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Psalm 110

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Title: Psalm 110  
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Subject: Melchizedek, Righteous Priest, Session of Christ, Son of God, Psalm 107
Collection: Melchizedek, Psalms
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Psalm 110

God Inviting Christ to Sit on the Throne at His Right Hand by Pieter de Grebber (1645) is a Christian interpretation of the invitation in Psalm 110:1.

Psalm 110 is the 110th psalm of the Book of Psalms. It is thought to be a Messianic Psalm by Christians and also some Jewish scholars.


  • Text and background 1
  • Melchizedek 2
  • In Judaism 3
  • Uses 4
    • Judaism 4.1
    • Christianity 4.2
  • Musical settings 5
  • References 6

Text and background


Psalm 110:4 in the Authorized King James Version reads Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek, which has become traditional in English translations, but the Hebrew contains ambiguities. The New Jewish Publication Society of America Version, (1985 edition), for example, has You are a priest forever, a rightful king by My decree. Another alternative keeps Melchizedek as a personal name but changes the identity of the person addressed: "You are a priest forever by my order (or 'on my account'), O Melchizedek" - here it is Melchizedek who is being addressed throughout the psalm.[1]

Much of the ambiguity centres on the translation of the word דִּבְרָתִי in verse 4. The KJV translation of עַל-דִּבְרָתִי as "after the order of," is fitting, when "order" is taken as the English word meaning, "an authoritative direction or instruction," דִּבְרָתִי has its root in דבר, and is most plainly "utterance" or "speech," with an implication of authority or leadership.[2] Translations vary in how they interpret this. The New Living Translation gives the meaning as "in the line of,"[3] the Amplified Bible gives, "after the manner and order of,"[4] the Contemporary English Version prints it as, "just like,"[5] and The Message Bible omits the word.[6]

The text is traditionally translated (Septuagint, Vulgate, KJV 1611, JPS 1917):

"4The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent: 'Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Melchizedek.'." (JPS 1917)

Although the above is the traditional translation of the text, the Hebrew text contains ambiguities and can be interpreted in various ways, and the New Jewish Publication Society of America Version, (1985 edition), for example, has:

"You are a priest forever, a rightful king by My decree." (JPS 1985)

Another alternative keeps Melchizedek as a personal name but changes the identity of the person addressed: "You are a priest forever by my order (or 'on my account'), O Melchizedek" - here it is Melchizedek who is being addressed throughout the psalm.[7]

In Judaism

Targum Yonathan to the opening verse of the psalm attributes the victorious kind as King David[8] who was a "righteous king" and, as king, had certain priestly-like responsibilities. The Babylonian Talmud understands the chapter as referring to Abram who was victorious in battling to save his brother in law Lot and merited priesthood.[9] According to Avot of Rabbi Nathan, chapter 34, Psalm 110 refers to the Messiah, in the context of the Four Craftsmen

"These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth (Zech. 4:14). This is a reference to Aaron and the Messiah, but I cannot tell which is the more beloved. However, from the verse, The Lord hath sworn and will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Mechizedek (Psalm 110:4), one can tell that the Messianic King is more beloved than the Righteous Priest."[10]

As a member of tribe of Judah King David was not a born priest (Kohen) as only members of the tribe of Levi of patrilineal descent from Aaron, the brother of Moses, are entitled to priesthood in Judaism. As the respected Jewish sage Rashi wrote:

Because of the speech of Malchizedek, because of the command of Malchizedek. You are a priest, Heb. kohen ("כהן"). The term kohen bears the connotation of priesthood, servitude to the deity and, less frequently, rulership, as (II Sam. 8:18): "and David's sons were kohanim (chief officers)".

Rashi is speaking of the Hebrew word "kohen" which Christian translators translate as "priest" in Psalm 110, but which is often translated as "ruler" in many places in Christian translations. The Hebrew word is kohen and while commonly translated as "priest" it may have other meanings. The word appears 750 times in the Massoretic Text. In 5 cases the KJV translates it as "officers":

2 Samuel 8:18 (KJV) - And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David's sons were chief rulers (kohenim). 2 Samuel 20:26 (KJV) - And Ira also the Jairite was a chief ruler (kohen) about David. 1 Kings 4:5 (KJV) - And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers: and Zabud the son of Nathan was principal officer (kohen) and the king's friend.




Musical settings

One of the standard psalms used in the Vespers service, this psalm has been set by many composers, notably Mozart in his Vesperae solennes de confessore and by Handel in his Dixit Dominus.


  1. ^ James L. Kugel, "Traditions of the Bible", pp.278-279
  2. ^ Dictionary of the Talmud, Volume I, Traditional Press Inc Brooklyn, NY, p. 278-279
  3. ^ New Living translation of Psalm 110:4
  4. ^ Amplified translation of Psalm 110:4
  5. ^ Contemporary English Version translation of Psalm 110:4
  6. ^ Message Bible of Psalm 110:4
  7. ^ Kugel, James L. , pp.278-279Traditions of the Bible
  8. ^ based on the text שב לימיני with "Yemini" referring either to King Saul whom David was careful not to overthrow or to the Torah (as per it being referred to as "from his right hand -a fire of religion to them" -Deuteronomy) -Targum Yonathan to Psalm 110
  9. ^ Babylonian Talmud to Nedarim, p. 32
  10. ^ Raʻanan S. Boustan (2005). From Martyr to Mystic: Rabbinic Martyrology and the Making of Merkavah Mysticism. Mohr Siebeck. p. 138. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  11. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 457
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