Psalm 21

Notes (NET Translation)

For the music director; a psalm of David.

The logic of the psalm is as follows. The king has experienced Yhwh’s delivering him from his foes (vv. 2-5). That inspires his praise and his ongoing trust (vv. 1, 6-7). It also gives grounds for the conviction that Yhwh does/will overcome all those who oppose the divine purpose (vv. 8-12). And that inspires the people’s praise (v. 13). The people who pray this psalm thus move from a distanced declaration and observation in the third person (vv. 1-7) to a general statement (vv. 8-12) and then to an explicit identification with that statement’s implications (v. 13). Being in a position of leadership inevitably exposes a leader to danger but also drives the leader to prayer and provides the opportunity to prove God. If the people are aware of that process, it gives opportunity for them to join in the leader’s praise and profit from the leader’s experience.1

1 O Lord, the king rejoices in the strength you give; he takes great delight in the deliverance you provide.

2 You grant him his heart’s desire; you do not refuse his request. (Selah)

3 For you bring him rich blessings; you place a golden crown on his head.

The crown symbolizes divine approval.

4 He asked you to sustain his life, and you have granted him long life and an enduring dynasty.

While the gift of life . . . for ever and ever might have implied to an Old Testament reader either a hyperbole like that of Daniel 2:4, etc., or an allusion to the endless dynasty promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:16, the New Testament has filled in the picture firmly with the figure of the ultimate king, the Messiah, for whom the whole stanza is true without exaggeration. In him the glory . . . splendour and majesty of verse 5 reveal their full range of depth (John 13:31f.) and height (Rev. 5:12), as does the joy of thy presence (6; cf. Heb. 12:2).2

5 Your deliverance brings him great honor; you give him majestic splendor.

6 For you grant him lasting blessings; you give him great joy by allowing him into your presence.

7 For the king trusts in the Lord, and because of the sovereign Lord’s faithfulness he is not upended.

The covenant between God and Israel, represented by the king, is summarized here. God is always faithful but Israel must trust in God for the relationship to prosper.

8 You prevail over all your enemies; your power is too great for those who hate you.

9 You burn them up like a fiery furnace when you appear; the Lord angrily devours them; the fire consumes them.

10 You destroy their offspring from the earth, their descendants from among the human race.

11 Yes, they intend to do you harm; they dream up a scheme, but they do not succeed.

12 For you make them retreat when you shoot your arrows at them.

13 Rise up, O Lord, in strength! We will sing and praise your power!

Because messianic kingship is wholly dependent on the Great King for its strength, honor, longevity, and authority, the psalm appropriately concludes with an inscription of praise to the Lord. He is the source of “strength” and “might.” The king and his people rejoice in God’s kingship and the blessings he has bestowed on them. The king led in praise (v. 1), and now the people join in (“we will sing and praise,” cf. 20:5).3

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Goldingay 2006, loc. 6428-6434 
  2. Kidner 2008, p. 121 
  3. VanGemeren 2008, p. 234 
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