Psalm 110:4-5 (KJV)

4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. 5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.

The word LORD in verse 4 is the tetragrammaton. The word Lord in verse 5 is the word Adonai. In this application, to whom is the word Adonai referring?

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The LXX translated both the tetragrammaton (YHWH) and Adonai as "kyrios" = "Lord" and many English translations do the same which is confusing. In Psalm 110 we have the following points of identification:

  • "Adonai" is seated at the right hand of Jehovah/YHWH (v1, 5) - compare Acts 7:55–56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; Rev 5; etc, all of which describe Jesus as seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven
  • Jehovah/YHWH calls the other person "Adonai" (v1, 5) - compare Heb 1:8, 9 where God the Father describes Jesus as "God" and by extension this is equivalent to Lord
  • This "Adonai" is described as a priest of the order of Melchizedek (v4) - compare Heb 7:11-28 which quotes this Psalm 110 and applies/identifies this as Jesus Himself.
  • This Adonai will rule the nations (v2, 3) - compare Ps 2:2, 8, 9 and Rev 2:27, etc where, again, Jesus is identified as the person.

I see that v5 is addressed to the LORD (YHWH) and discusses the Lord (Adonai) and so is the same Adoinai as in v1, as both sit on the right of the LORD (YHWH).

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary reaches the same conclusion:

Ps 110:1-7. The explicit application of this Psalm to our Saviour, by Him (Mt 22:42-45) and by the apostles (Ac 2:34; 1Co 15:25; Heb 1:13), and their frequent reference to its language and purport (Eph 1:20-22; Php 2:9-11; Heb 10:12, 13), leave no doubt of its purely prophetic character. Not only was there nothing in the position or character, personal or official, of David or any other descendant, to justify a reference to either, but utter severance from the royal office of all priestly functions (so clearly assigned the subject of this Psalm) positively forbids such a reference. The Psalm celebrates the exaltation of Christ to the throne of an eternal and increasing kingdom, and a perpetual priesthood (Zec 6:13), involving the subjugation of His enemies and the multiplication of His subjects, and rendered infallibly certain by the word and oath of Almighty God.

  1. The Lord said—literally, "A saying of the Lord," (compare Ps 36:1), a formula, used in prophetic or other solemn or express declarations. my Lord—That the Jews understood this term to denote the Messiah their traditions show, and Christ's mode of arguing on such an assumption (Mt 22:44) also proves.

Sit … at my right hand—not only a mark of honor (1Ki 2:19), but also implied participation of power (Ps 45:9; Mr 16:19; Eph 1:20).

Sit—as a king (Ps 29:10), though the position rather than posture is intimated (compare Ac 7:55, 56) until I make, &c.—The dominion of Christ over His enemies, as commissioned by God, and entrusted with all power (Mt 28:18) for their subjugation, will assuredly be established (1Co 15:24-28). This is neither His government as God, nor that which, as the incarnate Saviour, He exercises over His people, of whom He will ever be Head. thine enemies thy footstool—an expression taken from the custom of Eastern conquerors (compare Jos 10:24; Jud 1:7) to signify a complete subjection.

NT usage

This passage (Ps 110) was used by Jesus as a confounding passage to baffle his inquisitors (Matt 22:44). Allusions to this Psalm are quite frequent in the NT which greatly helps to identify what is going on.

The NET translation of Psalm 110:5 takes the approach of capitalizing the word to clarify to whom אֲדֹנָי is referring:

O sovereign LORD,20 at your right hand he strikes down kings in the day he unleashes his anger. (Psalm 110:5 NET)

Capitalizing LORD treats the word as the tetragrammaton, as is found in many medieval Hebrew manuscripts, in order to show it is referring to God.

The translator notes in the NET Bible explain there are 3 possible interpretations:

(1) As pointed in the Hebrew text, this title refers to God (many medieval Hebrew mss read יְהוָה, yehveh, “Lord” here). The present translation assumes that the psalmist here addresses the Lord as he celebrates what the king is able to accomplish while positioned at God’s “right hand.” According to this view the king is the subject of the third person verb forms in vv. 5b-7.

(2) Another option is to understand the king as the addressee (as in vv. 2-3). In this case “the Lord” is the subject of the third person verbs throughout vv. 5-7 and is depicted as a warrior in a very anthropomorphic manner. In this case the Lord is pictured as being at the psalmist’s right hand (just the opposite of v. 1). See Pss 16:8; 121:5.

(3) A third option is to revocalize אֲדֹנָי (’adonay, “Lord”) as אֲדֹנִי (’adoniy, “my lord”; see v. 1). In this case one may translate, “My lord, at his [God’s] right hand, strikes down.” In this case the king is the subject of the third person verbs in vv. 5b-7.

Option 3 requires rewriting the text by replacing אֲדֹנָי with אָדוֹן. One difficulty in translating the verse into English (or Greek as in the LXX) is the Psalmist used both אָדוֹן and אֲדֹנָי:

Verse 1:
The LORD says to my Lord (אָדוֹן): “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
לְדָוִד מִזְמֹור נְאֻם יְהוָה לַֽאדֹנִי שֵׁב לִֽימִינִי עַד־אָשִׁית אֹיְבֶיךָ הֲדֹם לְרַגְלֶֽיךָ׃

Verse 5:
The Lord (אֲדֹנָי) is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
אֲדֹנָי עַל־יְמִֽינְךָ מָחַץ בְּיֹום־אַפֹּו מְלָכִֽים׃

אֲדֹנָי in verse 5 is the emphatic form of אָדוֹן verse 1, which the Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon understands is used only of God. Charles Ellicott comments on the difference:

We are naturally tempted to understand this as still the king whom the first verse placed at Jehovah's right hand. But the word for Lord here is Adonai, which is nowhere else used except of God. Moreover, God throughout has as yet appeared as the active agent. It is He who stretched out the sceptre and conferred the office of priest; and hitherto the king has been the person addressed. It is therefore necessary still to consider him as addressed, and suppose that the change of position of Jehovah from the king’s right hand to his left is simply due to the usage of the language. To sit at the right hand was an emblem of honour, to stand at the right hand was a figure of protecting might (Psalm 16:8; Psalm 109:31); and the imagery of a battle into which the song now plunges caused the change of expression.

While the NET is in the minority in rendering the word as LORD, clearly the Masoretic Text preserves a difference from "Lord" in verse 1 and "Lord" in verse 5 which should be conveyed in translation. This, coupled with the fact some medieval manuscripts have the tetragrammaton in verse 5 is strong evidence in support of this approach. Finally, since both the Masoretic Text and the medieval manuscripts were produced during the Christian Era, any bias in translation would likely be against seeing the Psalm as a reference to Jesus.

  • @Ruminator The same can be said of your non-Trinitarian "exegesis". You always have the option to add your own answer with your own exegesis. – alb Oct 5 at 23:11
  • 1
    @ Runinator: You said: “Am I correct that this post is predicated on the idea that only God is addressed as adonai when in fact that is a factual error and YET you up voted it? Really? According to my the lexicon, אֲדֹנָי (Adonay) is used 434 times (once in Psalm 110:5), all of which only refer to God. אָדוֹן (Adown) is used to address people but never אֲדֹנָי (Adonay). Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “אֲדֹנָי the Lord, only used of God…” – alb Oct 7 at 11:46
  • The Masoretic text was indeed compiled in the early middle ages, but it was done by a group of Jews. I have never heard of the argument that the Masoretes were likely to edit in or strengthen previously obscure references to Jesus. – Keelan Oct 7 at 18:55
  • @Keelan Exactly. They would be more likely to go in the opposite direction and the interpretation of God is based on a Jewish reading. – Revelation Lad Oct 7 at 21:06
  • Sorry, I missed "against" there. You're correct. – Keelan Oct 8 at 4:29

The text show who it is.

Psalm 110:5 Jehovah (Heb. YHWH) will be at your right hand; He will crush kings on the day of his anger." ethos

  • Hi; thanks for the response. I was looking for some analysis of the usage of YHWH in verse 4 and the usage of Adonai in verse 5 and the possible reference to Christ. – alb Oct 10 at 23:01

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