Psalm 89sn Psalm 89. The psalmist praises God as the sovereign creator of the world. He recalls God’s covenant with David, but then laments that the promises of the covenant remain unrealized. The covenant promised the Davidic king military victories, but the king has now been subjected to humiliating defeat.
A well-written songtn The meaning of the Hebrew term מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is uncertain. See the note on the phrase “well-written song” in the superscription of Ps 88. by Ethan the Ezrachite.
1 I will sing continuallytn Or “forever.” about the Lord’s faithful deeds;
to future generations I will proclaim your faithfulness.tn Heb “to a generation and a generation I will make known your faithfulness with my mouth.”
2 For I say, “Loyal love is permanently established;tn Heb “built.”
in the skies you set up your faithfulness.”sn You set up your faithfulness. This may allude to the Lord’s heavenly throne, which symbolizes his just rule and from which the Lord decrees his unconditional promises (see vv. 8, 14).
3 The Lord said,tn The words “the Lord said” are supplied in the translation for clarification. It is clear that the words of vv. 3-4 are spoken by the Lord, in contrast to vv. 1-2, which are spoken by the psalmist.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have made a promise on oath to David, my servant:
4 ‘I will give you an eternal dynastytn Heb “forever I will establish your offspring.”
and establish your throne throughout future generations.’”tn Heb “and I will build to a generation and a generation your throne.” (Selah)
5 O Lord, the heavenstn As the following context makes clear, the personified “heavens” here stand by metonymy for the angelic beings that surround God’s heavenly throne. praise your amazing deeds,
as well as your faithfulness in the angelic assembly.tn Heb “in the assembly of the holy ones.” The phrase “holy ones” sometimes refers to God’s people (Ps 34:9) or to their priestly leaders (2 Chr 35:3), but here it refers to God’s heavenly assembly and the angels that surround his throne (see vv. 6-7).
6 For who in the skies can compare to the Lord?
Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings,tn Heb “sons of gods”; or “sons of God.” Though אֵלִים (’elim) is vocalized as a plural form (“gods”) in the Hebrew text, it is likely that the final mem (ם) is actually enclitic rather than a plural marker. In this case one may read “God.” Some, following a Qumran text and the LXX, also propose the phrase occurred in the original text of Deut 32:8. The phrase בְנֵי אֵלִים (vÿney ’elim, “sons of gods” or “sons of God”) occurs only here and in Ps 29:1. Since the “sons of gods/God” are here associated with “the assembly of the holy ones” and “council of the holy ones,” the heavenly assembly (comprised of so-called “angels” and other supernatural beings) appears to be in view. See Job 5:1; 15:15 and Zech 14:5, where these supernatural beings are referred to as “holy ones.” In Canaanite mythological texts the divine council of the high god El is called “the sons of El.” The OT apparently uses the Canaanite phrase, applying it to the supernatural beings that surround the Lord’s heavenly throne.
7 a God who is honoredtn Heb “feared.” in the great angelic assembly,tn Heb “in the great assembly of the holy ones.”
and more awesome thantn Or perhaps “feared by.” all who surround him?
8 O Lord, sovereign God!tn Traditionally “God of hosts.” The title here pictures the Lord as enthroned in the midst of the angelic hosts of heaven.
Who is strong like you, O Lord?
Your faithfulness surrounds you.
9 You rule over the proud sea.tn Heb “the majesty of the sea.”
When its waves surge,tn Heb “rise up.” you calm them.
10 You crushed the Proud Onetn Heb “Rahab.” The name “Rahab” means “proud one.” Since it is sometimes used of Egypt (see Ps 87:4; Isa 30:7), the passage may allude to the exodus. However, the name is also used of the sea (or the mythological sea creature) which symbolizes the disruptive forces of the world that seek to replace order with chaos (see Job 9:13; 26:12). Isa 51:9 appears to combine the mythological and historical referents. The association of Rahab with the sea in Ps 89 (see v. 9) suggests that the name carries symbolic force in this context. In this case the passage may allude to creation (see vv. 11-12), when God overcame the great deep and brought order out of chaos. and killed it;tn Heb “like one fatally wounded.”
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
11 The heavens belong to you, as does the earth.
You made the world and all it contains.tn Heb “the world and its fullness, you established them.”
12 You created the north and the south.
Tabor and Hermonsn Tabor and Hermon were two of the most prominent mountains in Palestine. rejoice in your name.
13 Your arm is powerful,
your hand strong,
your right handsn The Lord’s arm, hand, and right hand all symbolize his activities, especially his exploits in war. victorious.tn Heb “is lifted up.” The idiom “the right hand is lifted up” refers to victorious military deeds (see Pss 89:42; 118:16).
14 Equity and justice are the foundation of your throne.sn The Lord’s throne symbolizes his kingship.
Loyal love and faithfulness characterize your rule.tn Heb “are in front of your face.” The idiom can mean “confront” (Ps 17:13) or “meet, enter the presence of” (Ps 95:2).
15 How blessed are the people who worship you!tn Heb “who know the shout.” “Shout” here refers to the shouts of the Lord’s worshipers (see Pss 27:6; 33:3; 47:5).
O Lord, they experience your favor.tn Heb “in the light of your face they walk.” The idiom “light of your face” probably refers to a smile (see Eccl 8:1), which in turn suggests favor and blessing (see Num 6:25; Pss 4:6; 31:16; 44:3; 67:1; 80:3, 7, 19; Dan 9:17).
16 They rejoice in your name all day long,
and are vindicatedtn Heb “are lifted up.” by your justice.
17 For you give them splendor and strength.tn Heb “for the splendor of their strength [is] you.”
By your favor we are victorious.tn Heb “you lift up our horn,” or if one follows the marginal reading (Qere), “our horn is lifted up.” The horn of an ox underlies the metaphor (see Deut 33:17; 1 Kgs 22:11; Ps 92:10). The horn of the wild ox is frequently a metaphor for military strength; the idiom “exalt/lift up the horn” signifies military victory (see 1 Sam 2:10; Pss 75:10; 89:24; 92:10; Lam 2:17).
18 For our shieldtn The phrase “our shield” refers metaphorically to the Davidic king, who, as God’s vice-regent, was the human protector of the people. Note the parallelism with “our king" here and with “your anointed one” in Ps 84:9. belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.sn The basic sense of the word “holy” is “set apart from that which is commonplace, special, unique.” The Lord’s holiness is first and foremost his transcendent sovereignty as the ruler of the world. He is “set apart” from the world over which he rules. At the same time his holiness encompasses his moral authority, which derives from his royal position. As king he has the right to dictate to his subjects how they are to live; indeed his very own character sets the standard for proper behavior. This expression is a common title for the Lord in the book of Isaiah.
19 Then youtn The pronoun “you” refers to the Lord, who is addressed here. The quotation that follows further develops the announcement of vv. 3-4. spoke through a vision to your faithful followerstc Many medieval mss read the singular here, “your faithful follower.” In this case the statement refers directly to Nathan’s oracle to David (see 2 Sam 7:17). and said:
“I have energized a warrior;tn Heb “I have placed help upon a warrior.”
I have raised up a young mantn Or perhaps “a chosen one.” from the people.
20 I have discovered David, my servant.
With my holy oil I have anointed him as king.tn The words “as king” are supplied in the translation for clarification, indicating that a royal anointing is in view.
21 My hand will support him,tn Heb “with whom my hand will be firm.”
and my arm will strengthen him.
22 No enemy will be able to exact tributetn Heb “an enemy will not exact tribute.” The imperfect is understood in a modal sense, indicating capability or potential. from him;tn The translation understands the Hiphil of נָשַׁא (nasha’) in the sense of “act as a creditor.” This may allude to the practice of a conqueror forcing his subjects to pay tribute in exchange for “protection.” Another option is to take the verb from a homonymic verbal root meaning “to deceive,” “to trick.” Still another option is to emend the form to יִשָּׂא (yisa’), a Qal imperfect from נָאַשׂ (na’as, “rise up”) and to translate “an enemy will not rise up against him” (see M. Dahood, Psalms [AB], 2:317).
a violent oppressor will not be able to humiliate him.tn Heb “and a son of violence will not oppress him.” The imperfect is understood in a modal sense, indicating capability or potential. The reference to a “son of violence” echoes the language of God’s promise to David in 2 Sam 7:10 (see also 1 Chr 17:9).
23 I will crush his enemies before him;
I will strike down those who hate him.
24 He will experience my faithfulness and loyal love,tn Heb “and my faithfulness and my loyal love [will be] with him.”
and by my name he will win victories.tn Heb “and by my name his horn will be lifted up.” The horn of an ox underlies the metaphor (see Deut 33:17; 1 Kgs 22:11; Ps 92:10). The horn of the wild ox is frequently a metaphor for military strength; the idiom “exalt/lift up the horn” signifies military victory (see 1 Sam 2:10; Pss 75:10; 92:10; Lam 2:17).
25 I will place his hand over the sea,
his right hand over the rivers.tn Some identify “the sea” as the Mediterranean and “the rivers” as the Euphrates and its tributaries. However, it is more likely that “the sea” and “the rivers” are symbols for hostile powers that oppose God and the king (see v. 9, as well as Ps 93:3-4).
26 He will call out to me,
‘You are my father,sn You are my father. The Davidic king was viewed as God’s “son” (see 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7). The idiom reflects ancient Near Eastern adoption language associated with covenants of grant, by which a lord would reward a faithful subject by elevating him to special status, referred to as “sonship.” Like a son, the faithful subject received an “inheritance,” viewed as an unconditional, eternal gift. Such gifts usually took the form of land and/or an enduring dynasty. See M. Weinfeld, “The Covenant of Grant in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East,” JAOS 90 (1970): 184-203, for general discussion and some striking extra-biblical parallels. my God, and the protector who delivers me.’tn Heb “the rocky summit of my deliverance.”
27 I will appoint him to be my firstborn son,sn The firstborn son typically had special status and received special privileges.
the most exalted of the earth’s kings.
28 I will always extend my loyal love to him,
and my covenant with him is secure.tn Heb “forever I will keep for him my loyal love and will make my covenant secure for him.”
29 I will give him an eternal dynasty,tn Heb “and I will set in place forever his offspring.”
and make his throne as enduring as the skies above.tn Heb “and his throne like the days of the heavens.”
30 If his sons reject my law
and disobey my regulations,
31 if they breaktn Or “desecrate.” my rules
and do not keep my commandments,
32 I will punish their rebellion by beating them with a club,tn Heb “I will punish with a club their rebellion.”sn Despite the harsh image of beating…with a club, the language reflects a father-son relationship (see v. 30; 2 Sam 7:14). According to Proverbs, a שֵׁבֶט (shevet, “club”) was sometimes utilized to administer corporal punishment to rebellious children (see Prov 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15).
their sin by inflicting them with bruises.tn Heb “with blows their sin.”
33 But I will not removetn Heb “break”; “make ineffectual.” Some prefer to emend אָפִיר (’afir; the Hiphil of פָּרַר, parar, “to break”) to אָסִיר (’asir; the Hiphil of סוּר, sur, “to turn aside”), a verb that appears in 2 Sam 7:15. my loyal love from him,
nor be unfaithful to my promise.tn Heb “and I will not deal falsely with my faithfulness.”
34 I will not breaktn Or “desecrate.” my covenant
or go back on what I promised.tn Heb “and what proceeds out of my lips I will not alter.”
35 Once and for all I have vowed by my own holiness,
I will never deceivetn Or “lie to.” David.
36 His dynasty will last forever.tn Heb “his offspring forever will be.”
His throne will endure before me, like the sun,tn Heb “and his throne like the sun before me.”
37 it will remain stable, like the moon,tn Heb “like the moon it will be established forever.”
his throne will endure like the skies.”tn Heb “and a witness in the sky, secure.” Scholars have offered a variety of opinions as to the identity of the “witness” referred to here, none of which is very convincing. It is preferable to join וְעֵד (vÿ’ed) to עוֹלָם (’olam) in the preceding line and translate the commonly attested phrase עוֹלָם וְעֵד (“forever”). In this case one may translate the second line, “[it] will be secure like the skies.” Another option (the one reflected in the present translation) is to take עד as a rare noun meaning “throne” or “dais.” This noun is attested in Ugaritic; see, for example, CTA 16 vi 22-23, where ksi (= כִּסֵּא, kisse’, “throne”) and ’d (= עד, “dais”) appear as synonyms in the poetic parallelism (see G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 91). Emending בַּשַּׁחַק (bashakhaq, “in the heavens”) to כַּשַׁחַק (kashakhaq, “like the heavens”) – bet/kaf (כ/ב) confusion is widely attested – one can then read “[his] throne like the heavens [is] firm/stable.” Verse 29 refers to the enduring nature of the heavens, while Job 37:18 speaks of God spreading out the heavens (שְׁחָקִים, shÿkhaqim) and compares their strength to a bronze mirror. Ps 89:29 uses the term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim, “skies”) which frequently appears in parallelism to שְׁחָקִים. (Selah)
38 But you have spurnedtn The Hebrew construction (conjunction + pronoun, followed by the verb) draws attention to the contrast between what follows and what precedes. and rejected him;
you are angry with your chosen king.tn Heb “your anointed one.” The Hebrew phrase מְשִׁיחֶךָ (mÿshikhekha, “your anointed one”) refers here to the Davidic king (see Pss 2:2; 18:50; 20:6; 28:8; 84:9; 132:10, 17).
39 You have repudiatedtn The Hebrew verb appears only here and in Lam 2:7. your covenant with your servant;tn Heb “the covenant of your servant.”
you have thrown his crown to the ground.tn Heb “you dishonor [or “desecrate”] on the ground his crown.”
40 You have broken down all histn The king here represents the land and cities over which he rules. walls;
you have made his strongholds a heap of ruins.
41 All who pass bytn Heb “all the passersby on the road.” have robbed him;
he has become an object of disdain to his neighbors.
42 You have allowed his adversaries to be victorious,tn Heb “you have lifted up the right hand of his adversaries.” The idiom “the right hand is lifted up” refers to victorious military deeds (see Pss 89:13; 118:16).
and all his enemies to rejoice.
43 You turn backtn The perfect verbal form predominates in vv. 38-45. The use of the imperfect in this one instance may be for rhetorical effect. The psalmist briefly lapses into dramatic mode, describing the king’s military defeat as if it were happening before his very eyes. his sword from the adversary,tc Heb “you turn back, rocky summit, his sword.” The Hebrew term צוּר (tsur, “rocky summit”) makes no sense here, unless it is a divine title understood as vocative, “you turn back, O Rocky Summit, his sword.” Some emend the form to צֹר (tsor, “flint”) on the basis of Josh 5:2, which uses the phrase חַרְבוֹת צֻרִים (kharvot tsurim, “flint knives”). The noun צֹר (tsor, “flint”) can then be taken as “flint-like edge,” indicating the sharpness of the sword. Others emend the form to אָחוֹר (’akhor, “backward”) or to מִצַּר (mitsar, “from the adversary”). The present translation reflects the latter, assuming an original reading תָּשִׁיב מִצָּר חַרְבּוֹ (tashiv mitsar kharbo), which was corrupted to תָּשִׁיב צָר חַרְבּוֹ (tashiv tsar kharbo) by virtual haplography (confusion of bet/mem is well-attested) with צָר (tsar, “adversary”) then being misinterpreted as צוּר in the later tradition.
and have not sustained him in battle.tn Heb “and you have not caused him to stand in the battle.”
44 You have brought to an end his splendor,tc The Hebrew text appears to read, “you have brought to an end from his splendor,” but the form מִטְּהָרוֹ (mittÿharo) should be slightly emended (the daghesh should be removed from the tet [ת]) and read simply “his splendor” (the initial mem [מ] is not the preposition, but a nominal prefix).
and have knockedtn The Hebrew verb מָגַר (magar) occurs only here and perhaps in Ezek 21:17. his throne to the ground.
45 You have cut short his youth,tn Heb “the days of his youth” (see as well Job 33:25).
and have covered him with shame. (Selah)
46 How long, O Lord, will this last?
Will you remain hidden forever?tn Heb “How long, O Lord, will hide yourself forever?”
Will your anger continue to burn like fire?
47 Take note of my brief lifespan!tn Heb “remember me, what is [my] lifespan.” The Hebrew term חֶלֶד (kheled) is also used of one’s lifespan in Ps 39:5. Because the Hebrew text is so awkward here, some prefer to emend it to read מֶה חָדֵל אָנִי (meh khadel ’aniy, “[remember] how transient [that is, “short-lived”] I am”; see Ps 39:4).
Why do you make all people so mortal?tn Heb “For what emptiness do you create all the sons of mankind?” In this context the term שָׁוְא (shavah) refers to mankind’s mortal nature and the brevity of life (see vv. 45, 48).
48 No man can live on without experiencing death,
or deliver his life from the power of Sheol.tn Heb “Who [is] the man [who] can live and not see death, [who] can deliver his life from the hand of Sheol?” The rhetorical question anticipates the answer, “No one!” (Selah)
49 Where are your earlier faithful deeds,sn The Lord’s faithful deeds are also mentioned in Pss 17:7 and 25:6. O Lord,tc Many medieval Hebrew mss read here יְהוָה (yehvah, “the Lord”).
the ones performed in accordance with your reliable oath to David?tn Heb “[which] you swore on oath to David by your faithfulness.”
50 Take note, O Lord,tc Many medieval Hebrew mss read here יְהוָה (yehvah, “the Lord”). of the way your servants are taunted,tn Heb “remember, O Lord, the taunt against your servants.” Many medieval Hebrew mss read the singular here, “your servant” (that is, the psalmist).
and of how I must bear so many insults from people!tn Heb “my lifting up in my arms [or “against my chest”] all of the many, peoples.” The term רַבִּים (rabbim, “many”) makes no apparent sense here. For this reason some emend the text to רִבֵי (rivey, “attacks by”), a defectively written plural construct form of רִיב (riv, “dispute; quarrel”).
51 Your enemies, O Lord, hurl insults;
they insult your chosen king as they dog his footsteps.tn Heb “[by] which your enemies, O Lord, taunt, [by] which they taunt [at] the heels of your anointed one.”
52sn The final verse of Ps 89, v. 52, is a conclusion to this third “book” (or major editorial division) of the Psalter. Similar statements appear at or near the end of each of the first, second and fourth “books” of the Psalter (see Pss 41:13; 72:18-19; 106:48, respectively). The Lord deserves praisetn Heb “[be] blessed.” See Pss 18:46; 28:6; 31:21. forevermore!
We agree! We agree!tn Heb “surely and surely” (אָמֵן וְאָמֵן [’amen vÿ’amen], i.e., “Amen and amen”). This is probably a congregational response to the immediately preceding statement about the propriety of praising God; thus it has been translated “We agree! We agree!”