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Psalm 110:7 "He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head."

It seems almost out of place considering the Psalm seems to be talking about God. So what does it mean? Metaphor? for what?

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Good Question.I thought about this verse before. –  Bagpipes Jul 13 at 11:21
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The psalm appears to me to be talking about the king of Israel.1 While God is mentioned throughout Psalm 110, it is as the one who empowers Israel's king, who is the central figure of the song:

  • God installs the 'lord' (the king of Israel) at the right hand of his (God's) throne (verse 1)
  • God enables the rule of the king from Jerusalem even in the face of the king's enemies (v2)
  • The people freely submit to the king, and 'the dew' belongs to the king (v3)
  • God installs the king as a 'priest after the order of Melchizedek' (v4), who was a priest-king in the ancient past (Genesis 14.18)
  • God enables the king to be victorious in battle against his enemies (v5-6)
  • The king drinks from the brook, and lifts up his head (v7)

There is a loose parallelism in play, with the first three points being similar in structure to the next three points; water comes into play in the third and final points of the psalm (dew, and a drink from the brook).

Because verse 7 follows right after the atmosphere of war in verses 5-6, we should follow that idea. The act of the king raising up his head after taking a drink is perhaps a picture that the king has already achieved the victory over the enemies mentioned in the previous verses. This would be reinforced if there is indeed a parallel between the psalms two halves; verses 1-2 show the king being exalted by God, with verse 3 being his 'victory', and then verses 5-6 again show the king being exalted by God, with verse 7 being his 'victory'.

This is suggested in Zorn's commentary on the psalm:

It seems best, however, to continue the "military" theme [of verses 5-6] and see this action as a refreshing drink after a great victory, perhaps on foreign ground (cp. Ps 3:3, 27.6). It complements the imagery of refreshment before the battle in verse 3c where the willing warriors are pictured as the refreshing dew upon the earth. Just as the singular "head" has been put down (v. 6b) by the messiah, so now in contrast the true "head" of the nations is lifted up (in victory!). In cryptic language and imagery, the victory of the Lord is summarized. The psalm has come full circle as the prophecy of victory (v. 1) has now been accomplished (v. 7), at least in a visionary prophetic way.2

Other commentators, while still seeing the psalm as a war-victory song for the king of Israel, see in verse 7 an allusion to the anointment of Solomon as king by the river Gihon (1 Kings 1.38-40).3 The psalm, then, might be understood as intended to be sung at the 'enthronement ceremonial rite'4 of a new king in Israel, with the king emerging from his anointment with his head held high.

In anticipation of the newly-anointed king's rule, the psalm invests a variety of Israelite ideas into the king (i.e. that he would be a ruler like Melchizedek, a ruler like David, a ruler like Solomon).


Footnote

1 It has ideas similar to Psalm 2. In that psalm, God installs his 'messiah' the king of Israel in Zion (2.6; cf. 110.1-2), who wields an iron rod (2.9; cf. 110.2) and strikes down nations that oppose him (2.1-3,10-12; cf. 110.5-6).

2 Walter D. Zorn, Psalms Volume 2 (2004), p.326.

3 For example: John Goldingay, Psalms: Psalms 90-150 (2008), p.298. David M. Carr, Colleen M. Conway, An Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts (2010), p.66.

4 Walter D. Zorn, Psalms Volume 2 (2004), p.325-326, though he actually argues against this view.

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There are many answers to be found from numerous expositors. What has been proposed which best strikes the mood (apart from the view proposed by many others as a refreshed victor) is the picture of a warrior 'in pursuit' who has no time to worry about comforts, or even knell down to refresh himself. We might recall the ready warriors who did not kneel to drink but quickly lapped up water on the ready.

The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” (NIV Judg 7:7)

This line of thought goes way back. For example Calvin took this position.

The similitude seems rather to be drawn from the conduct of brave and powerful generals, who, when in hot pursuit of the enemy, do not suffer themselves to be diverted from their purpose by attending to luxuries; but, without kneeling down, are content to quench their thirst by drinking of the stream which they are passing. It was in this way that Gideon found out the brave and warlike soldiers; regarding such as kneeled down to drink as destitute of courage, he sent them back to their homes, Judges 7:5. It therefore appears to me that David figuratively attributes military prowess to Christ, declaring that he would not take time to refresh himself, but would hastily drink of the river which might come in his way. This is designed to strike his enemies with terror, intimating to them the rapid approach of impending destruction. (Calvin's Commentaries, Volume 4, P309)

I actually fond this explanation more persuasive because if it symbolizes victory I feel it is an anticlimactic statement compared to the previous verse. On the other hand if after the climatic declaration oh his total victory over all nations, this is an accent to gives feeling into the manner and spirit of how he will achieve the victory, it becomes quite riveting and complimentary to the previous climax. A additional climax if you will.

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