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Psalm 45 is one of the most mysterious and bizarre compositions of the book of Psalms; it speaks about an anonymous king and his sensuous wives, and goes into great detail about his wealth, power and lust. What I find most interesting are verses 10-14 (NJPS),

Take heed, lass, and note, incline your ear: forget your people and your father's house, and let the king be aroused by your beauty; since he is your lord, bow to him. O Tyrian lass, the wealthiest people will court your favor with gifts,

Unfortunately, the author has not included an introduction to this chapter, so we are left in the dark as to whom this poem is addressed and for which occasion it was composed (However the redactor does identify it as a love song in the beginning verse; shir yedidoth). It exhorts an anonymous woman/daughter to forget her home and family, so that the king may be aroused by her beauty (and perhaps accept her as his consort), and then identifies her as a Tyrian woman. How did a Tyrian lass make it into a Hebrew Psalm, and what is the background for this composition?


I am aware that some translate the words ubath tzor (lit. daughter of Tyre) differently; that is, instead of 'O Tyrian lass' they have 'and the city of Tyre', thus leaving the subject in this verse unidentified (they will bring you gifts). However, the Masoretic sign paseq strongly supports the interpretation of the NJPS as its purpose here is clearly to separate and break up these words from the following words, see here for similar uses of the paseq. So, in this case it is more correct to read the words ubath tzor as addressing the subject already mentioned in verse 11 (take heed, lass)--that the wealthy people will bring her gifts--than to take it as a reference to the city of Tyre which will bring gifts to the anonymized woman. (However see commentary of K&D).

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I find the theory of Keil and Delitzsch most compelling, that the Psalm was composed in honor of the marriage of Jehoram of Judah with Athaliah. This lady was a daughter of Ahab king of Israel who married the Tyrian princess Jezebel, and was in some way a Tyrian lass through her mother's side and the Tyrian upbringing she received. This convincingly explains the reference to the Tyrian lass in connection with the Davidic (Messianic) king of Judah. That this Psalm was composed in connection with Ahab's marriage to Jezebel, set forth by Hitzig, is rejected straight out by Keil "by the fact that the poet idealizes the person celebrated, as foreshadowing the Messiah, in a way that can only be justified in connection with a Davidic king." The author also rejects any connection between this composition and king Solomon because of the absence of any mention of Egypt (Solomon married an Egyptian princess). Then the author goes on,

All this speaks against Solomon, but just with equal force in favour of Joram, as being the king celebrated. This Joram is the son of Jehoshaphat, the second Solomon of the Israelitish history. He became king even during the lifetime of his pious father, under whom the Salomonic prosperity of Israel was revived (cf. 2 Chronicles 18:1 with Psalm 21:3, 2 Kings 8:16, and Winer's Realwrterbuch under Jehoram); he was also married to Athaliah during his father's lifetime; and it is natural, that just at that time, when Judah had again attained to the height of the glory of the days of Solomon, the highest hopes should be gathered around these nuptials. This explains the name שׁגל which the queen bears, - a name that is elsewhere Chaldaean (Daniel 5:2.) and Persian (Nehemiah 2:6), and is more North-Palestinian than Jewish; for Athaliah sprang from the royal family of Tyre, and was married by Joram out of the royal family of Israel. If she is the queen, then the exhortation to forget her people and her father's house has all the greater force. And it becomes intelligible why the homage of Tyre in particular, and only of Tyre, is mentioned.

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