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John Gill’s Commentary of the Whole Bible: Psalm 21

Psalms 21:1


To the chief Musician, a Psalm of David. This psalm was either written by David; and therefore called a “psalm of David”; or it was written, as it may be rendered, “for David”, by some other person, on account of his victories and triumphs; or rather “concerning David” {s}; that is, concerning the Messiah, the son of David, as Kimchi says some expound it; or concerning the Messiah, who is called David, Eze 37:24; and Jarchi observes, that their Rabbins interpret it of the Messiah; but, says he, it is right to explain it, moreover, of David himself, for an answer to the heretics (Christians) who err in it; and various passages in this psalm are by the Jewish writers understood of the Messiah; as “the King”, in Ps 20:1 is in the Targum called the King Messiah; Ps 21:4 is in the Talmud applied {t} to him; Ps 21:3 are in Zohar {u}, and in the Midrashes {w}, interpreted of him; and many Christian writers understand the whole of him; which is right: though Theodoret thinks it was penned on the account of the health of King Hezekiah, and his restoration from his disease; which is not likely.

{s} dwdl “pro Davide, vel de Davide”, Vatablus. {t} T. Bab. Succah, fol. 52. 1. Vid. Nachman. disput. “cum fratre Paulo”, p. 36. Ed. Wagenseil. {u} In Numb. fol. 68. 3. 4. {w} Midrash Tillim apud Viccars. in loc. & in Galatin. l. 3. c. 9. Bemidbar Rabba, fol. 212. 4. & 218. 1.

Ver. 1. The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord,… Either in that strength which is in Jehovah himself, in whom is everlasting strength; and which is seen in the works of creation and providence, and is the same in Christ himself, as he is the mighty God; or else in the strength which Jehovah communicated to Christ as man, whereby he was strengthened in his human nature to go through and complete the work of man’s redemption; or in the strength which the Lord puts forth, and the power which he exerts towards and upon his people, in conversion; which is the produce of the exceeding greatness of his power; and in strengthening them, from time to time, to exercise grace, discharge duty, and withstand temptations and sin; and in keeping them safe to the end; in supporting them under all their trials, and in carrying on and finishing the work of faith upon their souls; all which is matter of joy to Christ;

and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice? meaning either his own salvation by the Lord, from all his sorrows and troubles, and out of the hands of all enemies, being in the presence of God, where is fulness of joy, Ps 16:9; or else the salvation of his people by him, which Jehovah appointed them to, secured for them in the covenant of grace, sent Christ to work out for them, applies by his Spirit, and at last puts into the full possession of: Christ rejoices at the effectual calling and conversion of his people, when salvation is brought near unto them; and especially at their glorification, when they shall be in the full enjoyment of it; then will they be his joy, and crown of rejoicing: this is the joy that was set before him, which made him go so cheerfully through his sufferings and death for them, Heb 12:2; the reasons of this joy are, because of the great love he bears to them; the interest and property he has in them; his undertakings for them, as their surety, to bring them safe to glory; his purchase of them by his blood; his intercession for them, that they might be with him to behold his glory; and, last of all, because of his Father’s glory, his own glory, and the glory of the blessed Spirit, which are concerned in the salvation of these persons.

Psalms 21:2

Ver. 2. Thou hast given him his heart’s desire,… Which the church had prayed for in Ps 20:4; whatever Christ’s heart desired, or his lips requested, has been given him;

and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Whatever he asked in the council and covenant of peace was granted; he asked for all the elect, as his spouse and bride; these were the desire of his heart and eyes, and they were given him; he asked for all the blessings of grace for them, and all grace was given to them in him; he asked for glory, for eternal life, and it was promised him; and not only the promise of it was put into his hand, but the thing itself; see Ps 2:8 1Jo 5:11; and Ps 20:4; whatever he requested of his Father, when here on earth, was granted; he always heard him; that memorable prayer of his in Joh 17:1 is heard and answered, both in what respects himself, his own glorification, and the conversion, sanctification, union, preservation, and glorification of his people; whatever he now desires and requests in heaven, as the advocate and intercessor for his saints, is ever fulfilled; which is an instance of the great regard Jehovah has unto him, and may be considered as a reason of his joy in him.

Selah; on this word, See Gill on “Ps 3:2”.

Psalms 21:3

Ver. 3. For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness,… Not temporal, but spiritual blessings, which spring from the grace and goodness of God, and consist of it; and relate to the spiritual and eternal welfare of those for whose sake he receives them, and who are blessed with them in him: his being “prevented” with them denotes the freeness of the donation of them; that before he could well ask for them, or before he had done requesting them, they were given him; and also the earliness of the gift of them, they were put into his hands before his incarnation, before he was manifest in the flesh, even from the foundation of the world, and before the world began, Eph 1:3 2Ti 1:9, and likewise the order in which they were given; first to Christ, and then to his people in him, as the passages referred to show;

thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head; which is expressive of his victory over all enemies, sin, Satan, and the world, death and hell; and of his being possessed of his throne and kingdom; and has respect to his exaltation at the right hand of God, where he is crowned with glory and honour: and this crown being of “pure gold” denotes the purity, glory, solidity, and perpetuity of his kingdom; this is a crown, not which believers put upon him by believing in him, and ascribing the glory of their salvation to him, or what the church, called his mother, has crowned him with, So 3:11, but which his father put upon him, who has set him King over his holy hill of Zion, Ps 2:6; compare with this Re 14:14. The Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions read “a crown of a precious stone”; and so Apollinarius; and seem to refer to the crown set on David’s head, which had precious stones in it, 2Sa 12:30; Josephus {x} says it had a sardonyx. Fortunatus Scacchus {y} fancies the topaz is meant, and that the Hebrew text should be read “a crown of topaz”; mistaking the sense of the word “phaz”, which never signifies a topaz, but the best gold, pure solid gold.

{x} Antiqu. l. 7. c. 7. s. 5. {y} Elaeochrism. Sacr. l. 3. c. 40. p. 1003.

Psalms 21:4

Ver. 4. He asked life of thee, [and] thou gavest [it] him,… Both for himself, as man, when he was about to die, that he might be raised to life again, which was granted him; and for his people, that they might live spiritually and eternally, and accordingly life is given to him for them; and he has power to give it to as many as the Father has given him, Joh 17:2;

[even] length of days for ever and ever; the life he has for himself as man is what will ever continue; he will die no more, death will have no more dominion over him; he will live for evermore, and that to make intercession for his members, Ro 6:9; and the life which is granted them at his request is an everlasting one, both as to body and soul; for though they die as other men, they shall live again in the resurrection of the just, and never die more, but shall be like the angels in heaven; and as for the second death, that shall not harm them, nor have any power over them; they will live and reign with Christ for ever.

Psalms 21:5

Ver. 5. His glory [is] great in thy salvation,… That is, the glory of the King Messiah is great in the Lord’s salvation of him; delivering him from all his troubles and sorrows, and out of the hands of all his enemies, when he was raised from the dead, and was set at the right hand of God, and crowned with glory and honour: or the sense is, that his glory is great in the salvation of his people by him; it was his glory as Mediator to be appointed to be the Lord’s salvation to them; and it being effected by him declares the glory and greatness of his person; and the nature of it is such as cannot fast of bringing glory to him; and such is the sense his people have of it, that it obliges them to ascribe the glory of it alone to him;

honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him; which is to be understood not of the honour and majesty of his divine nature, which are essential to him, and not laid upon him by any; nor of the glory which the saints attribute to him on account of their salvation by him; but of that which his Father has put upon him, and lies in the introduction of him into his glory after his sufferings and death, and resurrection from the dead; in exalting him at his right hand above all creatures and things; in giving him all power in heaven and in earth; in putting all the gifts of the Spirit into his hands, which he receiving gave to men, and in ordaining him Judge of quick and dead.

Psalms 21:6

Ver. 6. For thou hast made him most blessed for ever,… Not as God, for as such he is over all blessed for ever, and not made so; but as man and Mediator; the words may be rendered, “thou hast set him to be blessings for ever” {z}; which design the blessings which are laid up in Christ for his people, and which he imparts unto, them, and they are blessed with in him; so that he is made a blessing, or rather blessings to them; such as redemption to free them from, bondage, righteousness to justify them, sanctification to make them holy, wisdom to direct and guide them, and strength to assist and support them; through whom they have the forgiveness of sins, by whom they have peace with God, and from whom they receive all their joy and comfort, and at last eternal life and happiness; and all these are for ever, they are irreversible blessings, are never repented of, nor taken away: or this blessedness may be understood of that which Christ himself enjoys as man; which lies in his human nature being exalted to union with the Son of God; in being heard and helped in the day of salvation; in being raised from the dead, and glory given him; in being set at God’s right hand, angels, authorities, and powers, being subject to him; and in seeing the travail of his soul with satisfaction: the particular instance of his blessedness follows;

thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance; the glorious presence of God in heaven; Christ having done his work on earth ascended to heaven, where he was received by his Father with a cheerful countenance, was made to sit down on the same throne with him, being well pleased with his obedience, righteousness, and sacrifice; and being now in the presence of God, in which is fulness of joy, and at his right hand, where are pleasures for evermore, the human nature of Christ is filled with an excess of joy; the words may be rendered, “thou hast made” or “wilt make him glad with joy {a}, with thy countenance”; see Ps 16:11.

{z} twkrb whtyvt “posuisti vel pones eum benedictiones”, Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus; so Ainsworth, Cocceius, Gejerus. {a} hxmvb whdxt “laetificabis eum in laetitia”, Pagninus, Montanus, Michaelis; so Junius & Tremellius, Gejerus.

Psalms 21:7

Ver. 7. For the King trusteth in the Lord,… That is, the King Messiah, as the Targum paraphrases it; he trusted in the Lord for his support and sustenance as man, for assistance and help in his time of trouble, and for deliverance out of it; he trusted in the Lord that he would hear him for himself, and for his people; and that he would glorify him with all glory, honour, majesty, and blessedness, before spoken of; see Ps 22:8;

and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved; God the Father is the most High; Christ is called the Son of the Highest, and the Spirit the power of the Highest, Lu 1:32; there is mercy with him, which is a ground of hope and trust, in his people, and also in the Messiah; see Ps 89:28; and some versions make the mercy of the most High to be what the King Messiah trusts in, reading the words {b}, “for the King trusteth in the Lord, and in the mercy of the most High”; but the accent “athnach”, which distinguishes the propositions, will not admit of it; but the sense is, that because of the mercy, grace, goodness, and faithfulness of God in making and keeping his promises, Christ would not be and was not moved from his trust and confidence in the Lord; nor shall he even be removed from his throne of glory on which he sits; nor from the glorious and happy state in which he is: nor will it ever be in the power of his enemies to displace him; for these in time will be destroyed by him, as the following words show.

{b} So Genebrard, Muis,

Psalms 21:8

Ver. 8. Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies,… The Jews, that would not have him to reign over them, who crucified him and persecuted his apostles; the Gentiles, who were also concerned in his death; the Roman emperors, who persecuted the Christians, and are signified by the red dragon that waited to devour the man child when brought forth by the woman, the church, Re 12:3; and also the Papists, the followers of the man of sin, who oppose Christ in his offices and grace, and are the enemies of his witnesses, and of his interest; and besides these there are many professors of religion who are enemies of Christ, either doctrinally or practically; to whom may be added, the devil and his angels, and all those who are the children of him and are influenced by him: these the hand of Christ will find out sooner or later; for the words are an address to the King Messiah, who being omniscient knows where all his enemies are, and where to find them; and being omnipotent he will lay hold upon them, and hold them, and none shall escape from him; his hand of vengeance shall fall upon them, and he shall inflict righteous and deserved punishment on them; and this shall be the case of “all” of them, none will be able to hide themselves in secret places from him. This has been in part verified in the Jewish nation at the destruction of Jerusalem, when wrath came upon that people to the uttermost for their treatment of the Messiah; and in the Pagan empire, when it was demolished, and kings and great men in vain called to the rocks and mountains to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb, Re 6:15; and will have a further accomplishment in the antichristian states and kingdoms, when the vials of God’s wrath shall be poured out upon them; and especially at the battle of Armageddon, when Christ will avenge himself, and get rid of all his enemies at once; and will have its final accomplishment in all wicked men and devils at the day of judgment, when all Christ’s enemies will be found out by him, whether open or secret, and receive their just punishment;

thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee; this is the same with the former clause, and is repeated for the further certainty and greater confirmation of the thing; and “the right hand” is mentioned as expressive of the mighty power of the Lord. The Chaldee paraphrase renders it, “the vengeance of thy right hand”.

Psalms 21:9

Ver. 9. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven,… Some think the allusion is to David’s causing the Ammonites to pass through the brick kiln, 2Sa 12:31; others to the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah: it represents what a severe punishment shall be inflicted on the enemies of Christ; they shall be cast into a fiery oven, or furnace of fire, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were by the order of Nebuchadnezzar; so some render the words, “thou shalt put them into a fiery oven”, k, “as”, being put for b, “into” {c}: wicked men are as dry trees, as stubble, as thorns or briers, and are fit fuel for a fiery oven or furnace; by which is meant the wrath and fury of God, which is poured forth as fire; and this has had its fulfilment in part in the Jews at Jerusalem’s destruction; when that day of the Lord burned like an oven, and the proud and haughty Jews, and who dealt wickedly by Christ, were burned up in it, Mal 4:1; and will have an additional accomplishment when the whore of Babylon shall be burnt with fire, and when the beast and false prophet shall be cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone; and still more fully at the general conflagration, when will be the perdition of ungodly men, and the earth and all that is therein shall be burnt up; and especially when all wicked men and devils shall be cast into the lake and furnace of fire, where will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth; see Re 17:16. This will be

in the time of thine anger, or “of thy countenance” {d}; not his gracious, but his angry countenance; when he shall put on a fierce look, and appear as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and stir up all his wrath;

the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath; not that they shall be annihilated; their souls remain after death, and their bodies after the resurrection; and will be tormented with the fire of God’s wrath for ever and ever; the phrase is expressive of utter ruin, of the destruction of soul and body in hell; see Ps 35:25; Jarchi takes it to be a prayer, “may the Lord swallow them up”, &c.

and the fire shall devour them; that is, as the Targum paraphrases it, the fire of hell; or, however, it designs the wrath of God, who is a consuming fire; or that fiery indignation of his, which shall devour the adversaries; which comes down upon them either in temporal judgments here, or in their everlasting destruction hereafter.

{c} Vide Aben Ezram in loc. {d} Kynp “vultus tui”, V. L. so Sept. Aethiop. Gejerus, Muis, Ainsworth; “faciei iratae tuae”, Junius & Tremellius; so Michaelis.

Psalms 21:10

Ver. 10. Their fruit shall thou destroy from the earth,… Meaning the offspring of wicked men; the fruit of the womb, Ps 127:3; the same with their seed in the next clause:

and their seed from among the children of men; see Ps 37:28; which must be understood of such of their seed, and offspring as are as they were when born; are never renewed and sanctified, but are like their parents; as the Jews were, their parents were vipers, and they were serpents, the generation of them; and were the children of the devil, and did his works: now these passages had their accomplishment in the Jews, when the day of God’s wrath burnt them up, and left them neither root nor branch, Mal 4:1; and in the Pagan empire, when every mountain and island were moved out of their places, and the Heathen perished out of the land, Re 6:14; and will be further accomplished when the Lord shall punish the wicked woman Jezebel, the antichristian harlot, and kill her children with death, Re 2:23; see Ps 104:35.

Psalms 21:11

Ver. 11. For they intended evil against thee,… All evil, whether in thought or deed, if not immediately and directly, yet is ultimately against the Lord, whose law is transgressed, and who is despised and reflected upon as a lawgiver; all sin is an hostility committed against God, or against Christ, against the Lord and his Anointed, or against his people, who are all one as himself: the intention of evil is evil, and is cognizable by the Lord, and punishable by him:

they imagined a mischievous device, [which] they are not able [to perform]; not the death of Christ; that was indeed in itself a mischievous device of theirs, but that they performed, though they had not their end in it; they expected his name would then perish, and they should hear no more of him: but rather it respects his resurrection from the dead, they could not prevent, though they took all imaginable care that them might be no show of it; and when they found he was really raised from the dead, they contrived a wicked scheme to stop the credit of it, but in vain, Mt 27:63; and Jews and Gentiles, and Papists, have formed schemes and done all they can to root the Gospel, cause, and interest of Christ, out of the world, but have not been able to perform it.

Psalms 21:12

Ver. 12. Therefore shall thou make them turn their back,… Or flee and run away to private places, to hide themselves from the wrath of God and of the Lamb, though to no purpose; or “make them turn [behind thy] back”: God will turn his back upon them, and be negligent and careless of them, and not regard them when they cry in their misery and destruction. Some Jewish interpreters {e} understand it of their being put together on one side, in one corner, and be separate from the people of God; to which sense the Targum inclines, rendering the word for “back” the “shoulder”, which sometimes signifies unanimity and union, Zep 3:9; and thus, being all together by themselves, the wrath of God shall be poured forth upon them, and they shall be destroyed at once: so the Christians were, by the providence of God, brought out of Jerusalem before its destruction; and the saints will be called out of Babylon before its fall; and the goats, the wicked, will be separated from the righteous, and set together at Christ’s left hand; for they shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous: but the best sense of the words is, “thou shalt set them [for a] butt” or {f} “heap”; or, as it is in the Hebrew text, a shoulder; a butt to shoot at being so called, because it is earth heaped up like a shoulder; see Job 16:12; and to this agrees what follows:

[when] thou shalt make ready [thine arrows] upon thy strings against the face of them; that is, direct the arrows of his wrath and vengeance right against them; see Ps 7:11.

{e} Kimchi & Ben Melech in loc. {f} Mkv wmtyvt “ponis eos metam”, Cocceius; “humerum”, Pagninus, Montanus, Gejerus; “velut tumulum”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

Psalms 21:13

Ver. 13. Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength,… Exert thy strength, display thy power in such manner, that thou mayest be exalted and magnified on account of it. This was fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem, when the kingdom of God came with power, Mr 9:1; and will be again when Babylon shall be utterly destroyed, because the Lord is strong who judgeth her, Re 18:8; and finally at the day of judgment, when the wicked will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power, 2Th 1:9;

[so] will we sing and praise thy power; forms of such songs of praise may be seen, as Cocceius observes, in Re 11:15; at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, at the victory over the beast, and his image, and at the destruction of Babylon.