Psalm 45

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The Hebrew expression natsách (preceded by the preposition meaning “to”) is commonly thought to denote “to the musical director” or “leader.” An ancient Latin translation of the Hebrew Psalter reads victori (“to the victor”), probably because of linking the Hebrew expression to a root meaning “to defeat.” In the Septuagint, the rendering is “to the end.” This indicates that there is considerable uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew expression.

The significance of the Hebrew designation “Lilies” is not known. In the Contemporary English Version, the expression is interpretively represented as the melody for this composition. (“To the tune ‘Lilies.’”) The Septuagint rendering is a form of the verb alloióo, basically meaning “to change.”

This composition is attributed to the sons of Korah, probably meaning the descendants of the Levite who rebelled against the divinely granted authority of Moses and Aaron. (Numbers 16:1-3; 26:10, 11)

The meaning of “maskil” is uncertain. Conjectural interpretations include “contemplative poem” and “memory passage.” In the Septuagint, the corresponding expression is synesis, signifying “intelligence,” understanding,” or “insight.”

This psalm is called a “song of loves.” In the Hebrew, “loves” is a plural adjective in the feminine gender. Translators generally render the Hebrew designation as “love song.” The Septuagint reads, “song concerning the beloved.”

In his heart or his deep inner self, the psalmist was aroused. A “good word,” message, or theme occasioned the emotional stirring. The psalmist’s composition focused on a noble subject. Regarding his “works” or writings, he said, “My works [pertain] to a king.” Probably to indicate his intent to express himself in terms befitting such a lofty subject, the psalmist referred to his tongue as being like the “pen of a skilled scribe” or “swift-writing scribe” (LXX).

Among the “sons of man” or men, the king stood out as the most handsome. As if grace had been “poured” upon his lips, the king spoke in the dignified manner becoming of his royal station. Therefore, he enjoyed God’s continued blessing.

As a defender of his people, the king or the “mighty one” is directed to gird his sword upon his thigh. The reference to his “majesty [attractiveness, LXX] and splendor [beauty, LXX]” may be understood to mean his going forth in the capacity of leader, ready for battle. Or, upon triumphing over the enemy, the majesty or dignity and the splendor of the king would be manifest to all observers.

In verse 4(5) of the Masoretic Text, the words “and your majesty” are repeated and followed by the imperative “prosper” or “be successful.” Perhaps the meaning is that the king, as the possessor of majesty, be triumphant. The Septuagint reads, “And bend and prosper and reign.” This could refer to bending the bow, proving successful in war, and reigning over those who are defeated. Although only the Masoretic Text includes the word “ride,” both it and the Septuagint agree that truth, meekness, and righteousness would motivate the king to act. His campaigns would serve to uphold truth or what is right. He would not assume an arrogant bearing but would reflect a spirit of meekness or humility. The king would defend righteousness or justice. His kingship would not be based on proud conquests but on truth, meekness, and justice.

The king’s right hand or his best hand, representing his power, was to teach him awe-inspiring things. This could mean that, by using his right hand or his royal authority and power, he would come to know how his deeds filled others with fear or awe. The Septuagint reads, “And your right hand will guide you wonderfully,” suggesting that there would be an awe-inspiring outcome from what is accomplished through the king’s “right hand” or the use of his power.

Carefully aimed, the king’s sharp arrows penetrate the heart of his enemies. Apparently as a result of this, people fall under him, either as persons slain in battle or as subjugated ones. (See the Notes section for other details about verse 5[6].)

Both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint read “god” after “your throne.” In Psalm 82 (which see for comments), corrupt judges are called “gods,” and so it is possible that the king who occupied a position superior to such judges may here be so addressed as one representing God or as being like God in having authority over the life and death of his subjects. Numerous translations do render the passage to refer to the monarch as god. “Your throne, O god, stands forever.” (NAB) “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.” (NRSV) “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever.” (NIV)

Elsewhere in the Scriptures, however, no Israelite king is ever directly addressed as “god.” This is apparently a major factor in the choice of renderings that point to the king’s authority as coming from God. Examples are: “Thy throne given of God is for ever and ever.” (Margolis) “Your divine throne is everlasting.” (Tanakh) “Your throne is a throne of God.” (NRSV, footnote) “God has made you king, and you will rule forever.” (CEV, footnote) Although involving supplied words, such renderings could be defended on the basis that King Solomon is spoken of as sitting on the “throne of YHWH” or ruling for him in a representative sense. (1 Chronicles 29:23; 2 Chronicles 9:8) Moreover, Israelite kings were called the “anointed of YHWH” or the “anointed of God” (2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 23:1), indicating that God was the source of their royal authority or their throne. (See the Notes section for additional comments regarding verses 6 and 7[7 and 8].)

The king’s scepter, the emblem of his royal authority, is a “scepter of uprightness.” This indicates that the authority itself and the use thereof are based on justice.

The king’s subjects are assured of impartial treatment, for he loves righteousness and hates wickedness or lawlessness. Upright persons could therefore also expect the king to render just decisions and to impose the appropriate penalties for lawless actions. On account of his having the proper view of righteousness and lawlessness, God, his God, anointed him with the “oil of exultation,” suggesting that the anointing would be a source of joy. The anointing is described as being “more than” or “beyond” his companions. This could mean that the anointing elevated him above his peers.

The expression “all your garments” is preceded by “myrrh and aloes [stacte, LXX] and cassia.” This suggests that the king’s garments were perfumed with these aromatic substances. Myrrh is a fragrant gum resin, thought to have been obtained from a small tree or thorny shrub (Commiphora myrrha or Commiphora kataf). A common view is that aloe refers to sandalwood or to eaglewood, both of which are fragrant. Cassia may have been Cinnamomum cassia. Another possibility is the aromatic powder from the roots of Saussurea lappa.

Palaces of ivory must have been impressive residences with extensive ivory ornamentation or inlays. The sound of stringed instruments from the palaces served to welcome the king upon his arrival to be united with his bride, and this gladdened him or contributed to his joy.

It appears that the royal harem included “daughters of kings.” According to ancient custom, they would have been taken as wives for the purpose of forming political alliances. These wives were either the honored ones or were among the king’s favorites. At his right hand, the favored position, stood the queen, adorned with the choicest gold, gold of Ophir. According to the Septuagint, her clothing was interwoven with gold and adorned with embroidery.

The woman to be added to the harem is from a foreign land. She is admonished to listen, to see, and to incline her ear, giving her undivided attention to the advice being offered. This advice urged her to forget her own people and her father’s house, shifting exclusive loyalty to her new husband.

Her heeding the admonition would prompt the king to desire her beauty, to be pleased with her. As her lord, she should bow to him, acknowledging her submission to her husband.

The “daughter of Tyre” probably denotes the wealthy seaport of Tyre, from which place a gift would be brought to the new wife. The rich ones of the people would entreat her face or seek her favor.

As a bride and a princess, the daughter of a king, she is all glorious “inside.” This could mean that she is splendidly adorned and dressed while inside her chamber, waiting to be led to the king. The Contemporary English Version, however, interpretively renders “all glorious inside” to mean possessing “inward beauty.” Her raiment is interwoven with gold.

Wearing embroidered or variegated apparel, she is led to the king. The virgins in her train, her companions, are also brought to him.

With gladness and rejoicing, the whole procession is led to and then into the king’s palace. This could signify that instrumental music, singing, and dancing accompanied the bride and the virgins in her train.

Instead of the dignity that formerly stemmed from his “fathers” or forefathers, the time would come when the king’s sons would come to occupy the honored place that his “fathers” or ancestors enjoyed. He would appoint these sons as princes in all the earth or in all the land under his dominion.

According to the Masoretic Text, the psalmist would cause the king’s name or fame to be remembered from generation to generation. “Peoples,” likely meaning peoples of other nations, would praise the king for all time to come.


In verses 3(4) and 5(6), the Septuagint uses the expression dynatós (“mighty one”) with reference to the king, but this designation only appears in verse 3(4) of the Masoretic Text.

There is a measure of ambiguity in verse 5(6), and translators have chosen various interpretive renderings. Examples are: “Your arrows, sharpened, [pierce] the breast of the king’s enemies; peoples fall at your feet.” (Tanakh) “Your arrows are sharp; peoples will cower at your feet; the king’s enemies will lose heart.” (NAB) “Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.” (NRSV) “Send your sharp arrows through enemy hearts and make all nations fall at your feet.” (CEV) “Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet.” (NIV)

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews quoted from Psalm 45 in order to show that Jesus Christ is greater than the angels but provided no explanatory comments. In the book of Hebrews (1:8, 9), the quotation from Psalm 45:6, 7 (7, 8; 44:7, 8, LXX) is basically the same as the reading of the Septuagint. Jesus is the Christ or the Anointed One, the royal descendant in the line of David. Therefore, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews could rightly apply the psalmist’s words to the King who is greater than David. As the unique Son of God, he can rightly be addressed in the lofty language of the psalmist. It should be noted, however, that Psalm 45 and the quotation in the book of Hebrews reflect strict monotheism, as God is the One who does the anointing. The reference to “your God” is in full agreement with Jesus’ words after his resurrection, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” (John 20:17) Similarly, the apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (8:6), wrote that there is “one God, the Father,...and one Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Because the context is not explicit regarding the “oil of exultation” and the identity of the companions, translations render the expressions of the psalmist differently, with some interpretively paraphrasing the anointing with the “oil of exultation” to mean the bestowing of joy. “And so, your God chose you and made you happier than any of your friends.” (CEV) “That is why God, your God, has chosen you and has poured out more happiness on you than on any other king.” (GNT, Second Edition) “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.” (NLT) “So God has chosen you from among your friends; he has set you apart with much joy.” (NCV) “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings.” (NAB) “Rightly has God, your God, chosen to anoint you with oil of gladness over all your peers.” (Tanakh) “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (NRSV) “Therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (NIV) “This is why God, your God, has anointed you with oil of gladness, as none of your rivals.” (NJB)

In verse 8(9), the Septuagint makes no mention of “stringed instruments” but does refer to the king being gladdened.

According to the Septuagint reading of verse 12(13), “gifts” from the “daughters of Tyre” are for the king (as indicated by the pronoun “him” ). They (not the new wife [according to the Masoretic Text]) would bow down to him when presenting these gifts.

In the concluding verse, the Septuagint (Rahlfs’ printed text) does not use the first person singular verb. It reads, “They will remember your name.”