Psalms 72

O God, grant the king the ability to make just decisions!
Heb “O God, your judgments to [the] king give.”

Grant the king’s son
Grant the king…Grant the king’s son. It is not entirely clear whether v. 1 envisions one individual or two. The phrase “the king’s son” in the second line may simply refer to “the king” of the first line, drawing attention to the fact that he has inherited his dynastic rule. Another option is that v. 1 envisions a co-regency between father and son (a common phenomenon in ancient Israel) or simply expresses a hope for a dynasty that champions justice.
the ability to make fair decisions!
Heb “and your justice to [the] son of [the] king.”

Then he will judge
The prefixed verbal form appears to be an imperfect, not a jussive.
your people fairly,
and your oppressed ones
These people are called God’s oppressed ones because he is their defender (see Pss 9:12, 18; 10:12; 12:5).
The mountains will bring news of peace to the people,
and the hills will announce justice.
Heb “[the] mountains will bear peace to the people, and [the] hills with justice.” The personified mountains and hills probably represent messengers who will sweep over the land announcing the king’s just decrees and policies. See Isa 52:7 and C. A. Briggs and E. G. Briggs, Psalms (ICC), 2:133.

He will defend
Heb “judge [for].”
the oppressed among the people;
he will deliver
The prefixed verbal form appears to be an imperfect, not a jussive.
the children
Heb “sons.”
of the poor
and crush the oppressor.
People will fear
In this context “fear” probably means “to demonstrate respect for the Lord’s power and authority by worshiping him and obeying his commandments.” See Ps 33:8. Some interpreters, with the support of the LXX, prefer to read וְיַאֲרִיךְ (veaarikh, “and he [the king in this case] will prolong [days]”), that is, “will live a long time” (cf. NIV, NRSV).
God is the addressee (see vv. 1–2).
as long as the sun and moon remain in the sky,
for generation after generation.
Heb “with [the] sun, and before [the] moon [for] a generation, generations.” The rare expression דּוֹר דּוֹרִים (dor dorim, “generation, generations”) occurs only here, in Ps 102:24, and in Isa 51:8.

That is, the king (see vv. 2, 4).
will descend like rain on the mown grass,
The rare term zg refers to a sheep’s fleece in Deut 18:4 and Job 31:20, but to “mown” grass or crops here and in Amos 7:1.

like showers that drench
The form in the Hebrew text appears to be an otherwise unattested noun. Many prefer to emend the form to a verb from the root זָרַף (zaraf). BHS in textual note b on this verse suggests a Hiphil imperfect, third masculine plural יַזְרִיפוּ (yazrifu), while HALOT 283 s.v. *זרף prefers a Pilpel perfect, third masculine plural זִרְזְפוּ (zirzefu). The translation assumes the latter.
the earth.
The imagery of this verse compares the blessings produced by the king’s reign to fructifying rains that cause the crops to grow.

During his days the godly will flourish;
Heb “sprout up,” like crops. This verse continues the metaphor of rain utilized in v. 6.

peace will prevail as long as the moon remains in the sky.
Heb “and [there will be an] abundance of peace until there is no more moon.”

May he rule
The prefixed verbal form is a (shortened) jussive form, indicating this is a prayer of blessing.
from sea to sea,
From sea to sea. This may mean from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Dead Sea in the east. See Amos 8:12. The language of this and the following line also appears in Zech 9:10.

and from the Euphrates River
Heb “the river,” a reference to the Euphrates.
to the ends of the earth!
Before him the coastlands
Or “islands.” The term here refers metonymically to those people who dwell in these regions.
will bow down,
and his enemies will lick the dust.
As they bow down before him, it will appear that his enemies are licking the dust.

10  The kings of Tarshish
Tarshish was a distant western port, the precise location of which is uncertain.
and the coastlands will offer gifts;
the kings of Sheba
Sheba was located in Arabia.
and Seba
Seba was located in Africa.
will bring tribute.
11  All kings will bow down to him;
all nations will serve him.
12  For he will rescue the needy
The singular is representative. The typical needy individual here represents the entire group.
when they cry out for help,
and the oppressed
The singular is representative. The typical oppressed individual here represents the entire group.
who have no defender.
13  He will take pity
The prefixed verb form is best understood as a defectively written imperfect (see Deut 7:16).
on the poor and needy;
the lives of the needy he will save.
14  From harm and violence he will defend them;
Or “redeem their lives.” The verb “redeem” casts the Lord in the role of a leader who protects members of his extended family in times of need and crisis (see Pss 19:14; 69:18).

he will value their lives.
Heb “their blood will be precious in his eyes.”

15  May he live!
The prefixed verbal form is jussive, not imperfect. Because the form has the prefixed vav (ו), some subordinate it to what precedes as a purpose/result clause. In this case the representative poor individual might be the subject of this and the following verb, “so that he may live and give to him gold of Sheba.” But the idea of the poor offering gold is incongruous. It is better to take the jussive as a prayer with the king as subject of the verb. (Perhaps the initial vav is dittographic; note the vav at the end of the last form in v. 14.) The statement is probably an abbreviated version of the formula יְחִי הַמֶּלֶךְ (yekhiy hammelekh, “may the king live”; see 1 Sam 10:24; 2 Sam 16:16; 1 Kgs 1:25, 34, 39; 2 Kgs 11:12).
May they offer him gold from Sheba!
Heb “and he will give to him some gold of Sheba.” The prefixed verbal form is understood as a jussive with a grammatically indefinite subject (“and may one give”). Of course, the king’s subjects, mentioned in the preceding context, are the tribute bearers in view here.

May they continually pray for him!
May they pronounce blessings on him all day long!
As in the preceding line, the prefixed verbal forms are understood as jussives with a grammatically indefinite subject (“and may one pray…and may one bless”). Of course, the king’s subjects, mentioned in the preceding context, are in view here.

16  May there be
The prefixed verbal form is jussive, not imperfect. The translation assumes the subject is impersonal (rather than the king).
an abundance
The Hebrew noun פִסַּה (pissah; which appears here in the construct form) occurs only here in the OT. Perhaps the noun is related to the verbal root פָּשָׂה (pasah, “to spread,” see BDB 832 s.v.; the root appears as פָּסָה [pasah] in postbiblical Hebrew), which is used in postbiblical Hebrew of the rising sun’s rays spreading over the horizon and a tree’s branches spreading out (see Jastrow 1194 s.v. פסי, פָּסָה, פָּשָׂה). In Ps 72:16 a “spreading of grain” would refer to grain fields extending out over the land. C. A. Briggs and E. G. Briggs (Psalms [ICC], 2:139) emend the form to סְפִיחַ (sefiakh, “second growth”).
of grain in the earth;
on the tops
Heb “top” (singular).
of the mountains may it
That is, the grain.
According to the traditional accentuation of the MT, this verb belongs with what follows. See the translator’s note at the end of the verse for a discussion of the poetic parallelism and interpretation of the verse.

May its
The antecedent of the third masculine singular pronominal suffix is unclear. It is unlikely that the antecedent is אֶרֶץ (’erets, “earth”) because this noun is normally grammatically feminine. Perhaps רֹאשׁ (rosh, “top [of the mountains]”) is the antecedent. Another option is to understand the pronoun as referring to the king, who would then be viewed as an instrument of divine agricultural blessing (see v. 6).
fruit trees
Heb “fruit.”
According to the traditional accentuation of the MT, this verb belongs with what follows. See the note on the word “earth” at the end of the verse for a discussion of the poetic parallelism and interpretation of the verse. The present translation takes it with the preceding words, “like Lebanon its fruit” and emends the verb form from וְיָצִיצוּ (veyatsitsu; Qal imperfect third masculine plural with prefixed vav, [ו]) to יָצִיץ (yatsits; Qal imperfect third masculine singular). The initial vav is eliminated as dittographic (note the vav on the ending of the preceding form פִּרְיוֹ, piryo, “its/his fruit”) and the vav at the end of the form is placed on the following emended form (see the note on the word “crops”), yielding וַעֲמִיר (vaamir, “and [its] crops”).
like the forests of Lebanon!
Heb “like Lebanon.”

May its crops
The MT has “from the city.” The translation assumes an emendation to עֲמִיר (’amir, “crops”).
be as abundant
The translation assumes that the verb צוץ (“flourish”) goes with the preceding line. The words “be as abundant” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
as the grass of the earth!
The traditional accentuation and vocalization of the MT differ from the text assumed by the present translation. The MT reads as follows: “May there be an abundance of grain in the earth, / and on the tops of the mountains! / May its [or “his”?] fruit [trees?] rustle like [the trees of] Lebanon! / May they flourish from the city, like the grass of the earth!” If one follows the MT, then it would appear that the “fruit” of the third line is a metaphorical reference to the king’s people, who flow out from the cities to populate the land (see line 4). Elsewhere in the OT people are sometimes compared to grass that sprouts up from the land (see v. 7, as well as Isa 27:6; Pss 92:7; 103:15). The translation understands a different poetic structural arrangement and, assuming the emendations mentioned in earlier notes, interprets each line of the verse to be a prayer for agricultural abundance.

17  May his fame endure!
Heb “may his name [be] permanent.” The prefixed verbal form is jussive, not imperfect.

May his dynasty last as long as the sun remains in the sky!
Heb “before the sun may his name increase.” The Kethib (consonantal text) assumes יָנִין (yanin; a Hiphil of the verbal root נִין, nin) or יְנַיֵן (yenayen; a Piel form), while the Qere (marginal reading) assumes יִנּוֹן (yinnon; a Niphal form). The verb נִין occurs only here, though a derived noun, meaning “offspring,” appears elsewhere (see Isa 14:22). The verb appears to mean “propagate, increase” (BDB 630 s.v. נוּן, נִין) or “produce shoots, get descendants” (HALOT 696 s.v. נין). In this context this appears to be a prayer for a lasting dynasty that will keep the king’s name and memory alive.

May they use his name when they formulate their blessings!
Heb “may they bless one another by him,” that is, use the king’s name in their blessing formulae because he is a prime example of one blessed by God (for examples of such blessing formulae, see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11). There is some debate on whether the Hitpael form of בָּרַךְ (barakh, “bless”) is reflexive-reciprocal (as assumed in the present translation) or passive. The Hitpael of בָּרַךְ occurs in five other passages, including the hotly debated Gen 22:18 and 26:4. In these two texts one could understand the verb form as passive and translate, “all the nations of the earth will be blessed through your offspring,” or one could take the Hitpael as reflexive or reciprocal and translate, “all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings [i.e., on themselves or one another] by your offspring.” In the first instance Abraham’s (or Isaac’s) offspring are viewed as a channel of divine blessing. In the second instance they are viewed as a prime example of blessing that will appear as part of the nations’ blessing formulae, but not necessarily as a channel of blessing to the nations. In Deut 29:18 one reads: “When one hears the words of this covenant [or “oath”] and invokes a blessing on himself (Hitpael of בָּרַךְ) in his heart, saying: ‘I will have peace, even though I walk with a rebellious heart.’” In this case the Hitpael is clearly reflexive, as the phrases “in his heart” and “I will have peace” indicate. The Hitpael of בָּרַךְ appears twice in Isaiah 65:16: “The one who invokes a blessing on himself (see Deut 9:18) in the land will invoke that blessing by the God of truth; and the one who makes an oath in the land will make that oath by the God of truth.” A passive nuance does not fit here. The parallel line, which mentions making an oath, suggests that the Hitpael of בָּרַךְ refers here to invoking a blessing. Both pronouncements of blessing and oaths will appeal to God as the one who rewards and judges, respectively. Jer 4:2 states: “If you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ with truth, integrity, and honesty, then the nations will pronounce blessings by him and boast in him.” A passive nuance might work (“the nations will be blessed”), but the context refers to verbal pronouncements (swearing an oath, boasting), suggesting that the Hitpael of בָּרַךְ refers here to invoking a blessing. The logic of the verse seems to be as follows: If Israel conducts its affairs with integrity, the nation will be favored by the Lord, which will in turn attract the surrounding nations to Israel’s God. To summarize, while the evidence might leave the door open for a passive interpretation, there is no clear cut passive use. Usage favors a reflexive or reciprocal understanding of the Hitpael of בָּרַךְ. In Ps 72:17 the Hitpael of בָּרַךְ is followed by the prepositional phrase בוֹ (vo, “by him”). The verb could theoretically be taken as passive, “may all the nations be blessed through him” (cf. NIV, NRSV), because the preceding context describes the positive effects of this king’s rule on the inhabitants of the earth. But the parallel line, which employs the Piel of אָשַׁר (’ashar) in a factitive/declarative sense, “regard as happy, fortunate,” suggests a reflexive or reciprocal nuance for the Hitpael of בָּרַךְ here. If the nations regard the ideal king as a prime example of one who is fortunate or blessed, it is understandable that they would use his name in their pronouncements of blessing.

May all nations consider him to be favored by God!
Heb “all the nations, may they regard him as happy.” The Piel is used here in a delocutive sense (“regard as”).

18  The Lord God, the God of Israel, deserves praise!
Heb “[be] blessed.” See Pss 18:46; 28:6; 31:21; 41:13.

He alone accomplishes amazing things!
Heb “[the] one who does amazing things by himself.”

19  His glorious name deserves praise
Heb “[be] blessed.”
May his majestic splendor
Or “glory.”
fill the whole earth!
We agree! We agree!
Heb “surely and surely” (אָמֵן וְאָמֵן [’amen veamen], i.e., “Amen and amen”). This is probably a congregational response of agreement to the immediately preceding statement about the propriety of praising God.

20  This collection of the prayers of David son of Jesse ends here.
Heb “the prayers of David, son of Jesse, are concluded.” As noted earlier, v. 20 appears to be a remnant of an earlier collection of psalms or an earlier edition of the Psalter. In the present arrangement of the Book of Psalms, not all psalms prior to this are attributed to David (see Pss 1–2, 10, 33, 42–50, 66–67, 71–72) and several psalms attributed to David appear after this (see Pss 86, 101, 103, 108–110, 122, 124, 131, 138–145).

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