Bibliotheca Sacra 149 (Oct. 1992): 438-53.
Copyright © 1992 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.
and the New Testament
Herbert W. Bateman IV
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
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 : 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,
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-
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
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 : 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
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,
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
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 : 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
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,
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
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,
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
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,
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; 1 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
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:
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3909 Swiss Ave.
Dallas, TX 75204
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: email@example.com
Thanks to Joelle Diana for help with proofing.