The Word Made Fresh
1Give your justice to the king, O God.
Give your righteousness to the king’s son,
2so that he may judge your people in fairness
and your poor ones justly.
3Let the mountains bring prosperity to the people.
Let righteousness come down from the hills.
4May the king defend the poor,
deliver the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
5May he be respected as long as the sun shines
and as long as the moon reflects its light generation after
6May his reign be like fresh showers on the fields
and like the rain that waters the earth.
7May his reign flourish with righteousness,
and may peace be found until the moon ceases to be.
8May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the earth’s bounds.
9May the desert people bow down before him
and may his enemies lick the dust.
10May the kings of Tarshish and the islands pay tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba bring him gifts.
11May all these kings bow down before him
and all the nations serve him.
12For he will rescue the impoverished when they call,
including all those who are poor and have no help.
13The king pities the weak and helpless,
and rescues those who are needy.
14He frees them from oppression and violence,
for their lives are precious in his sight.
15May he have a long life! May gold of Sheba be given him,
and prayers be raised for him always,
and may he be rewarded all day, every day.
16May the land produce plenty of grain, even to the mountaintops,
and may its fruit be like that of Lebanon.
May its people in the cities be successful,
and grow like the lilies in the fields.
17May the king’s name never be forgotten
and his fame endure as long as the sun.
May all the nations benefit from his rule
and call him their benefactor.
18May the LORD, the God of Israel, be renowned
for doing such wonderful things.
19May the LORD’s sacred name be revered forever
and the whole world be filled with the LORD’s splendor.
Amen and Amen.
20The prayers of David, son of Jesse, are now ended.
Superscription: two of the psalms, this one and the 127th, are ascribed to Solomon.
1-7: Perhaps the reason this psalm is thought to be one of Solomon’s is because of the ego-centered sentiments it expresses throughout. The first verse asks God to give the king justice. The remainder of the psalm is a grand list of what the psalmist thinks God’s justice for the king should look like. Pictured here is a reign that is everlasting, or at least that outlasts the sun and moon. That’s probably a pretty long time.
8-11: Next, the psalmist pictures a far-flung dominion that stretches to the “ends of the earth.” All the other kings should bring tribute and do obeisance.
12-14: Why? Because the king is God-like in his care for the poor and oppressed.
15-17: And while you’re at it, God, he’d like to have lots of gold and bumper crops and growing cities and enduring fame.
18-19: As egotistical as the psalm is in its wishes for the king, the last lines acknowledge that the king has no power to accomplish these things. Only God can insure a king’s success. The expressions in these verses are typical of the way each collection within the book of psalms ends (compare 41:13 and 89:52, for example).
20: This second collection of psalms ends with the curious declaration that it ends the psalms of David, even though Psalm 72 was introduced as a psalm of Solomon, and even though there are as yet 18 “psalms of David” still to come.
In ancient times the well-being of the people was a direct result of the well-being of their rulers. That is less true in modern times, although a poor leader (or worse, a crooked one) in modern societies can result in the population suffering to some extent, and the poor are always the first to feel the bite. Psalm 72 should encourage us to pray for God to give our leaders wisdom and courage to serve with a firm hand but gentle grip.