Psalm 45 – Christ, King of Bridegroom & The Ancient Near Eastern King

To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, for the sons of Korah, Maschil, A Song of loves.

1 My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

2 Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee forever.

3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.

4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.

5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.

6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter.

7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

8 All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.

9 Kings’ daughters were among thy honorable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.

10 Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;

11 So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.

12 And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall entreat thy favor.

13 The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.

14 She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.

15 With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace.

16 Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.

17 I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.

The church in persecution trusts in the protection of God.  Overflowing with Christ to bring in the kingdom as His dealt-with and prepared bride.

The Ancient Near Eastern King

The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code of ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to about 1772 BC.

It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world.

The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay tablets.

The Code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (lex talionis) as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man.

Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract, establishing, for example, the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon.

Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, for example, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another.

A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity and sexual behavior.

Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official; this provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently.

A handful of provisions address issues related to military service.

Israel’s plea for a king “such as all the other nations have” (1 Sam 8:5) testifies to how common this form of government was in the ancient Near East.  Discharging judicial, military, and sacral responsibilities along with political obligations, the king was the fulcrum of state administration and ideology.

Psalm 45, a royal wedding song, alludes to several aspects of kingship.  First, the Israelite king modeled and guaranteed justice and righteousness (vv 4, 7).  In comparison, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi proclaimed the king’s divinely ordained role as legal authority.

Moreover, verses 3-5 describes the king’s role as the military commander in=chief, a theme amply and ferociously demonstrated by Assyrian rulers who recounted military exploits in artistic reliefs and written annals.

In antiquity religion permeated royal ideology.  Rulers were expected to provide offerings, build and maintain temples and participate in ritual feasts.  Yet the institution of kingship was not necessarily identical from one nation to another; the nature of the king’s sacred duties differed from nation to nation.

Hawara is an archaeological site of Ancient Egypt, south of the site of Crocodilopolis (‘Arsinoe’, also known as ‘Medinet al-Faiyum’) at the entrance to the depression of the Fayyum oasis.

The first excavations at the site were made by Karl Lepsius, in 1843.

William Flinders Petrie excavated at Hawara, in 1888, finding papyri of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, and, north of the pyramid, a vast necropolis where he found 146 portraits on coffins dating to the Roman period, famous as being among the very few surviving examples of painted portraits from Classical Antiquity, the “Fayoum portraits” illustrated in Roman history textbooks.

According to the Egyptian Tale of Sinuhe, when king Amenemhet I died he became united with the sun god.  This notion of the deification of the king and the divine nature of his office are reflected in may Egyptian texts.

On the other hand, although Mesopotamians occasionally depicted their king as a deity, they tended to construe him as a divine representative.  The king played such a critical role in the Mesopotamian’s annual New Year’s festival that, during the Neo-Babylonian period, the feast was not celebrated to his absence.

Divine rule and human kingship were also intertwined in Israel (v 6).  The Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7) and several psalms (e.g., Ps 2; 89) describe a unique father-son relationship between Yahweh and his anointed.

Yahweh, however, placed numerous constraints and moral requirements upon the king, and this is quite different from what we see elsewhere in the ancient Near East.

Prophets like Elijah and Nathan openly criticized the king when he engaged in  wrong practices (Deut 17:16), severely limited his military procurements, and even his sacral duties were carefully defined (2 Chr 26:16-20).