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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 2

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verse 1

David set forth his amazement in the form of a rhetorical question. He could not believe that the nations would try to do something that was sure to fail. It was senseless to reject God’s rule and ruler (cf. Acts 4:25-28; Romans 1:20-32). The people in the first part of Psalms 1 delight in the law, but the people in the first part of Psalms 2 defy the law.

Verses 1-3

1. The nations’ rebellion 2:1-3

David expressed amazement that the nations would try to overthrow the Lord and the king He had placed on Israel’s throne to serve as His vice-regent. If Israel’s kings submitted to the throne in heaven, they enjoyed God’s blessing and power. To the extent that they proved faithful to God, they carried out the will and plan of God on earth.

Verses 1-12

Psalms 2

In this "second psalm" (Acts 13:33), one of the most frequently quoted in the New Testament, David (Acts 4:25) exhorted the pagan nations surrounding Israel to forsake their efforts to oppose the Lord and His anointed king. He urged them to submit to the authority of the Son whom God has ordained to rule them (cf. 2 Samuel 10). The first and second psalms were always united as one in the rabbinical traditions. [Note: See Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50, p. 59.]

This is a royal psalm and, more specifically, a messianic psalm. The New Testament writers quoted from the royal psalms at least 27 times: from Psalms 2, 18 times, from Psalms 18, 45, once each, and from Psalms 110, seven times.

"Obviously many years and various levels of hope intervened between the psalm and the first-century application. The messianic vision, while not complete in the Psalms, develops somewhere in between. We can see this development more clearly in the prophets than in the Psalter. In fact, there is a self-contained messianism in the prophets that we do not find in the Psalms. In contrast, the messianic application of the Psalms develops within the interpretive process of the Jewish and Christian communities, although it is important to recognize that the raw material for the messianic vision is already laid out in the Psalms and is not merely an invention of those communities." [Note: Bullock, p. 183.]

"If you are thinking only of yourself as you read these Psalms you will never see what the book is really taking up, but once you understand something of God’s prophetic counsel, once you enter into His purpose in Christ Jesus for the people of Israel and the Gentile nations, you will realize how marvelously this book fits in with the divine program." [Note: Ironside, p. 16.]

Verse 2

When the nations opposed God’s vice-regent, they set themselves against the Lord Himself (cf. Acts 4:25-26). The term "Anointed" is really "Messiah" (Heb. masiah), which in Greek translates to "Christ" (christos). Every Israelite king anointed by a prophet was a messiah. Though we usually think of Jesus as the Messiah, He was the most faithful of many "messiahs" in Israel’s history. Since this psalm deals with Israel’s king it is a royal psalm, as are Psalms 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, , 144. The godly meditate on God’s words (Psalms 1:1), but these wicked rulers meditated on rebellion.

Verse 3

The nations did not want to continue to submit to the rule of God’s vice-regent, who was originally probably David himself. They wanted to be free of the restraints that bound their freedom: the taxes and limitations on them that David had imposed.

Verse 4

David envisioned God as ruler over all, sitting on His royal throne in heaven, not at all threatened or worried about the plan of the nations, but laughing at its futility. The figure of God sitting on His throne is a common personification that the psalmists used (cf. Psalms 9:11; Psalms 22:3; Psalms 29:10; Psalms 55:19; Psalms 102:12; Psalms 113:5; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:26; Revelation 4:2; Revelation 5:1). This is the only place in Scripture where the writer described God as laughing.

Verses 4-6

2. The Lord’s resolution 2:4-6

Verse 5

God also spoke to the nations. What He said, He spoke in anger, because they had refused to submit to the authority of His king, who was an extension of Himself.

Verse 6

Because God had installed His king on the throne of Israel, any rebellion against him would prove futile ultimately. God established the kings of Israel-with greater or less stability on their earthly thrones-depending on their submission to the throne in heaven. David was very faithful to represent God, though not completely faithful, so God established his throne quite solidly, which involved ability to control the nations around him. Jesus Christ was completely faithful to carry out God’s will on earth. He will, therefore, completely dominate His enemies. Other prophets also referred to the coming Messiah as David (cf. Is. 55:3-4; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:24-25; Ezekiel 37:24-25).

"Zion" is the name of the Canaanite city built on Mount Moriah that David conquered (2 Samuel 5:7). It became known as Jerusalem. Later, "Zion" was the term used to refer to the top area of that mount where the temple stood. It occurs frequently in the psalms as a poetic equivalent of Jerusalem, especially the future Jerusalem.

Verse 7

David’s reference to the Lord’s decree declaring David "God’s son" goes back to the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:14). There the Lord described the relationship He would have with David and the kings that would succeed him as that of a father with a son. This communicated to David his legitimate right to rule over Israel. The figure connotes warm affection rather than simply a formal relationship. In the ancient world a king’s son usually succeeded his father on the throne. In Israel, God wanted the kings to regard Him as their Father. From the giving of the Davidic Covenant onward, the term "son," when used of one of the Davidic kings, became a messianic title. It was in this sense that Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of God. That was a claim to be the Messiah. [Note: See Gerald Cooke, "The Israelite King as Son of God," Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 73:2 (June 1961):202-25; and Eugene H. Merrill, "The Book of Ruth: Narration and Shared Themes," Bibliotheca Sacra 142:566 (April-June 1985):136-37.]

The "today" in view then is not the day of David’s birth but his coronation, the day he became God’s "son" by becoming king (cf. Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Since this psalm deals with a royal coronation, scholars often refer to it as a coronation or enthronement psalm. God begot David in this metaphor not by creating him, though He did that too, but by setting him on the throne of Israel.

Verses 7-9

3. The king’s declaration 2:7-9

Psalms 2:6-7 are the climax of the psalm, the answer sought in Psalms 2:1-5 and expounded in Psalms 2:8-12. [Note: Kidner, p. 51.]

Verse 8

The Father invited His son, David, to ask for his inheritance. As the great universal King, God promised to give him all the nations of the earth for his inheritance (cf. Psalms 2:1). David personally never ruled the whole world, but David’s Son who would be completely faithful to His heavenly Father will do so someday (i.e., in the Millennium).

Verse 9

God will deal with all rebellious peoples severely when He sets up the Messiah on His throne. It was customary for the Egyptian Pharaoh to smash votive pottery jars that represented rebellious cities or nations with his scepter. [Note: Ross, p. 792.] Perhaps that practice was the source of the imagery used in this verse. "Rule" (NIV) really means "break" (Heb. ra’a’). The emphasis in this verse is on the putting down of rebels rather than the rule that will follow that subjugation. "Rod" describes a shepherd’s staff, a fitting scepter for Him who is the Shepherd of all humankind (cf. Psalms 23:4; Genesis 49:10; Revelation 2:27; Revelation 11:15-18; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15).

Verse 10

In view of the inevitability of judgment for rebellion, David exhorted the nations to submit before the wrath of the great King led Him to smite them. The leaders of these nations would be wise to bow in submission not only to David, but, what is more important, to the King behind him in heaven.

Verses 10-12

4. The psalmist’s exhortation 2:10-12

Verse 11

They should respond like the righteous by worshipping (serving), reverencing (fearing), rejoicing, and trembling before Him.

Verse 12

"Kissing" the son (NIV) is an act of submissive homage to the king (cf. 1 Kings 19:20; Hosea 13:2). [Note: See Chisholm, p. 266, n. 16, for discussion of the textual problem involving "son."] The custom of kissing the pope’s ring pictures the same thing. The human king and the Lord enjoy close association in this whole psalm. Their wrath and their pleasure are different only in the spheres in which they operate, the local and the cosmic. The nations would serve the Lord as they served His son, the king of Israel. Only by taking refuge in His anointed, rather than rebelling against him, could they avoid the wrath of God. "Trust" is the characteristic Old Testament word for the New Testament words "faith" and "believe." The Hebrew words for taking refuge in (e.g., Ruth 2:12), leaning on (e.g., Psalms 56:3), rolling on (e.g., Psalms 22:8), and waiting for (e.g., Job 35:14) all refer to trusting in. [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 602. See also Ronald B. Allen, Rediscovering Prophecy: A New Song for a New Kingdom, pp. 155-72.] Psalms 1 opened with a benediction, and Psalms 2 closes with one.

The Apostle Peter saw in the opposition of Israel’s leaders to Jesus a parallel with the refusal of the nations’ leaders in David’s day to submit to David’s authority (Acts 2:22-36). The writer to the Hebrews also saw a fulfillment of the coronation of God’s "son" in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Hebrews 1:5; cf. Hebrews 5:5). By that exaltation, Paul wrote, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God (cf. Romans 1:4). In another eternal sense, of course, Jesus was always God’s Son (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17). When God instructs His Son to ask for His inheritance, He will then bring Jesus back into the world (i.e., back to earth; Hebrews 1:6). Then the Anointed One will smash His enemies and rule over them with absolute control (cf. Revelation 19:11-21), but those who submit to Him will experience His protection and great joy (cf. Revelation 20:1-7).

"The 2nd Psalm gives the order of the establishment of the kingdom. It is in six parts: (1) The rage and the vain imagination of the Jews and Gentiles against the LORD and His Anointed (Psalms 2:1-3). The inspired interpretation of this is in Acts 4:25-28, which asserts its fulfillment in the crucifixion of Christ. (2) The derision of the LORD (Psalms 2:4), that men should suppose it possible to set aside His covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-17) and oath (Psalms 89:34-37). (3) The vexation (Psalms 2:5) fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70, and the dispersion of the Jews at that time; yet to be fulfilled more completely in the tribulation (Matthew 24:29 [sic 15-20]) which immediately precedes the return of the King (Matthew 24:30). (4) The establishment of the rejected King upon Zion (Psalms 2:6). (5) The subjection of the earth to the King’s rule (Psalms 2:7-9). And (6) the present appeal to the world powers (Psalms 2:10-12)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., pp. 601-2.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-2.html. 2012.
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