Psalm 21:4-6

4. He asked life from thee, and thou hast given him length of days for ever and ever. 5. His glory is great in thy salvation: thou hast put upon him splendor and beauty.1 6. For thou hast set him to be blessings for ever: thou hast gladdened him with joy before thy countenance, [or, in thy presence.]


4. He asked life from thee. This verse confirms what I have formerly said, that this psalm is not to be limited to the person of any one man. David's life, it is true, was prolonged to an advanced period, so that, when he departed from this world, he was an old man, and full of days; but the course of his life was too short to be compared to this length of days, which is said to consist of many ages. Even if we reckon the time from the commencement of David's reign to the captivity of Babylon, this length of days will not be made up and completed in all David's successors. David, therefore, without doubt, comprehends the Eternal King. There is here a tacit comparison between the beginnings of this kingdom, which were obscure and contemptible, or rather which were fraught with the most grievous perils, and which bordered on despair; and the incredible glory which followed, when God, exempting it from the common lot of other kingdoms, elevated it almost above the heavens. For it is no ordinary commendation of this kingdom, when it is said, that it shall endure as long as the sun and moon shall shine in the heavens, (Psalm 72:1.) David, therefore, in saying that he asked life, tacitly points to the distressed circumstances to which he had often been reduced; and the meaning is, Lord, since the time thou hast called thy servant to the hope of the kingdom by thy holy anointing, his condition has been such that he has accounted it a singular blessing to be rescued from the jaws of death; but now, he has not only, by thy grace, escaped in safety the dangers which threatened his life:thou hast also promised that his kingdom will be continued for many ages in his successors. And it serves not a little to magnify the grace of God, that he vouchsafed to confer on a poor and miserable man, who was almost at the point of death, not only his life, - when, amidst the dangers which threatened it, he tremblingly asked merely its preservations -- but also the inestimable honor of elevating him to the royal dignity, and of transmitting the kingdom to his posterity for ever. Some expound the verse thus:-- Thou hast given him the life which he asked, even to the prolonging of his days for ever and ever. But this seems to me a cold and strained interpretation. We must keep in view the contrast which, as I have said, is here made between the weak and contemptible beginnings of the kingdom, and the unexpected honor which God conferred upon his servant, in calling the moon to witness that his seed should never fail. The same has been exemplified in Christ, who, from contempt, ignominy, death, the grave, and despair, was raised up by his Father to the sovereignty of heaven, to sit at the Father's right hand for ever, and at length to be the judge of the world.

5. His glory is great. By these words the people intimate that their king, through the protection which God afforded him, and the deliverances which he wrought for him, would become more renowned than if he had reigned in peace with the applause of all men, or had been defended by human wealth and human strength, or, finally, had continued invincible by his own power and policy; for thereby it appeared the more clearly that he had only attained to the royal dignity by the favor, conduct, and commandment of God. The believing Israelites, therefore, leave it to heathen kings to ennoble themselves by their own achievements, and to acquire fame by their own valor; and they set more value upon this, that God graciously showed himself favorable towards their king,2 than upon all the triumphs of the world. At the same time, they promise themselves such assistance from God as will suffice for adorning the king with majesty and honor.

6. For thou hast set him to be blessings for ever. Some explain these words simply thus, That God had chosen David to be king, in order to pour upon him his blessings in rich abundance. But it is evident that something more is intended by this manner of speaking. It implies, that the king had such an exuberant abundance of all good things, that he might justly be regarded as a pattern of the greatness of the divine beneficence; or that, in praying, his name would be generally used to serve as an example of how the suppliant wished to be dealt with. The Jews were accustomed to speak of those being set to be a curse, who were rendered so detestable, and on whom the dreadful vengeance of God had been inflicted with such severity, that their very names served for cursing and direful imprecations. On the other hand, they were accustomed to speak of those being set to be a blessing, whose names we propose in our prayers as an example of how we desire to be blessed; as if a man for instance should say, May God graciously bestow upon thee the same favor which he vouchsafed to his servant David! I do not reject this interpretation, but I am satisfied with the other, which views the words as implying that the king, abounding in all kind of good things, was an illustrious pattern of the liberality of God. We must carefully mark what is said immediately after concerning joy:Thou hast gladdened him with joy before thy countenance.3 The people not only mean that God did good to the king, seeing he looked upon him with a benignant and fatherly eye, but they also point out the proper cause of this joy, telling us that it proceeded from the knowledge which the king had of his being the object of the Divine favor. It would not be enough for God to take care of us, and to provide for our necessities, unless, on the other hand, he irradiated us with the light of his gracious and reconciled countenance, and made us to taste of his goodness, as we have seen in the 4th Psalm, "There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us, and we shall be saved." And without all doubt, it is true and solid happiness to experience that God is so favorable to us that we dwell as it were in his presence.

1 Splendour and beauty. "Parkhurst observes, that the two words thus translated are often joined in Scripture. The former seems to denote 'the splendor or glory itself; the latter the ornament, beauty, or majesty, resulting from that glory." -- Bishop Mant.

2 "Que la grace de Dieu se monstre favorable envers leur Roy." -- Fr.

3 Walford reads this clause -- "Thou hast made him glad with the joy of thy presence."