The Messiah in the Psalms

David’s Psalms Point to Jesus, the Son of David.

by Simon Turpin on December 2, 2023
Featured in Answers in Depth

Do Psalm 2 and 110 have an intentional messianic focus, or do they simply refer to David or the ideal Davidic King? It has become popular among many evangelical scholars to deny these Psalms have a direct messianic focus.1 However, Psalm 2 and 110 do have an eschatological messianic perspective that goes back to Genesis 3:15 as they picture the King who defeats and subdues his enemies (cf. Genesis 49:9–10).2 There are several reasons to view Psalm 2 and 110 (and the entire book)3 as messianic.

First, Jesus believed the central message of the Old Testament was about the Messiah.

First, Jesus believed the central message of the Old Testament was about the Messiah. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained the message of the Messiah “in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27) and affirmed “that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Ultimately all of the Old Testament, not just a few passages, points to the coming Messiah as a whole, and this includes the Psalms (cf. Acts 1:16–20, 2:25–31, 34–35, 4:25–26, 13:33, 35).

Second, a proper reading of 2 Samuel 23:1, based upon the Septuagint (LXX), demonstrates that the reason God raised up David was to write concerning the Messiah:

These are the last words of David:

the declaration of David son of Jesse,

and the declaration of the man raised up concerning

the Messiah [Anointed One] of the God of Jacob,

and the Delightful One of the songs of Israel (LXX).4

It was the Spirit of the Lord (YHWH) who spoke by and through David to write the Psalms (2 Samuel 23:2–3; cf. Mark 12:36; Acts 4:25; Hebrews 4:7). It would not be strange for David to write about the Messiah in the Psalms since the Old Testament connects music and prophecy (1 Chronicles 25:1–6) and even uses poetry to prophesy about the coming Messiah (cf. Genesis 49:2–27; Numbers 24:7–9, 15–19; Isaiah 11:1–9). David, in his own words, claims he wrote about the Messiah in the Psalms.

Third, the structure of the Psalms shows a messianic theme running throughout them. The ancient division of the Psalms was into five “books”:

  • Book 1 (Psalm 1–41)
  • Book 2 (Psalm 42–72)
  • Book 3 (Psalm 73–89)
  • Book 4 (Psalm 90–106)
  • Book 5 (Psalm 107–150)5

The ends of books 1–4 close with a doxology (Psalm 41:13, 72:18–19, 89:52, 106:48).6 Psalm 146–150 probably serves as the doxological end to book 5. There is good reason to believe that Psalm 1 and 2 are at the beginning of the book to serve as a gateway to the Psalms.7 One reason for this is that, unlike the other Psalms in book 1, which are ascribed to David (cf. Acts 4:25–26), these first two Psalms have no titles (superscriptions).8 Additionally, the first two Psalms are bound together by several literary features. The word “blessed” (ʾešer) appears in the first verse of Psalm 1 and in the last verse of Psalm 2, and the words “way” (derek) and “perish” (ʾābad) appear in the final verse of each Psalm (Psalm 1:6, 2:12). There is also a play on the word “meditate/plot” (hāgâ) in Psalm 1:2 and Psalm 2:1.9

The connections between Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 also show that the wicked of Psalm 1:4 appear in Psalm 2:1–2 as the rebellious rulers and nations and that the blessed man of Psalm 1:1 is the Messiah (māšîaḥ) of Psalm 2:2. In Psalm 1, the blessed man (singular, 1:1) is set in contrast to the wicked (plural, 1:4).10 In Psalm 1:1, the blessed man does not sit with scoffers. Where then does he sit? Psalm 2:4 provides the answer: he sits in heaven and laughs at those who scoff (cf. Psalm 110:1). The blessed man of Psalm 1 is also identified as divine, being the ʾădōnāy (Lord, see below) of Psalm 2:4. Psalm 1:2 also has an implicit reference to the deity of the blessed man. The Hebrew syntax of Psalm 1:2 suggests this: “Rather in the torah of the Lord [YHWH] is his delight and in his torah [italics original] he meditates day and night.”11 Cole notes that “the immediate antecedent of ‘his (torah)’ is ‘his (delight),’ the latter referring to the [blessed] man. As a result, the torah of the [Lord] could be read as the torah of the [blessed] man, equating him with the deity.”12 The blessed man not only prospers in all he does (Psalm 1:3; cf. Joshua 1:7–9)13 but also has absolute domination over his enemies (Psalm 2:8–9; cf. 24:8, 10). The introduction and conclusion of the Psalms tie together the rebellion against the Lord (YHWH) and his Messiah (Psalm 2:3, 149:6–9).

Psalm 2

The great medieval Jewish commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzkhaki (AD 1040–1105), more commonly known by his acronym Rashi, approached Psalm 2 historically rather than messianically and saw it as referring to King David. In his commentary on Psalm 2:1, Rashi states: “Why have nations gathered. Our Sages (Ber. 7b) expounded the passage as referring to the King Messiah, but according to its apparent meaning, it is proper to interpret it as referring to David himself. . . .”14 Rashi’s comments are more polemical (to refute Christian claims about the messiahship of Jesus) than exegetical. Although Rashi believed Psalm 2 was about King David, he recognized the Rabbis (Sages) before him interpreted it about the Messiah (see Midrash Berayshit Rabbah 44.8). Rashi’s interpretation also fails to consider Psalm 2 in its context and its relationship to the other royal Psalms (Psalms 72, 89, 110).

Psalm 2 is broken up into three sections. The first three verses deal with the rebellion against the Lord (YHWH) and his Messiah (cf. Psalm 20:6):

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed [māšîaḥ], saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    nd cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1–3)

The next six verses give the response of the Lord and his Messiah:

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:4–9)

The final three verses then give a call to be reconciled with the Lord and his Messiah.

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:10–12).

Therefore, the King in Psalm 2:7 cannot be referring to David but must be the Messianic Son.

There are objections as to why Psalm 2 is not about the Messiah. For example, some argue about how can the Lord (YHWH) give birth to the Messiah if the Son is eternal (Psalm 2:7)? However, the words “today I have begotten you” are not talking about a physical birth but are a response to the nations who are in rebellion against the Lord (YHWH) and his Messiah (māšîaḥ) (see Psalm 2:1–3).15 The reference to “begotten,” in context, refers to the day of the Messiah’s coronation. It is referring to the day the King is declared the Son of God and thus begotten (see Acts 13:32–33; Romans 1:4).16 In Psalm 2:7, God’s decree is his promise to the house of David that he would raise up for him a Son whose kingdom and throne would last forever (cf. 1 Chronicles 17:11–14). Therefore, the King in Psalm 2:7 cannot be referring to David but must be the Messianic Son.

The Complete Jewish Bible17 offers another objection in its translation of Psalm 2:12, “Arm yourselves with purity lest He become angry and you perish in the way, for in a moment His wrath will be kindled; the praises of all who take refuge in Him.”18 The Complete Jewish Bible translates the word bar (בַ֡ר) in Hebrew to mean “purity” and not “Son.”19 However, in Aramaic, the word bar means “Son” (Proverbs 31:2).20 The fact that bar (Son)21 is an Aramaic loan word is especially suitable as the command is addressed to the nations (Psalm 2:1; cf. Daniel 7:13; Jeremiah 10:11).22 More importantly, if the word bar, in context, does not mean “Son,” then there can be no reconciliation between the hostile nations and the Lord (YHWH) and his Messiah (māšîaḥ).

Psalm 2 talks about an exalted king (the Son) who rules over the whole earth (Psalm 2:2, 7–8), who in Psalm 72 is mentioned as ruling over the ends of the earth (Psalm 72:5, 8), while Psalm 89 confirms this was God’s promise to the house of David (Psalm 89:3–4, 36).

Psalm 110

Psalm 110:1 says,

The Lord [YHWH] says to my Lord [ʾădōnî]:
    “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”23

But who is called “my Lord”? Is it King David or the future Messiah? In answering this question, the author of the Psalm needs to be identified. If the author is not David, then the subject of the Psalm is either David or the ideal Davidic King.24 However, if David is the author of the Psalm, then it allows for it to be about the Messiah. The answer to the question is based on how one understands the title (superscription) to the Psalm: does לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר  (lǝdāwid mizmôr) mean a “A Psalm of David” (ESV) or “Of David a psalm” (The Complete Jewish Bible)?25 While the Hebrew preposition lamed (ל) can mean “to” or “for,” it usually indicates authorship (i.e., “of David”) when it prefaces a poem (cf. Habakkuk 3:1). Since other Psalms that are considered Davidic have the same title mizmôr lǝdāwid (Psalm 23:1), it “would be inconsistent to accept other psalms as written by David but to reject Davidic authorship of Psalm 110 merely to avoid taking a messianic interpretation.”26 Davidic authorship of Psalm 110:1 is confirmed by Jesus (Matthew 22:41, 46). If David is not the author of Psalm 110:1, then Jesus’ argument would be incoherent. These reasons support Davidic authorship of the Psalm.

In Psalm 110:1, David’s Lord is greater than David, and if he is greater than David, he is of great importance. But of how much more importance? The Lord (YHWH) directs the Lord (ʾădōnî) to sit at his right hand, a place of honor (cf. 1 Kings 2:19). The Hebrew word for “Lord” (ʾădōnî)27 is often used of a human superior, not deity. However, in Judges 6:13, the word is used of the angel (messenger) of the Lord (YHWH), where he is identified as Lord (ʾădōnî). Furthermore, the Lord of Psalm 110:1 is addressed as a divine person in verse 5: “The Lord [ʾădōnāy] is at your right hand.” David’s Lord (ʾădōnî), who is at the right hand of the Lord doing battle and drinking (Psalm 110:5–7), is also Lord (ʾădōnāy), indicating this is referring to a divine king (cf. Joshua 5:14).28 The understanding that David is in view also does not make sense of what the Lord (YHWH) says to the Lord (ʾădōnî) in verse 4, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” David was never given an eternal priesthood, but the Messiah was (cf. Hebrews 7:11–28).

The Messianic interpretation of Psalm 110:1 is also supported by the literary context and arrangement of the Book of Psalms. In the introduction, Psalm 2 talks about the Messiah ruling over the earth, while Psalm 72 (the end of book 2) is about the Messiah ruling over the ends of the earth in fulfillment of God’s promise to David. Psalm 89 (end of book 3) is all about God’s promise to David, and it asks the question of what will happen now that David’s rule has ended (Psalm 89:46–51). Psalms 90–106 (book 4) are about the exile (cf. Psalms 93–99). David almost disappears from this section (cf. Psalms 101:1, 103:1), and the last Psalm asks God to bring the people back from exile (Psalm 106:47). The beginning of book 5 begins by thanking God for bringing the people back from exile (Psalm 107:2–3). After thanking God for bringing the people back from exile, Psalms 108, 109, and 110 are Psalms of David. Therefore, in the hope of the coming King, David’s Lord (Psalm 110:1) can only be the Messiah. In book 5, there is a focus on God’s promises to the house of David (Psalm 132:11).29

The Messiah’s Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension

All these wonderful promises are fulfilled in the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:44).

According to King David, the delightful one of the songs of Israel, the Messiah, is the Son of the Father (Psalm 2:7), the King (Psalm 2:6, 20:6, 9, 21:1, 7), and the one to whom belongs glory, splendor, and majesty (Psalm 21:5). The Messiah constantly meditates on the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2), receives the worship of children that stills his enemies (Psalm 8:2), loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Psalm 45:7), and unlike any other descendant of Adam, has a pure heart and clean hands (Psalm 24:4). Despite all of this, the Messiah is hated without cause and becomes a stranger to his brothers (Psalm 69:4, 8), his close friend betrays him (Psalm 41:9), the rulers of the earth take counsel together against him (Psalm 2:1–2), he is pierced through his hands and his feet and laid in the dust of death (Psalm 22:15–16), he walks through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4), and descends into the grave (Psalm 40:2; 69:15). In dying, the Messiah cries out to God who hears and answers, as God does not despise or abhor the suffering of the afflicted one (Psalm 22:1, 24). Although the Messiah is not kept alive (Psalm 22:29), his life is returned to him (Psalm 23:3) as God does not allow his life to see corruption (Psalm 16:10, 86:13). After the Messiah, the King of glory, is delivered from death (i.e., resurrection), he ascends into heaven (Psalm 24:8–10), is seated at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1), and given the nations as his inheritance (Psalm 2:8; cf. 22:28). All these wonderful promises are fulfilled in the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:44).


  1. Many evangelical scholars have become convinced that the original meaning of many of the Psalms had nothing to do with the Messiah, but only speak of the Messiah in a secondary sense. See Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988), 67–68.
  2. See Simon Turpin, “Is Genesis 3:15 Messianic? How God Promised Salvation in the Midst of Judgment,” Answers in Genesis, April 26, 2023,
  3. It is true that the Psalms do not speak of the Messiah in the same way in every chapter, but nevertheless, the Psalms are about the Messiah.
  4. See Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: NAC Studies in Bible & Theology (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 40.
  5. The division of the Psalms into five books is probably based upon on the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
  6. The doxologies at the end of each book show that the Psalms have been purposely arranged (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) into one book. This probably took place in the post-exilic period. See Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 76, 168–169.
  7. Robert L. Cole, Psalms 1–2: Gateway to the Psalter (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013).
  8. In book 1, Psalm 10 and 33 are the only other Psalms without a title, but it is quite possible they were part of the previous Psalm. Kidner comments: “The absence of a title to Psalm 10 supports the view that it runs on from Psalm 9, and this is strengthened by the presence of a fragmentary acrostic, begun in Psalm 9 and concluded in Psalm 10.” Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 85. In the Septuagint (LXX), Psalm 33 is ascribed to David.
  9. There are many other verbal parallels between Psalm 1 and 2 that show they should be read together: “blessed” (1:1 and 2:12), “way” (1:1, 6 and 2:12), “sit/sits” (1:1 and 2:4), “meditate/plot” (1:2 and 2:1), “day/ today” (1:2 and 2:7), “in its season/now therefore” (1:3 and 2:10), “judgement/rulers” (1:5 and 2:10), “perish” (1:6 and 2:12). See Robert L. Cole, “Psalms 1–2: The Divine Son of God” in The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament General Editors Michael Rydelnik and Edwin Blum (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2019), 479.
  10. The book after Psalm in the Hebrew Scripture is Job. Job 1:1 speaks of “the man” (hāʾîš), which matches the second word of Psalm 1:1. Psalm 1:1 shows further association with the following book of Job. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the phrase “the counsel of the wicked” (ʿăṣat rǝšāʿîm) only occurs in Psalm 1:1 and Job 21:16 and 22:18. Job is the righteous man who rejects the counsel of the wicked, as does the blameless man of Psalm 1. Both the Psalms and Job give a picture of a future messianic figure who will suffer but who is eventually restored. As Cole points out, these parallels did not happen by chance. Cole, “Psalms 1–2: The Divine Son of God,” 480.
  11. Cole, “Psalms 1–2: The Divine Son of God,” 481.
  12. Cole, “Psalms 1–2: The Divine Son of God,” 481.
  13. Joshua is promised success wherever he goes if he meditates day and night on the Law (Torah).
  14. See The Complete Jewish Bible, “Tehillim (Psalms)—Chapter 2,”, accessed November 29, 2023,
  15. God is spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a physical body; therefore, the Messiah’s Sonship cannot be physical in nature (God the Son is not the biological offspring of God the Father).
  16. Although, some see the reference “today I have begotten you” as referring to the eternality of the Son (cf. Psalm 110:3, LXX, see footnote 28).
  17. The Complete Jewish Bible is used by Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic organization (see
  18. The Hebrew word “נַשְּׁקוּ” translated “kiss” (ESV; NKJV) is in the piel stem (cf. Genesis 31:28) but “to be armed” is usually in the qal stem (cf. 1 Chronicles 12:2; 2 Chronicles 17:17; Psalm 78:9).
  19. In Psalm 2:7, the Hebrew noun “Son” is בֵּן (bēn).
  20. The Complete Jewish Bible translates the word “bar” in Proverbs 31:2 as son: “What, my son, and what, the son of my womb, and what, the son of my vows?” Proverbs 31:3 also spells “kings” with the Aramaic masculine plural ending (mǝlākîn). Proverbs 31:4 goes back to the Hebrew masculine plural ending (mǝlākîm).
  21. Some object to the meaning of bar as “Son” because it lacks a definite article (i.e., the Son). However, Hebrew poetry often omits the definite article. Moreover, the words “nations” (Psalm 2:1, 8) and “earth” (Psalm 2:2, 8, 10) are without a definite article in Hebrew but are undoubtedly definite in meaning. See Cole, “Psalms 1–2: The Divine Son of God,” 486.
  22. The words of Jeremiah 10:11 are in Aramaic because they are addressed to foreign nations.
  23. Psalm 110:1 is the most quoted verse from a Psalm in the New Testament (Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42–43; Acts 2:34–35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20, 22; Colossians 3:1; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:3, 13, 2:8, 8:1, 10:12–13, 12:2).
  24. Some believe Psalm 110 is directed toward David’s son Solomon, but this fails for the same reasons that the Psalm is not about David (see Psalm 110:4, 5).
  25. Interestingly, The Complete Jewish Bible does not translate the same superscription (מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִֽד) in Psalm 108:1 as “Of David a psalm” but “a psalm of David.”
  26. Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 166.
  27. Regarding the translation of the Hebrew word (ʾădōnî), Rydelnik rightly observes, “[T]he psalm was originally written with consonants alone, with the Masoretic vowels added much later (between the eight and tenth centuries AD). One must be careful, then, not to base one’s interpretation (i.e., whether the addressee is human or divine) solely on a single Hebrew vowel. There are, in fact, strong reasons to conclude that the original author of the psalm intended to speak of a divine Lord. David, Israel’s most exalted king, was looking forward to the coming of a future ruler even more exalted than himself.” Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 172.
  28. The LXX reading of Psalm 110:3, “from the womb of the dawn, I have begotten you,” indicates the heavenly divine origin of the king. See Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 175.
  29. See One for Israel Ministry, “David’s Son Is David’s Lord?! - The Case for Messiah,” YouTube, June 18, 2023, However, others see the first seven Psalms of book 5 (Psalms 107–113) as a unit, with Psalm 110 as the focal point. Psalms 107–109 contain a plea for deliverance, while Psalms 111–113 express praise for deliverance. Psalm 110 is central to these Psalms since it reveals the Messiah as the deliverer. See Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 170–171.


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