George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 2

Psalm 45

1. Structure

Introduction: an inspired psalm
Concerning the King
Concerning the Queen
Concerning the King and Queen

2. Titles

Maschil means Instruction (cp. notes, Psalms 32 and 44). This suggests a deeper meaning than the face value of the words.

A song of loves. “Loves” = Yedidoth. This is probably an intensive plural — signifying “a song of great love” (or again, possibly, pointing to more than one application: i.e. it is both psalm and prophecy). LXX: Concerning the Beloved. Paul refers to this in Ephesians 1:6 (God hath accepted us in the Beloved). Solomon is called the “Beloved of Yahweh” (Jedidiah) in 2 Samuel 12:25, and the similarities between Psalm 45 and the “Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” are obvious.

The sons of Korah. All these Korah psalms belong to the time of Hezekiah. Several details here confirm this. Attention to Psalms 42 and 50 (“A psalm of Asaph”) confirm that here “For the sons of Korah” is not a subscription but a heading.

Alamoth (a subscription of Psalm 45, not a superscription of Psalm 46, according to Thirtle) = Maidens. The singular is alma, a hidden one, a covered one, or a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Gen. 24:43; Exod. 2:8). This psalm was assigned to a choir of maidens (1 Chron. 15:20), or else they provided accompaniment for it. Such a designation is appropriate to a wedding hymn (vv. 9,14 here); the “maidens” here (called also “kings’ daughters” and “honourable women”: v. 9) are the counterpart of the “daughters of Jerusalem” or “Zion” in Song of Songs 1:5; 2:7; 3:5; etc.

3. Hezekiah reference

Hezekiah’s bride was Hephzibah (2 Kings 21:1; Isa. 62:1-5). It is possible that this psalm and Isaiah 62 do not describe the original wedding, but a corresponding ceremony which took place in the year after the Assyrian invasion. (Hezekiah’s leprosy would in effect have nullified the original marriage, for he would have become as a “dead man”. This would explain the peculiar lack of a child in the early years of the union.) The picture in Isaiah 54:1-8 (and Gal. 4:24-27) of a fruitless marriage, like widowhood, being reinvigorated with prosperity, is almost certainly another part of the Hezekiah allegory, a part which fits wonderfully well into the Messianic type (see Par. 4). So Isaiah 62:1-5 and Psalm 45 may relate primarily to a renewed marriage after the king’s recovery, and to the beginning of a wonderful wave of national prosperity.

Thou art fairer than the children of men. A physical detail about the king of some importance, now that he was recovered from the ravages of his disease.

Grace is poured forth into (or by means of) thy lips. An expression of Hezekiah’s godliness.
Thy sword... thy right hand. The expressions here of military strength are quite relevant, for after the destruction of the feared Assyrians, the kingdom of Judah moved into a new era of influence and importance.
Truth, meekness, righteousness. All of these fit godly Hezekiah admirably, the second describing the period of his sickness and retirement from public affairs.
Thine arrows are sharp. In Hebrew there is a well-recognized relation between firing arrows and teaching. (Consider, as one example, Acts 2:37, where Peter’s preaching “pierced” the hearts of the listeners.) Hence the people fall under thee is a reference to the king’s influence, throughout the whole twelve tribes, since the reformation he sponsored.
Anointed... above thy fellows. What king since David compared with Hezekiah?
Out of the ivory palaces. At this period, fine houses with ivory inlay (found by archaeologists) were the height of fashion (as Ahab’s palace: 1 Kings 22:39; cp. Amos 3:15; 6:4). Here, “away from ivory palaces” is a possible reading, and not unsuitable.
Forget also thine own people. This suggests that the bride was of Gentile origin. Hephzibah (literally Chephtsibah) means “my delight (Hebrew chephets) is in her” (see Deut. 21:14, s.w., about a Gentile wife put away). Also, “causing to forget” was the name given to the first child of the marriage (Manasseh) (cp. Gen. 41:51: the same name for Joseph’s son by Asenath, another Gentile wife).
The daughter of Tyre may be idiomatic for a representative from the Tyrian people, just as Judah is often called “the daughter of Zion”. The country’s tremendous surge of prosperity after invasion would encourage renewal of the old alliance formed by Hiram of Tyre with David and Solomon.
The king’s daughter. Instead of a Gentile, was she perhaps the daughter of the last king of Israel — an attempt, like 2 Chron. 30:5, at unification of the twelve tribes? This, of course, can be nothing more than guesswork.
Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children. Hezekiah had lamented the threatened discontinuity of the Davidic line: Isa. 38:5,19. Now he can look forward to rejoicing in his children: cp. Psa. 127:3-5 (a song of — or for? — Solomon, but used by Hezekiah in his “Songs of Degrees”) and Psa. 128:3,4,6 (definitely a Hezekiah psalm).
The idea is continued here: I will make thy name to be remembered means, simply, ‘You will have a seed!’

4. Messianic fulfillment

Psalm 45 is a “miniature Song of Songs”. Both Scriptures describe the marriage of a great “king” to a special “bride”. The righteous King (vv. 2,7), taken from among his fellows (v. 7), but now elevated above all them to sit on God’s throne (v. 6), celebrates a great marriage (vv. 9-11). This is none other than “the marriage of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9), with a “Bride” out of the Gentiles (vv. 11,12)! This King is also a great High Priest (cp. Isa. 61:1,2,10: a “bridegroom who decketh himself as a priest”), for (as in the Song of Songs) he is described in imagery reminiscent of the temple and its services. It is because of the surpassing sacrifice that the King-Priest has offered that his prospective Bride has been cleansed, and prepared for him (Eph. 5:25-27, citing Song 4:7; cp. Song 6:8,9).

Fairer than the children of men. In all senses this is true of Christ in his glory. And it is true also of his Bride, his eternal companion, who is “fairest among women” (Song 5:9) — because she has been made, and she has made herself (both are true!), the fitting counterpart of her Beloved! When Christ lived among men, and especially in the circumstances of his sufferings and death, he was certainly not to be desired for his form or comeliness (Isa. 52:14; 53:2). But having been glorified, he is now “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26); in short he is “altogether lovely” (Song 5:16).

Grace is poured forth from thy lips. “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” — a direct allusion, in Luke 4:22, to this verse, in a section which follows the exposition of Isaiah 61 (and 62:1-5?). “Grace” in the New Testament has the dual meaning of Holy Spirit gifts (Rom. 12:3,6; 1 Cor. 1:4,7; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 4:7; 1 Pet. 4:10) and the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 3:24; 5:17,20,21; 6:1; Eph. 1:6,7; 2:5-8) — both wonderfully apt.

God hath blessed thee for ever. This emphasis on eternal life (v. 17) certainly looks beyond the primary reference of Par. 3. This is a divine king (vv. 6,11), hence he is blessed by God for ever (Rom. 9:5, probably citing this verse). The blessing certainly includes receiving a special Name, for the One who does God’s work is given God’s Name, or authority: Phil. 2:9,10.
Almost incongruously, a combination of symbolism: war and love! The great warrior, winning the ultimate victory over his enemies, then becomes the loving Bridegroom (Rev. 19:7-9,11-16; 21:1-3; cp. also 2 Cor. 10:4,5). The same curious juxtaposition of themes dominates the Song of Songs (3:6-8; 4:4; 6:10,12).
Gird thy sword upon thy thigh. This is one of the clearest of the allusions to Psalm 45 in the Apocalypse (19:5,15,16). Also:

Psalm 45

The king

sword (LXX: rhomphaia)

19:11; 6:2

teach (= fire arrows)

anointed (to rule)

thy throne

righteousness, wickedness

make princes in all the earth

4 (H.)
because of the Word of Truth


Sword: Isa. 11:4; 49:2. The “Word of God” (i.e. the personal Word, Christ!) as a “sword” in Heb. 4:12. Compare the usage in Eph. 6:17.

O most mighty = gibbor, the mighty warrior! Compare Isa. 9:6 (a prophecy of Messiah’s birth); Psa. 24:8 (the Lord, mighty — i.e. gibbor — in battle); and Exod. 15:3.
And in thy majesty ride prosperously. Rachav (to ride) is rendered in the LXX by basileuein (to reign). In general “to ride upon” signifies “to have dominion over” (Eureka, vol. 2, p. 486). The One who rode an ass into Jerusalem, in peace (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5), will come to the Holy City another time riding upon a white horse and leading an army of heaven, in wrath to make war against his enemies (Rev. 19:11-16).

Because of (or, on behalf of: RV, RSV) truth and meekness and righteousness. What a powerful sequence of words to describe (1) Messiah’s qualifications to be King, and (2) the objectives of his reign! Truth = his fulfillment of the Promises. Meekness = the humility of his first advent (Zech. 9:9). And righteousness = his perfect sinlessness (John 8:46).

And thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things: Psa. 65:5-7.
Thine arrows: 64:3-7; Isa. 49:2 again.

The people fall under thee. Hebrew amim, which hundreds of times refers to the people of Israel. Now Israel is to suffer national abasement before the King whom once they rejected (cp. Zech. 12:10-14; 13:9).
These verses are quoted in Heb. 1:8,9 to prove that the Son has higher status than angels. What angel is anointed and has a throne and a scepter?

Thy throne, O God is a phrase mistakenly used by some to prove the “deity” of Christ. The RSV translates “your divine throne”, and the NEB, “Your throne is like God’s throne”. But, leaving aside the merits one way or the other of that translation, the phrase as it stands in the AV should present no real problem to Bible students: The LXX translators, all of them intensely monotheistic Jews, followed the Hebrew very closely here, yet did not hesitate to give the same rendering as AV. They seemingly attributed “divinity” to the Messiah with no qualms! The reason? They clearly recognized the Old Testament idiom that Elohim is an appropriate title for any man who acts on behalf of God (see on Psa. 82:1,6). Especially does such an idiom apply to the unique One who sits on God’s throne (cp. 1 Chron. 28:5; 29:23; 2 Chron. 9:8, 13:8).
Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness. This is the chief virtue of any ruler (2 Sam. 23:3; Isa. 9:6,7; 11:3-5; Jer. 23:5,6), but in the absolute sense it is true only of Jesus. All others are more or less in love with their favorite sins. Now note the force of “therefore” in Phil. 2:9: it is just because (and only because) he was perfectly obedient that Jesus was highly exalted above all men (and even angels)!

Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me: because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek... ” (Isa. 61:1-3). This should have told the men of Nazareth plainly that Jesus was their promised Messiah — “anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). This anointing with oil is also a priestly anointing (Exod. 30:23-25,30,37,38), symbolizing purification, preservation, sacrifice, and dedication. Consider John 12:3 and 19:39: Jesus was thus anointed both before and after his great sacrifice. It is because of this anointing that the “virgins” love him (Song 1:3; Rev. 14:4). Also see Psa. 133:1,2.

Above thy fellows. This King-Priest is the leader of others who, by implication, are anointed along with him; that is, they share his glory and joy (Rev. 5:10).
Ivory. Exactly the same word (shen) is translated “teeth”. The Bride is praised for her white, even, beautiful teeth (Song 4:2)! And the King is compared also to ivory in Song. 5:14. Ivory is white and smooth and precious; it is a living substance of great beauty and durability. Solomon’s ivory throne (1 Kings 10:18; 2 Chron. 9:17) is typical of the great white throne of peace and righteousness (Rev. 20:11) from which Christ will rule the world.

Whereby they have made thee glad. RV has “stringed instruments have made thee glad”. The basic characteristic of the glorified Redeemed is incessant praise: They “rest not day and night”, crying “Holy, holy, holy” unto the Lord (Rev. 4:8). Such are the “harpers” (stringed instruments!) upon mount Zion (Rev. 14:2,3).
Kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women. Literally, “thy precious ones”, suggestive of the multitudinous nature of the “Bride” of the Lamb-like King. This is comparable to the “bride’s maids” in Song of Songs, and the wise virgins in Christ’s parable (Matt. 25:1-12). In conjunction with the Bride herself, they portray both the singular (i.e. John 17:21; Rom. 12:4; Eph. 4:4) and the plural (i.e. 1 Cor. 12:14: “many members”) aspects and character of Christ’s “bride” or church.

Gold. In the Temple, the cherubim and the ark and the mercy-seat and the altar were all overlaid with gold. The High Priest wore an ephod of gold (Exod. 28:6,35). All these items are symbolic testimony to the fact that God’s saints — Christ’s bride — are perfected through the trials of their faith (1 Pet. 1:7).

Ophir (Job 22:24; Isa. 13:12; 1 Kings 9:28: 10:11). The principal gold-producing region of the ancient world, also called Uphaz in Dan. 10:5. The word signifies “abundance”, and thus the LXX reads this differently: “arrayed in divers (or abundant) colours”. 1 Pet. 4:10 (manifold) has the same word.
Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house. Alongside this consider Ruth 1:16; 2:8,11; and Isa. 54:1-8. In addition to Ruth, other “Gentile” brides introduced into the hope of Israel (and even into the house and lineage of David) were Rahab (Matt. 1:5) and Rebekah (Gen. 24:58) and Leah (Gen. 29). The great purpose of God is to take a “bride” for His beloved Son out of all nations, to bring her to His Holy city, and there to present her to His Son (Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2,9,10).

Hearken... consider... incline thine ear... forget are necessary qualifications for the Bride of Christ. And the emphasis here (and in v. 1) implies that this Scripture is to be received as a parable; so also Isa. 62:1-5 and 2 Cor. 11:2.

Forget (Mark 13:15 and Luke 9:62) is matched by the husband’s forgetting (Gen. 2:24; v. 16 here; cp. Phil. 3:13).
So, i.e. because she has forgotten her old associations, and has separated herself from her natural environment. This willingness to leave all for her Lord is her special beauty, a spiritual “beauty” elsewhere described in Song 4:1,9,10,12. Compare the force of “therefore” in v. 2.

For he is thy Lord. Compare Gen. 18:12 and 1 Pet. 3:6: Sarah calling Abraham “lord”.
Tyre. In the last days Tyre is (as recent events have shown) the representative of the Arab enemies of Israel who now at last realize who is the rightful ruler of the Holy Land. The original Tyre and its king helped to build God’s Temple (1 Kings 5:1-12). And, in like manner, the future “merchandise” of Tyre will be devoted to exalting the holiness of the Lord in Jerusalem (Psa. 72:10; Isa. 23:18; 60:9, 11-14).
The king’s daughter is all glorious within. Meaning: (1) within the palace-temple (“in her chamber”: RSV; cp. NIV), where this union is solemnized; or (2) not only her outward adornment (v. 14), but her personal character (Eph. 5:27), her inward adorning (1 Pet. 3:3,4). Further on this latter possibility, compare the Tabernacle in the wilderness, its outward covering black and dull, but on the inside bedecked with beautiful curtains (Exod. 26:31; cp. 2 Chron. 3:14) and the brilliant Glory of the Lord. In like fashion, the prospective Bride of Christ is (externally) “black” “as the tents of Kedar”, but also (internally) “comely” “as the curtains of Solomon” (Song. 1:5)! The bride has transformed herself (or, more precisely, has been transformed) (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 5:27) into the glorious spiritual likeness of her Lord (John 1:14; Heb. 1:3).

Her clothing is of wrought gold. “Wrought” is used only of the High Priest’s shoulder pieces and the engraved stones of the breastplate (Exod. 28:11-25; 39:6-18). Both have the same symbolism.
She shall be brought unto the king, i.e. by the Father (cp. Gen. 2:22)!

In raiment of needlework. The same expression is used of the High Priest’s girdle (Exod. 28:39; 39:27-29). The painstaking labor, on a natural level, required for such garments suggests: thought, preparation, carefulness, and serious toil in spiritual matters.

The virgins... that follow her = the wise virgins (Matt. 25:10).
Palace = naos (LXX), the inner shrine of the Temple: see on v. 7.
Thy fathers. (1) Adam, and the progenitors of the whole human race? (2) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Or, (3) The earlier generations of Israel, who lost their birthright through disbelief and disobedience (Luke 11:47; John 6:49; Acts 7:39; Heb. 3:17-19)?

Thy children. Christ is the spiritual “father” (Isa. 9:6,7; 53:10) of the “children” whom God has given him (Isa. 8:18; Heb. 2:13; cp. also Psa. 22:30; 24:6). Hence he is not only the “branch” (Isa. 11:1) but also the “root” of David (Rev. 22:16). And because he is the “resurrection” (John 11:25) they are also “the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36)!

Princes in all the earth. “Thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles” (Isa. 54:3). Compare also 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:9,10; 20:6.
I will make thy name to be remembered. “Remember” is the word which is constantly associated with the Memorial Name; therefore this King is divine (v. 6). And his “children” (v. 16) will perpetuate his Name to all eternity.

In all generations... for ever and ever. The Hebrew is very emphatic.

5. Other details

My heart is inditing a good matter. Contrast Psa. 39:1,2. In some psalms there seems to be an emphasis on inspiration: 49:3,4; 78:2,3; 36:1,2; 110:1; 2 Sam. 23:2. The last three use the Hebrew word “said”, which always signifies a word from the Lord.

Inditing. Hebrew rachash = “to boil or bubble up” (AV mg.), overflowing like a perennial, inexhaustible spring. An eager enthusiasm that cannot be restrained. “My heart overflows with a goodly theme” (RSV). “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34,35). The common Hebrew word for prophet (nabi) is from another root signifying “to bubble forth”. Surely here is an example of a holy man of God speaking as he is moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).

The things which I have made, or “framed”, a word, and phrase, used frequently about the tapestry and other handiwork of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Our words and thoughts are veritable “temples” in which God is most truly enshrined and worshipped! The “temple” motif is very evident in this psalm, as in the holy anointing oil of the priests (v. 8) and the needlework and wrought gold (vv. 13,14). (Compare the almost inexhaustible Temple imagery of the Song of Songs — where both King and Bride are rapturously described in terms of temple worship.)

My tongue is (or, guides) the pen of a ready writer. “The word of the Lord was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2).
Thy throne, O God. Other passages describing Christ as “God”, in the sense of office, authority, and mission: Isa. 9:6,7; John 14:7-10; 20:28; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 Tim. 3:16. But in another sense, as to the reality of his own person, Christ is one among his fellows and himself has a “God” (v. 7; Heb. 1:9). The difference between Christ’s nature (which was “not good”: Luke 18:19) and his exalted position (the Name which is above every other name) is explained in Phil. 2:5-11. Furthermore, other men are spoken of as “God” (Elohim) in Exod. 21:6; 22:8,28; Psa. 138:1; and John 10:34 (citing Psa. 82:1,6).

Sceptre = shebet: a rod (Gen. 49:10; Num. 24:17; 2 Sam. 7:14). A rod was for ruling and correction (cp. Psa. 2:9; 23:4).
The ingredients in the holy anointing oil of the priests (Exod. 30:23,24; Lev. 8:30):

Myrrh. A well-known gum resin, used in perfume (Prov. 7:7) and for purification (Est. 2:12). It was a present from the wise men to the child Jesus (Matt. 2:11), and it was used in the anointing of his dead body (John 19:39,40; Mark 15:23). Therefore it is suggestive of sacrifice, which is bitter (the meaning of “myrrh”) in its experience yet purifying and cleansing in its effect. (See also Song 1:13; 4:6.)

Aloes (Hebrew ahalim): Num. 24:6; Prov. 7:17; Song 4:14. A large tree with a very fine wood, containing a resin, and an essential oil, constituting a perfume greatly prized. It was used, along with myrrh, in the burial of Christ (John 19:39,40). The Hebrew signifies “tents”, suggestive of the wilderness wanderings and trials of the children of Israel.

Cassia (Exod. 30:24): a tree whose bark, when stripped off, has the flavor and aroma of cinnamon. From a Hebrew root word “to bow down”, thus signifying humility (i.e. Psa. 110:7; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8).
Thy right hand. The place of honor and power (Psa. 110:1; Acts 2:34; 1 Kings 2:19) and acceptance (Matt. 25:33,34).
The daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift. This is typical of those of the Gentiles who come to believe in Christ. Among the first to fit that category was the woman of Syrophoenicia (the same region as Tyre) who showed such great faith in Matt. 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30. It may be objected that she came to Jesus asking for a gift rather than bringing one. But she did bring a gift — the gift of faith! This, in the last analysis, is the greatest gift of all.

Gift = minchah, used of the meal-offering in Lev. 2.

6. The Song of Christ and the Bride

Arise and come away, my love,
The winter now is past;
The singing of the birds is come;
The earth is green at last.

I rise and follow you, Belov’d,
At last the shadows flee:
The roses and the lilies grow
Under the apple tree.

Arise and come away, my love,
The air is sweet outside.
The scent of blossoms on the wind
Is carried far and wide.

For my Belov’d is young and fair,
And my Belov’d is mine,
The altogether lovely One,
Both human and divine.

How beautiful you are, and fair,
Your desire is all toward me;
A spring shut up, a fountain sealed,
Until your Lord you see.

Your lips are milk and honeycomb,
Your love is pure delight,
And I have waited much too long,
Alone, for you at night.

For love is stronger far than death;
And you, my precious dove,
Are set a seal upon my heart
And on my hands, my love.

I rise and follow you, Belov’d.
The winter now is past;
The singing of the birds is come;
The earth is green at last.
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