The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Lilies.” A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love. These sons of Korah were Levites, from the family of Kohath. By David’s time it seems they served in the musical aspect of the temple worship (2 Chronicles 20:19).
The phrase Set to “The Lilies” may refer to general beauty of the composition, to the tune, or even to a six-stringed instrument known as the Shoshannim (the literal translation of the Hebrew).
In a roundabout way, C.S. Lewis saw this psalm pointing to Christmas: “The birth of Christ is the arrival of the great warrior and the great king. Also of the Lover, the Bridegroom, whose beauty surpasses that of man. But not only the Bridegroom as the lover, the desired; the Bridegroom also who makes fruitful, the Father of children still to be begotten and born.” (C.S. Lewis, cited in Willem VanGemeren)
A. The Glory of the King.
1. (1) Ready to write this psalm.
My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
a. My heart is overflowing with a good theme: The tone of this psalm is a good theme. There is a sense of joy and celebration throughout the psalm. Yet these words also hint that the psalmist had a sense of inspiration in writing this, as if the good theme flowed up within him.
i. “The language in this verse is so unusual that some commentators believe the poet is claiming special inspiration.” (Boice)
ii. “It is a sad thing when the heart is cold with a good matter, and worse when it is warm with a bad matter, but incomparably well when a warm heart and a good matter meet together.” (Spurgeon)
b. I recite my composition concerning the King: The idea is either that this psalm is about the King or it is to the King. It celebrates a royal wedding, but there is no firm place to connect it to a specific king in the royal House of David. Many older commentators regard the wedding as Solomon’s to the Princess of Egypt, but this is not certain.
i. At the same time, the text of the psalm itself and the way the New Testament quotes this psalm require us to regard its general tone and many of its specific lines to speak of the ultimate King, Jesus the Messiah.
ii. “By its language and its title, ‘a love song’ the psalm comes as clearly into the category of literal wedding verse…yet speaks undoubtedly of Christ. It is proof enough that the one level of meaning need not exclude the other. But Ephesians 5:32 [and following] puts the matter beyond doubt.” (Kidner)
iii. “We are to assume, then, that the poet is writing of a specific Jewish king, whose identity is unknown, but that he is also looking ahead and upward to that ideal promised King whose perfect and eternal reign was foreshadowed by the Jewish monarchy.” (Boice)
iv. Maclaren noted that in the original it is concerning a King, without the specific article the. “The absence of the definite article suggesting that the office is more prominent than the person.”
2. (2-5) The beauty, majesty, and might of the bridegroom King.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One,
With Your glory and Your majesty.
And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness;
And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies;
The peoples fall under You.
a. You are fairer than the sons of men: This begins a poetic and powerful description of the King, praising and exalting Him both for who He is and what He does. The psalmist begins by simply noting the beauty of the King, saying He is more beautiful (fairer) than all others.
i. “This monarch is fairer than the sons of men. The note of superhuman excellence is struck at the outset.” (Maclaren)
ii. We believe the emphasis here is on the character of the Messiah, on the beauty of His nature and personality. Isaiah 53:2 says that the Messiah was not remarkable for His physical appearance or beauty. Fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we can say there was never a more beautiful human being than Jesus of Nazareth.
iii. “His soul was like a rich pearl in a rough shell; like the tabernacle, goat’s hair without, but gold within.” (Trapp)
b. Grace is poured upon Your lips: The beauty of the King extends to His words, which are filled with grace. His grace-blessed lips speak grace-filled words.
i. This was marvelously true of Jesus Christ. In His early years it was said, So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. (Luke 4:22) Even the opponents of Jesus said, No man ever spoke like this Man! (John 7:46)
ii. “His word instructed the ignorant, resolved the doubtful, comforted the mourners, reclaimed the wicked, silenced his adversaries, healed diseases, controlled the elements, and raised the dead.” (Horne)
c. Therefore God has blessed You forever: In the beauty of His character and the graciousness of His words, the King enjoys the blessing of God, and enjoys it forever.
i. The phrase, “Therefore God” also suggests that there is an aspect or dimension to deity that is not encompassed in the King spoken of in this psalm. There is an aspect or dimension of God that deals with Him and blesses Him.
d. Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One: The King is beautiful in character and speaks grace-filled words, but is nothing like a soft or effeminate man. This King is a man of war, a Mighty One armed with a sword.
i. The phrasing of this psalm is likely the source of some of the phrasing of John’s description of Jesus returning in triumph in Revelation 19:11-16.
ii. O Mighty One: “A title well-deserved, and not given from empty courtesy like the serenities, excellencies, and highnesses of our fellow mortals – titles, which are but sops for vain glory. Jesus is the truest of heroes. Hero worship in his case alone is commendable. He is mighty to save, mighty in love.” (Spurgeon)
e. In Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness: The King is full of majesty and blessing, but not primarily out of conquest and force. It flows from His truth, humility, and righteousness.
i. “The ‘splendor and majesty’ speak of his past victories and the confident expectation of additional victories every time he marches at the head of his troops.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “For thou neither didst obtain nor wilt manage thy kingdom by deceit or violence and unrighteousness, as the princes of the earth frequently do, but with truth and faithfulness, with meekness and gentleness towards thy people, and to all that shall submit to thee.” (Poole)
iii. Spurgeon envisioned King Jesus riding a chariot pulled by three horses: “These words may be rendered, ‘ride forth upon truth and meekness and righteousness’ – three noble chargers to draw the war-chariot of the gospel.” (Spurgeon)
f. Your right hand shall teach You awesome things: In the thinking of ancient Israel, the right hand spoke of a person’s strength and skill, because most people are right-handed. This means that the exercise of the strength and skill of the King teaches Him, and teaches Him awesome things.
i. Applying this to Jesus Christ may seem strange. We may wonder what awesome things Jesus learned through His own right hand. Hebrews 5:8 says of Jesus that He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Jesus learned the practice of obedience in the fiery test of His own suffering. This was an exercise of His strength and skill, and one of the awesome things He learned.
g. Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies: The weapons of the King are many. He not only has a sword, but also sharp arrows, ready and sent out against His enemies. His might brings the world into submission (the peoples fall under You).
i. Jesus shoots His arrows at the heart, and they are sharp – ready and able to pierce. “Peter’s converts were pricked at heart; and Stephen’s hearers were pricked at heart, Acts 2:37; 7:54.” (Trapp)
ii. “These arrows are spoken of in the plural because, while there are arrows of conviction, arrows of justice, arrows of terror, there are also arrows of mercy, arrows of consolation. While there are arrows that kill sin, there are also arrows that kill despair, which also is a sin; and as there are arrows that smite and slay our carnal hopes, so there are other arrows that effectually destroy our sinful fears; and all these arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies, there is not a blunt one in the whole quiver.” (Spurgeon)
3. (6-7) God praises Messiah the King as God.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
a. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever: The King is praised and exalted as God. The description of Psalm 45:2-5 might apply to a remarkable man who was nevertheless merely a man. As the description continued, it clearly refers to this King Himself as God, seated upon an eternal throne.
i. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews explained how these words specifically apply to Jesus (Hebrews 1:8-9). He noted not only that these words say that Jesus is the eternally enthroned God, but also that God the Father regards Him so. The writer of the Hebrews explained that prophetically, the sons of Korah gave us the words that God the Father spoke to God the Son.
ii. “Even the ancient Jewish translators regarded these words as referring to the Messiah.” (Boice)
iii. “The faithfulness of the pre-Christian Septuagint in translating these verses unaltered is very striking.” (Kidner)
iv. “From the earliest times it has been considered as definitely Messianic; and that by Jewish, as well as Christian expositors.” (Morgan)
b. A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom: This King’s reign is not founded on mere aggression and conquest; it isn’t merely a matter of might making right. His kingdom is founded with righteousness, so much so that the symbol of His authority (a scepter) is righteousness itself.
c. You love righteousness and hate wickedness: The righteousness of His kingdom comes from the character of the King. It is the natural result of His love of righteousness and His hate toward wickedness. He doesn’t have to work hard to make His kingdom righteous; it is in His nature and character.
d. Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness: Because of His great righteousness, Messiah the King receives a blessing from God. He is blessed with the oil of gladness – He is glad and satisfied, and that more than any other (more than Your companions). He is an anointed King.
i. It is true that Jesus was a Man of Sorrows, well acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). Yet His work of righteousness – in all its fullness and dimensions – was rewarded as the most glad and satisfying work ever performed. Despite the sorrow and grief in His work, the accomplishment of Jesus’ work left Him anointed…with the oil of gladness, and that more than any other person.
ii. “True, He was ‘a man of sorrows,’ but beneath His sorrow had abiding and central joy…. He, the saddest, was likewise the gladdest of men, and ‘anointed with the oil of joy above His fellows.’” (Maclaren)
e. Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You: The Person of the anointed King is described in a fascinating way. In Psalm 45:6 He Himself is addressed as God; now in Psalm 45:7 the King is described as relating to God, from Whom He has received an anointing.
i. This is a strange statement – this King is God, and yet receives from God. Passages like this are the foundation for the idea of the Trinity – that there is One God who exists in Three Persons. This is the way to make sense of what seems to be contradictory statements in the Bible.
· That there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Galatians 3:20).
· That Three Persons are said to be God, and they relate to One another (here and many other passages).
ii. Psalm 45 shows a striking interaction between the Persons of the Trinity. “God, Your God” speaks of the Father and His position of authority over the Second Person of the Trinity. “You” refers to the Son. “Anointed” has in mind the ministry and presence of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity.
iii. “The words of these two verses together are incomprehensible unless they are understood to refer to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Only he can be called God and at the same time the Father as his God.” (Boice)
4. (8-9) The complete greatness of the anointed King.
All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,
Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your honorable women;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.
a. All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia: This is another reference to the beauty and pleasantness of the anointed King. In some way it could be said that He smells good, giving a more complete picture of His beauty and pleasantness.
i. We might imagine a very good-looking man of remarkable character, righteousness, and courage – who nevertheless smells bad and is therefore unpleasant to be around. Jesus isn’t like that.
b. Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad: The psalmist thought of not just a palace but multiple palaces, so majestic that they were inlaid and decorated with ivory. We can think of majestic palaces worthy of Solomon in his splendor, pointing toward the white and pure dwelling place of God in heaven.
i. “Ivory palaces were so named for the inlays of ivory in their paneling and ornamentation.” (Kidner)
ii. Looking to God’s future work, out of the ivory palaces tells us that the anointed King comes from heaven. He is not only of earth, but came forth from palaces found only in heaven.
c. King’s daughters are among Your honorable women: The anointed King is great not only for who He is, but also for those He associates with. The highest royalty (king’s daughters…the queen) are the maids of honor at His wedding.
i. Prophetically speaking this reminds us that one measure of the greatness and majesty of Jesus is the greatness of the men and women through the centuries who have been His most devoted followers. These were and are, men and women of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:38).
d. At Your right hand stands the queen: The wedding is about to begin, with the bride (the queen) standing in the place of honor next to the King.
i. “The bride was seated to the right of the king and was adorned with the valuable gold of Ophir, a proverbial fine gold (cf. 1 Kings 9:28; 10:11).” (VanGemeren)
ii. “As Christ is at the Father’s right hand, so the Church is at Christ’s right hand; where, as his wife, she shineth with her Husband’s beams.” (Trapp)
B. The bride of Messiah the King.
1. (10-12) Speaking to the bride of Messiah the King.
Listen, O daughter,
Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father’s house;
So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.
And the daughter of Tyre will come with a gift;
The rich among the people will seek your favor.
a. Listen, O daughter: Now the psalmist turned to the bride and spoke to her. He had encouragement and guidance for her.
b. Forget your own people also, and your father’s house: Using the concept of Genesis 2:24, this was an invitation to this particular royal daughter to leave her people and her father’s house to be joined to the anointed King in marriage.
i. If we knew nothing else of this King, we might think that this described a literal invitation of marriage to an actual woman to literally become His wife. Knowing that Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah the King and that He was never married during His earthly life, we understand this connects with a familiar metaphor: the people of God as a wife of God, and the Church of Jesus as His bride.
c. So the King will greatly desire your beauty: One reason the King invited the royal daughter to marriage was He saw her as beautiful, and so desired her. Since the King’s beauty was that of character (Psalm 45:2), we can be sure that the bride’s beauty included character.
i. Extending the analogy, Jesus – Messiah and King – sees the beauty of His people collectively, the Church – and He desires them in committed relationship, in the sharing of all things, in a future linked together.
ii. “Her beauty, so greatly desired and delighted in by Messiah, is spiritual; it is the beauty of holiness; and her clothing is ‘the righteousness of saints’ 1 Peter 3:3; Revelation 19:8.” (Horne)
d. Because He is your Lord, worship Him: This has the sense of something greater than the normal respect due unto a husband, even a royal husband. This bride, this royal daughter, sees that her husband is also her Lord and worthy of worship.
e. The daughter of Tyre will come with a gift; the rich among the people will seek your favor: Being joined to the anointed King in marriage means many benefits for this royal daughter. She receives gifts from the nations, and is set in such a high place that even the rich seek her favor. Normally others seek the favor of the rich; the anointed King has set her in an even higher place.
i. “The bride’s submission to her partner as both husband and king goes hand in hand with the dignity she also derives from him. His friends and subjects are now hers; she is gainer, not the loser, by her homage.” (Kidner)
2. (13-15) The glory of the companion of the anointed King.
The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace;
Her clothing is woven with gold.
She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors;
The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.
With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought;
They shall enter the King’s palace.
a. The royal daughter is all glorious: Because she is joined to the anointed King in a relationship of committed love, great benefits come to the royal daughter. She is all glorious, and not because of herself but because of her connection with the King.
i. We can’t help but read this with application to how Jesus sees His bride, and how she is in objective truth: all glorious. We see the Church and notice many flaws; Jesus looks at His blood-bought people and says, “all glorious.”
ii. “Perhaps nowhere in Old Testament writings do we find a nearer approach to the disclosure of the secret of the Church than in this Psalm.” (Morgan)
iii. Within the palace: “Within her secret chambers her glory is great. Though unseen of men her Lord sees her, and commends her. ‘It doth not yet appear what we shall be.’” (Spurgeon)
b. Her clothing is woven with gold: She is clothed with valuable and beautiful clothing. She has several robes of many colors, which she wears in the presence of the King.
i. Woven with gold: “The different graces of the faithful, all wrought in them by the same Spirit, compose that divine ‘embroidery’ which adorns the wedding garment of the church, who is therein presented to the King, attended by the bridesmaids, after the nuptial manner.” (Horne)
c. The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You: The royal daughter, wife to the anointed King, is accompanied by bridesmaids and together they come before the King for the wedding service.
i. “This escorting of the bride, led to the king in her finest attire while he awaits her in full state, is no superfluous formality: it is the acted equivalent of Paul’s phrase ‘to present you as a pure bride to her one husband’ (2 Corinthians 11:2).” (Kidner)
ii. “In one sense they are a part of the church, but for the sake of the imagery they are represented as maids of honour; and, though the figure may seem incongruous, they are represented as brought to the King with the same loving familiarity as the bride, because the true servants of the church are of the church, and partake in all her happiness.” (Spurgeon)
3. (16-17) The legacy of the companion of Messiah the King.
Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons,
Whom You shall make princes in all the earth.
I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations;
Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.
a. Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons, whom You shall make princes in all the earth: A blessing is pronounced on the marriage of the anointed King. The fathers have passed away, but will be replaced by sons that come from the marriage. The King’s legacy passes from generation unto generation. This ongoing work means that the name of the King will be remembered in all generations.
i. “It is the king who is addressed now; the you and your are masculine.” (Kidner)
ii. The metaphors are a bit mixed, but the idea is clear. The union between the Messiah and His bride brings forth children who themselves are princes in all the earth. Many sons are brought to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
ii. “O church of God, think not thyself abandoned then, because thou seest not Peter, nor seest Paul – seest not those through whom thou wast born. Out of thine own offspring has a body of ‘fathers’ been raised up to thee.” (Augustine, cited in Spurgeon)
b. Therefore the people shall praise You: The result of it all is that the anointed King is exalted and praised forever and ever. His choosing of a bride, granting great privileges to her, and giving a blessing that endures through generations all bring praise to Him.
i. “It is [because of] the glory of the Lord that we become ready to renounce all our own people and possessions that we may be wholly to His praise, and so the instruments through whom the royal race is propagated and the glory of the King made known, among the generations and the peoples.” (Morgan)
ii. “Are we doing as the psalmist did? Do we praise him who has purchased us to himself to be his bride? Are we working to see that the nations come to honor him as well?” (Boice)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org