A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love.
Now we come upon a most beautiful psalm, one overflowing with majesty, and yet with a good deal of mystery as well. The Psalm seems clearly to find its final fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who as the Messiah is the only One Who ultimately fits the glorious description given Him here. Yet then the question arises as to the circumstances under which the psalm was written and about which it speaks. The fact that this is a wedding psalm, meant to be sung at a royal marriage, is most obvious. The best connection to make for this psalm is with the marriage of good King Hezekiah to Hephzibah. Hezekiah was the best king Judah had after David, and, if the age of his eldest son Manasseh at his death is any indication, his marriage to Hephzibah followed two victories the LORD gave him: first, the sending away of the Assyrian invaders through the LORD’s miraculous intervention, and second his own personal salvation from the illness that but for the LORD’s intervention would have taken his life. Soon after both these triumphs, while Judah was celebrating its miraculous salvation, a glorious royal wedding takes place. The recently renewed nation turns out in droves to celebrate the nuptials of its beloved king and his bride.
No one knows for certain who Hephzibah was. Her name means “My Delight is in Her,” and it seems that Hezekiah’s was. Jewish tradition says she was the daughter of Hezekiah’s faithful prophet Isaiah, and if so, we cannot imagine a more fitting union. The evidence against this would be from verse 10, which would seem to indicate that she might have been a Gentile woman. We will discuss this when we get to that verse, but an Israelite bride would seem much more likely for good King Hezekiah at this point.
In this psalm, we certainly see an illustration of the LORD and His people Israel, and the “marriage supper of the Lamb” as described in Revelation 19:9. The beautiful psalm of the LORD’s future union with His people is illustrated by the beautiful wedding of one of Israel’s most courageous and beloved kings. Hezekiah and Hephzibah are the type, and the Lord Jesus Christ and Jerusalem are the antitype.
We do not know who the writer of this psalm was. If our guess is correct that it is about the marriage of Hezekiah, it was obviously someone contemporary with him, who was assigned to write music for the glad occasion. Who that might have been is hard to say. The song was composed for the sons of Korah the singers, and it may have been one of these sons of Korah who composed it. Hezekiah himself might have composed it, although it seems questionable that God would have inspired a man to describe himself in such glowing terms. Ultimately, we do not know its writer, though our best guess might be the prophet Isaiah, especially if the tradition that Hephzibah was his daughter is true.
This psalm is called a “Contemplation” in the New King James Version. This word is “Maschil” in Hebrew, which means that this is a psalm giving instruction. The instruction, in its fullest meaning, is about the Messiah and His ultimate union with His people.
1. My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
The heart of the psalmist is overflowing with the good theme about which he is composing this psalm.
I recite my composition concerning the King;
He is reciting the composition that he made concerning the King. If the psalmist was not one of the sons of Korah who sang this psalm, perhaps he joined them on this occasion.
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
His tongue in setting forth this composition is like the pen of a ready writer. Perhaps this would indicate that this psalm was sung at the royal wedding first, and only copied down later, for the psalmist seems to be saying that his tongue, not his pen, is composing this psalm.
2. You are fairer than the sons of men;
We might tend to assume that it is the bride being spoken of in this way, but not so. It is the groom who is said to be fairer than the sons of men. Surely the delight of all Israel was in Hezekiah their king, after the glorious victory they had had over their Assyrian enemies and the invaders of their land. Surely he must have been the most eligible bachelor in Judah before his marriage. Moreover, when we consider that David was a handsome man, his son Absalom was the most handsome man in Israel, and their descendants had no doubt been picking from the cream of the crop of women in Israel since that time, it is not hard to imagine that Hezekiah might have been very attractive, perhaps the most handsome man of his time. Yet ultimately this finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, though He Himself became a son of Adam, is ultimately fairer than them all.
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
His lips have grace poured upon them, and pour forth grace in the hearing of his people. Surely all rejoiced in the grace he had received when his life was extended, and when his city was delivered from the Assyrians. As to the antitype of the figure, we know from John 1:17 that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
Therefore God has blessed him for the Olam. Hezekiah, surely, because of his loyalty to the LORD and great faith in Him, will enjoy a glorious place and position in God’s Kingdom to come. God has spoken well of Hezekiah regarding His coming Olam. Yet surely this is true of the Lord Jesus Christ as well, Who will reign on God’s very throne during that kingdom Olam to come.
3. Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One,
Before the marriage can take place, a threat must be dealt with first. The king is urged to gird his sword upon his thigh in preparation for it. Hezekiah may have had to deal with opportunistic attacks by some of Judah’s neighbors once the Assyrians had withdrawn. Though the Assyrian threat was over, Judah was left in a vulnerable state, and some of its more long-standing enemies surrounding it may have seen in this an opportunity to invade and plunder the helpless nation. Therefore, the king must delay his wedding to deal with the unjust actions of his enemies.
Of course, it needs hardly to be said that the Lord Jesus Christ must first deal with His unjust foes before His union with His people can finally be consummated and His position with them permanently established.
With Your glory and Your majesty.
The king already wears his glory and his majesty. Now, he must gird the sword on along with them. Psalm 93:1 declares the same of the Lord Jesus, “The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty.”
4. And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness;
The king is completely successful in the battle he is forced to fight because truth, humility, and righteousness are on his side. This was true of Hezekiah in the past, and will be true of the Lord Jesus Christ in the future when He faces His enemies and defeats them at last.
And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.
The right hand is a symbol for skill, since the right hand is usually the more skillful hand. The right hand of the conquering King is skillful in battle, teaching awesome things in the victory it wins.
5. Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies;
The victory is won! The arrows of the conquering King are lodged in the hearts of his enemies, who have fallen defeated in the battle.
The peoples fall under You.
The peoples who had invaded the King’s nations have fallen under his successful attack.
6. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
The psalmist now praises God, Whose throne is forever and ever. This was the cry of Israel in praise to their God when He won them the victory over their enemies in time past. In the future, of course, this will be the result of the Lord Jesus’ victory, as His enemies, who had rebelled against Him, will have fallen, and His throne will continue undefeated.
A throne, as we know, is a symbol of authority, and is the very seat of that authority. God’s throne, once established, will never be put down, in spite of the actions of some rebels who will seek to overthrow it. It does not last “forever and ever,” for once one has been through “forever,” there is no “and ever” to continue on to. The Hebrew phrase is “for the Olam and ‘ad.” The Hebrew word olam is the equivalent of the Greek word aion. We believe that this word means “outflow,” and it usually speaks of the great outflow of God which will take place in His kingdom, when he flows out and flows down to the world in light, in governing power, in truth, and in all other benefits. The Hebrew word ‘ad is their strongest word for length of duration. Therefore, we could make this, “Your throne, O God, is for the Olam and perpetually.”
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
The scepter is a symbol of the right and power to rule, and the scepter of God’s government is one of righteousness. His claim upon this earth and all its governments is absolute and uncontestable. When God takes over this earth, His rule will be entirely righteous, and all He does will be right.
7. You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
The psalmist seems now to address the triumphant king, returning from his success in war. However, this could equally apply to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose eternal throne was just spoken of in the previous verse. At any rate, the psalmist acknowledges that the triumphant king loves righteousness and hates wickedness. This is a good attitude for all God’s people to have!
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
Therefore God, his God, has anointed him, marking him out as king of His people.
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
His anointing is with the oil of gladness, and he has received this more than his companions. We need to realize that all who were chosen to serve God in any special capacity in Israel were considered anointed by Him. The priests are called His anointed ones, as are the kings. Therefore, the king is not the only anointed one in Israel. Yet a king like Hezekiah, a king of such superlative righteousness and hatred for wickedness, is worthy of receiving the anointing oil resulting in gladness more than the other anointed ones, his companions. And surely the Lord Jesus Christ, THE Anointed One of God, is the greatest of all anointed ones, far above them all.
8. All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,
Now, with the war successfully completed, the king again appears, this time clad not in armor for battle, but decked in finery for his wedding day. His garments are so scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia that it seems they must be made of spices.
Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.
The king has come out of ivory palaces, and the sound of music follows him, making him glad on this most joyous of days. In the joy of this king’s festive wedding day, indeed, we can see a picture of and look forward to the glory of that great day to come when the Lord shall be unified with His people at last. What a joyous occasion that will be! What ornaments of glory will be His, and what great music of praise will be played on that great occasion!
9. Kings’ daughters are among Your honorable women;
Among the honorable women attending the king on this, his wedding day, are king’s daughters. Princesses honor him by attending upon him at his wedding. No doubt these princesses were from neighboring kingdoms around Israel, some of which were allied with Israel at this time. In the future, when the Lord is united with His people, there will doubtless be some of the highest ranking of the nations there to witness the glorious event. The highest honor it will be for any woman at that time to be allowed to serve Him in that great event.
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.
Now at last our attention is drawn to the queen, his bride. Until now, all our focus has been on the king. Yet now our attention is drawn to his glorious bride. She has come out of the ivory palaces with him, standing on his right hand, dressed in gold from Ophir. Ophir was apparently a land along Solomon’s trade routes where the finest of gold was traded for goods. Ophir gold therefore was the finest gold, and it is with the finest gold that the queen is decorated.
In the illustration of the Lord Jesus, the queen would be Israel herself, His people who will be joined to Him forever in time to come.
10. Listen, O daughter,
The psalmist now speaks to the queen, calling her “daughter.” This is a familiar form of address, and indicates the venerable status of the psalmist, that he would dare to speak to her so. This fits right in with the Jewish tradition that Hephzibah was Isaiah’s daughter, assuming that Isaiah himself is the author of the psalm. If this is the case, then he is indeed addressing his daughter when he addresses the queen, and giving her advice as the father of the bride. However, this could work equally well if the psalmist is a wise old counselor, high in the king’s court, who is now offering sage advice to this glorious but young and probably apprehensive bride.
Consider and incline your ear;
He calls upon the queen to listen to him, urging her to pay attention to his words.
Forget your own people also, and your father’s house;
She is told to forget her own people and her father’s house. This has led some to believe that the queen was a foreigner here, and therefore is urged to forget her own people and consider herself an Israelite from this point on. We would question this, however, for it seems unlikely that the righteous king Hezekiah would have made the same mistake as Solomon and married a foreign woman. If we would take the second statement as explaining the first, the psalmist is telling her to forget her own family when he is telling her to forget her own people.
We have to understand how marriage was looked at in their society. Their families were intertwined with their family business. There was no consideration of a difference between their family and business lives. Those who were part of the family worked for the family, and were automatically a part of the family business. Even if one was not involved in the family trade directly, just cooking or sewing or purchasing materials needed to keep the family going was considered an important part of keeping the family unit operating. Every son and every daughter of the family, every grandson and every granddaughter, worked for the family and was an integral part of that family business. That is, they did until the daughters were married. When a woman was married at that time, she left her own family and became a part of her husband’s family. She no longer worked for the family she was born into. Now, instead, she worked for the family of her husband. The same was true of her children. They did not work for her parents. They worked for her husband’s parents. Therefore, they were her husband’s parents’ grandchildren, but they were not her parents’ grandchildren. How could they be, when they did not work for them?
Because this was the way things worked, when a girl was married, she left her family. She was forgotten out of it. The jobs she had done in the family, the tasks that had been hers, were now given to someone else. It was as if she had never been a part of that family. Now, she was a member of her husband’s family and an employee of their business. She had nothing to do with her former family anymore.
Therefore, when the psalmist gives this advice to the bride, it is quite possible that she was not a foreigner at all. This advice might merely be that which could commonly be given to any bride in that day. She was transferring from her own family to her husband’s family at her wedding. As such, it was best for her to forget her own people whom she had grown up with, as well as her father’s house. She was a part of a new family now, and was to look to a new man, her husband’s father, as her father from now on. She should identify herself with them completely, and not look back.
11. So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
The psalmist suggests to the Queen that when she thus wholly devotes herself to her husband, that then he will greatly desire her beauty.
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.
The King is her lord, so she should worship him. The word “Lord” here is the Hebrew Adonim, “Masters,” not the word for Jehovah. Adonim can be applied to God, but it can also be applied to human lords. In this case, the bride is marrying the ruler of her nation, so he will be her lord in more ways than one: first, as her husband, and second, as her ruler and king. Therefore, she should give him the reverence he is due.
Of course, the illustration finds its completeness in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is indeed the Lord of the people of Jerusalem, who will someday be His bride at His great wedding feast.
12. And the daughter of Tyre will come with a gift;
Tyre was a nation to the northwest of Israel, and was perhaps the only one of the nations which surrounded Israel that was usually allied with them. The daughter of Tyre is present at this royal marriage, therefore, bearing a gift. This could refer to the Queen of Tyre, or it could refer poetically to the people of Tyre, just like the “daughter of Zion” is a phrase often used to refer to the common people of Israel.
The rich among the people will seek your favor.
The daughter of Tyre is not the only one seeking the favor of the Queen. The rich and powerful among the people of Israel also seek her favor now, for she is the bride of the King.
13. The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace;
Their public appearance completed, the King and Queen withdraw into the palace, and the psalmist, accompanying her, describes her as she enters to be enthroned. She is called a “royal daughter.” Again, this could describe her background as a princess of some other nation, but we would rather suppose that this is her new position upon her marriage, and that she is herself an Israelite. She is described as all glorious in appearance. This is not unusual, for whenever I see a bride, she appears to be glorious. Indeed, if a woman never appears glorious at any other time, she certainly does on her wedding day. But how much more this woman, who is not just a bride, but who is also taking her place as Queen!
Her clothing is woven with gold.
He describes her lavish wedding garments, woven with gold. Gold was used prolifically in the building of the temple, and symbolizes heavenly glory. This queen seems heavenly indeed as she is installed into her husband’s government.
14. She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors;
She is presented to the King at last for her marriage and enthronement. She is wearing robes of many colors, or embroidered robes. The psalmist saw her wedding clothes, but we have to try to figure out what they looked like from his description of them in the Hebrew language. Of one thing we can be certain: they were glorious indeed.
The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.
She is attended by many virgins, her companions who follow her. These would be her wedding party, her handmaidens, and her loyal servants. They are presented to the King as well, and are allowed to share in their mistress’s glorification.
When Israel at last receives her place in the kingdom, there will be others, those who have blessed Israel in the past, who will be blessed themselves, as God promised, “those who bless you I will bless.” Perhaps that is who these virgins will signify in that day.
15. With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought;
These virgins come with gladness and rejoicing as they are presented to the King. Their happiness is not on their own behalf, but on the glorification of their beloved mistress.
Indeed, all those who through learning of God’s love for His people Israel have come to love them as well will rejoice greatly with them when they see her at last exalted to the glorious position God has prepared for her. That exaltation has long been delayed, but it will be with great satisfaction that we will see it come about. Of course, that is not to say that we can assume we will be among these “virgins,” for that is far more than we can rightfully claim for ourselves. Nevertheless, it will be a great day indeed when all Israel’s troubles will be behind them, and they will be united to their Lord at last.
They shall enter the King’s palace.
Because of their association with the Queen, they too shall enter the King’s palace. They come in not on their own merit, but on their connection with Hephzibah. They are attached to her, and therefore when she is glorified, they are glorified with her.
16. Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons,
Again the bride is addressed by the psalmist. She is assured that now, instead of looking to her fathers, she is to look to her sons. She is leaving her father’s family, and Hezekiah’s father is already dead, a blessed thing, since he was wicked. Therefore, she should accept the exchange of sons for fathers. This was necessary, for she was leaving her old family behind. This might be a difficult thing for any woman to go through, for leaving the only family you have ever known behind can never be entirely an easy thing. The comfort for her was to be her sons, who were now to hold her affection instead of her fathers.
Whom You shall make princes in all the earth.
These sons of hers she shall make princes, rulers in all the land. Indeed, all the sons of the King and Queen, whether or not they were the oldest and thus destined to take the throne after him, were indeed among the most honored people of the land, and would become princes, ruling in the land. They may not take the throne, but they would be rulers and governors, at least.
Of course, the sons of Israel will be princes in the kingdom of God to come, ruling over all the land, and indeed holding high positions in all the earth.
17. I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations;
The psalmist closes out by assuring the king that he will make his name to be remembered in all generations. Indeed, through the writings of Scripture, and also of Isaiah, if this is indeed he talking, Hezekiah has become a famous figure, known to all who love the Scriptures. Yet certainly the great King to come, the Lord Jesus Christ, is One Who will never be forgotten, for He is Lord of all!
Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.
Because of this the people will praise him for the olam and ‘ad. The Olam is the time when God will flow out to the world in His government. ‘Ad means continually or perpetually. We could translate this “for the olam and beyond,” or “for the olam and perpetually.” In other words, this praise will not stop with the consummation of the kingdom olam, but will continue beyond it, even into the new heavens and the new earth.
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song for Alamoth.
This psalm, though it was written as a private psalm for the marriage of Hezekiah and Hephzibah, was later dedicated to the Chief Musician for public use, since it prophecies the future union of the LORD with His people. It is one of only two psalms specially marked out by having the title (A Psalm of the sons of Korah) in both the title and the postscript, the other being Psalm 87. This specially marks out the psalm as being of special significance, which it certainly is.
The song is for Alamoth, which means “relating to maidens.” The maidens were young women of marriageable age, still under the care of others. While it certainly might be true that this psalm was to be sung by a female choir, we can certainly see from the subject matter of the psalm that it is particularly appropriate for maidens, since it is really sung to a young maiden on her wedding day. This makes sense when we properly attach these words to Psalm 45. These words would make no sense if connected to Psalm 46.