15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 110

A Psalm of David.

This is one of the most highly Messianic prophecies in the Psalter. It was so admitted by the Jews themselves, (see on Psalms 110:1;) is universally so allowed by Christians; and is more frequently quoted in the New Testament than any other equal portion of the Psalms. See notes. In language suited to Old Testament times the author directly affirms that concerning Christ which was in advance of all type or prophecy hitherto revealed. The subject of the psalm is Messiah in his three-fold character of king, conqueror, and priest. No Hebrew monarch, either in his person or dynasty, embodied all these functions. We cannot, therefore, look to Hebrew history for any personage foreshadowing this complex character, while to the Aaronic priesthood it was totally foreign and repugnant. The idea is new, and one of direct revelation. In an early date of Hebrew history, however, we find the kingly and priestly character united in the mysterious person of Melchizedek, (Genesis 14:18,) who now for the first time is brought forth as the type of Christ, but, being in advance of the Mosaic cultus, is reserved to be explained only in the New Testament. Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:1-10. Bold as the production stands in the foreground of prophecy, it must have a historic occasion, the traces of which must not be lost sight of in the interpretation, and none would seem so fitting as the events of 2 Samuel 7:0, as a supplement to Psalms 2:0

Verse 1

1. The Lord said unto my Lord Jehovah said to Adonee, or, the oracle of Jehovah to Adonee. This is the usual formula for announcing an oracle, “Jehovah said,” or, “thus saith the Lord.” Jehovah speaks to Adon, whom David calls Lord, the Lord, or my Lord, that is, Christ. This is clear from Jewish and Christian commentators, but above all by the frequent and important quotations of the New Testament. “In later Jewish writings nearly every verse of the psalm is quoted as referring to the Messiah. In the Talmud it is said: ‘God placed King Messiah at his right hand, according to Psalms 110:2,’ etc. In the Midrash Tehillim, on the same passage it is said, ‘God spake thus to Messiah.’ In the same Midrash, on Psalms 18:36, we read, ‘R. Judah, in the name of R. Channa, the son of Chanina, says: In the age to come [that is, the Messianic dispensation,] will the Holy One (blessed be He) set the Messiah at his right hand, as it is written in Psalms 110:0, and Abraham on his left.’ In the book Zohar it is said, ‘The higher degree spake unto the lower, Sit thou on my right hand.’ And again, ‘The righteous (Jacob) spake to the Messiah, the son of Joseph, Sit thou at my right hand.’ According to the same authority, R. Simeon explains the words ‘Jehovah said unto my Lord,’ of the union of the Jews and the heathen in one kingdom by the Messiah. R. Saadis Gaon, commenting on Daniel 7:13, writes: ‘This is the Messiah our Righteousness, as it is written in Psalms 110:0, Jehovah said unto my Lord,’” etc., etc. Perowne. That the Jews of our Saviour’s time, admitted the application of this passage to Christ is proved from his quotation of it, (Matthew 22:41-45,) where the whole weight of the argument depended on their admitting and believing the legitimacy of such application, the only question being whether Jesus was the Christ. In using the suffix form, Adonee, my Lord, (which is the form in which the Septuagint and our Saviour, τω Κυριω μου , use the passage,) David clearly distinguishes himself from Messiah, whom he causes to stand forth in his person and Lordship in clear objective vision, which is in advance of the phraseology of Psalms 2:7, “Jehovah hath said to me,” etc. The same view is strongly carried out in Mark 12:35-37; Acts 2:34-35.

Sit thou at my right hand The place of honour and power, next in rank to the king, and sharing the government as viceroy. See 1 Kings 2:19; Matthew 20:21, and compare Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1.

Thine enemies thy footstool Quoted and applied to Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 10:13. The phrase occurs in various forms, and always denotes absolute and abject submission. See Joshua 10:24; 1 Kings 5:3; Psalms 18:40; Psalms 47:3. It must be remembered, that making his foes his “footstool” is not a phrase that denotes conversion and reconciliation. The language applies only to incorrigible enemies. The particle until points not only to their ultimate forced submission, or subjugation, but to a turning point, an era of consummation in the mediatorial government, as in Acts 2:35; Acts 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, where see notes.

Verse 2

2. The Lord shall send Jehovah shall send, not Adonoh. It declares what Jehovah will do through Adonah, or what Adonah or Messiah shall do in Jehovah’s name.

Rod of thy strength The sceptre of Messiah, representing the strength and sovereignty of Jehovah’s government.

Out of Zion The Church, the seat both of theocratic and Messianic dominion. Here the gospel was planted, and from hence it was spread abroad among the nations. Luke 24:46-47; Acts 2:0. The Jews referred this verse to Messiah. “According to Bereshith Rabba, on Genesis 38:18, the sceptre of the kingdom which the Lord sends out of Zion is the King Messiah, of whom Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1,) speaks: ‘There shall go forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse.’ So according to Bammidbar Rabba, ‘the rod of Aaron is preserved that it may be in the hand of King Messiah, which is the meaning of the rod of strength.’” Perowne.

Rule thou Have thou dominion. The address is to Adonah, Christ, and the imperative form of the verb, whether uttered by Jehovah or as a prediction of the psalmist, expresses the certain investiture of divine government in Christ, as in Psalms 2:7-8; Psalms 2:12; Psalms 72:8.

In the midst of thine enemies Christ’s willing people are not associated in one compact nationality, or commonwealth, defined by geographical limits, but dispersed throughout the world and intermixed with the enemies of the cross. Still he maintains his Church amidst the hostile nations, ruling the latter with a rod of iron, as in Psalms 2:7-8; Psalms 2:12; Psalms 72:8

Verse 3

3. In this verse the King Messiah appears as conqueror, preparing for war, his willing people freely enlisting. While the imagery is that of war, it also indicates a peculiar kind of war: a priestly king and a holy warfare, as 2 Corinthians 10:4; Revelation 19:11-21.

Thy people shall be willing Literally, Thy people willingnesses, that is, abundantly willing, the plural for intensity. But it is better to give the sacrificial turn to the word, and translate thy people are freewill offerings, as the same word is often rendered in the law. Leviticus 22:18; Leviticus 22:21; Leviticus 22:23; Numbers 29:39; Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:17. The fundamental idea of the “freewill offering” was its perfect voluntariness, as it might have been omitted without any sin or violation of duty. See Exodus 35:29; Exodus 36:3; Ezra 1:4. Here the people spontaneously offer themselves for the war, as in Judges 5:2; Jdg 5:9 ; 2 Chronicles 17:16, and as opposed to a drafted or hireling soldiery.

Day of thy power Day of thy host, or army. The language is strictly military, and the idea is, that on the muster day of Messiah’s army the people will enroll themselves with alacrity. This would be evidence of their faith and love, and an omen of victory. Popularly and widely this text has been quoted as if it read, “Thy people shall be made willing in the day of thy power,” and applied to prove that by an irresistible grace men would be made willing to repent and submit, when the special day or time of God for manifesting his saving power to them should arrive. A perversion of language and the laws of interpretation which falls below the dignity of criticism.

In the beauties of holiness The reference is to the dress and appearance of the army. הדרי , ( hadrey,) plural, translated beauties, has the sense of ornaments, honour, excellence, and may apply to apparel, as in Isaiah 63:1. The army appears in rich and ornamental dress. But the moral sense prevails here. Compare the army dress of “fine linen, clean and white,” (Revelation 19:14,) and see note on Psalms 96:9.

From the womb of the morning The Septuagint and Vulgate read, “I have begotten thee from the womb before the morning star,” as if Jehovah thus declared the eternal generation of the Son of God. But, though this would be a true doctrine, it does not arise from the Hebrew text, which, agreeably with the connexion, gives the clause as part of the description of Messiah’s army. The “womb of the morning” is a poetical phrase for the earliest dawn, which gives birth to the day. And such should be the freshness, vigour, and zeal of this army, like the morning issuing from the earliest dawn.

Thou hast the dew of thy youth Literally, To thee [is] the dew of thy young men; for the word must here be taken concretely for young men, as in Ecclesiastes 11:9-10, and not abstractly for the period of youth. See also its primitive form, (Genesis 4:23,) applied to Joseph when he was seventeen years old. Genesis 42:22. In the text, the multitude of enlistments in the army of this priest-king is the point of the metaphor. So Mendelssohn: “In the days of thy battle thy young men are unto thee as dew from the womb of the morning.” That this early dew, which is more copious in the East than with us, denoted great numbers, is seen in 2 Samuel 17:11-12. Such should be the gathering of converts through the publication of the gospel.

Verse 4

4. This contains the grand central revelation of this psalm, the doctrine of the union of priest and king in him whom David calls, (Psalms 110:1,) “my Lord.”

The Lord hath sworn Jehovah hath sworn. A solemn introduction to the glorious oracle about to be uttered.

Will not repent Will not alter his purpose or change his mind. In some things, made conditional from the beginning, he might reverse or modify his administration, as in Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:29; Jeremiah 18:8, but this fundamental plan of redemption cannot be reversed.

Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek The oracle and the decree stand against the whole economy of Moses, which carefully and positively separated the two offices, and are in advance of all revelation concerning Messiah hitherto given. It is the central doctrine and mystery of the redemptive scheme, now first announced. Melchizedek, a primitive patriarch, was both priest and king, (Genesis 14:18;) the type of Christ existed before the Aaronic priesthood, as the great Prototype did at its close. The whole is explained and enforced by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 7, where see notes.

For ever Hebrew, To eternity. The subject demands the fullest import of the word. After the order, means according to the rank, or grade, of which Melchizedek is the type, in contrast with the order of Aaron.

Verse 5

5. The military figure is here resumed, and continued to the end. The Lord at thy right hand Hebrew, Adonah at thy right hand, that is, Adonah, here denoting Christ, at the right hand of Jehovah, as in Psalms 110:1, which see.

Strike through kings The dominion of the king, Christ, is not merely over individuals, as such, but over all offices and ranks of earthly power, so that wherever power centres, there the dominion of Christ must be confessed; or, the issue being taken and submission refused, the rod of judgment will “strike through” them. Wicked governments, in all ages, have been the seats and fountain heads of corruption and violence in the earth.

Day of his wrath Christ is not only mediator, but judge. His gospel is not only a word of mercy, but a rule of judgment. John 12:48. His anger is only the expression of his judicial purpose to enforce law, and this is not foreign to the functions of his merciful mission. See Psalms 2:12; Revelation 6:16-17

Verse 6

6. He shall judge See on Psalms 110:5.

Fill the places with the dead bodies This may be considered as a simple carrying out of the figure, to give it symmetry and completeness, not to be applied literally. The gospel, indeed, makes no provision for civil war, or physical resistance, for its own propagation, but disclaims and forbids both. Yet, as physical resistance of the gospel, on the part of human governments, involves the natural rights of conscience and of human liberty, such oppression must originate wars, wherein, in a secondary sense, the issue will lie between the oppressors and the oppressed, but, in a higher sense, between the kingdom and government of Christ and the wicked persecutors of his cause. Such wars are a conflict between right and wrong, truth and error, Christ and the hostile powers of the earth; and they are the last appeal for justice on the part of the oppressed, against “those which destroy the earth.” In such cases Christ is the arbiter, who will cause wars to turn to the interests of humanity and the breaking down of obstacles to his kingdom. See Revelation 11:17-18; Revelation 19:11-21.

Heads over many countries Same as “kings,” Psalms 110:5, where the word rendered strike through, is the same as wound here. The Hebrew for head is singular, and the clause might be rendered “The chief of the great, or wide, earth,” applying it to Satan. But such a rendering, though it formerly found favour, could not be sustained from the Old Testament standpoint. We should take it collectively for kings and heads of governments, or better, perhaps, with Bishop Alexander, for antichrist, “the head of a dark confederacy of evil, which shall not be shattered until the last dread struggle.”

Verse 7

7. He shall drink of the brook in the way The reader must transfer himself to ancient times. A great battle has been fought, the dead bodies cover the field, and the victor is pursuing the enemy. Exhausted and faint he refreshes himself by a hasty but cooling drink from a brook, and with new vigour resumes the pursuit. A figure founded in forms of war, but illustrating the resolute and unfailing spirit of our all-conquering King in the prolonged conflict with antichrist and antichristian systems of government. At length “He shall bring forth judgment unto victory.” Amen. Happy are the nations who submit to his rule. And happy had it been for the Jewish people had they penetrated the spiritual sense of this and similar prophecies, and accepted “the kingdom of heaven” when preached to them by Christ their King. See Revelation 19:11-21.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 110". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.