This psalm seems to be an anomaly in the book of Psalms. Its meaning is rather obscure, and its interpretation has undergone at least two iterations. Why this psalm was included in the book of Psalms has been a subject for much conjecture. Some have believed it is a song of praise and rejoicing for an unknown king who was marrying his queen, written by an admiring poet. Others, and this is the predominant opinion, is that it is a parallel to the Song of Songs and refers to the King Messiah. Now I have a slightly different twist on this latter meaning of this psalm. As I interpret it, this psalm is intended to reflect God’s love for His daughter Zion. The King referred to in several verses is the Lord, not any earthly king. And the daughter referred to in some of the verses is Zion, admittedly idealized. Read the psalm and decide for yourself what may be the most likely meaning and intention of the psalmist.
לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל־שֹׁשַׁנִּים לִבְנֵי־קֹרַח מַשְׂכִּיל שִׁיר יְדִידֹת׃ 45:1
Psal. 45:1 A poem for the leader, upon shoshannim, for the sons of Korach, a song of lovers:
The third Hebrew word, transliterated as shoshannim, literally means lilies. Since that doesn’t seem to fit here, the word is not normally translated. I imagine there might have been some forgotten ancient instrument whose sound reminded listeners of flowers. Others think it might refer to a melody for this psalm.
[Return to Psal. 69:1] [Return to Psal. 80:1]
רָחַשׁ לִבִּי דָּבָר טוֹב אֹמֵר אָנִי מַעֲשַׂי לְמֶלֶךְ לְשׁוֹנִי עֵט סוֹפֵר מָהִיר׃ 45:2
Psal. 45:2 A happy thing stirs my heart.
I am saying, “My work concerns a King.”
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
יָפְיָפִיתָ מִבְּנֵי אָדָם הוּצַק חֵן בְּשְׂפְתוֹתֶיךָ עַל־כֵּן בֵּרַכְךָ אֱלֹהִים לְעוֹלָם׃ 45:3
Psal. 45:3 You are the fairest among the children of humanity;
grace is poured upon your lips;
because of this, God has blessed you forever.
As I see it, the pronouns you and your in this verse and others below refer to Zion.
חֲגוֹר־חַרְבְּךָ עַל־יָרֵךְ גִּבּוֹר הוֹדְךָ וַהֲדָרֶךָ׃ 45:4
Psal. 45:4 Gird your sword at the side, mighty one, your majesty and your glory.
וַהֲדָרְכָ צְלַח רְכַב עַל־דְּבַר־אֱמֶת וְעַנְוָה־צֶדֶק וְתֹורְךָ נֹורָאֹות יְמִינֶךָ׃ 45:5
Psal. 45:5 And your glory, advance!
Ride on the word of truth and righteous humility,
and let your Right Hand point out awesome things to you.
Here the “Right Hand” of Zion is the Lord.
חִצֶּיךָ שְׁנוּנִים עַמִּים תַּחְתֶּיךָ יִפְּלוּ בְּלֵב אֹויְבֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ׃ 45:6
Psal. 45:6 Your arrows are sharpened;
peoples shall fall beneath you.
Into the heart of the enemies of the King!
כִּסְאֲךָ אֱלֹהִים עֹולָם וָעֶד שֵׁבֶט מִישֹׁר שֵׁבֶט מַלְכוּתֶךָ׃ 45:7
Psal. 45:7 Your throne, oh God, is forever and ever.
An upright staff is the scepter of Your kingdom.
אָהַבְתָּ צֶּדֶק וַתִּשְׂנָא רֶשַׁע עַל־כֵּן מְשָׁחֲךָ אֱלֹהִים אֱלֹהֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן שָׂשֹׂון מֵחֲבֵרֶיךָ׃ 45:8
Psal. 45:8 You love righteousness and “hate” wickedness.
For this, God, your God, has spread an oil on you
more joyous than any of your companions.
מֹר־וַאֲהָלֹות קְצִיעֹות כָּל־בִּגְדֹתֶיךָ מִן־הֵיכְלֵי שֵׁן מִנִּי שִׂמְּחוּךָ׃ 45:9
Psal. 45:9 All of your garments, of myrrh and aloes,
of spices from palaces of ivory,
make you more glad than I.
The last line of my translation differs from most others. The second-to-last Hebrew word is translated by others as strings (of a lyre) and their last line reads something like “... stringed instruments make you glad.” My difficulty with this translation is that the spelling of the word is not appropriate to this meaning. So I translated it as a contraction meaning more than I. The psalmist is speaking here (and in the remaining verses except for v. 18) for himself to Zion.
בְּנֹות מְלָכִים בְּיִקְּרֹותֶיךָ נִצְּבָה שֵׁגַל לִימִינְךָ בְּכֶתֶם אֹופִיר׃ 45:10
Psal. 45:10 The daughters of kings are among your most prized;
the queen stands to your right in fine gold.
The “daughters of kings” may be other conquered lands or peoples. But I am puzzled as to who this queen represents. It may be that the queen is a metaphor for the richest of Israel’s allies, Tyre, which is mentioned below in v. 15.
שִׁמְעִי־בַת וּרְאִי וְהַטִּי אָזְנֵךְ וְשִׁכְחִי עַמֵּךְ וּבֵית אָבִיךְ׃ 45:11
Psal. 45:11 Listen, daughter, and consider,
and extend your ear:
Now forget your people
and the house of your fathers.
This verse is the most puzzling of all as it seems to contradict my interpretation of the psalm.. If Zion is the daughter, then why is she told to forget her people and the house of her fathers? The only reasonable answer I can suggest is that the daughter here refers to the foreigners who dwell in Israel. This possibility is supported by the next verse as well. In the predominant interpretation, she is the foreign princess who is to be married to the king, and this verse is consistent with that view.
וְיִתְאָו הַמֶּלֶךְ יָפְיֵךְ כִּי־הוּא אֲדֹנַיִךְ וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִי־לֹו׃ 45:12
Psal. 45:12 Then the King desires your beauty,
that He is your Lord;
so bow down to Him. [Return to 1Chr. 11:17]
וּבַת־צֹר בְּמִנְחָה פָּנַיִךְ יְחַלּוּ עֲשִׁירֵי עָם׃ 45:13
Psal. 45:13 Then the daughter of Tyre,
the richest of the people,
would entreat your presence with gift.
In this verse attention reverts to Zion, as the antecedent for the pronoun your in the last line of this translation.
כָּל־כְּבוּדָּה בַת־מֶלֶךְ פְּנִימָה מִמִּשְׁבְּצֹות זָהָב לְבוּשָׁהּ׃ 45:14
Psal. 45:14 The daughter of the King is all glorious within;
her garment is out of chequered works of gold.
לִרְקָמֹות תּוּבַל לַמֶּלֶךְ בְּתוּלֹות אַחֲרֶיהָ רֵעֹותֶיהָ מוּבָאֹות לָךְ׃ 45:15
Psal. 45:15 She shall be brought to the King in richly woven things,
virgins following her attendants, being brought in to you.
תּוּבַלְנָה בִּשְׂמָחֹת וָגִיל תְּבֹאֶינָה בְּהֵיכַל מֶלֶךְ׃ 45:16
Psal. 45:16 They shall be brought in with gladness and rejoicing,
they shall come into the palace of the King.
תַּחַת אֲבֹתֶיךָ יִהְיוּ בָנֶיךָ תְּשִׁיתֵמֹו לְשָׂרִים בְּכָל־הָאָרֶץ׃ 45:17
Psal. 45:17 Your sons shall be in the place of your fathers;
you shall set them as princes throughout the entire land.
אַזְכִּירָה שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל־דֹּר וָדֹר עַל־כֵּן עַמִּים יְהֹודֻךָ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד׃ 45:18
Psal. 45:18 “I shall make your name remembered throughout every generation;
therefore peoples shall praise you forever and ever.”
The psalmist appears to quote the words of the Lord in this last verse.
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