The Fathers on Psalm 45

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 45

My heart is stirred by a noble theme,

as I sing my ode to the king.
My tongue is the pen of a nimble scribe.

You are the most handsome of men;

fair speech has graced your lips,

for God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword upon your hip, mighty warrior!

In splendor and majesty ride on triumphant!
In the cause of truth, meekness, and justice

may your right hand show your wondrous deeds.
Your arrows are sharp;

peoples will cower at your feet;

the king’s enemies will lose heart.
Your throne, O God, stands forever;

your royal scepter is a scepter for justice.
You love justice and hate wrongdoing;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings.
With myrrh, aloes, and cassia
your robes are fragrant.
From ivory-paneled palaces
stringed instruments bring you joy.
Daughters of kings are your lovely wives;
a princess arrayed in Ophir’s gold
comes to stand at your right hand.

Listen, my daughter, and understand;
pay me careful heed.
Forget your people and your father’s house,
that the king might desire your beauty.
He is your lord;
honor him, daughter of Tyre.
Then the richest of the people
will seek your favor with gifts.
All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters,
her raiment threaded with gold;
In embroidered apparel she is led to the king.
The maids of her train are presented to the king.
They are led in with glad and joyous acclaim;
they enter the palace of the king.

The throne of your fathers your sons will have;
you shall make them princes through all the land.
I will make your name renowned through all generations;
thus nations shall praise you forever.

Athanasius: “Understanding this same Word to be the Son of God, the Psalter sings Psalm 45 in the vice of the Father: ‘My heart has belched a good Word.’”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: Blessed David, then, begins in this fashion: My heart belched a good word.[2] He means, I intend to give voice to this psalm from the depths of my mind as though belching, not as I utter the inspired works on other matters; instead, in this psalm I sing a special theme. Why? As I sing my ode to the king: since I intend to dedicate the psalm to the king of all (by ode referring to the actual composition of the psalm). My tongue is the pen of a nimble scribe. Because he had said, I utter the psalm from the depths of the mind, he also says, I bring to bear also my tongue to the extent possible so as to serve the thought of coming from grace in the way that a pen follows the lead of a writer’s thought…. Your arrows are sharp; peoples will cower at your feet; the king’s enemies will lose heart. The clause peoples will cower at your feet is inserted, the sequence being, Your arrows, O mighty one, in the heart of the king’s foes, and then the peoples will cower at your feet. As it is, His meaning is, Like arrows, direct well aimed words at the hearts of the listeners and as a result all peoples will be subjected to you as well (using a metaphor of men wounding with arrows and subjecting the wounded). He means, Your arrows are so effective that not only will they subject disciples but also fall upon enemies and bring them into subjection.[3]

Pseudo-Athanasius: David offers this psalm to the beloved, that is to Christ, who in the last times came to the world and effected a change from idolatry to piety. In the cause of truth, meekness, and justice may your right hand show your wondrous deeds. And he ruled for the sake of truth and meekness and justice over all those who believed in him and will keep commandments. He recalls, furthermore, the sons of Korah, introducing through them the person of the holy apostles, Your arrows are sharp; peoples will cower at your feet; the king’s enemies will lose heart, those who were for the king sharp arrows against spiritual enemies. And they brought and yoked under this royal scepter those who had been saved for the church, Listen, my daughter, and understand; pay me careful heed, which forgot her people and the house of her father. Daughters of kings are your lovely wives; a princess arrayed in Ophir’s gold comes to stand at your right hand…. Then the richest of the people will seek your favor with gifts. All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters, her raiment threaded with gold. Then she was adorned with wonderful and varied gifts of the bridegroom, her betrothed.[4]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 167.

[2] Particular translation needed.

[3] TLG 6. Ἄρχεται οὖν οὕτως ὁ μακάριος Δαυείδ· Ἐξηρεύξατο καρδία μου λόγον ἀγαθόν. Βούλεται εἰπεῖν ὅτι τὸν ψαλμὸν τοῦτον ὃν μέλλω λέγειν ἐκ τοῦ βάθους τῆς διανοίας, οἷον ἐξερεύγομαι, οὐχ ὥσπερ ἐπὶ τῶν λοιπῶν πραγμάτων ποιοῦμαι τὰς προφητείας, κατ’ ἐξαίρετον δὲ λόγον τοῦτον ᾄδω τὸν ψαλμόν. Τίνος ἕνεκα; Λέγω ἐγὼ τὰ ἔργα μου τῷ βασιλεῖ. Ἐπειδὴ τῷ πάντων βασιλεῖ ἀνατίθεσθαι μέλλω τὸν ψαλμόν. «Ἔργον» γὰρ αὐτοῦ καλεῖ αὐτὸ τὸ ποίημα τοῦ ψαλμοῦ. γλῶσσά μου κάλαμος γραμματέως ὀξυγράφου. Ἐπειδὴ εἶπεν ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ βάθους τῆς διανοίας φθέγγομαι τὸν ψαλμόν, λέγει ὅτι καὶ τὴν γλῶσσάν μου ἐναρμόζω, ὅσον ἐστὶ δυνατόν, ὑπηρετῆσαι τῇ διανοίᾳ τῆς χάριτος ὡς ὑπηρετεῖ κάλαμος ὀξυγράφου λόγῳ προηγουμένῳ. Εἰπὼν ἄχρι τούτου τὸ προοίμιον καὶ σημάνας εἰς τίνα μέλλει λέγειν τὸν ψαλμόν, ἄρχεται λοιπὸν τῶν ἐγκωμίων ἐντεῦθεν…. Τὰ βέλη σου ἠκονημένα, δυνατέ· λαοὶ ὑποκάτω σου πεσοῦνται ἐν καρδίᾳ τῶν ἐχθρῶν τοῦ βασιλέως. Παρέγκειται ὁ στίχος τὸ «λαοὶ ὑποκάτω σου πεσοῦνται».Ἡ γὰρ ἀκολουθία ἐστί· τὰ βέλη σου, δυνατέ, ἐν καρδίᾳ τῶν ἐχθρῶν τοῦ βασιλέως, καὶ τότε λαοὶ ὑποκάτω σου πεσοῦνται· νῦν δέ, καθὼς εἶπον, παρέγκειται ὁ στίχος καὶ ποιεῖ τὴν ἀσάφειαν. Βούλεται δὲ εἰπεῖν ὅτι εὐστόχως τοὺς λόγους, ὡς βέλη, εἰς τὰς καρδίας τῶν ἀκουόντων ἐναποτίθει. Ἐντεῦθέν σοι καὶ λαοὶ ὑποταγήσονται πάντες. Ἐκ μεταφορᾶς γὰρ αὐτὸ λέγει τῶν τιτρωσκόντων διὰ βελῶν καὶ ὑποτασσόντων τοὺς τιτρωσκομένους. Λέγει δὲ ὅτι οὕτως ἐστὶ τὰ βέλη σου δυνατὰ ὥστε μὴ μόνον μαθητευομένους ὑποτάσσειν ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐχθρῶν καθάπτεσθαι καὶ αὐτοὺς ἄγειν εἰς ὑποταγήν.

[4] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 28-29. Cx. PG 27 for Latin and Greek.

2 thoughts on “The Fathers on Psalm 45

  1. Some delightful turns of phrase! Thanks – My heart is inditing is a little more ‘refined’ than belched! But it gets a good smile from me. I should arrange the embedded music for this one – …

  2. Re: footnote 2.

    Psalm 45:1’s “My heart has emitted [or belched] a good Word” is from the LXX, and it is regularly quoted by the Fathers in reference to the begetting of the Son. Of course, it is numbered Psalm 44 in the LXX, and the line is in v. 2 there. The Greek text is at https://en.katabiblon.com/us/index.php?text=LXX&book=Ps&ch=44, and all the words have a translation there if you click on the Greek word. (You may be able to read Greek, but I’m not quite an intermediate student.) They do not give a translation for the first word, exereuxato, which your sources translate as “belch.” The Ante-Nicene Fathers series often translates it as “emit.”

    As a side note, when it is quoted by the fathers, it is often quote with Psalm 110:3 (LXX, 109:3), “I have begotten you from the womb before the morning,” to the same effect.

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