1-4 | The psalmist declares God’s faithfulness and His covenant with David
5-10 | The psalmist praises God and His greatness
11-18 | The psalmist declares the nature of God’s reign
19-29 | God’s commitment to David
30-37 | God’s promise to keep His covenant
38-45 | The psalmist speaks of God’s turning from keeping His covenant
46-48 | How long can a man live away from God
49-51 | The psalmist’s desire to return to God’s favor
52 | Bless the Lord!
Like many of the psalms, this is a psalm that remembers God’s covenant promises, in particular His covenant with David, and beseeches God to keep and uphold His covenant. For that reason it is described as a royal psalm.1 What was happening that prompted the penning of this psalm is entirely certain.
The authorship is attributed to Ethan the Ezrahite (possibly the son of Zerah), who is mentioned only here and in I Kings 4:31, where he is listed as one of the wise men during Solomon’s time, along with the writer of Psalms 88, Heman. Altogether there are eight references to the name Ethan and all are in the Old Testament, of which there could have been 3 or 4 individuals, based on references to their fathers and relatives, the present one and members of the Levitical order who were singers in the temple.
1 Kings 4:31 NASB For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations.
1 Chronicles 2:6 NASB The sons of Zerah were Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol and Dara; five of them in all.
1 Chronicles 2:8 NASB The son of Ethan was Azariah.
1 Chronicles 6:42 NASB the son of Ethan, the son of Zimmah, the son of Shimei,
1 Chronicles 6:44 NASB On the left hand were their kinsmen the sons of Merari: Ethan the son of Kishi, the son of Abdi, the son of Malluch,
1 Chronicles 15:17 NASB So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel, and from his relatives, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and from the sons of Merari their relatives, Ethan the son of Kushaiah,
1 Chronicles 15:19 NASB So the singers, Heman, Asaph and Ethan were appointed to sound aloud cymbals of bronze;
Psalms 89:1 NASB A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite. I will sing of the lovingkindness of the LORD forever; To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.
As to what prompted the writing, it could be the coming of the end of the southern kingdom and it being carried into captivity or it could be something that was taking place during the actual reign of David. Regardless, it is a psalm that is reflecting on God’s promise to keep His covenant and His faithfulness in keeping it up to this point.
Sometimes our perspective limits our ability to see how God is working or why He is allowing something to happen in the lives of His people. Yes, God is faithful! Yes, God is able to keep His covenantal promises! Does He allow things to happen that don’t always make sense at the time? The answer again is Yes.
Hopefully, we will have the same perspective as the psalmist as he closes the psalm.
Psalms 89:52 NASB Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.
Lord God, Heavenly Father, You are faithful and do uphold Your covenant promises, both for good and discipline. Help us to live faithful to You and to seek to honor You in all we do. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 – Walvoord, John, and Roy Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old & New Testament. Victor Books; e-Sword, 1983.