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Psalms 45:7:

כִּסְאֲךָ֣ אֱ֭לֹהִים עוֹלָ֣ם וָעֶ֑ד שֵׁ֥בֶט מִ֝ישֹׁ֗ר שֵׁ֣בֶט מַלְכוּתֶֽךָ׃

Your divine ("Elohim") throne is everlasting; your royal scepter is a scepter of equity.

To whom does the "Elohim" refer to? Is the title ''God'' attributed to the referent described in the verses that precede this verse?

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The translations you cite in (the original version of) your question are not Jewish translations, despite the misleading name of one of them. Let's look at this verse in more reliable renderings.

First, the Hebrew:

כִּסְאֲךָ אֱלֹהִים עוֹלָם וָעֶד שֵׁבֶט מִישֹׁר שֵׁבֶט מַלְכוּתֶךָ: ‏

JPS translates it this way:

Thy throne given of God is for ever and ever; a sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

Sefaria has (from JPS 1985):

Your divine throne is everlasting; your royal scepter is a scepter of equity.

These two translations treat אֱלֹהִים as an adjective modifying כִּסְאֲךָ (your throne). In Biblical Hebrew, adjectives come after the nouns they modify. According to this interpretation, God (אֱלֹהִים is one of God's names) is not being addressed but, rather, cited.

Rashi interprets it differently:

Your throne, O judge, [will exist] forever and ever; the scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom.

Your throne, O judge: Your throne, O prince and judge, shall exist forever and ever, as the matter that is stated (Exod. 7:1): “I have made you a judge אלהים) (נתתיך over Pharaoh.” And why? Because “a scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom,” that your judgments are true, and you are fit to govern.

Rashi is interpreting אֱלֹהִים as "judge" based on another verse that, according to Onkelos and Tanchuma, uses the word that way. In that verse (Sh'mot 7:1), the judge (Moshe) has a divine mandate, so this isn't as big a difference as it first appears.

So, the psalm does not address anybody as God. This verse addresses the same "you" as the rest of the psalm -- "I speak my poem to a king" (v2). From context this is an earthy king, not the King.

  • ♦ Thanks for your reply. I am Christian, though I also find as suspect most interpretations of scriptures in our circles. However, why would Rashi substitute as distinctive a term as 'Elohim' with a fairly common title of a 'judge' in that verse? If the psalmist had intended a 'judge' for its meaning, since the nature of things spoken here couldn't be known but from inspiration by the Spirit of God, wouldn't he have committed it onto paper as such? – Ted O Feb 26 '17 at 22:48
  • @TedO Rashi is drawing a connection between this passage and another passage that uses that word to mean "judge". This type of exegesis is fairly common in rabbinical interpretation. The p'shat, the plain meaning of the text, is important of course, but not the only understanding of it. (I suspect that Rashi takes as given that it's not addressed to God because of the grammar I mentioned, and then goes on from there. Rashi was more of a compiler than an original interpreter, by the way.) – Monica Cellio Feb 26 '17 at 22:55
  • @ Monica Cellio♦ with all due respect to the efforts of the ancient scholar, but would you put a 'compiler's' understanding of things divine above the testimony of one that said them in their 'prestine condition' by the Spirit of the Most High? Moses in Exodus is a judge, no doubt, but not to Pharaoh. The Creator expressly says ''I have made you a 'God', and just so Moses should not understand it, He qualifies what He REALLY means by saying 'and Aaron is your prophet.'' Now mere ''judges'' DONT have 'prophets,' but gods do, even false ones! – Ted O Feb 26 '17 at 23:27
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    @TedO, there's plenty of room to discuss how to interpret the various uses throughout Tanach of the word Elohim. Note, though, that in the context of this community, which is here to discuss Judaism, it is axiomatic that there is One God who is not, never has been, and never will be a man. It's fine to puzzle out how this verse or that can fit with that and other axioms of Judaism, but trying to prove that they, in fact, don't is a project external to Judaism and therefore not on-topic here. – Isaac Moses Feb 27 '17 at 1:59
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    @TedO, if you're interested in understanding how Jewish tradition understands the word "Elohim" in various other verses, I recommend that you post more questions. If you are aware of another understanding, based on Jewish tradition, of the word in this instance, I encourage you to post an alternative answer. – Isaac Moses Feb 27 '17 at 2:30
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Rashi understands the Psalm (I am using the Hebrew numbering of verses) to be

a song of praise for them [the Torah scholars] to endear them to the people and to endear their Torah to them [the people]. (v. 1)

and

My heart is astir: In this manner, the Psalmist commenced his song: My heart caused a good theme to swarm within me in your praise, O Torah scholar. (v. 2).

And on your quoted verse (7)

Your throne, O judge: Your throne, O prince and judge, shall exist forever and ever, as the matter that is stated (Exod. 7:1): “I have made you a judge (נתתיך אלהים) over Pharaoh.” And why? Because “a scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom,” that your judgments are true, and you are fit to govern.

You see that Rashi understands אלהים as prince and judge and not as G-d and he quotes Exod 7 (1) as a proof that אלהים can be used in this way.

Therefore, the prince and judge referred to here is the same subject as at the beginning of the Psalm but is not G-d.

The Metzudas Dovid commenting on the verse translates “Your throne, Elokim ..." as “The throne of Kingship which is given to you from G-d ...”. So it seems that he sees Elokim not as a a noun that identifies the person being addressed but as a description of the throne.

He will agree with Rashi that Elokim does not translate into G-d.

  • If 'Elohim has no definite sense, it looses meaning,' I am repeating the same words that I wrote to Monica Celli0. Why would Rashi substitute as distinctive a term as 'Elohim' with a fairly common title of a 'judge' in that verse? If the psalmist had intended a 'judge' for its meaning, since the nature of things spoken here couldn't be known but from inspiration by the Spirit of God, wouldn't he have committed it onto paper as such?| Thanks for the response – Ted O Feb 26 '17 at 22:53
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This is a mis-translation. The psalmist is addressing the messiah, not Hashem. The word here is the secular meaning. The actual verse is Tehillim 45:7

כִּסְאֲךָ אֱלֹהִים עוֹלָם וָעֶד שֵׁבֶט מִישֹׁר שֵׁבֶט מַלְכוּתֶךָ:

Your throne, O judge, [will exist] forever and ever; the scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom.

Rashi

Your throne, O judge: Your throne, O prince and judge, shall exist forever and ever, as the matter that is stated (Exod. 7:1): “I have made you a judge אלהים) (נתתיך over Pharaoh.” And why? Because “a scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom,” that your judgments are true, and you are fit to govern.

This can be seen more clearly in verse 8

You loved righteousness and you hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, anointed you with oil of joy from among your peers.

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According to the Jewish Greek translation now known as the Septuagint, the title 'God' is indeed attributed to the king who is addressed in the preceding verses. It renders the Hebrew thus: 'Your throne, God, is forever and ever.'

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