Psalm 110

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Scroll of the Psalms

Psalm 110 (Septuagint No. 109) is from the Book of Psalms. It refers in the general sense to a King ruling over the enemies of the Israelites and is regarded by Jews and Christians as referring to the Messiah. Because this Psalm is prominent in the Office of Vespers, its Latin text, Dixit Dominus, has particular significance in music, having been set by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (in 1689), George Frideric Handel (1707), Leonardo Leo (in 1741 and 1742), Claudio Monteverdi (1610 and 1640), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1779 and 1780), Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1732), Nicola Porpora (1720), Alessandro Scarlatti (1700), Tomás Luis de Victoria (1581) and Antonio Vivaldi (twice in 1715), among others.

Text and background[edit]

Psalm 110
1 {A Psalm of David.} The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.
7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

Psalm 110
1 {A Psalm of David.} The LORD saith unto my lord: 'Sit thou at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.'
2 The rod of Thy strength the LORD will send out of Zion: 'Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.'
3 Thy people offer themselves willingly in the day of thy warfare in adornments of holiness, from the womb of the dawn, thine is the dew of thy youth.
4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent: 'Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Melchizedek.'
5 The Lord at thy right hand doth crush kings in the day of His wrath.
6 He will judge among the nations; He filleth it with dead bodies, He crusheth the head over a wide land.
7 He will drink of the brook in the way; therefore will he lift up the head.

Though they translate this Psalm similarly, Christians and Jews interpret its meaning very differently – Jews as referring to a righteous king favored by God to rule over Israel on earth and smite her enemies in battle, and Christians as referring to Jesus literally sitting at God's right hand in heaven as a divine being of equal stature to God.

The primary difference between the Christian and Jewish translations is subtle but significant – the rendering of the Hebrew word 'אדנ ('adoni='my lord') in verse 1a. Many Christian translations follow the KJV and render this word as "my Lord", with capitalization implying that "Lord" refers to a name of God and that therefore two distinct divine Persons ("LORD" and "Lord") are involved.

Noted Messianic Jewish scholar Dr Michael L. Brown states: "Psalm 110 is an important Messianic psalm pointing to the highly exalted status of the Messiah (to the right hand of God!), and to his priestly and royal nature. For these reasons, it is quoted frequently in the New Testament with reference to Yeshua. Yeshua even quotes it himself, pointing out how the Messiah was greater than David, since David called him 'my lord.'" [1]


The Psalm is usually dated in its first part in the pre-exilic period of Israel, sometimes even completely in the oldest monarchy.[2] A Date in the Maccabean Era is generally not accepted today.


The altar of the Dominican church at Friesach in Austria: Abraham meeting Melchizedek.

Psalm 110:4 in the Authorized King James Version reads Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek, which has become traditional in English translations, but the Hebrew contains ambiguities. The New Jewish Publication Society of America Version, (1985 edition), for example, has You are a priest forever, a rightful king by My decree. Another alternative keeps Melchizedek as a personal name but changes the identity of the person addressed: "You are a priest forever by my order (or 'on my account'), O Melchizedek" - here it is Melchizedek who is being addressed throughout the psalm.[3]

In Judaism[edit]

Targum Yonathan to the opening verse of the psalm attributes the victorious king as King David [4] who was a "righteous king" and, as king, had certain priest-like responsibilities. The Babylonian Talmud understands the chapter as referring to Abram who was victorious in battling to save his brother-in-law Lot and merited priesthood.[5] According to Avot of Rabbi Nathan, chapter 34, Psalm 110 refers to the Messiah, in the context of the Four Craftsmen.

"These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth (Zech. 4:14). This is a reference to Aaron and the Messiah, but I cannot tell which is the more beloved. However, from the verse, The Lord hath sworn and will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Mechizedek (Psalm 110:4), one can tell that the Messianic King is more beloved than the Righteous Priest."[6]

As a member of tribe of Judah King David was not a born priest (Kohen) as only members of the tribe of Levi of patrilineal descent from Aaron, the brother of Moses, are entitled to priesthood in Judaism. As the respected Jewish sage Rashi wrote:

Because of the speech of Malchizedek, because of the command of Malchizedek. You are a priest, Heb. kohen ("כהן"). The term kohen bears the connotation of priesthood, servitude to the deity and, less frequently, rulership, as (II Sam. 8:18): "and David's sons were kohanim (chief officers)".

Rashi is speaking of the Hebrew word "kohen" which Christian translators translate as "priest" in Psalm 110, but which is often translated as "ruler" in many places in Christian translations. The Hebrew word is kohen and while commonly translated as "priest" it may have other meanings. The word appears 750 times in the Massoretic Text. In 5 cases the KJV translates it as "officers":

2 Samuel 8:18 (KJV) - And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David's sons were chief rulers (kohenim). 2 Samuel 20:26 (KJV) - And Ira also the Jairite was a chief ruler (kohen) about David. 1 Kings 4:5 (KJV) - And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers: and Zabud the son of Nathan was principal officer (kohen) and the king's friend.



Protestant Christianity[edit]

  • Dixit Dominus, based on the psalm, is a Handel work of 1707, and his earliest surviving autograph.
  • Edmund Ludlow reported that Cromwell in 1650, prior to war with Scotland "talked for almost an hour on the 110th Psalm"


In the rule of St Benedict set to 530, St. Benedict of Nursia designated psalms 109 to 147 to the Vespers, except those reserved for other hours. Therefore, from the early Middle Ages, Psalm 110 (109 in the septuagint numbering) was traditionally performed at the beginning of the solemn service of Vespers on Sunday.[8]

Even today, in the Ordinary form of the Roman rite, Psalm 110 is recited at Vespers every Sunday and read at the Mass for the feast of the Blessed Sacrament.[9] In the Extraordinary form, it is recited at Vespers every Sunday and during major holidays.

New Testament[edit]

The first verse of the psalm is an important quote in the New Testament, the basis of an extremely important piece of Christian theology [10] and is one of the most quoted Old Testament verses in the New Testament.[11] In this case, the statements are interpreted as Jesus Christ sitting "at the right hand of God" [12] and God put him "his enemies at the feet"[13][14] Jesus indicates the first verse of the psalm as a prophetic statement of David, about himself. According to Acts 2:34-36, Psalm 110:1 was fulfilled in the ascension and exaltation of Christ.

In addition, the Psalm is used in the book of Hebrews, to justify the award of the title "High Priest" of Jesus from Scripture .[15] Especially Ps 110.4 EU is often cited.:

  1. Hebrews 5:1-6 emphasizes the correspondence of Christ's priesthood to the Levitical priesthood: Aaron and Christ were both called by God and inserted into office.
  2. Hebrews 6:20 emphasizes the eternity of this priesthood.
  3. Hebrews 7 identified the priesthood of Christ with the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek and ensure its preferential out over the Levitical priesthood. Melchizedek even legitimized Abraham as the progenitor of the Levites[16][17]

Musical settings[edit]

Francesco Durante - Dixit Dominus

The Latin text was set to music by many composers, such as Tomás Luis de Victoria in the 16th century, or Michel Richard Delalande, Michael Haydn and Vivaldi in the 18th century. In the seventeenth century, Claudio Monteverdi put Psalm 110 in his famous Vespers of the Virgin and in his Selva morale e spirituale.

One of the standard psalms used in the Vespers service, this psalm has also been set by many composers, notably Mozart in his Vesperae solennes de confessore and by Handel in his Dixit Dominus. Richard Rodgers composed a partial setting of the psalm for the opening sequence of his musical The Sound of Music, using verses 1, 5, and 7.


  1. ^ Brown, Michael L. (2003). Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus : Volume 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections. Baker Books. 
  2. ^ Hans-Joachim Kraus: Psalmen. 2. Teilband Psalmen 50-150.
  3. ^ James L. Kugel, "Traditions of the Bible", pp.278-279
  4. ^ based on the text שב לימיני with "Yemini" referring either to King Saul whom David was careful not to overthrow or to the Torah (as per it being referred to as "from his right hand -a fire of religion to them" -Deuteronomy) -Targum Yonathan to Psalm 110
  5. ^ Babylonian Talmud to Nedarim, p. 32
  6. ^ Raʻanan S. Boustan (2005). From Martyr to Mystic: Rabbinic Martyrology and the Making of Merkavah Mysticism. Mohr Siebeck. p. 138. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  7. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 457
  8. ^ Règle de saint Benoît, traduction de Prosper Guéranger, p. 47, Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes, réimpression 2007.
  9. ^ Le cycle de lecture des messes du dimanche de déroule sur trois ans.
  10. ^ Ferdinand Hahn: Christologische Hoheitstitel, p.127.
  11. ^ Martin Hengel, Psalm 110 und die Erhöhung des Auferstandenen zur Rechten Gottes, p.43.
  12. ^ Mk 12:36 & 14,62.
  13. ^ Lk 20.41 - 44
  14. ^ 1 Cor 15,25
  15. ^ Angela Rascher, Schriftauslegung und Christologie im Hebräerbrief, S. 118f.
  16. ^ Heb 7.4 - 7.
  17. ^ Heb 7.17 to 24