Psalm 89


This psalm is Messianic in nature and some commentators suggest the historical setting appears to take place during the reign of Jehoiachin, where the long dynasty of Davidic kings were under real threat of coming to any end.

This psalm is the third longest psalm we find within the book, Psalm 78 / Psalm 119, are longer.


‘A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite’.

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

No one really knows what the word ‘maskil’ means, some believe it’s a musical term or a literary term. The word is used thirteen times throughout the Psalms, Psalm 32 / Psalm 42 / Psalm 44 / Psalm 45 / Psalm 52 / Psalm 53 / Psalm 54 / Psalm 55 / Psalm 74 / Psalm 78 / Psalm 88 / Psalm 89 / Psalm 142. The word is also used in Amos 5:13.

Although Ethan is a popular name in the Old Testament, Ethan the Ezrahite is a man who is specifically mentioned in 1 Kings 4:31, as someone who was more famous than Solomon for his wisdom. He was also the founder of one of the three choirs, 1 Chronicles 15:19 / 2 Chronicles 5:12.

‘I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.’” Psalm 89:1-4

Ethan begun his psalm by saying he will use his mouth to sing of the LORD’s great love forever, and he will use his mouth to make known His faithfulness through all generations. In other words, He wanted others in his generation and the generation to come to know of God’s great love and faithfulness.

He wants all generations to know of God’s love which stands firm forever, Isaiah 55:3, and his faithfulness is established in heaven, Jeremiah 33:20-21.

Upon the foundation of David, God built the Davidic dynasty. This fulfilled the promise and covenant that God had made with David, 2 Samuel 7:11-17.

Ethan notes that God had made a covenant with his chosen one, David, a promise in which He would build and establish the house of David, 2 Samuel 2:16. He promised to establish David’s household forever and establish his throne, that is, his kingdom through all generations, 2 Samuel 7:12-13 / 1 Kings 2:4.

These promises were partly fulfilled in Solomon, who was David’s son, but it would be completely fulfilled in Christ, who was known as the son of David, Matthew 12:23 / Acts 2:30.

Coffman, in his commentary says the following.

‘Apparently, the thought never entered either the mind of David himself, or that of any other Israelite, that the kingdom God promised was not a kingdom of this world, but a SPIRITUAL kingdom. The entire conception of an earthly kingdom of Israel was sinful in its inception, absolutely contrary to God’s will, and constituting, through Israel’s demand that they should have such a kingdom, Israel’s rejection of God Himself, 1 Samuel 8:7.’

‘In this light it appears to us as wholly the fault of Israel that they should have believed that ‘the everlasting kingdom’ which God promised them would be any kind of a literal earthly monarchy. God told them at the very beginning of that earthly kingdom they so much desired just exactly what such a kingdom would be like, 1 Samuel 8:10-18.’

You may notice at the end of verse four, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine Ethan pausing for a breath as he contemplates the greatness of God’s love and faithfulness to His promises.

‘The heavens praise your wonders, LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies. The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name. Your arm is endowed with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.’ Psalm 89:5-14

Ethan now not only praises God for His great love and faithfulness, but he also praises God in the assembly of the holy ones, for His wonderful work in creation, Psalm 19:1-6.

The ‘holy ones’ are probably a reference to angels, God is feared among them and more powerful than any of them. God is to be held in reverence by all those around Him and all of mankind should fear Him, which will result in their obedience to Him.

Ethan knows there is no-one compared to the LORD, God Almighty, he knows that there is no one as mighty as God, Romans 8:38 / Ephesians 1:21, nothing compares to God, Isaiah 40:25.

His might is seen in the way He controls the seas and the waves. His might is shown in the way He crushed Rahab, and scattered Israel’s enemies. Rahab whose name means the proud one is often personified to speak of proud and strong Egypt, Job 26:12-13 / Psalm 87:4.

Ethan declares that the heavens and the earth belong to God, since He was the One created all of creation. His power is seen in that He created everything from the north to the south.

Tabor and Hermon are two mountains and are used to describe God’s power over His creation, Psalm 8 / Romans 1:20. Everything belongs to Him since He created everything.

Notice Ethan describes God has having an arm and a right hand, this is obviously figuratively speaking as God doesn’t have physical arms and hands, Deuteronomy 5:15 / Deuteronomy 7:8 / Deuteronomy 7:19 / John 4:24. The emphasis here is on the strength of God among all the people of the earth, in other words, there’s no one who is as strong as He is.

Because God is powerful over all things, He is the finality of justice and judgment among men. He is the final moral standard by which all will be judged.

God and God alone has the right to reign and righteousness and justice are His foundation, while love and faithfulness go before Him, that is, they announce the coming of the Judge.

‘Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favour you exalt our horn. Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.’ Psalm 89:15-18

Ethan proclaims that those who are aware of God’s might, His righteousness, justice, mercy and faithfulness are truly blessed. Those who walk in the light of His presence are blessed and rejoice in His Name and celebrate His righteousness, Leviticus 23:24 / Numbers 10:10 / Psalm 27:6.

God’s people are blessed because God is their glory and strength, He exalts their horn, that is, He increases their power, Psalm 75:4 / Daniel 7:8 / Job 16:15. God’s people are blessed because their shield, their king is David, God’s chosen king.

‘Once you spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: “I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have raised up a young man from among the people. I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him. The enemy will not get the better of him; the wicked will not oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him, and through my name his horn will be exalted. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers. He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Saviour.’ And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure. “If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging; but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered. Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—and I will not lie to David—that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.” Psalm 89:19-37

Ethan describes a vision in which God spoke through Nathan the prophet and promised to strengthen and help David, 2 Samuel 7:4-17.

It was God who chose David to be His anointed servant, 1 Samuel 13:14, and it was God who would sustain him, strengthen him, protect and defend him from his enemies, Psalm 2.

God had made a covenant with David that from his seed there would be kings in Israel. Peter quotes Psalm 89:3-4 in Acts 2:30, and Paul quotes Psalm 89:20 in Acts 13:22-23.

The purpose of the genealogies of Jesus were to establish the fact that Jesus was of the lineage of David, and so, He had a right to sit on the throne of David and reign as king, which reign Jesus is presently doing from heaven, Acts 2:22-36.

God would set his hand over the sea, Mark 4:39-41, that is, the Mediterranean Sea, and his right hand over the rivers, that is, the Tigris and Euphrates. Although this promised dominion was never fulfilled by David, they were fulfilled in Christ, the son of David, Isaiah 9:6-7 / Daniel 7:14 / 1 Peter 3:22.

He will call to God and say you are my Father, my God, the Rock my Saviour, this is an obvious reference to Jesus who was totally dependent upon the Father, John 5:19 / John 8:28.

God will make him His firstborn, this was true of Israel as a nation, they were God’s firstborn, Exodus 4:22. This was true of David despite being the youngest in his family, 1 Samuel 16:11, God blessed him with the status of a firstborn son.

It’s even more true when we look to Jesus, the Messiah as the King of kings and Lord of lords, Romans 8:29 / 1 Timothy 6:15 / Revelation 19:16.

David’s house was promised love in the covenant God made with him, 2 Samuel 7:15. God established a sure and steadfast covenant with the seed of David, 2 Samuel 7:16. It was ‘forever’ in the sense that Jesus was the last of David’s seed who would reign as king, John 12:15 / John 18:37 / Revelation 1:5 / Revelation 17:14.

If any of David’s sons, forsake God’s law and don’t follow His statutes, if they violate His decrees and fail to keep His commands, then there will be consequences for their disobedience. God will punish their sin with the rod and their iniquity with flogging, in other words, their punishment was going to be painful.

Even if the children were disobedient to the will of God, God wouldn’t forsake His promise to David, He would be faithful to His word, 2 Samuel 7:14-16.

When Jesus came to earth, the Jews had failed to keep God’s laws, but God still fulfilled His promise to place Jesus on the throne of David, John 1:10-14.

God established Jesus on the throne of David because He wouldn’t break His covenant with David. Because God was faithful to His covenant with David, Jesus is now reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords, 1 Timothy 6:15.

When God makes a covenant with man, He won’t break His covenant, 2 Samuel 7:14-16 / 2 Samuel 23:5 / Psalm 60:6 / Hebrews 6:13-20, or lie about it, 2 Samuel 7:8-16. Though man may be disobedient to the will of God, God will be true to His promises as the sun and moon are established in the heavens.

You may notice at the end of verse thirty-seven, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine Ethan pausing for a breath as he contemplates the faithfulness of God to keep His promises.

‘But you have rejected, you have spurned, you have been very angry with your anointed one. You have renounced the covenant with your servant and have defiled his crown in the dust. You have broken through all his walls and reduced his strongholds to ruins. All who pass by have plundered him; he has become the scorn of his neighbours. You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice. Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword and have not supported him in battle. You have put an end to his splendour and cast his throne to the ground. You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with a mantle of shame.’ Psalm 89:38-45

Ethan now changes his tone, as he thinks about some present crises. He says that God has rejected, spurned and become angry with His anointed one. Ethan knows that God hadn’t forsaken the covenant, but in the present crisis it felt like it.

It appears that the king himself, that is, either David, Solomon or another king, probably Jehoichin, was personally affected and weekend by the crisis. Ethan felt because the kings days had been shortened and he was covered in shame, that God’s covenant wasn’t being kept during this crisis.

Some commentators suggest that this is the time when the southern kingdom of Israel, Judah, were being led into captivity, because of their disobedience. That captivity began with the initial captivity of Jehoiachin and ended with the final captivity in 586 B.C.

To those Jews who were experiencing the toughness of captivity, it felt as if God had nullified His covenant and cast down the crown of David. It was the end of Israel’s habitation in the land, and so, the people of God became a shame to the name of God among the nations.

You may notice at the end of verse forty-five, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine Ethan pausing for a breath as he contemplates on his present crisis and God’s promise regarding the king.

‘How long, LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all humanity! Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave? Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David? Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked, how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations, the taunts with which your enemies, LORD, have mocked, with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one. Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.’ Psalm 89:46-52

It appears that Ethan under the present crisis, wanted to know how long they were going to go through what they were experiencing. He felt that God was hiding Himself from them, that is, he felt God had abandoned them. He felt that God was angry with them, and their king.

Some commentators suggest that Israel was aware that they were being punished for their apostasy from God. They had evidently been listening to Jeremiah who said that they would go into captivity, Jeremiah 29:10 / Jeremiah 30:16.

Ethan asks God to remember how fleeting life is, which indicates that he’s desperate, Psalm 39:5. He asks God who can live and not die and who can escape the power of the grave?

The answers to these questions is obviously, no-one. There has only been One with the power to deliver His life from the power of the grave and that was Jesus Christ, John 2:19.

You may notice at the end of verse forty-eight, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine Ethan pausing for a breath as he contemplates if God has abandoned them.

Although in despair, Ethan appeals to God on the basis of what God had promised and swore to David.

Some commentators suggest that he’s pleading the case of Israel that was based on the fleetness of life, and then he pleads that God will remember His love and faithfulness He showed Israel in the past. God did remember His former love and faithfulness, when He allowed them to return from captivity.

He also appeals to God on the basis of how Israel were mocked and taunted by their enemies and enemies of God’s anointed king. Despite suffering, despite feeling abandoned by God, despite feeling that God was angry with Israel, Ethan still found it necessary to finish by praising God.

Notice he encourages everyone to say the ‘Amen’ twice, and it’s with these words, which conclude the third book of the five books of the psalms.


Ethan ended his psalm by saying ‘amen, amen’. This is used for emphasising purposes; the writer is emphasising the importance of what has been said, Numbers 5:22 / Psalms 41:13 / Psalms 72:19.

The only greater emphasis possible in Jewish literature is to say it or write it three times and that’s only reserved when referring to God where it’s said that He is ‘holy, holy, holy’, Isaiah 6:3.

The word, ‘amen’ in the Bible means just about the same thing in Hebrew in the Old Testament as it does in Greek in the New Testament, it means ‘so be it,’ or ‘it is so,’ and implies truth and verity.

Saying the ‘amen’ is common place for Christians, usually it’s said after a prayer, sometimes it said during or after the Word has been preached.

Like so many things we practice in Christianity, there’s a real danger of saying the ‘amen’ out of habit and without thinking about what it is we’re actually saying. There’s also the danger that it just becomes a byword for ending a prayer or sermon with its meaning lost.

With no disrespect to anyone, over the years I’ve heard countless prayers and countless sermons where I haven’t said the ‘amen’, simply because I haven’t clearly understood what was being said, there are other times I won’t say the ‘amen’, simply because I don’t agree with what has been said or there was no truth in what was said in that prayer or in that sermon.

No Christian should say the ‘amen’ if they don’t agree with or understand something which was said, especially if it wasn’t in accordance with God’s will or in line with His Word. No Christian should say the ‘amen’ just because everyone else does or because they are encouraged to do so by others, Revelation 22:20-21.

Go To Psalm 90


"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."

Romans 10:17