Psalm 110

"The LORD said to my Lord"

Psalm_110-1

POSTED 22 FEBURARY, 2017

reproduced from Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity

“A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’ The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’ Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; in holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. He will drink from the brook by the wayside; therefore He will lift up His head.”

Psalm 110 is the most quoted or alluded to Psalm in the Apostolic Writings or New Testament, as it involves the Messiah’s supreme reign and priestly service.[1] A standard list of passages where Psalm 110 is either quoted or referenced may include:

Mark 12:34-37; 14:62; 16:19; Matthew 22:41-45; Luke 20:41-44; 22:69; Acts 2:34-35; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 15, 17, 21; 8:1; 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22

Psalm 110 is applied in the Apostolic Writings to speak of Yeshua the Messiah reigning at the right hand of God the Father, and is explicitly interpreted by the Messiah to have been of King David speaking prophetically of Him, thus making a figure like David the Messiah’s subordinate:

“And Yeshua began to say, as He taught in the temple, ‘How is it that the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself said in the Holy Spirit, “THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, ‘SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET’ [Psalm 110:1].” David himself calls Him “Lord”; so in what sense is He his son?’ And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him” (Mark 12:34-37).

“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Yeshua asked them a question: ‘What do you think about the Messiah, whose son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘Then how does David in the Spirit call Him “Lord,” saying, “THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, ‘SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET’ [Psalm 110:1]”? If David then calls Him “Lord,” how is He his son?’” (Matthew 22:41-45).

Psalm 110 has much to say about the quality of the reign of the Messiah (Psalm 110:2, 5-7), and the priestly duties that He is to perform (Psalm 110:3-4). But what might it say about the nature of the Messiah? It cannot be avoided that some statements appearing in Psalm 110, have been approached differently by those who hold to either a high or low Christology. Generally speaking, though, Psalm 110 is approached as representing King David as a subordinate to King Messiah. Bowman and Komoszewski properly conclude in their book Putting Jesus in His Place,

“The Hebrew makes it clear that by ‘the LORD’ and ‘my Lord’ two different persons are in view. Jesus identified the second person (‘my Lord’) as the Messiah when he applied the text to himself…The Jews typically expected the Messiah simply to be a descendant of David who would prove to be the ultimate human warrior-king. Yet David calls the future Messiah his ‘Lord.’ How, Jesus asks, could the Messiah be David’s son and also be his Lord (Mark 12:35-37)?”[2]

Much discussion surrounds the approach that one takes to the opening narration, as vowel-pointed in the Hebrew Masoretic Text, ne’um YHWH l’adoni. The Kohlenberger interlinear renders this with, “saying-of Yahweh to-Lord-of-me.”[3] A standard English translation across Christian Bibles, for certain, is “The LORD says to my Lord” (NASU, ESV) or “This is the declaration of the LORD to my Lord” (HCSB). A modification of this, seen in Messianic versions like the CJB/CJSB and TLV, would be: “ADONAI says to my Lord.” However, it is witnessed in some Christian versions, such as the RSV/NRSV, that the second “lord” is left improper: “The LORD says to my lord,” also followed by a Jewish version like the NJPS: “The LORD said to my lord.” A Jewish version like ATS has, “The word of HASHEM to my master,”[4] and a Christian version which actually renders YHWH/YHVH, like the New Jerusalem Bible, has “Yahweh declared to my Lord.”

In his specialty translation of the Book of Psalms, Alter addresses his rendering of Psalm 110:1 with, “The LORD’s utterance to my master”:

“Though many translations render this as ‘my LORD,’ with a capital L, the Hebrew clearly shows ‘adoni, with a first-person singular suffix, whereas the noun at the beginning of verse 5 reads ‘adonai, showing the plural suffix invariably used when the noun ‘adon is a designation for God.”[5]

What Alter has properly mentioned, is how the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Tanach, employed for most English Bibles today, notes a difference between Psalm 110:1 employing adoni, which is often used of a human master, and Psalm 110:5 following employs Adonai or “Lord,” a reference to YHWH. Normally when the Hebrew Tanach is canted or read in a synagogue, when the Tetragrammaton of YHWH/YHVH appears, rather than a form such as “Yahweh” being spoken, by ancient Jewish convention Adonai (or possibly also HaShem meaning “the Name”) is instead what is spoken. The commentary offered by deClaissé-Walford, a Christian examiner, also concurs the difference between adoni and Adonai in Psalm 110:

“The word ‘aḏōnî is used in the Hebrew Bible in reference to a superior human being, while the word ‘aḏōnāy is used when addressing God. Both words are translated with the same English words, but the former word is translated using a lower case letter (‘my lord’), while the latter is translated using the upper case (‘my Lord’).”[6]

If the people of God are to be absolutely bound to the Hebrew Masoretic Text and its vowel markings, then ne’um YHWH l’adoni should technically be rendered into English along the lines of “The LORD says to my lord” (RSV/NRSV) or “The LORD said to my lord” (NJPS), with adoni treated as a human or created supernatural master. Yet, with Psalm 110:1 not only closely associated with Yeshua the Messiah—but notably associated with Yeshua the Messiah as the Son of Man (Mark 14:62; cf. Daniel 7:9-14)—that much more may be involved with the Lordship of Yeshua from Psalm 110:1, is quite fair to deduce. Is Yeshua more than just some improper “lord” or “master”? Any reader with a cursory knowledge of the development of the Hebrew Bible is aware of how the vowel markings under Hebrew words came much later, and as such in either Psalm 110:1 or 5, all that originally appeared for either adoni or Adonai were the consonants a-d-n-y. That Psalm 110:1 can be read as Adonai, a reference to the LORD proper, God, is a possibility not to be casually dismissed. Rydelnik draws attention to how a Divine Lord, who rules at the right hand of YHWH, can be detected from Psalm 110:1:

“The oracle is addressed to ‘my lord’ (‘ădōnî), using a word that is generally used of a human superior, not deity. Yet…the word is used of the angel of the Lord in Josh 5:14 and Judg 6:13, where He is…identified as the Lord Himself. Furthermore…the psalm was originally written with consonants alone, with the Masoretic vowels added much later (between the eighth and tenth centuries AD). One must be careful, then, not to base one’s interpretation (i.e., whether the addressee is human or divine) solely on a single Hebrew word. There are, in fact, strong reasons to conclude that the original author of the psalm intended to speak of a divine Lord. David, Israel’s most exalted king, was looking forward to the coming of a future ruler even more exalted than himself.”[7]

The Greek Septuagint version, of Psalm 110:1, could notably have had an opportunity to specify a less-than-Divine identity for the second figure. The LXX took ne’um YHWH l’adoni (or l’Adonai) to be eipen ho Kurios tō Kuriō mou, “The Lord said to my Lord” (LXE). This includes two usages of the title Kurios: one for YHWH or God proper, and another for the Lord who sits at His right hand. If an entirely human master, or at least an exalted supernatural yet created agent, were the only options to be taken away from Psalm 110:1, then this passage could have read with the dative (case indicating indirect object) tē despotē, as the title despotēs[8] surely was accessible to the LXX translators.

If Psalm 110:1 has significant Christological implications to it—beyond speaking of a figure like King David being the Messiah’s subordinate, and the significance of the Messiah’s Kingship—then if ne’um YHWH l’Adonai is the correct reading, the second figure being a proper “Lord,” it thus attests to the reality of a plural Godhead, with God, in fact, having a discussion with Himself. The Father bids the Son to sit at His right hand, similar to the scene of the Son of Man being brought before the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9-14).


NOTES

[1] Useful summaries on Psalm 110, as they concern the Messiahship of Yeshua, are provided by: Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament, pp 94-96; Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), pp 133-145; Rydelnik, pp 164-184; Ortland, “The Deity of Christ and the Old Testament,” in The Deity of Christ, pp 47-50.

[2] Bowman and Komoszewski, 244.

[3] Kohlenberger, 4:474.

[4] The Jerusalem Bible-Koren has, “The LORD says to my master.”

[5] Robert Alter, trans., The Book of Psalms (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 2007), 396.

[6] deClaissé-Walford, Jacobson, and Tanner, 835 fn#5.

[7] Rydelnik, 172.

[8]one who has legal control and authority over persons, such as subjects or slaves, lord, master” (BDAG, 220).

About J.K. McKee 633 Articles
J.K. McKee (B.A., University of Oklahoma; M.A., Asbury Theological Seminary) is the editor of Messianic Apologetics (www.messianicapologetics.net), a division of Outreach Israel Ministries (www.outreachisrael.net). He is a 2009 recipient of the Zondervan Biblical Languages Award for Greek. He is author of numerous books and commentaries, dealing with a wide range of topics that are important for today’s Messianic Believers.

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