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Sit at My Right Hand

A Psalm of David.

1The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2The Lord sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,11Or on the day you lead your forces
in holy garments;22Masoretic Text; some Hebrew manuscripts and Jerome on the holy mountains
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.33The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain
4The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

5The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs44Or the head
over the wide earth.
7He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

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1 Jehovah said to my Lord 320320     “The Lord said unto my Lord. Heb., ‘Jehovah assuredly said unto my Adon,’ which last word is used for lord in every variety of rank, from the master of a family to the sovereign of an empire. In its origin, this title seems similar to the Italian cardinal, which means primarily a hinge, as Adon does a socket; hence figuratively applied to executive magistrates, on whom the government rests, and public affairs turn.” — Williams. What is here stated might to some extent be applied to the person of David, inasmuch as he neither ascended the royal throne illegally, nor did he find his way to it by nefarious artifices, nor was he raised to it by the fickle suffrages of the people, but it was by the direct authority of God that he reigned over Israel. It may be justly affirmed of all the kings of the earth, that they have been placed upon their thrones by the hand of God, for the kingdoms of this world are appointed by the decree of heaven, and “there is no power but of God,” (Romans 13:1) Besides, as this kingdom was altogether peculiar, it was the design of David to make a distinction between it and all other kingdoms. God indeed invests kings with authority, but they are not consecrated as David was, that like him, in consequence of the holy anointing oil, they might be elevated to the rank of Christ’s vicegerents. In the eighty-second psalm they are called gods, because by the will of God they hold their position, and in some respects are his representatives, (all power being lodged in him;) but they are not clothed with that sacred majesty by which David was honored to be a type of God’s only begotten Son. Moreover, he justly observes that the kingdom was conferred upon him in a totally different manner from other earthly kings, who, while they acknowledge that it is by the grace of God they reign, yet, at the same time, do not consider that they are sustained by his power, but, on the contrary, imagine that they reign either by their own policy, by hereditary right, or by the kindness of fortune; and, therefore, in so far as it respects themselves, it must be affirmed, that they have no legitimate title to reign. And since they do not recognize the hand of God in what they derive from him, his command cannot be properly addressed to them. David, who was well aware that he was anointed by God to be king over Israel, and who maintained an obscure and retired position until summoned to assume the reins of government, shows good cause why he is not to be classed with the ordinary kings of the earth; meaning that he reigned by a Divine right. That the whole of what is stated in this verse cannot be entirely and exclusively applied to David, is very obvious from Christ’s reply to the Pharisees, (Matthew 22:44) They having said that Christ was to be the son of David, he saith unto them, “How then doth David himself call him Lord?”

The objection started by the Jews, that Christ’s reply was captious, is entirely frivolous, because David does not speak in his own name, but in that of the people. This objection is easily repelled. For even granting that this psalm was penned in name of the whole Church, yet as David himself constituted one of the number of the godly, and was a member of the body under the same head, he could not separate himself from that class, or be dissevered from this head; what is more, he could not compose this psalm for others without, at the same time, taking part with them in it. There is besides another thing deserving of notice, the assumption of the principle or maxim then generally admitted, that David spake by the spirit of prophecy, and consequently prophesied of the future reign of Christ. This principle of interpretation being admitted, it is plainly to be inferred that he had a reference to Christ’s future manifestation in the flesh, because he is the sole and supreme Head of the Church. From which it also follows, that there is something in Christ more excellent than his humanity, on account of which he is called the Lord of David his father. This view is strengthened by what is stated in the second clause of the verse. Earthly kings may indeed be said to sit at God’s right hand, inasmuch as they reign by his authority; here, however, something more lofty is expressed, in that one king is chosen in a peculiar manner, and elevated to the rank of power and dignity next to God, of which dignity the twilight only appeared in David, while in Christ it shone forth in meridian splendor. And as God’s right hand is elevated far above all angels, it follows that he who is seated there is exalted above all creatures. We will not maintain that angels were brought down from their high estate to be put in subjection to David. What, then, is the result, but that by the spirit of prophecy Christ’s throne is exalted far above all principalities in heavenly places? The simile is borrowed from what is customary among earthly kings, that the person who is seated at his right hand is said to be next to him, and hence the Son, by whom the Father governs the world, is by this session represented as metaphorically invested with supreme dominion.

Until I make thine enemies thy footstool 321321     The expression is borrowed from the Eastern custom of conquerors putting their feet upon the necks of their enemies. See Joshua 10:24. By these words the prophet affirms that Christ would subdue all the opposition which his enemies in their tumultuous rage might employ for the subversion of his kingdom. At the same time, he intimates that the kingdom of Christ would never enjoy tranquillity until he had conquered his numerous and formidable enemies. And even should the whole world direct their machinations to the overthrow of Christ’s royal throne, David here declares that it would remain unmoved and unmoveable, while all they who rise up against it shall be ruined. From this let us learn that, however numerous those enemies may be who conspire against the Son of God, and attempt the subversion of his kingdom, all will be unavailing, for they shall never prevail against God’s immutable purpose, but, on the contrary, they shall, by the greatness of his power, be laid prostrate at Christ’s feet. And as this prediction will not be accomplished before the last day, it must be that the kingdom of Christ will be assailed by many enemies from time to time until the end of the world; and thus by-and-bye it is said, rule thou in the midst of thine enemies The particle until does not refer to that which may happen after the complete carnage of the enemies of Christ. 322322     “Until I make, etc. It is remarked by Genebrard, that the particle עד is to be taken emphatically, as if it were equivalent to etiam donec, and signifies continuity; not the exception or exclusion of future times. Jehovah is, therefore, speaking in substance as follows: — ‘Reign with me even until I make thy enemies thy footstool; even at the time which seems opposed to thy kingdom, and when thy enemies appear to reign, that is, before I have prostrated thy enemies, and have caused them to make submission to thee. After this subjection of thy adversaries, it is unnecessary to say, Thou wilt continue to reign.’ If this be not the force of the passage, then we must suppose that the reign of Christ will cease when he has completely subjugated the world; which is contrary to what we are taught elsewhere in Scripture. The particle is used in a similar manner in Psalm 123:3; Deuteronomy 7:24.” — Phillips. Paul certainly declares that he will then deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, which he received from him, (1 Corinthians 15:24;) but we are not to take these words as denoting that he shall cease to reign, and become, as it were, a private individual; we are to regard them as describing the manner of his reign, that is, that his Divine majesty will be more conspicuous. Moreover, in this passage he is speaking solely of the reprobate who fall under Christ’s feet to their own ruin and destruction. All mankind are naturally opposed to Christ, and hence it is, that ere they be brought to yield a willing obedience to him, they must be subdued and humbled. This he does with regard to some of them whom he afterwards makes partakers with him in his glory; while he casts off others, so that they may remain for ever in their lost state.

2 Jehovah shall send out of Zion the scepter of thy power. The Psalmist not only confirms, in different terms, what he stated above, but also adds, that Christ’s kingdom shall be vastly extended, because God would make his scepter stretch far and wide. David did indeed render not a few of the surrounding nations tributaries to him, but still his kingdom, when contrasted with other monarchies, was always confined within narrow limits. There is in the words an implied contrast, as if he had said, that Christ should not reign as King upon mount Zion only, because God would cause his power to extend to the remotest regions of the earth. And for this reason it is denominated the scepter of his power, 323323     “The rod of thy strength, or the scepter of thy strength, i.e., thy powerful scepter, the scepter with which thou rulest thy powerful kingdom.” — Phillips. and how astonishing was it, that though the whole world was leagued in opposition to Christ’s kingdom, it yet continued to spread and prosper. In a word, David here animates the hearts of the godly against being dispirited by the foolhardy attempts on the part of those who presume to introduce discord and disorder into the kingdom of Christ; for he shows them that God will put forth his invincible power for the maintaining of the glory of his sacred throne. What time, then, our minds are agitated by various commotions, let us learn confidently to repose on this support, that however much the world may rage against Christ, it will never be able to hurl him from the right hand of the Father. Moreover, as he does not reign on his own account, but for our salvation, we may rest assured that we will be protected and preserved from all ills under the guardianship of this invincible King. Doubtless our condition in this world is connected with many hardships; but as it is the will of God that Christ’s kingdom should be encompassed with many enemies, and that too with the design of keeping us in a state of constant warfare, it becomes us to exercise patience and meekness; and assured of God’s aid, boldly to set at nought the rage of the whole world. From this passage we are instructed as to the calling of the Gentiles. Because, if God had not told us in this place respecting the extension of Christ’s kingdom, we would not this day have been classed among his people. But as the wall is broken down, (Ephesians 2:14) and the gospel promulgated, we have been gathered together into the body of the Church, and Christ’s power is put forth to uphold and defend us.

3 Thy people shall come 324324     “‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.’ Voluntaries, a people of voluntarinesses or of liberalities, (as Psalm 68:10;) that is, shall most freely, willingly, and liberally present themselves and their oblations to thee, as Judges 5:9; Acts 11:41 [sic]; Exodus 25:2; Romans 12:1; Psalm 48:10; 119:108; Song 6:11.” — Ainsworth. נדבות is literally promptitudines, readinesses; so that the term being plural and abstract, may be regarded as highly emphatic, as if the Psalmist said, Thy people shall be very willing. This noun also signifies voluntary oblations. Thus Luther has rendered it by williglich opfern In this sense it is found in many passages, as Exodus 35:29; 36:3; Deuteronomy 23:24, and several other places. It will be necessary, if this meaning be assigned to it here, to supply some such verb as יביא. The Psalmist, however, is evidently speaking of a battle, and, therefore, the admission of this meaning would be incongruous ” — Phillips. “Since an army,” says Rosenmüller, “is represented in this passage as called out to a warlike expedition, we cannot understand נדבות otherwise than as signifying a prompt and willing mind, in which sense we find it, Hosea 14:5, ultro, voluntarily, of his own accord, Psalm 51:14; Judges 5:2, 9.” — Messianic Psalms, Biblical Cabinet, volume 32, page 271. In this verse the Psalmist sets forth the honors of Christ’s kingdom in relation to the number of his subjects, and their prompt and cheerful obedience to his commands. The Hebrew term, which he employs, frequently denotes voluntary oblations; but, in the present case, it refers to the chosen people, those who are truly Christ’s flock; declaring that they shall be a willing people, spontaneously and cheerfully consecrating themselves to his service. At the time of the assembling of thine army, that is to say, as often as there shall be a convening of solemn and lawful assemblies, or the king shall desire an account of his people; which may be expressed in French, au jour des montres,in the day of the review. Others render it, in the day of thy power; 325325     “I have rendered the words, ביום חילד, in the day of thy power; and I understand that day as referring to the time when, in consequence of Peter’s exhortation, three thousand persons made profession of the Christian faith.” — Dante on the Messianic Psalms, Biblical Cabinet, volume 32, page 318. With this corresponds the interpretation of Hammond: “The Messiah, in the former verses, is set upon his throne, for the exercise of his regal power, with a sword or scepter in his hand; and, as such, he is supposed to rule in the world, to go out to conquer and subdue all before him. The army which he makes use of to this end is the college of apostles, sent out to preach to all nations; and the time of their thus preaching is here called יום חילך ‘the day of his power’ or ‘forces,’ or ‘army.’” But Queen Elizabeth’s translators understood the phrase in the same sense as Calvin, rendering it, “The people shall come willingly at the time of assembling thine army.” In like manner, Rosemüller reads, “In the day of thy army; that is,” says he, “in the day when thou assemblest and leadest forth thine army. The word חיל, militia, is here used as in Deuteronomy 11:4; 2 Kings 6:15, signifying military forces.” — Ibid. volume 32, page 273. but the former is preferable, for when Christ shall wish to assemble his people, immediately they will yield a prompt obedience, without being forcibly constrained to it. Moreover, for the purpose of assuring us that this, in preference to all other kingdoms, was set apart by God for his peculiar services, it is added, the beauties or honors of holiness, thereby intimating, that all who become Christ’s subjects will not approach him as they would do an earthly king, but as they would come into the presence of God himself, their sole aim being to serve God.

Out of the womb of the morning, 326326     “Des la matrice, comme de, lestoille du matin ” — Fr. Out of the womb, as if from or out of the star of the morning. etc. It would not be for edification to recount all the interpretations which have been given of this clause, for when I have established its true and natural import, it would be quite superfluous to enter upon a refutation of others. There does not, indeed, appear to me any reason to doubt that, in this place, David extols the Divine favor displayed in increasing the number of Christ’s people; and hence, in consequence of their extraordinary increase, he compares the youth or race which would be born to him to the dew. 327327     “Among the earliest Greek writers, dew seems to have been a figurative expression for the young of any animal. Thus, δροσος is used by æschylus for an unfledged bird, (Agamemn. 145;) and ἑρση, by Homer, for a young lamb or kid, (Od. 1, 222.)” — Horsley. As men are struck with astonishment at seeing the earth moistened and refreshed with dew, though its descent be imperceptible, even so, David declares that an innumerable offspring shall be born to Christ, who shall be spread over the whole earth. The youth, therefore, which, like the dew-drops, are innumerable, are here designated the dew of childhood or of youth The Hebrew term, ילדות, yalduth, is used as a collective noun, that is, a noun which does not point out a single individual only, but a community or society. 328328     “Qui ne se dit pas d’une personne seule, mais de quelque multitude et compagnie.” — Fr. Should any wish to attach a more definite and distinct signification to the term, he may do so in the following manner: That an offspring, innumerable as the dew-drops of the morning, shall issue from his womb. The testimony of experience proves that there was good reason for uttering this prediction. The multitude who, in so short a time, have been gathered together and subjected to Christ’s sway, is incredible; the more so, as this has been accomplished by the sound of the Gospel alone, and that, too, in spite of the formidable opposition of the whole world. Besides, it is not surprising that aged persons, who are recently converted to Christ, should be designated children newly born, because the spiritual birth, according to Peter, makes all the godly become as new-born babes, (1 Peter 2:2) To the same purpose are the words of Isaiah, (Isaiah 53:10,) that Christ “shall see a seed whose days shall be prolonged;” and under his reign the Church has the promise of enjoying a season of incalculable fertility. What has been said will serve to account for the appellation given to the Church or children of God. And, assuredly, it is matter of surprise that there should be any, though the number may be few, gathered out of a world lying in ruins, and inhabited by the children of wrath; and it is still more surprising, that such vast multitudes are regenerated by the Spirit of Christ and by the word. At the same time, we would do well to bear in mind, that to execute God’s commands promptly and cheerfully, and to be guided solely by his will, is the peculiar honor and privilege of his chosen; for Christ will recognize none as his people, except those who willingly take his yoke upon them, and come into his presence at the voice of his word. And that no one may imagine that eye-service is a proper discharge of his duty, the Psalmist very properly adds, that Christ will not be satisfied with mere external ceremony, but that he must be worshipped with true reverence, such as he himself instructs us to bring into the presence of God.

4 Jehovah hath sworn This verse is a satisfactory proof that the person here spoken of is none other than Christ. When the Jews, with the view of mystifying this prediction, render the term כוהן, chohen, a prince, their translation is at once feeble and frivolous. I acknowledge, indeed, that those of noble descent or of royal blood are in Hebrew denominated כהנים, chohanim; but would it have been saying any thing to the honor of Christ for David merely to give to him the title of a chief, which is inferior to that of royal dignity? Besides, what would be the import of saying that he was a prince for ever, and according to the manner of Melchizedek? There can be no question then, that the Holy Ghost here refers to something specific and peculiar, as distinguishing and separating this king from all other kings. This, too, is the well known title with which Melchizedek was honored by Moses, (Genesis 14:18) I grant, indeed, that anciently among heathen nations kings were wont to exercise the priestly office; but Melchizedek is called “the priest of the most high God,” in consequence of his devoutly worshipping the only true God. Among his own people, however, God did not permit the blending of these offices. Hence Uzziah, David’s legitimate successor, was struck with leprosy because he attempted to offer incense to God, (2 Chronicles 26:21.) The circumstances connected with the lineage of David were vastly different from those relating to Melchizedek. What these are it is not difficult to ascertain, inasmuch as in this new King the holy office of the priesthood shall be united with the crown and the throne. For assuredly the imperial majesty was not so conspicuous in such an obscure prince as Melchizedek, as on that account to warrant his being held out as an example above all others. Salem, the sole seat of his throne, and where he reigned by sufferance, was at that time a small obscure town, so that with regard to him there was nothing deserving of notice saving the conjunction of the crown and the priesthood. Ambitious of procuring greater reverence for their persons, heathen kings aspired after the honor of the sacerdotal office; but it was by divine authority that Melchizedek was invested with both these functions.

All dubiety as to this being the meaning of David ought to be banished from our minds by the authority of the Apostle. And although the Jews may maintain the contrary as obstinately as they please, yet reason manifestly declares that the beauty of holiness, to which I formerly adverted, is here very clearly described. To this a decisive and peculiar mark is appended, which elevates Christ above all other kings with regard to the dignity of the priesthood, and which at the same time tends to point out the difference between his priesthood and that of Levi. In connection with his sacerdotal office, mention is made of God’s oath, who was not wont to mingle his venerable name with matters of minor importance; but, on the contrary, to teach us by his own example to swear deliberately and reverently, and never unless in weighty and important matters. Admitting, then, that God had sworn that the Messiah would be the prince and governor of his people, according as Melchizedek was, this would have been nothing else than an unbecoming profanation of his name. When, however, it is quite apparent that something unusual and peculiar was denoted in this place, we may therefore conclude that the priesthood of Christ is invested with great importance, seeing that it is ratified by the oath of God. And, in fact, it is the very turning point upon which our salvation depends; because, but for our reliance on Christ our Mediator, we would be all debarred from entering into God’s presence. In prayer, too, nothing is more needful for us than sure confidence in God, and therefore he not only invites us to come to him, but also by an oath hath appointed an advocate for the purpose of obtaining acceptance for us in his sight. As for those who shut the door against themselves, they subject themselves to the guilt of impeaching him with being a God of untruth and of perjury. It is in this way that the Apostle argues the disannulling of the Levitical priesthood; because, while that remained entire, God would not have sworn that there should be a new order of priesthood unless some change had been contemplated. What is more, when he promises a new priest, it is certain that he would be one who would be superior to all others, and would also abolish the then existing order.

Some translate the term דברתי, diberathi, according to my word, 330330     “על דברתי Secundum meam constitutionem, (q. d.,) Not according to the Levitical order, but according to my appointment, the true Melchizedek. See Hebrews 7.” — Goodes New Version of the Book of Psalms, with Notes. an interpretation which I am not disposed entirely to reject, inasmuch as David would be represented as affirming that the priesthood of Melchizedek is founded upon the call and commandment of God. But as the letter י, yod, is frequently redundant, I, in common with the majority of interpreters, prefer translating it simply manner. Moreover, as not a few of the fathers have misapprehended the comparison between Christ and Melchizedek, we must learn from the Apostle what that resemblance is; from which will be readily seen the error into which they fell respecting it. For can there be any thing more absurd than to overlook all the mysteries about which the Spirit, by the mouth of the Apostle, hath spoken, and attend only to such as he has omitted? Such persons argue solely about the bread and wine, which they maintain were offered both by Melchizedek and Christ. But Melchizedek offered bread and wine, not as a sacrifice to God, but to Abraham as a repast to refresh him on his march. “In the holy Supper there is not an offering of bread and wine as they erroneously imagine, but a mutual participation of it among the faithful. As to the passage under review, the similitude refers principally to the perpetuity of his priesthood, as is obvious from the particle לעולם, leolam, that is to say, for ever. Melchizedek is described by Moses as if he were a celestial individual; and, accordingly, David, in instituting a resemblance between Christ and him, designs to point out the perpetuity of his priestly office. Whence it follows, (a point which is handled by the Apostle,) that as death did not intercept the exercise of his office, he has no successor. And this circumstance demonstrates the accursed sacrilege of the Popish mass; for, if the Popish priests will assume the prerogative of effecting a reconciliation between God and men, they must of necessity denude Christ of the peculiar and distinguishing honor which his Father has conferred upon him.

5. The Lord at thy right hand In these words David celebrates the dreadful nature of that power which Christ possesses for the dispersion and destruction of his enemies; and by this means he affirms, that though encompassed by bands of deadly foes, yet their malignant attempts would not prevent God from upholding the King whom he has set up. It is proper to consider the expression, in the day of his wrath, by which we are instructed patiently to endure the cross, if it happen that God, for a time, conceals himself during the prevalence of the cruelty and fury of enemies; for he knows well when the full and fit season arrives for executing vengeance upon them. Next, he invests Christ with power over the nations, and the people of uncircumcised lips; meaning, that he was not chosen King to reign over the inhabitants of Judea only, but also to keep under his sway distant nations, agreeably to what was predicated of him in Psalm 2:8. And because, in all parts of the earth, as well as in the confines of Judea, there would be many rebellious and disobedient persons, he adverts also to their destruction; thus intimating, that all who should set themselves in opposition to Christ, must be made to fall before him, and their obstinacy be subdued.

7 He shall drink Not a few interpreters, in my opinion, expound this verse in a very harsh manner: that the carnage would be so great, as to cause the blood of the slain to flow in torrents, out of which Christ, the Conqueror, might drink till he was satiated. 332332     This opinion is held by Michaelis and Doederlein. But although a fearful carnage of God’s and his people’s enemies is sometimes poetically described by His arrows being made drunk with blood, Deuteronomy 32:42; and as producing a stream of blood, in which his people, victorious over them, might dip or wash their feet, as in Psalm 68:24; yet neither He nor they are said to drink such blood. There is a great difference between this latter and the two preceding metaphors; and we cannot think that the idea of drinking human blood, much less of making God drink it, would have entered the mind of any Israelite. The idea is abhorrent to human nature, and must have appeared particularly shocking to the Jews, who were strictly prohibited by the laws of Moses from eating even the blood of beasts. Akin to this is the exposition of those who would have it to be a figurative representation of misery and grief, and thus descriptive of the many afflictions to which Christ was liable during this transitory life. The similitude seems rather to be drawn from the conduct of brave and powerful generals, who, when in hot pursuit of the enemy, do not suffer themselves to be diverted from their purpose by attending to luxuries; but, without kneeling down, are content to quench their thirst by drinking of the stream which they are passing. It was in this way that Gideon found out the brave and warlike soldiers; regarding such as kneeled down to drink as destitute of courage, he sent them back to their homes, Judges 7:5. It therefore appears to me that David figuratively attributes military prowess to Christ, declaring that he would not take time to refresh himself, but would hastily drink of the river which might come in his way. 333333     Similar is the opinion of Grotius. He regards the words as containing a description of a strenuous and active warrior, whom no obstacle can prevent from prosecuting victory with the utmost ardor; “Who,” to use his own language, “when pursuing the enemy, does not seek for places of entertainment, that he may refresh himself with wine, but is contented with water, which he takes hastily in passing; and whenever he can find it, not only from a river, but from a torrent.” “Schnurrer,” says Rosemüller, “seems to have perceived the true meaning of the verse, which he gives in the following words: — ‘Though fatigued with the slaughter of his enemies, yet will he not desist; but, having refreshed himself with water taken from the nearest stream, will exert his renovated strength in the pursuit of the routed foe.’” — Messianic Psalms, page 284. This is designed to strike his enemies with terror, intimating to them the rapid approach of impending destruction. Should any one be disposed to ask, Where then is that spirit of meekness and gentleness with which the Scripture elsewhere informs us he shall be endued? Isaiah 42:2, 3; 61:1, 2; I answer, that, as a shepherd is gentle towards his flock, but fierce and formidable towards wolves and thieves; in like manner, Christ is kind and gentle towards those who commit themselves to his care, while they who wilfully and obstinately reject his yoke, shall feel with what awful and terrible power he is armed. In Psalm 2:9, we saw that he had in his hand an iron scepter, by which he will beat down all the obduracy of his enemies; and, accordingly, he is here said to assume the aspect of cruelty, with the view of taking vengeance upon them. Wherefore it becomes us carefully to refrain from provoking his wrath against us by a stiff-necked and rebellious spirit, when he is tenderly and sweetly inviting us to come to him.