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Psalms 110:1-4

Context
Psalm 110 1 

A psalm of David.

110:1 Here is the Lord’s proclamation 2  to my lord: 3 

“Sit down at my right hand 4  until I make your enemies your footstool!” 5 

110:2 The Lord 6  extends 7  your dominion 8  from Zion.

Rule in the midst of your enemies!

110:3 Your people willingly follow you 9  when you go into battle. 10 

On the holy hills 11  at sunrise 12  the dew of your youth 13  belongs to you. 14 

110:4 The Lord makes this promise on oath 15  and will not revoke it: 16 

“You are an eternal priest 17  after the pattern of 18  Melchizedek.” 19 

1 sn Psalm 110. In this royal psalm the psalmist announces God’s oracle to the Davidic king. The first part of the oracle appears in v. 1, the second in v. 4. In vv. 2-3 the psalmist addresses the king, while in vv. 5-7 he appears to address God.

2 tn The word נְאֻם (nÿum) is used frequently in the OT of a formal divine announcement through a prophet.

3 sn My lord. In the psalm’s original context the speaker is an unidentified prophetic voice in the royal court. In the course of time the psalm is applied to each successive king in the dynasty and ultimately to the ideal Davidic king. NT references to the psalm understand David to be speaking about his “lord,” the Messiah. (See Matt 22:43-45; Mark 12:36-37; Luke 20:42-44; Acts 2:34-35).

4 tn To sit at the “right hand” of the king was an honor (see 1 Kgs 2:19). In Ugaritic myth (CTA 4 v. 108-10) the artisan god Kothar-and Khasis is described as sitting at the right hand of the storm god Baal. See G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 61-62.

sn The Lord’s invitation to the Davidic king to sit down at his right hand reflects the king’s position as the Lord’s vice-regent.

5 sn When the Lord made his covenant with David, he promised to subdue the king’s enemies (see 2 Sam 7:9-11; Ps 89:22-23).

6 tn Since the Lord is mentioned in the third person (note the use of the first person in v. 1), it is likely that these are the psalmist’s words to the king, not a continuation of the oracle per se.

7 tn The prefixed verbal form is understood here as descriptive-dramatic or as generalizing, though it could be taken as future.

8 tn Heb “your strong scepter,” symbolic of the king’s royal authority and dominion.

9 tn Heb “your people, free will offerings.” Perhaps the people, in their willingness to volunteer, are compared metaphorically to freewill offerings. Following the LXX, some revocalize the text and read “with you is nobility.”

10 tn Heb “in the day of your power.”

11 tc Heb “in splendor of holiness.” The plural construct form הַדְרֵי (hadrey, from הָדַר, hadar, “splendor”) occurs only here; it may indicate degree or perhaps refer by metonymy to garments (see Pss 29:2 and 96:9, where the phrase הַדְרַת קֹדֶשׁ [hadrat qodesh] refers to “holy attire”). If one retains the reading of the MT, this phrase should probably be taken with the preceding line. However, because of the subsequent references to “dawn” and to “dew,” it is better to emend the text to הַרְרֵי קֹדֶשׁ (harrey qodesh, “mountains of holiness”), a reading found in many medieval Hebrew mss and in some other ancient witnesses (see Joel 2:2; Ps 133:3, as well as L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 [WBC], 80). The “mountains of holiness” are probably the hills surrounding Zion (see Ps 87:1; 125:2; 133:3).

12 tn Heb “from the womb of dawn.” The Hebrew noun רֶחֶם (rekhem, “womb”) is probably used here metonymically for “birth.” The form מִשְׁחָר (mishkhar) occurs only here and should be emended to שַׁחַר (shakhar, “dawn”) with the mem (מ) being understood as dittographic (note the final mem [ם] on the preceding word). The phrase “womb [i.e., “birth”] of dawn” refers to sunrise.

13 sn The point of the metaphor is not entirely clear. The dew may symbolize the king’s youthful vitality or, more likely (note the parallelism), may refer to his army of strong, youthful warriors.

14 tn Heb “to you [is].”

15 tn Or “swears, vows.”

16 tn Or “will not change his mind.” The negated Niphal imperfect of נָחַם (nakham) is a way of marking an announcement as an irrevocable decree. See 1 Sam 15:29; Ezek 24:14, as well as R. B. Chisholm, “Does God ‘Change His Mind’?” BSac 152 (1995): 387-99.

17 sn You are an eternal priest. The Davidic king exercised a non-Levitical priestly role. The king superintended Judah’s cultic ritual, had authority over the Levites, and sometimes led in formal worship. David himself instructed the Levites to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (1 Chr 15:11-15), joined the procession, offered sacrifices, wore a priestly ephod, and blessed the people (2 Sam 6:12-19). At the dedication of the temple Solomon led the ceremony, offering sacrifices and praying on behalf of the people (1 Kgs 8).

18 tn The phrase עַל־דִּבְרָתִי (’al-divratiy) is a variant of עַל־דִּבְרָת (’al-divrat; the final yod [י] being an archaic genitival ending), which in turn is a variant of עַל דָּבַר (’al davar). Both phrases can mean “concerning” or “because of,” but neither of these nuances fits the use of עַל־דִּבְרָתִי in Ps 110:4. Here the phrase probably carries the sense “according to the manner of.” See L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (WBC), 81.

19 sn The Davidic king’s priestly role is analogous to that of Melchizedek, who was both “king of Salem” (i.e., Jerusalem) and a “priest of God Most High” in the time of Abraham (Gen 14:18-20). Like Melchizedek, the Davidic king was a royal priest, distinct from the Aaronic line (see Heb 7). The analogy focuses on the king’s priestly role; the language need not imply that Melchizedek himself was “an eternal priest.”



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