psalm 89:28 The only one in whom these promises are fulfilled is Jesus Christ. This is hinted at by the use of firstborn and highest, which in Hebrew is elyon, a divine name (see Ps 83:19) applied to the Messiah, the Son of God (see 2 Sam 7:14; Jn 20:17) and supreme king (see Col 1:18; Rev 1:5).
  21. Psalm 89:31 God’s promises can be said to be partly provisional and partly absolute. As provisional promises, they were not fulfilled in David’s descendants who did not carry out the conditions of the covenant (vv. 31-33). As absolute promises, they were fulfilled in the Son of God, who is also the Son of David (vv. 34-38).
  22. Psalm 89:34 Fail to observe my faithfulness: see 2 Sam 7:15.
  23. Psalm 89:35 See Ps 110:4; Isa 31:2; 55:3; Jer 33:20ff; Am 4:2.
  24. Psalm 89:39 Seemingly, God has renounced his covenant. The temple is sacked, the village ruined, the kingship laid open to scorn, contrary to the word given to David. It is of little import as to why such an evil has occurred; the important thing is that God seems inconsistent.
  25. Psalm 89:39 The actions recounted here (repudiating a covenant, casting a crown in the dust, and destroying fortifications) are ordinarily attributed to Israel’s enemies. Here, however, they are attributed to the Lord himself, who is seen as repudiating the provisional covenant he had made with his people.
  26. Psalm 89:43 The psalmist asserts that it is the Lord who has enabled Israel’s enemies to carry off a victory over his people. As a result, David’s throne and his honor have been toppled to the ground and his dynasty is enveloped with shame and disgrace.
  27. Psalm 89:46 Curtailed the time of his youth: the Israelite royalty enjoyed only four and a half centuries of independence: this was the time of its youth (see Ps 129:1) after its birth in the wilderness (see Isa 46:3; Jer 2:2; Hos 11:1).
  28. Psalm 89:47 The psalmist agonizes over the sad state of affairs in his day and puts questions to the Lord. At the same time, he prays to God to remember that his people are weak and ephemeral. If the Lord continues to hide his face, the people may lapse into despair. Hence, the Lord should renew his kindness during the psalmist’s lifetime. For the people are perishing, the anointed one is mocked, and the acts of God’s kindness that he promised to David are not forthcoming. The psalmist prays that such acts will return once again.
  29. Psalm 89:47 To give himself hope, the psalmist begs God not to let him die without having assisted at the renewal of the covenant. How long . . . ?: see note on Ps 6:4.
  30. Psalm 89:50 May the God who made the promise to David not prove insensitive to the king removed from his throne and the people exiled from their kingdom and forced to experience the taunts of the Gentiles. The believer awaits a new discovery of God, as happened in days gone by at the beginnings of love.
  31. Psalm 89:53 This doxology is not a part of the psalm but a conclusion to Book III of the Psalter added by a redactor (see note on Ps 41:14).

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