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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 45

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2981. B.C. 1023.

This Psalm is an illustrious prophecy of the Messiah, whom it represents as a bridegroom espousing the church to himself, and as a king ruling in it. “Most interpreters conclude,” says Bishop Patrick, “that it was composed on the occasion, at least, of Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter; who, it is probable, was a proselyte to the Jewish religion. Some few, indeed, will not allow so much as this, that there is any respect to Solomon at all in this Psalm; but only to Christ. And the truth is, many of the expressions in it are so magnificent, that they can but in a very poor and low sense be applied to Solomon and his bride; and some of them scarce at all: it being so apparent, that no Christian can deny it, that the mind of the prophet, while he was writing some part of this Psalm, was carried quite beyond King Solomon to the great King, the Lord Christ. Or, at least, he was guided to use words so high, that they proved too big for Solomon; and we must say, as our Saviour doth in another case, BEHOLD, A GREATER THAN SOLOMON IS HERE. And so the best of the Jewish interpreters acknowledge;” “particularly,” adds Dr. Dodd, “Kimchi, Aben Ezra, and Solomon Jarchi, and thus our church understands it, as is plain from the appointing it to be used on the nativity of our Lord.” Add to this, that our Saviour probably alludes to this Psalm, where he compares the kingdom of heaven to a royal marriage. And as the apostles frequently speak of Christ as the bridegroom of his church, so one of the most striking passages of this Psalm is expressly applied to him, Hebrews 1:8-9 . After the preface, it speaks of the person and victories of the royal bridegroom, Psalms 45:1-5 . The righteousness of his government, Psalms 45:6 , Psalms 45:7 . The splendour of his court, Psalms 45:8 , Psalms 45:9 . Of the royal bride, the church, her consent gained, Psalms 45:10 , Psalms 45:11 . The nuptials solemnized, Psalms 45:12-15 . The issue of this marriage, Psalms 45:16 , Psalms 45:17 .

Title. Upon Shoshannim That is, say some, an instrument of six strings. The original meaning, however, of the word is lilies, and is so rendered by Dr. Waterland, Houbigant, and some other learned men. And Parkhurst observes, that Christ, the divine light, and true believers, who are children of the light, and who are accordingly described as clothed in white, are emblematically represented by lilies. The Seventy, however, translate

על שׁושׁנים , gnal shoshannim, υπερ αλλοιωθησομενων , For, or, concerning, those that shall be changed, or transformed, namely, from darkness to light, from sin to righteousness, from corruption to incorruption, from dishonour to glory. It is further entitled, A song of loves. The word ידידת , jedidoth, here rendered loves, is thought by Bishop Patrick to allude to the name Jedidiah, given to Solomon by Nathan the prophet, 2 Samuel 12:25. Accordingly, the Seventy translate it, ωδη υπερ αγαπητου , a song for, or concerning, the beloved, words which may be applied to the beloved Son of the Father, typified by Solomon. Or, there may be an allusion to a custom observed in the Jewish marriages, wherein the bride was encircled by young virgins, who sung a peculiar song or Psalm in honour of her espousals. Hence Dr. Waterland renders it, a song of the beloved maids, namely, of the bridemaids. Certainly the Hebrew word is in the feminine gender, as well as in the plural number, and should either be translated beloved women, or loves. Thus the virgin company that attended the Lamb on mount Zion, are said to sing a new song, Revelation 14:3-4. But the meaning of the expression is generally thought to be the loves subsisting between Christ and his church.

Verse 1

Psalms 45:1. My heart is enditing a good matter I am about to utter, not rash, vain, or foolish, much less false words, but such as proceed from my very heart, and most cordial affections; and are the result of my most deliberate and serious thoughts: things not only pleasant and delightful, and fit for the nuptial solemnity here intended, but excellent, as the word שׂוב , tob, often signifies: or holy and spiritual, as it is most commonly used: things heavenly and divine, and full of majesty, as is manifest from the matter of the Psalm. Surely this magnificent preface is too sublime and spiritual for such a carnal and earthly subject as Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter. The word רחשׁ , rachash, here rendered is enditing, properly means boiling, or bubbling up, and is here used metaphorically, for meditating deeply, with fervour and vehemency, in allusion either to water boiled over a fire, or else springing forth from a fountain. I will speak of the things I have made Hebrew, מעשׂי , magnasi, my work, or composition; touching the king The King Messiah and his government. The Hebrew, למלךְ , lemelech, is literally, to the king, and the clause is translated by the Seventy, λεγω εγω τα εργα μου τω βασιλει , I rehearse my works to the king. My tongue is the pen of a ready writer That is, as some interpret it, “I will recite what I have composed with so much fluency, as shall equal the style of the most skilful and diligent writer.” Or, rather, he means, I am but the pen or instrument in uttering this song. It has another and higher original, namely, the Spirit of God, by whose hand this pen is guided.

Verse 2

Psalms 45:2. Thou art fairer More beautiful and amiable; than the children of men Than all other men. Which is most true of Christ, but not of Solomon; whom many have excelled, if not in wisdom, yet in holiness and righteousness, which is the chief part of the beauty celebrated in this Psalm. Grace is poured into thy lips God hath plentifully poured into thy mind and tongue the gift of speaking wisely, eloquently, and acceptably, so as to find grace with, and communicate grace to, the hearers. This was in some sort true of Solomon, but far more eminently of Christ, Isaiah 50:4; Luke 4:22; John 7:46. The former clause refers to his inward perfections, and this to his ability and readiness to communicate them to others. Therefore God hath blessed thee, &c. The psalmist does not mean that the beauty and grace, now mentioned, were the meritorious cause of the blessings which he speaks of, for they were the free gifts of God, and therefore, properly speaking, the effects and not the cause of God’s blessing. But the sense of the clause is, Because God hath so eminently adorned and qualified thee for rule, therefore he hath intrusted and blessed thee with an everlasting kingdom.

Verses 3-4

Psalms 45:3-4. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty “Having described the beauty and eloquence of the king, the prophet now proceeds to set forth his power, and to arm him as a warrior for the battle.” The sword of the Messiah, which is here put, by a synecdoche, for all his arms, is his Word, which, in the language of St. Paul, is said to be quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and is represented by St. John as a sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth, Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:19. With this he smites his enemies, and with this he subdues the nations, and enlarges and establishes his kingdom, both in the earth and in the hearts of his people. With thy glory and thy majesty Or, which is thy glory and thy majesty; that is, which sword or word is the great instrument of maintaining and spreading thy honour, glory, and kingdom. Or, as Bishop Patrick paraphrases the clause, “Appear like thyself in such splendour and majesty, as may serve for an emblem of that most illustrious power and sovereign authority, wherein the omnipotent Lord of all the world shall show himself among men.” And in thy majesty Being thus magnificently girt and armed; ride prosperously March on speedily and successfully against thine enemies; because of truth, &c. Hebrew, על דבר אמת , gnal debar emeth, upon the word of truth, that is, the gospel; which is called the word of truth, Ephesians 1:13, and may no less truly be called the word of meekness, because it is not delivered with terror, as the law was at Sinai, but meekly and sweetly; and the word of righteousness, because it brings in everlasting righteousness, and strongly excites all men to the practice of righteousness and holiness. And so the gospel is compared to a horse or chariot, upon which Christ is said to ride, when the gospel is preached, and carried about from place to place. And this may be here added, to show the great difference between the kingdoms of the world, which are managed and governed with outward pomp and glory, and the kingdom of Christ, which is a spiritual kingdom, not of this world, and like the spouse, mentioned Psalms 45:13: all glorious within, as consisting in spiritual graces and virtues, truth, meekness, and righteousness. And thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things Thou shalt do great and glorious exploits, which shall be terrible to thine enemies, as the next verse explains it, and this not by great forces, and the assistance of others, but by thine own single power, Isaiah 63:3. But the phrase, thy right hand shall teach thee, is not to be taken properly, for so he taught his hand, not his hand him; but the meaning is, that his hand should show him, discover, and work before him. The LXX. render it, οδηγησει σε θαυμαστως , thy right hand shall guide, or direct thee wonderfully.

Verse 5

Psalms 45:5. Thine arrows are sharp, &c. The allusion to an earthly conqueror is still continued. The arrows mean the same with the sword, both denoting the instruments wherewith he conquers his enemies; which are the truths, precepts, threatenings, promises, &c., of his word. These, when accompanied by the influences of the Holy Spirit, are sharp and powerful, and pierce the hearts of men with conviction of sin, shame, and sorrow, producing frequently terror, dismay, and exquisite distress for a time, till sinners are humbled, subdued, and reconciled. In the heart of the king’s enemies Of thine enemies, the third person being put for the second, as is frequently done in prophetical writings; and the word king being here brought in probably to describe the persons against whom the arrows are shot, and the reason thereof, because they were enemies of his kingdom, and would not be subject to him. Whereby the people fall under thee Either slain by thine arrows, or prostrate at thy feet, after the manner of conquered persons. Those that were by nature enemies are thus wounded, in order to their being reduced, reconciled, and made subject to this king; and those that persist in their enmity, in order to their being ruined and destroyed. The arrows of God’s terrors are sharp in their hearts, that they may so fall under him as to be made his footstool, Psalms 110:1; that, as they would not submit to his golden sceptre, and have him to reign over them, they may be broken by his iron rod, and slain before him.

Verse 6

Psalms 45:6. Thy throne, O God, &c. It is evident that the speech is still continued to the same person whom he calls king, Psalms 45:1; Psalms 45:11; and here God, to assure us that he doth not speak of Solomon, but of a far greater king, who is not only a man, but the mighty God, Isaiah 9:6. For though the name Elohim, or God, be sometimes given in Scripture to some creatures, yet, in those cases, it is always clogged with some diminishing expression, signifying that they are only made, or called gods, and that only for a certain time and purpose; (see Exodus 4:16; Exodus 7:1; Psalms 82:6; and it is nowhere put simply and absolutely for any person but him, who is God, blessed for ever, Romans 9:5. Is for ever and ever Namely, properly, and in thine own person, in which, as he lives for ever, so he must necessarily reign for ever; whereas David, whose throne was said to be established for ever, 2 Samuel 7:16, was a mortal man, and therefore that promise was not intended of, nor could be fulfilled in, his person, without including his seed, and especially the Messiah. And, as he here gives to the Messiah the name of God, which was never given to David nor Solomon, so he ascribes an everlasting kingdom to him, in such a sense as was never given to them. So Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14. The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre The sceptres of earthly princes are often swayed with great injustice and manifold iniquities, which lay the foundation of their overthrow; but thou rulest with exact righteousness and equity, and therefore thy throne is established, Proverbs 16:12.

Verse 7

Psalms 45:7. Thou lovest righteousness, &c. Thou not only doest that which is good, and avoidest that which is evil, which even bad princes and men may do, and often actually do for political and prudential reasons; but thou doest these things from a pure and internal principle, from a sincere and most fervent love of righteousness, and an implacable hatred of all wickedness. The Lord Jesus has made it appear, by the holiness of his life, the merit of his death, and the great design of his gospel, that he loves righteousness; for by his example, his satisfaction, his precepts, and the influences of his grace and Spirit, he has brought in an everlasting righteousness: and his hatred to wickedness is equally manifest, for never did God’s hatred to sin appear so fully as in the sufferings of Christ. Therefore God, thy God According to thy human nature, John 20:17; though in respect of thy divine nature thou art his fellow, Zechariah 13:7, and one with him, John 10:30. Hath anointed thee Because thou hast given so many and great proofs of thy love to righteousness, and of thy hatred to sin; and that not only by the constant course of thy life, but also, and especially, by thy death and passion, therefore God hath raised and exalted thee far above all men and angels, to a state of joy and endless glory at his right hand: which is fully expressed by the oil of gladness. For anointing doth not always signify the conferring of inward gifts and endowments, but sometimes only the designation or inauguration of a person to some high dignity or employment, as Ezekiel 28:14, and elsewhere. This seems to be the true sense of the clause, and is, for substance, the same thing which is expressed in other words, Philippians 2:8-10, namely, the glorious exaltation of Christ, in reward of his obedience unto death. It is true, however, that Christ, as man and Mediator, in order that he might govern his kingdom in that perfectly righteous manner here intended, was anointed by God with his Holy Spirit, in a peculiar manner; was endowed with gifts and graces above his fellows, above all those that ever were anointed, whether prophets, priests, or kings, whether men or angels; to the comfort and refreshment, not only of his own heart, but of the hearts of all his people. For it pleased the Father that in him, should all fulness dwell, and that out of his fulness his people should receive grace upon grace.

Verse 8

Psalms 45:8. All thy garments smell of myrrh, &c. Wherewith they used to perfume their garments, Genesis 27:27. This may denote those glorious and sweet-smelling virtues, which, as they were treasured up inwardly in Christ’s heart, so did they manifest themselves outwardly, and give forth a grateful smell in the whole course of his life and actions; his doctrine also was a sweet savour unto God and men, 2 Corinthians 2:14-15. Out of the ivory palaces The king is here supposed to reside in his ivory palaces, and his garments are so fragrant that they not only perfume the whole palace in which he is, but the sweet savour is perceived by those that pass by them; all which is poetically said, and with allusion to Solomon’s glorious garments and palaces. The heavenly mansions may not unfitly be called ivory palaces, as elsewhere, in the same figurative manner, they are said to be adorned with gold and precious stones; from which mansions Christ came into the world; into which Christ went, and where he settled his abode after he went out of the world; and from whence he poured forth all the fragrant gifts and graces of his Spirit. Although there is no necessity to strain every particular circumstance in such poetical descriptions; for some expressions may be used only as ornaments, as they are in parables; and it may suffice to know, that the excellences of the King Christ are described by things in which earthly potentates place their glory. Whereby they have made thee glad Or, thou art made glad by the sweet smell of thy garments out of those ivory palaces, or the effusion of the gifts and graces of thy Spirit from heaven; which, as it is a great blessing to those who receive them, so doth it rejoice the heart of Christ, both as it is a demonstration of his own power and glory, and as it is the instrument of bringing souls to God.

Verse 9

Psalms 45:9. Kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women Among them that attend upon thy spouse, as the manner was in nuptial solemnities. As the queen is the church in general, so these honourable women are particular believers, who are daily added to the church, Acts 2:47. And although the church is made up of particular believers, yet she is distinguished from them for the decency of the parable, as the whole is often distinguished in our minds from the parts of which it consists, and as the daughters of Jerusalem are distinguished from the spouse in the book of Canticles, though the spouse (the church) be wholly made up of them. And these believers may be said to be kings’ daughters, because, among others, many persons of royal race embraced the faith, and because they are, in a spiritual sense, kings unto God, Revelation 1:6. On thy right hand The most honourable place; did stand the queen In the posture of a servant; to show that although she is a queen, yet she is also his subject to serve and obey him. Or, rather, as נצבה , nitzebah, signifies, is placed, or seated, which seems more agreeable to the dignity of a queen, 1 Kings 2:19, and of a spouse at the nuptial solemnity. In gold of Ophir Clothed in the richest garments, made of the choicest gold; by which he designs the graces wherewith the church is adorned.

Verse 10

Psalms 45:10. Hearken, &c. The prophet, having hitherto spoken to the bridegroom, addresses himself now to the bride or queen. O daughter He speaks like an elder person, and as her spiritual father and counsellor; Consider, and incline thine ear He useth several words signifying the same thing, to show his serious and earnest desire of her good, and the great importance and difficulty of practising the following counsel. Forget also Comparatively; thine own people, and thy father’s house He alludes to the law of matrimony, Genesis 2:24, and to what Solomon said, or should have said, to Pharaoh’s daughter, to wean her from the idolatry and other vices of her father’s house. But this, as well as the rest of the Psalm, respects Christ, and is a seasonable and necessary advice and command to all persons that desire to be united to him, whether Jews or Gentiles, to cast off all their old errors and prejudices, all those superstitious, or idolatrous, or wicked opinions, or practices, which they had received by long, and ancient, and, as they might suppose, venerable tradition, from their fathers, and to give themselves up entirely to Christ to be instructed by him, to receive his doctrine, and obey his precepts, though they might seem new to them. Reader, art thou coming to Christ to give up thy name to him? Remember, thou art now entering into a new state; let old things, therefore, pass away; regard no more thy connections with earth; let the love, and, if possible, the very memory of thy former condition, be obliterated from thy mind; hate, comparatively, father and mother, and all that is dear to thee in the world; that is, love them less than Christ, and his honour, and thy interest in him, Luke 14:26.

Verse 11

Psalms 45:11. So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty So shalt thou be amiable in the eyes of thy husband, and truly acceptable and dear to him, who, having purchased and betrothed thee to himself, justly requires thy whole heart, thy undivided love; and his affection, and the complacency which he will take in thee, will abundantly recompense thee for the loss of thy father’s house. For he is thy Lord As he is thy husband, and also as he is thy King and God, he is thy Lord, and justly claims thy unlimited service and adoration: therefore worship thou him Not only submit to his government, but give him divine honours: worship him as God and Lord. Honour the Son, in obedience to the divine command, even as thou honourest the Father: nay, in honouring the Son thou wilt honour the Father: for if thou confess that Christ is Lord and pay thy homage to him accordingly, it will be to the glory of God the Father, Philippians 2:11.

Verse 12

Psalms 45:12. The daughter of Tyre shall be there That is, the people of Tyre; as the daughter of Zion or Jerusalem, is put for their inhabitants: he mentions the Tyrians, because they, among others, and before many others, were to be converted to Christ, Matthew 11:21; Mark 3:8; Mark 7:24; Acts 21:3-5; but they are here put for all the Gentiles, whom that city fitly represented as being the mart of the nations, as she is called Isaiah 23:3. With a gift To testify their homage, which was done by gifts or presents; and to procure thine and thy Lord’s favour. Even the rich Of other nations.

Verse 13

Psalms 45:13 . The King’s daughter The spouse, so called, because she was the daughter of one king, and the wife of another: intending the church of Christ; is all glorious within In internal graces and gifts, with which she is adorned and accomplished. Her clothing is of wrought gold Her internal perfections do not rest within her, but break forth into virtuous and honourable actions, wherewith she is adorned in the view of the world.

Verses 14-15

Psalms 45:14-15. She shall be brought unto the king He alludes to the custom of conducting the bride to the bridegroom’s house; in raiment of needlework The image of God, the divine nature, the robe of righteousness, the garment of salvation. The virgins, her companions Her bride-maidens, attending upon her, called the honourable women, Psalms 45:9. (where see the note,) and here virgins, because of their spiritual purity and chastity, 2 Corinthians 11:2. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought Full of joy, for the glory and felicity of the bride and bridegroom, and for the comfort and benefit which redound to themselves therefrom.

Verse 16

Psalms 45:16. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, &c. Having directed his speech to the bride, he now returns to the bridegroom, as may be gathered both from the Hebrew words, which are of the masculine gender, and from the next verse, which unquestionably belongs unto him. And therefore this cannot be understood of Solomon, and his marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter, because he had no children by her, and but very few by all his wives and concubines; and his children were so far from being made princes in all the earth, that they enjoyed but a small part of their father’s dominions, but this was fully accomplished in Christ; who, instead of his fathers of the Jewish nation, had a numerous posterity of Christians of all the nations of the earth, which here and elsewhere are called princes and kings, because of their great power with God and with men.

Verse 17

Psalms 45:17. I will make thy name to be remembered, &c. As he began the Psalm with the celebration of the King’s praises, so now he ends with it, and adds this important circumstance, that this nuptial song should not only serve for the present solemnity, but should be remembered and sung in all successive generations: which plainly shows that it was not composed upon such a slight and transitory occasion as that of Solomon’s marriage, which was soon forgotten, and which, indeed, the Israelites had little cause to remember with any satisfaction; but upon that great, and glorious, and everlasting marriage between Christ and his church, in which it is most properly and literally verified.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 45". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-45.html. 1857.
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