Matthew Poole's Commentary
A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.THE ARGUMENT
That the penman of this Psalm was not Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, who writ it upon the occasion of Abraham’s victory over those kings, Ge 14, (as some of the later Jews have devised, out of opposition to Christianity,) nor any other person but David, is manifest from the title of the Psalm, which is a part of the sacred text. That this Psalm belongs to the Messiah is abundantly evident, both from the express testimony of the New Testament, Acts 2:34 1 Corinthians 15:25 Hebrews 1:13 10:13, and from the consent of the ancient Hebrew doctors, manifested implicitly in Matthew 22:44, and expressly from their own mouths. Of which see my Latin Synopsis upon this place; and from the matter of the Psalm, which can by no means or arts be made to agree to David, who was not David’s lord nor a priest, much less a priest forever, or after the order of Melchisedek, the priesthood of Aaron being in David’s time in use and force, and in the hands of another person and family. And whereas divers other Psalms, though principally directed to and to be understood of the Messiah, yet in some sort may be understood concerning David also, or at least took their rise and occasion from David, or from something relating to him, this Psalm is directly, and immediately, and solely to be understood concerning the Messiah; the Spirit of God wisely so ordering this matter, that it might be a most express and convincing testimony against the unbelieving Jews concerning the true Messiah, and concerning the nature and quality of his kingdom.
Written by David, as is manifest both from this title, which being given to this, as well as to many other Psalms, whereof David is confessed to be the author, either proves this to be David’s, or proves none of them to be so; and from Matthew 22:43,44 Mr 12:36, where also David is said to have spoken this Psalm in or by the Spirit of God, or by Divine inspiration.
An account of the calling the kingdom of Christ, Psalm 110:1-3; of his everlasting priesthood, Psalm 110:4; of his mighty conquest over his enemies, Psalm 110:5,6; and of his sufferings and triumph, Psalm 110:7.
The Lord; God the Father, the first person in the Trinity, to whom accordingly the original of all things, and especially of the work of man’s redemption by Christ, is ascribed.
Said; decreed or appointed it from eternity, and in due time published this decree, as is noted, Psalm 2:7, and actually executed it; which he did when he raised up Christ from the dead, and brought him into his heavenly mansion.
Unto my Lord; unto his Son the Messias, whom David designedly calls his Lord, to admonish the Jews and the whole church, that although he was his son according to the flesh, or his human nature, Acts 2:34 Romans 1:3, yet he had a higher nature and original, and was also his Lord, as being by nature God blessed for ever, and consequently Lord of all things, as he is called, Acts 10:36; and by office, as he was God-man, the Lord and King of the whole church, and of all the world for the church’s sake. And this was a necessary provision, to prevent that scandal which the Holy Ghost foresaw the Jews and others would be apt to take at the meanness of Christ’s appearance in the flesh. The Hebrew word Adon is one of God’s titles, signifying his power and authority or lordship over all things, and therefore is most fitly given to the Messias, to whom God hath delegated all his power in the world, Matthew 28:18.
Sit thou at my right hand: thou who hast for many years been veiled with infirm and mortal flesh, despised, and rejected, and trampled upon by men, and persecuted unto the death, do thou now take to thyself thy great and just power; thou hast done thy work upon earth, now take thy rest, and the possession of that sovereign kingdom and glory which by right belongeth to thee: do thou rule with me with equal power and majesty, as thou art God; and with an authority and honour far above all creatures, such as is next to mine, as thou art man; as this phrase is expounded in other places. See Mark 16:19 Luke 22:69 1 Corinthians 15:25 Hebrews 1:3,13 8:1 10:12,13 Eph 1:20, &c. It is a metaphor from the custom of earthly princes, who place those persons whom they honour most at their right hand; of which see 1 Kings 2:19 Psalm 45:9 Matthew 20:21. Sitting is put for reigning, 1 Kings 3:6, compared with 2 Chronicles 1:8, and withal notes the continuance of the reign, 1 Corinthians 15:25.
Until doth not necessarily note the end or expiration of his kingdom at that time; for in other places it notes only the continuance of things till such time, without excluding the time following, as is evident from Genesis 28:15 Psalm 112:8 Matthew 1:25. So here it may signify that his kingdom should continue so long, even in the midst of his enemies, and in spite of all their power and malice, which was the only thing which was liable to any doubt; for that he should continue to reign after the conquest and utter ruin of all his enemies was out of all question. And yet this is a word of limitation, in regard of the mediatorial kingdom of Christ, in respect of which Christ rules with a delegated power, as his Father’s viceroy, and with the use of outward means, and instruments, and ordinances, &c., for that manner of administration shall cease; which also seems to be intimated by this word, as it is expounded 1 Corinthians 15:25.
I make, by my almighty power communicated to thee as God by eternal generation, and vouchsafed to thee as Mediator, to enable thee to the full discharge of thine office.
Thine enemies; which also are the enemies of thy church; all persecutors and ungodly men, who will not have Christ to rule over them, Luke 19:14; sin, and death, and the devil, 1 Corinthians 15:26.
Thy footstool; thy slaves and vassals to be put to the meanest and basest services, as this phrase implies, 1 Kings 5:3 Psalm 18:39 91:13; being taken from the manner of Eastern princes, who used to tread upon the necks of their conquered enemies, as we read, Joshua 10:24 Judges 1:7. And long after those times Sapores the Persian emperor trod upon Valerian emperor of the Romans, and Tamerlane used to tread upon Bajazet the Turkish emperor, whom he kept in an iron cage for that purpose.
The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.Send; or, send forth, into the world. The rod of thy strength; thy strong or powerful rod, by a usual Hebraism. And the rod is put for his sceptre, or kingly power, as it is Isaiah 10:24 Jeremiah 48:17 Ezekiel 7:10,11 19:11,12. But as the kingdom of Christ is not carnal, or of this world, John 18:36, but spiritual; so this rod or sceptre is nothing else but his word published by himself, or by his apostles and ministers, and accompanied with his Spirit, by which the Messias did his great exploits, and set up and established his kingdom, converting some of his enemies, and confounding and destroying others of them, by that same instrument, as is manifest by comparing Isaiah 2:3 11:4 Micah 4:2 2 Corinthians 10:4 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Hence this word is called the word of the kingdom, Matthew 13:19, and the power of God, Romans 1:16. David having spoken of the Messias, Psalm 110:1, now turneth his speech to him. Out of Zion; from Jerusalem, which is frequently understood by the name of Zion, which was an eminent and venerable part of it, as Psalm 48:13 87:2 102:13,16, &c.; where the sceptre of the Messias was first to be established according to the predictions of the prophets, Psalm 2:6,8 48:3 Isaiah 2:3, &c.; to which the event exactly answered, Luke 24:47 Acts 1:4 2:1,2, &c.; and from whence it was to be sent forth into all the parts and kingdoms of the world, to bring in the Gentiles, which also the prophets had foretold, as Isaiah 2:3, and in divers of the foregoing Psalms, as hath been already frequently observed and proved.
Rule thou; thou shalt rule; the imperative being here put for the future, as it is Genesis 12:12 Psalm 37:27, and oft elsewhere. For this is not a command, but a prediction or a promise that he shall rule; which he doth partly by his grace, converting some, and so ruling their hearts by his word and Spirit, and subduing their lusts in them, and their external enemies for them; and partly by his powerful providence, whereby he defends his church and people, and subdues and punisheth all their adversaries.
In the midst of thine enemies; who shall see it, and do what they can to oppose thy dominion, but shall never be able to hinder it, but shall split themselves against it.
Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.Thy people; thy subjects.
Shall be willing, Heb. willingnesses, i.e. most willing, as such plural words are frequently used, as Psalm 5:10 21:7. Or, free-will offerings, as the word properly signifies; whereby he may intimate the difference between the worship of the Old Testament and that of the New. They shall offer and present unto thee as their King and Lord, not oxen, or sheep, or goats, as they did under the law, but themselves, their souls and’ bodies, as living sacrifices, as they are called, Romans 12:1, and as free-will offerings, giving up themselves to the Lord, 2 Corinthians 8:5, to live to him, and to die and be offered for him. The sense is, Thou shalt have friends and subjects as well as enemies, and thy subjects shall not yield thee a forced and feigned obedience, as those who are subject to or conquered by earthly princes frequently do, of which see on Psalm 18:44,45, but shall most willingly, and readily, and cheerfully obey all thy commands, without any dispute, or delay, or reservation; and they shall not need to be pressed to thy service, but shall voluntarily list themselves and fight under thy banner against all thy enemies.
In the day of thy power; when thou shalt take into thy hands the rod of thy strength, as it is called, Psalm 110:2, and set up thy kingdom in the world, and put forth thy mighty power in the preaching of thy word, and winning souls to thyself by it. Or, in the day of thine army, or forces; when thou shalt raise thine army, consisting of apostles, and other preachers and professors of the gospel, and shalt send them forth to conquer the world unto thyself.
In the beauties of holiness; adorned with the beautiful and glorious robes of righteousness and true holiness, wherewith all new men or true Christians are clothed, Ephesians 4:24; compare Revelation 19:5,14; with various gifts and graces of God’s Spirit, which are beautiful in the eyes of God and of all good men. The last clause noted the inward disposition, the willingness, of Christ’s subjects, and this notes their outward habit and deportment; wherein there seems to be an allusion either,
1. To the beautiful and glorious garments of the Levitical priests, all Christians being priests unto God, Revelation 1:6 1 Peter 2:5,9. Or,
2. To the military robes wherewith soldiers are furnished and adorned, all Christians being soldiers in the Christian warfare. But the words are and may well be rendered thus, in the beauties or glories of the sanctuary, i.e. by a usual Hebraism, in the beautiful and glorious sanctuary, which is called the holy and beautiful house, Isaiah 64:11; either in the temple at Jerusalem, which was honoured with Christ’s presence, whereby it excelled the glory of the first house, according to Haggai 2 9, in which both Christ and the apostles preached, and by their preaching made many of these willing people; or in Jerusalem, which is oft called the holy place or city, by the same word which is here rendered sanctuary; or in the church of God and of Christ, which was the antitype of the old sanctuary or temple, as is evident from 1 Corinthians 3 16,17 2 Corinthians 6:16 Hebrews 3:6 1 Pet. it. 5. And this place may be mentioned as the place either where Christ’s people are made willing, and show their willingness, or where Christ exerciseth and manifesteth that power last mentioned. From the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. This place is judged the most difficult and obscure of any in this whole book. The words are diversly rendered and understood. They are to be understood either,
1. Of Christ himself; and that in respect either,
1. Of his Divine and eternal generation, which may be called
the dew of his youth or birth, and which he may be said to have had from the womb of the morning, before the first morning or light was created, or brought out of its womb; that is, before the world was, which is a common description of eternity in Scripture. Or,
2. Of his human nature and birth; and so the words may be thus rendered, from the womb of the morning (or, as it is rendered by divers others, from the womb, from the morning, i.e. from thy very first birth) thou hast or hadst the dew of thy youth, i.e. those eminent blessings and graces wherewith thou wast enriched, or thy youth or childhood was like the dew, precious and acceptable. Or rather,
2. Of Christ’s subjects or people, of whom he evidently spoke in the former part of the verse, wherewith these words are joined. And it seems not probable that the psalmist, after he had discoursed of Christ’s advancement to his kingdom, and his administration of it, and success in it, both as to his enemies and friends, would run back to his birth, either Divine or human, both which were evidently and necessarily supposed in what he had already said of him. But then these words may be read either,
1. Separately, as two distinct clauses, as they seem to be taken by our English translators, and by the colon which they placed in the middle. And so the first clause belongs to the foregoing words, as noting the time when the people should be willing, which having declared more generally in those words,
in the day of thy power, he now describes more particularly and exactly, that they should be so even from the morning, or in a poetical strain, which is very suitable to this book, from the womb of the morning, to wit, of that day of his power, i.e. from the very beginning of Christ’s entrance upon his kingdom, which was after his resurrection and ascension into heaven, and from the very first preaching of the gospel after that time, when multitudes were made Christ’s willing people by the preaching of the apostles, as we read, Ac 2 Ac 3 Ac 4 Ac 5, &c. And for the second clause, it is to be understood thus, thou hast, or, as it is in the Hebrew, to thee is, the dew of thy youth, or of thy childhood; for the word jeled, from which this is derived, signifies sometimes young man, and sometimes a child or infant. By youth or childhood, he here seems to understand those young men or children which shall be born to the Messias, who are called his children, Hebrews 2:13, and his seed, Isaiah 53:10, wherein possibly there might be an allusion to this dew. Thus the abstract is here put for the concrete, which is very frequent in the Hebrew tongue, as circumcision and uncircumcision are put for the circumcised and the uncircumcised, &c. And even in the Latin tongue this very word youth is oft used for a young man, or for a company of young men. By the dew of youth he means youth or young men like dew, the note of similitude being oft understood. And this progeny of Christ is compared to the dew, partly because of their great multitude, being, like drops of dew, innumerable, and covering the whole face of the earth; see 2 Samuel 17 12; and partly because of the strange manner of their generation, which, like that of the dew, is done suddenly and secretly, and not perceived till it be accomplished, and to the admiration of those that behold it; of which see Isaiah 49 21. Or,
2. Jointly, as one entire sentence, the dew of thy youth (i.e. thy posterity, which is like the dew, as was noted and explained before) is as the dew (which may very well be understood out of the foregoing clause, as the word feet is understood in like manner, Psalm 18:33, He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet) of or from the womb of the morning; it is like the morning dew, as it is called both in Scripture, as Hosea 5:4, and in other authors. Nor is it strange that a womb is ascribed to the morning, seeing we read of the womb of the sea, and of the womb of the ice and frost, Job 38:8,28,29.
The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.Hath sworn; which he did not in the Aaronical priesthood, Hebrews 7:21, but did it here, partly because the thing was new and strange, and might seem incredible, because God had already erected another, and that an everlasting priesthood, Numbers 25:13, and given it to Aaron and his posterity for ever, and therefore this needed all possible assurance; and partly that his priesthood might be established upon better promises, as is said, Hebrews 8:6, and made sure and irrevocable, and such that God neither could nor would repent of it, as it follows.
Thou art, to wit, by my order and constitution; thou shalt be so, and I do hereby make thee so.
A Priest, as well as a King. Those offices which were divided before between two families, are both united and invested in thee, both being absolutely necessary for the discharge of thine office, and for the establishment of thy kingdom, which is of another kind than the kingdoms of the world, spiritual and heavenly, and therefore needs such a King as is also a minister of holy things. This word plainly discovers that this Psalm cannot be understood of David, as some of the Jews would have it, but only of the Messias. And although this word cohen be sometimes used of a prince or great person in the state, as the Jews object, yet it cannot be so understood here, partly, because it signifies a priest in Genesis 14:18, from whence this expression is borrowed; partly, because that word is never used of a sovereign prince or king, (such as the Jews confess the Messiahs to be,) but only of inferior princes or ministers of state, as Genesis 41:45 2 Samuel 8:18; partly, because such an inconsiderable assertion would never have been ushered in by so solemn an oath, especially after far greater things had been said of him in the same kind, Psalm 110:1-3 and partly, because the Messias is called a Priest, Zechariah 6:13; compare Jeremiah 23:21 35:15,18. For ever; not to be interrupted or translated to another person, as the priesthood of Aaron was upon the death of the priest, but to be continued to thee for ever.
After the order of Melchizedek, or, after the manner, &c.; so as he was a priest and also a king, and both without any successor and without end, in the sense intended, Hebrews 7:3.
The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.The Lord; either,
1. God the Father, whose words and oath he last mentioned, Psalm 110:4. So this is an apostrophe of the psalmist to Christ, Thy God and Father is at thy right hand, to wit, to defend and assist thee, as that phrase is used, Psalm 16:8 109:31, and elsewhere. See Poole "Psalm 110:1".
And he, to wit, God the Father,
shall strike, & c., as it follows. Although this latter clause may belong to the Messias; and as in the former he spake to him, so in this he speaketh of him; such changes of persons being very frequent in this book. Or,
2. God the Son, or
the Lord, who is at thy right hand, as was said before, Psalm 110:1,
shall strike, & c. So this is an apostrophe to God the Father concerning his Son. This seems best to agree with the following verses; for it is evident that it is the same person
who strikes through kings, and judgeth among the heathen, and filleth, &c. And so this whole verse, and those which follow, speak of one person, which seems most probable.
Shall strike through kings shall mortally wound and destroy all those kings and potentates who are obstinate enemies to him and to his church.
In the day of his wrath; in the day of battle, when he shall contend with them, and pour forth the floods of his wrath upon them.
He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.Shall judge; either,
1. Conquer and govern them; or rather,
2. Condemn and punish them, as it is explained in the following clauses, and as this word is used, Genesis 15:14 Romans 2:1,2 1 Peter 4:6, and elsewhere.
The places; or, the place of battle, which is necessarily supposed in the fight, and therefore may very well be understood. Dead bodies of his enemies, slain by his hand, and lying in the field in great numbers and heaps, and that unburied, to their greater infamy.
Shall wound the heads, Heb. the head; which may be understood, either,
1. Of some one person and eminent adversary of Christ, and of his kingdom; either the devil, by comparing this with Genesis 3:15 Hebrews 2:14, who was indeed the head or ruler of many countries, and indeed of all nations, except that of Israel; or the Roman empire, which was the great enemy and obstructer of Christ’s kingdom, and therefore was to be destroyed by him, as is declared, Daniel 2:44,45 7:7, &c.; or the great antichrist, or the beast after which the whole world wondered, Revelation 13:3, which Christ will destroy, as we read, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, and in divers places of St. John’s Revelation. Or,
2. Of all those heads or princes which opposed him; the singular number head being here put collectively for heads, as is very usual in the Hebrew tongue and text; and so the meaning is, that none of Christ’s enemies, though never so many or great, and their empire be never so large and potent, shall be able to withstand his force, or escape out of his hand; and that he shall not only destroy the common soldiers, but also their greatest commanders and princes, who in such cases do frequently make their escape. But this and the other like passages, both here and in the prophets, are not to be understood grossly and carnally, but spiritually, according to the nature of Christ’s kingdom, the weapons of Christ’s warfare, by which he accomplished his great works, being spiritual; and therefore such must be his battles and judgments, as is evident from many other scriptures, although these also are followed many times with temporal plagues.
He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.He shall drink of the brook in the way: this may be understood either,
1. Properly, to express the fervency and diligence of the Messias in the prosecution of his business; who having routed and destroyed the main body of his enemies’ forces, pursues those that fled with such eagerness, that he will not lose any time in refreshing himself, as might seem necessary after such hot and hard service, but will content himself with drinking a little water out of the brook which he finds in his way, that being a little refreshed therewith he may proceed with more rigour and efficacy in his work. And so this place alludes to the history of Gideon’s three hundred men, who only lapped a little of the water; of whom see Judges 7. Or,
2. Metaphorically, to express the humiliation and passion of the Messias, and thereby to prevent a great mistake which might arise in men’s minds concerning him, from the great successes and victories here ascribed to him, which might induce them to think that the Messias should be exempted from all sufferings, and be crowned with constant and perpetual triumphs. To confute this conceit, he intimates here that the Messias, before he should obtain that power and glory mentioned in the foregoing verses, should have a large portion of afflictions in the way to it, or whilst he was in the way or course of his life, before he came to his end or rest, and to that honour of sitting at his Father’s right hand. Waters in Scripture do very frequently signify afflictions or sufferings, as Psalm 42:7, &c. To drink of them, signifies to feel or bear them, as Isaiah 51:17 Jeremiah 25:15 49:12 Matthew 20:22; and in this case it may note Christ’s willing submission to them.
A brook or river of water is oft used in Scripture to express a great abundance, either of comforts, as Psalm 36:8, or of tribulations, Psalm 18:4 124:4; and therefore may be more fitly used in this place than a cup, by which the afflictions of other men are commonly expressed, to intimate that the sufferings of the Messiah were unspeakably more and heavier than the sufferings of other men, and that he should drink up not a small cup, but the whole river or sea of his Father’s wrath due to our sins.
Therefore, which word may note either the effect or the consequent of his sufferings,
shall he lift up the head, i.e. shall be delivered from all his sorrows and sufferings, and exalted to great glory, and joy, and felicity, as this phrase usually signifies, as Psalm 3:3 27:6 Jeremiah 52:31, and oft elsewhere; as, on the contrary, to hang down the head, is a signification of great grief and shame, as Lamentations 2:10.