Mar 12, 2012

Sit At My Right Hand

3 Min Read

Psalm 110 is one of the kingship or royal psalms. It is one of the most frequently quoted psalms in the entire New Testament (cf., Matt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42–44; 22:69; Acts 2:34–35; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 5:6; 7:17, 21; 8:1; 10:12–13; 12:2). According to its title, David was the author of this psalm, a fact that is crucial to its interpretation within the New Testament.

Psalm 110:1

Yahweh says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool."

These introductory lines are important because of what they say about the Messianic king. The first words of the verse following the title are: ne'um yhwh indicating that this is an oracle of the Lord. The words la'doni are translated "to my Lord." It is significant that David speaks of the king in this psalm as "my Lord." Another translation of these words is: "my master." In short, David himself expresses submission to the king who is to sit at God's right hand. The authority of this king is derived from Yahweh who promises to extend his rule by putting all of his enemies under his feet (cf. Ps. 2:8–9). The "footstool" metaphor indicates absolute control.1

Psalm 110:2–3

Yahweh sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your people will offer themselves freely
On the day of your power, in holy garments;
From the womb of the morning,
The dew of your youth will be yours.

The authority of the Messianic king will be extended to the point that all of his enemies will be forced to acknowledge his rule. The interpretation of verse 3 is difficult but seems to indicate that the king's people will voluntarily consecrate themselves to serve him in battle.

Psalm 110:4

Yahweh has sworn
And will not change his mind,
"You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek."

To say that Yahweh has "sworn" indicates the existence of a solemn oath. In this case, the oath refers to the covenantal promises he has made to David (cf. 2 Sam. 7:13). He declares, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." Melchizedek was a priest king over the city of Salem (cf. Gen. 14:18). Like him, the Davidic king was a priestly-king (cf. 2 Sam. 6:14, 17–18; 1 Kgs. 8:14, 55, 62–64). The perfect union of priesthood and kingship is ultimately found only in Jesus (cf. Heb. 5:1–10; 7:1–28).

Psalm 110:5–7

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

The final verses of Psalm 110 declare the coming victory of the Messianic king. Hans-Joachim Kraus helpfully summarizes the significance of this psalm's statements about the anointed king. "In summary, four points should especially be emphasized: (1) Yahweh himself exalts the king and places him at his right hand, he nominates and empowers him as the coregent; (2) the enthroned is adjudged to be of heavenly birth; (3) he is declared to be a priest (after the order of Melchizedek); (4) through him and his presence, Yahweh, the world judge and war hero, overcomes all enemies."ii The authors of the New Testament recognized only one figure who fulfilled all that this psalm portrayed, namely Jesus of Nazareth. This psalm would become central to their proclamation of his exaltation.

This article is part of the The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology collection.

  1. See Willem VanGemeren, "Psalms" in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, ed. Frank E. Gaebeliein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1991), 697.