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Psalms 45:3-7

Context

45:3 Strap your sword to your thigh, O warrior! 1 

Appear in your majestic splendor! 2 

45:4 Appear in your majesty and be victorious! 3 

Ride forth for the sake of what is right, 4 

on behalf of justice! 5 

Then your right hand will accomplish mighty acts! 6 

45:5 Your arrows are sharp

and penetrate the hearts of the king’s enemies.

Nations fall at your feet. 7 

45:6 Your throne, 8  O God, is permanent. 9 

The scepter 10  of your kingdom is a scepter of justice.

45:7 You love 11  justice and hate evil. 12 

For this reason God, your God 13  has anointed you 14 

with the oil of joy, 15  elevating you above your companions. 16 

1 tn Or “mighty one.”

2 tn The Hebrew text has simply, “your majesty and your splendor,” which probably refers to the king’s majestic splendor when he appears in full royal battle regalia.

3 tn Heb “and your majesty, be successful.” The syntax is awkward. The phrase “and your majesty” at the beginning of the verse may be accidentally repeated (dittography); it appears at the end of v. 3.

4 tn Or “for the sake of truth.”

5 tc The precise meaning of the MT is uncertain. The form עַנְוָה (’anvah) occurs only here. One could emend the text to עֲנָוָה וְצֶדֶק (’anavah vÿtsedeq, “[for the sake of truth], humility, and justice”). In this case “humility” would perhaps allude to the king’s responsibility to “serve” his people by promoting justice (cf. NIV “in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness”). The present translation assumes an emendation to יַעַן (yaan, “because; on account of”) which would form a suitable parallel to עַל־דְּבַר (’al-dÿvar, “because; for the sake of”) in the preceding line.

6 tn Heb “and your right hand will teach you mighty acts”; or “and may your right hand teach you mighty acts.” After the imperatives in the first half of the verse, the prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) conjunctive likely indicates purpose (“so that your right hand might teach you mighty acts”) or result (see the present translation). The “right hand” here symbolizes the king’s military strength. His right hand will “teach” him mighty acts by performing them and thereby causing him to experience their magnificence.

7 tn Heb “your arrows are sharp – peoples beneath you fall – in the heart of the enemies of the king.” The choppy style reflects the poet’s excitement.

8 sn The king’s throne here symbolizes his rule.

9 tn Or “forever and ever.”

sn O God. The king is clearly the addressee here, as in vv. 2-5 and 7-9. Rather than taking the statement at face value, many prefer to emend the text because the concept of deifying the earthly king is foreign to ancient Israelite thinking (cf. NEB “your throne is like God’s throne, eternal”). However, it is preferable to retain the text and take this statement as another instance of the royal hyperbole that permeates the royal psalms. Because the Davidic king is God’s vice-regent on earth, the psalmist addresses him as if he were God incarnate. God energizes the king for battle and accomplishes justice through him. A similar use of hyperbole appears in Isa 9:6, where the ideal Davidic king of the eschaton is given the title “Mighty God” (see the note on this phrase there). Ancient Near Eastern art and literature picture gods training kings for battle, bestowing special weapons, and intervening in battle. According to Egyptian propaganda, the Hittites described Rameses II as follows: “No man is he who is among us, It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person; Not deeds of man are these his doings, They are of one who is unique” (see Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:67). Ps 45:6 and Isa 9:6 probably envision a similar kind of response when friends and foes alike look at the Davidic king in full battle regalia. When the king’s enemies oppose him on the battlefield, they are, as it were, fighting against God himself.

10 sn The king’s scepter symbolizes his royal authority.

11 sn To love justice means to actively promote it.

12 sn To hate evil means to actively oppose it.

13 tn For other examples of the repetition of Elohim, “God,” see Pss 43:4; 48:8, 14; 50:7; 51:14; 67:7. Because the name Yahweh (“Lord”) is relatively rare in Pss 42-83, where the name Elohim (“God”) predominates, this compounding of Elohim may be an alternative form of the compound name “the Lord my/your/our God.”

14 sn Anointed you. When read in the light of the preceding context, the anointing is most naturally taken as referring to the king’s coronation. However, the following context (vv. 8-9) focuses on the wedding ceremony, so some prefer to see this anointing as part of the king’s preparations for the wedding celebration. Perhaps the reference to his anointing at his coronation facilitates the transition to the description of the wedding, for the king was also anointed on this occasion.

15 sn The phrase oil of joy alludes to the fact that the coronation of the king, which was ritually accomplished by anointing his head with olive oil, was a time of great celebration and renewed hope. (If one understands the anointing in conjunction with the wedding ceremony, the “joy” would be that associated with the marriage.) The phrase “oil of joy” also appears in Isa 61:3, where mourners are granted “oil of joy” in conjunction with their deliverance from oppression.

16 tn Heb “from your companions.” The “companions” are most naturally understood as others in the royal family or, more generally, as the king’s countrymen.

sn Verses 6-7 are quoted in Heb 1:8-9, where they are applied to Jesus.



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