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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 45

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


This psalm is entitled “To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, for the sons of Korah, Maschil. A song of love.” On the phrase” To the chief Musician,” see the notes at the title to Psalms 4:1-8. The words “Upon Shoshannim” occur also, as a title, or part of a title, in Psalms 69:0; Psalms 80:0; and, in a different form, in the title to Psalms 60:1-12, “Shushan-eduth.” The word Shoshan - שׁושׁן shôshân - occurs in 1 Kings 7:22, 1 Kings 7:26; Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 4:5; Song of Solomon 5:13; Song of Solomon 6:2-3; Song of Solomon 7:2; and, in a modified form - שׁושׁנה shôshânnâh - in 2 Chronicles 4:5; Song of Solomon 2:1-2; Hosea 14:5; in all which it is rendered lily, or lilies. The word, therefore, probably means a lily; and then it came to denote, probably, a musical instrument that had a resemblance to a lily, or that was shaped like a lily. It is not known to what kind of musical instrument there is a reference, but it would seem probable that something like the trumpet or the cymbal was intended.

The special reference here would seem to be to the chief musician who presided over this part of the musical instruments employed in public worship - as it would seem not improbable that each of the different parts, as trumpets, horns, viols, harps, etc., would have a special leader. On the portion of the title, “for the sons of Korah,” and on the word “Maschil,” see the notes at the title to Psalms 42:1-11. The portion of the title, “A Song of Loves,” would properly denote a song devoted to love, or in celebration of love; that is, in which love would be the main idea. The phrase “a lovely song,” or “a charming song,” as Gesenius renders it here, would not, it seems to me, express the meaning of the original. An author would hardly prefix such a title to a psalm himself, as indicating that the psalm had special beauty, or was especially adapted to please; and if we suppose that the titles were prefixed by some other person than the author, or by common usage, it would be difficult to see why such a title should be prefixed to this psalm rather than to many others. It has, indeed, great beauty; but so have very many of the rest. If we suppose, however, that the title was prefixed as indicating the general subject of the psalm, or as indicating the feelings of the author toward the main persons referred to in it, the title is eminently appropriate. In this sense the title would be proper whether we regard the psalm as having reference to the Messiah, or as an epithalamium - a bridal or marriage hymn.

The author of the psalm is wholly unknown, and nothing can be determined on the subject, unless it be supposed that the portion of the title “for the sons of Korah,” or “of the sons of Korah,” conveys the idea that it was the composition of one of that family. On that point, see the notes at the title to Psalms 42:1-11. That it may have been written by David no one can disprove, but there is no certain evidence that he was the author, and as his name is not mentioned, the presumption is that it is not his.

Very various opinions have been entertained in regard to the reference of the psalm, and the occasion on which it was composed. A very material question is, To whom does the psalm refer? And especially, Has it reference to the Messiah, and is it to be classed with the Messianic Psalms?

Nearly all the older Christian interpreters, without hesitation, suppose that it refers to the Messiah. This opinion has been held, also, by a large part of the modern interpreters of the Bible, among others by Michaelis, Lowth, Dathe, Rosenmuller (in his second edition), Hengstenberg, Tholuck, Professor Alexander. Many, however, have defended the opposite opinion, though they have not been agreed on the question to whom the psalm refers. Grotius, Dereser, and Kaiser suppose it to have been sung at the marriage of Solomon with a foreign princess, probably the daughter of the king of Egypt. Doederlein supposes the king whose praises are sung to be an Israelite. Augusti thinks that it was sung at the nuptials of a Persian king. This last opinion DeWette adopts.

On this question it may be remarked,

(1) There is no evidence that the psalm refers to David; and, indeed, from the psalm itself it is evident that it could not have such a reference. The term “O God” Psalms 45:6 could not be applied to him, nor the expression “Thy throne is forever and ever,” ibid. In the life of David, moreover, there was no marriage with a foreign princess that would correspond with the statement here; and no occasion on which the “daughter of “Tyre” was present with a gift, Psalms 45:12.

(2) It seems equally clear that the psalm does not refer to Solmon. In addition to the considerations already suggested as reasons why it does not refer to David, and which are as applicable in the main to Solomon as to him, it may be added that Solomon was never a warlike prince, and was never distinguished for conquests. But the “hero” of the psalm is a warrior - a prince who goes forth to conquest, and who would be distinguished for his victories over the enemies of the king, Psalms 45:3-5.

(3) For stronger reasons still the Psalm cannot be supposed to refer to a Persian prince. Such a supposition is a mere conjecture, with not even the pretence that there are any historical facts that would justify such an application, and without even the suggestion as to a particular case to which it could be applicable. It is, moreover, wholly improbable that a nuptial ode designed to celebrate the marriage of a Persian king - a foreigner - would have been introduced into a book of sacred poetry among the Hebrews.

(4) The remaining opinion, therefore, is, that the psalm had original and exclusive reference to the Messiah. For this opinion the following reasons may be assigned:

(a) The authority of the New Testament. If the Bible is an inspired book, then one part of it may properly be regarded as an authoritative interpretation of another; or a statement in one part must be admitted to be proof of what is meant in another, since the entire book has one Author only - the Holy Spirit. But there can be no doubt that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews meant to quote this psalm as having reference to the Messiah, or as containing an intended statement in regard to him which might be appealed to as proof that he was divine. Thus, in Hebrews 1:8-9, he quotes Psalms 45:6-7, of the psalm, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever,” etc., in proof that the Son of God is superior to the angels. See the notes at the Epistle to the Hebrews, on the passage referred to, where this point is considered at length. There can be no doubt that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews meant to quote the passage as having original reference to the Messiah; and his argument would have no force whatever on the supposition that the psalm had original reference to David, or to Solomon, or to a Persian prince.

(b) The testimony of tradition, or of early interpretation, is in favor of this supposition. Thus, the Chaldee Paraphrase Psalms 45:3 applies the psalm expressly, to the Messiah: “Thy beauty, king Messiah - משׁיחא מלכא malekâ' meshı̂yachâ' - is more excellent than the sons of men.” This may not improperly be understood as representing the current opinion of the Hebrews at the time when the Chaldee interpretation was made, in regard to the design and reference of the psalm. The two eminent Jewish interpreters, Aben-Ezra and Kimchi, explain the psalm in the same manner, and may be supposed also to represent the prevailing mode of explaining it away among the Hebrews. On this point, also, the Epistle to the Hebrews may be referred to, as showing that such was the current explanation up to the time when that was written. I have referred to the fact that the author of that epistle quotes the psalm as an inspired man, and as thus furnishing the authority of inspiration in favor of this interpretation. I now refer to it as showing that this must have been the prevailing and well-understood opinion in regard to the design of the psalm. The author of the epistle was establishing by argument, not by authority, the claims of the Messiah to a rank above that of the angels. He made use of an argument which he evidently believed would have force among those who regarded the Old Testament as of divine origin. But the argument which he used, and on which he relied, would have no weight with those for whom he wrote unless they admitted that the psalm had reference to the Messiah, and that this point might be assumed without further proof. The fact, therefore, that he thus quotes and applies the psalm demonstrates that such was its current and admitted interpretation in his time.

(c) The internal evidence may be referred to. This will be further illustrated in the notes. At present it is necessary only to remark:

(1) That there are passages in this psalm which cannot be applied to any man - to any created being - and which can be applied only to one who may properly be called God, Psalms 45:6.

(2) The characteristics of the principal personage in the psalm are such as accurately describe the Messiah. These points will be illustrated in the notes.

(d) The psalm, on the supposition that it refers to the Messiah, is in accordance with a prevailing mode of writing in the Old Testament. See the notes at Hebrews 1:8; compare Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7; and Introduction to Psalms 40:0. It is to be remembered that the expectation of a Messiah was the special hope of the Jewish people. He is really the” hero” of the Old Testament - more so than Achilles is of the Iliad, or Aeneas of the Aeneid. The sacred poets were accustomed to employ their most magnificent imagery in describing him, that they might present him in every form that was beautiful in conception, and that would be gratifying to the pride and the hopes of the nation. Everything that is gorgeous and splendid in description is lavished upon him. And they were never under any apprehension of attributing to him too high a rank, too great perfection of moral character, or too wide an extent of dominion.

They freely applied to him language which would be a magnificent description of an earthly monarch; and the terms which usually denote splendid conquests, or a wide and permanent reign, are freely given to hint. Under this view, and in this style, this psalm was evidently composed; and although the language may have been taken from the magnificence of the court of David or Solomon, or even from the splendor of a Persian king, yet there can be no reason to doubt that the description is that of the Messiah, and not of David or Solomon, or any Persian prince. The writer in the psalm imagines to himself a magnificent and beautiful prince - a prince riding prosperously to his conquests; swaying a permanent scepter over a wide empire; clothed in rich and splendid vestments; eminently upright and pure; and scattering blessings on every hand. That prince was the Messiah. He describes the queen - the bride of such a prince - as attended by the daughters of kings; as clad in the gold of Ophir; as greatly beloved by the prince; as glorious in her appearance and character; as having on robes of wrought gold and raiment of needlework; as followed by a numerous retinue; and as brought to the king in his palace. That queen is the “bride of the Lamb” - the church. All this is in the magnificent style of the Orientals, but all accords with the custom of the sacred writers in speaking of the Messiah.

(e) It may be added that this is in harmony with the constant language of the sacred writers in the New Testament, who speak of the Messiah as the “husband” of the church, and of the church as his “bride.” Compare the notes at Ephesians 5:23-32; notes at 2 Corinthians 11:2; notes at Revelation 21:2, notes at Revelation 21:9; notes at Revelation 22:17.

The proof, therefore, seems to me to be conclusive that the psalm had original and sole reference to the Messiah.

The contents of the psalm are as follows:

I. A statement of the purpose or design of the psalm. It is to speak of the things which the psalmist had meditated on respecting the “king;” some one in his view to whom that title was applicable, and whose praises he intended particularly to set forth Psalms 45:1.

II. A description of the king, Psalms 45:2-9.

(a) He is the fairest among people; distinguished for grace and beauty,Psalms 45:2; Psalms 45:2.

(b) He is a warrior - a conqueror. He will go forth to conquest, and will be successful in overcoming his enemies, Psalms 45:3-5.

(c) His throne is the throne of God, and will endure forever,Psalms 45:6; Psalms 45:6.

(d) His character is eminently righteous, Psalms 45:6-7.

(e) He is clad in robes of beauty; his garments are rich with perfumes; his attendants are the daughters of kings, Psalms 45:8-9.

III. A description of the queen, the bride, Psalms 45:9-17.

(a) She is clad in robes of gold - the gold of Ophir, Psalms 45:9.

(b) She is entreated to forget her own people, and her father’s house - to become wholly devoted to him who had espoused her, assured that thus she would secure his heart, and be certain of his love, Psalms 45:10-11.

(c) She would be honored with the favor of the rich, and the attendance of foreign princesses, represented by the “daughter of Tyre;” Tyre, distinguished for wealth and splendor; Tyre, the representative of the commercial world, Psalms 45:12.

(d) The daughter of the king - the bride - is glorious and beautiful, as seen “within” her own palace or dwelling, Psalms 45:13.

(e) Her raiment is of wrought gold; of needlework of delicate finish and taste, Psalms 45:13-14.

(f) She is attended by virgins, her companions, who with her shall enter into the palace of the king, Psalms 45:14-15.

IV. An address to the king. He is to be honored by his children, who will be more to him than even his ancestors. His praise will spring from those children rather than from the luster and fame of his great progenitors. He will be remembered in all coming generations, and praised forever and ever, Psalms 45:16-17. See the notes at Psalms 45:16.

Such is the outline or substance of this exquisite specimen of sacred song - this very beautiful Hebrew ode. It must be apparent, I think, at once, that it cannot be applied with propriety to either David, or Solomon, or to a Persian prince. How far it is applicable to the Messiah and the church; to him as the bridegroom, and to the church as a bride - will be made apparent in the exposition of its particular words and phrases.

Verse 1

My heart is inditing - That is, I am engaged in inditing a good matter; though implying at the same time that it was a work of the heart - a work in which the heart was engaged. It was not a mere production of the intellect; not a mere work of skill; not a mere display of the beauty of song, but a work in which the affections particularly were engaged, and which would express the feelings of the heart: the result or effusion of sincere love. The word rendered is “inditing” - רחשׁ râchash - is rendered in the margin, boileth or bubbleth up. It means properly to boil up or over, as a fountain; and the idea here is that his heart boiled over with emotions of love; it was full and overflowing; it found expression in the words of this song. The Hebrew word does not occur elsewhere in the Bible.

A good matter - literally, a good word; that is, it was something which he was about to say which was good; something interesting, pure, important; not only a subject on which his heart was engaged, but also which was worthy of attention.

I speak of the things which I have made - literally, “I say my works to the king.” That is, My work - that which I meditate and am about to compose - pertains to the king.

Touching the king - He is to be the main subject of my song. Compare the notes at Isaiah 5:1. If the remarks made in the introduction to the psalm are correct, then the “king” here referred to was the future Messiah - the great personage to whom all the writers of the Old Testament looked forward, and whose glory they were so anxious to see and to describe. Compare the notes at 1 Peter 1:10-12.

My tongue is the pen of a ready writer - Let my tongue in speaking of him be as the pen of a rapid writer. That is, let my tongue rapidly and freely express my thoughts and feelings. The word rendered “pen” - עט êṭ - means a stylus, usually made of iron, used for the purpose of inscribing letters on lead or wax. See the notes at Job 19:24. The idea is that the psalmist’s mind was full of his subject, and that he desired to express his thoughts in warm, free, gushing language - the language of overflowing emotion.

Verse 2

Thou art fairer than the children of men - That is, Thou art more fair and comely than men; thy comeliness is greater than that which is found among men. In other words, Thou art beautiful beyond any human standard or comparison. The language, indeed, would not necessarily imply that he was not a man, but it means that among all who dwell upon the earth there was none to be found that could be compared with him. The Hebrew word rendered “thou art fairer” - יפיפית yāpeyāpiytha - is a very unusual term. It is properly a reduplication of the word meaning “beautiful,” and thus means to be very beautiful. It would be well expressed by the phrase “Beautiful - beautiful - art thou above the children of men.” It is the language of surprise - of a sudden impression of beauty - beauty as it strikes at the first glance - such as the eye had never seen before. The impression here is that produced by the general appearance or aspect of him who is seen as king. Afterward the attention is more particularly directed to the “grace that is poured into his lips.” The language here would well express the emotions often felt by a young convert when he is first made to see the beauty of the character of the Lord Jesus as a Saviour: “Beautiful; beautiful, above all men.”

Grace is poured into thy lips - The word here rendered “is poured” means properly to pour, to pour out as liquids - water, or melted metal: Genesis 28:18; 2 Kings 4:4. The meaning here is, that grace seemed to be spread over his lips; or that this was strikingly manifest on his lips. The word grace means properly favor; and then it is used in the general sense of benignity, kindness, mildness, gentleness, benevolence. The reference here is to his manner of speaking, as corresponding with the beauty of his person, and as that which particularly attracted the attention of the psalmist: the mildness; the gentleness; the kindness; the persuasive eloquence of his words. It is hardly necessary to remark that this, in an eminent degree, was applicable to the Lord Jesus. Thus if is said Luke 4:22, “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” So John 7:46 : “Never man spake like this man.” See also Matthew 7:29; Matthew 13:54; Luke 2:47.

Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever - In connection with this moral beauty - this beauty of character - God will bless thee to all eternity. Since he has endowed thee with such gifts and graces, he will continue to bless thee, forever. In other words, it is impossible that one who is thus endowed should ever be an object of the divine displeasure.

Verse 3

Gird thy sword upon thy thigh - That is, Arm or prepare thyself for battle and conquest. The Messiah is introduced here as a conquering king; as about to go forward to subdue the nations to himself; as about to set up a permanent kingdom.

O most mighty - That is, Hero; Warrior; Conqueror.

With thy glory and thy majesty - With the glory and majesty appropriate to thee; or which properly belong to thee. This is at the same time the expression of a wish on the part of the author of the psalm, and a prophetic description. The psalmist desired that he would thus go forth to the conquest of the world; and saw that he would do it. Compare Psalms 45:5-6. It is needless to remark that this is easily and naturally applicable to the Messiah - the Lord Jesus - as going forth for the subjugation of the world to the authority of God. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:25, 1 Corinthians 15:28. See also, in reference to the figure used here, Isaiah 49:2; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 19:15.

Verse 4

And in thy majesty ride prosperously - Margin, “Prosper thou, ride thou.” The majesty here referred to is the glory or magnificence which became a prince of such rank, and going forth to such deeds. The prayer is, that he would go forth with the pomp and glory becoming one in that station. The word used here, rendered in the margin, “prosper thou,” means properly to go over or through, to pass over, and may be correctly rendered here, pass on; that is, move forward to conquest. The word “ride” refers to the way in which warriors usually went forth to conquest in a chariot of war. The idea is that of one caparisoned for war, and with the glory appropriate to his rank as king, going forth to victory. This language is such as is often employed in the Scriptures to describe the Messiah as a conquering king.

Because of truth - On account of truth; or in the cause of truth. That is, the great purpose of his conquests would be to establish a kingdom based on truth, in contradistinction from the existing kingdom of darkness as based on error and falsehood. The “object” of his conquests was to secure the reign of truth over the minds of people. Compare John 18:37.

And meekness and righteousness - literally, “humility-righteousness;” or, humble right. It would be a kingdom or a conquest of righteousness,” not” established, as most kingdoms are, by pride and arrogance and mere power, but a dominion where humility, meekness, gentleness would be at the foundation - that on which the whole superstructure would be reared. Its characteristic would be righteousness or justice - a righteousness and justice, however, not asserted and established by mere power, or by the pride of conquest, but which would be established and maintained by meekness or gentleness: a kingdom not of outward pomp and power, but the reign of the gentle virtues in the heart.

And thy right hand - The instrument of martial power and success; that which, in war, wields the sword and the spear. “Shall teach thee.” Shall guide thee, or lead thee to the performance of terrible things.

Terrible things - Fearful deeds; things that are suited to excite astonishment or wonder. They were such things as would be regarded as distinguished achievements in war, indicating extraordinary valor; such conquests as would strike the world with amazement. We have here, therefore, a description of the Messiah as going forth to the great conquest of the world; and at the same time we have this intimation of the nature of his kingdom, that however great the “power” which would be exerted in securing its conquests, it would be founded on “truth:” it would be a kingdom where righteousness would prevail, and whose essential characteristic would be gentleness and peace.

Verse 5

Thine arrows are sharp in the heart ... - literally, “Thine arrows are sharp - the people under thee shall fall - in the heart of the enemies of the king.” The process of “thought” in the verse seems to be this: First. The “arrows” are seen as sharp or penetrating. Second. The “people” are seen falling as those arrows are shot forth. Third. It is seen that those who fall are the “enemies of the king,” and that the arrows have pierced the “heart.” The word “sharp” is applied to the arrows as denoting that they were adapted to “pierce.” Sometimes arrows are blunted, or with a thick head, rather adapted to smite with force than to wound by penetrating. The bow and the arrow were common instruments in ancient wars, and were mainly used by those who went forth to battle in a chariot. Compare 1 Kings 22:34; 2 Kings 9:21-24. As pertaining to the Messiah, the reference here is, of course, to the “truth,” and to the power of that truth in penetrating the hearts of people. Compare the notes at Hebrews 4:12.

In the heart of the king’s enemies - That is, the “truths” stated by the Messiah, the conquering king, would penetrate deep into the soul, and slay the sinner, the enemy of the king, that is, of the Messiah. The idea is, that truth would produce an effect in regard to the hopes of the sinner - his self-confidence - his life “as” a sinner - like that which the arrow does when it penetrates the heart. Compare Romans 7:9 : “For I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” See also the notes at Romans 7:10-11.

Whereby the people fall under thee - As the effect of the arrows; as the effect of truth. The representation is that of victory. As here represented, it is the victory of truth; a conquest by subjecting people to the authority and reign of God.

Verse 6

Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever - This passage is quoted by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in proof that the Messiah is exalted above the angels, and it is, beyond all question, adduced by him as having original reference to the Messiah. See the passage explained at length in the notes at Hebrews 1:8. I do not perceive, after an interval of nearly twenty years since those notes were written, that it is necessary to alter or to add anything to what is there said in explanation of the passage. It is undoubtedly an address to the “king” here referred to as God - as one to whom the name “God” - אלהים 'Elohiym - may be properly applied; and, as applied to the Messiah by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, it clearly proves that Christ is Divine.

Verse 7

Thou lovest righteousness ... - See this verse explained in the notes at Hebrews 1:9, where it is applied to the Messiah. The word “God” is rendered in the margin “O God”; “O God, thy God, hath anointed thee,” etc. According to this construction, the thought would be carried on which is suggested in Psalms 45:6, of a direct address to the Messiah as God. This construction is not necessary, but it is the most obvious one. The Messiah - the Lord Jesus - though he is described as God himself (John 1:1, et al.), yet addresses God as “his” God, John 20:17. As Mediator, as appearing in human form, as commissioned to perform the work of redemption, and to subdue the world to the divine authority, it was proper thus to address his Father as “his” God, and to, acknowledge Him as the source of all authority and law.

Verse 8

All thy garments smell of myrrh - The word “smell” is not in the original. The literal translation would be, “Myrrh, and aloes - cassia - all thy garments;” that is, they were so impregnated with perfumes that these seemed to constitute his very clothing. The mention of the “anointing” in the previous verse may have suggested the idea of these perfumes, as the anointing with a richly perfumed unguent seemed to have spread over, and to have pervaded all his raiment. Compare Psalms 133:2. It was common, however, for Orientals to use much perfumery, particularly on festive occasions. Myrrh - מר môr or מוּר mur - is an article which exudes from a tree found in Arabia, and still more extensively in Abyssinia. It is obtained by making an incision in the bark. It constituted one of the earliest articles of commerce Genesis 43:11, and was highly esteemed by the Egyptians and Jews, as well as by the Greeks and the Romans. It is mentioned in Esther 2:12 as an article used in the purification of women; and as a perfume, Song of Solomon 4:6; Song of Solomon 5:5. It was used among the ancients, not only as a perfume, but as a fumigator, and as an article of medicine, and was employed in embalming the bodies of the dead. Herodotus, speaking of the practice of embalming among the Egyptians, says, “They then fill the body with powder of pure myrrh, cassia, and other perfumes, except frankincense,” ii. 86. Compare Exodus 30:23; Matthew 2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39. Of the tree which produces the myrrh, however, we have as yet no very accurate accounts. See Kitto’s Encyc., art. “Mor.”

And aloes - The word rendered “aloes” - אהלות 'ăhâlôth - occurs four times in the Old Testament: Numbers 24:6, where it is rendered “lign-aloes;” and here, as in Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 4:14, where it is rendered “aloes.” The reference is, undoubtedly, to some odoriferous substance, well known in ancient times. Why the word “aloe” has been used as a translation of the original word, in the English and in the older versions, it is not easy to ascertain, but it is certain that the substance referred to is not to be confounded with the bitter and nauseous aloes known as a medicine. It is now generally understood that the reference in the word as used in the Scriptures, is to a species of odoriferous tree growing in India, and which anciently doubtless constituted part of the valuable commerce of the East. It is not a “fruit” or a “gum,” but the tree itself. It is a species of sweet-smelling “wood,” and was valued on account of its fragrance. It is produced still in India. The tree is believed to be a native of the mountainous tracts east and southeast of Silhet, in about 24 degrees of north latitude. See Kitto’s Encyc., art. “Ahalim.”

And cassia. - Cassia - קציעות qetsiy‛ôth - is better known. It is a bark resembling cinnamon, but less aromatic. It is mentioned in two other places in the Scriptures, Exodus 30:24; Ezekiel 27:19. This, as well as “aloes,” is a production of India and its islands. See Kitto’s Encyc., art. “Ketzioth.”

Out of the ivory palaces - That is, As thou comest out of the ivory palaces. The representation is that of the king as coming out of the palace where he dwelt, and as clad in apparel appropriate to his station, and surrounded by his attendants, diffusing joy all around them. The imagery has “chanqed” from what it was in Psalms 45:3-5, where he goes forth as a conqueror, with his sword on his “thigh,” and ascending his war-chariot. Here he appears clothed, indeed, in regal splendor, in the magnificence of state, but as the husband of the bride, and as encircled with the attendants of an Oriental court. Ivory palaces are palaces adorned with ivory, or where ivory constituted a prominent and striking part of the ornaments. It cannot be supposed that the palace was constructed entirely of ivory. Kitto supposes that this refers to the interior decorations, or that the walls were “inlaid” with ivory, gold, etc., as constituting a part of the decorations of the building. “Ivory,” it would seem, was so abundant and conspicu ous that the name might be given to the whole structure. Such a palace was that built by Ahab: 1 Kings 22:39.

Whereby they have made thee glad - Hebrew, “from them (or thence) they have gladdened thee.” That is, They, the attendants referred to more particularly in the following verses, have gladdened thee; have diffused around a general joy; have contributed to make thee happy. He was clad in robes that became his station, and was accompanied and surrounded by attendants who diffused around a general joy, and who made his own heart glad. The “idea” may be, that the Redeemer, the Messiah, is made happy by the affection and the companionship of the redeemed, his people.

Verse 9

Kings’ daughters were among thy honorable women - Those who were in attendance on him and on the bride were from the most elevated ranks; among the most honorable of the earth. The word rendered “honorable women,” means properly, precious, costly; and then, dear, beloved; and this might be rendered “kings’ daughters are among thy beloved ones;” that is, in the number of thy maidens, or of those attending on thee. The allusion is to a marriage, and the description is drawn from the usual accompaniments of a marriage in the east. The design, as applicable to the Messiah and to his union with the Church, his bride, is to describe him as accompanied with every circumstance of distinction and honor, to throw around him all that constituted beauty and splendor in an Oriental marriage ceremony. Nothing of earth could be too rich or beautiful to illustrate the glory of the union of the Redeemer with his redeemed Church.

Upon thy right hand did stand the queen - The right hand is the place of honor, and that idea is intended here: 1 Kings 2:19; Mark 14:62; Mark 16:19; Hebrews 1:3; Acts 7:55. The idea here is, that the Church, the bride of the Lamb of God, as seen in the vision, is exalted to the highest post of honor. That Church has the place in his affections which the newly-married bride has in the affections of her husband.

In field of Ophir - In garments decked or ornamented with the finest gold. On the phrase “the gold of Ophir,” see the notes at Isaiah 13:12.

Verse 10

Hearken, O daughter, and consider - This is probably to be understood as the language of the psalmist, in vision, as uttering counsel and advice which would be appropriate to the new condition of the bride. Some have understood it as the language of the father of the bride, uttering appropriate counsel to his daughter on entering upon her new relationship; exhorting her to affection and obedience in that relationship; charging her to feel that she is his, that she is to go with him, that she is to identify herself with his interests, and to “forget,” - that is, not improperly to long for her own people and her father’s house. All this would be good advice for a father to give to his daughter in such circumstances; but the most natural interpretation is to regard the language here as that of the psalmist, or as inspired wisdom, in regard to the proper feeling in entering on such a relation. If this be the meaning, the word “daughter” may be used as a term of affection or kindness, as the word “son” often is, to denote one who is a disciple or learner. The “thought” suggested here is, that counsel or advice in regard to the manner in which she should demean herself to secure the continual confidence of her husband, may be very properly given to a newly-married bride. The counsel here suggested, considered with reference only to that relation, would be eminently wise.

And incline thine ear - Attend to what is now said. The address is repeated - “Hearken;” “consider;” “incline thine ear;” as if the matter were of great importance. On the phrase “incline thine ear,” see the notes at Psalms 31:2; compare Psalms 78:1.

Forget also thine own people - This is said on the supposition that the bride was a foreign princess. As such, it is to be supposed that she had been trained under other customs, under other forms of religion, and with reference to other interests than those which would now pertain to her. The counsel is, that she must now forget all these, and identify herself with her husband, and with his interests. The word “forget” cannot denote absolute forgetfulness, or that she was to cast off all affection for those who had trained her up; but the meaning is, that she was not to pine after them; that she was not to be dissatisfied with her new home and her new relations; that she was not to carry the institutions of her native country with her; that she was not to make use of her new position to promote the ends of her native country if they were adverse to, or hostile to, the interests of her husband and his country.

As applied to a bride now, the advice would mean that she is not to pine for her old home; that she is not to make complaining and unfavorable comparison between that and her new home; that she is not to divert her husband from his plans, and the proper pursuits of his life, by endeavoring to induce him to forsake his friends, and to abandon his position, in order that she may be restored to the society of her earlier friends; that she is not to introduce habits, customs, amusements, modes of living into her husband’s arrangements, derived from her former habits and modes of life, which would interfere with what is the proper economy of his house, and which would inconsistent with his principles, and with his means of living. When she marries, she should make up her mind, while she cherishes a proper regard for her old friends, and a proper memory of her past life, to identify her interests with his; to go where he goes; to live as he lives; and to die, if such be the will of God, where he dies, and to be buried by his side.

As applied to the Church - the bride of the Lamb - the idea here is that which we find so often enforced in the New Testament, that they who become the followers of the Saviour must be willing to forsake all for him, and to identify themselves with him and his cause. See the notes at Matthew 10:37; notes at Luke 14:26. We are to forsake the world, and devote ourselves to him; we are to break away from all worldly attachments, and to consecrate all to him; we are to bid adieu to worldly companions as our chosen friends, and make the friends of Christ our friends: we are not to pine after the world, to seek to return to it, to pant for its pleasures; we are not to take advantage of our position in the church to promote the objects which we had pursued before we entered it; we are not to introduce the customs, the habits, the plans which we before pursued, “into” the church. We are in all things to become identified with him to whom we have become “espoused” 2 Corinthians 11:2; we are to live with him; to go with him; to die with him; to be his forever.

And thy father’s house - The home of thy childhood; the house where thy father dwells. The strongest earthly ties are to be made subservient to a higher and stronger tie, if we would become true followers of the Saviour. See Luke 9:59-62.

Verse 11

So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty - That is, in consequence of your love to him, and your entire devotion of yourself to him. The word “desire” here is equivalent to having pleasure in; as meaning that his affliction would thus be fixed on her. In this way - by forgetting her own home, and devoting herself to him - she would secure his affection. In the married life, mere “beauty” will not secure permanently the love of a husband. The heart, as given to him, and as faithful to him, will alone secure his love. In like manner, it is nothing but sincere affection - true love on the part of the professed friends of the Saviour - the forgetting and forsaking of all else - that will secure his love, or make the church to him an object of desire.

For he is thy Lord - That is, as a husband he sustains this relation to thee; or, this appellation may be given to him. In what sense this is true in respect to a husband, see the notes at 1 Peter 3:6; notes at 1 Corinthians 11:3. In respect to the Saviour, the dominion implied in the word “Lord” is absolute and entire.

And worship thou him - That is, as applicable to a bride, Show him respect, honor, reverence. See the notes at Ephesians 5:33. The word means properly to bow down; then, to show respect, as to a superior; and then, to show proper respect to God, to wit, by worshipping or adoring him. See the notes at Matthew 2:11; see Matthew 8:2; Matthew 14:33; Matthew 15:25; Matthew 18:26; Matthew 28:9; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9; compare the notes at Hebrews 1:6.

Verse 12

And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift - On the situation of Tyre, and its ancient splendor, see the notes at Matthew 11:21; the introduction to Isaiah 23:0; and the notes at that chapter. In the time of the psalmist it was probably the most wealthy and luxurious commercial town then existing; and it is referred to here as meaning that persons of highest rank, and of the greatest riches, and those who were surrounded most by affluence and luxury, would come to honor the king. Even the daughter of the magnificent prince of Tyre would deem it an honor to be present with a gift becoming her exalted station, and properly representing the wealth of a king of so much magnificence. This is the imagery. As applied to the Messiah, it is a description of the honor which would be shown to “him” by those of highest rank and largest wealth. Compare Isaiah 60:5-7, note; Isaiah 60:9, note; Isaiah 60:11, note; Isaiah 60:13 note.

Even the rich among the people - Rich men scattered among the people. Compare the notes at Psalms 22:29.

Shall entreat thy favor - Margin, as in Hebrew, “thy face.” Shall desire thy smile; the light of thy countenance; thy friendship. The word rendered “entreat” - חלה châlâh - means properly to be rubbed; then, to be polished; and then, in the form used here (Piel) to rub, or stroke the face of anyone; to soothe or caress; to flatter, to court; and the idea is literally that of one who caresses or soothes, or seeks to conciliate. The sense here is, “the richest of the nations shall make court to thee with gifts.” Gesenius, Lexicon. Ultimately, this will be true in regard to the Messiah. Compare as above, Isaiah 60:0. The wealth of the world will yet be laid at his feet, and, placed at his disposal. The effect of true conversion is always to make people willing to consecrate to the Saviour all that they possess.

Verse 13

The king’s daughter - This evidently refers to the bride, the daughter of the foreign king. The verse contains a description of her beauty - her splendor of attire - before she is brought to the king, her future husband. She is represented here as in the palace or home of her father, before she is conducted forth to be given to her future husband in marriage. Is all “glorious.” Is all splendor or beauty; is altogether splendor. There is nothing that is not splendid, rich, magnificent in her appearance, or in her apparel. As seen in Psalms 45:9, she is clad in gold; she is surrounded by honorable women - the daughters of kings Psalms 45:9, and encompassed with the rich, Psalms 45:12. As seen here, she is in her father’s house, adorned for the marriage, and to be brought to the king, her future husband, attired in all that could give grace and beauty to her person. The allusion here, as referring to the church - the “bride of the Lamb” - “may be” to that church considered as redeemed, and about to be received to heaven, to dwell with its Husband and Saviour. Compare the notes at Revelation 19:7-8; notes at Revelation 21:2, notes at Revelation 21:9.

Within - This does not refer to herself, as if she was not merely splendid in her attire, but holy and pure - glorious and lovely - in “heart;” it refers to her as seen while yet “within” the palace or home of her father, in her own dwelling. The Hebrew word - פנימה penı̂ymâh - means properly, “at or by the inner wall of a house, room, or court; that is, opposite to or in front of the door, and of those entering.” Gesenius, “Lexicon” As seen in her dwelling - within the palace - in the most honored place - she is arrayed in gorgeous apparel, and adorned as becomes a king’s daughter about to be married.

Her clothing is of wrought gold - Gold embroidery. See Psalms 45:9. That is, she is arrayed in the richest apparel.

Verse 14

She shall be brought unto the king - She shall be conducted to the king in the marriage procession, and be presented to him, clad in this magnificent raiment. The entire imagery is that of an Oriental marriage procession, where the bride is conducted forth to her future husband, attended by her virgin companions, or (as we should say) “bridesmaids.”

In raiment of needlework - The word used here means properly “something variegated” or “versicolored,” and would here denote a garment of divers colors, or “versicolored raiment.” The word - רקמה riqmâh - occurs in the following places: Judges 5:30, twice, where (as here) it is rendered “needlework;” 1 Chronicles 29:2; Ezekiel 17:3, rendered “divers colors;” and Ezekiel 16:10, Ezekiel 16:13, Ezekiel 16:18; Ezekiel 26:16; Ezekiel 27:7, Ezekiel 27:16, Ezekiel 27:24, where it is rendered “broidered work.” It has reference probably to embroidery or needlework, though the particular idea is rather that of the variegated “appearance” of the garment than to the manner in which it is made.

The virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee - literally, “virgins after her, her companions, brought unto thee.” That is, they will be brought to the king. They will come in the same state as the queen herself; they, her companions, will be of so illustrious rank and birth, and apparelled with so much richness, that even “they” will be regarded as worthy to be treated as queens, or in the manner of queens. The design of the whole is to show the rank, the dignity, the splendor of the bride; herself gorgeously apparelled, and attended with companions so exalted as to he worthy of being treated as queens themselves. If this is to be regarded as applicable to the church, “the Lamb’s wife” Revelation 21:9, it is designed to describe that church as beautiful and glorious, and as worthy of the affection of its Saviour. Compare Ephesians 5:27.

Verse 15

With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought - They shall come forth, attending the bride, with music and songs; the procession will be one of hilarity and joy.

They shall enter into the king’s palace - That is, Moving from the palace of the royal father of the bride, or from her home, they will enter the palace of her husband, her future home. If this is designed to refer to the church, it is a beautiful description of what will occur when the church redeemed shall enter heaven, the home - the palace - the glorious abode - of the great king its Saviour, and of the joy that will attend its triumphant admission into those everlasting abodes. Compare the notes at Revelation 21:0.

Verse 16

Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children - Instead of thy fame - thy celebrity - thy distinction - being derived from thine illustrious predecessors, it will be derived hereafter rather from thy sons; from the fact that they will be made princes and rulers in the earth. In our translation, this would seem to be an address to the bridal-queen, as if to console her for leaving the home of her illustrious ancestors, by the assurance that she would have children of her own, who would be still more illustrious. The connection, however, and the original; at least, in the Masoretic pointing, demands that this should be understood as an address to the king himself - the main subject in the poem, as in Psalms 45:2-9. The idea is, that he would derive his dignity and honor ultimately, not so much from his ancestors as his descendants; that those who would be born unto him would be more illustrious, and would have a wider dominion, than any who had gone before him in the line in which he was descended. It is not easy or practicable to apply this to Solomon, or to any other Hebrew prince; it is not difficult to apply it to the Messiah, and to the fact that those who would be descended spiritually from him, and who would ultimately be regarded as deriving true rank and honor from him, would far surpass in dignity all those who, in the line of kings, had been his predecessors.

Whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth - Not merely assigning to them provinces, to be governed as a part of the, empire, but in all lands, or where thy dominion shall be acknowledged all over the world. The image here is derived, undoubtedly, from the custom prevailing among kings of assigning portions of an empire as provinces to their sons. The meaning, however, considered as referring to the Messiah, is, that his luster and dignity on earth would not be derived from a distinguished earthly ancestry, or from an illustrious line of kings from whom he was descended, but from the fact that those who would derive their authority from him would yet possess the world, and that this their authority under him would extend to all lands. Compare the notes at Daniel 7:14, notes at Daniel 7:27.

Verse 17

I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations - The psalmist here evidently speaks as an inspired man, and the idea is that his thus singing the praises of the “king” - the Messiah - would be among the means of causing His name to be celebrated in all future ages. This song would go down to future times, and would serve to keep up the true knowledge of the Messiah in the far distant ages of the world. No one can doubt that this has been thus far accomplished; no one has any reason to doubt that this psalm “will be” among the means of keeping up the true knowledge of the Messiah, and of securing the remembrance of him upon the earth in all future periods of the world’s history. This psalm has been on million of lips, in praise of the Messiah; it will be on hundreds of million more in future times, as expressive of tender love for the Redeemer.

Therefore shall the people praise thee forever and ever - Thy praise will never cease to be celebrated. The time will never come on earth when that praise will die away; and in all the eternity beyond the termination of this world’s history there never will arrive a period when thy name will not be honored, and when thy praises shall cease to be sung. Compare the notes at Revelation 4:10; notes at Revelation 5:9-13. Happy are they who join in that song on earth; happy they who will unite in it in the heavenly world!

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 45". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/psalms-45.html. 1870.
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