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Bible Commentaries

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 45

Verse 1

PSALM 45

THE PROPHETIC PROTHALAMION FOR CHRIST AND HIS BRIDE

THE NEW JERUSALEM IS THE WIFE OF THE LAMB (Revelation 21:9)

THE HOLY CHURCH IS THE NEW JERUSALEM (Revelation 19:9)

This psalm is called, "A Royal Wedding Song,"[1] "The Celebration of the Marriage of a King,"[2] "A Nuptial Song of a King,"[3] "An Ode for a Royal Marriage,"[4] "The Epithalamium of Jesus Christ and the Christian Church,"[5] "A Wedding Benediction,"[6] etc.

There are two radically different views among modern scholars regarding the nature of this psalm. The critical community agree that, "We deal here with an actual king, not with an ideal future Messiah; who this king was we cannot say."[7]

On the other hand, "There is a tradition of long standing, both in the synagogue and in the church of Christ that this psalm deals with King Messiah and his bride the Church."[8] Of course, that is the correct view; and it has been accepted by both Jewish and Christian scholars for more than a thousand years.

There is still another interpretation that represents a very naive and feeble attempt to harmonize the two views already stated. This method of viewing the psalm applies it to some literal king of Israel, but allows that some of the language might later have been applied to Christ. Such an interpretation is indefensible, illogical and impossible of acceptance. Why? There never was in the history of Israel or of any other nation a King to whom the language of this psalm may be intelligently applied.

Concerning this third `interpretation,' Spurgeon had this to say: "Some see Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter here - they are short-sighted; others see both Solomon and Christ here - they are cross-eyed."[9] We might also ask, `What about those who find Ahab and Jezebel here'? to which we must say - they are blind!

Even the critics admit the Jewish interpretation of this psalm as absolutely Messianic; and Addis gave that Jewish interpretation as the reason why the psalm is in the Canon.[10] Furthermore, we cannot believe that Israel, who was the divinely appointed custodian of the Old Testament, would ever have admitted to the sacred canon of the holy scriptures a psalm that merely celebrated an earthly marriage.

We are not in the least disturbed by the critical assaults upon this psalm. We should have expected it. There is not a prophecy in the Old Testament which they have not attacked; and despite the fact that some commentators have been deceived by such attacks, the simple truth is that "there is no intelligent alternative" to the traditional view which is capable of commending itself to any honest investigator. As Leupold put it, "There are too many fatal weaknesses that mark every other approach."[11]

Many of the authors whose works we have read regarding this psalm are loaded with long pages trying to determine "which king" of Israel was marrying "what princess" in this psalm. All of this type of writing is worthless, because, "Many of the statements here are wholly inapplicable to any human sovereign."[12] "The language used here is of such a transcendental character that it could only be strictly true of the Messiah, the ideal King; and we find it quoted with a Messianic meaning in Hebrews 1:8-9." [13]

The organization of the psalm is: (1) the introduction (Psalms 45:1); (2) address to the King (Psalms 45:2-9); (3) address to the Bride (Psalms 45:10-14), and (4) the conclusion (Psalms 45:16.17).

INTRODUCTION

Psalms 45:1

"My heart overfloweth with a goodly matter;

I speak the things which I have made touching the king:

My tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

"My tongue is the pen of a ready writer" (Psalms 45:1). According to Mowinckel, as quoted by Leupold, "This is a claim of inspiration on the part of the psalmist."[14] It is clear enough indeed that the psalmist here attributes his words, not to himself, but to another.

Verse 2

ADDRESS TO THE KING

"Thou art fairer than the children of men;

Grace is poured into thy lips:

Therefore God hath blessed thee forever."

"Thou art fairer than the children of men." This does not say that He is fairer than other children of men; but the words place Him in a different category from all the children of men, meaning that He is a Divine Person who is the subject of this psalm. Some writers claim "this is not what the psalmist meant"; to which our reply is simply, "that this is surely what he said."

"Grace is poured into thy lips." Who, other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, ever brought the grace of God to all men?

"Therefore God hath blessed thee forever." This was clearly in the mind of Paul when he wrote: "Of whom is Christ, as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God, blessed forever" (Romans 9:5). Who is capable of accepting these words as applicable to any of the historical kings of antiquity, either Jewish or Gentile?

Verse 3

"Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty one,

Thy glory and thy majesty.

And in thy majesty ride on prosperously,

Because of truth and meekness and righteousness:

And thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.

Thine arrows are sharp:

The peoples shall fall under thee;

They are in the heart of the king's enemies."

These verses depict the coming of the Son of God at the end of the age, who will at that time judge the world in righteousness, and receive unto himself his glorious Bride the Church. According to the New Testament, The Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Final Judgment, the Assignment of both the Righteous and the Wicked to their eternal Destinies - all these things are to be simultaneous events at the time of the Second Advent.

"The sword ... thy glory and thy majesty" (Psalms 45:3). According to Rawlinson, the sword of the Lord here is actually called the "glory and majesty" of Him. A similar vision of the Christ coming upon the world for judgment is found in Revelation 19:22ff.

"Terrible things" (Psalms 45:4). This harmonizes with the Biblical view that the coming of Christ in judgment will be a time of "mourning" for "all the tribes of the earth" (Revelation 1:7).

"The peoples shall fall under thee" (Psalms 45:5). The vast majority of mankind living at the time of the Second Advent will be destroyed, according to God's Word (See Matthew 7:13-14; Revelation 6:14ff, etc.); and we believe the tremendous scope of this passage equates it with conditions in the Final Judgment. Note the plural of "peoples" making it a reference to vast populations.

Verse 6

"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever:

The sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness:

Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee

With the oil of gladness above thy fellows."

We have no respect for the devices which men use in order to soften these words, or change their meaning. We know what the meaning is, because the inspired author of the Book of Hebrews has told us. The Hebrew passage reads:

"Who maketh his angels winds,

And his ministers a flame of fire:

But of the Son he saith,

Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever;

And the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity;

Therefore God, thy God hath anointed thee

With the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Hebrews 1:8-9).

In this New Testament passage, the inspired writer quotes from this 45th psalm, affirming that it speaks of "The Son," namely, the Christ, the Son of God; and the feeble voice of unbelievers denying the truth of this is of no significance whatever. Christians who allow so-called `scholars' to pervert the meaning of this passage are making the same mistake that Eve made when she allowed Satan to explain God's Word to her.

Some have tried to make the passage here mean, merely, that "God's throne is forever and ever"; but as Rhodes pointed out, "The poet here uses the word God as he addresses the king."[15] Of course, Rhodes went on to add that, "This does not mean that the poet regarded him literally as God." However, the author of Hebrews affirms that such was indeed his actual meaning; and we have no doubt whatever that the author of Hebrews was correct. The King addressed prophetically here is Christ; and he had every right to be called "God." Indeed Christ is called by that title no less than twelve times in the New Testament.

"Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Psalms 45:7). This is a second time that Christ is prophetically addressed here as God. It is not true that "thy God" is merely a parenthesis; no such parenthesis was necessary to explain the identity of God, there being only one. Therefore, the first God here is a direct address to the Messiah, prophetically.

And this anointing? What is that? It is a reference to the anointing of Christ with the Holy Spirit upon the occasion of his baptism, when the Spirit of God in the form of a dove descended, alighted upon him, and remained. This interpretation derives from the typical anointing oil which was used in the case of Aaron the High Priest.

If this Glorious One loves righteousness and hates iniquity, "It is because God has anointed him with the oil of Gladness";[16] and, of course, there was never any `oil' that could do such a thing. It refers to the Holy Spirit which was typified by the oil that anointed Aaron.

Verse 8

"All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia;

Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made thee glad.

King's daughters are among thy honorable women:

At thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of Ophir."

"Myrrh, aloes and cassia" (Psalms 45:8). The significance of the mention of these spices is in their connection with funerals and their use as a kind of embalmment in the burial of deceased loved ones. When Christ was buried, Joseph of Arimathea received from Pilate permission to receive the body of Jesus; and Nicodemus assisted in the burial by, "Bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in the linen cloths with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury" (John 19:39-40).

"Myrrh was an aromatic resin, and aloes was a sweet-smelling wood from India. Cassia is a dried cinnamon blossom used as incense."[17] In all probability, this was also used in the burial of Jesus, because, "It was one of the perfumes used at funerals."[18]

"All thy garments" (Psalms 45:8). The words `smell of' do not belong in this passage. Translators thought they were clarifying the meaning by their addition, but they misunderstood what the text says. What is stated is that these spices were "all thy garments,"[19] indicating that these were the only `garments' the body of Jesus had in the burial. "The cloths" mentioned in John 19:40 were not garments at all, but medical-type bandages, or strips, with which they bound Jesus' body. (See a full discussion of this in Vol. 4 of my New Testament Series of Commentaries, pp. 447,448.)

The significance of Psalms 45:8 is therefore its indication that "God" who is here addressed would be buried. Yes, God himself, in the person of his Son, died upon the Cross and was buried in the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

And, as for the notion that this verse is speaking about the marriage of some Jewish king, we need only ask, "When did any king ever get `embalmed' for his wedding?

"Out of the ivory palaces" (Psalms 45:8). Oh yes, this is supposed to refer to the so-called `ivory palace' of Ahab; but that royal residence deserved no such designation in spite of the fact that there were indeed plenty of ivory decorations, most of them of the inlaid variety. But, even so, it was only one palace; and many are mentioned here.

The great Christian hymn, Ivory Palaces catches the true meaning in the chorus:

"Out of the ivory palaces

Into a world of woe;

Only his great eternal love

Made my Saviour go."[20]

- Henry Barraclough

The ivory palaces can be nothing less than a poetic designation of the residence of God Himself in the heaven of heavens.

"King's daughters are among thy honorable women" (Psalms 45:9). To us it appears that this is a prophecy of the fact that the most noble and honorable women of the world were precisely those who welcomed the Messiah in his First Advent. Luke 8:2-3 mentions a number of prominent women who actually financed the campaign of Jesus and the Twelve. This pattern continued in the progress of the gospel. Again from Luke, "Many of them therefore believed; also of the Greek women of honorable estate, and of men, not a few" (Acts 17:12).

"At thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of Ophir" (Psalms 45:9). Who is the queen here? Certainly not Jezebel the wife of Ahab, nor one of the 700 wives of Solomon! It is the King's wife, his true and only wife; and since the King is none other than the Messiah, his Bride is the Holy Church, as the scriptures declare (Revelation 19:9; 21:9) See also Ephesians 5:25.

"In gold of Ophir" (Psalms 45:9). This is a reference to the attractiveness, beauty, and desirability of that innumerable company of the Redeemed, who as the Bride of Christ, shall at last be presented unto him, "A glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but ... holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). The gold of Ophir, dazzling as it was to the eyes of Orientals, was only a dim and inadequate suggestion of the true glory of the Church of God.

Verse 10

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE BRIDE

"Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear;

Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house."

At this point, through Psalms 45:15, the inspired psalmist instructs the Bride; and, as we shall see, these are the very instructions that the Messiah himself gave the Bride upon the occasion of his First Advent.

"Forget thine own people ... thy father's house" (Psalms 45:10). Is not this exactly what Jesus said?

"If any man cometh unto me and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple ... So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" - Luke 14:26,33.

Verse 11

"So will the king desire thy beauty;

For he is thy lord, and reverence thou him."

"Reverence thou him." The meaning here is "bow down before him," "worship him," "adore him." "He is thy lord." Certainly, Leupold was correct in his opinion that, "This profitable lesson the church of the Old Testament needed as much as the church of the New Testament needs it now. It is always the first requirement of the Church."[21]

"So will the king desire your beauty." Addis found what he thought to be a contradiction here. "The king is said to desire the beauty of the Bride, while on the contrary religion (Christianity) teaches that Israel must first be united with God and Messiah: then and then only does she become beautiful."[22] There is no contradiction. The King does indeed desire the beauty of the Bride; and the union of that Bride with Himself will never take place unless the Bride indeed "becomes beautiful." The entire dispensation of Christianity is the period in which the Bride, schooled in the Word of God, shall indeed become that "glorious Church" of Ephesians 5:27.

Verse 12

"And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift;

The rich among thy people shall entreat thy favor."

Tyre is here a symbol of the Gentile nations that shall adhere to the Christian Faith, which is the Bride of the King.

"The rich among the people." This is the same prophecy which is recorded in Revelation 21:24, "The kings of the earth bring their glory into the kingdom of God."

Verse 13

"The king's daughter within the palace is all glorious:

Her clothing is inwrought with gold.

She shall be led unto the king in broidered work:

The virgins her companions that follow her

Shall be brought unto thee."

"The king's daughter within the palace." Ah! Who is the king's daughter?. She is, of course, the Bride, who in the scriptural sense is also the daughter of the King, all the Redeemed of all ages being in truth, "The children of God." Mixed metaphors of this kind are a distinctive characteristic of the Hebrew mind.

In this chapter the believing community of God's people appears under three different metaphors. In their experience of the new birth, all were born into God's family and are therefore sons and daughters of the King. (1) Thus the church here is called the King's Daughter; (2) she is also the Queen clad in the gold of Ophir; and (3) she is the Bride of the Lamb of God. This is not any more mysterious than the doctrine of the Trinity; and neither of these is capable of being understood by radical critics. There are many precious realities of God's kingdom that cannot be discerned by natural (or unregenerated) man, nor by any whose minds have been blinded by the god of this world. As Paul expressed it:

"Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot ... know them because they are spiritually judged" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Verse 15

"With gladness and rejoicing shall they be led:

They shall enter in to the king's palace."

These words conclude the portion of the psalm addressed to the Bride; and what we have here is positively not "The Processional" for some ancient Jewish wedding, but the procession of the Saints of God into the eternal home of the soul. As Isaiah saw the same thing:

"And the ransomed of Jehovah shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10).

Yes, what we have here is a prophetic promise of that day, "When the Saints Go Marching In"! As the prayerful song has it, "Lord, I want to be in that number, When the saints go marching in."

Verse 16

THE CONCLUSION

"Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children,

Whom thou shalt make princes in all the earth.

I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations:

Therefore shall the peoples give thee thanks forever and ever."

These verses speak of the everlasting dominion of the Holy One who sits upon the "Throne of David" at the right hand of God Himself.

"In all the earth ... all generations ... forever and ever." The universal, eternal kingdom of God alone fits such particulars as these.

"Thy children made princes in all the earth." All of God's children are "kings and priests unto God" (Revelation 1:6) Also Peter wrote: "Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, etc." (1 Peter 2:9). The ability to make kings and royal princes "in all the earth" has never pertained to any one other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is most appropriate, therefore, that this incredibly beautiful Messianic Psalm should conclude, as Leupold noted, "On this fine note that He who is being commemorated deserves to be extolled forever and ever and is deserving of His people's praises as long as the sun and the moon endure."[23]

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 45". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-45.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.