Psalm 21

The Hebrew expression rendered “to the end” in the Septuagint is commonly understood to mean “to [the] leader” or “to [the] musical director.” Although the Hebrew word natsách is thought to designate the “leader” or “musical director,” this is uncertain.

This psalm is attributed to David and relates to his kingship.

The king rejoiced in YHWH’s strength, evidently meaning the strength manifested in divinely provided assistance to triumph over enemies. Attacking forces and their armaments were no match against this strength. Salvation or deliverance from the foe provided the basis for the king to exult greatly or exceedingly.

Appreciatively, David, as king, acknowledged God’s granting his heart’s (soul’s, LXX) desire and not withholding the request of his lips. The desire of David’s “heart” or inmost self and the prayer of his lips, as revealed in the context of this psalm, would have included a long life and rescue from enemies.

Evidently in response to the king’s requests, YHWH “met” him with goodly blessings. Upon the king’s head, the Most High placed a crown of gold or, according to the Septuagint, of precious stone. In view of the context dealing with triumphs over enemies, this crown likely is a crown of victory and not a royal crown. The words of this psalm may allude to David’s victory over the Ammonites and the crown taken from “Malcam,” possibly meaning the Ammonite god Milcom. (2 Samuel 12:30)

In response to the petition for life, he was granted his request—“length of days” to time without set limits or “for ever and ever.” This probably denotes his being able to enjoy a long life. (Compare Nehemiah 2:3.) Another possibility is that David’s life would continue through the royal line that was divinely promised to remain for eternity.

Because of the salvation or deliverance from enemies he had been divinely granted, David enjoyed great glory or impressive dignity. The Most High had bestowed majesty (glory, LXX) and splendor (magnificence, LXX) upon him.

God had made him most blessed for time without any limits or, according to the Septuagint, would give him a blessing in ages to come or eternally. David experienced gladness from the joy of God’s “face,” meaning either a joy stemming from an awareness of the divine presence or the recognition of divine favor in the form of guidance, aid, and protection.

The introductory “for” (ki, Hebrew; hóti, Greek) may be understood to introduce the reason for David’s having been made divinely blessed and glad. He trusted in YHWH and was confident that, because of the Most High’s “abiding loyalty” (chésed) or “mercy” (éleos, LXX), he would not be shaken or experience a calamitous fall.

Evidently because he was the “anointed one of YHWH,” David referred to his enemies as YHWH’s enemies and persons who hated the Most High. He confidently declared that YHWH’s “hand” would find these enemies and his “right hand” would find these haters, indicating that they would be unable to escape God’s reach and the execution of his judgment against them.

The adversaries would be made a “blazing furnace,” apparently in the sense that they would be brought to their finish as if consumed in the fire. This would happen at the “time” of God’s “face,” or when he would manifest himself to take action. Then, in his wrath, YHWH would “swallow up” or “confound” (LXX) these enemies, and fire would consume them. Their destruction would be complete, with their “fruit” or offspring being killed and thus removed from the land and their “seed” or children ceasing to be among the “sons of men” or humankind.

When fighting against David as YHWH’s anointed one, the foes made themselves God’s enemies, and all their schemes and plots against David were also directed against the Almighty. Therefore, whenever these enemies schemed evil against God and plotted mischief, they would not succeed.

The obscure Hebrew text of 21:12[13] may be understood to mean that the enemies would be forced to turn back in flight on account of YHWH’s readying his “bowstrings” to shoot arrows at their “face.” Another possibility is that YHWH is represented as being ahead of them as they fled, prepared to aim arrows directly at their “face” or bringing about their destruction. Their attempts to escape would fail. (See the Notes section.)

On account of the deliverance YHWH had effected, he would be exalted in his strength or his mightiness would be revealed in an impressive way. This would provide the basis for all who shared in the deliverance to “sing” about and “praise” his might or “mighty deeds” (LXX).


Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.

The meaning of the Hebrew expression “selah” (21:2[3]) is not known. In the Septuagint, the expression is rendered diápsalma, understood to mean “pause” or “musical interlude.”

In 21:7(8), the Hebrew word chésed may be understood to denote graciousness, abiding loyalty, and mercy. It is a compassionate care and loving concern that expresses itself in action. In the Septuagint, the corresponding word is éleos (mercy, pity, or compassion).

The words about turning back (21:12[13]) are obscure in the Masoretic Text (“you will make them a shoulder”). Equally obscure is the Septuagint rendering (“you will make them a back”), with the remainder of the verse differing from the Masoretic Text in not mentioning “bowstrings” (“in your remaining ones, you will prepare their face”). The Septuagint rendering could mean that God would make the enemies a “back” that turns away in flight; and with the “remnants” or “remaining ones” of his people (the Israelite survivors), he would prepare the “face” of the enemies for their downfall.