A Well Gendered Wedding in the Bible

Tucked into the Old Testament Psalter is an ode to a royal wedding. Psalm 45 has long been recognized as a composition to celebrate the nuptials of the king’s son in ancient Israel. The writer starts out confessing that his heart is swelling, just like as happens in weddings (v1). As commentator Keith Crim says, “Quite probably this hymn was used regularly for royal weddings.” Take note engaged couples looking for a God-honoring Scripture for your ceremony. But be warned. This is a heavily gendered poem.


In fact, what is neat about it, as you imagine it recited or sung to initiate a marital union, is how very gendered it is. Just like the New Testament passages about marriage, this ode from the Covenant of David makes a big deal about gender for the relationship. A thousand years or so don’t seem to make much difference in the important marital themes for the people of God. Marriage is meant to be gendered.


Eight verses are directed to the guy (vv2-9) and the next eight verses (vv10-17) address the girl. It really is beautiful sensual poetry, but also instructive. Our eyes are lifted to behold the ideal marriage.


The guy is called exceedingly handsome and blessed (v2), so sweet we think. Just what you want to hear at a wedding. But then the psalm launches into his military exploits. Why would this be appropriate for a couple’s union? Because this is the groom-prince’s mission, to gird his sword on his thigh (v3) and to go out and kick butt for the good, as the psalmist puts it, “for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness” (v4). We are looking for awesome deeds to flow from the strength of this man’s marriage, the writer says (v4). Wickedness will fall because of you taking authority as a man (v5, v7).


Then the ode sinks back into the frou-frou: fragrant robes and various spices that make the groom feel happy. Okay, la-dee-dah. It’s a wedding. But look more closely. These glad blessings shall come in his palace (v8, v15). In other words, this marriage will bring him home, bring him to a happy home.


The heart-swelled “ready scribe” describes the bride, for her part, as dressed in gold (v9, v13). (So much for the white dress standard.) We get a description of how glorious she looks (v13) and how desirable her beauty (v11). All very expected for a wedding. But she gets exhortations also from the psalmist: “Since he is your lord, bow to him” (v11). Yikes! Should that call to promote her husband in his authority be there in the ceremony? If they want to have a good marriage, apparently so; if they want an absolutely royal marriage. Then this princess is told to “forget” her family (v10) to begin her own.  She must leave her father and mother and cleave to her husband (Genesis 2:24)—he is her security now. “Instead of fathers you will have sons now” (v16), a deep comfort to a perhaps scared girl. And she will become wealthy (v12) and famous for her part in the mission, internationally famous in fact (v12, v17).


What will be one important part this golden wife plays? Of course as a composition of the Davidic kingdom, dynasty, righteous rule through all generations looms large. This is the thrust of the Davidic covenant, and the job of the prince and the princess is to bring forth children to rise up to keep it going (v16). She makes the righteous kingdom.



In the middle of all this, v6 addresses God about His eternal throne and scepter. It feels like an interruption. But it isn’t. It ties the king to God and, if our purposes are God’s, us to the King.


What a beautiful wedding.





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