PSALM 45 OVERVIEW
Title. The many titles of this Psalm mark its royalty, its deep and solemn import, and the delight the writer had in it. To the Chief Musician upon Shoshannim. The most probable translation of this word is upon the lilies, and it is either a poetical title given to this noblest of songs after the Oriental manner, or it may relate to the tune to which it was set, or to the instrument which was meant to accompany it. We incline to the first theory, and if it be the true one, it is easy to see the fitness of borrowing a name for so beautiful, so pure, so choice, so matchless a poem from the golden lilies, whose bright array outshone the glory of Solomon. For the sons of Korah. Special singers are appointed for so divine a hymn. King Jesus deserves to be praised not with random, ranting ravings, but with the sweetest and most skilful music of the best trained choristers. The purest hearts in the spiritual temple are the most harmonious songsters in the ears of God; acceptable song is not a matter so much of tuneful voices as of sanctified affections, but in no case should we sing of Jesus with unprepared hearts. Maschil, an instructive ode, not an idle lay, or a romancing ballad, but a Psalm of holy teaching, didactic and doctrinal. This proves that it is to be spiritually understood. Blessed are the people who know the meaning of its joyful sound. A Song of loves. Not a carnal sentimental love song, but a celestial canticle of everlasting love fit for the tongues and ears of angels.
Subject. Some here see Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter only -- they are short sighted; others see both Solomon and Christ -- they are cross eyed; well focused spiritual eyes see here Jesus only, or if Solomon be present at all, it must be like those hazy shadows of by passers which cross the face of the camera, and therefore are dimly traceable upon a photographic landscape. "The King," the God whose throne is for ever and ever, is no mere mortal and his everlasting dominion is not bounded by Lebanon and Egypt's river. This is no wedding song of earthly nuptials, but an Epithalamium for the Heavenly Bridegroom and his elect spouse.
Division. Psalms 45:1 is an announcement of intention, a preface to the song; Psalms 45:3 adores the matchless beauty of Messiah; and from Psalms 45:3-9 , he is addressed in admiring ascriptions of praise. Psalms 45:10-12 are spoken to the bride. The church is further spoken of in Psalms 45:13-15 , and the Psalm closes with another address to the King, foretelling his eternal fame, Psalms 45:16-17 .
Verse 1. My heart. There is no writing like that dictated by the heart. Heartless hymns are insults to heaven. Is inditing a good matter. A good heart will only be content with good thoughts. Where the fountain is good good streams will flow forth. The learned tell us that the word may be read overflows, or as others, boils or bubbles up, denoting the warmth of the writer's love, the fulness of his heart, and the consequent richness and glow of his utterance, as though it were the ebullition of his inmost soul, when most full of affection. We have here no single cold expression; the writer is not one who frigidly studies the elegancies and proprieties of poetry, his stanzas are the natural outburst of his soul, comparable to the boiling jets of the geysers of Hecla. As the corn offered in sacrifice was parched in the pan, so is this tribute of love hot with sincere devotion. It is a sad thing when the heart is cold with a good matter, and worse when it is warm with a bad matter, but incomparably well when a warm heart and a good matter meet together. O that we may often offer to God an acceptable minchah, a sweet oblation fresh from the pan of hearts warmed with gratitude and admiration. I speak of the things which I have made touching the King. This song has "the King" for its only subject, and for the King's honour alone was it composed, well might its writer call it a good matter. The psalmist did not write carelessly; he calls his poem his works, or things which he had made. We are not to offer to the Lord that which costs us nothing. Good material deserves good workmanship. We should well digest in our heart's affections and our mind's meditations any discourse or poem in which we speak of one so great and glorious as our Royal Lord. As our version reads it, the psalmist wrote experimentally things which he had made his own, and personally tasted and handled concerning the King. My tongue is the pen of a ready writer, not so much for rapidity, for there the tongue always has the preference, but for exactness, elaboration, deliberation, and skilfulness of expression. Seldom are the excited utterances of the mouth equal in real weight and accuracy to the verba scripta of a thoughtful accomplished penman; but here the writer, though filled with enthusiasm, speaks as correctly as a practised writer; his utterances therefore are no ephemeral sentences, but such as fall from men who sit down calmly to write for eternity. It is not always that the best of men are in such a key, and when they are they should not restrain the gush of their hallowed feelings. Such a condition of heart in a gifted mind creates that auspicious hour in which poetry pours forth her tuneful numbers to enrich the service of song in the house of the Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. "Upon Shoshannim," or upon lilies. It will be remembered that lilies were an emblem of purity and loveliness, and were introduced as such in the building of Solomon's temple (see 1 Kings 7:19 1 Kings 7:22 1 Kings 7:26 2 Chronicles 4:5 ); and the church is compared in the Canticles to a "lily among thorns." Song of Solomon 2:2 . The Psalms which bear this title, "upon lilies," are the present, the sixty-ninth, and the eightieth (compare Psalms 60:1-12 ); and all these contain prophecies of Christ and his church. The sixtieth is a parallel to the forty-fourth, and represents her supplicating appeal to God, and Christ's victories. The sixty-ninth displays the victories gained by Christ through suffering. The eightieth is also parallel to the forty-fourth and sixtieth, a plaintive lament of the church in distress and a supplicating cry for deliverance. All these three Psalms are (if we may venture to use this expression) like the voice of the "lily among thorns." That there is, therefore, some reference here to the spiritual meaning of the word (~ynfv), or lilies, in this title, seems at least to be probable. Christopher Wordsworth.
Title. We think that Shoshannim signifies an instrument of six strings, or a song of rejoicing. Augustin Calmet, 1672-1757.
Kitto, on the other hand, says that the word is so clearly lilies, that he is disinclined to go out of the way to bring in the Hebrew word for six.
Title. "To the chief musician upon Shoshannim." Some would have it that instruments whereon were many engravings of lilies, which are six leaved flowers, are here meant. And, indeed, some interpreters, because of that derivation of the word, do thus translate it, upon Shoshannim, that is, upon lilies; and that either in reference to their wedding garlands, that were made much of lilies, or as intending by these lilies Christ and his church. Arthur Jackson.
Title. "A song." The word (ryf), shir, the meaning of which (song), is unquestioned, is prefixed to many of the Psalms, three times simply and thirteen times in connection with Mizmor. There is no mark of peculiarity in their composition. The meaning of the word seems to be discriminated from Mizmor, as signifying a thing to be sung, with reference to its poetical structure. John Jebb.
Whole Psalm. The Psalter, which sets forth so much truth respecting the person and work of Christ -- truth more precious than gold and sweeter than the honeycomb -- is not silent respecting the bond subsisting between him and his people, THE MYSTICAL UNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND THE CHURCH. When a prince sets his affections on a woman of lowly rank, and takes her home to be his wife, the two are so united that her debts become his, his wealth and honours become hers. Now, that there is formed between Christ and the church, between Christ and every soul that will consent to receive him, a connection, of which the most intimate of all natural relations is the analogue and type, we have already found to be not only taught in the Psalms, but to be implied in the very structure of many of them. He takes his people's sins upon him, and they receive the right to become the sons of God: the One Spirit of God wherewith he was baptised without measure, dwells in them according to the measure of the grace that is given them. I will only add further, that this union, besides being implied on so many places, is expressly set forth in one most glorious Psalm -- the Nuptial Song of Christ and the Church -- which has for its peculiar theme the home bringing of Christ's elect, that they may be joined to him in a union that shall survive the everlasting hills. William Binnie, D.D.
Verse 1. My heart is inditing a good matter, and then My tongue shall be like the pen of a ready writer. Oh, then I shall go merrily on in his service, when I have matter prepared in my heart. And, indeed, as the mariner sees further new stars the further he sails, he loseth sight of the old ones and discovers new; so the growing Christian, the further he sails in religion he discovers new wants, new Scriptures affect him, new trials afflict him, new business he finds with God, and forgetting those things that are behind, he reacheth after those things that are before, and so finds every day new business with the Lord his God; and he that's busy trifles not; the more business the less distractions. Richard Steele.
Verse 1. My heart is inditing a good matter. (fxr) (rakhash); boils or bubbles up; denotes the language of the heart full and ready for utterance. Victorinus Bythner.
Verse 1. My heart is inditing a good matter. Here you have the work of the Spirit of prophecy. By his operation the good "matter" is engendered in the psalmist's bosom, and now his heart is heaving and labouring under the load. It is just beginning to throw it up, like water from a fountain, that it may flow off in the channel of the tongue. Here, therefore, you have some insight given you of the manner of the operation of the Spirit in the heart of man. The psalmist says his heart is doing what the spirit is doing in his heart. The heart does it, indeed, but it is the Spirit's working. The psalmist took all the interest and pleasure in his subject that he could have done, if the Spirit had had nothing to do with it; for when the Spirit works, he works not only by the heart, but in the heart; he seizes upon all its affections, every fibre of it is bent to his will. George Harpur, in "Christ in the Psalms," 1862.
Verse 1. Good matter, the good spell, or gospel. Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 1. A similitude taken from the mincah, or meat offering in the law, which was dressed in the frying pan Leviticus 7:9 , and there boiled in oil, being made of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil Leviticus 2:5 , and afterwards was presented to the Lord by the priest, verse 8. Here the matter of this Psalm is as the mincah or oblation, which with the oil, the grace of the Spirit, was boiled and prepared in the prophet's heart, and now presented. Henry Ainsworth.
Verse 1. It is reported of Origen, saith Erasmus, that he was ever earnest, but most of all when he discoursed of Christ. Of Johannes Mollias, a Bononian, it is said, that whenever he spake of Jesus Christ, his eyes dropped, for he was fraught with a mighty fervency of God's Holy Spirit; and like the Baptist, he was first a burning (boiling or bubbling), and then a shining light. John Trapp.
Verse 1. Touching the king. It does not all concern the king immediately, for much of it concerns the queen, and about one half of it is directly addressed to her. But it relates to him inasmuch as it relates to his family. Christ ever identifies himself with his people; so that, whatever is done to them, is done to himself. Their interests are his. George Harpur.
Verse 1. My tongue shall be like the pen of one that takes minutes or writes shorthand: for I shall speak very briefly, and not in words at length, or so as to be understood in a literal sense, but in figures and emblems. From "Holy David and his old English Translators cleared," 1706. (Anon.)
Verse 1. The pen. We call the prophets the penmen of Scripture, whereas they were but the pen.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. In the preface, the prophet commends the subject he is to treat of, signifying,
- That it is a good matter -- good as speaking of the Son of God, who is the chief good.
- Good for us; for upon the marriage of Christ to his church depends our good. Bishop Nicholson.
Verse 1. Character read by heart writing.
- The true lover of Christ is sincere -- my heart?
- He is a man of emotion.
- A man of holy meditation.
- A man of experience -- things I have made.
- A man who bears witness for his Lord.
Verse 1. Three things requisite for Christian teaching:
- That the matter be good; and concerning the best of all subjects, touching the King.
- That the language be fluent like the pen, etc.
- Partly from nature. 2. Partly from cultivation. 3. Partly from the Spirit of God.
- That the heart be absorbed in it -- My heart is inditing. G. R.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE FORTY-FIFTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
Exposition of Psalm XLV, in the works of JOHN BOYS, Dean of Canterbury. 1638. Folio edition, pages 920-931.
The Mystery of the Marriage Song, and Mutual Spiritual Embraces between Christ and his Spouse, opened as an Exposition with practical notes and observations on the whole Forty-fifth Psalm. By W. TROUGHTON, Minister of the Gospel. 1656.
In "Christ set forth in all types, figures, and obscure places of the Scripture, by RICHARD COORE, 1683," there is an Exposition of this Psalm.
A Treatise of Solomon's Marriage; or, a Congratulation for the happie and hopeful Marriage betweene the most illustrious and Noble Prince, Fredericke the V. Count Palatine of Rhine ... and the most gratious and excellent Princisse, the Lady Elizabeth, sole daughter unto the high and mighty Prince James, by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland. Joyfully solemnized on the 14th day of February, 1612 ... (On Psalms 45:10-16 . By ANDREW WILLET.)
The Bride Royall; or, the Spirituall Marriage betweene Christ and his Church. Delivered by way of congratulation upon the happy and hopeful marriage betweene the two incomparable Princes, the Palsegrave, and the Ladie Elizabeth. In a sermon ... By GEORGE WEBBE. 1613 ... (On Psalms 45:13-15 )
Psalm XLV applied to Messiah's First Advent, and Psalm XLV applied to Messiah's Second Advent, in pages 242-341, of The Anointed Saviour set forth as the Principal Object of Saving Faith. By the Rev. DAVID PITCAIRN. 1846.
Five Discourses on Christ in the Psalms. An Exposition of the second, forty-fifth and hundred and tenth Psalms. In a series of Discourses. By the Rev. GEORGE HARPUR, B.A. London: Wertheim, Macintosh, and Hunt. 1862.