This Week's Focus Passage

The Prayer of David, but the Psalm of Solomon

Focus Passage: Psalm 72:20

‘The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.’

It is somewhat perplexing for commentators that the inspired ‘title’ of this seventy-second psalm seems to ascribe its authorship to Solomon, the son of David. We read this heading, in our copy, as A Psalm of Solomon. While most of the versions have it, ‘of Solomon’ or ‘by Solomon,’ some have it reading ‘for Solomon.’ It is very interesting, and more than that, helpful to reflect upon the remarks of Charles Spurgeon on the ‘title’ of this marvelous psalm. Hear what London’s Prince of Preachers had to say in his Treasury of David:

“The best linguists affirm that this should be rendered, of or by Solomon. There is not sufficient ground for the rendering for. It is pretty certain that the title declares Solomon to be the author of the Psalm, and yet from verse 20 it would seem that David uttered it in prayer before he died. With some diffidence we suggest that the spirit and matter of the Psalm are David’s, but that he was too near his end to pen the words, or cast them into form; Solomon, therefore, caught his dying father’s song, fashioned it into goodly verse, and, without robbing his father, made the Psalm his own. It is, we conjecture, the Prayer of David, but the Psalm of Solomon.”

While we must share in the diffidence of Spurgeon, at the very least his suggestion is plausible, and at the same time heart-affecting. It is certainly stirring to imagine oneself sitting alongside the young heir to the throne at the bedside of his dying father and king, and hearing the inspired words poured forth from the too soon to be silent lips of the man after God’s own heart, while his son, a song-singer himself, sets them down on paper with his own quivering hand. Finally, perhaps in his own sorrowful thoughts, writing The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended. He knew not whether, or no, his father, the sweet psalmist of Israel would ever utter another prayer in his hearing.

If we receive Spurgeon’s lovely suggestion, we are thus required to limit those closing words to this seventy-second psalm; that it alone is being referred to with the words, The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended. However, it must be allowed that commentators are divided about this matter. Rather than limiting it to this particular psalm, some would have the expression refer to the second book of the psalms; those beginning with psalm forty-two. (Though the division of the Psalms into five books is hardly noticed by the average Bible reader, these divisions are plainly intimated in many, if not most, English Bibles. While there have been many attempts by theologians and commentators to explain this five-fold division of the Psalter, only that some sort of agreement with the five-fold division of the Pentateuch was intended, has been largely accepted. The five divisions are as follows: 1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 90-106; 107-150.) Bearing this parenthesis in mind, there have been, besides those who ascribe the concluding statement of psalm seventy-two to the second book of the psalms, those who would ascribe it to all that preceded, in other words, to both the first and second books.

Both of these ‘solutions’ suffer under the reality that there are, indeed, psalms which follow this psalm which are, not only ascribed to David, but are also referred to as prayers. The inspired heading of psalm eighty-six is ‘a prayer of David,’ and that of the one hundred and forty-second reads, Maschil of David, when he was in the cave; a Prayer. And although the one hundred and second is not ascribed to David, it is difficult not to ascribe the matter of it to David fleeing for his life from his persecutor and predecessor, Saul. The inspired heading of that psalm is, in fact, ‘A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before Jehovah.’ Truly, it must be conceded that many of the psalms of David are both songs and prayers, as are many which are not ascribed unto David. Spurgeon’s suggestions are looking increasingly better than the proposed ‘solutions’ of others, are they not?

Though we may be certain that the afore-mentioned psalms are not the only psalms that ought to be seen as prayers, the inspired headings ought not to be discounted. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the word ‘prayer’ is, more often than not, in italics, demonstrating that the word is not found in the originals. Therefore, we would find in psalms seventeen and eighty-six, for example, only the words ‘of David.’ Again, the reverse, if you will, of this circumstance is found in a number of psalms that are not designated ‘a prayer.’ This is the case in the fourth psalm which begins with the inspired ‘title,’ For the chief Musician[this must be a song]; on stringed instruments[yes, this must be a song]: A Psalm of David, while immediately this ‘song’ is seen to be equally a prayer. For David immediately begins with these words; Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness; thou hast set me at large when I was in distress: Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

What then is meant by the ending of David’s prayers?

What more could he ask? He has climbed the summit of the mount of God; he desires nothing more. With this upon his lip, he is content to die. He strips himself of his own royalty and becomes only the “son of Jesse,” thrice happy to subside into nothing before the crowned Messiah. Before his believing eye the reign of Jesus, like the sun, filled all around with light, and the holy soul of the man after God’s own heart exulted in it, and sung his “Nunc dimittis:” “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation!”—we may find more ex-citable men; not many more citable than CHS.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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