Notes on Psalm 2
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 28 July 2013; Revised 14 September 2017
Scripture: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the psalm. References to the Mishnah and Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Quotations from the Targums are taken from Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation (2001).
Syntax: Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Hebrew words is taken from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981). Parsing information for Hebrew words is taken from John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament (Baker Book House, 1991). Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Greek words used in the Septuagint (LXX) is from Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich (The University of Chicago Press, 1957).
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish nature of Scripture I use the terms "Tanakh" (Old Testament) and "Besekh" (New Testament), as well as the terms "Yeshua" (Jesus) and "Messiah" (Christ). This commentary contains the Name of God. If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.
Chapter: 2 in the MT and LXX. See the Hebrew text and English translation at Biblos Interlinear Bible.
Psalm 2 is typically classified as a royal psalm due to the mention of installing the King of Israel, as well as Messianic due to it prominent usage by the apostles in reference to Yeshua.
Usage in the Besekh
· Psalm 2 is one the most frequently quoted psalms in the Besekh (verses 1-2, Acts 4:25-26; verse 7, Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5; verse 8, Rev 2:26; and verse 9, Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).
· Psalm 2 is actually referred to by number in the Besekh (Acts 13:33), which indicates that the chapter divisions were present in the Book of Psalms prior to the first century.
Psalm 2 was authored by David according to the apostle Peter (Acts 4:25), even though there is no superscription. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1 Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority.
Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14). Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 2Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:21).
David's family life is the subject of much analysis and not a little criticism among commentators. He was a polygamist with 8 wives and 10 concubines (2Sam 3:3-5, 13-14; 5:13; 12:7-8, 24; 15:16). The concubines were probably the servants of his wives (2Sam 6:20-22). He had 19 named sons of his wives, besides the sons of his concubines, and one named daughter, although many other daughters were born to him (1Chr 3:1-9; 14:3-7). Thus, his adultery with Bathsheba and conspiracy to kill her husband Uriah was especially egregious (2Sam 12:7-8).
Yet, in spite of his moral failure the Scripture record is highly complimentary of David. During the time of the divided kingdoms there is an oft repeated phrase to describe the good kings of Judah, "He walked before me as David his father walked" (1Kgs 3:3, 14; 11:4, 6, 33, 38; 14:8; 15:3, 5, 11; 2Kgs 14:3; 16:2; 18:3; 22:2). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
David also has a highly favorable standing in the Besekh. The apostles tell the story of Yeshua as the story of the Son of David from his birth (Matt 1:1; Rom 1:3; 2Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16). At least twelve times the apostolic narratives refer to him as "Son of David.” David is cited as a model of behavior (Matt 12:3), identified as a servant of God (Luke 1:69) and regarded as a Spirit-inspired prophet (Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 2:34; 4:25; Rom 11:9; Heb 4:7). David thus took his place in the roll call of faithful heroes (Heb 11:32). This was "David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will" (Acts 13:22).
The psalm is written in the form of a dramatic poem, in four stanzas of three verses each. Henry Morris suggests that the first stanza reflects David's perspective; the second stanza gives the viewpoint of the God the Father; the third is a statement by God the Son, and the fourth stanza would come from God the Holy Spirit (110). A trinitarian interpretation has value, but it is somewhat arbitrary and fails to recognize the significance of the Son in the context of the psalm and Hebrew theology. See the notes on verse 7.
Psalm 2 employs several figures of speech: rhetorical question (v. 1), anthropomorphism (v. 4, "sits," "laughs," "scoffs"), and metaphor (v. 7, "begotten"; v. 9, "rod of iron," "earthenware").
This is one of many psalms with no indication of a specific historical situation. The scenario may be one in which an alliance of nations intend to attack Israel, or merely rebel against subjugation by Israel. See the note on verse 1.
1 Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?
Why: Heb. mah, interrogative pronoun, here used adverbially. are the nations: Heb. goyim, (plural of goy), nation or people. In the Tanakh goyim usually refers to non-Hebrew peoples or nations (Ex 9:24; Ps 33:10, 12), but frequently includes the descendants of Abraham and/or Israel (cf. Gen 12:2; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). Given the authorship by David the nations could easily refer to the Philistines, Amalekites, Moabites, Arameans, Ammonites and Edomites with whom David engaged in war and defeated (see the summary in 2 Samuel 8). In a Messianic sense the psalm anticipates the first coming of Yeshua. In an eschatological sense the psalm could anticipate either the conditions preceding the millennium (Rev 19:11-21) or at the end of the millennium (Rev 20:7-9).
in an uproar: Heb. ragash, Qal perfect, to be in a tumult or commotion. Owens translates as "conspire." and the peoples: plural of Heb. leōm, people generally, citizens of the nations. devising: Heb. hagah, Qal imperfect, to moan, growl, utter, speak, or muse. The LXX has melataō, to give careful thought to. The verb indicates an ongoing activity. Alter translates as "murmur." The verb is the same as "meditate" in Psalm 1:2 and it may suggest the murmuring of the conspirators as they forge their futile plans (Anderson). a vain thing: Heb. riyq, emptiness or vanity. Their muttering achieves no purpose. The death of the old King and the accession of the new one were frequently the signal for a rebellion among the subject nations (Anderson). In that light the setting would be well after the revelation of 2 Samuel 7:12-14 and toward the period of anticipating the succession of Solomon.
2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
The kings: plural of Heb. melek, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate melek. In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one man. of the earth: Heb. erets may designate (1) the earth in its entirety; (2) the earth in contrast to the heavens; (3) the inhabitants of the earth; (4) a particular territory or region; (5) soil as productive or (6) the ground, land as contrasted with the sea. In context erets may be taken in a global sense but at least lands contiguous with Israel or under the subjugation by Israel. Alter says that the hyperbolic idiom "transposes what might well have been a local political uprising into something like a grand global confrontation."
Barclay notes that the phrase "kings of the earth" occurs several times in Revelation (1:5; 6:15; 17:2, 18; 18:3, 9; 19:19) to describe earthly potentates in opposition to God, the King of kings (65). They oppose God's Messiah, but in the end they will bow to him. take their stand: Heb. yatsab, Hitpael imperfect, to set or station oneself, to take one's stand. The imperfect tense likely indicates an ongoing preparation, not a final position. The underlying thought is that of preparing for battle (Anderson). and the rulers: Heb. razan, Qal active participle, to be weighty, judicious or commanding. Here the participle functions as a substantive meaning rulers or potentates and functions as a synonym of 'kings.' take counsel: Heb. yasad, Niphal perfect, to fix or seat themselves close together sit in conclave. together: Heb. yachad, adverb, from the root echad, unitedness.
against the LORD: Heb. YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the tetragrammaton of the God of Israel, referred to in Judaism as either Adonai (Lord) or Hashem (the Name). YHVH dominates in the Tanakh, first occurring in Genesis 2:4. While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). Translating YHVH with "the LORD" is actually strange since there is no definite article associated with the Hebrew name and it would be equivalent to saying "the Jesus." The Genesis narrative identifies YHVH on the lips of Eve (Gen 4:1), then Seth and his descendants when "men began to call upon the name of YHVH" (Gen 4:26), Lamech, father of Noah on the occasion of his birth (Gen 5:29) and then by Noah himself when he blessed the line of Shem (Gen 9:26).
Abraham addressed the One who called him out of Ur as YHVH Elohim (Gen 15:2) and in that conversation God offered his first self-revelation as YHVH (Gen 15:7). The prolific use of YHVH in the book of Genesis presents something of a conundrum because God told Moses, "I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty [Heb. El Shaddai], but by My name, LORD [Heb. YHVH], I did not make Myself known to them" (Ex 6:3; cf. Gen 17:1). The statement implies that Moses inserted YHVH into the Genesis narrative. The rationale could be two-fold: (1) the usage of YHVH in Genesis asserts that the Creator-God is the God of Israel; and (2) the usage of YHVH also demonstrates that the true people of God had always worshipped the Holy One of Israel.
Nevertheless, by Moses' own record God also revealed his Name to Abraham, "I am the LORD [Heb. YHVH] who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it" (Gen 15:7). Thus, the patriarchs (and those before them) were not ignorant of YHVH. The point of Exodus 6:3 is that the God of the fathers not only had established his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but had now heard the groaning of the children of Israel and remembered his covenant. The significance of the revelation to Moses and all Israel, not previously explained, is that YHVH is a deliverer and redeemer. See my article The Blessed Name for more discussion on this subject.
and against His Anointed: Heb. Mashiach means 'anointed one' or 'poured on.’ Mashiach was used in the Tanakh for (1) the patriarchs (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:15); (2) the High Priest, Lev 4:5; (3) the King, 1Sam 12:3; 2Sam 22:51; Isa 45:1; and (4) the Messiah, Dan 9:25-26. This last usage defined the term in the first century A.D. The significance of being known as "The Anointed One" is that Israelite kings were crowned and priests were ordained in a ceremony of anointing with olive oil, which invested them with the authority of their positions. The LXX rendered the title with Christos. In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT, II, 334). By using Christos the Jewish translators of the LXX infused new meaning into the Greek word.
Alter says that the term mashiach is used here "in its political sense as the designation of the legitimate current heir to the Davidic dynasty, without eschatological implications" (5). On the contrary, the eschatological setting cannot be dismissed. The psalm, as the apostle Peter says, was inspired by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:25). It's very likely, as Henry Morris suggests, that David was "carried forward" into the future by the Holy Spirit and saw a great company of nations and peoples assembled, perhaps in many times and places, and heard their speeches against God (110). Thus, David disturbed and confused by what the Holy Spirit has revealed, cries out "Why?"
Peter in his address to the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:25-28) sees the setting of the crucifixion as predicted here with the roles of kings and rulers fulfilled by Herod and Pilate respectively, and those of nations and peoples by 'the Gentiles and the peoples' (plural, as in the psalm) 'of Israel', united against the Lord's anointed, or in Greek, his Christ (Kidner 67). This scene is also reflected in the great final battle when the kings of the earth and their armies gather in Israel to make war against the Anointed One (Zech 12:3; 14:2; Rev 16:16; 19:19).
3 "Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!"
Let us tear apart: Heb. nathaq, Piel imperfect, 1st person plural, to pull, draw, or tear away, apart, or off. The Piel form means to tear apart or to snap. their fetters: plural of Heb. mosêr, a band or bond used to restrain, whether literally of animals or humans or figuratively of distress, captivity or political rule. and cast away: Heb. shalak, Hiphal imperfect, to throw, fling or cast. their cords: Heb. aboth, cord, rope or cordage, made of twisted fibers. from us: These words are not in the Hebrew text. This verse is composed in the form of a synthetic parallelism in which the second part extends the thought of the first participle.
Given their purpose statement the Gentile nations apparently consider that the rule of the King of Israel to be oppressive and their desire to tear apart the bonds indicates a conspiracy to rebel against God's authority. Yet, complaining about the bonds indicates a failure to recognize their purpose. God's point of view is aptly described in Hosea 11:4, "I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love" (ESV). The fetters of the Lord are intended to provide guidance and direction to go in His way, as well as preventing harm from going the wrong way.
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.
He who sits: Heb. yashab, Qal active participle, to sit (on a seat or sit down), remain (stay or tarry) or dwell. "He" is the God of Israel and Scripture affirms that God sits on a throne (Ps 47:8; Matt 23:22; Rev 4:9, 10; 5:13; 6:16; 7:10). in the heavens: Heb. hashamayim (“the heavens”), which is only translated into the plural 51 out of the 667 times it occurs in the Tanakh. Scripture affirms that the throne of YHVH is in heaven (1Kgs 22:19; Ps 11:4; 103:19; Isa 66:1; Matt 5:34; 23:22; Acts 7:49; Heb 8:1; Rev 4:2). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to at least three different places (Ps 148:1-4).
· The first usage in the Bible is Genesis 1:1 where hashamayim, "the heavens" is mentioned in contrast to the earth. "The heavens,” or interstellar space, is the name given the expanse stretched out from the initial watery black hole (Gen 1:8) and then populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation to give light to the earth.
· The second use of heaven refers to the atmosphere or "face" of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; 1Kgs 21:24; Rev 19:17) and from which comes rain, snow, dew, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Deut 11:11; 33:13; Job 38:29; 1Sam 2:10; 2Kgs 1:10; Isa 55:10; Matt 6:26).
· Finally, the third heaven is the abode of God the Father, the home of angels and the place where Yeshua sits at the right hand of God (1Kgs 8:30; 2Chr 30:27; Job 16:19; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2-4; Eph 1:20). "He who sits in the heavens" contrasts with David who had his throne in Jerusalem.
laughs: Heb. sachaq, Qal imperfect, to laugh, usually in contempt or derision in relation to someone. The verb acts as an anthropomorphism. It is a vivid word picture to consider the Holy One laughing about something. the Lord: Heb. Adonai, Lord. Adonai is a plural intensive or emphatic form of adōn ('master, owner'), which normally refers to men to indicate rank, authority or possession of something or someone (TWOT 1:12). Adonai occurs numerous times in the Psalms to refer to God, sometimes as a substitute for YHVH or often in combination with YHVH, such as "YHVH our Lord" in Psalm 8:1. The Messiah bears this title in Psalm 110:1. The LXX translates Adonai with Kurios, the most frequent title used by the apostles of Yeshua. So, instead of God the Father laughing, it could be the heavenly Son of Man. scoffs: Heb. la'ag, Qal imperfect, to mock or deride. at them: Heb. la'mon, preposition 3rd person plural suffix. The Gentile nations are the objects of God's amusement and derision. The very idea that man can eliminate God's sovereign rule is the biggest joke in the universe.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying,
Then: Heb. az, adverb, a temporal time reference, 'at that time,' 'then.' Anderson comments that the adverb marks the turning point at which the hidden God will make himself known as the God who intervenes in history. He will speak: Heb. dabar, Piel imperfect, to speak, i.e., to communicate, although it may be by various means. to them in His anger: Heb. aph, nostril, nose, face or anger, which is evident by a change in facial expression. The LXX translates aph with Grk. orgê (anger, indignation or wrath). Orgê is the preferred word in the apostolic writings for the judgment of God at the end of the age (Rev 11:18; 16:19; 19:15; cf. Matt 3:7; Luke 21:23; Rom 5:9; 1Th 1:10; 5:9). The word "wrath" refers to God's anger at sin and the resulting punishment that He imposes as a just recompense.
and terrify: Heb. bahal, Piel imperfect, to disturb, dismay or terrify. them in His fury: Heb. charon, burning of anger. The LXX translates charon with Grk. thumos (intense desire, passion, anger or wrath). The Hebrew has at least six different words for anger, but there are only two words for anger in the Greek language, thumos and orgê. Thumos was described as being like the flame which comes from dried straw. It quickly blazes up and just as quickly dies down. Orgê is long-lived anger, an anger that has been nursed, an anger of brooding over an offense and not allowed to die. However, in the LXX there is virtually no distinction between thumos and orgê. Both terms are used synonymously and appear for the same numerous Hebrew equivalents.
God's wrath began in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve received the predicted penalty of disobedience (Gen 2:17; 1Cor 15:22). Because of being born into Adam's race all people are by nature "children of wrath" (Eph 2:3). The first occurrence of a word for God's wrath in Scripture is in Numbers 16:46, referring to a plague God sent upon His people for grumbling. Thereafter, most of the references to God's wrath in Scripture pertain to punishment of Israel for sinning. God's wrath will eventually be completed in the Day of Wrath in the last days when He will judge the world with fire and destroy the wicked (Isa 2:12; 13:6-13; Jer 46:10; Lam 2:22; Ezek 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1, 11, 31; 3:9-14; Amos 5:18-20; Obad 1:15; Zeph 1:14-18; 2:2f; Zech 14:1-9; Mal 4:5; Acts 2:20; 1Th 5:2; 2Pet 3:10).
saying: added since a quotation follows in verse 6. The verse is a synonymous parallelism, with no substantive difference between "anger" and "fury," although "fury" would be considered a more intensive word. While many think of God as a nice old man who wouldn't hurt anyone, Scripture reveals Him as a holy God who punishes rebellion against his authority and standards.
6 "But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain."
But as for Me: lit. "And I." Kohlenberger has "Indeed I." I have installed: Heb. nasak, Qal perfect, has three completely different meanings, [I] to pour out, whether in a sacrificial offering (Ps 16:4) or casting metal (Isa 40:19); [II] to weave (Isa 25:7); and [III] to set or install (Prov 8:23). BDB applies the third meaning to this verse (651), as does Owens. Morris suggests that the first meaning is also appropriate in the sense of pouring out of Messiah's blood in atonement for sin (114). The Besekh affirms that the Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). The opening clause presents a double first person conjunction-pronoun and perfect tense verb to emphasize the absolute finality of the action.
My King: See the note on verse 2. upon Zion: Heb. Tsiyyōn, (LXX Ziōn) is the transliteration of the Hebrew and Greek words that originally referred to the fortified hill of pre-Israelite Jerusalem between the Kidron and Tyropoeon valleys. Nothing certain is known of its meaning. BDB suggests a connection to tsiyyun ("sign-post, monument") (851, 846). Gesenius says the original meaning was "a sunny place" or "sunny mountain," but is probably comparable to an Arabic word meaning "fortress" (708). NIBD follows Gesenius and suggests "fortification" (1126). TWOT suggests it is possibly related to the Arabic sāna meaning 'protect, defend;' hence tsiyyon may have meant 'place of defense,' or 'fortress' (2:764).
My holy: Heb. qodesh, adjective, apartness, sacredness. mountain: Heb. har, mountain, hill, or hill-country. In Scripture har often refers to a large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation. English Bible versions reflect the arbitrary standard of modern science in many passages, rather than recognizing that a single Hebrew and Greek word was used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height. Mount Zion at over 2,500 feet above sea level is the highest point in Jerusalem.
The first mention of Zion in the Bible is in 2 Samuel 5:7, "David captured the stronghold of Zion, that is the city of David." Prior to this point the stronghold had been held by the Jebusites. After the victory David renamed the mountain in his honor and called it the City of David. From this point the city expanded to cover seven mountains: Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (Neil 289). Eventually Mount Zion became a euphemism for the city of Jerusalem (Ps 48:1-2; 51:18; 102:21; 128:5; 135:21; 147:12; Isa 2:3) and by extension the nation of Israel (Ps 125:1; Isa 46:13; 59:20). "My King" and "My holy mountain" reflects the possessiveness felt by the God of Israel toward this special place. Any occupation by foreign armies or false religions desecrates the ground and invokes the wrath of God.
The apostles recognized David as a prophet (cf. Acts 1:16; 2:25, 34; 4:25; Rom 4:6; 11:9; Heb 4:7) and here David anticipates the word of the LORD through Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zech 9:9)
7 "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
I will surely tell: Heb. saphar, Piel imperfect, 1st person, to count, recount or relate. of the decree: Heb. choq, something prescribed or owed, a statute. The term particularly relates to the Messianic king. The word is used in Psalm 105:10 of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of whom God promised a Seed. of the LORD: Heb. YHVH, the God of Israel. See the note on verse 2 above. He said to Me: David says that YHVH spoke to him, but the declaration also refers proleptically to Yeshua (cf. Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). The clause introduces a direct quotation, consisting of the rest of this verse through verse 9, since ancient mss. had no punctuation for that purpose.
You are My Son: Heb. ben, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. The Hebrew word is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5); (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25). According to Scripture all Israelites are sons of God (Isa 43:6; Hos 1:10; cf. Matt 17:25-26; 2Cor 6:18), because Israel is collectively the son of God (Ex 4:22). Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38). Yet, there is one special individual who can be rightly called God's son, because David was given a pledge as affirmed in these passages:
"When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me." (2Sam 7:12-14)
"Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!" (Prov 30:4)
God's promise that he would bring His Anointed from the line of David explains the presence of the genealogies in the apostolic narratives. The apostles demonstrated that Yeshua is the expected son of David on both sides of the family tree. David's words in Psalm 2:7 are replicated in Paul's sermon at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:33) and twice in his letter to the Hebrews (1:5; 5:5). "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority (Leman 95). It was commonplace in the ancient Near East to consider the king as God's son (Alter 6).
Today: Heb. yom, day or daylight. Yom is generally used in Scripture as a specific division of time denoting the daytime portion of a 24-hour day (Gen 1:5) or a complete solar/lunar cycle of 24 hours (Ex 2:13). The eternal God created time "in the beginning" and time will continue to function until the consummation of all things. With the definite article "ha" the meaning is "this day." "Today" introduces a prolepsis, the representation of something in the future as if it already existed. Indeed God's sovereign decision occurred before the world began (cf. Matt 13:35; John 17:5, 24; 1Pet 1:20; 1Jn 1:1; Rev 13:8).
I: Heb. ani, person pr., myself or I. The pronoun emphasizes that God and no other has accomplished the action. have begotten You: Heb. yalad, Qal perfect, 2nd person, to bear, bring forth or beget, used figuratively to formally install the king into theocratic rights. The verb functions as a synonymous parallelism to "I have installed" in the previous verse. The psalm as prophetic Scripture not only referred to David's own installation and reign as king, but anticipates his descendant who would be anointed as king over Israel and serve as God's regent on the earth (cf. 2Sam 7:8-29; Isa 9:2-7; 11:1-9; Jer 23:5-6; 30:9; 33:15, 17, 22; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24; Hos 3:5; Amos 9:11; Mic 5:2).
By the first century the widely accepted rabbinic viewpoint was that the Messiah would be a biological descendant of King David, known as Mashiach ben David (Sanh. 38a; 97a; Sukk. 52a). The Talmud connects the Messiah with David in an interesting manner. "The Messiah-as it is written, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge of the fear of the Lord (Sanh. 93b). The quotation in the tractate is taken from Isaiah 11:2, which follows the revelation in verse 1: "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit" (Isa 11:1).
The Besekh likewise states plainly that Yeshua is a descendant of King David and heir to the throne (Matt 1:1-16; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9; Mark 10:47; Luke 1:32; 18:38-39; Acts 13:22-23, 32-34; Rom 1:3; 2Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5). Moreover, in fulfillment of this verse Yeshua was begotten of God in a literal sense in terms of his birth (Matt 1:16; 2:2; Luke 1:35; John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Heb 11:17; 1Jn 4:9). Yeshua was also begotten in the sense of his resurrection. Paul declared Yeshua as the "firstborn from the dead" (Col 1:18) and that his resurrection fulfilled this verse of Psalm 2 (Acts 13:33).
8 'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
David continues the revelation he received from the God of Israel. Ask: Heb. sha'al, Qal imp., to ask or inquire. of Me: Heb. min, 1st person preposition, 'from'. and I will surely give: Heb. nathan, Qal imperfect, to give, put or set. the nations: See the note on verse 1 above. as Your inheritance: Heb. nachalah, property, possession or inheritance. And the very ends: plural of Heb. ephes, a ceasing, end or extremity, here figuratively of the horizon in every direction. of the earth: Heb. erets. See the note on verse 2 above. as Your possession: Heb. achuzzah, a possession, used of something to which one has property rights. Just as the Messiah triumphed over death, so he will gain the nations as an inheritance.
9 'You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.' "
David continues the revelation he received from the God of Israel. You shall break: Heb ra'a, Qal imperfect The verb has two forms, (1) to afflict and (2) to break, which is used in this psalm. BDB identifies the second form as an Aramaic loan-word. The Aramaic language is very old having originated in Aram and dating from the first half of the first millennium BC (cf. Gen 31:47). Aramaic was important for trade throughout the lands north and east of Israel and its not surprising that some Aramaic words found their way into the Hebrew language, just as English has been influenced by other languages.
Ironically, the LXX translates ra'a with Grk. poimainō, which means to herd, tend or (lead to) pasture (cf. 1Cor 9:7). Neil points out that without the vowel pointing that was added to Hebrew manuscripts, the word could be translated as either "to break" or "to shepherd" (274). The Jewish translators of the LXX believed that the Psalmist intended the word to mean "shepherd.” While poimainō can be a euphemism for governing (e.g. Acts 20:28; 1Pet 5:2), the word carries the sense of protective administration, not oppressive dictatorship.
them with a rod: Heb. shebet, rod, staff, club, or scepter. A rod or staff may be used for smiting. The club refers to a shepherd's instrument used in mustering or counting sheep. The scepter is a mark of authority. The LXX translates shebet with Grk. rabdos, which refers to any rod, stick or staff. Rabdos also referred to the ruler's staff or scepter, which is probably the intent here (cf. Heb 1:8). of iron: Heb. barzel, iron, one of the most abundant metals on earth. Iron forms much of Earth's outer and inner core, and it is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust. Iron metal has been used since ancient times, though lower-melting copper alloys were used first in history. Pure iron is soft (softer than aluminum). The material is significantly hardened and strengthened by impurities from the smelting process.
The use of the rod of iron could be taken in this sense. The Son will set aside human government, destroy His enemies and establish a theocracy. God has reserved to Himself the right to execute vengeance and He will do justice for His people in the Day of the Lord. Another consideration is that the shepherd's staff or club is wielded to ward off attacks of marauding beasts. So, the metaphor the "rod of iron" or "ruler's scepter" implies not an oppressive dictatorial rule but the might of God which cannot be defeated or overthrown by any internal or external enemy. Only the Son can possess the scepter, and the benefit of the Son's power is a stable and beneficent government.
You shall shatter: Heb. naphats, Piel imperfect, to shatter, sunder or dash to pieces. LXX has Grk. suntribo, to shatter, smash or crush. The point of the verb is to alter the condition of something through force. In any event the LXX appears to put the verb "shatter" in contradistinction to "shepherd." them like earthenware: translates two Hebrew words - Heb. yatsar, Qal active participle, formed or fashioned, and Heb. keli, an article, utensil or vessel, lit. "potter's vessel" (Owens). The allusion to the pottery being broken seems out of place, which appears to be happening at the same time as the ruling. This verse is quoted in Revelation 2:27 and Marshall's literal rendering of the Greek is helpful: "and he will shepherd them with an iron staff as the vessels of clay are [being] broken.” There are two significant uses of pottery as a metaphor in the Scriptures. First, Israel was viewed as clay in the Lord's hands, as the Scripture says, "We are the clay, and You our potter" (Isa 64:8) and again, "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel" (Jer 18:6).
With this metaphor Jeremiah prophesied Jerusalem's fall to the Babylonians, "Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter's vessel" (Jer 19:11). The purpose of breaking the human vessels is to bring about repentance. The stubbornness of rebellion has to be overcome. The rod stands for God's enforcement standard of His justice and righteousness as spelled out in the Torah (Ps 23:4; 119:67, 71, 75; Prov 22:15; 13:24). The nations that oppose God's reign are destroyed as the Torah requires, but salvation is offered to those who will repent and submit to the righteous requirements of God's Torah. To rule with the rod of iron means the code of conduct is unbending and absolute. What sinners do not realize is that the greatest security, protection and blessing are found by living within the boundaries God has established.
10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Now therefore, O kings: Heb. melek. See the note on verse 2 above. show discernment: Heb. sakal, Hiphil imp., be prudent, consider. Take warning: Heb. yasar, Niphal imp., be corrected or be admonished. O judges: Heb. shaphat, Qal active participle, to judge or govern. Owens translates as "rulers." In Israel the judges received a divine call to office with the mission to deliver from oppressors, to act as rulers, to decide controversies, to enforce judicial decisions, and to act as God's agents. of the earth: Heb. erets. See the note on verse 2 above. The translation of "land" also works here in reference to Israel. All those with authority should take warning.
11 Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling.
Worship: Heb. abad, Qal imp., to work or serve. The primary thrust of the verb is submissive obedience. God expects to be first in the affections of His people. The faithful God demands faithfulness and loyalty in return. the LORD: Heb. YHVH, the God of Israel. See the note on verse 2 above. with reverence: Heb. yirah, a fear, here in the sense of reverent piety. David is not talking about a "toxic terror" that keeps one from loving the Lord with all one's heart, soul, mind and strength. As Paul said, "knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men" (2Cor 5:11). And rejoice: Heb. gil, rejoice, be excited. with trembling: Heb. ra'ad, preposition, trembling.
In Psalm 2 God clearly offers the way of grace to the Gentiles. The enemies of Israel among the nations would be defeated and destroyed, but God issued an invitation to the Gentiles to join His people in worship (Ps 2:11) and promises the blessing of refuge, because He always intended to give them a place in Israel (cf. Ex 12:48f; Isa 45:22; 66:18; Ezek 47:22f; Rom 11:17). This is the mystery Paul refers to that God revealed to him (Eph 3:4-6).
12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
Do homage: Heb. nashaq, Piel imp., to kiss, a symbolic gesture of contact with one's lips indicating respect or regard, without indication of manner. The Piel form indicates intensive action, which conveys a sense of urgency in light of the rest of the verse. The verb is translated lit. in the ASV, CJB, ESV, GW, HNV, KJV, LEB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, OJB and RSV. A few versions (HCSB, NET, TEV, WEB) translate the command idiomatically as the NASB with "do homage" or similar words. Kissing in greeting or departure was a Middle Eastern custom. Scripture generally speaks of kissing in the context of familial affection, such as between father and children (Gen 27:27; 31:55; 48:10), husband and wife (Gen 29:11; SS 1:1), between siblings (Gen 33:4; 45:15) and other family relations (Ruth 1:14).
Kissing might also be a seal of forgiveness and restoration (Gen 45:15; Luke 15:20). The actual point of contact is only mentioned three times: on the lips (Prov 24:26), on the neck (Gen 33:4) and the feet (Luke 7:38). The apostle Paul encouraged sharing a holy kiss (Rom 16:16; 1Cor 16:20; 2Cor 13:12; 1Th 5:26). An important aspect of a "holy kiss" is it reflects sincerity and transparency. As Solomon says, "An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. … Don't be a witness against your neighbor without cause. Don't deceive with your lips" (Prov 24:26, 28 HNV). And, of course, Judas betrayed Yeshua with a kiss of deceit and not a holy kiss.
to the Son: Aram. bar, son, a loanword to the Hebrew language with the same meaning as ben. (Aramaic is called Chaldee in older commentaries and lexical works because of its use in the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia.) The Aramaic word occurs only four times in the Tanakh (Prov 31:2, three times). See the note on verse 7 above. The CEB, NRSV and RSV translate the opening words as "kiss his feet." In contrast to the Hebrew text the LXX, the Targum and the Vulgate translate the opening words with "grasp (or take hold of) instruction." Clarke suggests that these versions understood "kiss the son" as to embrace that which is pure; namely, the doctrine of God. Kissing was the token of subjection and friendship.
that He not become angry: Heb. anaph, Qal imperfect, to breathe, to snort, to be angry. and you perish: Heb. abad, to perish or die, here to be exterminated as a judgment for sin. in the way: Heb. derek, way, road, distance, or journey in a literal sense, or way or manner in a figurative sense. The LXX translates "way" as "the righteous way." For His wrath: Heb. aph. See the note on verse 5 above. may soon: Heb. me'at, little, fewness, a few. be kindled: Heb ba'ar, Qal imperfect, to burn or consume.
How blessed: Heb. esher, happiness, joyfulness, blessedness and fortunate all at the same time. Esher comes from the root word ashar, which means to go (straight), or to walk. Some translations use the word "happy" but this is inadequate because the root of the English word "happy" is "hap" which means chance. For most people without God happiness comes as a result of good luck. However, the Hebrew viewpoint is that a "blessing" is a purposeful endowment (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser. Blessedness can never be self-imposed nor come by accident. The only source of blessing is God. are all who take refuge: Heb. chasah, Qal active participle, to seek refuge, shelter or protection. in Him: Heb. bo, preposition 3rd person suffix, 'in him,' meaning God.
ABP: Charles Van der Pool, The Apostolic Bible Polyglot (An interlinear Septuagint, LXX, with English translation) The Apostolic Press, 2006. Psalm 2 online.
Alter: Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.
Anderson: A.A. Anderson, Psalms 1-72. The New Century Bible Commentary. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Lord is My Shepherd: Expositions of Selected Psalms. The Westminster Press, 1980.
Clarke: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (1826). Ed. Ralph Earle. Baker Book House, 1967. Also online.
Cook: Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation. 2001. Online.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Gesenius: Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (1846). Trans. by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Baker Book House, 1979. Also online.
Kidner: Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP Academic, 2009.
Kohlenberger: John R. Kohlenberger III, The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament. Zondervan Pub. House, 1987.
Leman: Derek Leman, A New Look at the Old Testament. Mt. Olive Press, 2006.
Morris: Henry M. Morris, Sampling the Psalms: A Scientific & Devotional Study of Selected Psalms. Master Books, 1991.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press, 1980.
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