Psalms of David
Here is a psalm which is quoted a lot in the New Testament. Not only was verse 1 used by Jesus, but verse 4 is used in the book of Hebrews as a lead in to an extended commentary. But before we dive into the Christian interpretation, what di the Jews make of it? It is their psalm afterall.
The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:
Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.
A Psalm of David.
110 The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
2 The Lord sends forth from Zion
your mighty sceptre.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4 The Lord has swornPsalm 110 ESV UK
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest for ever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will execute judgement among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs[d]
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
Jewish versus Christian commentaries
To get down to the meaning of the Psalms my first stop is usually to check what the rabbis are saying, particularly as they often quote back to rabbis before the time of Jesus Christ. I want to get a flavour of how they were seen. with Psalm 110 I have not been able to go back that far. The Jewish commentaries I have found seem to be post New Testament, countering what they see as a Christian mistake.
What I see about verse 1 is a straw man. They build up the Christian belief that verse 1 is proof of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am not saying that no Christians have claimed this, Christians claim all sort of things that contradict, sometimes we contradict ourselves. But I havenever heard psalm 110 used for that purpose. Saying, “
What I see about verse 1 is a straw man. They build up the Chrustian beleif that verse 1 is a proof of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am not saying that no Christians have claimed this, Christians claim all sorts of things that contradict, sometimes we contradict ourselves. But I have never heard psalm 110 used for that purpose. Saying, “Christians assert that this passage proves the plurality of God,” is a straw man, I hear no one saying that.
But the Jews have a point with the wording The LORD said to my Lord. The first LORD is the personal na,e of God, YHWH or Yahweh, the second is Adoni is used as a name of God to denote that God is our master, but it is also used of people,a slave would call his or her master Adoni. When Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 in Matthew 22:44 it is given in Greek by the word kyrios. Kyrios is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master, which is used of God to mean master. Same meaning. Even in the simplest reading of the New Testament Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, if you are saying that the Messiah or Christ (both words mean anointed) is David’s son, why then does David call him master?
The modern Rabbinic answer is to say that David is talking about himself in this psalm. But was this the understanding before or at the time of Jesus? If so why did the Pharisees not counter Jesus with this argument? I think the teaching that David is speaking of himself is a modern teaching in Judaism.
Jesus the Messiah or Christ, God’s anointed, is our master, which makes us his slaves or servants who will come to rule at the right hand of God. This is foretold in Psalm 110.