Psalm 110

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[1]Psalm 110 is the 110th psalm of the Book of Psalms. In the general sense, it refers to lord David ruling over the enemies of the Israelites. It is also thought to be a Messianic Psalm by Christians.

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 (Authorized Version)

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.

Psalm 110 (Jewish Publication Society)

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 and smite her enemies in battle, and Christians as referring to Jesus literally "sitting at God's right hand" 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 ליאדני. Christians render this word as "My Lord", with capitalization implying that "Lord" refers to a name of God and that therefore two distinct divine beings ("LORD" and "Lord") are engaging in a discussion, thus serving to justify the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

In the original Hebrew, the word translated as LORD (יהוה, the Tetragrammaton and ineffable name of God in Judaism) is universally understood to mean God, whereas the word יאדני translated by Christians as "Lord" (לי meaning "my") can either be the name of God Adonai אֲדֹנָי "Lord", or Adoni ִאֲדֹני, "lord", which refers to a human master or king. Though this difference in pronunciation isn't reflected in early Hebrew Bibles, since Hebrew, as an abjad, traditionally lacks vowels, the words Adonai and Adonii have distinct meanings in the Hebrew language. For instance, the phrase בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי "Barukh ata Adonai" which begins many Jewish blessings means "Blessed are you the Lord", while סְלִיחָה לִי אֲדֹני "Slicha L'Adonii" means "excuse me, sir". Jews have historically pronounced ליאדני as "L'Adonii", "my lord", referring to a human lord, who is usually interpreted in Psalm 110 to be King David. The word L'Adonai "to my Lord" never appears in the Hebrew Bible as implied in the Christian translation, whereas L’adoni “to my master” appears 20 times in the Tanakh, always referring to a human being. [2] In each example Christians correctly translate the word as L'Adoni, with the sole exception of Psalm 110. Whether this mistranslation was deliberately introduced by Christian apologetics or was simply accidental is unclear. In recognition of this, some modern Christian translations such as the Oxford Annotated Bible correctly translate Psalm 110 as “The Lord said to my lord”, with a lower case “L.”

Melchizedek[edit]

Further information: 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]

Much of the ambiguity centres on the translation of the word דִּבְרָתִי in verse 4. The KJV translation of עַל-דִּבְרָתִי as "after the order of," is fitting, when "order" is taken as the English word meaning, "an authoritative direction or instruction," דִּבְרָתִי has its root in דבר, and is most plainly "utterance" or "speech," with an implication of authority or leadership.[4] Translations vary in how they interpret this. The New Living Translation gives the meaning as "in the line of,"[5] the Amplified Bible gives, "after the manner and order of,"[6] the Contemporary English Version prints it as, "just like,"[7] and The Message Bible omits the word.[8]

The text is traditionally translated (Septuagint, Vulgate, KJV 1611, JPS 1917):

"4The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent: 'Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Melchizedek.'." (JPS 1917)

Although the above is the traditional translation of the text, the Hebrew text contains ambiguities and can be interpreted in various ways, and the New Jewish Publication Society of America Version, (1985 edition), for example, has:

"You are a priest forever, a rightful king by My decree." (JPS 1985)

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.[9]

In Judaism[edit]

Targum Yonathan to the opening verse of the psalm attributes the victorious king as King David[10] who was a "righteous king" and, as king, had certain priestly-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.[11] 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."[12]

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.

Uses[edit]

Judaism[edit]

Christianity[edit]

Musical settings[edit]

One of the standard psalms used in the Vespers service, this psalm has 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, 6 and 8.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Psalm 110
  2. ^ Examples of L'Adoni in the Tanakh:

    5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him: 6 Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us; in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.

    —Genesis 23 5-6, JPS translation

    15 And Joseph said unto them: 'What deed is this that ye have done? know ye not that such a man as I will indeed divine?' 16 And Judah said: 'What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants; behold, we are my lord's bondmen, both we, and he also in whose hand the cup is found.'

    —Genesis 44 15-16, JPS translation

    And Moses said unto Aaron: 21 'What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought a great sin upon them?' 22 And Aaron said: 'Let not the anger of my lord wax hot; thou knowest the people, that they are set on evil.'

    —Exodus 32 21-22, JPS translation


    And Moses said unto Aaron: 21 'What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought a great sin upon them?' 22 And Aaron said: 'Let not the anger of my lord wax hot; thou knowest the people, that they are set on evil.'

    —Exodus 32 21-22, JPS translation

    5 And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.

    6 And he said unto his men: 'The LORD forbid it me, that I should do this thing unto my lord, the LORD'S anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD'S anointed.'

    —Samuel 24
    This passage clearly shows the distinction between יהוה, LORD, referring to God, and אֲדֹני, lord, referring to the human David. The word translated as "anointed" is משיח mashiach, which literally means "anointed one" in Hebrew, referring to a righteous king chosen by God to rule over Israel (in this case, David). This starkly differs from the Christian concept of the Messiah as a Savior, Man-god, or vicarious sacrifice.
  3. ^ James L. Kugel, "Traditions of the Bible", pp.278-279
  4. ^ Dictionary of the Talmud, Volume I, Traditional Press Inc Brooklyn, NY, p. 278-279
  5. ^ New Living translation of Psalm 110:4
  6. ^ Amplified translation of Psalm 110:4
  7. ^ Contemporary English Version translation of Psalm 110:4
  8. ^ Message Bible of Psalm 110:4
  9. ^ Kugel, James L. Traditions of the Bible, pp.278-279
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Babylonian Talmud to Nedarim, p. 32
  12. ^ Raʻanan S. Boustan (2005). From Martyr to Mystic: Rabbinic Martyrology and the Making of Merkavah Mysticism. Mohr Siebeck. p. 138. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  13. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 457