The Queen in Gold of Ophir

Icon of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

The Wise and Foolish Virgins

The 45th Psalm is one of the so-called messianic psalms, which are psalms which refer directly to Jesus Christ as the Messiah. William N. Harding defines a Messianic psalm as follows.

A Messianic psalm is a psalm that makes predictions about the Messiah. These predictions include predictions about His birth, His person-that He would be fully God and fully man in one person, His life, His death, burial, and resurrection, His ascension into heaven, His priestly ministry, His second coming, His victory over His enemies, and His universal reign on the earth.[1] In general, there are two criteria used for determining a Messianic psalm. First, if the New Testament claims the psalm is about the Messiah; and second, if the psalm can only be applied to the Messiah, and not another human being.

This second criteria is too scholastic for my taste as it goes counter to a typological understanding of the Old Testament. In the book Why Mary Matters, Ithe importance of Typology for the Christological understanding of the Old Testament is discussed.

In theology, a type (or figure) is a form of foreshadowing, with the type serving as a figure of the fulfillment, or antitype. Typology is the means used to resolve the seeming incongruities between the Old and New Testaments. We have the witness of Christ himself, who “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). This exposition clearly contained a number of Christological types, as Jesus often used types as a means of demonstrating the continuity between the Old Testament and himself.

For example, Jesus drew a typological comparison between the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses with the manner in which the Son of Man, being lifted up, would draw all men to himself (John 3:14; 12:32). Jesus spoke of the prophet Jonas, drawing a comparison between how Jonah spend three days and nights in the whale’s belly, to how He would Himself spend three days and nights in the earth. In these passages, the Old Testament type prefigures the New Testament antitype, or fulfillment.[2]

Given this, the criteria that the Messianic psalm may only be about Christ, and cannot be applied to another human being, is unduly restrictive. In the case of the 45th psalm, a well-known Messianic psalm, the Messianic portion is often restricted to the verses 6-7, as these are quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9.[3] The reason why the whole psalm is often not thought to be Messianic is that much of the psalm seems to refer to Solomon and the daughter of Pharoah. Charles Hadden Spurgeon thinks this is shortsighted, and that the entire psalm is about Christ.[4] But if we examine the psalm typologically, it can have Solomon as the type, using the flowery language often used when referring to royalty, with Christ being the antitype, or the fulfillment.

If we accept that psalm 45 was written in celebration of Solomon and the daughter of Pharoah, then in what way could the psalm be about Christ? And more importantly, if Solomon is the type of Christ in this psalm, then the daughter of Pharoah is the type of whom?

Psalm 45

1      My heart is indicting a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
2      Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee forever.
3      Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
4      And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.
5      Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.
6      Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter.
7      Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
8      All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.


9       Kings’ daughters were among thy honorable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.
10     Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;
11     So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.
12     And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favor.
13     The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.
14     She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.
15     With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace.
16     Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.
17     I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.

The second half of psalm 45 concerns the queen, her virgin companions, and those who intreat the queen’s favor. Now if Solomon is the type of Christ in this psalm, then the daughter of Pharoah is the type of whom? This last a most interesting question, one for which the Protestant churches have an unsatisfactory answer. The first answer is to restrict the Messianic portion of the psalm verses 6-7, which is that portion quoted by the author of Hebrews. This is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons: first, because a biblical reference wasn’t just to the verse specifically quoted, but to the passage and its context; second, because verses 2-8 clearly may clearly be applied to Christ; and third, because a well-known Protestant hymn, Out of the Ivory Palaces, is derived from verse 8.

Out of the Ivory Palaces

My Lord has garments so wondrous fine,
And myrrh their texture fills;
Its fragrance reached to this heart of mine
With joy my being thrills.

Refrain:
Out of the ivory palaces,
Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love
Made my Savior go.

His life had also its sorrows sore,
For aloes had a part;
And when I think of the cross He bore,
My eyes with teardrops start.

[Refrain]

His garments, too, were in cassia dipped,
With healing in a touch;
In paths of sin had my feet e’er slipped—
He’s saved me from its clutch.

[Refrain]

In garments glorious He will come,
To open wide the door;
And I shall enter my heav’nly home,
To dwell forevermore.

[Refrain]

Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, says the references to the queen and her virgin companions are all references to either individual believers, or to the Church.[5] Spurgeon then interprets verse 12 to indicate the “daughter of Tyre” and the “rich among the people” are those outside the church who pay homage to her. He states that when the church is holy, “there shall be [no] lack of treasure in her coffers when grace is in her heart.”[6] Spurgeon does not seem to be interpreting this eschatologically, but implying this is an earthly bounty. In this, Spurgeon is following the general Protestant Reformed tradition which emphasized hard work, frugality, and diligence — which doctrine is the source of the Protestant work ethic.[7]  This hard work, frugality, and diligence, undertaken as a means of providing the individual with assurance of salvation, resulted in a degree of prosperity. In the eyes of some, earthly prosperity was understood both as evidence that they were among the elect, and therefore as a sign of God’s favor. Thus Spurgeon’s interpretation contains the seeds of what has become, in our modern era, the Prosperity Gospel.[8]

I contend that the latter half of psalm 45 is about the Virgin Mary. She is the “queen in gold of Ophir” (v.9); her beauty so desired of the king is not her outward appearance, but that of her heart (v.13); and that the Church is represented by the virgins who accompany her (v. 14), and who venerate her (v.12). To make sense of this, we first have to understand the position of the queen in the Old Testament. The queen was not the wife of the king, but his mother. The king often had many wives, but only one mother. This subject in described in detail in this quote from the book Why Mary Matters.

In Jeremiah we have the following: “Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.” Interestingly, the word for used for queen (הריבג, gebiyrah) actually means queen-mother. We see an example of this in the story of Athaliah, Queen Mother of Ahaziah, who ruled in her son’s stead after his death (2 Kings 11:1-20). The paradigmatic example of this is found in the relationship between Bathsheba and her son, King Solomon. Adonijah, who had attempted to usurp the throne of David, yet whose life was spared by Solomon, attempted to usurp the throne through trickery by means of a request made to Bathsheba; it was assumed that Solomon would grant Adonijah’s request for the virgin widow of his father David, thereby sealing Adonijah’s claim to the throne. Interestingly, in this story the king says he will not say no to his mother, yet ultimately denies the request of Adonijah (1 Kin 2:12-25).

The following illustration helps our understanding. There is a man in a sinking boat with his mother, his wife, and his daughter, and he can save only one of them. Who does he choose? In the East the answer is clearly the mother, because while a man may get married again, and may father a daughter again, he only has one mother. By this we come to an understanding of the Scriptural perspective on the Queen as the mother of King.[9]

So who is the mother of the Messiah? It can be none other than the Virgin Mary, accompanied by the Church, and honored by the Church.


[1] Harding, William N. “Messianic Psalms.” Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute. September 2008.
[2] Carlson, Kristofer. Why Mary Matters. 4th. Norfolk: Dormition Press, 2014. 296-297
[3] Living Word Bible Church. “The Messianic Psalms.” Living Word Bible Church. n.d. http://www.lwbc.co.uk/messianic_psalms.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).
[4] Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Treasury of David. Vol. I. III vols. Mclean: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1988. 315
[5] Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Treasury of David. Vol. I. III vols. Mclean: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1988. 319
[6] Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Treasury of David. Vol. I. III vols. Mclean: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1988. 320
[7] For more information, see Max Weber’s The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
[8] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/opinions/outlook/worst-ideas/prosperity-gospel.html
[9] Carlson, Kristofer. Why Mary Matters. 4th. Norfolk: Dormition Press, 2014. 357-358