Psalms 89

Remembering the Covenant with David, and Sorrow for Lost Blessings


A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

1 I will sing forever of Yahweh's acts of loyal love. {From generation to generation} I will make known your faithfulness with my mouth.
2 For I say, "Forever [your] loyal love is built up. [The] heavens you have established [with] your faithfulness in them."
3 "I made a covenant with my chosen one; I swore [an oath] to David my servant:
4 'I will establish your descendants forever, and I will build up your throne {from generation to generation}.'" Selah
5 And [so the] heavens will praise your wonderful deed, O Yahweh, even your faithfulness, in [the] assembly of [the] holy ones.
6 For who in the sky is equal to Yahweh? [Who is] like Yahweh among the sons of God,
7 a God feared greatly in the council of [the] holy ones, and awesome above all surrounding him?
8 O Yahweh God [of] hosts, who [is] mighty like you, O Yah, with your faithfulness surrounding you?
9 You are ruling the surging of the sea. When its waves rise, {you yourself still} them.
10 {You yourself crushed} Rahab like one [who is] slain; you scattered your enemies with your strong arm.
11 [The] heavens are yours, [the] earth yours as well, [the] world with its fullness, [because] you founded them.
12 North and south, you created them; Tabor and Hermon shout joyfully over your name.
13 You have a mighty arm; Your hand is strong; your right hand reaches high.
14 Righteousness and justice [are] the foundation of your throne. Loyal love and faithfulness come before your face.
15 Blessed [are] the people who know [the] joyful shout; O Yahweh, they walk about in the light of your countenance.
16 In your name they rejoice all the day, and in your righteousness they rise up.
17 For you [are] the glory of their strength, and by your favor our horn rises up,
18 because our shield belongs to Yahweh, and our king to the Holy One of Israel.
19 Formerly you spoke in a vision to your faithful ones, and said, "I have bestowed help on a mighty man; I have exalted one chosen from [the] people.
20 I have found David, my servant. With my holy oil I have anointed him,
21 with whom my hand will be steadfast. Surely my arm will strengthen him.
22 [The] enemy will not deceive him, and no {evil man} will afflict him.
23 But I will crush his adversaries before him, and I will strike those who hate him.
24 And [so] my faithfulness and my loyal love [will be] with him, and in my name his horn will rise up.
25 And I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He will call out [to] me, 'You [are] my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.'
27 I will also make him [the] firstborn, [the] highest of [the] kings of [the] earth.
28 Forever I will keep my loyal love for him, and my covenant [will be] reliable for him.
29 I will also establish his offspring forever, and his throne as [the] days of [the] heavens.
30 If his sons forsake my law and do not walk in my judgments,
31 if they defile my statutes and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with [a] rod, and their guilt with wounds.
33 But I will not break off my loyal love from him, and I will not be false against my faithfulness.
34 I will not defile my covenant, or alter what proceeded from my lips.
35 Once I have sworn by my holiness, 'I will surely not lie to David,
36 His offspring will endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me.
37 Like [the] moon it will be steadfast forever, and [like] an enduring witness in the sky.'" Selah
38 But you have spurned and rejected; you are very angry with your anointed one.
39 You have repudiated the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dirt.
40 You have broken down all his walls; you have made his fortifications a ruin.
41 All passing along [the] road plunder him; he has become a taunt to his neighbors.
42 You have raised the right hand of his adversaries. You have made all his enemies rejoice.
43 You have also turned back the edge of his sword and have not helped him stand [his ground] in the battle.
44 You have made his splendor to cease, and cast his throne to the ground.
45 You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with shame. Selah
46 How long, O Yahweh? Will you hide yourself forever? Will your wrath burn like fire [forever]?
47 Remember what my lifespan [is]. [Remember] for what vanity you have created all [the] children of humankind.
48 What man can live [on] and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the {power} of Sheol? Selah
49 Where [are] your former acts of loyal love, O Lord, [that] you swore to David by your faithfulness?
50 Remember, O Lord the taunting of your servants, [how] I bear in my bosom [the taunts of] all [the] many peoples,
51 [by] which your enemies taunt, O Yahweh, [by] which they taunt the steps of your anointed one.
52 Blessed be Yahweh forever. Amen and Amen.

Psalms 89 Commentary

Chapter 89

God's mercy and truth, and his covenant. (1-4) The glory and perfection of God. (5-14) The happiness of those in communion with him. (15-18) God's covenant with David, as a type of Christ. (19-37) A calamitous state lamented, Prayer for redress. (38-52)

Verses 1-4 Though our expectations may be disappointed, yet God's promises are established in the heavens, in his eternal counsels; they are out of the reach of opposers in hell and earth. And faith in the boundless mercy and everlasting truth of God, may bring comfort even in the deepest trials.

Verses 5-14 The more God's works are known, the more they are admired. And to praise the Lord, is to acknowledge him to be such a one that there is none like him. Surely then we should feel and express reverence when we worship God. But how little of this appears in our congregations, and how much cause have we to humble ourselves on this account! That almighty power which smote Egypt, will scatter the enemies of the church, while all who trust in God's mercy will rejoice in his name; for mercy and truth direct all he does. His counsels from eternity, and their consequences to eternity, are all justice and judgment.

Verses 15-18 Happy are those who so know the joyful sound of the gospel as to obey it; who experience its power upon their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives. Though believers are nothing in themselves, yet having all in Christ Jesus, they may rejoice in his name. May the Lord enable us to do so. The joy of the Lord is the strength of his people; whereas unbelief dispirits ourselves and discourages others. Though it steals upon us under a semblance of humility, yet it is the very essence of pride. Christ is the Holy One of Israel; and in him was that peculiar people more blessed than in any other blessing.

Verses 19-37 The Lord anointed David with the holy oil, not only as an emblem of the graces and gifts he received, but as a type of Christ, the King Priest, and Prophet, anointed with the Holy Ghost without measure. David after his anointing, was persecuted, but none could gain advantage against him. Yet all this was a faint shadow of the Redeemer's sufferings, deliverance, glory, and authority, in whom alone these predictions and promises are fully brought to pass. He is the mighty God. This is the Redeemer appointed for us, who alone is able to complete the work of our salvation. Let us seek an interest in these blessings, by the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. As the Lord corrected the posterity of David for their transgressions, so his people shall be corrected for their sins. Yet it is but a rod, not a sword; it is to correct, not to destroy. It is a rod in the hand of God, who is wise, and knows what he does; gracious, and will do what is best. It is a rod which they shall never feel, but when there is need. As the sun and moon remain in heaven, whatever changes there seem to be in them, and again appear in due season; so the covenant of grace made in Christ, whatever alteration seems to come to it, should not be questioned.

Verses 38-52 Sometimes it is not easy to reconcile God's providences with his promises, yet we are sure that God's works fulfil his word. When the great Anointed One, Christ himself, was upon the cross, God seemed to have cast him off, yet did not make void his covenant, for that was established for ever. The honour of the house of David was lost. Thrones and crowns are often laid in the dust; but there is a crown of glory reserved for Christ's spiritual seed, which fadeth not away. From all this complaint learn what work sin makes with families, noble families, with families in which religion has appeared. They plead with God for mercy. God's unchangeableness and faithfulness assure us that He will not cast off those whom he has chosen and covenanted with. They were reproached for serving him. The scoffers of the latter days, in like manner, reproach the footsteps of the Messiah when ( 2 Peter. 3:3 2 Peter. 3:4 ) records of the Lord's dealings with the family of David, show us his dealings with his church, and with believers. Their afflictions and distresses may be grievous, but he will not finally cast them off. Self-deceivers abuse this doctrine, and others by a careless walk bring themselves into darkness and distress; yet let the true believer rely on it for encouragement in the path of duty, and in bearing the cross. The psalm ends with praise, even after this sad complaint. Those who give God thanks for what he has done, may give him thanks for what he will do. God will follow those with his mercies, who follow him with praises.

Footnotes 21

  • [a]. The Hebrew Bible counts the superscription as the first verse of the psalm; the English verse number is reduced by one
  • [b]. Literally "To a generation and a generation"
  • [c]. Literally "To a generation and a generation"
  • [d]. Hebrew singular collective "clouds"
  • [e]. Hebrew "and"
  • [f]. Literally "you, you calm"
  • [g]. Literally "You, you crushed"
  • [h]. Or "truth"
  • [i]. That is, enjoy continual access
  • [j]. According to the reading tradition (Qere). The Kethib reads "you exalt our horn"
  • [k]. Or "Yahweh [is] our shield."
  • [l]. Or "The Holy One of Israel [is] our king."
  • [m]. Literally "a son of wickedness"
  • [n]. Hebrew "profane; treat as common"
  • [o]. Hebrew "profane; treat as common"
  • [p]. Hebrew "One"
  • [q]. Hebrew "be"
  • [r]. Hebrew "profane; treat as common"
  • [s]. Hebrew "to"
  • [t]. That is, given them victory
  • [u]. Literally "hand""

Chapter Summary

Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite. Who this Ethan was is not certain. Kimchi takes him to be the same with Ethan the wise man, a grandson of Judah, 1 Kings 4:31. But seeing he lived some hundreds of years before the times of David, it is not likely that he should be the writer of this psalm; for David is made mention of in it, which could not be, unless it can be thought to be by a spirit of prophecy; which indeed is the opinion of Doctor Lightfoot {k}, who takes this Ethan to be the penman of this psalm; and who "from the promise, Genesis 15:1 sings joyfully the deliverance (of Israel); that the raging of the Red sea should be ruled, Psalm 89:9, and Rahab, or Egypt, should be broken in pieces, Psalm 89:10, and that the people should hear the joyful sound of the law, Psalm 89:15, and as for the name of David in it, this, he says, might be done prophetically; as Samuel is thought to be named by Moses, Psalm 99:6, which psalm is held to be made by him; or else might be put into it, in later times, by some divine penman, endued with the same gift of prophecy, who might improve the ground work of this psalm laid by Ethan, and set it to an higher key; namely, that whereas he treated only of bodily deliverance from Egypt, it is wound up so high as to reach the spiritual delivery by Christ; and therefore David is often named, from whence he should come."

There was another Ethan, a singer, in David's time; and it is more probable that he is the person, who might live to the times of Rehoboam, and see the decline of David's family, and the revolt of the ten tribes from it; or perhaps it was one of this name who lived in the times of the Babylonish captivity, and saw the low estate that David's family were come into; to which agrees the latter part of this psalm; and, in order to comfort the people of God, he wrote this psalm, showing that the covenant and promises of God, made with David, nevertheless stood firm, and would be accomplished: the title of the Septuagint version calls him Etham the Israelite; and the Arabic version Nathan the Israelite: the Targum makes him to be Abraham, paraphrasing it "a good understanding, which was said by the hand of Abraham, that came from the east."

But whoever was the penman of this psalm, it is "maschil," an instructive psalm, a psalm causing to understand; it treats concerning the covenant of grace, and the promises of it; and concerning the mercy and faithfulness of God, in making and keeping the same; and concerning the Messiah and his seed, his church and people; and the stability and duration of all these: many passages in it are applied to the Messiah by Jewish writers, ancient and modern; and Psalm 89:20 is manifestly referred to in Acts 13:22.

Psalms 89 Commentaries

Scripture quotations marked (LEB) are from the Lexham English Bible. Copyright 2012 Logos Bible Software. Lexham is a registered trademark of Logos Bible Software.