This psalm contains a common prayer of the Church in behalf of the King of Israel, that God would succor him in danger; and in behalf of his kingdom, that God would maintain it in safety, and cause it to prosper:for in the person of David the safety and well-being of the whole community centred. To this there is added a promise, that God will preside over that kingdom of which he was the founder, and so effectually watch over it as to secure its continual preservation.

To the chief musician. A Psalm of David.


Psalm 20:1-2

1. May Jehovah hear thee in the day of trouble! may the name of the God of Jacob defend thee! 2. May he send thee help from his sanctuary, and sustain thee out of Sion!


The inscription shows that the psalm was composed by David; but though he was its author, there is no absurdity in his speaking of himself in the person of others. The office of a prophet having been committed to him, he with great propriety prepared this as a form of prayer for the use of the faithful. In doing this, his object was not so much to commend his own person, by authoritatively issuing a royal ordinance enjoining upon the people the use of this prayer, as to show, in the exercise of his office as a teacher, that it belonged to the whole Church to concern itself, and to use its endeavors that the kingdom which God had erected might continue safe and prosperous. Many interpreters view this prayer as offered up only on one particular occasion; but in this I cannot agree. The occasion of its composition at first may have arisen from some particular battle which was about to be fought, either against the Ammonites, or against some other enemies of Israel. But the design of the Holy Spirit, in my judgment, was to deliver to the Church a common form of prayer, which, as we may gather from the words, was to be used whenever she was threatened with any danger. God commands his people, in general, to pray for kings, but there was a special reason, and one which did not apply to any other kingdom, why prayer was to be made in behalf of this kingdom; for it was only by the hand of David and his seed that God had determined to govern and maintain his people. It is particularly to be noticed, that under the figure of this temporal kingdom, there was described a government far more excellent, on which the whole joy and felicity of the Church depended. The object, therefore, which David had expressly in view was, to exhort all the children of God to cherish such a holy solicitude about the kingdom of Christ, as would stir them up to continual prayer in its behalf.

1. May Jehovah hear thee, etc. The Holy Spirit, by introducing the people as praying that God would answer the prayers of the king, is to be viewed as at the same time admonishing kings that it is their duty to implore the protection of God in all their affairs. When he says, In the day of trouble, he shows that they will not be exempted from troubles, and he does this that they may not become discouraged, if at any time they should happen to be in circumstances of danger. In short, the faithful, that the body may not be separated from the head, further the king's prayers by their common and united supplications. The name of God is here put for God himself and not without good reason; for the essence of God being incomprehensible to us, it behoves us to trust in him, in so far as his grace and power are made known to us. From his name, therefore, proceeds confidence in calling upon him. The faithful desire that the king may be protected and aided by God, whose name was called upon among the sons of Jacob. I cannot agree with those who think that mention is here made of that patriarch, because God exercised him with various afflictions, not unlike those with which he tried his servant David. I am rather of opinion that, as is usual in Scripture, the chosen people are denoted by the term Jacob. And from this name, the God of Jacob, the faithful encourage themselves to pray for the defense of their king; because it was one of the privileges of their adoption to live under the conduct and protection of a king set over them by God himself. Hence we may conclude, as I have said before, that under the figure of a temporal kingdom there is described to us a government much more excellent.1 Since Christ our King, being an everlasting priest, never ceases to make intercession with God, the whole body of the Church should unite in prayer with him;2 and farther, we can have no hope of being heard except he go before us, and conduct us to God.3 And it serves in no small degree to assuage our sorrows to consider that Jesus Christ, when we are afflicted, accounts our distresses his own, provided we, at the same time, take courage, and continue resolute and magnanimous in tribulation; which we should be prepared to do, since the Holy Spirit here forewarns us that the kingdom of Christ would be subject to dangers and troubles.

2. May he send thee help. That is to say, may he succor thee out of mount Sion, where he commanded the ark of the covenant to be placed, and chose for himself a dwelling-place. The weakness of the flesh will not suffer men to soar up to heaven, and, therefore, God comes down to meet them, and by the external means of grace shows that he is near them. Thus the ark of the covenant was to his ancient people a pledge of his presence, and the sanctuary an image of heaven. But as God, by appointing mount Sion to be the place where the faithful should continually worship him, had joined the kingdom and priesthood together, David, in putting into the lips of the people a prayer for help out of Sion, doubtless had an eye to this sacred bond of union. Hence I conjecture that this psalm was composed by David in his old age, and about the close of his life. Some think he spake of Sion by the Spirit of prophecy before it had been appointed that the ark should be placed there; but this opinion seems strained, and to have little probability.

1 "Et de le il nous convient recueiller, ce que jay dit, que sous a figure d'un regne temporel nous est descrie un gouvernement bien plus excellent." -- Fr.

2 As the people of Israel here unite in prayer with and for the monarch of Israel, whom we may picture to our minds as repairing to the tabernacle to offer sacrifices, where this animated ode was sung by the priests and people.

3 "Si non qu'il marche derant, et nous conduise a Dieu." -- Fr.