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Psalm 110

In Psalm 110, King David, speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us a glimpse of a conversation between God the Father and the pre-incarnate Christ. Through this revelation given to David we hear the LORD (God the Father) proclaim the coming of Messiah (Christ) in three roles: as King, Priest, and Conqueror. A testimony to the fact that this short psalm pulls in more of the broad themes of scripture than perhaps any other is the fact that it is quoted in the NT more than any other psalm.




1. The Inscription of Psalm 110

2. Other Background information on Psalm 110

3. Psalm 110 - Analysis of the Text

3.1 Christ as King (vs. 1-3)

3.2 Christ as Priest (vs. 4)

3.3 Christ as Conqueror (vs. 5-7)

4. So When Does All This Happen?

5. References

The Inscription of Psalm 110

  • Of David. Psalm 110 is one of 73 Psalms with the Davidic inscription: "of David" (Hebrew: ledawid )

    • (le) - to, for, towards, belonging to, in regard to, according to, in ( Strong's Abridged BDB - BibleWorks 6.0 )

    • Because the Hebrew preposition le can have a variety of meanings, some scholars think that perhaps not all Psalms with the Davidic inscription were necessarily written by the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Sam 23:1)

    • However both Jesus and the Apostle Peter tell us that Psalm 110 was written by David (Mat 22:43, Acts 2:34)

  • A Psalm. (Hebrew: mizmor pronounced: miz-more) - meaning "melody" which may imply that is was sung to an instrumental accompaniment. [1]

Other Background information on Psalm 110

  • Psalm 110 is classified by some scholars as an "Oracular" Psalm - that is to say that the content of this Psalm was given to David as a special revelation directly from God. [2]

  • Psalm 110 is also considered to be a "Messianic" Psalm - that is a Psalm that foreshadows or foretells of the coming Messiah (= Christ)

    • (cf. Ps 2; Ps 16; Ps 18; Ps 22; Ps 35; Ps 40; Ps 41; Ps 45; Ps 68:18; Ps 69; Ps 97:7; Ps 102:25-27; Ps 109; Ps 118 - see discussion in Kidner pp. 18-25)

    Psalm 110 is quoted in the NT more than any other Psalm - no doubt indicating something of the nature of its significance.

    • Allusions to Psalm 110 can be found in Mat 22:41-45; 26:64; Mark 12:35-37; 14:62; Luke 20:41-44; 22:69; Acts 2:32-36; 1 Cor 15:24-25; Eph 1:20-23; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3,13; 5:6-10; 6:19-20; 7:1-28; 8:1-2; 10:12-13; 12:2; Rev 3:21

Psalm 110 - Analysis of the Text

Christ as King (vs. 1-3)

Christ's relationship with YHWH [the Father]:

The LORD says to my Lord

  • In the original Hebrew there are two different words translated as "Lord" in our English Bibles:

    • YHWH (sometimes transliterated Yahweh , sometimes Jehovah ) - the sacred name of the self-existent God (cf. Exodus 3:14)

    • Adonai - a title of respect applied to any sovereign or ruler, even God himself as it is used in Psalm 110. Compare :

      • 2 Sam 4:8b - This day the LORD [ YHWH ] has avenged my lord [ adonai ] the king against Saul and his offspring.

      • Exodus 34:8-9b - Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. "O Lord [ adonai ], if I have found favor in your eyes," he said, "then let the Lord [ adonai ] go with us."

    • The first line reads literally: " The oracle [Hebrew: neum (neh-oom) - that which is whispered in the ear ] of Yahweh to my Lord ".

    • It is an opening which stamps the next words as God's direct message to His king, on which verses 2 and 3 provide the inspired comment. [3]

"Sit at my right hand

  • In Scripture sitting :

    • Expresses quiet, repose (cf. Mic 4:4).

    • Denotes permanency of possession (Judg 5:17)

    • Denotes majesty and authority . The king sits on his throne, and does not stand even in the presence of his nobles.

    • Is also the posture of a judge . (cf. Prov 20:8; Isa 16:5) [4]

    • There is also the idea that Christ's work is complete  (Heb 10:12)

  • He is sitting at God's right hand .

    • The right hand is an emblem of strength , (cf. Ex 15:6; Ps 80:17).

    • The right hand of royal power is represented as the chief place of enjoyment in a kingdom (cf. Ps 16:11).

    • It is also the post of honor (cf. 1 Kings 2:19; Eph 1:20; Heb 2:9). [5]

      • When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king's mother, and she sat down at his right hand . (1 Kings 2:19)

until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

  • Ancient kings often had themselves portrayed as placing their feet on vanquished enemies (Josh 10:24)

  • The idea here is that God will subjugate all of Christ's enemies to Him

  • Note there is a period of time between when Christ is enthroned and when all of His enemies are subjected to Him - much like what happened to King David himself (cf. 1 Kings 5:3)

The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;

  • The idea here is that YHWH will expand Christ's reign in ever widening circles until no foe remains to oppose His rule ( NIV Study Bible note p.906 )

  • Zion (also known as "the city of David") referred to the city of Jerusalem which David took from the Jebusites and there he built a citadel and a palace (cf. 2 Samuel 5:6-11).

  • From Zion (Jerusalem) David reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years ( 2 Samuel 5:5 )

  • Thus in David's day Zion was the capital from which God's Davidic King ruled and went forth in conquest as we see being described in this Psalm.

  • In the New Testament, Mount Zion becomes a type of the " heavenly Jerusalem " (Heb 12:22) from which Jesus, the ultimate Davidic king, goes forth conquering the nations with His Gospel (cf. Gal 4:25-26, Rev 21:2,10)

Christ's relationship with His enemies:

You will rule in the midst of your enemies.

  • From Zion as a starting point Christ's influence will extend ever and ever farther outward.

  • He will exercise rule and authority though He is continually surrounded by His enemies .

  • But it is not they that shall have dominion but He . [6]

Christ's relationship with His people:

Your troops will be willing

  • This Lord is not without people.

  • These people are not, however, pressed into service against their will.

  • The phrase " offer themselves freely " is a noun in the original: literally, "freewill offerings".

  • The term was applied to any sacrifices or offerings that were entirely voluntary . Here the term is used figuratively [7]

on your day of battle.

  • The day of the "power" of the Lord means, of course, the day when He displays His power . The word could be translated "the day of your campaign". [8]

Arrayed in holy majesty

  • The phrase "in holy array" implies that for such a higher warfare as that which is here involved certain moral qualifications must mark those who participate. [9]

from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth.

  • The highly poetic phrase, " from the womb of the morning " says rather uniquely that the dew is born afresh with each dawning of the day.

  • Like this dew (which is especially copious in parts of the Holy Land) those who volunteer for the Lord's service are numerous and fresh . [10]

Christ as Priest (vs. 4)

The establishment of Christ's priesthood: confirmed by a divine oath

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind

  • If anything is stronger than a divine oracle (see verse 1) it is a divine oath [11]

  • The idea of God's swearing is like that of His making a covenant with Abraham (Gen 15:18). It is a human way of saying that God's pronouncements on such vital matters are irrevocable: [12]  

    • Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. (Hebrews 6:17)

  • The oath is further strengthened by the pledge that God " will not change his mind " . [13]  

The duration of Christ's priesthood: forever

"You are a priest forever

  • David's Lord holds a second major office (besides that of king) - He is also a priest .

  •  He is not restricted in this respect as the kings of Israel were in that they were kings only and could at best merely second the priesthood in the performance of some of its duties. [14]

    • But after [King] Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.  Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in.  They confronted him and said, " It is not right for you, Uzziah , to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests , the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God." (2 Chronicles 26:16-18)

  • The addition of forever is perhaps the most significant clause of all. It is this that clinches our assurance .

  • It is a major theme in the Epistle to the Hebrews after its first appearance in Heb 5:6, where the eternal priest is shown to provide eternal salvation (Heb 5:9), in contrast to the temporal priests of ancient Israel whose labors could only last for a short time. [15]  

The order of Christ's priesthood: after the order of Melchizedek

in the order of Melchizedek."

  • The mention of Melchizedek in this psalm is one of only two places in the entire Old Testament where he is mentioned! The first time his name comes up is a reference in Genesis 14:17-20 where he is briefly introduced and then passes from the scene with almost no explanation of who he is or where he came from.

  • Melchizedek is only brought up in one other place in the New Testament where there is an extended discussion of his significance in relation to Christ: Hebrews 7:1-25

  • Some background information that will prepare us to better understand Hebrews 7 :

    • 2000 B.C . - Melchizedek proves his superiority to Abram by blessing him and receiving tithes from him (Gen 14:18-20)

    • Abraham then becomes the father of Isaac who is the father of Jacob who is the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, including the tribe of Levi .

    • 1400 B.C . - In the giving of the Law we see that priests in the nation of Israel had to be descendants of Aaron (in the tribe of Levi):

      • Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him . . . Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death. (Numbers 3:6,10)

    • 1000 B.C. - King David (of the tribe of Judah) is told that his descendant would be a king whose throne would endure forever (2 Sam 7:13:ff). David is also told that his descendant would be a priest forever  - not a levitical priest (David was not of the tribe of Levi) but a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4).

Christ as Conqueror (vs. 5-7)

The basis of Christ's conquest (his place of prominence at the right hand of YHWH)

The Lord is at your right hand

  • It is not always easy to determine whether the One spoken about is Yahweh, the Lord Himself, or whether it is the sublime personage who fills the dual office just described. [16]  

  • It is evident that, in this verse, ‘ The Lord at your right hand ,' must be understood of Christ instated in his kingly power at the right hand of his Father, and not of the Father as the one who backs and helps him (cf. Ps 16:8). For we read in John 5:22: ‘ the Father has committed all judgment to the Son .' And that is what we see here: the ‘Lord at Jehovah's right hand' will crush kings in the day of his wrath. [17]

The extent and fearsomeness of Christ's conquest

He will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

  • The successful warfare that this unique personage wages is now declared in brief but powerful figures each of which is strikingly brief but extremely suggestive.

  • By a way of colorful example of what He can do the most powerful adversaries are singled out - kings. They are shattered by Him in the encounter.

  • But the range of His judgment goes farther than only the kings; it includes the nations, whose dead bodies shall lie scattered all around after the Lord's judgments . . . and chief rulers over the wide earth will also be shattered by Him. [18]

The ease of Christ's conquest

He will drink from a brook beside the way;

  • 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.

  • This is designated to strike his enemies with terror, intimating to them the rapid approach of impending destruction. [19]

therefore he will lift up his head.

  • To " lift up his head " is a Hebrew idiom that carries the idea of being cheered up, refreshed, or restored (Psalm 3:3, Job 10:15, Genesis 40:13)


So when does all this happen?

Christ as conquering King
(Revelation 19:11-16) [20]

When does Christ sit down at the right hand of God until his enemies are completely vanquished?

See: Hebrews 10:12-13, Acts 2:32-36

When does Christ go forth conquering as king and having dominion even over His enemies?

See: Matthew 26:63-64, Ephesians 1:20-21, 1 Corinthians 15:25

When are Christ's holy people arrayed to join him in his conquest?

See: Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21, Ephesians 6:11-13

When does Christ offer His priestly sacrifice and begin his priestly intercession?

See: Hebrews 5:8-10; 8:1-2

When does Christ crush kings in the day of his wrath and judge the nations heaping up the dead?

See: 1 Corinthians 15:24-25; Revelation 19:11-16; 20:11-14


1. ^ Derek Kidner , An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms; (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973) p.37
2. ^ D.A. Carson - 2002 Hebrew series -
3. ^ Kidner p.393
4. ^ William S. Plumer , Psalms - A Critical and Expository Commentary With Doctrinal and Practical Remarks; (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1978) p.973
5. ^ Ibid.
6. ^ H.C. Leupold , Exposition of the Psalms; (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969) p.771-2
7. ^ William S. Plumer p.974
8. ^ Ibid.
9. ^ Ibid.
10. ^ Ibid.
11. ^ Kidner p.395
12. ^ Leupold , p.776-7
13. ^ Kidner p.395
14. ^ Leupold , p.772
15. ^ Kidner p.395
16. ^ Leupold , p.772-3
17. ^ John Calvin , Commentary on The Book of the Psalms; (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprinted 1981) p.307 fn
18. ^ Leupold , p.772-3
19. ^ Calvin , p.309
20. ^