Bibliotheca Sacra 149 (Oct.  1992): 438-53.

      Copyright © 1992 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.    




                                        Psalm 110:1

                    and the New Testament



                                     Herbert W. Bateman IV

                                             Dallas, Texas



            Old Testament scholars generally agree with form critics that

Psalm 110 is a royal psalm because of its king motif,1 but they dis-

agree over the historical setting for the psalm. Throughout this cen-

tury several proposals have been offered, debated, and rejected con-

cerning the time frame, speaker, recipient, and life situation for the

psalm. These are natural concerns for Old Testament scholars, but

many New Testament scholars share similar interests, since portions

of the psalm occur in the New Testament. Does the New Testament

contribute to these historical discussions? If so, to what extent can  

the New Testament be used to identify the historical setting and the

historically intended recipient of Psalm 110?


                            The Time Frame for Psalm 110


       Scholars have proposed three time frames for Psalm 110: pre-Is-

raelite, postexilic, or preexilic. Those who have proposed a pre-Is-

raelite  time  frame suggest that  Psalm 110 is a hymn  converted 




1  H. Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form Critical Introduction, trans. T. M. Horner  

(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967), 23-24; Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen (Neukirchen-

Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1961, 1978), 1:lii; idem, Psalms 1-59, trans. H. C. 

Oswald (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1988), 56; A. Weiser, The Psalms (Philadelphia:

Westminster, 1962), 63; Kyle M. Yates, "Psalms," in The Wycliffe Bible

Commentary, ed. Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody,

1962), 536; Sigmund Mowinckel, Psalmenstudien (Amsterdam: Schippers, 1966),

3:78; Leslie Jacquet, Les Psaumes et le Coeur de l'Homme: Psaumes 101 ả 150

(Gemblox: Duculot, 1979), 3:214; Leslie C. Allen, Psalms 101-150, Word Biblical

Commentary (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 83; Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament

in the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 245; Allen P. Ross,   "Psalms," in

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 2 vols., ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B.

Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985), 1:784-88; W. A. VanGemeren, "Psalms," in

The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 5:696.




                                                   Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament 439


or based on a Jebusite royal tradition. In defense of their proposal,

they note that a royal priesthood existed in Jebus (Jerusalem) in

Abraham's time (Gen. 14:18) and that David later conquered Jebus (2

Sam. 5:6-10; 1 Chron. 11:4-5).2 Others appeal to Canaanite vocabu-

lary and cultic parallels in Psalm 110. For instance Patton cites three

examples of Canaanite word parallels, which Jefferson later reintro-

duces, to support the view that Psalm 110 originally was a Canaan-  

ite poem. The thought of sitting at the right hand of God (Ps.    

110:1a) is compared with "and he was seated on the right hand of

mightiest Baal" (4 v 109-10). The "footstool" of El in Ugaritic, an

important part of the royal furnishings (4 iv 29; 5 vi 12-13; 6 i 58), is

compared with the "footstool" mentioned in several Old Testament

texts (1 Chron. 28:2; Pss. 99:5; 110:1b; 132:7; Isa. 66:1). The verb "to                      

smash" or "to shatter" (CHm) in Psalm 110:5-6 is cited as a poetic

word used elsewhere only in Judges5:26 (Song of Deborah); Numbers

24:8, 17 (Balaam's oracles); Deuteronomy 32:39 (Song of Moses);

33:11 (Blessing of Moses); Job 5:18; 26:2; Psalms 18:39; 68:22, 24;

and Habakkuk 3:13.3

     Although a sprinkling of Canaanite coloring and vocabulary  ex-                   

ists in Psalm 110, the evidence is too meager to affirm that the psalm                

was converted from a Jebusite hymn or royal tradition. Even Mow-              

inckel, who agrees the Canaanites possessed a cultic psalmography,             

argues, "on the basis of the scanty material, it is impossible for us to                  

say how great the resemblance may have been between the Israelite

version of the common stylistic tradition and the Canaanite one."4   

He warns against "drawing premature conclusions from the  evidence,

especially concerning  Psalm chronology and the date  of  the preva-

lence  of  Ugaritic  influences on the Psalms."5   Even applying the


2    J. H. Patton, Canaanite Parallels in the Book of Psalms (Baltimore: Johns

Hopkins  University Press, 1944), 30, 37, 41; H. H. Rowley, "Melchizedek and

Zadok (Gen 14 and Ps 110)," in Festschrift: Alfred Bertholet (Tübingen: J. C. B.

Mohr, 1950), 463-72; and H. G. Jefferson, "Is Psalm 110 Canaanite?" Journal of

Biblical Literature 73 (1954): 152-56.

3Patton, Canaanite Parallels in the Book of Psalms, 29, 37, 41. Although  

Gordon's notation system for the Ugaritic texts is followed by Patton, Gibson's is 

followed here (J. C. L. Gibson, Canaanite Myths and Legends [Edinburgh: T. & T. 

Clark, 1978], xi). Jefferson's article is essentially a reproduction of Patton's work, 

and the third word parallel comes from Umberto Cassuto, "Biblical Literature and  

Canaanite Literature," Tarbiz 13 (1942): 211-12, which is cited by both Patton

(Canaanite Parallels in the Book of Psalms, 41) and Jefferson ("Is Psalm 110

Canaanite?" 154).

4   Sigmund Mowinkel, "Psalm Criticism between 1900 and 1935: Ugarit and  

Psalm Exegesis," Vetus Testamentum 5 (1955): 13-33.

5  Ibid., 26. Sabourin, who likewise believes the Canaanites contributed to   Hebrew

culture, offers another caution: "Since any reconstruction of the Canaanite cult and

priesthood from the published Ugaritic texts is largely conjectural, restraint in that

field is recommended" (Leopold Sabourin, Priesthood: A Comparative Study

[Leiden:  Brill, 1973], 69).

440 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1992

royal priesthood of Melchizedek to a Jerusalem king (Ps. 110:4) does

not support the contention that Psalm 110 is a pre-Israelite hymn.

                        Those who  propose a  postexilic time frame suggest that Psalm

110 is  a  Maccabean  psalm  on the basis of literary and historical evi-

dence.  On  the  one  hand Treves proposes that Psalm 110 speaks of a

“warrior-priest”   who  is  identified  as  Simon  Maccabeus  through a

literary  acrostic.6    On  the  other  hand  Pfeiffer  suggests  the  psalm

was  composed  for  Simon  to  confer  on him and his descendants the

"legitimate  and  permanent  authority  as  ruling high priests (1 Macc.

14:25-49).”7 Though some evidence may support a Hasmonean time

frame,8 many adamantly oppose this postexilic view for several rea-

sons. First, the initial letter of Treves's acrostic starts not in verse la

but in 1b.9 Second, the poor condition of the text in verses 3, 6, and 7

may also argue for a more ancient psalm.10 Third, verse 1 suggests 

that Psalm 110 is an oracle from Yahweh. Since divine prophecy    

had ceased during the Maccabean period (1 Macc. 4:46), "the free,

almost startling, use of the divine name," according to Hardy,

"scarcely belongs to [this] period."11 Fourth, the kingship imagery     

in Psalm 110:1 does not fit Simon Maccabee. Simon was not a king.

He was high priest, military commander, and governor (a]rciereu<j,

strathgo<j, e]qna<rxhj, 1 Macc. 14:41-42). Fifth, Psalm 110:4

ascribes the Melchizedek priesthood to the king, but the Hasmoneans

were priests by birth.12 Most likely a Levite would not claim his

priesthood was after Melchizedek's order. Sixth, the dvidAl; superscription


6  According to Treves, the acrostic reads: Myx Nmw = Simon the terrible. The

concept of "warrior-priest" is observed in the descriptions of the warrior (vv. 1-3,

5-6) who is a priest (v. 4) who leads his army (vv. 2-3, 7) and is quartered in Zion

(v. 2) (M. Treves,"Two Acrostic Psalms," Vetus Testamentum 15 [1965]: 81-90).

7    Robert H. Pfeiffer, History of the New Testament Times (New York: Harper &

Row, 1949), 19. Pfeiffer declares elsewhere that "the contents of the psalm show

the poem to have been the oracle by which Simon Maccabeus was solemnly

confirmed in the office of leader and high priest in 141 B.C. (I Macc. 14:41)"

(Robert H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament [New York: Harper &

Brothers, 1941], 630).

8  Possible evidence favoring a postexilic view is 1 Maccabees 14:41, which

describes Simon's appointment to the office of "governor and high priest forever."

The Testament of Moses 6:1-2 refers to the Hasmoneans as powerful kings and

priests of the Most High, and the Testament of Levi 8:2 refers to the Hasmonean

kings as putting on priestly garments.

9   J. W. Bowker, "Psalm CX," Vetus Testamentum 17 (1967): 31-41, and C. A.

Briggs and E. G. Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical. Commentary on the Book of

Psalms, International Critical Commentary, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1907), 2:374.

10  E. R. Hardy, "The Date of Psalm 110," Journal of Biblical Literature 64 (1945):


11  Ibid., 385. Also see Josephus, Against Apion 1. 8; IV Ezra 14:44-47; and G.

Cooke, "The Israelite King as Son of God," Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche

Wissenschaft 73 (1961): 202-25.

12 Briggs and Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of

Psalms, 2:374. First Maccabees 2:1-5 clearly indicates this fact.

                                                                Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament 441


argues against a postexilic date. Mowinckel asserts that dvidAl; repre-

sents a strong testimonial to the probability that these psalms may 

have been written for David and used by him and other Davidic   

kings after him.13 Since some superscribed psalms reflect events in

David's life (e.g., Pss. 7 and 51), and since David is an acknowledged

author (2 Sam. 1:17-27; 23:1-7), it is probable that Psalm 110 is a pre-

exilic psalm.

                  Most scholars view Psalm 110 as a preexilic psalm. "Today," says

Kraus, "there is no longer doubt that Psalms 2; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101;

and 110 belong to the historical epoch of the time of the   kings."14 In

fact Kraus believes Psalm 110 may be dated in the earli- est time of

the kings because of the "extremely difficult and disputed state of the

text" and the "ancient Hebrew prosody" that in his opin- ion may look

back to a Canaanite situation.15 Mowinckel also considered Psalm 110

to be early. Though he argued that few psalms  could be ascribed to

David, he did determine that many psalms with the dvidAl;

superscription, including Psalm 110, were from a Davidic Solomonic

period.16 Dahood likewise argues for a preexilic 10th-century time

frame for Psalm 110 based on verbal and conceptual re-semblances to

Psalm 2.17 Also the monarchial overtones in Psalm 110:1 indicate a

preexilic period, since there were no Davidic kings after 586 B.C. In

addition New Testament testimony clearly confirms that Psalm 110 is

a preexilic psalm. Three writers place the psalm in a Davidic time

frame (Matt. 22:43-45; Mark 12:36-37; Luke 20:42-44; Acts 2:34).


                                    The Speaker of Psalm 110

      Scholars have commonly discussed three options concerning the

speaker of Psalm 110: Zadok and King David, a prophet, or David.

The least accepted of these is Rowley's proposal that there were two  

speakers,  Zadok  and  King  David.18  Rowley  insists  Psalm 110 



13 For Mowinkel's defense concerning the dvidAl; superscription see

Psalmenstudien, 3:72-76. Also see Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (Downers Grove,

IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 33-35, 43-46, and Kraus, Psalms 1-59, 22-23.

14   Kraus, Psalms 1-59, 64.

15 Ibid., and Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, trans. H. O. Oswald

(Minneapolis: Augsburg,1989), 345, 347.

16 Mowinkel, "Psalm Criticism between 1900 and 1935: Ugarit and Psalm

Exegesis," 18. He notes that all royal psalms (Pss. 2, 18, 20, 21, 28, 61, 63, 72, 89,

101, 110, 132, 144) are preexilic (Sigmund Mowinkel, The Psalms in Israel's

Worship, trans. D. R. Ap-Thomas [New York: Abingdon, 19671, 2:152-58, n. 36,

and idem, Psalmenstudien, 3:72-76).

17   Mitchell Dahood, Psalms III:101-150, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY:

Doubleday, 1982), 112.

18    Rowley, “Melchizedek and Zadok (Gen 14 and Ps 110)," 461-72, esp. 469-72,


442 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-0ecember 1992


written shortly after David captured Jebus (Jerusalem) from the Je-

busites (2 Sam. 5:6-10; 1 Chron. 10:4-9). Zadok, a Jebusite priest,

pledged the submission of Jerusalem to David, the recent conqueror of

the city (Ps. 110:1-3). David in turn confirmed Zadok's Jebusite

priesthood by accepting him and his descendants as priests for Israel

(v. 4). Hence Zadok spoke blessings on David (vv. 5-7). 

                        Several difficulties, however, may be seen in Rowley's pro-

posal. First, as de Vaux points out, Zadok is not connected with the

events surrounding Jerusalem's conquest. Zadok's connection with

David came later with the ark and the tent (2 Sam. 15:25; 1 Kings

1:39).19 Second, no evidence exists that Zadok was a Jebusite priest.

The similarity of the name Zadok with Melchizedek is coinciden- 

tal.20 Third, Gilbert and Pisano demonstrate that the sudden shift of

persons in Psalm 110:4-5, a shift that Rowley identifies to support      

a transition from David to Zadok, is a common phenomenon in an-

cient poetry and thus does not necessitate a shift in speakers.21

Fourth, Rowley assumes the syncretism of Israel's priesthood and ne-

glects the Aaronic priesthood established by God (Num. 3) and con-

secrated by Moses (Lev. 8:1-9:22). De Vaux's assessment, then, that

Rowley's view "is an interesting hypothesis, but without founda-  

tion"22 is appropriate.

                 A currently popular and multifaceted option is that a prophet spoke

Psalm 110. The prophet may have been any court prophet or poet who

addressed the Israelite king at an annual autumn ritual typically

celebrated throughout the ancient Near East. The prophet/poet may

have spoken the psalm at an enthronement celebration (Gunkel,

Mowinkel, Widengren, Cooke, Durham, Eaton), a New Year

celebration (Bentzen, Porter), a covenant renewal celebration 

(Weiser),  or  a rainfall ceremony (Gammie).23  However, in 1966


idem, "Melchizedek and David," Vetus Testamentum 17 (1967): 485. Also see A.

Bentzen, Studier over det Sadokidiske Prasesteskabs Historie (Copenhagen: G. E.

C. Gads, 1931), 8-9.

19 Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 2 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965), 2:331.

20 H. H. Rowley, "Zadok and Nehushtan," Journal of Biblical Literature 58 (1939):

113-41, esp. 130-31. De Vaux states that "it is safer to admit that we do not know

where Zadok came from" (Ancient Israel, 2:374). Rowley admits that "the figure of

Zadok has always commanded the interest of Old Testament students, and the

problem of his antecedents has found no certain solution" (Rowley, "Zadok and

Nehushtan," 113).

21 Genesis 49:8-9; Numbers 24:5-7; Hosea 10:9-10; Amos 9:7-8; and Micah 3:1-4

are a few examples cited by M. Gilbert and S. Pisano, "Psalm 110 (109), 5-7,"

Biblica 61 (1980): 343-56.

22 De Vaux, Ancient Israel, 2:114. For further opposition to Rowley's view see

Sabourin, Priesthood: A Comparative Study, 130-32, and Bowker, "Psalm CX,"


23 Gunkel, The Psalms, 23-24; Mowinkel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 1:46; G.

Widengren, Sakrales Königtum im Alten Testement and im Judentum; Franz


                                                                Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament 443

Kitchen retorted, "Arguments for a uniform basic pattern of myth and

ritual throughout the ancient Near East have been shown up as

inadequate in more than one recent study."24 These proposals also  

lack scriptural evidence to support the existence of the proposed fes-

tivals in Israel.

                        Others, however, suggest that a prophet spoke the psalm in cel-

ebration of David's new kingdom (Allen, Kirkpatrick, McKenzie).25 

Or the psalm may have been spoken by a prophet as a result of a tri-

umphal victory celebration of Israel over her enemies (Dahood,

Jacquet).26 Chisholm tends to favor the possibility that a prophet of

David's court composed the psalm "for David," which David used 

later for another occasion (viz., Solomon's coronation).27 Kissane on

the other hand suggests that a prophet addressed the future Mes- 

siah.28 Though examples of divine oracles spoken by prophets to  

kings and other prophets do exist (2 Sam. 12:1-13; 1 Kings 13:1-32;

Jer. 28:1-17; etc.), there is another option.


Vorlesungen 1952 (Stuttgart: K. Kohlhammer, 1955), 44; Cooke, "The Israelite

King as Son of God," 204, 211; Durham, "Psalms," in Broadman Bible

Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 1971), 4:396; idem, "The King as 'Messiah' in

the Psalms," Review and Expositor 81 (1984): 425-35; J. H. Eaton, "The Psalms

and Israelite Worship," in Tradition and Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979),

250-55; A. Bentzen, King and Messiah (London: Lutterworth, 1955), 21-25; idem,

"Cultic Use of the Story of the Ark," Journal of Biblical Literature 67 (1948): 37-

53; J. R. Porter, “2 Samuel VI and Psalm CXXXII," Journal of Theological Studies

5-6 (1954-1956): 159-73 (Bentzen's and Porter's articles deal primarily with the

relationship of 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 132, but appear to be foundations for their

position); Weiser, The Psalms, 692-94; J. G. Gammie, "A New Setting for Psalm

110," Anglican Theological Review 51 (January 1969): 4-17. Kraus suggests an

annually repeated enthronement celebration (Psalmen, 1:lxviii-lxx, 2:929-30;

Psalms 1-56, 72-73; Psalms 60-150, 346-47).

24  K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago: InterVarsity, 1966),

104. For further support see Kitchen's entire chapter 5, "Hebrew Contacts with

Near Eastern Religions," in Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 87-111.

25   Allen, Psalms 101-150, 86. A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1910), 664-65; J. L. McKenzie, "Royal Messianism,"

Catholic Biblical Quarterly 19 (1957): 25-52; J. W. Rogerson and J. W. McKay,

Psalms 101-150, Cambridge Bible Commentary (London: Cambridge University

Press, 1977), 3:67.

26    Dahood, Psalms, 3:112-13; Jacquet, Les Psaumes, 3:203.

27 Chisholm points out that the New Testament "stops short of attributing

authorship of the psalm to David. It states only that David spoke the words of

Psalm 110:1, not that he was their original author." Chisholm, however, is open to

the possibility of Davidic authorship (Robert B. Chisholm, "A Theology of the

Psalms," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, ed. Roy B. Zuck [Chicago:

Moody, 1991], 271-72, n. 23). Compare Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from

Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology (Sheffield: JSOT, 1987),

129-32. VanGemeren likewise open-endly contends that "the psalmist speaks of the

promise of God pertaining to David and his dynasty" (VanGemeren, "Psalms,"

697). Admittedly, this is a viable option.

28  E. J. Kissane, "The Interpretation of Psalm 110," Irish Theological Quarterly 21

(1954): 105-14; The Book of Psalms (Westminster, MD: Newman, 1954), 189.

Also see Briggs and Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of

Psalms, 2:375-76, and Yates, "Psalms," 536.

444 Bibiiotheca Sacra / October-December 1992

              A more favorable proposal generally suggested by older and present-

day scholars alike is that David was both the author and speaker of

Psalm 110.29 Several factors suggest Davidic authorship. First, the

superscription dvidAl; supports the possibility that Psalm 110 was "by

David." Of course, dvidAl; does not always clearly indicate Davidic

authorship. For instance "by David," "for David," "concerning

David," or "for a Davidic collection" are all viable options, but

Davidic authorship cannot be ruled out entirely.30 Each psalm should

be examined individually.

      Second, David's skill in poetry and music is often recognized in

the Old Testament (1 Sam. 16:15-23; 2 Sam. 1:17-27; 3:33; 6:5; 23:1-7;

1 Chron. 23:5; Neh. 12:36; Amos 6:5). The Apocrypha and Qumran

and rabbinic literature repeatedly honor David for his poetic and musi-  

cal contributions.31 Josephus even acknowledged that "David, being

now free from wars and dangers, and enjoying profound peace from

this time on, composed songs and hymns to God in varied meters-

some he made in trimeters, and others in pentameters. He also made

musical instruments, and instructed the Levites how to use them in

praising God on the so-called Sabbath day and on the other festi-

vals."32 Hence it was not beyond David's capability to produce a 

psalm. In fact many psalms have clear connections with events in

David's life and no doubt were "by David."33


29     E. W. Hengstenberg, The Psalms, trans. J. Thomson and P. Patrick, 3

vols.(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1867), 3:31-34, esp. 317; W. S. Plummer, Psalms:

A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks

(1867; reprint, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1975), 972; J. J. S. Perowne, The Book

of Psalms (1878; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), 294-97; R. T. France,

Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to

Himself and His Mission (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1971), 163-69; J.

Boyd, "The Triumphant Priest-King," Biblical Viewpoint 6 (November 1972): 99-

110; Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), 392;

and Ross, "Psalms," 1:873. Chisholm and Bock are open to the possibility (see

supra, n. 27).

30     Seventy-three psalms are attributed to David, but some of them are discredited

because they appear to follow tradition and are not historically related to David

(Pss. 34, 56). Glenn argues that on the one hand Davidic authorship for Psalm 139

cannot be based on the superscription dvidAl; but that on the other hand Davidic

authorship cannot be totally ruled out (Donald R. Glenn, "An Exegetical and

Theological Exposition of Psalm 139," in Tradition and Testament: Essays in

Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, ed. John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg

[Chicago: Moody, 1981], 166-67).

31    Sirach 47:8-10. Sanders contends that the Qumran community credited David

with composing 3,600 psalms and hundreds of songs for offerings (J. A. Sanders,

The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11, 136). In response to the question "Who

wrote the Scriptures?" B. Bat, 14b records, "David wrote the Book of Psalms,

including in it the work of the elders, namely, Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham,

Moses, Heman, Yeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah."

32     Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 8. 7. 3, § 305-6.

33   Two psalms clearly authored by David are Psalm 51, which reflects his sin

recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12, and Psalm 57, which reflects an incident at Adullam

(1 Sam. 22:1-2) or En Gedi (1 Sam. 24). See R. K. Harrison, Introduction to

 the Old Testament (Grand

                                                                Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament 445


                  Third, when Jesus addressed Jewish leaders (Matt. 22:43-44; Mark

12:36; Luke 20:42-44) and Peter addressed fellow Jews (Acts 2:34-

35), David was credited as the speaker of Psalm 110. Granted, the

New Testament does not explicitly state that David wrote Psalm

110. But he spoke it. A difference between words David spoke and

words he wrote is possible (Pss. 2, 16, 32, 69, 109, 110)34 And yet one

need not insist on this distinction, but simply acknowledge that  the

possibility exits. The distinction, however, does not eliminate Davidic

authorship. It may merely indicate that the New Testament does

not address the issue, or it may be that the words "he spoke it" mean

that "he wrote it." Perhaps speaking is emphasized because the psalms

are liturgical. Hence it is possible that the New Testament points to

Davidic authorship for Psalm 110, for it does identify David as the one

who spoke the psalm. Clearly, then, the psalm has direct contact with

David. The New Testament identifies Psalm 110 as a preexilic psalm

that David himself spoke and possibly wrote. But of whom did

David speak in the psalm? Who was the recipient?


                                        The Recipient of Psalm 110

  The one to whom David spoke Psalm 110 (i.e., the recipient) may

be either the heavenly Lord, that is, the Messiah, or an earthly lord,

that is, an earthly king in David's lifetime. The traditional view,

supported by older and contemporary scholars alike, is that David

addressed his messianic Lord, his divine Lord, in a directly prophetic

manner 35 Since the psalm, frequently quoted in the New Testament, 

is always  applied to Jesus,  the  Messiah  (Matt. 22:43-44;


Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969),978; Ross, "Psalms," 1:783; and VanGemeren, "Psalms,"

33-34, for other possible examples.

34     Psalm 2 is cited in Acts 4:25-26 as having come from "the mouth of our father

David" (also see Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5). Psalm 16 is introduced in Acts 2:25-28

by the words "David said" (cf. Acts 13:35). Psalm 32 is cited in Romans 4:7-8 as

David's blessing. Psalm 69 is cited in Acts 1:16-20 as being "by the mouth of

David," and in Romans 11:9-10 by the words "David said" (also see John 2:17;

15:25; 19:28-29; Acts 1:20; Rom. 15:3). "By the mouth of David" introduces the

quotation of Psalm 109 in Acts 1:16-20. Psalm 110 is cited in Matthew 22:43-44;

Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43; and Acts 2:34-35, and all four passages mention that

David spoke the psalm. Also see direct quotations in Hebrews 1:13; 5:6; 7:17; and


35  Hengstenberg, The Psalms, 3:314-17; Plummer, Psalms, 972; Perowne, The

Book of Psalms, 296; Franz Delitzsch, "Psalms," in Biblical Commentary on the

Old Testament, trans. A. Harper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 5:183-88; idem,

"Psalm CX: Its Form, Meaning, and Purpose," in Studies in the Bible, ed. J. M.

Grintz, and J. Liver (Jerusalem: Kiryat Sepher, 1964), 28; E. Burrows, The Gospel

of the Infancy and Other Biblical Essays (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne,

1940), 91; Boyd, “The Triumphant Priest-King," 102; Kidner, Psalms 73-150, 391-

92; France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 166-67; Ross, "Psalms," 1:873; and D. L.

Williams, Psalms 73-150, The Communicator's Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1989),


446 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1992


Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-35; Heb. 1:13; 5:6; 7:17;

10:13), it is assumed by many to be a purely prophetic or messianic


                        This traditional view, however, is arrived at by two method-

ologically  diverse approaches. One method used by MacKay to det-

ermine the character of the psalms is to ask of them, Do they in the

first place rank as historical or as prophetical writings?36 In an a priori

fashion MacKay says a psalm is either historical or prophetic. If Christ

quoted it, then it is prophetic. Payne expresses similar sentiments

when he states emphatically that 13 psalms are "exclusively

Messianic" (in Pss. 8, 72, 89, 109, and 132 Christ is spoken of in the

third person; in Pss. 45, 102, and 110 He is addressed in the second

person; and in Pss. 2, 16, 22, 40, and 69 He speaks in the first

person).37 Both MacKay and Payne read the Old Testament in light of

the New, that is, the New Testament interprets the Old Testament. As

Waltke puts it, "the New Testament has priority in 'unpacking' the

meaning of the Old Testament."38 In this approach the recipient of

Psalm 110 is known primarily because the New Testament identifies

or clarifies Him to be Jesus, the Messiah.

                        Another approach employed by those who view Psalm 110 as

messianic says that the Old Testament author knew and understood

that he referred to the Messiah. The New Testament supposedly   

plays little or no role in identifying the recipient. The Old Testa-  

ment author clearly understood that Psalm 110 refers to Jesus. Evi-

dently Delitzsch held this view when he wrote that "Ps. CX is Da-

vidic, and . . . prophetico-Messianic, i.e., . . . the future Messiah 

stands objectively before the mind of David."39 Kaiser maintains a

similar position. He argues that Psalms 2, 22, 40, 72, 89, and 110 con-


36  W. M. MacKay identifies "ten psalms which Christ takes authoritatively to

Himself": Psalms 2, 31 (parallel Pss. 18, 25, 69, 102), 41, 82, 110, 118:22, 26. He

views Psalm 110 as one of six that establish the deity of the Son in Hebrews 1 (Pss.

2, 45, 89, 102, 104, 110) (MacKay, "Messiah in the Psalms," Evangelical

Quarterly 11 [1939]: 159-61).

37  J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (New York: Harper & Row,

1973), 259-60. For a more recent discussion of this approach see Williams, Psalms

73-150, 299-301.

38 Bruce K. Waltke, "Is It Right to Read the New Testament into the Old?"

Christianity Today, September 2, 1983, 77. Waltke should not be confused with

precritical or noncritical expositors who, when they cite passages (especially from

the Psalms) as direct prophecy, tend to neglect the historical significance of the

passages (a neglect that cannot be charged to Waltke). He attempts to distance

himself from these expositors, but he is not far removed from them, since he

follows the same traditional approach, involving interpreting or clarifying the Old

Testament in light of the New. The New Testament, he argues, is the basis on

which the Old Testament is fully understood (Bruce K. Waltke, "A Canonical

Process Approach to the Psalms," in Tradition and Testament, 3-18).

39 Delitzsch, Psalms, 5:184. Also see Ross, "Psalms," 1:789, 873. A. Feuillet, "Les

problèmes posés par 1'exégèse des Psaumes Quatre Psaumes royaux (II, XLV,

LXXII, CX)," Revue Tomiste 85 (1985): 5-37, esp. 32-35.

                                                                Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament 447


tain "promise" phraseology like the prophetic writings and there-   

fore include "direct forecasts of a coming personal Messiah."40 Kaiser

adds that the authors did not give the time of fulfillment because    

that was unknown to them.41

       Kaiser differs from MacKay in two areas. First, MacKay argues

that the psalms are historically disconnected predictions, whereas

Kaiser maintains they are connected to an existing historical   

promise, but with prophetic amplification to provide further reve-

lation about that historical promise (i.e., Ps. 89 expands on 2 Sam.   

7).42 According to Kaiser, the Old Testament prophetic authors    

based their prophecies on existing historical promises, and through

divine oracles they understood not only the possible near results but

also the distant climactic fulfillments. They were ignorant, how-   

ever, of the time when their prophecies would be fulfilled. Second,

MacKay and Waltke read the New Testament back into the Old for

identification or clarification, whereas Kaiser claims to resist such

an approach.43

      The use of Psalm 110 in the New Testament seems to support the

view that David prophetically spoke to his messianic Lord. But is   

this the case? Since prophetic elements exist in Psalm 110 (vv. 2-3,  

5-7) and since the New Testament applies only verses 1 and 4 to Jesus,

should the recipient of the entire psalm be limited to Him? For sev-

eral reasons it seems preferable to hold that David spoke Psalm 110


40 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Uses of the Old Testament in the New (Chicago:

Moody, 1985), 131-32, 141. Based on 1 Peter 1:10-12, Kaiser argues that the

prophets knew "(1) the Messiah would come; (2) the Messiah would suffer; (3) the

Messiah would be glorified; (4) the order of events-the suffering would come first,

and then the glorious period followed; and (5) this message had been revealed to

the prophets for their day, also for a future generation such as the church of Peter's

audience" (ibid., 19-21). Also see his "Legitimate Hermeneutics," in Inerrancy, ed.

Norman L. Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 123-24; and idem, "The

Single Intent of Scripture," in Evangelical Roots: A Tribute to Wilbur Smith, ed.

Kenneth S. Kantzer (Nashville: Nelson, 1978),125-26. See Bock's interaction with

Kaiser's treatment of 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Darrell Bock, "Review of The Uses of the

Old Testament in the New by Walter C. Kaiser," Journal of the

Evangelical Theological Society 29 [1986]: 488-90).

41   Kaiser, The Use of the Old Testament in the New, 20-23, 62-63; and idem, "The

Abolition of the Old Order and Establishment of the New: Psalm 40:6-8 and

Hebrews 1.0:5-10," Tradition and Testament, 24-26.

42 Kaiser, The Use of the Old Testament in the New, 133-31, 140-41, and idem,

"Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament," in Dreams, Visions and Oracles:

The Layman's Guide to Biblical Prophecy, ed. C. E. Armerding and W. Ward

Gasque (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 75-86.

43 Kaiser, "Legitimate Hermeneutics," 135, and idem, The Uses of the Old

Testament in the New, 66-69. Although Kaiser argues against interpreting the Old

Testament in light of the New, he may be accused of doing so im a subtle way

because he does not explain how subsequent revelation affects the New Testament

authors' life situation and further understanding of the Old Testament.

448 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1992

to an earthly lord, that is, an earthly king of his lifetime. Indica-    

tions in Psalm 110:1 and in David's life support such a claim. How-

ever, that does not prevent the psalm from being applicable to Jesus.

                        One factor that supports this view is an internal element in the

psalm itself. David wrote in verse 1, "The Lord [hvAhy;] says to my lord

[ynidoxla]." The form "to my lord" (ynidoxla) is never used elsewhere in

the Old Testament as a divine reference.44 Also none of the 138 forms

of "my lord" (ynidoxE)45 and none of the nine other prefixed forms of

"my lord" (ynidoxva, ynidoxBa, ynidoxEme) is a divine reference.46 Ninety-four

percent  of these 168 forms refer to earthly lords. The exceptions are

when Joshua, Gideon, Daniel, and Zechariah addressed an angelic

being as "my lord" (Josh. 5:14; Judg. 6:13; Dan. 10:16, 17, 19; 12:8;

Zech. 1:9; 4:4-5, 13; 6:4). These observations lend further credence to

the generally accepted fact that the masoretic pointing distinguishes

divine references (ynidoxE) from human references (ynidoxE).47

Furthermore, when "my lord" (ynidoxE) and "Lord" (hvAhy;) are used in

the same sentence, as in Psalm 110:1, "my lord" (ynidoxE) always refers

to an earthly lord.48 Thus the phrase "to my lord" (ynidoxE) apparently

indicates that David was directing this oracle from Yahweh to a

human lord, not to the divine messianic Lord nor to himself.49


44    Excluding Psalm 110:1, ynidoxla occurs 21 times in the Old Testament: men

or women to men (Gen. 24:36, 54, 56; 32:5-6, 19; 44:9, 16, 33; 1 Sam. 25:27-28,

30-31), men to a king (2 Sam. 19:29; 1 Kings 1:2; 18:13; 20:9; 1 Chron. 21:3), and

David to the king (1 Sam. 24:7).

45 Men to angels gosh. 5:14; Judg. 6:13; Dan. 10:16-17,19; 12:8; Zech. 1:9; 4:4-

5,13; 6:4), men to men (Gen. 23:6, 11, 15; 24:12 [twice], 14, 27, 35-37, 39, 42, 44,

48-49, 65; 33:8, 13-15; 39:8; Exod. 32:22; Num. 11:28; 12:11; 32:25,27; 36:2; 1

Sam. 30:13,15), women to men (Gen. 24:18; 31:35; Exod. 21:5; Judg. 4:18; 1 Sam.

1:15, 26; 25:24-29, 31; 2 Kings 5:18; Ruth 2:13), men to a ranking official (Gen.

42:10; 43:20; 44:5, 7,18-20, 22, 24; 47:18, 25), men or women to prophets (2

Kings 2:19; 4:16,28; 5:20,22; 6:5,15; 8:12), men or women to kings (1 Sam. 22:12;

2 Sam. 1:10; 3:21; 9:11; 11:11; 13:32, 33; 14:9,12,15,17 [twice], 18-19, 22; 15:15,

21 [twice]; 16:4, 9; 18:31-32; 19:20-21, 27-28, 31, 36-37; 24:3, 21-22; 1 Kings

1:1.3,17-18, 20-21, 24, 27, 31, 36, 37 [twice]; 2 Kings 6:12, 26; 8:5; 10:9; 18:23-

24, 27; Isa. 36:8-9, 12; Jer. 37:20; 38:9; 1 Chron. 21:3, 23; 2 Chron. 2:13-14; Dan.

1:10), David to the king (1 Sam. 24:9; 26:17-19; 29:8).

46     Men to men (Num. 36:2; 2 Sam. 11:11), women to men (Gen. 18:12), men to a

ranking official (Gen. 47:18), men or women to kings (1 Sam. 14:20; 19:28; 24:3; 2

Sam. 18:28); David to the king (2 Sam. 24:10).

47   Jacquet, Les Psaumes, 3:214; G. V. Wigram, The Englishman's Hebrew and

Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1970), 22; Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1974), s.v. “adhon; adhonai," by O. Eissfeldt,1:62.

48   Men or women to men (Gen. 24:12, 27, 42, 48; Num. 32:27; 36:2; 1 Sam. 1:26,

28; 25:26, 28-29), men or women to a king (2 Sam. 15:21; 24:3; 1 Kings 1:17, 36-

37; 2 Kings 5:18), and man to an angelic being (Judg. 6:13).

49    Merrill contends that David was directing this psalm to himself. He states that

ynidoxE "no doubt became so fossilized and formulaic that a king could use it

even of himself" (Eugene H. Merrill, "Royal Priesthood: An Old Testament

Messianic Motif" [Paper read

                                                                Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament 449

                   To whom then was David directing this oracle from God? At first

glance it may seem difficult to think of the ideal king of Israel

referring to anyone in his lifetime as his "lord." Yet David, whose

portrayal in the Old Testament is far from ideal,50 spoke Psalm 110

during his lifetime. The clearest references to a future Davidic king  

or the Messiah occur later in Israel's history.51 But when David  

looked to the future, he spoke of it as being found in his descendants

(2 Sam. 22:51). In his lifetime David clearly referred to two kings as

"my lord." After Samuel anointed David as king over Israel (1 Sam.

16:11-13), David often referred to King Saul as either "my lord" 

(24:6, 10; 26:18) or "my lord the king" (24:8; 26:17,19). David contin-

ually viewed Saul as God's anointed, referring to him as "lord."    

When David fled from Saul to Gath, he also referred to Achish of   

the Philistines as "my lord the king" (29:8). Neither of these men,

however, was the recipient of Psalm 110. Certainly Achish was not

because he was a non-Israelite, and certainly Saul was not because

Zion, the city of David (Ps. 110:2), had not yet been captured and be-


at the Evangelical Theological Society, November 1991], 1-11). However, he gives

no biblical or extrabiblical support for this claim. Although Merrill appeals to

Eissfeldt to support his claim that "'my lord' came to mean nothing more than 'I' or

'me' when employed by the royal speaker" (ibid., 6), it is not apparent to this author

how Eissfeldt supported his claim, nor is any biblical support for Merrill's view

evident in Even-Shoshan's New Concordance of the Old Testament. Merrill

concludes that "there can be no doubt then that David in both Psalms 2 and 110,

appears as a royal messianic figure" (Merrill, "Royal Priesthood: An Old Testament

Messianic Motif," 6, italics added). But lack of evidence causes at least some doubt

that David spoke this psalm to himself.

50  L. G. Perdue, "'Is There Anyone Left in the House of Saul...?'Ambiguity and the

Characterization of David in the Succession Narrative," Journal for the Study of the

Old Testament 30 (1984): 67-84.

51 Old Testament references to a future Davidic king include Isaiah 9:6-7; Hosea

3:4-5; Amos 9:11; Jeremiah 30:9; 33:17-18; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25.

Intertestamental literature includes a number of references to a future Messiah. In

"The Dreams" (ca. 165-161 B.C.), Messiah is a military leader who helps liberate

Judea from the Seleucids (1 Enoch 90:14b); who dwells among his people, is

righteous, and has authority over all people (90:37); and in whom Yahweh is

pleased (90:39). In "The Parables" (ca. 105-64 B.C.), Messiah is a heavenly

preexistent Messiah (1 Enoch 46:1-3), who is seated on a throne (45:3; 61:8-9;

69:29), exalted by all (1 Enoch 48:5-6; 51:1-3; 52:4; 62:1-9), and who will reside

on a transformed earth among his righteous people (45:4-5; 52:5-9). In the Psalms

of Solomon (ca. 70-45 B.C.), Messiah is a Davidic Messiah (17:4, 21; 18:7) who

rescues Jerusalem from Gentiles (17:22-25) and who is a righteous ruler over Israel

and all nations (17:30-32, 36, 40-43; 18:7-8). In the Qumran literature the Messiah

is a Davidic and priestly Messiah (CD 7:18-20; IQS 9:11;1QSa 3:20-21;1QM 5:1;

4QFlor 1:1-13). For a recent rejection of Qumran's view of two Messiahs see

Lincoln D. Hurst, The Epistle to the Hebrews: Its Background of Thought

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 46-49. Also see W. B. Wright,

"'Psalms of Solomon" (2:639-70); E. Isaac, "1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch"

(1:5-89), in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. J. H. Charlesworth, 2 vols.

(Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983); and George W. E. Nickelsburg, "Salvation

without a Messiah: Developing Beliefs in Writings Ascribed to Enoch," in

Judaisms and Their Messiahs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 58-


450 Bibliotheca Sacra / October-December 1992

cause the promise of 2 Samuel 7 was directed to David after Saul's

death. The only other earthly king whom David may have called    

"my lord" is Solomon. In fact after Solomon was coronated, he sat "on

the throne of the Lord" (1 Chron. 29:23).52 Before David died, he

allocated the throne to Solomon, saying, "Blessed be the Lord, the 

God of Israel, who has granted one to sit on my throne today while  

my own eyes see it" (1 Kings 1:48).53 Thus the one whom David 

called "my lord" in Psalm 110:1 may well have been his son Solomon.

            What was the occasion for David's addressing this psalm to

Solomon? Many view Psalm 110 as a hymn for the coronation of a

Judean king, even though they cannot settle on a specific Judean 

king.54 Gaster, for example, sees the psalm reflecting eight aspects    

of a coronation: (1) the king is enthroned (v. 1a), (2) the footstool is

placed in position (v. 1b), (3) the scepter is handed to the king (v.

2),(4) the attendant crowd signify their allegiance (v. 3a), (5) the king    

is invested and anointed (v. 3b), (6) the king is consecrated as priest

(v. 4), (7) the king is assured of military success (vv. 5-6), and (8) a

chalice is proffered (v. 7).55 This interpretation, however, forces the

psalm to symbolize more than what is intended.56 Also this view

seems  to  neglect  the  possible existence of a holy  war motif.57  Nev-


52    Compare the parallel language of 1 Chronicles 29:23 with Psalm 110:1.

53   Compare 1 Chronicles 28:1-8; 29:20-25. Solomon immediately took action as

king and was honored as king by Adonijah while David was still alive (1 Kings

1:49-53). König and Gundry also appeal to 1 Kings to suggest that David wrote

Psalm 110 to legitimize Solomon's kingship in keeping with Nathan's oracle (E.

König, Die messianischen Weissagungen des Alten Testament [Stuttgart: Belser,

1923], 149-50, and Robert H. Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St.

Matthew's Gospel: With Special Reference to the Messianic Hope [Leiden: Brill,

1975], 228).

54     See supra, n. 23, for a list of scholars who maintain that the psalm was spoken

by a prophet during an annual autumn festival.

55   T. H. Caster, Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament, 2 vols. (reprint,

Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1981), 2:780-81. Driver likewise suggests an

enthronement ceremony (G. R. Driver, "Psalm CX: Its Form, Meaning and

Purpose," 17-31).

56 Although he may overstate his case, Brettler contends "nothing decisively

indicates a coronation setting for the psalm as a whole or for any of its parts" (Marc

Z. Brettler, God Is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor [Sheffield: JSOT,

19891, 138).

57 The holy war motif is evidenced by symbolic warlike terminology: "A footstool

for your feet" symbolizes complete subjugation of a conquered people (Josh. 10:24;

Isa. 51:23). "Your mighty staff" marks authority, symbolizing conquest (Isa. 14:5;

Jer. 48:17). "Your people will be willing" describes a willingness to fight (Judg.

5:2, 9; 2 Chron. 17:13-19, esp. 17:16). "Your young men will come to you like dew

at dawn" describes the numerous volunteers who will be available and fresh for

battle. In Psalm 110:5-7 the king is the warrior and Yahweh stands as Protector (cf.

Pss. 16:8; 109:31; 121:5). Yahweh promises to fight alongside the king and

prophetically promises "to judge" (NyDi), "to heap up" (xlamA), and "to smite"

(CHmA-Num. 24:8; Ps. 18:39 = 2 Sam. 22:39) His enemies. The prophetic perfects

indicate victory's certainty. "Therefore he will lift up His head" is a metonymy of

adjunct indicating victory in battle (Pss. 3:3; 27:6; 140:9). For a discussion of "The

Holy War" see de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 1:258-67.

                                                                Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament 451

ertheless Psalm 110's coronation overtones are explicitly evident in

verse 1 a.

      Solomon was being directed by the Lord (hvAhy; Mxnu) through

David to sit at His right hand (yniymiyl; bwe), a recognized place of

honor in the ancient Near East. In both Ugaritic poems and Egyptian

icons, sitting at the right hand of a god symbolized authority.58 Unlike

Canaanite kings and Egyptian pharaohs, Hebrew kings were not per-

ceived as gods. They were recognized, however, as having a signifi-

cant place of honor in the kingdom of Israel because Yahweh had

chosen them and given them authority to be His vice-regents.59

Whereas Yahweh's throne is in heaven (1 Kings 8:27-30; Pss. 2:4;

80:1-15; 89:5-18), the vice-regent ruled over Israel and was dependent

on Yahweh (Pss. 80:17; 89:20-24). Yahweh, "the Divine King" of Is-

rael enthroned in heaven, gave the Davidic king, "the earthly king"   

of Israel, a special place of honor and authority to rule over Israel as

His vice-regent. And as noted earlier, Solomon sat on the Lord's

throne (1 Chron. 29:23). Thus David addressed this divine oracle 

from Yahweh to the new vice-regent over Israel who was now his

"lord," the Lord's anointed.

                 Can this view be supported in Scripture? If David spoke this psalm

to Solomon, the Lord's vice-regent, specifically when did  David do


     David presented Solomon before the people of Israel and anointed

him as king twice. Merrill suggests that Solomon was anointed the

first time around 973 B.C. (1 Chron 23:1) and was core-gent with

David until 971 B.C. He was anointed a second time in 971 B.C. at the

close of an assembly by the people and then sat on the throne as sole

regent (1 Chron. 29:22b-23).60 This second coronation seems to

correspond to the events recorded in 1 Kings 1:32-35, 43-45(cf. 1 

Chron.  29:22b-23),  in  the  year  David  died.61  If this is true, 


58  Keret "was seated at the right hand of the mightiest Baal" (Gibson, Canaanite

Myths and Legends, 61-62). Pharaoh Horemheb was seated at the right hand of his

god, Horus (0. Keel, The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Eastern

Iconography and the Book of Psalms [New York: Seabury, 1978], 262-63). For

other examples see D. M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand, Society of Biblical

Literature Monograph Series, ed. R. A. Kraft (New York: Abingdon, 1973), 52-58;

Jacquet, Les Psaumes, 3:214-15; and Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 349.

59  First Samuel 9:17; 16:6-12; 2 Samuel 7:1lb-17; 1 Kings 9:4-5; 1 Chronicles

28:5-7; 2 Chronicles 9:8; 13:8; Psalms 2:6-7; 72:1-20; 89:3-4, 20, 29. See

Chisholm's discussion on the vice-regent status of the Davidic king in Israel and its

ancient Near Eastern back-ground (Chisholm, "A Theology of the Psalms," 266-67,

esp. n. 18).

60  Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel

(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987),244,248; idem, "1 Chronicles," in The Bible

Knowledge Commentary, 1:612-17; idem, An Historical Survey of the Old

Testament (Nutley, NJ: Craig, 1966), 255.

61  Merrill argues for a linkage between 1 Chronicles 29:22b and 1 Kings 1:32-40

(Kingdom of Priests, 248). Also see R. Braun, 1 Chronicles, Word Biblical


452 Bibliotheca Sacra 1 October-December 1992


David had plenty of time to prepare for and execute a full legiti-   

mate coronation of Solomon before his death. Psalm 72 may also be a

psalm for Solomon's coronation (see Ps.72:1,20). Some think Solomon 

had full freedom to rule during his coregency with David because

David was incapable of ruling and was even senile.62 But these     

ideas are speculative and difficult to prove. Thus it seems reason-  

able that Psalm 110 refers to Solomon's second coronation in 971 B.C.

when David abdicated his throne to his son Solomon.




                        The New Testament is a foundational factor in determining that

Psalm 110 is a preexilic psalm spoken by David. However, what    

part does the New Testament play in determining the recipient of    

the psalm? This question raises the hermeneutical issue of the use of

the Old Testament in the New which Bock calls "a 'hot' issue in

evangelical circles."63 Three questions about the use of the Old Tes-

tament in the New relate to the topic discussed in this article.

                        First, should the New Testament be the determining factor, as

MacKay and Waltke would say, in seeking to identify the recipient   

of Psalm 110? No, the New Testament certainly defines the psalm's

unique significance as it pertains to the ultimate Referent, Jesus 

Christ, but it does not "unpack" all the psalm's meaning. Clear

historical connections with David's world are evident in the psalm,

connections that are applicable also to Jesus Christ.

                        Second, is it true, as Kaiser states, that David knew and under-

stood that this psalm predicted the coming of the Messiah? The an-

swer is yes in that David viewed his son Solomon as the "messiah,"

that is, the anointed one. Solomon was the first to fulfill God's 

promise in 2 Samuel 7, which was applicable to every succeeding

Davidic king who ruled as Yahweh's vice-regent over Israel (1 Kings

9:4-5; 1 Chron. 28:5-7; 2 Chron. 13:8). He was an earthly "messiah,"

the Lord's anointed. On the other hand the answer to the question is


(Waco, TX: Word, 1986), 289; C. F. Keil, I & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra,

Nehemiah, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, trans. A. Harper, 10 vols.

(reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 301-3. Wood, however, suspects that

Adonijah's attempt to usurp David's throne occurred during David's 37th or 38th

year of reign and thus views 1 Chronicles 22:6-23:1 as corresponding to 1 Kings

1:1-2:9 (Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel's History [Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1970], 284-85).

62 H. Jagersma, A History of Israel in the Old Testament Period, trans. J. Bowden

(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 111-12, and Charles F. Pfeiffer, Old Testament

History (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973), 271-72.

63 Darrell L. Bock, "Evangelicals and the Use of the Old Testament in the New,

Part 1," Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (1985): 209-23. Also see idem, "Evangelicals and

the Use of the Old Testament in the New, Part 2," Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (1985):


                                                                    Psalm 110:1 and" New Testament 453


no in that David did not speak the psalm to the Messiah, the divine

Lord. The New Testament authors applied Psalm 110 in light of    

their own context, which involved a more developed understanding  

of the Messiah and growing understanding of God's revelation.

                        Third, is it accurate to say that Psalm 110 is a typological-

prophetic64 psalm rather than a purely prophetic psalm? The      

answer this author suggests is yes. Speaking typologically, there is     

a recognized pattern in Yahweh's enthronement of one Davidic king

after another in keeping with God's promise to David (2 Sam. 7:11-

16). Jesus noted of Himself that "something greater than Solomon is

here" (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:31). Thus Jesus is God's ultimate choice.

Speaking prophetically, Jesus is also the unique fulfillment of God's

promise to David. There is no other Davidic king like Jesus Christ.  

He is the anointed Messiah, the son of David (Matt. 22:41-45; Mark

12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44), and He is the Messiah for whom Israel had

been waiting since their return from Babylon. He is literally in

Yahweh's presence and at His right hand (Acts 2:24-33; 5:31; 7:55-56;

Eph.1:20-21; Col.3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 2 Peter 3:22). His

authority extends over the earth and in heaven over angels, au-   

thorities, and powers (Eph.1:20-21; Col.1:15-20; 2:9-10; 2 Peter 3:22).

He is "Lord" in the sense that He shares the name of Yahweh and

distributes His salvific benefits to those who believe (Acts 2:14-3665

Col. 1:15-2:6; Heb. 1:5-13). Consequently New Testament writers

rightly applied Psalm 110 to Jesus Christ in keeping with David's

original utterance.

           Thus it seems reasonable to suggest that Psalm 110 is a

typological-prophetic oracle of the Lord from the preexilic time

period.   David prophetically spoke the psalm to his "lord," Solomon,

when Solomon ascended to the Davidic throne in 971 B.C. Psalm 110

was then applied in the New Testament to Jesus Christ as the ultimate   

and unique Davidic King and Lord.


64 The term "typological-prophetic" refers to a pattern and promise present in an

Old Testament text so that a short-term event pictures and mirrors an ultimate and

unique fulfillment in the New Testament. See Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy

and Pattern, 49-50.

65 Ibid., 184.



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:

            Thanks to Joelle Diana for help with proofing.