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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 110

Verses 1-2

1. The oracle concerning Messiah 110:1-2

The psalmist wrote that he heard a conversation between Yahweh and David’s Master. Clearly this distinguishes two members of the Godhead. LORD (Yahweh) refers to God the Father and Lord (adonay) refers to God the Son, the Messiah or Anointed of God. Yahweh commanded Messiah to sit at His right hand, the traditional place of power and authority. He was to do so until Yahweh has subjugated Messiah’s enemies (cf. Joshua 5:14). Then Yahweh would permit Messiah to rule over them (cf. Psalms 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:25).

"Originally the victorious king placed his feet on the necks of his vanquished foe (cf. Joshua 10:24; 1 Kings 5:3; Isaiah 51:23). From this practice arose the idiom to make one’s enemy one’s footstool." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 697.]

Jesus Christ quoted Psalms 110:1 to prove that He was not only David’s descendant but the Messiah of whom David wrote (Mark 12:35-37; cf. Matthew 22:44-45; Luke 20:42-44). Peter and the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews also quoted it to prove the deity of Jesus (Acts 2:34-36; Acts 5:30-31; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 10:11-13).

"So this single verse displays the divine Person of Christ, His power and the prospect before Him. Together with Psalms 110:4 it underlies most of the New Testament teaching on His glory as Priest-King." [Note: Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 393. Cf. Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26.]

Verses 1-7

Psalms 110

This is a prophetic messianic royal psalm that describes a descendant of David who would not only be his son but his Lord. [Note: See Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," pp. 271-73, for further discussion of this psalm’s classification in the light of the New Testament’s use of it. See also Waltke, pp. 887-96, for discussion of messianism, and the Messiah and the New Testament.] This descendant would be both a king and a priest. David was a prophet, and in this psalm he revealed new information from God concerning the future. Such a prophetic message is an oracle.

There has been much speculation about the historical situation that formed the basis for what the psalmist wrote in this psalm. [Note: Elliott E. Johnson summarized 10 situations that various writers have suggested in "Hermeneutical Principles and the Interpretation of Psalms 110," Bibliotheca Sacra 149:596 (October-December 1992):430.] It is presently unknown, though David wrote it (cf. Mark 12:36). One view is as follows:

"David prophetically spoke the psalm to his ’lord,’ Solomon, when Solomon ascended to the Davidic throne in 971 B.C." [Note: Herbert W. Bateman IV, "Psalms 110:1 and the New Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 149:596 (October-December 1992):453.]

This writer concluded that the New Testament applied this psalm to Jesus Christ. The traditional Christian interpretation is that David wrote that God the Father spoke prophetically to His messianic Lord (i.e., His Son).

More important than this psalm’s original historical context is its prophetic significance. The New Testament contains more references to this psalm than to any other chapter in the Old Testament (cf. Matthew 22:44; Matthew 26:64; Mark 12:36; Mark 14:62; Mark 16:19; Luke 20:42-44; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:34-35; Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 7:21; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12-13; Hebrews 12:2). David Hay found 33 quotations of and allusions to the first four verses in the New Testament. [Note: David M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand: Psalms 110 in Early Christianity.]

"Psalms 110 is the linchpin psalm of the first seven psalms of Book Five of the Psalter. Besides occuring [sic] in the middle of the seven psalms (Psalms 107-113), Psalms 110 joins two different groups of psalms together. Psalms 107-109 express anguished pleas for deliverance; Psalms 111-113 overflow with praise for Yahweh. Psalms 110, the connecting psalm, reveals that the Messiah is both a King and a Priest who gives victory to His people . . . Thus because God more than meets the grief-stricken cries of His people, He is to be praised." [Note: Barry C. Davis, "Is Psalms 110 a Messianic Psalm?" Bibliotheca Sacra 157:626 (April-June 2000):168.]

Verse 3

When Messiah comes to rule over His enemies, His people will willingly join in His reign (cf. Judges 5:2). They will be holy, in contrast to the unholy whom Messiah will subdue. They will be as youthful warriors, namely, strong and energetic. They will be as the dew in the sense of being fresh, numerous, and a blessing from God. The expression "from the womb of the dawn" probably signifies their early appearance during Messiah’s reign. Later revelation identifies these people as faithful believers (Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:5).

Verses 3-4

2. The rule of Messiah 110:3-4

Verse 4

Yahweh has made an affirmation in the most definite way possible and will not change His mind (cf. 2 Samuel 7:13; Psalms 89:3; Psalms 89:28-29; Psalms 89:34-35; Psalms 132:11). [Note: On the subject of God changing His mind, see Thomas L. Constable, "What Prayer Will and Will Not Change," in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, pp. 99-113; and Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "Does God ’Change His Mind’?" Bibliotheca Sacra 152:608 (October-December 1995):387-99.] Messiah will be a priest forever in the order of (i.e., after the manner of) Melchizedek (lit. king of righteousness). [Note: See M. J. Paul, "The Order of Melchizedek [Psalms 110:4 and Hebrews 7:3]," Westminster Theological Journal 49 (1987):195-211.] This is the first reference in Scripture to this "order" of priests. Melchizedek ruled over Salem (lit. peace), the ancient name for Jerusalem, where David also ruled. Melchizedek was also a priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18; cf. Hebrews 7:1). Thus he was both a king and a priest. Messiah would also be a king and a priest. In this sense, Messiah was a priest in the "order" of Melchizedek. He continued the type of priesthood Melchizedek had, namely, a kingly or royal priesthood.

If Yahweh sets up Messiah as a priest "forever," the Aaronic order of priests must end as God’s appointed order (cf. Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 7:21). As both the Priest and the sacrificial Lamb, Messiah offered Himself as a substitute sacrifice on the cross (cf. Hebrews 7:27-28; Hebrews 10:10). Jesus was not of Aaron’s line since He descended from the tribe of Judah (cf. Hebrews 7:11-18). He is the new eternal High Priest (cf. Hebrews 7:21-26; Hebrews 7:28), and He mediates the New Covenant that replaces the Old Mosaic Covenant (cf. Hebrews 8:13; Hebrews 9:15).

Verses 5-7

3. The victory of Messiah 110:5-7

Messiah’s victory over His enemies will be great. David saw Messiah presently seated at God the Father’s right hand (cf. Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12). In the future He will wage war (cf. Joel 3:2; Joel 3:11-14; Revelation 16:16; Revelation 19:13-15). Messiah drinking by a brook pictures Him renewing His strength. Yahweh will exalt Messiah because of His victorious conquest. [Note: See Allen, Rediscovering Prophecy, pp. 173-94.]

Later revelation helps us understand that Messiah will come back to the earth with His saints; He will not wage this particular war from heaven (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 19). He will fight against the nations that oppose Him at the end of the Tribulation. This is the battle of Armageddon (Daniel 11:36-45; Revelation 19:17-19). Following victory in that battle He will rule on the earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-10).

The Epistle to the Hebrews expounds this psalm. It clarifies especially how Jesus Christ fulfilled what David prophesied here about Messiah being a king-priest (Hebrews 7:1 to Hebrews 10:18; cf. Zechariah 6:12-13). [Note: On the subject of David and Solomon functioning as both a king and a priest, see 2 Samuel 6:14, 17-18; 1 Kings 8:14, 55, 62-64; and Merrill, "Psalms," p. 186.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 110". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.