Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Psalm 110:1 – Another Clear Testimony to Christ’s Deity Pt. 3

Sam Shamoun

We now come to the third part of our response.


Adonai at Yahweh’s Right Hand

Zaatari claims that king David would have used the word Adonai, instead of Adoni, had he wanted to affirm the Deity of the Lord Jesus:    

“Just to clear up some possible confusion, in the Hebrew language there is the word adoni, which is what we have here, and the word adonai. Yet these are two different words, in the Hebrew Bible the word adonai is sometimes used when referring to God, which makes us ask why wouldn't David say adonai rather than adoni?...”

Unfortunately for Zaatari, the prophet did in fact use the word Adonai for the Messiah in verse 5!

The Lord (Adonai) is at Your right hand; HE will shatter kings in the day of HIS WRATH. HE will judge among the nations, HE will fill them with corpses, HE will shatter the chief men over a broad country. HE will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore HE will lift up HIS head.” Psalm 110:5-7

The context makes it clear that the Adonai of verse 5 is the same One whom the subsequent verses state shatters kings in his wrath, judges among the nations, and drinks from a brook, a uniquely human function, and therefore points to the Adonai being none other than David’s Lord, the Messiah.

This is further brought out by the fact that this Adonai is said to be at someone’s right hand which, in the immediate context, can only be the Adoni of verse 1. Compare the two verses:

110:1: The Lord says to my Lord (Adoni): “Sit at My [Yahweh’s] right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

110:5: The Lord (Adonai) is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.

In light of the foregoing, there is simply no way of escaping the fact that the Lord of verse 5 must be the very same Lord spoken of in verse 1. As the following Jewish Christian author explains:

“… Unlike v. 1, where the vowels used generally (although not exclusively) indicate a human master (’adoni) rather than God, in v. 5 the vowels indicate that it is certainly a Divine Master being described. This has led many commentators to assume that this is not the King at Yahweh’s right hand but instead Yahweh at the King’s right hand.57

Yet it is better to view this as the King at the right hand of God. First, grammatically, all the third-person singular pronouns in vv. 5-7 refer back to the Lord (’adonay).

The Lord [’adonay, the messianic king] is at Your right hand;

He will crush kings on the day of His anger.

He will judge the nations, heaping up corpses;

He will crush leaders over the entire world.

He will drink from the brook by the road;

therefore, He will lift up His head.

Plainly, it is the King who battles and drinks. Since there is no change in subject, it is the King who is called the Divine Lord (‘adonay) in v. 5. Edward J. Kissane notes the error of understanding ’adonay as Yahweh while taking the third singular pronouns that follow as referring to the King: ‘This introduces a change in subject of which there is no indication in the text. If the Messiah is the subject of v. 7, he must also be the subject of the preceding verses.’58

“Secondly, just as it is the Lord (’adoni) who is seated at the right hand of God in v. 1, so He is once again described in v. 5 as the one who is on the right hand of God. As Perowne says, ‘It is hardly probable that in so short a Psalm the King should first be said (ver. 1) to be at the right hand of Jehovah, and then that in ver. 5 Jehovah, on the contrary, should be said to be at the right hand of the King.’59 The logical conclusion is that the King is called ‘the Lord’ (’adonay), a title reserved for God alone. While it is possible to object that the King would not have been granted a divine title, there are implications of the King’s deity throughout the psalm. In light of Ps 45:6 saying to the King, ‘Your throne, God, is forever and ever,’ therein calling Him ‘God’ (’elohim), why is it so objectionable, apart from dogmatic presupposition, for Him to be called ‘Lord’ (’adonay) in this one?

“Thus, in 110:5-6 the victorious Divine Messiah is graphically depicted defeating all who have rebelled against God. He crushes kings and rulers, judges the people (nations), and heaps up corpses, indicating that no rebels will escape. The violence of the imagery recalls Isa 63:1-6, where the messianic King tramples through the winepress of the nations, staining His garments with blood and crushing nations in His anger.60 The psalmist says all this will occur on ‘the day of His anger,’ with the pronoun ‘His’ referring to the King. Since the phrase ‘day of anger’ (yom ’ap) occurs in only six verses in Scripture61 and in each case it refers to God’s wrath, this would imply that the triumphant King is indeed a divine King.62” (Michael Rydelnik, Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? [B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN 2010], pp. 178-179; bold emphasis ours)

57 VanGemeren, "Psalms," EBC 5:699; Kidner, Psalms 73-150, 396; Kraus, Psalm 60-150, 351-52; Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter, 262.

58 E. J. Kissane, The Book of Psalms (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, 1954), 2:194.

59 Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2:309.

60 Perowne has objected to the messianic interpretation of this section, wondering how it can describe the Messiah as "literally reigning from Zion" and engaging "in fierce and bloody war with his enemies" (The Book of Psalms, 2:296). This sort of objection stems from a false image of Jesus as the meek and mild one. Although at present "He will not break a bruised reed" (Isa 42:3), in the Hebrew Bible there are many wrathful images of the Messiah executing justice against the nations, such as Psalm 2 and Isaiah 63. There will one day be a literal battle in which the Messiah will crush all rebellion against the true God. D. Sayer' observation is helpful: "We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him 'meek and mild,' and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for plae curates and pious old ladies" (The Whimsical Christian: Eighteen Essays [New York: Macmillian, 1978], 14).

61 Job 20:28; Lam 2:1, 21-22; Zeph 2:2-3.

62 Davis, "Is Psalm 110 a Messianic Psalm?" 166. (Ibid.)

The NT confirms this exegesis by affirming that it is the Lord Jesus who comes with his holy ones to judge and execute his fierce wrath upon the wicked:

But when the Son of Man comes in HIS glory, and all the angels with HIM, then HE will sit on HIS glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before HIM; and HE will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and HE will put the sheep on HIS right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on HIS right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of MY Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’… Then HE will also say to those on HIS left, ‘Depart from ME, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;’… These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given ALL JUDGMENT to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” John 5:22-23

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

“Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from THE WRATH OF THE LAMB; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” Revelation 6:15-17

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’ Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’ And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.” Revelation 19:11-21

Nor is this the only place in the Holy Bible where the Lord Jesus is identified as Adonai.

According to the inspired Christian Scriptures, Jesus is the Lord Yahweh (Adonai YHWH) whom the prophet Isaiah said would come to dwell with his people after sending an envoy ahead of him to prepare his way:

A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way FOR THE Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway FOR OUR GOD. Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’… Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ Behold, the Lord God (Adonai YHWH) will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” Isaiah 40:3-5, 9-11

The NT identifies that envoy as John the Baptist, who came to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way; The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.”’ John the Baptist appeared IN THE WILDERNESS preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’” Mark 1:1-11 – cf. Matthew 3:1-3, 11-17; Luke 3:1-6, 15-17, 21-22 

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him AND CRIED OUT, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.”’… No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained HimHe said, ‘I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as Isaiah the prophet said.’… John answered them saying, ‘I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’ These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.’ John testified saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.’ Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!’” John 1:14-15, 18, 23, 26-36

“Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’” Acts 19:4

Hence, Jesus is the Lord Yahweh (Adonai YHWH) that came to reveal the glory of God to all flesh!

This, therefore, leaves Zaatari no choice but to accept the fact that, by calling the Messiah Adonai, both David and Isaiah were affirming that the Christ to come would be (and actually is) God Incarnate.

This now brings us to the final part of our rebuttal.