Psalm 89 – “Petition/Complaint: An Eternal Covenant of David?”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist praises God for being unique, mighty, and righteous. The covenant of David is recalled and the psalmist asks God why he spurned his people.

II. Photo
The psalmist is in shock: “You have repudiated the covenant with Your servant; You have dragged his dignity in the dust!” (v. 40)

III. Select Verses    
9-11: O LORD, God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O LORD? Your faithfulness surrounds You;  You rule the swelling of the sea; when its waves surge, You still them.  You crushed Rahab; he was like a corpse; with Your powerful arm You scattered Your enemies.
21-23: I have found David, My servant; anointed him with My sacred oil.  My hand shall be constantly with him, and My arm shall strengthen him.  No enemy shall oppress him, no vile man afflict him.
30: I will establish his line forever, his throne, as long as the heavens last.
31-34: If his sons forsake My Teaching and do not live by My rules;  if they violate My laws, and do not observe My commands,  I will punish their transgression with the rod, their iniquity with plagues.  But I will not take away My steadfast love from him; I will not betray My faithfulness.
39-42: Yet You have rejected, spurned, and become enraged at Your anointed.  You have repudiated the covenant with Your servant; You have dragged his dignity in the dust. You have breached all his defenses, shattered his strongholds.  All who pass by plunder him; he has become the butt of his neighbors.

IV. Outline

2. Invocation; Vow of praise
3. Rationale
4-5. Oracle: Eternal covenant with David
6-19. Hymn
    6. Praise
    7-9. Rationale
        7-9. YHWH is sui generis
        10-11. Defeating the sea and its monsters
        12-13. Creating the world
        14. Might
        15. Righteousness
    16-19. Beatitude
20-38. Retrospective oracle: the David Story
    20-26. Choosing, protecting, and committing to David
    27-30. A father-son relationship
    31-37a. An everlasting covenant
    37b-38. Witnesses
39-46. Accusation/Complaint
    39-40. Violating the covenant
    41-44. Falling before enemies
    45-46. Lost splendor
    47. Unbearable length
48-52. Petition/Complaint
    48a. Petition
    48b-49. Rationale
    49. Petition: God has forgotten his covenant
    50-52. Complaint: Falling before enemies
53. Conclusion to Psalm Book 3: Blessing

V. Comment
Psalm 82 is a lengthy petition/complaint which begins with a hymn. It is not clear if the psalm was originally two distinct units that were combined or if the psalm was composed at one time. The psalm ends with a blessing, which is actually a standard ending for a book of Psalms (Book 3). As for the date of this psalm, Gerstenberger writes: “A historical situation cannot be fixed with certain for the text… often connected with the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE… the final composition of psalm 89 did happen well after the Babylonian conquest.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Gerstenberger, Erhard. Psalms Part 2 and Lamentations (Forms of Old Testament Literature).
Photo copied from