Commentary on Psalms (42 - 89)
© by Francis Foulkes
& Cyril Okorocha


"1. My heart overflows with a goodly theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

2. You are the most handsome of men;
grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever.
3. Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your glory and majesty.

4. In your majesty ride on victoriously
for the cause of truth and to defend the right;
let your right hand teach you dread deeds.
5. Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies;
the peoples fall under you.

6. Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
Your royal sceptre is a sceptre of equity;
7. you love righteousness and hate wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
8. your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9. daughters of kings are among your ladies of honour;
at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

10. Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear;
forget your people and your father's house,
11. and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him;
12. the people of Tyre will seek your favour with gifts,
the richest of the people 13. with all kinds of wealth.

The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes;
14. in many-coloured robes she is led to the king;
behind her the virgins, her companions, follow.
15. With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king.

16. In the place of ancestors, you, O king, shall have sons;
you will make them princes in all the earth.
17. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations;
therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever."

The writer of this psalm felt his heart overflowing as he found words to celebrate the happy occasion of the marriage of the king (verse 1). Every marriage is a time of celebration, but should be preceded by counselling vital for those choosing a wife or husband, and there should be good teaching as marriage preparation. The marriage of a king in Israel could influence the whole nation and its life in the generations to come (verse 17), as is well illustrated by the life story of Solomon.

The setting

We do not know which king of Israel it was whose marriage was the subject of this Psalm. He is described as richly blessed by God. He was "handsome" in appearance, and spoke words of grace and kindness (verse 2). The battles that he fought were in the cause of truth and justice (verses 3-5). The Old Testament often emphasises the responsibility of rulers in Israel to uphold justice and defend the cause of the poor and oppressed (see Deuteronomy 17:18-20 and Isaiah 1:23) - a challenge to political leaders today and to the Church to be faithful to its prophetic ministry. On the wedding day the fragrance of beautiful perfume (myrrh and aloes and cassia) and the loveliness of music added to the joy of the celebration (verse 8). Daughters of kings of other nations were among the bridal attendants (verse 9), and gifts were brought from near and far (verse 12). Above all the bride was gloriously arrayed in "gold-woven robes; in many-coloured robes she is led to the king." "With joy and gladness" she and her "companions" "enter the palace of the king" (verses 13-15).


This was a very special marriage, but every marriage is a special time of joy and celebration. Two lives are linked together - two families and even two communities - and there is a new beginning. Genesis 2:24 speaks of a man leaving father and mother and coming to cling to his wife. Verse 10 in the Psalm speaks of the bride forgetting her people and her father's house. The past is left behind, and the link with parents and the extended family cannot be the same as before (verse 16). Responsible care for the extended family, especially aged parents and other needy persons in the family, is not to be neglected (see Matthew 15:3-6), but the thought must be for the future as a new family unit is established (see the marriage blessings of Genesis 24:60 and Ruth 4:11-12). Happy is the husband who can rejoice in the God-given beauty of his wife (verse 11), but Proverbs 31:30 says something important about true beauty. One African people puts it this way, 'agira bu mona', 'true beauty is in a person's character'. Similarly happy is the wife who not only has a "handsome" and well-spoken husband (verse 2), but one whom she can respect for his striving for truth and justice, for his love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness (verse 7). It takes more than physical beauty or material wealth to make a happy marriage (see Proverbs 19:14).

The Messiah

No king in Israel could ever completely fit the descriptions of this Psalm. Jewish people therefore came to hope for its words to be fulfilled in their expected Messiah; and Christians came to see it as fulfilled in Jesus. In a way the king in Israel might be described in words used of God (see Note 2 below), as in Psalm 2:7 the word of the Lord to the king was, "You are my son; today I have begotten you." But in a much fuller way verse 6 could apply to Jesus, and certainly no one has "loved righteousness and hated wickedness" like him. No one like him rules and acts in perfect truth and justice. So Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes verses 6-7 in relation to Jesus. There are also a number of passages of the New Testament (like Ephesians 5:23-32 and 2 Corinthians 11:2) that speak of the church of Jesus Christ as his bride, and the final union of Christ and his church in heaven is described as like a marriage being celebrated (see Revelation 19:6-9, 21:2 and 22:17).

Meditation: "Anointed with the oil of gladness beyond your companions" - because of a single-minded love of everything good and a hatred of evil.

For further thought and study

a. In what ways do marriage customs in your society express a truly biblical and Christian understanding of marriage? Are there ways in which it would be helpful for present customs to be changed? Where conflicts of ideas arise between cultural practices and biblical revelation how should Christians respond?

b. Verses 3-5 applied originally to what the king of Israel had to do to fight for the freedom of the nation and to see that injustice was dealt with in the land. How can the words be applied to the spiritual battles the Christian has to fight in the way that Ephesians 6:10-20 speaks of them?


  1. The heading of the Psalm is partly similar to the headings of earlier Psalms. "According to lilies" seems to be a tune name (as with Psalms 69 and 80). It is understandable that a marriage should be celebrated with a "love song".
  2. Verse 6 has been translated in different ways. The New English Bible has "your throne is like God's throne", the New Jerusalem Bible "your throne is from God", and the Good News Bible "the kingdom that God has given you". We may accept our translation, "Your throne, O God", but realising that the word translated "God" (Hebrew " Elohim ") can be used of human beings in special positions (as John 10:34-35 shows). In Jesus, as we have noted above, it receives its fullest meaning, as he is uniquely "Emmanuel, God with us".
  3. The "sceptre" was a rod or staff that was the symbol of the authority of a king. The reference in verse 6 means that the king uses his authority in "equity", that is with justice.