Notes on Psalm 110
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 18 February 2022 (in progress)
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited and resources consulted may be found at the end of the commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible. Unless otherwise indicated quotations from the DSS are taken from A New Translation of The Dead Sea Scrolls (2005), abbreviated as TDSS.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Online. See Barry Setterfield, The Alexandrian Septuagint History.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The Targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary that date from the first century. See an index of Targum texts here. Unless otherwise indicated quotations from the Targums are taken from Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation (2001).
Syntax: Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Hebrew words is taken from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Hebrew words is taken from John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament (1991). Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Greek words used in the Septuagint (LXX) is from Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1957). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic writings and message I use the terms Jacob (James), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
"A Psalm of David." In the Hebrew text there is no break between these words and those normally printed as the first line. The Christian custom of placing the title above the psalm, rather than as part of verse 1 (as in Jewish Bibles), is a matter of convenience, which does not alter its status as part of the text (Kidner).
Psalm 110 is typically classified as a royal psalm due to the mention of installing the King of Israel, as well as Messianic due to it prominent usage in the Besekh in reference to Yeshua.
Usage in the Besekh
Psalm 110 is quoted in Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-35; and Hebrews 1:13; 5:6, 10; 7:17, 21.
David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king (1Sam 16:13). At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capitol and solidified central authority.
Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14). Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 2Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:21).
David's family life is the subject of much analysis and not a little criticism among commentators. He was a polygamist with 8 wives and 10 concubines (2Sam 3:3-5, 13-14; 5:13; 12:7-8, 24; 15:16). The concubines were probably the servants of his wives (2Sam 6:20-22). He had 19 named sons of his wives, besides the sons of his concubines, and one named daughter, although many other daughters were born to him (1Chr 3:1-9; 14:3-7). Thus, his adultery with Bathsheba and conspiracy to kill her husband Uriah was especially egregious (2Sam 12:7-8).
Yet, in spite of his moral failure the Scripture record is highly complimentary of David. During the time of the divided kingdoms there is an oft repeated phrase to describe the good kings of Judah, "He walked before me as David his father walked" (1Kgs 3:3, 14; 11:4, 6, 33, 38; 14:8; 15:3, 5, 11; 2Kgs 14:3; 16:2; 18:3; 22:2). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the eyes of ADONAI and did not turn aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5 BR). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
David also has a highly favorable standing in the Besekh. The apostles tell the story of Yeshua as the story of the Son of David from His birth (Matt 1:1; Rom 1:3; 2Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16). At least twelve times the apostolic narratives refer to Yeshua as the "Son of David." David is cited as a model of behavior (Matt 12:3), identified as a servant of God (Luke 1:69) and regarded as a Spirit-inspired prophet (Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 2:34; 4:25; Rom 11:9; Heb 4:7). David thus took his place in the roll call of faithful heroes (Heb 11:32). This was "David, the son of Jesse, a man according to my heart, who will do all my will" (Acts 13:22 BR).
Psalm 110, like Psalm 2, refers to the installation of the king on Mt. Zion by ADONAI. Broyles suggests the psalm may have been sung on the occasion of the king's enthronement ("sit at my right hand"), or annually "in the Spring, at the time when kings go off to war" (2Sam 11:1). The psalm might also have been composed when David was recognized as master of Jerusalem (2Sam 5:6-10) (Anderson).
The psalm contains prophetic oracles (i.e., verbal revelations from ADONAI), which provide the structure of the psalm. Verses 1-3 and 4-7 each consist of a brief introduction, an oracle (in quotations), and its expansion (Broyles). The metre of the psalm is irregular (Anderson).
Enthronement as Messianic King
1 The oracle of ADONAI to my lord: "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."
The oracle: Heb. neum, utterance, declaration, or revelation, generally used of a prophet. The NASB translates neum as "oracle" in other passages (Num 24:3-4, 15-16), but here renders the noun as a verb ("says"), as do the great majority of versions. Some versions do recognize neum as a noun with the translation of "affirmation" (YLT), "declaration" (CSB, ISV, LEB), "decree" (EHV), "proclamation" (NET), or "the word" (MSG). The LXX translates the noun with the verb eipen, aor. tense of epō (SH-2036), to speak or say orally or in writing.
of ADONAI: Heb. YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the tetragrammaton of the God of Israel. YHVH dominates in the Tanakh, first occurring in Genesis 2:4. While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). The LXX translates the sacred name with ho kurios, which may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master.
Translating YHVH with "the LORD" (as in the majority of Bibles, including the JPS-1917 and NJPS) is strange since there is no definite article associated with the Hebrew name and it would be equivalent to saying "the Jesus." Four versions remedied the grammar of "the LORD" with "Jehovah" (ASV, Darby, TLB, YLT), but this translation is both inaccurate and archaic. A few versions have "Yahweh" (LEB, NOG, WEB), but this common English rendering of YHVH is no better than a guess.
The pointing of the Hebrew name could just as easily be pronounced "Yehvah." The MSG has simply "God." It would be better to follow the translation of Messianic Jewish versions, "ADONAI" (CJB, TLV). YHVH is translated in the LXX with Kurios, which generally means one in control through possession and may be rendered as lord, master or owner. See my article The Blessed Name for more discussion on this subject.
to my lord: Heb. adôn, lord. The first person masculine singular construct; thus the insertion of "my." The noun has a lamed preposition prefix, which signifies "to." The opening declaration contains a conundrum. If YHVH is God, then who is "my lord" being addressed? Morris translates the clause as "Jehovah said unto Adonai" and then interprets as a remarkable conversation between two persons of the Godhead. He bases the interpretation on use of the psalm by Yeshua in which he asserts that he is not just the son of David but David's lord (Matt 22:43-45).
Although many versions translate adôn with the capitalized "Lord," the first person singular suffix would ordinarily require the lower-case "l" (Alter), which is employed in some versions (ERV, EHV, LEB, MEV, NABRE, NET, NIV, NRSV, RSV, VOICE). Alter suggests that since this is a royal psalm, and the speaker by referring to the king as his master, would appear to be a court poet. More likely is that the speaker was a court prophet, such as Gad (2Sam 24:11). Yeshua's treatment of the psalm is to reveal the double meaning of "my lord" and its Messianic character.
2 ADONAI will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, "Rule in the midst of Your enemies."
3 Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the dawn, You have the dew of Your youth.
Ordination as Priest
4 ADONAI has sworn and will not relent, "You are a priest for all time according to the rank of Melchizedek."
ADONAI: Heb. YHVH. See verse 1 above. has sworn: Heb. shaba, Niphal perf., to take an oath, swear. and will not: Heb. lo, particle of negation with conjunction. relent: Heb. nacham, Niphal impf., to be sorry, to change one's mind, repent. You are: Heb. attah, pronoun of the second person. a priest: Heb. kohen, person who offers sacrifice to a deity at a place of worship and in general is occupied with sacred rites; priest. for all time: Heb. olam, long duration, antiquity or futurity. Olam is also used adverbially to mean "forever, for all time" (Gen 9:12), as well as ancient time (Gen 6:4; 49:26), and indefinite futurity (Deut 15:17).
Almost all Bible versions translate olam as "forever" or "for ever," which the NET version interprets as meaning "eternal." Only the YLT has "to the age." As a reference to the priestly tenure the translation of "forever" is problematic. No priest in the Tanakh served "forever." Strictly speaking the Messiah does not serve as an eternal priest, since the need for such an intermediary should cease after the final judgment. Thus, Yeshua is our high priest until he comes. Then he will take his throne as a judge.
according to: Heb. al, prep., upon, over, or above; and is used here to stress conformity, "according to." the rank: Heb. dibrah (SH-1700), a cause, reason or manner, of which BDB assigns "manner" as the intention in this verse (184). A few versions translate the noun as "manner" (AMPC, EHV, ISV, LEB, NABRE). CSB and NET have "pattern." The translation of dibrah as "order" may be misleading, because the term does not denote a special order or fraternity of priests. The LXX translators chose to render the term with Grk. taxis, which may mean (1) a position in an orderly sequence of activity, rank; (2) arrangement for activity, order; or (3) a condition of being orderly.
of Melchizedek: Heb. Malki-tsedeq (SH-4442), a personal name meaning "my king is righteousness," and first occurs in Genesis 14:18. Melchizedek's rank was unique because he held two offices. First, he was the king of Salem, a city later identified with Jerusalem. Second, he was a priest of El Elyon (God Most High), a name of God used among Semitic peoples. The fact that Melchizedek was a king meant that he could not have been an ordinary priest, but of necessity had to be comparable to a high priest.
Melchizedek is noted for three actions. First, when Abraham returned from battle with the pagan armies to rescue Lot, Melchizedek supplied Abraham and his men with bread and wine. Josephus characterized this action as hospitality that turned into feasting (Ant. I, 10:2). Second, Melchizedek blessed Abraham in the name of El Elyon ("God Most High"). In Hebrew culture blessings are pronounced by one greater to one lesser. Third, Melchizedek willingly accepted a tenth of the plunder that Abraham had taken from the defeat of the pagan armies.
Stern notes that in Israelite culture, the offices of king and priest were separated (675). Saul, the son of Kish, was the first king; after him came David, and all the kings of Judah after that time were from the House of David. On the other hand, the priestly line ran from Moses' brother Aaron. Relative to Melchizedek holding both offices of king and high priest, Zechariah prophesied that the Messianic figure called "Branch" will be a priest that sits on a throne, thus joining the two offices together in peace (Zech 6:13).
5 The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.
6 He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the heads of many lands.
7 He will drink from the brook by the wayside; thus He will lift up His head.
Alter: Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.
Anderson: A.A. Anderson, Psalms 73-150. The New Century Bible Commentary. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972.
Broyles: Craig C. Broyles, Psalms. New International Biblical Commentary. Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.
Cook: Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation. 2001. Online.
Clarke: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (1826). Ed. Ralph Earle. Baker Book House, 1967. Online.
Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch, Psalms. Commentary on the Old Testament (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, 1866-1891), Vol. 5. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Gesenius: Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (1846). Trans. by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Baker Book House, 1979. Also online.
Kidner: Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP Academic, 1975, 2008.
Morris: Henry M. Morris, The Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995. [KJV with annotations by Dr. Morris.]
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Seif: Jeffrey Seif, Glenn Blank, and Paul Wilbur, eds., TLV Psalms with Commentary. Destiny Image Publishers, 2012.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press, 1980.
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