Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
Psalm 72 bears a title “For Solomon” which Augustine immediately notes does not entirely work. Some of the things spoken in the Psalm cannot apply to Solomon, but, when Augustine considers that Solomon’s name means “peace maker” the difficulty is overcome, as Jesus, the true peace maker fulfills the Psalm (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330380). Verse one asks for justice and judgment from God to be possessed. Augustine notes that Jesus, the Son of David, is the just judge (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330390). The purpose of the wise judgment, in verse two, is to bring just judgment to God’s people. Augustine especially notes the parallel statement, referring to “Thy poor.” God’s people who particularly need just judgment are poor. Particularly, Augustine finds that God’s mercy is poured on the “poor in spirit” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330400).
Verse three personifies the mountains and hills, which are seen as God’s messengers of peace and justice. Augustine sees these as the prominent people in the Church, with the greater ones providing the greater teaching (peace) and their followers providing lesser teaching (justice). Augustine sees that true peace is first, but attempts at justice which evade peace are damaging (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330421). Again, the goal (v. 4) is to care for the poor. Augustine considers this a bold rejection of the devil and his accusations against the poor (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330443).
Verse five, speaking of the king’s endurance, draws out some linguistic analysis. Augustine is not entirely happy with the Latin used to translate the Greek of the Septuagint here, but he concedes there is not an adequate Latin word because of the connotation of remaining forever “with” his people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330453). The view of eternity is also a challenge as there were possibly different connotations for endurance”as the sun” or “as the moon.” Augustine generally considers the view of the sun as more appropriate (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330464).
Verse six continues with reference to Gideon. Augustine again takes Jesus to be the fulfiller of this image (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330485). The image of Gideon with the fleece and the distilling of drops is applicable to those who believe Christ. Augustine specifically notes the failure of Jews to believe, hence seeing them as dry ground (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330495).
The justice and peace of God arises until the moon is taken away (v. 7). Augustine observes that the word for removal can also indicate exaltation, which does not make much sense in the context (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330495). The work of God in Christ, destroying his enemies, and particularly death, will last to the end of the world. In verse eight, not only is God the eternal lord but he is also the lord of the entire world. So, in verse nine, the Ethiopians will bow down to God. Augustine sees this as signifying all nations worshiping God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330527). He sees this standing against the tendency for schisms within the Church. There is an expectation here of unity within a universal Church (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330537).
Augustine observes in verse 10 that the kings will bring gifts and “lead presents.” Those things which are led are able to walk. Augustine asks if the Psalmist is speaking of sacrificial victims. Yet, based on verse 11, Augustine things these are people, not for sacrifice, but serving God. The reason for the service is also recognized in the Psalm, when verse 12 speaks of needy people being delivered from the mighty (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330548).
Verse 13 speaks further of God’s work to spare the helpless. Augustine asks if this should be understood as God taking pleasure (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330558). He then speaks of two distinct actions in salvation - forgiveness and imputation of righteousness. The picture of sin is made more clear in verse 14, where usury and iniquity are joined. Sin and debt are typically considered as one, since the idea of bondage is common to both. In release from sin, the bondage is released and the freed person is presentable in the sight of God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330569). Verse 15 calls this life. Augustine notes it is not simply life but eternal life in the presence of God, who holds all the wisdom of the Gentiles (gold of Arabia) (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330580).
In verse 16, God makes a firmament on earth. Augustine sees this as the solidity of God’s promises which are established on the authority of Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330590). This is how God provides for all creation, through the earthly means we see around us. At the same time the earthly means are shadows of the heavenly realities which do not pass away (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330611).
The end of the matter is that God is exalted (v. 17). He lasts forever and blesses the whole world in the seed of Abraham (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330622). He is blessed forever, as proclaimed in a doxology in verses 18-19.