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How do Jews interpret Psalm 110? (Christians see it as a messianic reference.) I am specifically interested in verse 1 - "The Lord saith unto my lord." Jesus quotes this in Matthew 22:44, and Christians see verse 1 to mean God the Father is talking to Jesus. I don't mean to be antagonistic in any way, and I understand that this site is not about comparative religion, so if I could merely ask what the standard Jewish interpretation of who is "my lord" in verse 1.

I found an answer here, and perhaps that is the answer, but I appreciate Stack Exchange's format much better in how the conclusive/majority answer seems to shine through.

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    Hi. Could you explain better what the problem is with the answer you referenced? It seems to hit the spot. – JNF May 16 '13 at 18:50
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    I think that other websites have done a fine job of explaining this and other verses jewsforjudaism.org/… – rosends May 17 '13 at 2:56
  • @JNF, I explained myself a little more why I reposted the question here. I hope that suffices. – Frank Henard May 17 '13 at 15:08
  • @Dan, Thanks for the tip on jewsforjudaism.org, I didn't see that come up on my google search, and again I appreciate this site's format. – Frank Henard May 17 '13 at 15:10
  • You might like the commentary of Radak, which leaves some room open to see some kind of messianic prophecy in it. – Levi Dec 30 '17 at 6:18
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I addressed the issue in my webpage: "A Primer: Why Jews Can't Believe in Jesus." There I wrote:

In Matthew 22:41-44, there is a reported conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning the genealogy of the Messiah. The Pharisees said that the Messiah will be the son of David, and Jesus reportedly counted: "'How then does David in the spirit call him 'Lord,' saying: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool"? If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?' And no one was able to answer him a word, neither did any man from that day forth ask him any more questions." This conversation could not have happened! Matthew is referring to Psalm 110:1, and is based on a clear mistranslation. The first "Lord" in the sentence is properly capitalized because it uses the four-letter Hebrew name for G-d, the Yud kay vav kay. We would pronounce that in prayer as "Adonai," which means Lord and only applies to G-d. The second "Lord" is improperly capitalized because the Hebrew word used at that point is "adoni" which means "my lord" and only refers to a human. So Psalms 110:1 should read: "The Lord said unto my lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." So who is the second and lower-cased "lord"? King David. This psalm begins "LeDavid Mizmor" (A song to David as opposed to by David). Accordingly, the song is written for David and makes him the subject of the first sentence. With that knowledge, the rest of the psalm makes perfect sense, G-d is giving much needed comfort to the King of Israel. Alternatively, it can be understood as a psalm written by David to be sung by the Levite choir praising him after his death.

Certainly any Pharisee would have known the meaning of Psalm 110 and would not have been confused by "Adonai" versus "adoni". It is not so clear that a Greek-educated story teller with little or no Jewish training, and a Christian axe to grind, would have been so knowledgeable. The story in Matthew then must be made up and judged self-serving.

See Levine, Samuel, You Take Jesus, I'll Take God, Hamorah Press 1980, p. 37-38; and the Jews for Judaism article on Does Psalms 110:1 show that the Messiah will be greater than David and be a divine being?

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As noted in the Yahoo answer linked in the question, we do not understand "adoni", "my lord", to be a divine reference. We see humans call other humans this in several places in torah. Jews for Judaism explains (h/t Dan):

Psalms 110:1 states: "A Psalm concerning David. HaShem says to my master: 'Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'" There is no problem with accepting that one's descendants can rise to a more exalted position than we possess at present. There is no problem with David accepting that the Messiah will be greater than he is. But, there is nothing in this verse to show that David is referring to the Messiah when he writes 'adoni, "my master," "my lord." Moreover, there is nothing in David's words to indicate that the individual he refers to as "my master" is a divine being. David "concerning" himself wrote Psalm 110 poetically in the third person.

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I hesitated making this an answer because I am simply reposting from another site, verbatim, but as that site seems not to be working (and I had to lift this from the google chache) so I can't simply put the link as a comment, I am pasting it here. Apologies to anyone who finds that my answer isn't so much my answer as another's:


Psalms 110:1

...the L--rd says to my lord: "Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."

Here David is repeating G--d's promise concerning Abraham's victory over the four kingdoms (Genesis chapter 14). After this war, Melchizedek hailed the returning hero and blessed him:

Genesis 14:18--19

And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was a priest of the Supreme G--d. And he blessed him, and said: "Blessed be Abram by the Supreme G--d, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Supreme G--d, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand."

David alludes to this blessing later in the Psalm under discussion:

Psalms 110:4

The L--rd has sworn, and will not recant: "You [Abraham] are a priest forever, after the manner of Melchizedek."

Referring specifically to Abraham's miraculous victory, he declares:

Psalms 110:5

The L--rd is at your right hand, He has shattered119 kings on the day of His wrath.

To make it appear as if G--d is here promising that Jesus' enemies will be conquered, the authors of the New Testament boldly misquoted our verse under discussion to:

Mark 12:36

The L--rd said to my Lord....

Thus, giving the impression that one Divine Being (G--d) is here promising another "divine" being (Jesus) that his enemies will be conquered!

In Hebrew, unlike in English, there are two separate words for "L--rd" and "lord": A--noy and adoni (literally, "my lord"). The latter appears in the following verses:

Genesis 23:6

Hear us, my lord [Abraham]; you are a mighty prince among us....

I Kings 1:2

Therefore his servants said to [David]: "Let there be sought for my lord, the king, a young virgin...."

I Kings 1:17

And she said to [David]: "My lord, you swore by the L--rd, your G--d, to your handmaid: `Surely Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne.' "


from "Their Hollow Inheritance" by M. Drazin.

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    Hey Dan, if you want to incorporate the Jews for Judaism info into your answer, I'll delete my CW one. (I posted it so there'd be something for people to vote on, and I made it CW because I was just lifting your work.) – Monica Cellio May 17 '13 at 15:33
  • OTR, I don't think either should be an answer because neither actually addresses what the asker wants, so combining them wouldn't any more address the actual request. – rosends May 17 '13 at 15:43
  • Why don't you link to the google cache page? – Menachem May 17 '13 at 17:18
  • the cache link is long and I am not sure how permanent the cache is. I'm more concerned that the book and the entire site are gone. – rosends May 17 '13 at 17:51
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There are ample support for the Christian interpretation that the Psalm in the Jewish or rabbinic sources. Needless to say there is no such thing as "Standard Jewish interpretation" of certain passages especially Messianic interpretations; since there is no normative or unanimous position among Jews. Christian commentators like Daniel Whedon and John Gill uses various rabbinic/talmudic references to support their interpretation.

Here is a quote: Rabbinic Support:

The Midrash (rabbinic commentary) on Psalms (Book One, 18, 29) states plainly that the Messiah is addressed and told to sit on God's right hand in Psalm 110:1. The Midrash Rabbah, Genesis LXXXV, 9 affirms that the staff mentioned in Psalm 110:2 refers to the royal Messiah. Also, in regard to Psalm 110:2, the Midrash Rabbah, Numbers XVIII, 23 maintains that the staff is destined to be held in the hand of the Messiah. Midrash Yelamdeinu concurs and states that the Messiah will use the staff to conquer the nations of the world.

The Midrash on Psalm 18:36 specifically asserts that the Messiah is seated on God's right hand while Abraham is seated on God's left. Psalm 110:5 is applied to the Messiah and Messianic times in Yalkut stating that the Messiah will be placed on God's right hand. Yalkut also applies verse 7 to Messianic times.

The influential rabbinic commentator, Rabbi Ovadiah ben Yaacov Sforno asserts that Psalm 110 is dedicated to King Messiah and that he is the one on God's right hand. The modern rabbinic commentary, The Artscroll Tanach Series, in reference to verse 110:3 states that the Messiah will also inspire His followers.

Finally, there is support in Jewish thinking for the concept of a priestly Messiah. It is not a prominent position, chiefly being found in the Essene thought of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Based on Psalm 110:4 you find the concept of Messiah Son of Aaron who will function in the Order of Melchizedek. In the Dead Sea Scrolls there are three messianic figures that correspond to the three facets of the ideal Jewish state, king, prophet and priest.(15)

We think it is evident that our understanding that the psalm refers to the Messiah is not outside the viewpoint of the Jewish community. The thought that the psalm speaks of the Messiah is not the creation of some Gentile theologian bent on converting Jews at all cost.

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    I think that everything until The Midrash (rabbinic commentary) on Psalms (Book One, 18, 29)... Doesn't really answer the question and is just a distraction. If you delete it, I would upvote. – mevaqesh Nov 6 '16 at 3:16
  • @mevaqesh , removed it, though its not my words, but quote from article. John Gill in Matt22:44 mentions Says R. Joden, in the name of R. Chijah, in time to come the holy blessed God will cause the king Messiah to sit at his right hand; as it is said, "the Lord said unto my Lord", &c. (f). Midrash Tillira in Psal. xviii. 35. apud Galatin. de Cath. ver. arcan. l. 8. c. 24. – Michael16 Nov 6 '16 at 6:45
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    The question wasn't how Christians in general, or Mathew in particular view the verse. The question was specifically what the standard Jewish interpretation of who is "my lord" in verse is. – mevaqesh Nov 6 '16 at 7:05
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    @mevaqesh why should you exclude the response on Matthew (Jew) usage of this Psalm from the answer and limit to only the mainstream Judaism or modern rabbinic judaism interpretation of it. ?? – Michael16 Nov 6 '16 at 7:31
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    Because the OP asked specifically for the standard Jewish interpretation of who is "my lord" in verse 1 – mevaqesh Nov 6 '16 at 7:32

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