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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 45

 

 

Introduction

Heading.

‘For the Chief Musician; set to Shoshannim. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Maschil. A Song of loves.’

Again we have a psalm for the choirmaster set to the tune Shoshannim (‘lilies’). In the Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 6:2-3 the place of lilies was the place for love, and so the name of the tune fits the theme. As previously it is a Maschil and is ‘of the sons of Korah’ (see introduction to Book 2). And it is a song of ‘loves’, a wedding song, for it deals with the marriage between the Davidic king and his bride. The word used here for ‘loves’ always indicates a high and holy love. In practise the king and his bride may well never have previously met, for this great occasion suggests a political marriage, as does the exhortation to the bride, so that the love is anticipated rather than real.

The splendour of the occasion fits well with Solomon, and initially this psalm may well be describing the time when he was united with his Egyptian bride, the daughter of Pharaoh. But the king is undoubtedly addressed in terms reminiscent of the promises to David of the coming King from his house Who would rule the world, and be established on God’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalms 2). Thus the Psalm looks forward also to the Coming King, and we must also therefore find within it an indication of the coming of the Messiah. Indeed the Aramaic Targum paraphrases Psalms 45:2 as, ‘Your beauty O King Messiah exceeds that of the children of men, a spirit of prophecy is bestowed on your lips’.


Verse 1

The Psalmist Indicates the Joy With Which He Writes (Psalms 45:1)

Psalms 45:1

‘My heart overflows with a goodly matter;

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

My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.’

It is clear from these words that the writer was almost overwhelmed at the occasion as he considered his subject matter, the king dressed in all his finery and his jewels, the magnificence of the decorated palace, the array of queens and princesses and the glory of his queenly bride.

He recognises that he has a goodly matter to write about, and his heart overflows at the thought. He is also conscious that he will be speaking about things which he has formulated which concern his sovereign, a thought which fills him with awe. And thus his tongue flows smoothly like the pen of a capable and willing writer.


Verse 2

The King’s Splendour (Psalms 45:2).

Psalms 45:2

‘You are fairer than the children of men,

Grace is poured into your lips,

Therefore God has blessed you for ever.’

‘You are fairer than the children of men.’ David himself appears to have been a splendid looking man (1 Samuel 16:12), a trait which he passed on to his children (consider Absalom - 2 Samuel 14:25). Thus while flattering this was probably not totally untrue. And dressed in his royal finery he must well have seemed so, especially to his admirers.

‘Grace is poured into your lips.’ This may indicate that he was well known for the gracious way in which he spoke to people (compare Proverbs 22:11), or it may have reference to the special gift of wisdom which God gave to him after his coronation (1 Kings 3:5-15).

‘Therefore God has blessed you for ever.’ The God-given gifts above stress that God has blessed him, and his wisdom became a legend that was never forgotten. And he was blessed because of them. We still speak of ‘the wisdom of Solomon’. But primarily in mind here is the promise of the everlastingness of his house. Kingship would belong to his house for ever (2 Samuel 7:13; 2 Samuel 7:16; 2 Samuel 7:25; 2 Samuel 7:29; Psalms 2; Psalms 18:50; Psalms 89:2 ff).

These words even more were descriptive of the Messiah when He came. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men (Luke 2:52), and on the Mount of Transfiguration His full beauty was made known (Mark 9:2-8). Men wondered at the gracious words that came from His lips (Luke 4:22). And He was ‘over all, God, blessed for ever’ (Romans 9:5).

2). The King, A Mighty Warrior (Psalms 4:3-4).

Psalms 45:3-4

Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one,

Your glory and your majesty.

And in your majesty ride on prosperously,

Because of truth and meekness and righteousness,

And your right hand will teach you terrible things.’

All kings were supposed to be mighty warriors, and certainly sought to depict themselves as such. Even when they did not lead their troops into action they would regularly appear on the battlefield and loose an arrow at the enemy in order to impress on men their warlikeness. And they would dress for battle, sword on their thigh, and arrive on their splendid warhorse or in their war chariot. Solomon was not famed for his warlike activity but we have no need to doubt that he was present at times in the defence, and even extension, of his realm.

Here he is seen in the wedding procession both as bridegroom and warrior, sword girded on his thigh as a ‘mighty one’, glorious in majesty, riding majestically either on his war horse or in his chariot with a glorious future before him because he sought truth, meekness and righteousness (compare and contrast Zechariah 9:9; and see Song of Solomon 3:9-11). The future looked rosy, until he frittered it away.

For the king of Israel truth was to be the central pillar of his life (Deuteronomy 17:18-20; Isaiah 11:1-5; Isaiah 29:19; contrast Isaiah 59:14-15). Meekness was expected of a king as he considered the needs and petitions of the poor of the land (2 Samuel 15:3-4; Isaiah 29:19; Psalms 22:6; Psalms 37:11; Psalms 76:9). Righteousness was a prerequisite for a king of Israel (Isaiah 11:1-5).

‘Your right hand will teach you terrible things.’ From the activities of his sword arm he would achieve greatness and glory, and prove his appointment by God, and learn much about himself. And he would learn too the perils and dangers of greatness, as with his right hand he administered justice, and made his mistakes.

The Messiah would also go forward with His sword of truth (Isaiah 49:2; Revelation 1:16), and was called ‘the Mighty God’ (Isaiah 9:6). And he too would enter Jerusalem gloriously, even though on an asses colt (Zechariah 9:9. This was the normal mount for a king of Israel in times of peace). And truth and meekness and righteousness would prosper at His hand (Isaiah 11:1-4). While His right hand would achieve the greatest things of all as He healed all who came to Him, and healed the souls of men. Indeed the final picture of the Messiah in the New Testament is a glorious one of Him riding to victory with His sharp two edged sword at the consummation of the age, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16). It was, of course, a symbolic description indicating His supreme Kingship and power. He did not literally fight a battle. His victory was won by His word of mouth. The enemies just crumbled before Him as they fought each other.

The King An Impeccable Marksman (Psalms 45:5)

Psalms 45:5

‘Your arrows are sharp,

The peoples fall under you,

They are in the heart of the king’s enemies.’

The idea here is that Solomon and his armies are regularly victorious, and that his bowmen especially are always effective, so that his enemies cannot stand against him. It is an indication of the power and effectiveness of the hosts of Solomon.

But the Messiah is Himself like a polished arrow (Isaiah 49:2). And His shafts too are directed accurately into men’s hearts so that as a result men fall at His feet and cry mercy. And they reach into the very hearts of His enemies, bringing them into subjection to Him, by His word. We can compare how both Job and David saw their troubles as ‘arrows of the Almighty’ (Job 6:4; Psalms 38:2; compare Lamentations 3:12).

The picture of arrows as a means of God’s judgment is found in Deuteronomy 32:23; Deuteronomy 32:42; 2 Samuel 22:15; Psalms 77:17; Psalms 144:6; Zechariah 9:14, often in parallel with the idea of His lightning.

The King Reigning In Glory And Equity As God’s Unique Representative (Psalms 45:6-7).

The prestigious position of the king in God’s eyes is now made clear. His rule will be everlasting, he will rule with equity, he will be elevated by God above all his fellow kings.

Psalms 45:6-7

‘Your throne is of God (or ‘O God is’) for ever and ever,

A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of your kingdom.

You have loved righteousness, and hated wickedness,

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you,

With the oil of gladness above your fellows.

The essential divine nature of his kingship is now expressed. He has been adopted by God as His son, and God has promised to be his Father (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:7). Thus his throne is the one on earth appointed and established by God to have overall lordship, and its everlasting nature is guaranteed.

But having said that the king must rule as befits God’s appointee, in righteousness. His rule must demonstrate that he loves righteousness and hates all that is morally wrong. Thus his sceptre as king must be a sceptre of equity. He must rule justly and fairly, showing special favour to none. And it is for that reason that Elohim, his God (Elohim), has anointed him with joyous gladness above all others (compare 1 Kings 3:12-13). He is to rejoice in being king of kings as the anointed of God.

Such a hope lay at the root of ideas about the Messiah, and it is the ideal kingship of the Messiah that is really in the prophet’s mind. There was only One Who was really fitted for these words. It is our Lord Jesus Christ, and He alone, Who is worthy to be addressed as the Mighty El (Isaiah 9:6), Whose reign is from everlasting (Micah 5:2), Who will be exalted above all (Philippians 2:9-11), and of whose kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:33). He above all was worthy to be anointed above His fellows as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). And in His case we may therefore translate as, ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever’, for He not only sits on a divine throne, but is Himself the Almighty God.

Note on ‘Your Throne Is Of God For Ever and Ever’.

There is here an interesting translation problem. The literal Hebrew is ‘your throne God for ever and ever’. We might thus translate:

1) ‘Your throne O God is for ever and ever’, seeing ‘God’ as a vocative, and thus as either addressing God or addressing the king..

2) ‘Your throne is elohim (divine) for ever and ever’, seeing God as intended adjectivally.

3) ‘Your throne is of God for ever and ever’, seeing God as descriptive of Who the real possessor of the throne is.

4) ‘God is your throne for ever and ever.’ Seeing God as the subject of the sentence (unlike in English, and similarly to Greek and Latin, word order in Hebrew does not indicate the order of meaning).

The Aramaic paraphrase in the Targum is, ‘the throne of your majesty, O YHWH, abides for ever and ever’. It thus sees ‘O God’ as referring to YHWH and not the king. But it must be seen as unlikely that the Psalmist would switch to addressing God in this way, and then immediately switch back again, in a passage where he is constantly addressing the king. It does, however, bring out how difficult the translators saw the Hebrew to be when they eschewed 1) above. They clearly did not like the idea of the king as being addressed as Elohim.

The writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 1:8 follows LXX which could be rendered as any of the above, apart possibly from the third (because Greek is able to indicate a genitive, and here it does not). But it should be noted that the writer to the Hebrews is concentrating more on His superiority to the angels in His mission than on His actual Godhead, and ‘your throne is divine’ fits well in parallel with ‘a sceptre of righteousness’.

One factor that should be borne in mind is that in this group of Psalms Elohim is very much the Name used of God, which would favour referring elohim here to God. However some have argued that elohim is elsewhere used of earthly authorities. Examples cited are Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:7; Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:6; compare Psalms 138:1, and it is said to be because they are God's representatives and the bearers of His image on earth. However, only Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:6 can be said to be conclusive out of these verses, and there it is clear that the word is being used in the plural (as elsewhere it is also used of the angels). It is not therefore strictly parallel with here. It must be considered how unlikely it is that a man, even a great king, would be addressed as Elohim, especially in such a context in the Elohistic Psalms.

On the other hand the use of Elohim adjectivally in this way would be unique in the Old Testament. Where a noun is used adjectivally it usually indicates the constituent nature of what is being described, and that would not be the case here.

It would appear to us therefore that initially the text should be translated, ‘your throne is of God’ indicating that he does rule with God as his Overlord, although possibly with the intention of indicating some kind of special exaltation of the king. Compare 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:7 where he had received his throne directly from God. When applied to the Messiah therefore it can be seen as being given its fuller significance.

End of note.


Verses 2-7

A Description of The King’s Glory (Psalms 45:2-7).

His description of the bridegroom’s glory follows a carefully constructed pattern.

1) Firstly he describes the king’s splendour (Psalms 45:2). He is fairer than the children of men, granted wisdom by God and blessed by God for ever. This was no doubt the nation’s view of Solomon, and it is even more true of the even greater ‘Son of David’, our Lord Jesus Christ, Whose bride is His people.. He is the fairest among ten thousand, has received directly the wisdom of the Father, and is truly from everlasting to everlasting.

2) Secondly he is a mighty warrior on behalf of truth and meekness and righteousness (Psalms 45:3-4). This was initially true of Solomon until he lapsed, and it is permanently and everlastingly true of our Lord Jesus Christ, the greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42).

3) Thirdly his arrows are sharp and effective (Psalms 45:5). No doubt Solomon like all great Overlords would attend at the battlefield and fire his bow so that he could be lauded for having taken part in the fighting. (A similar picture is found of the Great King of Assyria on Assyrian inscriptions - compare Isaiah 37:33). But the greater than Solomon would Himself be a polished arrow in God’s quiver (Isaiah 49:2). The arrow of His word would be sharp and true.

4) His throne is the very throne of God (Psalms 45:6-7). In the case of Solomon it was established by God, and Solomon was to be His righteous representative before His people, while in the case of the Coming One He Himself would share God’s throne, and would indeed be God upon that throne.


Verse 8-9

Proceeding To The Royal Wedding (Psalms 45:8-9).

Having established the glory of the king’s person attention now turns to the Royal Wedding. He is covered in delightful ointments and perfumes, he is welcomed by stringed instruments playing from ivory palaces, he is attended by the daughters of kings, and at his right hand is his noble queen arrayed in the finest of gold, the gold of Ophir. All is ready for he and his bride being united as one.

In the New Testament the bride of Christ is revealed to be the church (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 19:8; Revelation 21:2), composed of all true believers in Christ, and her covering is to be ‘the righteousnesses’ of God’s people (Revelation 19:8).

Psalms 45:8-9

‘All your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia,

Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made you glad.

Kings’ daughters are among your honourable women,

At your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.’

The king is rigged out in his finery, and covered in delightful ointments and perfumes, and the procession passes by his ivory palace. Ivory palaces were a sign of ostentation and wealth, and indicated powerful and successful kings (see Amos 3:15). Ahab was famous for his ivory palace (1 Kings 22:39). They were not of course made of ivory, but decorated with inlaid ivory. That there are a number of such suggests the glory of this king, and as he passes by them in his royal procession the musicians are out on the balconies playing loudly and skilfully in order to add to the joy of the occasion. Or the idea may be that it was in such a palace that he was greeted by his prospective queen.

He is so noble and powerful that his honourable women, attending at the wedding, were nothing less than the daughters of kings. The king’s daughters may have been other wives, or they may simply have come from their fathers’ kingdoms to play their part in the wedding in honour of the King.

But most conspicuous of all is his wife, standing there in her beauty, dressed in gold of Ophir, the finest of imported gold (1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11). Here then is splendour indeed, and it demonstrates the magnificence of the occasion, and adequately depicts the even greater glory of the coming Messiah, of whom this king is a type and forerunner.

The identity of his queen is unknown. That it is not Pharaoh’s daughter is probable in that there is no mention of Egypt. To marry the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh was such an honour, and would have added such prestige to the wedding, that it would hardly have been allowed to pass without mention. It is attractive to think that it might have been the Shulamite of the Song of Solomon. The only doubt is as to whether she was a king’s daughter (Psalms 45:13). But see Song of Solomon 7:1. She may well have been the daughter of a relatively minor shepherd king.


Verses 10-12

Advice Given To The Bride (Psalms 45:10-12).

The bride is advised to forget her past life and to look forward to her glorious future. She may well never have met her husband-to-be, and was probably feeling a little lost and homesick. But she is advised to accept advice and be responsive, and to forget her own people and her father’s house and give proper reverence to her new husband. Then will the king desire her, and all will treat her with honour. This was a duty that every king’s daughter was expected to follow. They were brought up to recognise that they would go to some foreign king as a treaty wife, and from then on should forget their old home.

It is a beautiful picture of the bride of Christ who on coming to Christ is called on to turn her back on the past and live only for Him. Her sole desire is to be to please Him.

Psalms 45:10-12

Listen, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear;

Forget also your own people, and your father’s house,

So will the king desire your beauty,

For he is your lord, and reverence you him.

And the daughter of Tyre will be there with a gift,

The rich among the people will entreat your favour.’

The bride is called on to listen carefully to final last minute advice, probably from some beloved attendant who has accompanied her on her journey. It is that she will pay close heed to what she is now told. She must now put out of her mind her own people, for whom she has had such affection, and her father’s house where she has been so courted and admired, and give all her attention to pleasing her new lord. Then the king will desire her beauty. For she is to remember that he is now her lord and that she must reverence him.

Then not only will her husband desire her beauty, but influential and wealthy people will come and pay her homage. The ‘daughter of Tyre’, like ‘the daughter of Zion’, is a description of the whole people of Tyre. Tyre was at the time an outstandingly rich and influential city state. She would only bring a gift to someone of great importance. And the same was true of the wealthy. They would seek the favour of someone whom they saw as influential.

It is therefore unlikely that the bride is the daughter of Pharaoh. The daughter of Pharaoh was unlikely to be impressed by either of these facts. But the young Shulammite princess, who was probably Solomon’s first wife, certainly would have been.

As far as the Messianic aspect is concerned it is an indication that His ‘bride’ should leave behind their old lives and be completely committed to Him. Old things are to pass away. All things are to become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is to be their ‘all’.


Verses 13-15

The Glory Of The Bride (Psalms 45:13-15).

The glory of the bride, who is a king’s daughter, is now described, and her entrance in splendour into the king’s palace.

Psalms 45:13-15

‘The king’s daughter within the palace is all glorious,

Her clothing is inwrought with gold.

She will be led to the king in embroidered work,

The virgins her companions who follow her,

Will be brought to you.’

With gladness and rejoicing will they be led,

They will enter into the king’s palace.’

Having responded to the advice given to her the bride now leaves her palace and goes bravely to the king’s palace amidst all the festivities. She is splendidly dressed in a gold interlaced, heavily embroidered outfit, and is led forth to her bridegroom. Her virgin companions accompany her in solemn and stately procession, and they are brought with gladness and rejoicing into the king’s own palace.

‘Will be brought to you.’ The Psalmist has been talking to the prospective queen, (Psalms 45:10-11), but had changed tense to describe her splendour, now he turns back to speaking to her again.

We can see in this splendour of the bride a picture of the even greater splendour given to Christ’s church, when she is to be ‘glorious, without spot and blemish and any such thing’ (Ephesians 5:26). She too will enter Heaven with rejoicing.


Verse 16

Concluding Promises To The King (Psalms 45:16).

Psalms 45:16

‘Instead of your fathers will be your children,

Whom you will make princes in all the earth.

I will make your name to be remembered in all generations,

Therefore will the peoples give you thanks for ever and ever.’

The final urging to the king is that he should concentrate his thoughts on his prospective children. These will replace his ancestors, and in contrast will be made princes in all the earth. Compare what was said about the sons of David in Psalms 122:5. The king’s sons regularly had a say in ruling under their father.

This will then enable the writer (or God) to make the king’s name remembered to all generations, although note the possible gentle transition into God’s final promise made to him (Who else could promise this?). God will ensure that his name is remembered for ever, and that people will thank him for ever and ever. This last could only really be true of the Coming king who would rule over the everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13; 2 Samuel 7:16).

It is often said that it is difficult to apply this last verse to the Messianic concept of the Psalm, but that is only so if the application is interpreted too strictly. However, if we remember that Isaiah said of the future Messiah that ‘He would see His seed’ (Isaiah 53:10), it fits in admirably. The bride will produce princely sons for her bridegroom (who will in fact then become part of the bride). We can compare how the woman arrayed with the sun in Revelation 12:1, who was symbolic of Israel, also had children who were themselves Israel (Revelation 12:17).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 45:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/psalms-45.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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