▼ Psalm 45. This is a romantic poem celebrating the Davidic king’s marriage to a lovely princess. The psalmist praises the king for his military prowess and commitment to justice, urges the bride to be loyal to the king, and anticipates that the marriage will be blessed with royal offspring.
For the music director; according to the tune of “Lilies;” ▼ by the Korahites, a well-written poem, ▼ a love song.1 My heart is stirred by a beautiful song. ▼
▼ Heb “[with] a good word.” The “good word” probably refers here to the song that follows.
I say, “I have composed this special song ▼
▼ Heb “my works [are] for a king.” The plural “works” may here indicate degree, referring to the special musical composition that follows.for the king;
my tongue is as skilled as the stylus of an experienced scribe.” ▼
▼ Heb “my tongue [is] a stylus of a skillful scribe.” Words flow from the psalmist’s tongue just as they do from a scribe’s stylus.
2 You are the most handsome of all men! ▼
▼ Heb “you are handsome from the sons of man.” The preposition “from” is used in a comparative (“more than”) sense. The peculiar verb form יָפְיָפִיתָ (yafyafita) is probably the result of dittography of yod-pe (יפ) and should be emended to יָפִיתָ (yafita). See GKC 152 #55.e.
You speak in an impressive and fitting manner! ▼
▼ Heb “favor is poured out on your lips.” “Lips” probably stands by metonymy for the king’s speech. Some interpret the Hebrew term חֵן (khen) as referring here to “gracious (i.e., kind and polite) speech”, but the word probably refers more generally to “attractive” speech that is impressively articulated and fitting for the occasion. For other instances of the term being used of speech, see Prov 22:11 and Eccl 10:12.
For this reason ▼
▼ Or “this demonstrates.” The construction עַל־כֵּן (’al-ken, “therefore”) usually indicates what logically follows from a preceding statement. However, here it may infer the cause from the effect, indicating the underlying basis or reason for what precedes (see BDB 487 s.v. I כֵּן 3.f; C. A. Briggs and E. G. Briggs, Psalms [ICC], 1:386).God grants you continual blessings. ▼
▼ Or “blesses you forever.” Here “bless” means to “endue with the power and skill to rule effectively,” as the following verses indicate.
3 Strap your sword to your thigh, O warrior! ▼
▼ Or “mighty one.”
Appear in your majestic splendor! ▼
▼ 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.
4 Appear in your majesty and be victorious! ▼
Ride forth for the sake of what is right, ▼
▼ Or “for the sake of truth.”
on behalf of justice! ▼
▼ The precise meaning of the MT is uncertain. The form עַנְוָה (’anvah) occurs only here. One could emend the text to עֲנָוָה וְצֶדֶק (’anavah vetsedeq, “[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 (ya’an, “because; on account of”) which would form a suitable parallel to עַל־דְּבַר (’al-devar, “because; for the sake of”) in the preceding line.
Then your right hand will accomplish mighty acts! ▼
▼ 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.
5 Your arrows are sharp
and penetrate the hearts of the king’s enemies.
Nations fall at your feet. ▼
▼ 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.
6 Your throne, ▼
▼ The king’s throne here symbolizes his rule.O God, is permanent. ▼
▼ Or “forever and ever.”▼
▼ 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.
The scepter ▼
▼ The king’s scepter symbolizes his royal authority.of your kingdom is a scepter of justice.
7 You love ▼
▼ To love justice means to actively promote it.justice and hate evil. ▼
▼ To hate evil means to actively oppose it.
For this reason God, your God ▼
▼ 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.”has anointed you ▼
▼ 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.
with the oil of joy, ▼
▼ 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.elevating you above your companions. ▼
▼ Heb “from your companions.” The “companions” are most naturally understood as others in the royal family or, more generally, as the king’s countrymen.▼
8 All your garments are perfumed with ▼
▼ The words “perfumed with” are supplied in the translation for clarification.myrrh, aloes, and cassia.
From the luxurious palaces ▼ comes the music of stringed instruments that makes you happy. ▼
▼ Heb “from the palaces of ivory stringed instrument[s] make you happy.”
9 Princesses ▼
▼ Heb “daughters of kings.”are among your honored guests, ▼
▼ Heb “valuable ones.” The form is feminine plural.
your bride ▼ stands at your right hand, wearing jewelry made with gold from Ophir. ▼
▼ Heb “a consort stands at your right hand, gold of Ophir.”▼
10 Listen, O princess! ▼
▼ Heb “daughter.” The Hebrew noun בת (“daughter”) can sometimes refer to a young woman in a general sense (see H. Haag, TDOT 2:334).▼
▼ Listen, O princess. The poet now addresses the bride.
Observe and pay attention! ▼
▼ Heb “see and turn your ear.” The verb רָאָה (ra’ah, “see”) is used here of mental observation.
Forget your homeland ▼
▼ Heb “your people.” This reference to the “people” of the princess suggests she was a foreigner. Perhaps the marriage was arranged as part of a political alliance between Israel (or Judah) and a neighboring state. The translation “your homeland” reflects such a situation.and your family! ▼
▼ Heb “and the house of your father.”
11 Then ▼
▼ After the preceding imperatives, the jussive verbal form with vav (ו) conjunctive is best understood as introducing a purpose (“so that the king might desire your beauty”) or result clause (see the present translation and cf. also NASB). The point seems to be this: The bride might tend to be homesick, which in turn might cause her to mourn and diminish her attractiveness. She needs to overcome this temptation to unhappiness and enter into the marriage with joy. Then the king will be drawn to her natural beauty.the king will be attracted by ▼
▼ Or “desire.”your beauty.
After all, he is your master! Submit ▼
▼ Or “bow down.”to him! ▼
▼ Submit to him. The poet here makes the point that the young bride is obligated to bring pleasure to her new husband. Though a foreign concept to modern western culture, this was accepted as the cultural norm in the psalmist’s day.
12 Rich people from Tyre ▼
will seek your favor by bringing a gift. ▼
▼ Heb “and a daughter of Tyre with a gift, your face they will appease, the rich of people.” The phrase “daughter of Tyre” occurs only here in the OT. It could be understood as addressed to the bride, indicating she was a Phoenician (cf. NEB). However, often in the OT the word “daughter,” when collocated with the name of a city or country, is used to personify the referent (see, for example, “Daughter Zion” in Ps 9:14, and “Daughter Babylon” in Ps 137:8). If that is the case here, then “Daughter Tyre” identifies the city-state of Tyre as the place from which the rich people come (cf. NRSV). The idiom “appease the face” refers to seeking one’s favor (see Exod 32:11; 1 Sam 13:12; 1 Kgs 13:6; 2 Kgs 13:4; 2 Chr 33:12; Job 11:19; Ps 119:58; Prov 19:6; Jer 26:19; Dan 9:13; Zech 7:2; 8:21–22; Mal 1:9).
13 The princess ▼
▼ Heb “[the] daughter of a king.”looks absolutely magnificent, ▼
▼ Heb “[is] completely glorious.”
decked out in pearls and clothed in a brocade trimmed with gold. ▼
▼ Heb “within, from settings of gold, her clothing.” The Hebrew term פְּנִימָה (penimah, “within”), if retained, would go with the preceding line and perhaps refer to the bride being “within” the palace or her bridal chamber (cf. NIV, NRSV). Since the next two lines refer to her attire (see also v. 9b), it is preferable to emend the form to פְּנִינִיהָּ (“her pearls”) or to פְּנִינִים (“pearls”). The mem (מ) prefixed to “settings” is probably dittographic.
14 In embroidered robes she is escorted to the king.
Her attendants, the maidens of honor who follow her,
are led before you. ▼
▼ Heb “virgins after her, her companions, are led to you.” Some emend לָךְ (lakh, “to you”) to לָהּ (lah, “to her,” i.e., the princess), because the princess is now being spoken of in the third person (vv. 13–14a), rather than being addressed directly (as in vv. 10–12). However, the ambiguous suffixed form לָךְ need not be taken as second feminine singular. The suffix can be understood as a pausal second masculine singular form, addressed to the king. The translation assumes this to be the case; note that the king is addressed once more in vv. 16–17, where the second person pronouns are masculine.
15 They are bubbling with joy as they walk in procession
and enter the royal palace. ▼
▼ Heb “they are led with joy and happiness, they enter the house of the king.”
16 Your ▼
▼ The pronoun is second masculine singular, indicating the king is being addressed from this point to the end of the psalm.sons will carry ▼
▼ The prefixed verbal form could be taken as jussive and the statement interpreted as a prayer, “May your sons carry on the dynasty of your ancestors!” The next line could then be taken as a relative clause, “[your sons] whom you will make princes throughout the land.”on the dynasty of your ancestors; ▼
▼ Heb “in place of your fathers will be your sons.”
you will make them princes throughout the land.
I will proclaim your greatness through the coming years, ▼
then the nations will praise you ▼
▼ The nations will praise you. As God’s vice-regent on earth, the king is deserving of such honor and praise.forever.
For the music director; by the Korahites; according to the alamoth style; a song.17 ▼
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