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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 110

A.M. 2962. B.C. 1042.

It is universally agreed that this Psalm was composed by David; and it seems to be almost as universally agreed that he speaks not of himself at all in it, but directly of the Messiah. This is the more remarkable, because in most, if not all the other Psalms, where he prophesies of Christ, there is an obvious meaning, if not throughout the Psalm, yet in several parts of it, which relates to some particular occasion, some passage or other, in David’ s history; and those Psalms are to be understood of Christ in a secondary sense, though not less evident, and sometimes more so than the first. But this Psalm is wholly to be understood of Christ only; as is abundantly evident, both from the express testimony of the New Testament, Acts 2:34 ; 1 Corinthians 15:25 ; Hebrews 1:13 ; Hebrews 10:13 ; and from the consent of the ancient Hebrew doctors. Indeed, that the ancient Jews understood this Psalm thus, and that it was the known and received sense of it in our Saviour’s time, appears from what passed between him and the Pharisees, Matthew 22:42 , &c. We may, therefore, be fully persuaded with Bishop Patrick, that “this Psalm is a very plain prediction of Christ’s divinity, his royal dignity, his priesthood, and his victories and triumphs,” all which the psalmist sets forth with great clearness and sublimity of thought and expression. “Indeed, if we consider this Psalm,” says a judicious writer, “as every one should, not only as a prophecy, but a pathetic poem, we cannot fail of being charmed, as much with the elegance of the composition, as we are satisfied with the truth of the predictions which it contains. Psalms 110:1 , Our Lord is seated at the right hand of God, as a place of the greatest dignity that can be conceived; as the partner of his throne and power. Psalms 110:2 , He is invested with his authority, by having the sceptre of his power, and a universal and supreme command, even over his enemies, delivered to him. In consequence of this, Psalms 110:3 , he receives the homage of his subjects, the free-will-offerings of his faithful people, who are as numerous as the drops of the morning dew which overspread the earth. Psalms 110:4 , The sacerdotal is added to the regal office. Psalms 110:5-6 , The psalmist returns to describe the exercise of his supreme and sovereign authority. Psalms 110:7 , He gives a reason why he was exalted to so much honour, namely, as a reward for that most astonishing act of his humiliation, which is expressed very poetically by his drinking of the brook in the way.”

Verse 1

Psalms 110:1. The Lord said unto my Lord נאם יהוה לאדני , neum Jehovah ladoni, the saying, or decree, that is, I record the saying or decree of Jehohovah to my Lord, that is, to his Son the Messiah, whom I acknowledge as my Lord and God. This decree, made in eternity, was in due time published, and was actually executed when God raised up Christ from the dead, and brought him into his heavenly mansion. David designedly calls the Messiah his Lord, to admonish the whole church, that although he was his son according to the human nature, yet he had a higher nature, and was also his Lord, as being by nature God blessed for ever, and consequently Lord of all things, as he is called Acts 10:36; and by office, as he was God man, the Lord and King of the whole church, and of all the world, for the church’s sake. And this was said to prevent that offence which the Holy Ghost foresaw the Jews and others would be ready to take at the meanness of Christ’s appearance in the flesh. The Hebrew word אדון , adon, is one of God’s titles, signifying his power and authority over all things, and therefore is most fitly given to the Messiah, to whom God had delegated all his power in the universe, Matthew 28:18. Sit thou at my right hand Thou who hast for so many years been veiled with infirm and mortal flesh, despised, rejected, and trampled upon by men, and persecuted unto death; do thou now take to thyself thy great and just power. Thou hast done thy work upon earth, now take thy rest, and the possession of that sovereign kingdom and glory, which by right belongs to thee; do thou rule with me, with an authority and honour far above all creatures, in earth or heaven. So this phrase is expounded in other places: see Luke 22:69; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12-13; Ephesians 1:20, &c. It is a figurative expression, taken from the custom of earthly monarchs, who placed those persons on their right hands to whom they would show the greatest honour, or whom they designed to advance to the greatest power and authority: see 1 Kings 2:19. It here signifies the dominion which Jesus Christ, after his death, received from the Father, as the Messiah. Thus he says of himself, Revelation 3:21, I overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne. Until I make thine enemies Until, by my almighty power, communicated to thee, as Mediator, I make those that crucified thee, (converting some and destroying others,) and the idolatrous heathen, subjecting them to thy gospel, as also the power of sin and Satan in men’s hearts, and, at last, death itself, thy footstool Thy slaves and vassals. This expression, thy footstool, which denotes an entire subdual of enemies, alludes to the custom of eastern nations, to tread upon the necks of the kings whom they had conquered, and so make them, as it were, their footstool.

Verse 2

Psalms 110:2 . The Lord shall send Or, send forth, the rod of thy strength

Thy strong or powerful rod: that is, thy sceptre or kingly power, Isaiah 10:24; Jeremiah 48:17. But then, as the kingdom of Christ is not carnal, or of this world, John 18:36, but spiritual; so this rod or sceptre is nothing else but his word or gospel, published by himself, or by his apostles and ministers, and accompanied with his Spirit, by which the Messiah set up and established his kingdom: see Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 11:4; Micah 4:2; 2 Corinthians 10:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Hence this gospel is called the word of the kingdom, Matthew 13:19; and the power of God, Romans 1:16. David, having spoken of the Messiah, Psalms 110:1, in this verse addresses his speech to him. Out of Zion From Jerusalem, which is frequently understood by the name of Zion. Here the kingdom of the Messiah was to be first established, according to the predictions of the prophets, and from hence the rod of his strength, the gospel word, was to be sent forth into all the parts and kingdoms of the world, to bring in the Gentiles, which also the prophets had foretold, as Isaiah 2:3, and in divers of the foregoing Psalms, as has been already frequently observed and proved. Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies Or, Thou shalt rule, the imperative being put for the future, as is often the case elsewhere. Christ rules partly by his grace, converting some, and setting up his kingdom in their hearts, that kingdom which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and partly by his powerful providence, whereby he defends his church and people, and subdues and punishes all their adversaries; in the midst of whom he is here said to rule, to signify that, though they should do what in them lay to oppose his kingdom, they should not be able to hinder the erection and establishment of it, but should bring ruin upon themselves by opposing it.

Verse 3

Psalms 110:3. Thy people Thy subjects; shall be willing Hebrew, נדבת , nedaboth, willingnesses, that is, most willing, as such plural words frequently signify, or shall be free-will-offerings, as the word properly means; by which he may intend to intimate the difference between the worship of the Old Testament and that of the New. They shall offer and present unto thee, as their King and Lord, not oxen, or sheep, or goats, as thy people did under the law, but themselves, their souls and bodies, as living sacrifices, Romans 12:1, and as free-will-offerings, giving up themselves to thee, to live to thee, and die to thee. The sense is, Thou shalt have friends and subjects, as well as enemies, and thy subjects shall not yield thee a false and feigned obedience, as those who are subjects to, or conquered by earthly princes frequently do, but shall most willingly and readily obey all thy commands, without any dispute, delay, or reservation. And they shall not need to be pressed to thy service, but shall voluntarily enlist themselves, and fight under thy banner against all thy enemies. In the day of thy power When thou shalt take into thy hands the rod of thy strength, and set up thy kingdom in the world, exerting thy mighty power in the preaching of thy word, and winning souls to thyself by it. In the beauties of holiness Adorned with the beautiful and glorious robes of righteousness and true holiness, wherewith all new men, or true Christians, are clothed, Ephesians 4:24; Revelation 19:8; Revelation 19:14; and with various gifts and graces of God’s Spirit, which are beautiful in the eyes of God, and of all good men. From the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth That is, thy offspring (the members of the Christian Church) shall be more numerous than the drops of the morning dew. Or, as Bishop Reynolds expresses it, “Thy children shall be born in as great abundance unto thee as the dew which falleth from the womb of the morning.” To the same purpose Bishop Lowth, in his tenth Lecture: “The dew of thy progeny is more abundant than the dew which proceeds from the womb of the morning.”

Verse 4

Psalms 110:4. The Lord hath sworn He did not swear in constituting the Aaronical priesthood, Hebrews 7:21, but did here, that it might appear to all mankind that this priesthood was made irrevocable, which that of Aaron was not. Thou art a priest As well as a king. Those offices, which were divided before between two families, are both united and invested in thee, both being absolutely necessary for the establishment of thy kingdom, which is of a nature totally different from the kingdoms of this world, being spiritual and heavenly, and therefore requires such a king as is also a minister of holy things. For ever Not to be interrupted or translated to another person, as the priesthood of Aaron was upon the death of the priest, but to be continued to thee for ever. After the order of Melchisedek Or, after the manner, &c.; that is, so as he was a priest and also a king, and both without any successor and without end, in the sense intended, Hebrews 7:3.

Verse 5

Psalms 110:5. The Lord at thy right hand This, it seems, is to be understood of the Messiah, instated in his regal power at the right hand of his Father; and not of the Father himself, as his helper and defender, as the phrase is used Psalms 16:8, and in some other places. Thus, this is an apostrophe to God the Father concerning his Son. This sense of the clause agrees best with the following verses; for it is evident that it is the same person who strikes through kings, and judges among the heathen, and fills the places, &c. Shall strike through kings That is, shall break in pieces the greatest powers upon earth, who shall provoke his displeasure, by an obstinate opposition to his authority, and the establishment of his gospel. In the day of his wrath In the day of battle, when he shall contend with them, and pour forth the floods of his wrath upon them.

Verse 6

Psalms 110:6. He shall judge among the heathen Shall demonstrate himself to all the heathen world to be their lawgiver and judge, and shall condemn and punish those that reject his salvation, and disobey his laws, rendering indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish unto all that refuse to obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, Romans 2:8-9. He shall fill the places with the dead bodies Of his enemies, or of those powers whom he shall strike through in the day of his wrath; and he shall wound the heads The principals, or rulers, over, or of, many countries That is, the Roman emperors themselves, who shall then rule over the greatest part of the world, or all those princes who oppose him. The reader will easily discern that the psalmist here describes the exercise of Christ’s regal power and supreme dominion; his conquest over sin and sinners, and over all the opposition of the powers of darkness, in metaphorical expressions, taken from earthly conquests; and that this, and the like passages, are not to be understood literally and grossly, but figuratively and spiritually, according to the nature of Christ’s kingdom.

Verse 7

Psalms 110:7. He shall drink of the brook in the way That is, says Houbigant, the brook Cedron, I suppose; David pointing out the passion of our Lord, by a continuance of the metaphor wherewith he began. Jesus was exalted because of his sufferings; therefore did he lift up his head, Hebrews 12:2. This is the more general interpretation of the verse. It expresses, says Poole, “the humiliation and passion of the Messiah, to prevent a great mistake which might arise in men’s minds concerning him, from the great successes and victories here ascribed to him, which might induce them to think that he should be exempted from all sufferings, and be crowned with constant and perpetual triumphs. To confute this notion, he signifies here that the Messiah should have a large portion of afflictions while he was in the way or course of his life, before he should come to his end or rest, and to the honour of sitting at his Father’s right hand.” Thus St. Paul, who may be considered as giving a comment on these words, observes, that being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, &c., Philippians 2:8-9. Waters in Scripture very frequently signify sufferings; and to drink of them signifies to feel or bear these sufferings. There are some, however, who give the verse a different meaning, and suppose that by drinking of the brook in the way, is meant the succour and supply of almighty grace: or, the influences of the Holy Spirit, frequently represented under the emblem of water, as Isaiah 12:3; Isaiah 55:1; John 7:38-39. Thus Mr. Hervey: “If it be asked, how the Redeemer shall be enabled to execute the various and important offices foretold in the former part of this Psalm, the prophet replies, He shall drink of the brook in the way. He shall not be left barely to his human nature, which must unavoidably sink, but through the whole administration of his mediatorial kingdom, and his incarnate state, shall be supported with omnipotent succours. He shall drink of the brook of almighty power: he shall be continually supported by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and therefore shall he lift up his head. By these means shall he be rendered equal to his prodigious task, superior to all opposition, successful in whatever he undertakes, and greatly triumphant over all his enemies.” Hervey’s Med., vol. 1. p. 129.

Upon the whole, we have in this Psalm as clear a prophecy of the Messiah, and of the offices which he should sustain, as perhaps we can find, in so few words, in any part of the Old Testament, and a prophecy absolutely incapable of any other application. Now this prophecy was completely fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, when he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sat down on the right hand of his Father; from thenceforth expecting till his enemies should be made his footstool; that is, “till Satan, the prince of this world, should be confined to the bottomless pit; till all the persecuting powers of it should be destroyed, and till death and the grave should be no more, Psalms 110:1. The kingdom, to which he was advanced, is a spiritual kingdom: the sceptre, with which he was presented in the heavenly Zion, is all power in heaven and earth; to be employed for the protection of his subjects, and the destruction of his enemies, Psalms 110:2. The laws of his kingdom are the laws of the gospel; which were to be published from Jerusalem: they who freely offered themselves to publish his laws, and gather subjects into his kingdom, were the apostles, and first preachers of his word; who, in a few years, being invested with power from on high, spread his gospel over the world, and gathered into his kingdom multitudes of subjects out of every nation under heaven, Psalms 110:3. At the same time that Jesus was seated on his throne as King, he was made High-Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, to intercede for his people, and be their advocate with the Father, Psalms 110:4. The sceptre was given him as well for the destruction of his enemies, as the protection of his subjects. When, therefore, the potentates of the earth opposed his gospel, and persecuted its publishers, he destroyed them with the breath of his mouth; first, by pouring out his wrath on Judea, in the excision of its inhabitants, and the subversion of its state; and afterward, by executing his vengeance on the persecuting powers of the heathen world, as they rose up to oppose the advancement of his kingdom, Psalms 110:5-6; Revelation 19:11-21. When Jesus set out on his warfare against the enemies of our salvation, he drank deep of the cup of sorrow and suffering; but, in reward for his humiliation, he is highly exalted to the throne of equal glory, at the right hand of God, that all should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father:” see Green, on the Prayer of Habakkuk.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 110". Benson's Commentary. 1857.