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The kingdom, the priesthood, the conquest, and the passion of Christ.
A Psalm of David.
Title. מזמור לדוד ledavid mizmor.— It is universally agreed, that this psalm was composed by David: and it seems to be almost as universally agreed, that he speaks not of himself at all in it, but directly of the Messiah.
This is the more remarkable, because in most, if not all the other psalms, where he prophesies of our Saviour, there is an obvious meaning, if not throughout the psalm, yet in several parts of it, which relate to some particular occasion, some passage or other in David's history; and those psalms are to be understood of Christ in a secondary sense, though not less evident, and sometimes more so than the first. But this psalm is wholly to be understood of Christ alone. Bishop Hare says, that because he had observed that most things in the psalms which were fulfilled in Christ, were spoken in their first, and, as it is called, literal sense of David, who was an illustrious type of Christ, he tried more than once whether he could not apply this psalm to David; but could not in any way which was satisfactory. DeMuis had laboured before him on the same subject, and with the same success. Indeed the ancient Jews themselves understood it thus; and that this was the known and received sense of it in our Saviour's time, appears from what passed between him and the Pharisees, Matthew 22:42; Matthew 22:46. To the same sense St. Peter applies it, Act 2:34-35 and the inspired writer to the Hebrews, Heb 1:13 and this is further clear from the 4th verse of it; for the priesthood was confined to the line of Aaron; and none of David's posterity, the Messiah only excepted, was ever entitled to that honour. Nor indeed could any of Aaron's descendants presume to style themselves priests for ever, as our High-priest most literally is. We may therefore say with Bishop Patrick, that this psalm is a very plain prediction of our Saviour's divinity, his royal dignity, his priesthood, his victories, and triumph.
Psalms 110:1. The Lord said, &c.— That is, "God the Father said to God the Son, whom I honour as my Lord, and adore as my God, Sit thou (namely, after thy sufferings upon earth) at my right hand;"—an expression denoting the highest dignity and honour; and alluding to earthly monarchs, who placed those on their right hand to whom they would shew the greatest honour, or whom they designed to advance to the greatest power and authority. See 1 Kings 2:19. It here signifies the dominion which Jesus Christ, after his death, received from God the Father, as the Messiah. Thus he says of himself, Revelation 3:21. I overcame, and am set down with my father in his throne. It is added, until I make, &c. Jesus Christ subdues his enemies by the power which is essential to him, as he is one with the Father, God blessed for ever; and he does it also by the power which he has received from the Father, in quality of Mediator. See Matthew 28:18. 1 Corinthians 15:25. Thine enemies, mean, thy crucifiers; converting some, and destroying others; the idolatrous heathen; subjecting them to thy gospel; the power of sin and Satan in men's hearts, and at last death itself. The expression, thy footstool, which denotes an entire subdual of enemies, alludes to the custom of Eastern nations, to tread upon the necks of the kings whom they had conquered, and so make them, as it were, their footstool. See Joshua 10:24. 2 Samuel 22:41. Mr. Martin, in his Explication des Textes difficiles, has shewn that this expression of sitting at the right hand of God, not only implies the elevation of the Messiah to the throne, but his equality with the Father; and he observes, that the Divinity of Jesus Christ could never have been opposed, if these words had been properly understood: he remarks further, that the word footstool declares the same thing. To have a footstool, says he, was formerly a mark of distinction, reserved only for those who were appointed to a dignity. There is no mention of footstool in Scripture, but where God and kings are concerned. The ark of the covenant is often called the Lord's footstool; 1 Chronicles 28:2; 1Ch 28:21 and it is said, 2Ch 9:18 that the footstool of Solomon's throne was of gold. In short, Homer gives footstools only to heroes and persons of the first rank. These remarks shew, that the mention of footstool in this place, is only to exalt the power of the Son of God, and to establish it upon the most solid and glorious foundations. It will sufficiently distinguish this footstool, that it shall be composed only of the heads of his enemies; of the impenitent Jews, of the persecutors of the church, of Antichrist, of sinners, of death, of hell, and of the devil. These are his enemies: these are they whom he shall bruise; whom he shall rule with a rod of iron, and break in pieces as a vessel of clay; and who shall serve for his everlasting triumph; see Psa 2:9 which psalm the reader will observe bears a great affinity to the present.
Psalms 110:2-19.110.3. The Lord shall send the rod— It is plain, that by making but two periods of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th verses of the psalm, which is confessed on all hands to be prophetical of the Messiah's reign, the Jews have so far murdered the sense of it, that no version has been able to translate it without some needless and unwarrantable superlatives; whereas, had they divided it into three verses, and placed the full stops where they ought to be, the sense would have been clear, easy, and exactly agreeable to the prophesy contained in it. But perhaps this is what they carefully avoided. The reason of it will appear by what follows. And as no version has as yet rectified it, we shall take the liberty to subjoin the literal translation of those three verses, according to their and our punctuation, that the reader may the which ought to be preferred.
According to the Massoretic.
Psalms 110:2. The Lord shall send the rod of thy power out of Zion: Be thou ruler in the midst of thine enemies.
3. Thy free-will people in the days of thy power, in the beauty of holiness; from the womb of the morning is the dew of thy birth.
According to our Punctuation.
Psalms 110:2. The Lord shall send the rod of thy power out of Zion.
3. Rule thou, in the midst of thine enemies, thy free-will people, in the day of thy power, in the beauty of holiness. 4. From the womb of the morning is the dew of thy birth.
In the first of these the reader will see that the placing the full point after enemies strikes off the next words, thy free-will people, from being either the accusative of the verb רדה redeh, rule thou, going before, or from having any connexion with what comes after. So that the words stand so ungrammatically there by themselves, that to make sense of the verse, most versions have been forced to make it the nominative of a verb, which they have substituted to it of their own. Thus one of our versions—that in the Liturgy of the church of England,—words it thus, "In the day of thy power shall the people offer free-will offerings;" where the words shall offer are added to make up the sense; and the other words are inverted by placing the words in the day of thy power before them, contrary to the Hebrew. That in our Bible is still wider from the original, though it substitutes less, as the reader may see by comparing it with ours here, which is exactly literal and plain. According, therefore, to this pointing, the verses in question may be fairly commented as follows; Psalms 110:2. The Lord shall send the rod, or sceptre of thy power out of Sion; i.e. out of the tribe of Judah; Psalms 110:3. Rule thou over thy free-will people,—for none but such are fit to be Christ's subjects. In the midst of thine enemies, Jews and heathens, or, in a spiritual sense, the world, the flesh, and the devil. In the day of thy power, that is, when all power shall be given him, both in heaven and earth, Matthew 28:18. In the beauties of holiness; which is the peculiar characteristic of Christ's reign, and of his religion. Univ. Hist. vol. 3: p. 223.
Psalms 110:3. From the womb of the morning, &c.— Thou hast shone like the morning from thy very birth; thy youth has been covered with dew. Ross. 98: sed vid. Hiller, part 2: p. 26. Nold. p. 1029. Or, The dew of thy youth is as from the womb of the morning. Mr. Mann in his Critical Notes, after a variety of observations, gives us the second and third verses thus: A sceptre of might will Jehovah deliver thee out of Sion; reign thou in the midst of thine enemies; Psa 110:3 and with thee, O prince, in the day of thy power, thy saints, through mercy clothed with splendour. Before the morning-star I begot thee, my Son. Houbigant renders the latter clause somewhat similar: Before the morning-star I have begotten thee from the womb. According to the first exposition of the words, the meaning must be, that quickly after the morning or beginning of Christ's kingdom, it should over-spread the earth as the morning dew. According to the second exposition, the multiplicity of Christ's seed, or the faithful, is foretold: "Thy seed will not be less numerous "or fruitful than the morning dew." And according to that of Mann and Houbigant, with which many of the ancient versions agree, the eternal generation of the Son is declared. Bishop Reynolds explains it agreeably to the second exposition. "Thy children shall be born in as great abundance unto thee, as the dew which falleth from the womb of the morning;" and I cannot help adding, that this interpretation appears to me not only most agreeable to the context, but the most natural and easy interpretation of the Hebrew. "The dew of thy youth is [as the dew] from the womb of the morning." See Song of Solomon 5:3.Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 26:19. Job 8:22; Job 8:22. Bishop Lowth, speaking of the intermixture of metaphor with allegory in Gen 49:9 observes, that the case is the same with regard to that memorable prophesy which foretold the surprising growth of the gospel; where, indeed, the metaphor being blended with the simile, and the principal word not being repeated, causes some obscurity: The dew of thy progeny is more than the womb of the morning; meaning, "The dew of thy progeny is more abundant than the dew which proceeds from the womb of the morning." See his 10th Lecture.
Psalms 110:4. Thou art a priest for ever— The Jews have, either through design or haste, corrupted this text in such a manner that all its force with respect to its application to Christ is lost; for the literal version of the words according to the present Hebrew is, Thou art a priest for ever, according to my order, O Melchizedek, or O my just king. As this corruption is entirely owing to the addition of י jod to the word דברת dibrath, which letter is likewise corruptly added to other words, the text may be restored to its genuine purity by omitting that letter; and that it should be omitted is evident from the LXX, Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Arabic, which concur in reading the same as our English version. See Houbigant, Kennicott's Dissert. vol. 1: p. 218 and Hebrews 5:6.
Psalms 110:5-19.110.6. The Lord at thy right hand— This is to be understood of the Messiah, instated in his regal power at the right hand of his Father; and not of the Father himself as his helper and defender, as Psa 16:8 and elsewhere the phrase is understood. The prophet here on a sudden addresses himself to God the Father; and such transitions, as we have frequently observed, are common in the Hebrew poetry. The Lord will strike through, &c. that is break in pieces the greatest powers upon earth, who shall provoke his displeasure, by an obstinate opposal of his authority, and of the establishment of his gospel. It is added, He shall judge among the heathen; demonstrate himself to all the heathen world to be their law-giver and judge. He shall fill the places with the dead bodies, namely, of those powers, whom he shall strike through in the day of his wrath: and he shall wound the heads, the principals or rulers, over or of many countries; i.e. the Roman emperors themselves, who shall then rule over the greatest part of the world. Mudge renders the last clause, He shall crush the head against the earth plentifully. The reader will easily discern that the Psalmist here describes the exercise of Christ's regal and supreme dominion; his conquest over sin and sinners, and over all the opposition of the powers of darkness, in metaphorical expressions taken from earthly conquests. See Revelation 13:7-66.13.8; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 14:20. We would just observe, that there are some expositors who understand the words, the Lord at thy right hand, to be an apostrophe to the church; expressing Christ's care and protection of it, his readiness to assist and defend his own people against all the injuries and assaults of adverse power: as if it had been said, "Be not dismayed nor cast down, O ye subjects of this king, as if, being exalted to God's right hand, he had given over the care and protection of his people. For as he is at the right hand of his Father in glory and majesty, so is he also at your right hand, standing to execute judgment on your enemies, the greatest, the highest, the wisest of them, and to reveal the power of his arm towards you in your protection." See Bishop Reynolds.
Psalms 110:6. He shall judge among the heathen, &c.— Capel in his Critica Sacra, p. 367 has out of St. Jerome's Latin translation helped us to a better reading of this place, says Mr. Mann; He shall judge the nations; he shall fill the vallies; (corresponding perhaps with the sense of Isaiah 40:4. Every valley shall be exalted, &c.) and smite in sunder the heads over divers countries: "He shall crush the head of the great ones on the earth;" which, in the opinion of Bruccioli, the author of an old Italian translation, may be pointed at Antichrist. Mr. Fenwick reads the second clause very differently:
He will our ruins, laid in dust, repair; And the proud heads of many countries wound:
Hebr. He fills, or will fill the carcases; those ruins of our poor earthly tabernacle. Or, if there be any ellipsis supposed, and supplied by, "He will fill the places, or the world, or the field of battle, with carcases," it may correspond with those prophesies which point at the gathering all nations to battle, before the universal reign of Christ takes place. And that this is the design and meaning, seems the more probable from the next line, which appears to point at the wicked one, the head of many lands, whom the Lord will destroy by the breath of his mouth, and the brightness of his coming.
Psalms 110:7. He shall drink of the brook in the way— "That is," says Houbigant, "the brook Cedron, I suppose;" David pointing out the passion of our Lord, by a continuance of the metaphor wherewith he began. Jesus was exalted because of his suffering, therefore did he lift up his head. See Hebrews 12:2. This is the more general interpretation of the verse. There are some, however, who give it a different meaning, and suppose that by drinking of the brook in the way, is meant the succour and supply of Almighty grace. That water is a usual symbol by which instruction, or rather the influences of the holy Spirit are represented, is evident from Isaiah 12:3; Isaiah 55:1. Joh 7:38-39. According to this sense the meaning of the Psalmist will be, "If it be asked how the Redeemer shall be enabled to execute the various and important offices foretold in the former part of this psalm; the prophet replies, He shall drink of the brook in the way. He shall not be left barely to his human nature, which would unavoidably sink; but, through the whole administration of his mediatorial kingdom and his incarnate state, shall be supported with omnipotent succours. He shall drink at the brook of Almighty power: He shall be continually supported by the influence of the Holy Spirit; and therefore shall he lift up his head. By these means shall he be rendered equal to his prodigious talk, superior to all opposition, successful in whatever he undertakes, and greatly triumphant over all his enemies." See Hervey's Meditations, vol. 1: p. 129 and Bishop Stillingfleet's Sermons, vol. 1 p. 353. They who are inclined to see the first interpretation explained and elucidated, will find ample satisfaction in Bishop Reynolds's fine explication of this psalm, to which we refer the reader with great pleasure. If we consider this psalm, says a writer, as every one should, not only as a prophesy, but a pathetic poem, I think we cannot fail of being charmed as much with the elegance of the competition as we are satisfied of the truth of the predictions which it contains. In the first verse our Lord is seated at the right hand of God, as a place of the greatest dignity which can be conceived; as the partner of his throne and power: agreeably to which, in the second he is invested with his authority, by having the sceptre of his power, and an universal and supreme command even over his enemies, delivered to him. In consequence of this, he receives the homage of his subjects, the free-will offerings of his faithful people, who are as numerous as the drops of the morning dew which overspread the earth. In the fourth verse the sacerdotal is added to the regal office. In the fifth and sixth the Psalmist returns again to describe the exercise of his supreme and sovereign authority; and in the last, he gives a reason why he was exalted to so much honour; namely, as a reward for that most astonishing act of his humiliation; which is expressed very poetically by his drinking of the brook in the way; upon which St. Paul seems to have given a comment, when he says, that being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death: wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, &c. See Philippians 2:8-50.2.9.
This prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus, when he arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sat down on the right hand of his Father, from thenceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool; i.e. till Satan, the prince of this world, be confined for ever to the bottomless pit; till all the persecuting powers of earth be destroyed, and till death and the grave shall be no more; Psalms 110:1. The kingdom to which he was advanced, was a spiritual kingdom: the sceptre with which he was presented in the heavenly Sion, was all power in heaven and on earth; to be employed for the protection of his subjects and the destruction of his enemies: Psalms 110:2. The laws of his kingdom were the laws of the Gospel; which were to be published from Jerusalem: They who freely offered themselves to publish his laws, and gather subjects into his kingdom, were the apostles and first preachers of his gospel; who waited at Jerusalem, the beauty of holiness, till they were invested with power from on high to execute their commission; and when they went forth among the heathen, to subdue and reduce them to the obedience of faith, they spread his gospel over the known world in a few years, and gathered into his kingdom multitudes of subjects out of every nation under heaven: Psalms 110:3. At the same time that Jesus was feared on his throne as king, he was made high priest in the heavenly sanctuary, to intercede for his people, and be their advocate with the Father: Psalms 110:4. The sceptre was given him as well for the destruction of his enemies, as the protection of his subjects. When, therefore, the potentates of the earth opposed his gospel, and persecuted its publishers, he destroyed them with the breath of his mouth; first, by pouring out his wrath on Judea, in the excision of its inhabitants and the subversion of its state, and afterwards by executing his vengeance on the persecuting powers of the heathen world, as they rose up to oppose the advancement of his kingdom: Psa 110:5-6 and see Revelation 19:11; Rev 19:21 to the end. When Jesus set out upon his warfare against the enemies of our salvation, he drank deep of the cup of sorrow and sufferings; but, in reward for his humiliation, he is highly exalted to the throne of glory at the right hand of God, that all should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father; and hence he encourages his followers by declaring, to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne; even as I overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne. See Green on the Prayer of Habakkuk.
REFLECTIONS.—The glory of our incarnate Saviour is the great subject of the Psalmist's praise.
1. He is exalted to the highest dignity in heaven, and David owns him his adored Lord. The Lord, Jehovah the Father, said unto my Lord, Jesus the Messiah, Sit thou at my right hand, advanced to the seat of most transcendant glory and honour, until I make thine enemies thy footstool; enemies innumerable has our Lord to conflict with, the world, sin, Satan, death, &c. but he sits upon the throne, and they must bow before his footstool; some are already subdued, and shortly the conquest will be complete, when the last enemy shall be destroyed, and all his faithful people made to triumph with him in glory. Hasten, O Lord, this happy day!
2. All power is given him on earth. The Lord shall send forth the rod, or sceptre, of thy strength, the everlasting gospel, the power of God unto salvation; which, by the Spirit's energy is made effectual to the conversion of the souls of sinners, bowing them to submit to the sceptre of his righteousness; and this went forth first out of Zion, and hath spread to the remotest corners of the earth: rule thou, or thou shalt rule, in the midst of thine enemies; the Redeemer's kingdom will be established in spite of all opposition, and his church rise superior to all the malice of men and devils: yea, such will be the effectual working of his mighty power, that even those whose minds were enmity against him, and their lives open rebellion, shall be convinced, humbled, sue for mercy, and be converted unto him.
3. His subjects shall be a willing people, inclined to offer up themselves, their bodies, souls, and spirits, to his blessed service; cheerfully lifting under his banners in the day of his power; when in the preaching of the word, accompanied with the demonstration of the Spirit, they shall be drawn to him by the cords of love, and arrayed in the beauties of holiness, meet to attend their glorious head, from the womb of the morning; and their multitudes shall be as the drops of morning dew. Note; (1.) It is of grace that we become his believing people. (2.) There are transcendant beauties in Jesus, effectual when seen to engage supremely the sinner's soul to him. (3.) Though Christ is to the believer all in all, it never makes him neglect internal purity, but makes him aspire after perfect holiness.
4. All is confirmed by the oath of God. The Lord hath sworn by himself, since he can swear by no greater, and will not repent, for he is without variableness, or shadow of turning; Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek; a priest, to make reconciliation for the sins of his people; for ever, the efficacy of the one oblation that he offered abiding the same, and he at the right-hand of God, ever living to plead it, and make intercession for us; after the order of Melchizedek, an order of priesthood, prior to and greater than that of Aaron, unchangeable and eternal. Note; The hope of the faithful soul is fixed upon the most solid basis, on the all-sufficiency of Jesus, and the oath of the eternal Jehovah. With what confidence then should we expect pardon, grace, and all the blessings of salvation, from the great high-priest of our profession; and how great is the dishonour that we cast upon him, when for a moment we dare question his power and grace, and stagger at promises confirmed by two immutable things, the word and oath of that God who cannot lie?
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 110". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent