Continuing translation with comment on Psalms 107-150
The Hebrew text of this psalm is very problematic, but I will first of all translate it as it is.
A PSALM FOR DAVID
A Word of Yahweh to my master:
“Sit at my right side
Until I set your enemies
As a stool for your feet.”
Yahweh sends out from Zion
Your rod of Strength:
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people are volunteering
On the day of your valour
In the beauties of holiness.
From the womb of dawn
You have the dew of your youth.
Yahweh has sworn and will not be sorry:
” You are a priest forever
In the mode of Melchizedek.”
The Lord at your right side
Will smash monarchs in the moment of his fury,
hold judgement among the heathen,
Cover them with corpses,
over the broad earth.
He drinks water from the wadi by the road,
And so his strength is renewed.
The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew made in the 2nd century BCE, is different from the above. I give it in English:
The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. 2 The Lord shall send out a rod of power for you out of Sion: rule in the midst of your enemies. 3 With you is dominion in the day of thy power, in the splendours of thy saints: I have begotten thee from the womb before the morning. 4 The Lord swore, and will not repent, You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec. 5 The Lord at your right hand has dashed in pieces kings in the day of his wrath. 6 He shall judge among the nations, he shall fill up the number of corpses, he shall crush the heads of many on the earth. 7 He shall drink of the brook in the way; therefore shall he lift up the head.
The crucial difference as can be seen is in verse 3, where it looks as if the Septuagint translators were using a different Hebrew text. The earliest manuscript now available in Hebrew is about a thousand years younger than the one used by the Septuagint, which may therefore give us access to an older wording. The idea that God has begotten the king, is found in other Psalms and may be original.
Scholars have called this and others, Royal Psalms, which show the basis of later notions of Messiah, the anointed king-to-come. Certainly they had a complex history in Jewish expectation, including the use of this Psalm by Jesus, and the author of the Letter to Hebrews. Christians believed it to contain a prophecy of the Priest-King Jesus.
In its original form however it does celebrate the king, but only as the one who needs and gets the almighty help of Yahweh, without whom the battle would not be won. Even when the king is explicitly named as God’s son, he is not a God-King like Pharaoh, but a mortal favoured for the sake of his people. The tradition of Yahweh the warrior is very old but not for that reason irrelevant. It enabled the second Isaiah to claim the victorious Persian king Cyrus as God’s messiah, and the Maccabees to invoke God’s active aid against the Greeks. And what did the author of the New Testament Letter to Ephesians mean, when he urged believers to “put on the,whole armour of God”?
Melchizedek is a mysterious priest-king who blessed Abraham:
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram,saying,
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis14
He becomes a model, combining the roles of king and priest.