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Psalms 72:20
May its fruit trees flourish like the
May all nations consider him to be fa-
forests of Lebanon! vored by God!11
May its crops be as abundant as the 72:18 The Lord God, the God of Israel,
grass of the earth! deserves praise!12
72:17 May his fame endure! He alone accomplishes amazing things!13
May his dynasty last as long as the sun 72:19 His glorious name deserves praise14
remains in the sky! forevermore!
May they use his name when they formu- May his majestic splendor15 fill the whole
late their blessings!10 earth!
We agree! We agree!16
 tn The antecedent of the third masculine singular pro- 72:20 This collection of the prayers of
nominal suffix is unclear. It is unlikely that the antecedent is David son of Jesse ends here.17
‫’( אֶ רֶ ץ‬erets, “earth”) because this noun is normally grammati-
cally feminine. Perhaps ‫ֹאש‬ ׁ ‫( ר‬ro’sh, “top [of the mountains]”) flexive or reciprocal and translate, “all the nations of the earth
is the antecedent. Another option is to understand the pro- will pronounce blessings [i.e., on themselves or one another]
noun as referring to the king, who would then be viewed as an by your offspring.” In the first instance Abraham’s (or Isaac’s)
instrument of divine agricultural blessing (see v. 6). offspring are viewed as a channel of divine blessing. In the
 tn Heb “fruit.” second instance they are viewed as a prime example of bless-
 tc According to the traditional accentuation of the MT, ing that will appear as part of the nations’ blessing formulae,
this verb belongs with what follows. See the note on the word but not necessarily as a channel of blessing to the nations.
“earth” at the end of the verse for a discussion of the po- In Deut 29:18 one reads: “When one hears the words of this
etic parallelism and interpretation of the verse. The present covenant [or “oath”] and invokes a blessing on himself (Hitpa-
translation takes it with the preceding words, “like Lebanon el of ‫ ) ּ ָברַ ְך‬in his heart, saying: ‘I will have peace, even though
its fruit” and emends the verb form from ּ‫( וְ י ִָציצו‬vÿyatsitsu; Qal I walk with a rebellious heart.’” In this case the Hitpael is
imperfect third masculine plural with prefixed vav, [‫ )]ו‬to ‫י ִָציץ‬ clearly reflexive, as the phrases “in his heart” and “I will have
(yatsits; Qal imperfect third masculine singular). The initial vav peace” indicate. The Hitpael of ‫ ּ ָברַ ְך‬appears twice in Isaiah
is eliminated as dittographic (note the vav on the ending of 65:16: “The one who invokes a blessing on himself (see Deut
the preceding form ‫ ִּפ ְרי ֹו‬, piryo, “its/his fruit”) and the vav at 9:18) in the land will invoke that blessing by the God of truth;
the end of the form is placed on the following emended form and the one who makes an oath in the land will make that
(see the note on the word “crops”), yielding ‫( ַוע ֲִמיר‬va’amir, oath by the God of truth.” A passive nuance does not fit here.
“and [its] crops”). The parallel line, which mentions making an oath, suggests
 tn Heb “like Lebanon.” that the Hitpael of ‫ ּ ָברַ ְך‬refers here to invoking a blessing. Both
 tc The MT has “from the city.” The translation assumes an pronouncements of blessing and oaths will appeal to God as
emendation to ‫’( ע ֲִמיר‬amir, “crops”). the one who rewards and judges, respectively. Jer 4:2 states:
 tn The translation assumes that the verb ‫“( צוץ‬flourish”) “If you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ with truth, integ-
goes with the preceding line. The words “be as abundant” are rity, and honesty, then the nations will pronounce blessings
supplied in the translation for clarification. by him and boast in him.” A passive nuance might work (“the
 tc The traditional accentuation and vocalization of the MT nations will be blessed”), but the context refers to verbal pro-
differ from the text assumed by the present translation. The nouncements (swearing an oath, boasting), suggesting that
MT reads as follows: “May there be an abundance of grain the Hitpael of ‫ ּ ָברַ ְך‬refers here to invoking a blessing. The log-
in the earth, / and on the tops of the mountains! / May its ic of the verse seems to be as follows: If Israel conducts its
[or “his”?] fruit [trees?] rustle like [the trees of] Lebanon! / affairs with integrity, the nation will be favored by the Lord,
May they flourish from the city, like the grass of the earth!” which will in turn attract the surrounding nations to Israel’s
If one follows the MT, then it would appear that the “fruit” of God. To summarize, while the evidence might leave the door
the third line is a metaphorical reference to the king’s peo- open for a passive interpretation, there is no clear cut pas-
ple, who flow out from the cities to populate the land (see sive use. Usage favors a reflexive or reciprocal understand-
line 4). Elsewhere in the OT people are sometimes compared ing of the Hitpael of ‫ ּ ָברַ ְך‬. In Ps 72:17 the Hitpael of ‫ ּ ָברַ ְך‬is fol-
to grass that sprouts up from the land (see v. 7, as well as lowed by the prepositional phrase ‫( ב ֹו‬vo, “by him”). The verb
Isa 27:6; Pss 92:7; 103:15). The translation understands a could theoretically be taken as passive, “may all the nations
different poetic structural arrangement and, assuming the be blessed through him” (cf. NIV, NRSV), because the preced-
emendations mentioned in earlier notes, interprets each line ing context describes the positive effects of this king’s rule on
of the verse to be a prayer for agricultural abundance. the inhabitants of the earth. But the parallel line, which em-
 tn Heb “may his name [be] permanent.” The prefixed ver- ploys the Piel of ‫’( ָא ׁ ַשר‬ashar) in a factitive/declarative sense,
bal form is jussive, not imperfect. “regard as happy, fortunate,” suggests a reflexive or recipro-
 tn Heb “before the sun may his name increase.” The Ket- cal nuance for the Hitpael of ‫ ּ ָברַ ְך‬here. If the nations regard
hib (consonantal text) assumes ‫( יָנִ ין‬yanin; a Hiphil of the ver- the ideal king as a prime example of one who is fortunate or
bal root ‫נִ ין‬, nin) or ‫( יְ ַניֵן‬yÿnayen; a Piel form), while the Qere blessed, it is understandable that they would use his name in
(marginal reading) assumes ‫( יִנּ וֹן‬yinnon; a Niphal form). The their pronouncements of blessing.
11 tn Heb “all the nations, may they regard him as happy.”
verb ‫ נִ ין‬occurs only here, though a derived noun, meaning
“offspring,” appears elsewhere (see Isa 14:22). The verb ap- The Piel is used here in a delocutive sense (“regard as”).
12 tn Heb “[be] blessed.” See Pss 18:46; 28:6; 31:21;
pears to mean “propagate, increase” (BDB 630 s.v. ‫נוּן‬, ‫ )נִ ין‬or
“produce shoots, get descendants” (HALOT 696 s.v. ‫)נין‬. In 41:13.
13 tn Heb “[the] one who does amazing things by himself.”
this context this appears to be a prayer for a lasting dynasty
that will keep the king’s name and memory alive. 14 tn Heb “[be] blessed.”
10 tn Heb “may they bless one another by him,” that is, use 15 tn Or “glory.”
the king’s name in their blessing formulae because he is a 16 tn Heb “surely and surely” (‫וְאמֵ ן‬ ָ ‫’[ ָאמֵ ן‬amen vÿ’amen],
prime example of one blessed by God (for examples of such i.e., “Amen and amen”). This is probably a congregational
blessing formulae, see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11). There is response of agreement to the immediately preceding state-
some debate on whether the Hitpael form of ‫( ּ ָברַ ְך‬barakh, ment about the propriety of praising God.
“bless”) is reflexive-reciprocal (as assumed in the present 17 tn Heb “the prayers of David, son of Jesse, are conclud-
translation) or passive. The Hitpael of ‫ ּ ָברַ ְך‬occurs in five other ed.” As noted earlier, v. 20 appears to be a remnant of an
passages, including the hotly debated Gen 22:18 and 26:4. earlier collection of psalms or an earlier edition of the Psal-
In these two texts one could understand the verb form as pas- ter. In the present arrangement of the Book of Psalms, not
sive and translate, “all the nations of the earth will be blessed all psalms prior to this are attributed to David (see Pss 1-2,
through your offspring,” or one could take the Hitpael as re- 10, 33, 42-50, 66-67, 71-72) and several psalms attributed