The Word Made Fresh
(To the worship leader: to the tune of “Lilies.” Of the Korahites, a hymn; a love song.)
1My heart is overflowing with a wonderful theme,
and my verses are addressed to the king.
My voice is like the pen of a skillful scribe.
2You are the handsomest of men
and graceful speech pours from your lips.
God has rewarded you forever.
3Strap your sword to your thigh, mighty one,
for you are majestic and splendid.
4Ride on majestically to victory
in defense of truth and righteousness,
your right hand engaged in fearful deeds.
5Your arrows are sharp to pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies.
The nations fall down before you.
6The throne is yours, O God. May it endure forever.
Your royal scepter is a symbol of justice.
7You love righteousness and hate wickedness.
That is why God, your God, has anointed you gladly,
and set you over your companions.
8Your robes are scented with myrrh, aloes, and cassia.
The music of stringed instruments in the palaces of ivory
bring you great joy.
9Daughters of kings are your ladies of honor,
and the queen stands at your right hand in gold of Ophir.
10Listen carefully, daughter, and consider your status.
Forget your people and your father’s house.
11The king will desire you for you are beautiful.
He is your lord, and you must bow down to him.
12The daughter of Tyre will ply your favor with gifts,
and so will the wealthiest among the people.
13They will bring to you all kinds of riches
as you sit in your place with robes of woven gold.
14In colorful gowns you are led to the king,
your virgin attendants following.
15Filled with joy and gladness they are led,
and enter the king’s palace together.
16In place of your fathers you will have sons,
and you will make them princes throughout the world.
17I will make your name celebrated through generations to come,
and the people will praise you forever.
Superscription: the 3rd Korahite psalm, this one “according to Lilies,” which is likely a reference to a tune or series of musical notes. This is the third of the thirteen psalms labeled “a maskil” which was a particular kind of hymn. One feature of the maskil psalms is that all of them are attributed to specific authors – six to David (32, 52, 53, 54, 55, and 142), three to the Korahites (42, 44, and 45), two to Asaph (74 and 78) and 1 each to Heman (88) and Ethan (89). Psalm 45 is also called a “love song.” We moderns would not recognize it as such, but it is a wedding song, probably a song used on the occasion of a wedding of the king to a princess from a neighboring kingdom. Such alliances were common and multiple marriages helped secure the borders on all sides. This one is obviously not the king’s first marriage, as the queen is standing there watching over the whole proceeding (verse 9). The whole scene calls Solomon to mind.
1-5: A troubadour sings the king’s praises, basically saying, “What a guy!”
6-7a: “The throne is yours, O God,” is a reference to the throne of the king of Israel (or Judah). The singer imagines that God has established that throne forever and acknowledges that God’s intentions are for the king of Israel (or Judah) to rule with equity and righteousness.
7b-9: But back to the king. What an excellent fellow! Better than all the rest! What fine robes he wears! Listen to the royal musicians play for him! Just look at his harem! And at his right hand stands the queen herself, all glimmering in gold!
10-13a: So, listen princess, you belong to us now. Forget about Mom and Dad back in the old country. You’re a beautiful girl and the king will be pleased to have you in his palace (it is possible that this is the first time he has seen her), but you have to be submissive to maintain his favor. The more you do that the more the people of Tyre (she is likely a Tyrian princess) will shower you with gifts because of your access to the king. They’ll make you a very rich girl.
13b-15: Ah, here she comes, all decked out in golden finery! Just look at her! Every TV set in the civilized world is tuned in as she is escorted to the king’s palace, followed by her ladies-in-waiting.
16-17: And may they live happily ever after.
It is amazing how our modern wedding practices still have a lot in common with what this psalm describes: the groom stationed before the people, awaiting the arrival of his bride; the bride dressed in a beautiful gown to be worn just this once; bridesmaids lined up to welcome her. There are, of course, a lot of differences as well. Brides today are not required to be, nor expected to be, “submissive.” It is, however, expected (or at least hoped!) that she will be the only bride this groom ever awaits at the altar.
We cannot ignore the fact that God is mentioned only in passing in this psalm, and we can wonder if God really approved such displays of superiority on the part of the kings of Israel.