David or The Messiah, Priest For Ever

by George F Spall

"The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power ... the LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries ..."

Without a doubt Psalm 110 is one of the most fascinating revelations in all religious literature. It has claimed the attentive study of Bible students for hundreds of years and many rabbis have expressed opinions -- some that it refers to the Messiah, some King David.

I believe it refers to the Messiah, so let us look at the very first word of it all. ( l'David) is translated in most versions: A Psalm OF David. However, the Harkavy edition, much used by Jewish readers, translates: A Psalm FOR David.

It could help if we look at the way the same expression is used in the other psalms that bear David's name. There are a good many so we can cite only a few. We will select some that absolutely prove themselves to be written by David.


Psalm 3: A psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son.

Psalm 18: A psalm of David, a servant of the Lord, who spoke unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.

Psalm 34: A psalm of David when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech.

Psalm 51: A psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came to see him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

These four, as do nearly forty of the group numbering 1 to 51 all say in Hebrew (l'David) , and this consistently translated: A Psalm or prayer OF David, not FOR David. While they do concern David himself they were certainly written BY him, and this is what l'David is saying.

It can also be said that l'David could mean: "This song is for David to sing" because there are psalms like 48 and 49 which read: "A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah" who were choristers. These psalms were not ABOUT them, as we can see. So, neither does the phrase FOR David in Psalm 110 mean that what follows is about David.

Perhaps many learned translators make l'David FOR David in this instance because of resistance to what is said about it in the New Testament. "What think ye of the Christ, whose son is he? They say unto him, 'the son of David'. Jesus said unto them, 'How then does David in spirit call him Lord, saying, the LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool.' If David called him Lord, how is he his son?" (Matthew 22:42-45)


Another aspect of the psalm comes to mind. Verse 1 begins "The Lord said to my Lord" in the Harkavy version, and, "The Lord said to my master" in the Soncino edition. Now there is a firmly established rule that the name and (Hebrew word) and variously translated by Jehovah and Yahweh is never to be pronounced. The four-letter word is too awesome to be spoken. When reading it in Hebrew, you read it as if it were spelt HaShem (the name) or adonai.

In the credal statement known as the Shema, "Hear O Israel, the LORD our God the Lord is one" , it is usual to say: "Shima Yisrael. Adonai Elohenu Adonai echad" instead of "Shema Yisrael, Yahweh Elohim Yahweh echad" "(Hear O Israel. The Lord our God the Lord is one" instead of "Hear O Israel. Jehovah our God Jehovah is one"). Bible students have found 134 instances where Adonai has been substituted for Yahweh as is done when reciting the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4).

It is therefore of more than academic interest to note that the word (Hebrew word) ( adoni) is in verse 1 but in verse 5 the word is (Hebrew word) (adonai) . The four consonants or radicals are the same, and until some time about the 8th or 9th century when the vowel pointing was introduced these four letters would have been exactly the same in both verses. I cannot discover how it is that in verse 1 the word is now 'pointed' and pronounced to read adoni or master, whereas in verse 5 it is 'pointed' and pronounced to read adonai or Lord. Has the New Testament application of this psalm to Yeshua the Messiah had anything to do with this variation? In my view the Personage adoni or adonai in verse 1, before someone arbitrarily made a minute change in the vocalization, is the same as the Lord (adonai) in verse 5. It is very important to think this through. If adonai in verse 5 can be translated LORD, then he must also be of equal status in verse 1. If adoni or adonai in verse 1 be David, as some Jewish commentators claim, then it ought to be David in verse 5. But how can he be at the Lord's right hand in verse 1 and not in verse 5?


Another observation must be directed at verse 4. "The LORD hath sworn and he will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the manner of Melchizedek'." The Jewish tradition is that this verse promises on oath that David and his sons were to be king-priests. Let us ask, "Were they?"

Some suggest that the psalm must be applied to Simon Maccabee because he was a priest who did gain power over Israel and delivered them from Syria. But there is no evidence that Simon thought of himself as royal. Most rabbinic opinion rejects that and names David as king-priest, his sons to fulfil the 'for ever' reference.

In 2 Samuel 6:14 David is seen at worship wearing an ephod which is a priestly garment as he dances before the Lord while bringing up the Ark of the Covenant to its new resting-place in Jerusalem. It was an extraordinary occasion for in a previous attempt to do the same thing a man had died when he put out his hand to steady the Ark over a rough portion of the road. (The actual offence was in placing the Ark on a cart, new or otherwise, in the first place; God had instructed that it should be carried personally by those deputed to the task).

Now David is assuming responsibility for the transfer, and, king though he was, and brave man that he was, and admitting the need for the priestly function, he was taking a risk, if we can use that word, of acting as priest for the occasion and in the emergency. But there is no record that David saw himself as a king priest even though he did write Psalm 110 himself.

Nor did his sons function as priests. 2 Samuel 8:18 is quoted as affirming that they did because the word 'rulers' in the verse is used to translate the word 'cohenim' which in other places is 'priests'. "And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites and David's sons were chief rulers." The routine note from some royal archive is not claiming that David's sons were priests. The Cherethites and Pelethites were Philistines and mercenary bodyguards of the king. Pelethites being Gentiles had no priestly needs. David's sons were their officers as befitted the responsibility of preserving the king.

God removed the kingdom from Saul because he officiated as a priest by offering a sacrifice. And one of David's royal descendants, Uzziah, also usurped a priestly role and was stricken down with leprosy as a punishment for his impiety.

Because of David's violent past he was not permitted to build the Temple so he never could have officiated as a priest.

Solomon his son did build the Temple, and on the occasion of its dedication, he is described as offering the sacrifices. He provided the beasts for it. The priests and Levites would have done the work of slaughtering the hundreds of animals. Solomon did not function as a priest afterwards either.

The issues concerning Psalm 110 we have referred to help us to probe the depths of the revelation that was given to David regarding the Eternal and the One who sits at His right hand. The vowel pointing of (Hebrew word) (adoni meaning master) and (Hebrew word) (adonai or Lord) will help us to a true understanding of this important psalm of David.