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 and Theodotion.

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.'

Sa'adya Gaon, Ibn Ezra, and Rashi depart from this reading, but each of them translate this passage differently. 'God establishes your throne' (Gaon). 'Your throne is the throne of God' (Ibn Ezra). Rashi, who reads this psalm allegorically, understands 'elohim as a vocative like the Septuagint, but he takes it as an address to the Torah scholar, and he renders 'elohim as 'judge' (as Onkelos and he do at Exodus 7:1 and elsewhere): 'Your throne, O judge.' Yet in the next verse 'elohim (2x) means 'God.'

Prior to Rashi, the Targum also understands 'elohim 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 replaces 'elohim with the Shem Hameforash abbreviated: 'The throne of your glory, O Yy, lasts forever and ever.' But the Hebrew interpreted as an address to God in the midst of a poem addressed to the king and to his bride seems to be a misconstrual, for nowhere else are words directed to God.

Are there any translators or commentators who translate 'elohim in Psalm 45:7a as a vocative in the sense of 'God' as do the Septuagint, Aquila, and Theodotion?

  • Translating elohim as "judge" is not unusual. – ezra Nov 5 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 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 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 at 0:29
  • @sabbahillel Indeed – ezra Nov 6 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׃

  • 1
    - (1) Christians do not claim that the subject of Psalm 45 is God. They say that the subject is the king of Israel and that he is addressed as 'God' in verse 7. (2) Only Rashi among the classical commentators translates 'elohim as 'judge' here. (3) I did not say or presume that the Jewish Greek translation which came to be called the Septuagint is identical with the original Septuagint, which, as you correctly point out, comprised only the Torah. I simply called the current LXX a Jewish Greek translation (see Encyclopedia Judaica, 'Septuagint'; Jewish Encyclopedia). – Clifford Durousseau Nov 6 at 18:07
  • 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 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 at 19:26
  • @ Yaacov Deane -- (1) But Ibn Ezra himself does not translate 'elohim as 'judge' nor the verse as 'Your throne, O God, . . .' . (2) I have pointed out to you that everyone, Jews and Christians as well, say that the psalm is addressed to the king of Israel. (3) Can you answer the question I asked? You have not done so in your response. You have focused on other matters. – Clifford Durousseau Nov 6 at 19:43
  • @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 at 20:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .