Psalm 89

A Contemplation of Ethan the Ezrahite.

1 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.

2 For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever;
Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.”

“I have made a covenant with My chosen,
I have sworn to My servant David:

4 ‘Your seed I will establish forever,
And build up your throne to all generations.’ ” Selah

And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord;
Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints.

6 For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord?
Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord?

7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,
And to be held in reverence by all those around Him.

8 O Lord God of hosts,
Who is mighty like You, O Lord?
Your faithfulness also surrounds You.

9 You rule the raging of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.

10 You have broken Rahab in pieces, as one who is slain;
You have scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm.

11 The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours;
The world and all its fullness, You have founded them.

12 The north and the south, You have created them;
Tabor and Hermon rejoice in Your name.

13 You have a mighty arm;
Strong is Your hand, and high is Your right hand.

14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Mercy and truth go before Your face.

15 Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.

16 In Your name they rejoice all day long,
And in Your righteousness they are exalted.

17 For You are the glory of their strength,
And in Your favor our horn is exalted.

18 For our shield belongs to the Lord,
And our king to the Holy One of Israel.

19 Then You spoke in a vision to Your holy one,
And said: “I have given help to one who is mighty;
I have exalted one chosen from the people.

20 I have found My servant David;
With My holy oil I have anointed him,

21 With whom My hand shall be established;
Also My arm shall strengthen him.

22 The enemy shall not outwit him,
Nor the son of wickedness afflict him.

23 I will beat down his foes before his face,
And plague those who hate him.

24 “But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him,
And in My name his horn shall be exalted.

25 Also I will set his hand over the sea,
And his right hand over the rivers.

26 He shall cry to Me, ‘You are my Father,
My God, and the rock of my salvation.’

27 Also I will make him My firstborn,
The highest of the kings of the earth.

28 My mercy I will keep for him forever,
And My covenant shall stand firm with him.

29 His seed also I will make to endure forever,
And his throne as the days of heaven.

30 “If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,

31 If they break My statutes
And do not keep My commandments,

32 Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
And their iniquity with stripes.

33 Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him,
Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.

34 My covenant I will not break,
Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.

35 Once I have sworn by My holiness;
I will not lie to David:

36 His seed shall endure forever,
And his throne as the sun before Me;

37 It shall be established forever like the moon,
Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” Selah

38 But You have cast off and abhorred,
You have been furious with Your anointed.

39 You have renounced the covenant of Your servant;
You have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.

40 You have broken down all his hedges;
You have brought his strongholds to ruin.

41 All who pass by the way plunder him;
He is a reproach to his neighbors.

42 You have exalted 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 sustained him in the battle.

44 You have made his glory cease,
And cast his throne down to the ground.

45 The days of his youth You have shortened;
You have covered him with shame. Selah

46 How long, Lord?
Will You hide Yourself forever?
Will Your wrath burn like fire?

47 Remember how short my time is;
For what futility have You created all the children of men?

48 What man can live and not see death?
Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? Selah

49 Lord, where are Your former lovingkindnesses,
Which You swore to David in Your truth?

50 Remember, Lord, the reproach of Your servants—
How I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples,

51 With which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord,
With which they have reproached the footsteps of Your anointed.

52 Blessed be the Lord forevermore!
Amen and Amen.

In the first part, which is a song of praise, the singer tells of the covenant made with David and then breaks out into adoration. The heavens and the angels witness to His greatness (vs. 5-7). The earth and men also. All nature, the sea and the mountains, the north and the south, are conscious of His power. In His government the foundations are unshakable, and the method full of tenderness (vs. 8-14).

It follows naturally that the people who are peculiarly His own are blessed (vs. 15-18). This is not theory only; it is experience. For them Jehovah had found a king, and had made him and the people under him invincible in the days of their obedience. Such facts issue in confidence that the future must be one of victory and blessing.

“But,” and the word suggests a change, and a great change it is. instead of the glowing picture of the former verses is a dark one of present experience. The people are scattered, their defenses broken down, their enemies triumphant, and their king is robbed of glory, and covered with shame (vs. 38-45).

Yet most carefully  notice that all this is spoken of as the work of Jehovah. The key phrase to this portion is “Thou hast.” The mighty One Who had found the king and blessed the nation is the One Who has broken the nation and cast out the king. Upon the basis of that conviction the final prayer rises, “How long, Jehovah.” — Morgan, page 166.

Ethan (intro) — on of the “first rank” Levitical singers appointed during the time of David—mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:17-19.

God’s covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:8-17) is the topic of this psalm. The unconditionality and inevitable fulfillment of this covenant, as grounded in God’s “lovingkindness” and “faithfulness,” is underscored by the seven-fold repetition (seven signifying perfection/completion) of each of these words. — Wechsler, pages 216-217.

I have made (v.3) — the covenant depended on God alone, making it unconditional

seed (v.4) — Christ (Acts 13:22-23)

Rahab (v.10) — Egypt, as in Psalm 87:4.

Tabor and Hermon (v.12) — mountains in Israel

Because of the manner in which God established His covenant with David, there can be no doubt (vs.15-29) that He will keep it for him forever. … Even for those who forsake God’s law (v.30), He will hold true to His covenant, and chastise rather than reject them. — Wechsler, pages 217-218.

horn (v.17) — symbolizing strength

shield (v.18) — representing the king as protector of the people

The Lord recalls His vow to overthrow David’s foes (vs. 21-23), extend his dominions (vs.24-25), exalt his sovereignty (vs. 26-27), and establish his kingdom forever (vs.28-37). — Guthrie, page 507.


Based on what God says to David in 2 Samuel 7:14-15, God here reiterates, through the psalmist, His promise to chastise—nor forsake—those sons of David (i.e., male descendants in the royal line, “son” in Hebrew signifying any male descendant) who, for their part, forsake His law by violating His statutes and commandments (vs. 30-31, referring to His standards of righteousness as represented in the Mosaic Law). To these, at the time of their chastisement, it may seem as if God as cast off and rejected them (v.38), though the very fact of His chastising them proves that He has not. — Wechsler, page 218.


[Beginning at v.30] is in the form of a warning, not only to David and his offspring, but to all Israel. They are warned that if they live ungodly lives and trespass His holy commandments, He will punish them for it, and yet He will overrule so that in spite of the way David’s sons may live, Messiah will come through that line. — Phillips, page 185.


Let it be remembered that this is a prophecy of what many Jews will do, and say, from the fall of the last king of Israel right down to the end of the Tribulation. It is not God’s will for them to speak as they do, but God, fore-knowing what they would do, had [the psalmist] record it. …

Israel was so deep in sin that God had to do something about it (2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Ezekiel 21:25-27). … These Scriptures give the reason why Israel is without a king, and why she will continue to be without one, until she repents and Messiah comes. He is the one “whose right it is” to occupy the throne of David and no one else. … God will carry out His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and then to David, but Israel and the world will go through some very deep waters of trouble before either of them … come to the place where God can bless them and fulfill the promises. [Which He WILL do.] — Phillips, page 187-188.

Williams’ take:

The Messiah in the confidence of coronation and the fulfillment of the sure promises made to Him as David (Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34) recites these promises (vs. 2-4), voices the lament of His people at their seeming breach (vs. 38-51), but closes the Psalm as He began it with praise to Jehovah (vs. 1 and 52). Thus during His life of sorrow, His death of shame, and His arrest in Sheol, nothing is seen in Him but perfection—perfection of faith toward God and of love toward man. — Williams, page 368.

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