Grace Theological Journal 6.1 (1985) 29-48
[Cited with permission from Grace Theological Seminary;
digitally prepared for use at
A MULTIPLEX APPROACH
TO PSALM 45
RICHARD D. PATTERSON
A balanced use of grammar, literary analysis, history, and theol-
ogy used to analyze Psalm 45 reveals that the psalm is a Liebeslied.
The psalm is found to be one of the Royal Psalms, although the
precise Sitz im Leben cannot be determined. The structure of the
psalm follows an Ab / B pattern, the first part speaking of the King
and the second part of the Queen. While the psalm has reference to
any king in the Davidic line, its full application is found in Christ and
his bride, the Church.
* * *
PSALM 45 is a unique psalm. The ancient heading attached to the
psalm informs the reader that it is a tdydy ryw, "a song of (tender)
love," or perhaps, as Delitzsch insists, "a song of holy love.”1 One
might think that such a psalm would be easy to understand. However,
perhaps due to the intimacy of the subject matter, both the historical
setting and, at several points, the understanding of the text itself have
puzzled scholars of all ages. As Craigie laments, "Both the analysis of
the Psalm and its translation. . . are subject to some uncertainty.”2
Methodologically, this study follows what might be termed con-
textual exegesis-a procedure that makes full and balanced use of
grammar, literary analysis, history, and theology. This multiplex
approach is directed not only to the proper understanding of the
canonical context, but also to a valid application to the contemporary
context of the modern reader or hearer. An arduous, yet not unpleasant
task, the method has much in common with what Walter Kaiser, Jr.
1 Franz Delitzsch,
Biblical Commentary on the Psalms (
2 P. C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 (Word BibliCal Commentary; Waco: Word, 1983) 337.
30 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
calls "syntactical-theological exegesis,"3
or with what
lowing Oehler, terms "the historico-genetic method of Old Testament
theology.”4 In a similar vein, see the work of D. Stuart.5
THE SETTING OF THE PSALM
Psalm 45 is rich in literary features. Expositors generally concede
that this ancient Liebeslied or love poem is a wedding song. Unlike
the typical classical epithalmium, however, no ante-chamber chorus is
utilized here, its place being assumed by the lyricist himself. In addi-
tion, if certain elements of the translation suggested below are correct,
part of the psalm may be viewed as a sort of literary blazon, praisrng
the weaponry wherewith the king is attired almost as if it were a coat
Above all, of course, the psalm is a lyric poem. As such, it bears
marks typical of such pieces, such as (1) a desire to reach an audience
(vv 2-5, 11-14), (2) a willingness to be overheard (vv 6-7), and (3) a
basic commonness or simplicity of construction.6 The latter point
seems to be at odds with the previous observation that parts of the
texts are difficult to interpret. However, it is no doubt only the
modern reader who has difficulties, not the original hearers. In any
case, the difficulties are confined to just a few lines.
Overall, the psalm exhibits the normal elements of Hebrew poetic
expression. Thus, it contains the usual features of stock pairs (e.g.,
jnzx yFHv . . . yfmw 'listen and incline your ear', v II [cf. the frequent
negative use of this pair in Jeremiah]; and lygv tHmW / 'joy and glad-
ness', v 16),7 familiar themes (e.g., truth and justice, v 5 [cf. Pss
-18; 82:3-4; 146:9]; righteousness and the king[dom], v 7 [cf.
2 Sam 23:3-5; Pss 72; 85:11-14]; and righteousness versus iniquity,
v 8 [cf. Ps 7:7-11; Gen ; Prov , 28]), and well-known motifs
such as the king as defender of the poor (v 5; cf. Pss -18; 82:3-4;
146:8),8 the right hand as the emphatic designation of honor, vigor,
3 Walter Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981)
4 E. Smick, "Old Testament Theology: The Historico-Genetic Method," JETS 26
5 D. Stuart, Old Testament Exegesis (
6 See the full discussion of C. M. lng, "Lyric," Cassell's Encyclopaedia of Litera-
ture, ed. S. H. Steinberg (London: Cassell, 1953) 1:354-60. The versification for the
Psalms in this article follows that of the Hebrew Bible.
7 See M. Dahood, "Ugaritic-Hebrew Parallel Pairs," RSP, I, 354.
8 See further R. Patterson, "The Widow, The Orphan and The Poor in the Old
Testament and the Extra-biblical Literature," BSac 224 (1973) 223-34; cf. Antoon
Schoors, "Literary Phrases," RSP, 1,59-62.
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 31
Schematic Outline of Psalm 45
Portion Subject Matter Verses Progression Type
A (Poetic Introduction) 2
Praise of the King 3-10
His Person 3-6 Descriptive
His Position 7-10 Expository (7-8)
(N.B.) "Daughter" 10
B (Poetic Introduction) 11-13
Praise of the Queen 14-18
Her Appearance 14-16 Descriptive/dramatic
Her Avowal 17-18 Expository/(dramatic)*
*For details as to transitional patterns, see the helpful discussion and rich biblio-
graphical data given by H. van Dyke Parunak, "Transitional Techniques in the Bible,"
JBL 102 (1983) 525-48.
and strength (vv 5, 10; cf. Exod 15:6, 12; Ps 16:8, 11),9 and the father
and son (v 17; cf. Pss 2; 89:28f.; 103:13).10 All of these are wedded to
a basic grid of Hebrew parallelism, in this case a rhetorical parallelism
that fits the stated needs of lyricism for progression, whether descrip-
tive (vv 3-6, 9-10), dramatic (vv 14-16), argumentative (vv 11-13),
or expository, as demonstrated not only throughout the psalm but
especially in vv 7-8 and 17-18.11
Interestingly enough, the poet's variegated employment of lyric
progression follows closely the transitional patterns of the psalm's
structure. The psalm falls into two major portions (vv 2-10 and
vv 11-18)-each introduced by the psalmist's own words (v 2 and
vv 11-13)-after which the first section focuses upon the king, the
second, the queen. The lyric poem may be analyzed as A/B in form.
However, the presence of the key term "daughter" linking the two
halves of the psalm in a concatenatio technique necessitates the refin-
ing of the pattern. Because the linked term "daughter" in v 10 corre-
sponds to the subject of the second portion of the poem (forming an
unbalanced concatenatio), the psalm may be rendered schematically
Ab/B. Thus, the psalm may be schematized as in Table 1.
9 For discussion of the motif of the right hand, see my note at 2 Kgs 22:2 in the
Bible Commentary, vol. 4 (
R. Patterson, "The Song of Deborah," in Tradition and Testament, eds. John S.
Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg (Chicago: Moody, 1981) 140, 156.
10 The concept of God as Father to
Exod 4:21-23; Isa63:16; Jer3:4, 19; Hos 11:1, etc.). For the king as God's son, see
J. H. Eaton, Kingship and the Psalms (Downers Grove: Allenson, 1975) 146-49.
11 For the term rhetorical parallelism (but with wider application), see Kaiser,
Toward An Exegetical Theology, 222-27; for the isolation and importance of literary
32 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Although it has not always been included among the Royal
Psalms by form critical scholars, modern scholarship increasingly
tends to place Psalm 45 in that category.12 Certainly the elevated tone
and rich vocabulary of the psalm, as well as its ready application to
Messiah in both Jewish and Christian traditions, argue that the psalm
commemmorates the wedding of some king in the Davidic line.13
Further, its title affirms that the psalm is part of a double collec-
tion of Korhite Psalms (Pss 42-49 and 84-85, 87-89), whose basic
onentation is the praise of God through the reigning king (cf: v 7 with
Pss 44.5, 46.6-12, 47, 48.2-4,9, 15, 84.4, 85.5, 89). Accordingly, the
king is God's anointed (v 8, cf. Ps 89:21, 39, 52) through whom God
is victorious over the nations (vv 4-6, cf. Pss 42-43; 44; 46:8, 10-12;
47; 48:6-9; 89). The other Korahite Psalms emphasize that the king
lives in close personal relationship with God and addresses him per-
sonally (Pss 42:2; 43: 1; 44:2; 48: 10, 11; 89:47, .50, 52), puts his trust in
God (Pss 42:6, 12; 43:5; 84:13), and finds in him alone his redemption
and place of refuge (Pss 43:1; 44:2-9, 24-27; 46:2-8; 47; 48:2-4, 9;
49:6-8, 15-16; 84:12-13; 85; 87), even in times of exile and distress
(Pss 42-43; 44; 88). The king is conscious of God's love (Pss 42:9-10
44:4-8;.85:8;. 89:2l-34), reproduces God's righteousness in his life
(Pss 43.3, 49.15, 84.12-13, 85.11-14, 89.3-6, 15-17), and worships
him in the appointed services (Pss 42:3-6; 43:3-4; 46:5; 48:10; 84;
87).15 In the light of all of this, the psalm may safely be assumed to be
features common. to Ugaritic and .Hebrew see the various extended discussions in RSP,
I, II, III. For a discussion of poetic progression, see c. F. Mam and P. J. Seng, Poems
(Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1961) 242-62.
12 For details see J. H. Eaton, Kingship, 1-86 and also M. Dahood, Psalms (AB;
Garden City: Doubleday, 1966) 1:270; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testa-
ment (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969) 991; and J. H. Hayes, An Introduction to Old
Testament Study (NashvIlle: Abmgdon, 1979) 312-13.
13 See further, M; Buttenwieser, The Psalms (New York: KT A V, 1969) 83-84; J. H.
Eaton, The Psalms (London: SCM, 1979) 123. Contrariwise, M. D. Goulder (The
Psalms of the Sons of Korah [
Jezebel and then utilized in subsequent festal liturgies.
14 That the Korahite Psalms should have a Davidic/ Royal orientation with special
attention to the cultus is only natural. The Korahites were closely identified with David
fight from the beginning of his adventures (I Chron 12:6) and became ultimately
involved with the worship services set by David (cf. I Chron -12; -34; 26:1-19;
Ps 84: II). The full expression of Korahite theology is found in Psalm 89.”
15 Other Korahite emphases are also found in Psalm 45, such as the place of the
lyricist (v 2, cf. Pss 49:1-5; 89:1-2) and the emphasis on the right hand (vv 5, 8,10; cf.
Pss 44:4; 48:11; 89:14, 26,43). In a very real way all the above features are gathered
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 33
a Royal Psalm celebrating the marriage of a king16 in the line of
David (with whom God had entered into everlasting covenant [cf.
2 Sam 7:12-19; .I Chron 17:7-27; Ps 89]).17
The question of the origin and Sitz im Leben of the psalm has
been greatly disputed. Some have suggested a late date in the Persian
period (understanding the psalm to have been written in honor of the
bridal ceremony of a Persian queen),18 or even as late as the Ptolemaic
period.19 The majority of modern commentators consider the psalm
to be pre-exilic. However, here again many suggestions as to the time
and occasion of its composition have been put forward. Perowne
retains the older suggestions of Christian tradition that the marriage
is Solomon's.20 Hitzig prefers the marriage of Ahab and Jezebel, a
view followed vigorously by Buttenwieser and Goulder.21 Franz
Delitzsch argues eloquently for the marriage of Jehoram of the
Southern Kingdom and Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel of
the Northern Kingdom.22 Still others associate the psalm with Jero-
boam II23 or Josiah,24 or despairing of finding its original royal
occasion, suggest its lasting quality is found in its annual use in an
enthronement ceremony or its repeated use at the marriage ceremony
of subsequent kings.25
The wide disagreement among scholars as to the Psalm's Sitz im
Leben makes a final assignment to any. specific occasion most tenuous.
Perhaps Delitzsch's view is most commendable. Linguistically, while
the poem should probably not be understood to be as thoroughly
together in Psalm 89. For the place of the Korahite Psalms within the several collec-
tions of the Psalter, see O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament An Introduction, trans. P. R.
Ackroyd (New York: Harper, 1976) 449-50.
16 The attempts of T. H. Gaster ("Psalm 45," JBL 74  239-51) to interpret
the psalm as non-royal seem ill-conceived.
17 For the place of Psalm 45 among the Messianic Psalms, see below.
18 See the discussion in J. J. S. Perowne, The Book of
Zondervan, 1976) 1:367.
19 See e.g., M. Buttenwieser, The Psalms, 84.
20 Perowne, Psalms, I :366-69. The identification of the proposed Solomonic bride
is also in dispute, some opting for the daughter of Pharaoh, others for the daughter of
21 See Buttenwieser, Psalms 85-89; and M. Goulder, Psalms of Korah, 133-35.
22 See Delitzsch, Psalms, 1:74-76.
23 Buttenwieser, Psalms, 84.
24 See J. Mulder, Studies on Psalm 45 (Witsiers: Almelo, 1972).
25 See J. H. Eaton, Kingship, 118-20; cf. J. Goldingay, Songs from a Strange Land
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1978) 81; and N. R. Lightfoot, Jesus Christ Today
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976) 61.
34 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Canaanite as Dahood understands it to be, there does appear to be a
number of Phoenician/North Canaanite forms (e.g. tv;jx / 'aloes',
and tvfucq / 'cassia', v 9 [which may well have the feminine ending
n- rather than the normal South Canaanite ending it h A-], typypy /
'you are the fairest', v 3, a form with reduplicated root like U garitic
dcdc / 'know well', and possibly, as Dahood insists, tvlvtb / 'virgin',
Moreover, the prevalence of international commodities (e.g. Mtk
rypvx / ‘gold of Ophir', v 10; and Nw/'ivory', v 9) is reminiscent of
Phoenician trading activities (cf. 1 Kgs ; -12, 22, 25).27 The
mention of an ivory palace (v 9) reminds one of the well-known
Canaanite/ Phoenician connections may be found in the particular
mention of the daughter of
The union of the long feuding houses of
marriage of Jehoram-and Athaliah would certainly serve as a momen-
tous occasion, well worthy of commemoration in song. All of this
suggests that Delitzsch's theory is not without merit. Nevertheless,
Craigie's cautious dictum should be given due weight:
But having affirmed in principle that the song, in its initial setting,
should be related to a particular occasion, it should also be admitted
that no firm decision can be made with respect to its historical origin. . . .
All that can be affirmed with reasonable certainty is that the psalm
originated at some point in the history of the Hebrew monarchy.30
THE SINGING OF THE PSALM
Although its precise original setting lacks final identification, this
psalm itself may nonetheless be examined as a canonical composition,
26 M. Dahood, Psalms, 1:275 remarks, "that betulot is singular is evident from the
suffixes of ‘ahareha and re’oteha, which suppose an antecedent in the singular. Hence
the morphology of btlwt is Phoenician, like that of Prov ix 1, etc., hokmot, 'Wisdom,'
which has been rightly explained by W. F. Albright in VTS, III (1955), p. 8, where he
compares hokmot with Phoen. milkot (for *milkat), 'Queen' (name of a deity)!"
27 One might also possibly read NwAw Nm,w, an Egyptian lily oil (cf. Coptic sosen,
'lily'; note also the title Myniwawo-lfa 'upon the lilies') for MT NOwwA Nm,w, C. Krahmalkov
once suggested to me that the enigmatic hmAynip; 'within' may really conceal the name
28 For details, see my remarks at 2 Kgs 22:39 in the forthcoming Expositor's Bible
Commentary. Note also the mention of ivory in the condemnation of the King of Tyre
in Ezek 27:6, 15.
29 Note also the use of the foreign loan word for queen inv 10: ?J'J,' doubtless from
Akkadian sa ekal/T / 'the one of the foreign lands' (cf. Neh 2:6 and Dan 5:2). Perhaps
the granddaughter of the Tyrian king Ethbaal would appropriately be called by such a
30 Craigie, Psalms 1-50, 338.
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 35
which, due to inspiration of God, has abiding theological value and
devotional application for all its readers.
As noted in the previous literary analysis, after the title (v 1) the
psalm may be divided into two major segments: (1) in praise of the
king (vv 2-10) and (2) in praise of the queen (vv 11-18). Each seg-
ment is introduced by the psalmist's own words about the object of
his singing (vv2, 11-13). The psalm may be outlined as follows:
Title (v I)
A. Poetic prelude (v 2)
B. His portrayal (vv 3-6)
C. His position (vv 7-10)
II. In praise of the queen (vv 11-18)
A. Poetic advice (vv 11-13)
B. Her appearance (vv 14-16)
C. Her avowal (vv 17-18).
In Praise of the King
In his love song composed for the royal wedding, the psalmist
"pictures" himself as present at the various stages of the wedding
preparations. First he sees himself seated within the royal dressing
chambers at the robing of the king. He awaits his opportunity to sing
the king's praises:
My heart is astir
With a goodly word.
I myself would surely sing,
My composition to the king;
(For) my tongue is the pen
Of a talented bard.31
As a prelude to the entire psalm, the poet reports his extreme
excitement at the prospect of performing his song which had been
composed for the occasion. It was doubtless sung to musical accom-
paniment. He mentions the fluttering of his heart;32 yet, he hopes that
31 ryhimA rpeOs 'proficient scribe'. With all the skill of the most expert scribe, the
psalmist's tongue would move through his composition. For discussion of the songful-
ness of the whole verse, see Buttenwieser, Psalms, 89.
32 Cf. Akkadian rahasu, 'be astir', and Arabic rahasa, 'flutter', 'move'.
36 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
his words will be articulate and appropriate so that his tongue moves
as skillfully as the pen of a proficient scribe.33
The prelude finished (v 2), the poet begins his lyric with a
progressive description that portrays the robing of the king (vv 3-6).
He begins with the king's person:
You are the fairest of men
Grace(iousness) flows from your lips
Therefore God has blessed you forever.
He is the fairest of men.34 He has above all an inner, God-given
beauty that is demonstrated in the outward expressions of life (cf.
Prov 22:11; Eccl 10:l2; Luke ). Accordingly, God has granted to
him an everlasting blessedness-the very graciousness of the king is
evidence that God has blessed him.
The psalmist moves next to a description of the king's robing:
Gird your sword upon (your) thigh
"The hero of (your) strength and majesty"
And by your majesty, succeed!
Mount up upon "For the word of truth"
And (so) bring justice to I defend the poor.
Then may your right hand teach you awesome things,
(With) your sharpened arrows
Peoples shall fall beneath you,
(Pierced) through the heart, the enemies of the king.
These verses are extremely difficult. One needs only to glance at
the various versions and translations and notice the efforts of the
commentators to see the widely differing results. These verses remain
a crux interpretum.
The following discussion suggests that vv 4-5 are built around a
double imperative with the whole image being closed by a jussive of
wish in v 6. These verses, then, describe ideally the investiture of the
king. His are the garments of a heroic and mighty warrior. He is to
put on his mighty sword, "The Hero of Strength and Majesty," by
33 Buttenwieser may be right in suggesting that the mood of the verb is one of wish,
not an indicative; see Buttenwieser, Psalms, 82, 89. The poet's essential modesty is thus
34The Hebrew lflfm form seems to be used here of an action which by repeated
use produces a qualitative state of character. See further, GKC § 55e. Craigie, Psalms
1-50, 336 calls attention to Ugaritic tipp, 'she beautifies herself'.
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 37
which he shall surely succeed. He is to
chariot, "For the Word of Truth," and so ride out to bring justice to
all, especially to the downtrodden and disadvantaged of society.
Accordingly, by his strong right hand he shall learn many awesome
things and by his skillful bowmanship, the king's enemies shall fall
Thus understood, this passage falls into line with the naming
practices of the ancient Near East. Names were extremely important,
being used not only to identify persons but, at times, to be descriptive
of one's nature or character.37 Indeed, he who or that which had no
name, in a sense, did not exist.38 Thus, the Akkadian phrase mala sa
35 lf bkr often means "mount up upon" (cf. Akkadian rakabu, see AHW, 944 and
the informative discussion of G. Liedke in THAT, 2:778-82). See especially 1 Sam 25:42;
2 Sam 19:27; I Kgs -14; ; and 2 Kgs 9:16 where bkr is used of mounting
together with an accompanying activity. Such familiar phrases as tvbrfb bkr 'rider
on the clouds', (Ps 68:5; cf. Ugaritic rkb ‘rpt) and Mymwh bkr / 'he who rides the
heavens' (Deut 33:26; cf. Ps 68:34), as well as lq bf-lf bkr / 'he who rides upon a
swift cloud', (Isa 19:1) may all likewise be understood as "he who mounts/is mounted
upon the clouds/heavens," The meaning "ride upon" is, of course, equally possible. If
this latter meaning is the proper one for Psalm 45, the two verses here anticipate the
description of Christ the victor in Rev 19: 11-16. For a full description of the divine
epithet, see A. Cooper, "Divine Names and Epithets in the Ugaritic Texts," RSP,
3:458-60, For an interesting discussion as to the background of the picture in Rev
see R. H. Mounce, The
Book of Revelation (NICNT;
mans, 1977) 343-48,
36 The last line of v6 defies final solution. The troublesome blb may hide some
well-understood elliptical phrase such as "smitten in/pierced through the heart." For
brachylogy formed by omission of a clearly understood verb, see R. J. Williams,
Hebrew Syntax (2ded.;
the vanquished foe lying beneath the feet of the
victor, see A. H. Gardiner,
the Pharaohs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961) 286; cf. ANET, 136.
37 See further, R. deVaux, Ancient Israel, (New York: McGraw-Hili, 1961) 43-48.
38 Although U. Cassuto (A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, trans. I, Abrahams
animals underscored his God-given leadership over them, and H. C. Leupold (Exposi-
tion of Genesis [
(Biblical Commentary on the Pentateuch [
right in emphasizing that the various animal names are given with deep insight into
their character, in a full sense their very existence depended upon being named (from a
Semitic point of view). Notice, for example, the opening lines of the Enuma Elish
When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name, . . .
When no gods whatever had been brought into being,
Uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined-
Then it was that the gods were formed within them.
Lahmu and Lahamu were brought forth, by name they were called.
38 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
suma nabu / 'everything which is called by/bears a name' means any-
thing that exists at all. The Code of Hammurapi expresses this idea
by the phrase awilutum sa sumam nabiat / '(any) man who is called
by / bears a name’.39 In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the report
that "my name was not carried off" means that the man himself was
not so treated.40
Not only persons and animals but objects were considered to be
sharers in the essential nature of their name. E. Lefebvre observes:
The name of a person or a thing is an effective representation of it, and
thus becomes the object itself in a less substantial and more adaptable
form, which is more susceptible to intellectual treatment: in short, it
forms a mental substitute. . . . The name, which we regard as an image
of the object in question, seems consequently to be an essential element
or projection of it.41
Hence, in the ancient Near East everything was given a name
gods, the months of the year (months were named after gods), per-
sons, and cities (e.g. "Bond of heaven and
Jer 33: 16, Ezek 48:35).
"The temple which is the joy of heaven and earth," and palaces and
their courts bear such illustrious names as "May Nebuchadnezzar
live, may he who provided for Esagila live to old age" (cf. I Kgs 7:2) ,
and "Court of the Row of the Socles of the Igigi." Gates bore names
such as "Enlil keeps the foundation of my city secure" and "Ninlil
creates abundance" (cf. Ezek 48:35-39; Neh -15; Acts 3:2), as did
walls (e.g., "Baal has shown it favor" [cf. Neh 3:8]) and canals (e.g.,
“Hammurapi is the source of abundance for mankind”).42
For the purposes of the context of Ps 45:4-5, it is important to
notice that, much as Prince Valiant had his "Singing Sword" or
Alexander the Great had his famous warhorse Bucephalus, weapons
were often similarly named in the ancient Near East:
Enlil raised the bo(w, his wea)pon, and laid (it) before them,
The gods, his fathers, saw the net he had made.
When they beheld the bow, how skillful its shape,
39 See G. R. Driver and J. C. Miles, The Babylonian Laws (
1960),2:100,292; cf. CAD, "N," ):35.
40 See the notice by G. Contenau, Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria (New
41 As cited by Ibid. See, also the dynamic quality of the divine name as discussed
by T. Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek (New York: Norton, 1970)
42 See the extended discussion in G. Contenau, Everyday Life, 158-62; see also
CAD, "N," 1:33-35. Note also the Solomonic pillars, Jakin and Boaz (I Kgs ).
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 39
His fathers praised the work he had wrought.
Raising (it), Anu spoke up in the Assembly of the gods,
As he kissed the bow: "This is my daughter!"
He named the names of the bow as follows:
"Longwood is the first, the second is ( . . .);
Its third name is Bow-Star, in heaven I have made it shine.”43
The Ugaritic god Kothar-we-Hassis named the two weapons that he
gave to Baal, Yagrus / 'Driver' and Aymur / 'Expeller'. Sennacherib
named his javelin "Piercer of throats," his battle helmet "Emblem of
battle," and his chariots "Conqueror of enemies," and "Vanquisher of
the wicked and evil.”44
If the Israelite king is viewed as possessing named battle weapons,
they all would bear designations especially appropriate to the king's
role as God's earthly representative. They would depict his struggle
against the forces of evil and for the cause of righteousness.45 The
sword would symbolize the God-given strength which alone would
guarantee triumph against his and God's foes. His chariot would
remind him of his obligation to effect the justice of the poor and
disadvantaged, so often an object of exploitation. The poetic chal-
lenges remind one of Hammurapi's famous boasts that the gods had
called him, "To make justice appear in the land, to destroy the evil
and wicked (and so that) the strong might not oppress the weak," and
"so that the strong might not oppress the weak (so as) to give justice
to the orphaned (homeless) girl and to the widow.”46 As God himself,
the king will triumph gloriously (and God would triumph through the
king).47 The enemy, being felled by the unswervingly accurate arrows'
propelled from the king's bow, would lie prostrate and trampled under
The ideal representation of the robed king gives way to an
expository analysis of his royal position:
43 ANET, 69.
Biblicum, 1963) , 50 (Sennacherib, V, 68-73; VI, 7-8). For the Ugaritic sources,
see C. Gordon, UT, 316.
45 Craigie (Psalms 1-50, 339) aptly remarks, "he has a warrior's sword, but its
use. ..is such that he is accorded characteristics normally reserved for God, namely
'splendor' and 'majesty' (v. 4; cf. Ps 96:6). His battles are on behalf of truth, humility
and righteousness (v. 5); his enemies, against whom he rides out in battle, are the
enemies of the same virtues, and therefore must be conquered." For the figure of God
as a mighty, fully equipped warrior riding forth in his battle chariot, see Hab 3:8-15;
Ps 18:14ff.; 77:15-18.
46 See CH Ia:32-39; XXIVb:59-62. For the prevalence of similar themes through-
out the ancient Near East, see the bibliographical data in n. 8.
47 Cf. Exod 15:6, 12, see also n. 9.
Your throne, 0 God
A sceptre of righteousness
Is the sceptre of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore, God, your God; has anointed you
With the oil of gladness above your companions.
The supposed difficulty .of calling the idealized king Myhlx was
addressed long ago by Delitzsch:
And since elsewhere earthly authorities are also called Myhlx, Ex. xxi. 6,
xxii. 7 sq., PS.lxxxii., cf. cxxxviii.l, because they are God's representa-
tives and the bearers of His image upon earth, so the king who is
celebrated in this Psalm may be all the more readily styled Elohim,
when in his heavenly beauty, his irrestistible doxa of glory, and his
divine holiness, he seems to the psalmist to be the perfected realization
of the close relationship in which God has set David and his seed to
It was because the earthly Davidic king ideally personified God on
the throne that he could justly be called god.50 God, then, reigned
!through the king who, as did his sovereign who had anointed him,
was to love righteousness and hate wickedness-righteousness was to
be the very sceptre of his kingdom.
Ps 45:7 was considered messianic by Jewish and early Christian
interpreters alike. One need not become enmeshed in controversy
over whether the words have direct/primary reference to Christ or to
a Judean king. Based on the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam -29;
I Chron 17:7-27; and Psalm 89) which remains inviolable (cf. Jer
23:5-6; 33: 14-17; and Ezek 34:20-24; 37:21-28), the promise of God
48 Virtually every conceivable means of translating the opening lines of v 7 has been
tried: (1) Your throne is God forever, (2) Your throne of God is forever, (3) Your
throne is like God's, forever, (4) May your throne be divine forever, (5) God has
enthroned you forever, (6) The eternal and everlasting God has enthroned you, etc.
The translation of Myhlx as a vocative (which nearly all expositors concede is the
straightforward sense of the Hebrew) is fully defensible here. See further A. M. Harman,
"The Syntax and Interpretation of Psalm 45:7," The Law and the Prophets, eds. J. H.
Skilton, M. C. Fisher and L. W. Sloat (
49 F. Delitzsch, Psalms, 2:83; see further M. .Goulder, Psalms of Korah: 130.
50 See also 2 Sam 23:2-7. For a detailed discussion of the relationship of God to
(the Davidic king who was to rule as though he were identified with God himself and
who was to live out God's person and standards In hIS life, see J. H. Eaton, Kingship,
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 41
is irrevocable, whether applied to David, his royal descendants or to
the greater descendant, Christ himself (cf. Luke 1:68-69 and Acts
The mention of the king's anointing52 becomes the hook/ linkage
to return to a description of the present ceremony. Similarly, the
mentioning of stringed instruments out of the palace is a springboard
for envisioning the time when the king shall stand in the palace, his
new queen beside him:
Myrrh and Aloes, cassia (too)
(Are) all your garments;
From an ivory palace,
Stringed instruments make you glad.
Craigie sets the scene well:
The anointing with oil (v. 8) refers poetically to the anointing of the
king for his royal task, but the immediate point of reference is probably
to be found in the activities of the wedding ceremony as such; the king
would be anointed as a part of the preparation for the celebration
itself. ...After the anointing, the groom would be decked in royal
robes, fragrant with precious perfumes (v. 9a); in the background, the
stringed instruments can already be heard striking up their music
The general facts concerning the ancient Near Eastern wedding
ceremony are clear and the details of the psalm fit well those data.54
51 Although some poetry is designedly prophetic (cf. Ps 16:10 with Acts 2:25-31),
such need not be the case here. For the relationship of poetry and prophecy, see W. C.
Kaiser, Jr., "The Promise to David in Psalm 16 and Its Application in Acts -33
and -37," JETS 23 (1980) 207-18; D. N. Freedman, "Pottery, Poetry, and
Prophecy: An Essay on Biblical Poetry," in The Bible in Its Literary Milieu, eds. V. L.
ToIlers and J. R. Maier (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 92-98. N. R. Lightfoot (Jesus
Christ Today, 61) appropriately remarks, "The psalm is an ideal representation of the
king and his kingdom, not a description of things as they actually were at anyone time
in history. The author of Hebrews regards the passage as intensely messianic and sees
the reign of the Messiah as the perfect fulfillment of the ideal depicted in the Old
Testament." For the relationship of the Davidic Covenant and the Royal Psalms, see
C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology (
52 For the "oil of gladness," see n. 27. The placing of God's anointing of the king
after a discussion of the enthroned king may be intentional, containing a veiled hint of
Messiah. The precise order for the present arrangement of the Korahite Psalms as a
whole can be discerned in terms of linkage, each succeeding psalm containing some
distinct hook to the immediately preceding psalm.
53 Craigie, Psalms 1-50, 339.
54 See deVaux, Ancient Israel, 33-34; cf. Goldingay, Songs, 81.
42 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Here, having sketched the lovely scene of the pleasantries of the
occasion (the anointing [v 8b], the sweet smelling garments55 and the
fine music [v 9]),56 the poet foregoes chronological description57 to
carry through his discussion concerning the king to that moment
when his bride58 will stand in the marriage hall of the palace beside
him, a lovely treasure bedecked in garments woven of finest gold
The / a princess is with/ among your prized ladies
The queen stands at your right hand
(Clothed in) the gold of Ophir.
In approaching this time, the author thus provides himself with a
hook by which to turn his attention to the bride herself (vv 11-16).
In Praise of the Queen
As with the former section, so this portion begins with the words
of the poet. Having approached the time when his bride shall stand
beside her royal groom, the psalmist interrupts his narrative with
some words of wisdom:
Hear, 0 daughter, and see
Yea, incline your ear;
Forget your people
And your father's house.
55 For the importance of spices in the Ancient Near East see G. W. Van Beek,
"Frankincense and Myrrh," BA 23 (1960) 69-95. For the significance of myrrh in
relation to the visit of the magi at the birth of Christ, see R. Patterson, "Special Guests
at the First Christmas," Fundamentalist Journal, 2 (1983) 31-32, 39.
56 ynm is frequently emended to Mynm ("stringed instruments"). It may, of course,
also be pointed as a plural construct followed by a verbal sentence: "The stringed
instruments which make you glad" (cf. GKC § 130d). The fact that the palace here
would be the groom's does not set aside the custom that musicians would come from
both courts when royal marriages were involved. This may account for the use of the
plural form for "palaces" in this verse. All of this. together with the details relative to
the "ivory palace," may help in determining the occasion for the psalm. See n. 28.
57 For the interruption of chronology for topical purposes in narrative structure,
see my remarks concerning literary form in the forthcoming Expositor's Bible Com-
mentary volume on Kings.
58 Since lgw is singular, probably the corresponding parallel term that precedes,
tnb, should be viewed as a dialectical singular rather than being retained as a plural
(despite the presence of a harem). Although some have suggested that the queen
involved might have been the dowager. the flow of the narrative argues for the bride
herself. If the queen in question was Athaliah. the term retains a certain appropriate-
ness; see n. 29.
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 43
Let the king desire your beauty
For he is your master;
Bow down to him,
And the daughter of
The wealthiest of people shall entreat your favor.
As he had charged the anointed king (v 3), so he admonishes the
queen. She is to take careful note of his words and understand that
past allegiances are now secondary. "Forget your people and your
family"-the language is designedly hyperbolic to remind her that as
no longer merely a princess but a queen, her primary obligation is to
the king of Judah (God's appointed ruler). Further, her very sub-
servience to him, proper as it is (he is her master), will have personal
and practical benefits. The king will desire her in all her beauty all the
more.60 Moreover, personal recognition will come to her,61 for wealthy
people62 will entreat her favor with rich gifts.63
Now the poet allows his audience to see the bride herself:
All glorious is the princess within;
Her garment is made from finely worked gold.
Over a richly textured carpet, she is led to the king;
The virgins, her companions, behind her, being brought to you.
They are conducted with joy and gladness; entering the palace of the
59 Notice that the hook tnb, now cast in proper southern dialect, tb, undergoes
word play in this section (vv 11, 13) and also serves as a key term in the next subsection
beginning with v 14, Note also the familiar poet's device of mixing imperative and
60 The bride's beauty (:1£)') stands in (inferior) parallel to the extolling of the king
61 rc-tbv can be variously understood: (I) of the bride, the wow being vocative,
(2) of the Queen of Tyre (could it be an indication of the bride's people and family
whom she has been charged to forget, thus making her a Phoenician princess?), (3) of
the Tyrians, the term being used as a designation for the nation/ city itself as is common
in the prophets (so Leupold), or (4) of a "Tyrian robe" (so Dahood, reading bot sor);
but such a pointing ignores the word play on n~, 'daughter', Likewise, Dahood's
suggestion to take Mf yrywf as "banquet guests" is extremely forced,
62 Whether the phrase refers to rich Tyrians only or to rich people in general is
63 hlH" (cf. Arabic bola") means to "be sweet," "make soft," hence the force, "con-
ciliate." The climactic parallelism determines that both the Queen of Tyre and the
wealthy shall seek her favor with suitable gifts.
64 Notice again that tb is the hook that carries the poem to the next discussion,
44 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
In her quarters within the palace,65 the princess is seen in all her finery.
Her inner happiness radiates both from her person and through the splendid
wedding dress of delicately woven gold. She is "all glorious."
The narrative progresses. The bride, now attired in her richly
embroidered garments is ready for the festive occasion. Here she
comes! She is escorted out of her chambers and to the marriage hall
of the palace by her ladies-in-waiting.66 It is a happy scene. Amidst
songs of love and unrestrained joy,67 the princess reaches the palace,
enters the great hall, travels down the richly variegated rug laid down
for the occasion,68 and takes her place beside the king.
Here the scene breaks off.69 There is no mention of the great
feast that doubtless followed.70 Rather, the poet leaves his hearers
with these words:
65 hmynp 'within', may be elliptical. Buttenwieser (Psalms, 91) suggests some such
phrase as hmAyniP; tybe 'in the palace' (cf. 2 Kgs ). Since the bride is led to the
palace proper in v 16, the word would then, as Kidner (Psalms 1-72, 173) points out,
refer to her dressing chambers. M. Goulder (Psalms of Korah, 135-36), suggests that
hmynp) designates the women's quarters to which the bride goes to lay aside her day
clothing to put on her "still more splendid night attire." Thus, clad in beautiful
embroidered night attire, she is carried on a richly embroidered sedan chair to the
king's chambers, accompanied by her escorts, and to the cheers of the watching crowd
(vv 14-15). Certainly hmynp has occasioned many interpretive guesses. My wife's sug-
gestion that the word may refer to the bride-to-be's inner radiance and happiness
which rivals the external splendor of her wedding garment is not without merit.
66 Because the person of the king is the chief focus of the poem (even here in the
description of the bridal possession), the queen is pictured as coming to the prince! king.
The enallage, so common in poetry (cf. Song of Solomon), is understandable and
makes unnecessary suggestions to emend the text.
67 Cf. Jer 16:9.
68 Dahood (Psalms, 1:275) suggests reading lirqamot here and understanding the
word to refer to a group of professional brocaders (cf. 2 Kgs 23:7). He notes the
presence of those who did brocading in gold in
retain the idea of the queen's variegated garments, mentioned in the previous verse. I
am inclined to follow the suggestion of Perowne (Psalms, 1:378-79) who conjectures
that the reference is to a richly colored tapestry laid down before the palace over which
the bridal procession would enter into the marriage hall: "But I think Maurer is right in
rendering In stragulis versi-coloribus. He observes that the dress of the bride has
already been mentioned twice, ver. 9(10), and 13(14); and that the prep. l is not used of
motion to a place, but of rest in a place. It is used of walking on, or over, Hab. i.6."
Maurer's observation regarding the use of the preposition has been reenforced in recent
days by M. O. Futato, "The Preposition 'Beth' in the Hebrew Psalter," WTJ 41 (1978)
68-83, who emphasizes that , means "position at, pertaining to or belonging to"
(p. 71). Futato's careful presentation of the data relative to the idiomatic employment
of preposition plus verb in the Northwest Semitic languages, constitutes a needed
correction to those who would freely interchange or find excessive overlap in the
semantic fields of the various Hebrew prepositions.
69 So understood, the descriptions of both groom (v 10) and bride (v 16) end with
the mention of the palace.
70 See deVaux, Ancient Israel, 34.
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 45
Instead of your fathers, will be your sons;
You will set them as princes throughout the land.
I shall make your name to be remembered through all generations;
Therefore shall peoples thank you forever and ever!
Since the object of the address given in the MT is masculine, the
words must be intended for the king. But who is the speaker? It is
frequently assumed to be the psalmist himself. Yet one must not
forget, as Buttenwieser has stated in another connection, that modesty
was becoming to the ancient singer no less than the modern one.71
Accordingly, although the psalmist may have used imperatives to
encourage the king to perform his royal functions in righteousness
(vv 4-5) and to admonish the foreign princess (vv 11-13), it seems
unlikely that he would assert that in the flow of history, as the royal
family grew and (ideally) extended its sway, the psalmist's poem would
cause the king's name to be everlastingly remembered.
Two other possibilities commend themselves. (1) The poet may
be recording God's own added blessing on the occasion, renewing his
promise to his earthly representative-a pledge that will find con-
sumation in the messianic king. (2) The words may contain the loving
commitment of the bride to the king. Since a bride did not speak at
all at an ancient Near Eastern wedding ceremony, these words would
then be part of the exchange of the royal pair within the wedding
chambers.. If so, the psalm ends on a note' of tender intimacy.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PSALM
Although no final decision was made for the setting of the psalm
in this paper, it has been noted that an excellent case can be made for
the wedding of Jehoram and Athaliah. Assuming for the moment
that Delitzsch is correct in assigning this psalm to that event, it is
instructive to note the lessons of history.
Certainly it is true that a lasting marriage must be based upon
more than physical attraction. Interestingly enough, while the psalmist
praises the beauty of the queen in her lovely attire, nothing is said of
her spiritual or moral qualities. Indeed, if that princess was Athaliah,
the omission is all the more meaningful. Athaliah was to prove herself
every bit the reflection of her mother, Jezebel. For, when Jehoram
had died and his son Ahaziah was killed in the wild events surround-
ing Jehu's coup d'etat (2 Kgs -29; -29), Athaliah seized the
71 See n. 33.
46 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
power of state for herself, killing all the royal males except fpr Joash,
who had been concealed by Jehosheba and Jehoiada (2 Kgs 11:1-3).
She subsequently initiated her mother's debased pagan religion into
the Southern Kingdom and ruled wickedly for some seven years.
Nor was the ideal king, Jehoram, any real bargain. Although he
is commemorated as a capable warrior, he is also remembered as a
wicked king who slew all his brothers (who might have proved to be
rivals to the throne of Jehoshaphat) and was probably influenced by
his wife's heathenism. Accordingly, God punished
and outright invasion, and Jehoram was personally afflicted with an
incurable disease. So loathsome was this man, that he was buried
without proper state ceremony (2 Chronicles 21).
The importance of the person of the king has been noticed. In a
very real sense Psalm 45, as the Korahite Psalms in general, is a
reminder that the welfare of God's people was intricately intertwined
with and indissoluably bound to the person of the king. Not only the
king's prosperity and well being, but his character and spiritual
privileges as well were to be shared by all the community of believers.72
Therefore, the Psalms, and particularly the Royal Psalms, as expres-
sions of personal commitment and communion with God, took on a
dimension of reality for all the members of the covenant community.
This is no less true for today's believer, for the One in whom the
psalmist's song finds full application has come. Far more than any
earthly member of the Davidic line, the anointed one, Christ is that
mighty warrior (cf. Isa 9:6). He is the Mighty God who has conquered
sin and death by his victory on the cross (
resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:30-36; I Cor 15:50-57). A con-
quering, ascended king, he ever leads a victorious host in his retinue,
properly attired and equipped for spiritual battle (Eph -17). Not
only are his subjects "dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to
stand before the throne",73 but they have also been invested with the
weaponry that will equip them to be victorious in their spiritual war-
fare (Eph -18; cf. Isa 59:17). "Thanks be to God who always
leads us in triumph in Christ Jesus" (2 Cor )!
His shall be the ultimate victory over the ungodly forces of this
world in that great climactic battle that Ezekiel, Joel and Zechariah
so vividly prophesied. John pictures that coming to earth in terms
reminiscent of Psalm 45:
72 See Eaton, Kingship, 165-68.
73 Edward Mote, "The Solid Rock."
PATTERSON: PSALM 45 47
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white
horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges
and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many
crowns. He has a name written on him that no one but he himself
knows. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the
Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on
white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his
mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.
"He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the
fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he
has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.74
Meanwhile, Christ continues to reign in the hearts and lives of all
those who make up his earthly train of followers so that they may
share in his eternal riches (2 Cor 8:9). Far more than any idealized
king, Christ is a God of all goodliness. Because all moral perfection
resides in him, as his ambassadors Christians are to reflect his charac-
ter in all their living (Eph 4:1-5:20; CoI3:1-17).
The consideration of the bride of the psalm also arrests one's
theological attention. The Christian believer is the bride of Christ
(2 Cor II: 1-4; Eph 5:25-27). Paul admonished the waiting bride of
Christ to be faithful and so to have a productive marriage. For that
reason the church has been married to her saving husband and has
become one spirit with him, her body having become the temple of
the Holy Spirit (I Cor -19). As his bride, she is to keep herself
pure (I John 3:1-3), remembering the wedding price that Christ him-
self has paid (I Cor ). She is to be obedient to him who loved her
and sacrificed himself for her (Gal ). As a thankful bride, she is to
rejoice in her heavenly husband and allow his life to be lived out in
Scholarship, yes! Surely Christian scholars need to bring their
best critical faculties to this and other portions of the Scriptures so
that the precise truth of the Word may be more clearly perceived. But
in so doing, scholarship must ever be directed to knowing more inti-
mately him who is the truth.
The victorious king, the heavenly bridegroom, has done so much
for his own. Christians stand accepted in the
Beloved One (
-14); they have been taken into union with him and so have free
access to God the Father (Eph ; Heb , 19-23). They
74 Rev 19:11-16, NIV.
48 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
have been granted the high privilege of enjoying life in all of its God-
intended abundant fulness (John ). Because Christians are sub-
jects who are vitally united to the King of Kings, they no less than the
OT saints with their kings, are challenged to enter into its abiding
content; its prayer and praise are theirs. What an impetus to com-
munion, worship, walk, and witness! What a privilege and responsi-
bility! May the marriage vows of everlasting fidelity to the Heavenly
Husband heartily be renewed so that the bride is holy and effectively
productive. Thus, there will be ever greater joy when Christians shall
at last see him face to face. Perhaps then the modern poet's song will
become ours too:
Oh I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved's mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner into His "house of wine."
I stand upon His merit-I know no other stand,
Not e'en where glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.
The Bride eyes not her garment but her dear Bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel's land.75
75 Anne Ross Cousins, "The Sands of Time."
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Grace Theological Seminary
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: firstname.lastname@example.org