Zadok the Priest

This was how this Sunday’s sermon was going to start, but by the time I’d finished the sermon it no longer fit. So, have it as some random musings.

I spent way too much time this week trying to find out where the line, ‘May The King live forever’ in yesterday’s coronation swearing of allegiance came from. If you participated in the ‘homage of the people,’ which replaced the previous ‘homage of the peers,’ you were invited to respond to the Archbishop of Canterbury saying, ‘God save The King’ by replying, ‘God save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May The King live for ever.’ ‘May the king live forever’ struck me as a strange thing to say, so I took a deep dive into whence that line came. You may have previously heard it in the coronation anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’ by George Frideric Handel, written for the coronation of George II in 1727. The words that are sung are:

Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king.
And all the people rejoiced and said:
God save the King! Long live the King! God save the King!
May the King live for ever. Amen. Hallelujah.

Handel took the words from an older chant that was said to be based on 1 Kings 1:38-40. But in that passage, after Zadok anoints Solomon with oil, ‘all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!”. I did check whether this was a translation issue, thinking that maybe ‘May the king live forever’ came from the Latin Vulgate Bible, or from the King James English translation. But no. Earlier in that chapter of 1 Kings Bathsheba is called to see King David, and the Bible does tell us, ‘Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground, and did obeisance to the king, and said, “May my lord King David live for ever!”’ (1 Kings 1:31). But that is the only time it is ever said to a Jewish monarch, and then by someone we suspect was a Gentile. The only other monarch to whom it is said in the Bible is the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, in the Book of Daniel.


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1 Response to Zadok the Priest

  1. Pingback: Swearing allegiance or reaffirming reality? (2) – An Informed Faith

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