Psalm 45 is a wedding song for the marriage of a king of Israel. At verse 7a the lyric says:

כִּסְאֲךָ אֱלֹהִים, עוֹלָם וָעֶד

The Jewish Greek translation which came to be called the Septuagint renders this verse this way: 'Your throne, God, is forever and ever.' So also Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus--second century Jewish translators.

According to this translation, the king who is addressed in the preceding verses is addressed as 'God' here. Abraham Cohen in The Soncino Books of the Bible states that 'this appears to be the obvious translation but does not suit the context.'

Saadya Gaon, Ibn Ezra, and Rashi depart from this reading, but each of them translate this passage differently. 'God will establish your throne' (Gaon). 'Your throne is the throne of God' (Ibn Ezra). Rashi, who reads this psalm allegorically, understands אֱלֹהִים as a vocative like the Septuagint, but he takes it as an address to the Torah scholar, and he renders אֱלֹהִים as 'judge' (as he and Onkelos do at Exodus 7:1 and elsewhere): 'Your throne, O judge.'

Prior to Rashi, the Targum also understands אֱלֹהִים as a vocative, but to insure that it might not be understood as an address to the king of Israel in the sense of 'God', it reads כּוּרְסֵי יְקָרָךְ יְיָ קַיָים לְעָלְמֵי עַלְמִין ('The throne of your glory, Yeya, lasts forever and ever').

Are there any translators or commentators who translate אֱלֹהִים in Psalm 45:7a as a vocative addressed to the king in the sense of 'God' as do Aquila and Theodotion?

  • 2
    Translating elohim as "judge" is not unusual. – ezra Nov 5 '18 at 17:57
  • @ezra. 'elohim is translated as 'judges' in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8 in the NIV. In no place of which I am aware is it translated in the singular ('judge'). – Clifford Durousseau Nov 5 '18 at 18:09
  • Because in this case elohim is referring to G-d as a judge. G-d is one, so only one judge. Al pi kabbalah, the Divine Name Elohim refers to strict judgment. – ezra Nov 5 '18 at 18:10
  • @CliffordDurousseau Rashi points out that Exodus 7:1 uses the word as judge, singular because the position of respect takes the plural usage. This is like the usage of בעלים as master. – sabbahillel Nov 6 '18 at 0:29
  • @sabbahillel Indeed – ezra Nov 6 '18 at 5:01

Your presumption that what is called the Septagint today is the same text that was translated by the 70 Jewish Sages is not in keeping with Jewish history and teaching (See Disputes over canonicity). That original text has been lost. And that original translation was only on the 5 books of Moshe. What is called Septaguint today is a text that was put together by the church to vindicate Christian theology.

All the classical Jewish commentaries (Targum, Rashi, Radak, Ibn Ezra, Metzudat David) to this chapter (Tehillim chapter 45) say the subject of this chapter is Melech HaMoshiach (Messiah the King), not G-d, as the Christians claim.

In that context (Tehillim 45:7), the throne of the King, upon which elohim sits must be understood to be referring to King Moshiach. The reason why this particular name/title, when used with a human being, is translated as judge, is because it is associated with the quality of Gevurah (judgement and power). See also Bereshit 6:2 and the Targum and commentaries there.

A Jewish King can also be referred to as a judge, because when the Sanhedrin cannot come to consensus in a capital case, they can refer the case to the King for final judgement and disposition. This follows the concept in 1 Kings 3:28.

וַיִּשְׁמְע֣וּ כָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֶת־הַמִּשְׁפָּט֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר שָׁפַ֣ט הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וַיִּֽרְא֖וּ מִפְּנֵ֣י הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ כִּ֣י רָא֔וּ כִּֽי־חָכְמַ֧ת אֱלֹהִ֛ים בְּקִרְבּ֖וֹ לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת מִשְׁפָּֽט׃

  • Regarding point 1, the Targum says, "Your glorious throne is maintained by G-d (actually using G-d's 4 letter name) forever." And that is relying upon the Tifcha/Turcha Trup mark on the 'Aleph' of elohim. That mark implies a connotation of 'coming in contact with' and also 'concern over maintaining someone or something'. The Ibn Ezra explains that there are those who translate that way, and others who translate the usage of 'elohim' like used with King Solomon who was known for his wisdom in serving as a judge. – Yaacov Deane Nov 6 '18 at 19:26
  • But Ibn Ezra says in context, the expression 'your throne', which is established by G-d, is used by the subject of the chapter, meaning Moshiach. – Yaacov Deane Nov 6 '18 at 19:26
  • @CliffordDurousseau The 2nd paragraph of this answer states clearly what the classical commentators, as found in Mikra'ot Gadolot, say about the chapter. They do not understand the usage of 'elohim' (in the sense of G-d) to be referring to the 'you' of 'your throne'. The closest you get is those who say 'elohim' means G-d, but is used as an adjective of throne (the throne of G-d, which is yours), or those that say the 'munach' on 'your throne' separates 'your throne' from G-d who maintains or will (in the future) establish your throne forever. – Yaacov Deane Nov 6 '18 at 20:21

After the Septuagint and the second-century translators Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, there are no Jewish translators or commentators who understand אֱלֹהִים in Psalm 45:7a as addressed to the king in the sense of God. They show no acceptance of the rendering of that verse in those four Greek versions. Like Abraham Cohen in The Soncino Books of the Bible, Rosenberg and Zlotowitz in their recent commentary on Psalms state: “The Hebrew could also be rendered ‘Your throne, O God, is everlasting.’ This would not fit the context, which requires the king to be the subject.” This consideration militates against the Targum, which reads the verse as a vocative to Yahveh. In the very next verse the psalmist says that the king has a God. This militates against the Greek translations, which read this verse as a vocative to the king and call him God. In Psalm 2:7 the king is metaphorically called the son of God, as he is in in 2 Samuel 7:14. Although some Jewish commentators apply Psalm 45 to the Messiah, the Hebrew is not interpreted as calling him God in verse 7. As a result, the text did not become as in Christianity a proof text for a doctrine of a divine Messiah, who would be an incarnation of 'the second person of the Trinity,' and thus it is not considered matter for extensive discussion.

Bibliography: Jacob Hoftizjer. 'Remarks on Psalm 45:7a.' Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical, and Geographical Studies (1999): 78-87 @JSTOR.com; Johannes Stephanus Maria Mulder. Studies on Psalm 45 (Ph.D. diss., Nijmegen; Oss: Offsetdrukkerij, Witsiers, 1972), 32-80 @PDF Hosted at the Radboud Repository of Radboud University.

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