Psalm 89

89:0God made special promises to David. They are in 2 Samuel 7:12-17. The important promise is that someone from David's family would always be king. Ethan wrote Psalm 89 many years after this. He called it a maskil, a psalm that teaches us something.

In the psalm, Ethan sings about a problem. God had promised that there would always be a king in David's family. But now there was no Jewish king! The army from Babylon had beaten the Jewish army. They took the Jewish king to Babylon and the King of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) became king of the Jews. How could anyone explain this?

Christians have sung this psalm on Christmas Day for many centuries. This is because Jesus is a king from David's family, he will always be king and he was born at Christmas. That is how we explain the problem – but Ethan did not know this!

Make Your Kingdom Come Soon!

89:0Many Bible students think that Psalm 89 is three psalms in one! Ethan was one of David's singers. He could not have known about Nebuchadnezzar, who lived 500 years later. Bible students explain this by saying:

– Ethan wrote the first part, verses 1-18. At this time, both Tabor and Hermon (verse 12) were in the land David's descendants ruled. Later, they were not.

– Someone else wrote the next part, verses 19-37. This was maybe 400 years after David ruled Israel. Maybe Josiah was king.

– A third person wrote the last part, verses 38-51. This was after Nebuchadnezzar had beaten the Jews. He took their king (Jehoiakin) to Babylon. Jehoiakin was not king any more.

This is a special song that Ethan the Ezrahite wrote.

1 I will always sing about the kind love of the Lord.

I will tell my children and my grandchildren

that you will do what you have promised.

2 Yes! I will say that nothing will ever stop your kind love for us.

You will do the things that you promised in heaven.

3 God had said in heaven,

‘I have made a covenant with the man that I chose.

I have made special promises to my servant David.

89:3In verse 3 the covenant is what God and the Jews agreed. If the Jews would love and obey God, then he would keep them safe. The Jews had a special covenant name for God: Yahweh. We translate it Lord, with 4 capital letters. In this part of the psalm, Ethan says that he still believes that God will do what he had promised. Ethan was right!

4 Someone from your family will always be king.

And there will always be a place where they will rule as king.’


The Kingdom of Heaven

5 In heaven, they praise the wonderful things that you have done, Lord.

Also, the holy angels that meet together

know that you will do what you have promised.

89:5In verses 5 and 7 the angels are holy because they live with God. Holy means ‘very, very good.’ Only God is really holy. The answer to the two questions is ‘Nobody.’ The angels are not like God (or as good and powerful as God). In verse 8, it may mean ‘who on earth is as strong as you are?’ The answer again is ‘Nobody’.

6 For who is there in heaven that is like the Lord?

Which of the angels is like the Lord himself?

7 God frightens very much the holy ones that meet together.

He makes them more afraid than anyone else does.

8 Lord God of Many Armies, who is as strong as you are, Lord?

And you do everything that you have promised!

9 You are the ruler of the boiling sea.

When the water rises up, you make it quiet again.

10 You broke Rahab and killed it!

With your strong arm, you destroyed your enemies.

11 The skies belong to you and so does the earth.

You made the world and everything that is in it.

12 You made places in the north and in the south.

Tabor and Hermon praise you when they hear your name.

13 You have a strong arm; your hand is powerful;

you have lifted up your right hand to use your power.

14 You have built your kingdom doing what is right and fair.

Your kind love and the fact that you keep your promises go in front of you.

89:14In verses 9-14, the psalmist comes ‘down to earth.’ He has talked about God as the most powerful person in heaven, in verses 5 to 8. Now he talks about God's power on earth. In verse 9, God can make an angry (‘boiling’) sea quiet. This means he can make the loudest sea quiet. Jesus did this when he stopped the storm at sea. Jesus could do this because he was God. In verse 10, Rahab was either a sea-monster, or a name for Egypt. In verse 12, Tabor and Hermon are the names of mountains in Israel. When we see great hills and mountains, we remember that God made (created) them. That makes us praise God. Mountains do not praise God, they make us praise God!

15 The people are very happy when they know how to praise you.

Lord, they will walk in the light from your face.

16 They will praise your name all day

and talk about your righteousness.

17 Your glory will make them strong

and by your grace you will lift up our horn.

18 Yes! Our shield is the Lord's

and our king belongs to the Holy One of Israel.

89:18In verses 15-18, we read about God's people. They are people that praise God. In verse 15 ‘walk’ means ‘live.’ ‘The light of your face’ means ‘God being good’ or ‘God showing the way.’ God's face is where God is. Verse 17 is full of special Christian words. (Some people call them ‘jargon!’) Some Bible students think it means:

– Because you are great and powerful you will make them strong

– Because you are kind you will make us strong

‘Lift up our horn’ is jargon for ‘make us strong.’ Note that the psalmist changes from ‘them’ to ‘our’ in this verse. He has been talking about God's people all the time. Now he says so! In verse 18, ‘the Holy One of Israel’ is a name for God.

A Kingdom on Earth

19 A long time ago, you spoke to your servants.

It was like a dream. You said to them,

‘I have given help to a brave soldier.

I have chosen a young man from the people.

20 I have found David my servant.

I have poured my special oil over him to make him king.

21 My hand will make him strong and,

Yes! My arm will make him powerful.

22 No enemy will win a war against him

and no wicked people will conquer him.

23 I will destroy his enemies before him

and kill those that hate him.

24 I will do everything that I have promised him.

Also, I will give him my kind love.

And by my name I will raise his horn.

25 I will put his left hand over the sea

and his right hand over the rivers.’

26 He, David, will say to me, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the Rock that makes me safe.’

27 Also, I will make him as my first born son.

He will be the most high of the kings of the earth.

28 I will always give him my kind love

and my covenant with him will have no end.

29 One of his family will always be king,

as long as there are skies above us.

30-31 If his descendants:

· do not listen to what I am teaching them,

· and do not obey my laws,

· say that my laws are bad,

· and do not do what I tell them to do,

32 I will punish their sin with a stick

and the wrong things they do with a whip.

33 But I will not take my kind love from him David

and I will not break any of my promises.

34 I will not break my covenant with him

or change any of my promises.

35 At one time I made a promise.

Because I am holy I will not lie to David.

36 His descendants will always continue

and his kingdom will go on as long as the sun shines.

37 Like the moon, it will always be there.

From the sky, it will see everything that happens.


89:37In this part of the psalm, Ethan remembers the promises that God made to David. He said that all God's people could see God in a vision, verse 19. A vision is like a dream. They could also hear what God said. He told them that David was to be their king. In those days they made someone king by ‘anointing’ them. This means ‘pouring oil over them.’ They made the oil from olives, which grew on the trees in Israel. (They still do!) In verse 21 (and verse 13), the hand and arm of God mean the things that he does on the earth. In verse 24 we read about a horn again. It is a horn on the head of an animal that makes it look strong. In verse 17, it was the people that God made strong. Here it is David that God makes strong. The hands over the seas and rivers, verse 25, mean that David is strong in these places. Verse 26 tells us that David will call God ‘My Father.’ In the Old Testament, the king thought of God as Father for his people; in the New Testament, each Christian thinks of God as Father. The ‘first born son’, or oldest son, verse 27, had twice as much from his father as the other sons. ‘Most high’ is also a name for God, but here used for the king. This is a part of the psalm that makes Christians think about Jesus. That is why they have sung it at Christmas for centuries. In verses 32-33, it is not David that God punishes, but his descendants.

The Problem

38 But you have said ‘no’ to your anointed king.

You have turned away from him

because you have become angry with him.

39 You have broken the covenant with your servant.

You threw his crown to the ground and made it dirty.

40 You have broken all the walls round his city.

You have destroyed all his strong places.

41 Everyone that goes near him robs him.

Everybody that lives near him laughs at him.

42 You have made all his enemies strong,

you have made them all happy because they beat him.

43 You stopped his sword from hurting his enemies,

and you have not given him help in war.

44 You have taken away his authority as king

and you threw his throne on the ground.

45 He does not look like a young man any more.

You have dressed him in shame.


46 Lord, how long will this continue?

Will you always hide yourself?

Will your great anger always burn like a fire?

47 Remember that my life is so short!

Have you created people for no reason?

48 What man can live and not die?

Who can save himself from the power of Sheol death?

49 Lord, where is the kind love that you gave us in past times?

Where are the special promises that you made to David?

50 Remember, Lord, that people have laughed at your servant.

Many countries have said bad things to me.

51 Lord, your enemies laugh at the king that you have chosen.

They insult him everywhere he goes.

52 Always praise the Lord! Amen and amen!

89:52In the first 18 verses, the psalmist tells us how great God is. In verses 19-37, he tells us what God promised to David. Now, in verses 38-45, he tells us that God has not done what he promised. In verses 46-51, he prays that God will do something. (Verse 52 is not part of the psalm. It finishes Book 3 of The Psalms.) The servant in verses 39 and 50 is the king. Some Bible students think that the king speaks in verses 50-51. The psalm does not answer the problem. There is no answer until Jesus came to earth. Remember – Jesus was a descendant of David!