The Messiah sits in his kingdom at the right hand of God, his enemies being subdued under him, Psalm 110:1, Psalm 110:2. The nature and extent of his government, Psalm 110:3. His everlasting priesthood, Psalm 110:4. His execution of justice and judgment, Psalm 110:5, Psalm 110:6. The reason on which all this is founded, his passion and exaltation, Psalm 110:7.
The Hebrew, and all the Versions, except the Arabic, attribute this Psalm to David: nor can this be doubted, as it is thus attributed in the New Testament. We have in it the celebration of some great potentates accession to the crown; but the subject is so grand, the expressions so noble, and the object raised so far above what can be called human, that no history has ever mentioned a prince to whom a literal application of this Psalm can be made. To Jesus Christ alone, to his everlasting priesthood and government, as King of kings and Lord of lords, can it be applied.
The Jews, aware of the advantage which the Christian religion must derive from this Psalm, have labored hard and in vain to give it a contrary sense. Some have attributed it to Eliezer, the servant or steward of Abraham; and state that he composed it on the occasion of his master's victory over the four kings at the valley of Shaveh, Genesis 14: Others say it was done by David, in commemoration of his victory over the Philistines. Others make Solomon the author. Some refer it to Hezekiah, and others to Zerubbabel, etc.: but the bare reading of the Psalm will show the vanity of these pretensions. A King is described here who is David's Lord, and sits at the right hand of God; a conqueror, reigning at Jerusalem, King from all eternity - having an everlasting priesthood, Judge of all nations, triumphing over all potentates, indefatigable in all his operations, and successful in all his enterprises. Where has there ever appeared a prince in whom all these characters met? There never was one, nor is it possible that there ever can be one such, the Person excepted to whom the Psalm is applied by the authority of the Holy Spirit himself. That the Jews who lived in the time of our Lord believed this Psalm to have been written by David, and that it spoke of the Messiah alone, is evident from this, that when our Lord quoted it, and drew arguments from it in favor of his mission, Matthew 22:42, they did not attempt to gainsay it. St. Peter, Acts 2:34, and St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 5:6, Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:13, apply it to show that Jesus is the Messiah. Nor was there any attempt to contradict them; not even an intimation that they had misapplied it, or mistaken its meaning. Many of the later Jews also have granted that it applied to the Messiah, though they dispute its application to Jesus of Nazareth. All the critics and commentators whom I have consulted apply it to our Lord; nor does it appear to me to be capable of interpretation on any other ground. Before I proceed to take a general view of it, I shall set down the chief of the various readings found in the MSS. on this Psalm.
Psalm 110:1; Said unto my Lord. Instead of לאדני ladoni, "my Lord," one MS. seems to have read ליהוה layhovah, "Jehovah said unto Jehovah, 'Sit thou on my right hand,'" etc. See De Rossi.
Thy footstool. לרגליך הדם hadom leragleycha, "the footstool to thy feet." But eight MSS. drop the prefix ל le ; and read the word in the genitive case, with the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Arabic. Many also read the word in the singular number.
Psalm 110:3; Instead of קדש בהדרי behadrey kodesh, "in the beauties of holiness," קדש בהררי beharerey kodesh, "in the mountains of holiness," is the reading of thirty our of Kennicott's MSS., and fifty-three of those of De Rossi, and also of several printed editions.
Instead of ילדתך yaldutheca, "of thy youth," ילדתיך yaladticha, "I have begotten thee," is the reading, as to the consonants, of sixty-two of Kennicott's and twenty-three of De Rossi's MSS., and of some ancient editions, with the Septuagint, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon.
Psalm 110:4; After the order, דברתי על al dibrathi, דברתו dibratho, "His order," is the reading of twelve of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS.
Psalm 110:5; The Lord, אדני adonai : but יהוה Yehovah is the reading of a great number of the MSS. in the above collections.
Psalm 110:6; Instead of בגוים baggoyim, "among the heathens" or nations, גוים goyim, "he shall judge the heathen," is the reading of one ancient MS.
Instead of ראש rosh, "the head," ראשי rashey, "the heads," is the reading of one MS., with the Chaldee, Septuagint, Vulgate, and Anglo-Saxon.
Psalm 110:7; For ירים yarim, "he shall lift up," ירום yarom, "shall be lifted up," is tthe reading of six MSS. and the Syriac.
Instead of ראש rosh, "The head," ראשו rosho, "His head," is the reading of two MSS. and the Syriac.
A few add יה הללו halelu Yah, "Praise ye Jehovah;" but this was probably taken from the beginning of the following Psalm.
The learned Venema has taken great pains to expound this Psalm: he considers it a Divine oracle, partly relating to David's Lord, and partly to David himself.
- David's Lord is here inducted to the highest honor, regal and sacerdotal, with the promise of a most flourishing kingdom, founded in Zion, but extending every where, till every enemy should be subdued.
The Lord said unto my Lord - Jehovah said unto my Adoni. That David's Lord is the Messiah, is confirmed by our Lord himself and by the apostles Peter and Paul, as we have already seen.
Sit thou at my right hand - This implies the possession of the utmost confidence, power, and preeminence.
Until I make thine enemies - Jesus shall reign till all his enemies are subdued under him. Jesus Christ, as God, ever dwelt in the fullness of the Godhead; but it was as God-man that, after his resurrection, he was raised to the right hand of the Majesty on high, ever to appear in the presence of God for us.
The rod of thy strength - The Gospel - the doctrine of Christ crucified; which is the powerful scepter of the Lord that bought us, is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword; and is the power of God to salvation to all them that believe.
The kingdom of our Lord was to be founded in Zion, and thence, by gradual conquests, to be extended over the whole earth. It was in Zion the preaching of the Gospel first began; and it is by the Gospel that Christ rules, even in the midst of his enemies; for the Gospel extends a moralizing influence over multitudes who do not receive it to their salvation.
Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power - This verse has been wofully perverted. It has been supposed to point out the irresistible operation of the grace of God on the souls of the elect, thereby making them willing to receive Christ as their Savior. Now, whether this doctrine be true or false it is not in this text, nor can it receive the smallest countenance from it. There has been much spoken against the doctrine of what is called free will by persons who seem not to have understood the term. Will is a free principle. Free will is as absurd as bound will, it is not will if it be not free; and if it be bound it is no will. Volition is essential to the being of the soul, and to all rational and intellectual beings. This is the most essential discrimination between matter and spirit. Matter can have no choice; Spirit has. Ratiocination is essential to intellect; and from these volition is inseparable. God uniformly treats man as a free agent; and on this principle the whole of Divine revelation is constructed, as is also the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. If man be forced to believe, he believes not at all; it is the forcing power that believes, not the machine forced. If he be forced to obey, it is the forcing power that obeys; and he, as a machine, shows only the effect of this irresistible force. If man be incapable of willing good, and nilling evil, he is incapable of being saved as a rational being; and if he acts only under an overwhelming compulsion, he is as incapable of being damned. In short, this doctrine reduces him either to a punctum stans, which by the vis inertiae is incapable of being moved but as acted upon by foreign influence; or, as an intellectual being, to nonentity. "But if the text supports the doctrine laid upon it, vain are all these reasonings." Granted. Let us examine the text. The Hebrew words are the following: חילך ביום נדבת עמך ammecha nedaboth beyom cheylecha, which literally translated are, Thy princely people, or free people, in the day of thy power; and are thus paraphrased by the Chaldee: "Thy people, O house of Israel, who willingly labor in the law, thou shalt be helped by them in the day that thou goest to battle."
The Syriac has: "This praiseworthy people in the day of thy power."
The Vulgate: "With thee is the principle or origin (principium) in the day of thy power." And this is referred, by its interpreters, to the Godhead of Christ; and they illustrate it by John 1:1; : In principio erat Verbum, "In the beginning was the Word."
The Septuagint is the same; and they use the word as St. John has it in the Greek text: Μετα σου ἡ αρχη εν ἡμερᾳ της δυναμεως σου· "With thee is the Arche, or principle, in the day of thy power."
The Ethiopic is the same; and the Arabic nearly so, but rather more express: "The government, riasat, exists with thee in the day of thy power."
The Anglo-Saxon, "With thee the principle in day of thy greatness."
The old Psalter, With the begynnyngs in day of thi vertu. Which it thus paraphrases: "I, the fader begynnyng with the, begynnyng I and thou, an begynnyng of al thyng in day of thi vertu."
Coverdale thus: "In the day of thy power shal my people offre the free-will offeringes with a holy worship." So Tindal, Cardmarden, Beck, and the Liturgic Version.
The Bible printed by Barker, the king's printer, 4th. Lond. 1615, renders the whole verse thus: "Thy people shall come willingly at the time of assembling thine army in the holy beauty; the youth of thy womb shall be as the morning dew."
By the authors of the Universal History, vol. iii., p. 223, the whole passage is thus explained: "The Lord shall send the rod, or scepter, of thy power out of Sion," i.e., out of the tribe of Judah: compare Genesis 49:20, and Psalm 78:68. "Rule thou over thy free-will people;" for none, but such are fit to be Christ's subjects: see Matthew 11:29. "In the midst of thine enemies," Jews and heathens; or, in a spiritual sense, the world, the flesh, and the devil. "In the day of thy power," i.e., when all power shall be given him, both in heaven and earth; Matthew 28:18. "In the beauties of holiness," which is the peculiar characteristic of Christ's reign, and of his religion.
None of the ancient Versions, nor of our modern translations, give any sense to the words that countenances the doctrine above referred to; it merely expresses the character of the people who shall constitute the kingdom of Christ. נדב nadab signifies to be free, liberal, willing, noble; and especially liberality in bringing offerings to the Lord, Exodus 25:2; Exodus 35:21, Exodus 35:29. And נדיב nadib signifies a nobleman, a prince, Job 21:8; and also liberality. נדבה nedabah signifies a free-will offering - an offering made by superabundant gratitude; one not commanded: see Exodus 36:3; Leviticus 7:16, and elsewhere. Now the נדבות עם am nedaboth is the people of liberality - the princely, noble, and generous people; Christ's real subjects; his own children, who form his Church, and are the salt of the world; the bountiful people, who live only to get good from God that they may do good to man. Is there, has there ever been, any religion under heaven that has produced the liberality, the kindness, the charity, that characterize Christianity? Well may the followers of Christ be termed the am nedaboth - the cheerfully beneficent people. They hear his call, come freely, stay willingly, act nobly, live purely, and obey cheerfully.
The day of Christ's power is the time of the Gospel, the reign of the Holy Spirit in the souls of his people. Whenever and wherever the Gospel is preached in sincerity and purity, then and there is the day or time of Christ's power. It is the time of his exaltation. The days of his flesh were the days of his weakness; the time of his exaltation is the day of his power.
In the beauties of holiness - קדש בהדרי behadrey kodesh, "In the splendid garments of holiness." An allusion to the beautiful garments of the high priest. Whatever is intended or expressed by superb garments, they possess, in holiness of heart and life, indicative of their Divine birth, noble dispositions, courage, etc. Their garb is such as becomes the children of so great a King. Or, They shall appear on the mountains of holiness, bringing glad tidings to Zion.
From the womb of the morning - As the dew flows from the womb of the morning, so shall all the godly from thee. They are the dew of thy youth; they are the offspring of thy own nativity. As the human nature of our Lord was begotten by the creative energy of God in the womb of the Virgin; so the followers of God are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but by the Divine Spirit.
Youth may be put here, not only for young men, but for soldiers; - so the Trojana juventus "the Trojan troops," or soldiers, in Virgil, Aen. 1: ver. 467; - and for persons, courageous, heroic, strong, active, and vigorous. Such were the apostles, and first preachers of the Gospel; and, indeed, all genuine Christians. They may be fully compared to dew, for the following reasons: -
- Like dew, they had their origin from heaven.
- Like dew, they fructified the earth.
- Like dew, they were innumerable.
- Like dew, they were diffused over the earth.
- Like dew, they came from the morning; the dawn, the beginning of the Gospel day of salvation.
Little as a human hand?
Now it spreads along the skies,
Hangs o'er all the thirsty land.
Lo, the promise of a shower
Drops already from above;
But the Lord will shortly pour
All the spirit of his love.
The heavenly dew is dropping every where from the womb of the morning; and all the ends of the earth are about to see the salvation of God.
The Lord hath sworn - Has most firmly purposed, and will most certainly perform it, feeling himself bound by his purpose, as an honest man would by his oath.
And will not repent - Will never change this purpose; it is perfectly without condition, and without contingency. Nothing is left here to the will of man or angel. Christ shall be incarnated, and the Gospel of his salvation shall be preached over the whole earth. This is an irresistible decree of that God who loves mankind.
Thou art a priest for ever - The word כהן cohen signifies, not only a priest, but also a prince; as, in the patriarchal times, most heads of families had and exercised both political and sacerdotal authority over all their descendants. Every priest had a threefold office:
- He was an instructor of the family or tribe over which he presided.
Melchizedek was king of Salem, that is, king of Jerusalem; for Salem was its ancient name: but שלם salem signifies peace, and צדק tsedek, righteousness. Christ is styled the Prince of peace; and he is the king that rules in the empire of righteousness; and all peace and righteousness proceed from him, Hebrews 7:2.
He is priest after the order of Melchizedek - after his pattern; in the same kind or manner of way in which this ancient king was priest.
Calmet properly observes that there were three orders of priesthood.
- That of royalty. All ancient kings being, in virture of their office, priests also. This seems to have been considered as the natural right of royalty, as it obtained in almost every nation of the earth, from the beginning of the world down to the end of the Roman empire.
Melchizedek is said to be "without father without mother, without beginning of days, or end of life." We have no account of his parents; nothing of his birth; nothing of his death. Christ, as to his Divine nature, is without father or mother, and without beginning of days; nor can he have any end. Other priests could not continue by reason of death; but he is the Eternal, he cannot die, and therefore can have no successor: "He is a priest For Ever." Therefore, as Melchizedek was a priest and a king, and had no successor, so shall Christ be: of the increase and government of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Melchizedek was priest of the Most High God; and consequently not of one people or nation, but of the universe. Aaron was priest of one people, and for a time only; Jesus is priest of all mankind, and for ever. He tasted death for every man; he is the King eternal; he has the keys of hell and of death. As God is the King and Governor of all human beings, Christ, being the priest of the Most High God, must also be the priest for and over all whom this most high God made and governs; and therefore he is the priest, the atoning sacrifice, of the whole human race. In this the main similitude consists between the order of Melchizedek and that of Christ.
The Lord at thy right hand - Here Venema thinks the Psalm speaks of David. As Jesus is at the right hand of God, so he will be at thy hand, giving thee all the support and comfort requisite.
Shall strike through kings - As he did in the case of Abraham, Genesis 14:1-16, (for to this there seems to be an allusion), where he smote four kings, and filled the pits with the dead bodies of their troops. That the allusion is to the above transaction seems the most probable because in the same chapter, where the defeat of the four kings is mentioned, we have the account of Melehizedek coming to meet Abraham, and receiving the tenth of the spoils.
He shall judge among the heathen - David shall greatly extend his dominion, and rule over the Idumeans, Moabites, Philistines, etc.
He shall fill - with the dead bodies - He shall fill pits - make heaps of slain; there shall be an immense slaughter among his enemies.
He shall wound the heads - He shall so bring down the power of all the neighboring kings, as to cause them to acknowledge him as their lord, and pay him tribute.
He shall drink of the brook in the way - He shall have sore travail, and but little ease and refreshment: but he shall still go on from conquering to conquer.
Therefore shall he lift up the head - Or his head. He shall succeed in all his enterprises, and at last be peaceably settled in his ample dominions.
But these verses, as well as the former, may be applied to our Lord. The fifth verse may be an address to Jehovah: Adonai at thy right hand, O Jehovah, shall smite kings - bring down all powers hostile to his empire, in the day of his wrath - when, after having borne long, he arises and shakes terribly the rulers of the earth.
Psalm 110:6; He shall judge, give laws, among the heathen - send his Gospel to the whole Gentile world. He shall fill the field of battle with the dead bodies of the slain, who had resisted his empire, and would not have him to reign over them.
He shall wound the heads over many countries - This must be spoken against some person possessing a very extensive sway. Perhaps Antichrist is meant; he who has so many countries under his spiritual domination. Christ shall destroy every person, and every thing, which opposes the universal spread of his own empire. He will be a King, as well as a Priest for ever.
Psalm 110:7; He shall drink of the brook - he shall suffer sorely, and even die in the struggle: but in that death his enemies shall all perish; and he shall lift up the head - he shall rise again from the dead, possessing all power in heaven and earth, ascend to the throne of glory, and reign till time shall be no more. He must suffer and die, in order to have the triumphs already mentioned.
While all have acknowledged that this Psalm is of the utmost importance, and that it speaks of Christ's priesthood and victories, it is amazing how various the interpretations are which are given of different passages. I have endeavored to give the general sense in the preceding notes, and to explain all the particular expressions that have been thought most difficult: and by giving the various readings from the MSS., have left it to the learned reader to make farther improvements.
It has, however, long appeared to me that there is a key by which all the difficulties in the Psalm may be unlocked. As this has not been suggested by any other, as far as I know, I shall without apology lay it before the reader: -
The hundred and tenth Psalm is a War Song, and every phrase and term in it is Military.
- In the first place may be considered here the proclamation of the Divine purpose relative to the sacerdotal, prophetic, and regal offices of the Lord Jesus Christ: "Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My Right Hand."
With God eternally shut in."
Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Amen, Amen.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 110". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany