Psalm 72 – “Petition/Wish for the King”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist wishes power, prosperity, and justice upon the king and his people. The second book of the Psalter comes to a close.

II. Photo
The psalmist wishes well upon the king: “May his name be eternal; while the sun lasts, may his name endure!” (v. 17a)

III. Select Verses    
1b-2: O God, endow the king with Your judgments, the king’s son with Your righteousness; that he may judge Your people rightly, Your lowly ones, justly.
5: Let them fear You as long as the sun shines, while the moon lasts, generations on end.
8-11: Let him rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth. Let desert-dwellers kneel before him, and his enemies lick the dust.  Let kings of Tarshish and the islands pay tribute, kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. Let all kings bow to him, and all nations serve him.
17: May his name be eternal; while the sun lasts, may his name endure; let men invoke his blessedness upon themselves; let all nations count him happy.
20: End of the prayers of David son of Jesse.

IV. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b-11. Petition/wish
12-14. Rationale
15-17. Petition/wish
18-19. Conclusion to Psalms Book #2
20. Postscript

V. Comment
Psalm 72 is a a petition/wish on behalf of the king. As Tate writes, Hermann Gunkel “identified ten psalms as royal: 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 101, 110, 132, and 144:1–11. The royal psalms bear no specific stylistic characteristics. Some are hymns of praise, and some are laments, but all deal with the person or the office of the king. Since Israel saw her kings as standing in a relationship of special endowment by and responsibility to God, her worship included concerns about them. Others have expanded the royal classification to cover more psalms, but 72 continues to be included among them. More specifically, Ps 72 is probably also an accession or coronation psalm, a prayer for the king at the beginning of his reign. It may have formed part of the coronation ceremony as well as of less spectacular occasions when praying for the king’s welfare was required.” (222)

Psalm 72 ends with a conclusion to the second book of the Psalter: “Blessed is the LORD God, God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things; Blessed is His glorious name forever; His glory fills the whole world. Amen and Amen.” (vv. 18-19)  For the similar conclusions to books one, three, and four, see:

  • Psa. 41:14: Blessed is the LORD, God of Israel, from eternity to eternity. Amen and Amen.
  • Psa. 89:53: Blessed is the LORD forever; Amen and Amen.
  • Psa. 106:48: Blessed is the LORD, God of Israel, From eternity to eternity. Let all the people say, “Amen.” Hallelujah.

Psalm 72 also has a postscript: “End of the prayers of David son of Jesse.” (v. 20) While this verse is unique in the Psalter, similar verses can be found in the book of Proverbs:

  • 1:1a: The proverbs of Solomon:
  • 24:23a: These also are by the sages:
  • 25:1a: These too are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of King Hezekiah of Judah copied:

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Tate, Marvin. “Psalms 51-100” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 20 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1990).
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