INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 2
This psalm is the second in order, and so it is called in Acts 13:33; which shows that the book of Psalms was in the same form in the apostles' days as now, and as it ever had been; and though it is without a title, yet certain it is that it is a psalm of David, since the twelve apostles of Christ with one voice ascribe it to him, in which no doubt they the generally received sense of the Jewish Acts 4:24; and the Messiah is the subject of and that it is a prophecy concerning him, his person, office, and kingdom, appears from the express mention of the Lord's Anointed, or Messiah, in his being set as King over Zion, notwithstanding the opposition made against him; from the person spoken of being called the Son of God, and that in such sense as angels and men are not, and therefore cannot belong to any creature; and from his having so large an inheritance, and such power over the Heathen; and from the reverence, service, and obedience due to him from the kings and judges of the earth; and from the trust and confidence which is to be put in him, which ought not to be placed but in a divine Person; and more especially this appears from several passages cited out of it in the New Testament, and applied to the Messiah, Acts 4:25, to which may be added, that the ancient Jewish doctors interpreted this psalm of the Messiah
Why do the Heathen rage,.... Or "the nations"; which some understand of the Jews, who are so called, Genesis 17:5; because of their various tribes; and of their rage against the Messiah there have been many instances; as when they gnashed upon him with their teeth, and at several times took up stones to stone him, and cried out in a most furious and wrathful manner, crucify him, crucify him, Luke 4:28; though it is best to interpret it of the Gentiles, as the apostles seem to do in Acts 4:27. The Hebrew word translated "rage" is by one Jewish writer
and the people imagine a vain thing? by "the people" are meant the people of Israel, who were once God's peculiar people, and who were distinguished by him with peculiar favours above all others, and in whom this prophecy has been remarkably fulfilled; they imagine it and meditated a vain thing when they thought the Messiah would be a temporal King, and set up a kingdom, on earth in great worldly splendour and glory, and rejected Jesus, the true Messiah, because he did not answer to these their carnal imaginations; they meditated a vain thing when they sought to take away the good name and reputation of Christ, by fixing opprobrious names and injurious charges upon him, for Wisdom has been justified of her children, Matthew 11:19; and so they did when they meditated his death, with those vain hopes that he should die and his name perish, and should lie down in the grave and never rise more, Psalm 41:5; for he not only rose from the dead, but his name was more famous after his death than before; they imagined a vain thing when they took so much precaution to prevent the disciples stealing his body out of the sepulchre, and giving out that he was risen from the dead, and more especially when he was risen, to hire the soldiers to tell a lie in order to stifle and discredit the report of it; they meditated vain things when they attempted to oppose the apostles, and hinder the preaching of the Gospel by them, which they often did, as the Acts of the Apostles testify; and it was after one of these attempts that the apostles, in their address to God, made use of this very passage of Scripture, Acts 4:2; and they still meditate a vain thing in that they imagine Jesus of Nazareth is not the Messiah, and that the Messiah is not yet come; and in that they are expecting and looking for him. Now the Psalmist, or the Holy Ghost by him, asks "why" all this? what should move the Gentiles and the Jews to so much rage, tumult, and opposition against an holy and innocent person, and who went about doing good as he did? what end they could have in it, or serve by it? and how they could expect to succeed? what would all their rage and not, and vain imagination, signify? it is strongly suggested hereby that it would all be in vain and to no purpose, as well as what follows.
The kings of the earth set themselves,.... Rose and stood up in great wrath and fury, and presented themselves in an hostile manner, and opposed the Messiah: as Herod the great, king of Judea, who very early bestirred himself, and sought to take away the life of Jesus in his infancy; and Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, who is called a king, Mark 6:14; who with his men of war mocked him, and set him at nought; and Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, who represented the Roman emperor, and condemned him to death, Matthew 27:26; and all the kings of the earth ever since, who ever persecuted Christ in his members, and have set themselves with all their might to hinder the spread of his Gospel and the enlargement of his interest;
and the rulers take counsel together; as did the Jewish sanhedrim, the great court of judicature among the Jews, the members of which were the rulers of the people, who frequently met together and consulted to take away the life of Christ: though it may also include all other governors and magistrates who have entered into schemes
against the Lord, and against his Anointed, or Messiah, Christ: by "the Lord", or Jehovah, which is the great, the glorious, and incommunicable name of God, and is expressive of his eternal being and self-existence, and of his being the fountain of essence to all creatures, is meant God the Father; since he is distinguished from his Son, the Messiah, his anointed One, as Messiah and Christ signify; and who is so called, because he is anointed by God with the Holy Ghost, without measure, to the office of the Mediator, Prophet, Priest, and King; from whom the saints receive the anointing, which teacheth all things, and every grace of the Spirit in measure; and who, after his name, are called Christians. This name of the promised Redeemer was well known among the Jews, John 1:41; and which they took from this passage, and from some others;
saying, as follows:
Let us break their bands asunder,.... These are not the words of the apostles, nor of the saints in Gospel times, encouraging one another, notwithstanding the rage and opposition of Jews and Gentiles against their Master and his interest, to break asunder the bands of wickedness, the idolatrous customs and practices of the Heathens, and to throw off the insupportable yoke of bondage, of Jewish traditions and ceremonies, see Isaiah 58:6; but of the Heathen, the people, and kings of the earth, and rulers who, with one voice, say this and what follows,
and cast away their cords from us; with relation to the Lord and his Anointed, whose laws, ordinances, and truths, they call "bands" and "cords"; so Arama interprets them of the law, and the commandments; or a "yoke", as the Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions render the last word; and the phrases in general express their irreverence of God and the Messiah, their rejection Christ and his religion; their non-subjection to him, and their refusal to have him to rule over them; and their disesteem and contempt of his Gospel, and of the ordinances of it, and of the laws and rules of his government in his churches: and also they show the wrong notion that carnal men have of these things that whereas Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden light, Matthew 11:30; his Gospel and the truths of it make men free from the slavery of sin and Satan, and from a spirit of bondage, Romans 8:15; and true Gospel liberty consists in an observance of his commands and ordinances; yet they look upon these things as bands and cords, as fetters and shackles, as so many restraints upon their liberty, which are not to be bore: when, on the other hand, they promise themselves liberty in a disengagement from them, and in the enjoyment of their own lusts and sinful pleasures; whereas thereby they are brought into bondage, and become the servants of corruption. Some render it "cast away from him"
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh,.... At the rage and tumult of the Heathen; at the vain imaginations of the people; at the opposition of the kings of the earth; at the mad counsel of the rulers, against him and his Messiah; and at their proposal to one another to throw off the yoke and government of them both. This is a periphrasis of God, "who dwells in the heavens", and sits there enthroned; though he is not included and comprehended in them, but is everywhere; and his being there is mentioned in opposition to the kings of the earth, and the people in it; and to show the vast distance there is between them, and how they are as nothing to him, Isaiah 40:1, Job 4:18; and how vain and fruitless their attempts must be against him and his Messiah: and his sitting there still and quiet, serene and undisturbed, is opposed to the running to and fro, and the tumultuous and riotous assembling of the Heathen. Laughing is ascribed unto him, according to the language of men, as the Jewish writers speak
the Lord shall have them in derision; which is a repetition of the same thing in other words; and is made partly to show the certainty of their disappointment and ruin, and partly to explain who is meant by him that sits in the heavens. The Targum calls him, "the Word of the Lord"; and Alshech interprets it of the Shechinah.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath,.... Or, "and he shall speak to them"; so Noldius: that is, the Lord that sits in the heavens, and laughs, and has the Heathen, the people, the kings and rulers in derision, shall not only silently despise their furious and concerted opposition to him and his Messiah, but shall at last speak out unto them, not in his word, but in his providences; and not in love, as to his own people, when he chastises them, but in great wrath, inflicting severe and just punishment. It seems to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, after the crucifixion, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; and after the pouring out of the Spirit, and when the Gospel, to their great mortification, had got ground, and made large advances in the Gentile world;
and vex them in his sore displeasure; or "in the heat of his anger"
Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. Or, "behold, I have set", &c. so Noldius by Zion is meant the church of God, especially under the Gospel dispensation; see Hebrews 12:22; so called, because, as Zion was, it is the object of God's love and choice, the place of his habitation and residence; where divine worship is observed, and the word and ordinances of God administered; and where the Lord distributes his blessings of grace; and which is the perfection of beauty, through Christ's comeliness put upon her; and will be the joy of the whole earth: it is strongly fortified by the power and grace of God, and is immovable and impregnable, being built on Christ, the Rock of ages; and, like Zion, it is an high hill, eminent and visible; and more especially will be so when the mountain of the Lord's house is established upon the tops of the mountains: and it is an Holy One, through the presence and worship of God in it, and the sanctification of his Spirit. And over this hill, the church, Christ is King; he is King of saints, and is acknowledged by them; and it is for their great safety and security, their joy, comfort, and happiness, that he is set over them: he is called by his Father "my King", because he who is King of Zion is his Anointed, as in Psalm 2:2; and his Son, his begotten Son, as in Psalm 2:7; his firstborn, his fellow and equal; and because he is his as King; not that he is King over him, for his Father is greater than he, as man and Mediator, or with respect to his office capacity, in which he is to be considered as King; and therefore he is rather King under him: but he is a King of his setting up, and therefore called his; he has appointed him his kingdom, given him the throne of his father David; put a crown of pure gold on his head, and crowned him with glory and honour, and the sceptre of righteousness in his hand, and has given him a name above every name. He did not make himself a King, nor was he made so by men; but he was set up, or "anointed" by God the Father, as the word
I will declare the decree,.... These are the words of Jehovah's Anointed and King, exercising his kingly office, according to the decree and commandment of the Father: for these words refer not to the following, concerning the generation of the Son, which does not depend on the decree and arbitrary will of God, but is from his nature; but these words relate to what go before. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Oriental versions, place this clause at the end of Psalm 2:6; some render it, "declaring his commandment", or "the commandment of the Lord"; the laws that he would have observed, both by him and by the subjects of his kingdom. The Syriac and Arabic versions, "that he might declare the commandment of the Lord"; as if this was the end of his being appointed King. The word חק is differently rendered; by many, "the decree", the purpose of God concerning Christ as Mediator, and the salvation of his people by him; and who so fit to declare this as he who lay in the bosom of the Father, and was privy to all his secret thoughts and designs, and in when the eternal purpose was purposed. John 1:18. The Chaldee paraphrase renders it by קימא, "the covenant", the everlasting covenant of grace; and who so proper to declare this as he with whom the covenant was made, and who is the covenant itself, in whom all the blessings and promises of it are, and the messenger of it. Malachi 3:1. It may not be unfitly applied to the Gospel, which is the sum and substance of both the decree and covenant of God; it is what was ordained before the world for our glory. This Christ was appointed to preach, and did declare it in the great congregation; the same with the counsel of God, Acts 20:27. The words will bear to be rendered, "I will declare" אל חפ "to the command"
the Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son; not by creation, as angels and men; nor by adoption, as saints; nor by office, as civil magistrates; nor on account of his incarnation or resurrection; nor because of the great love of God unto him; but in such a way of filiation as cannot be said of any creature nor of any other, Hebrews 1:5; He is the true, proper, natural, and eternal Son of God, and as such declared, owned, and acknowledged by Jehovah the Father, as in these words; the foundation of which relation lies in what follows:
this day have I begotten thee; which act of begetting refers not to the nature, nor to the office, but the person of Christ; not to his nature, not to his divine nature, which is common with the Father and Spirit; wherefore if his was begotten, theirs must be also: much less to his human nature, in which he is never said to be begotten, but always to be made, and with respect to which he is without father: nor to his office as Mediator, in which he is not a Son, but a servant; besides, he was a Son previous to his being Prophet, Priest, and King; and his office is not the foundation of his sonship, but his sonship is the foundation of his office; or by which that is supported, and which fits him for the performance of it: but it has respect to his person; for, as in human generation, person begets person, and like begets like, so in divine generation; but care must be taken to remove all imperfection from it, such as divisibility and multiplication of essence, priority and posteriority, dependence, and the like: nor can the "modus" or manner of it be conceived or explained by us. The date of it, "today", designs eternity, as in Isaiah 43:13, which is one continued day, an everlasting now. And this may be applied to any time and case in which Christ is declared to be the Son of God; as at his incarnation, his baptism, and transfiguration upon the mount, and his resurrection from the dead, as it is in Acts 13:33; because then he was declared to be the Son of God with power, Romans 1:4; and to his ascension into heaven, where he was made Lord and Christ, and his divine sonship more manifestly appeared; which seems to be the time and case more especially referred to here, if it be compared with Hebrews 1:3.
Ask of me,.... Jehovah is either here again introduced speaking, or these words are a continuation of the Son's account of what his Father said unto him; which do not suppose any superiority in the one, or inferiority in the other; but are only expressive of the Father's great respect and affection for his Son, as such a way of speaking among men shows, Esther 5:3; and of the great interest the Son had in his Father, who could ask nothing but he had it; and shows the perfect harmony, agreement, and unity between them: see 1 Kings 3:5; Christ, in the council and covenant of grace and peace, asked many things of his Father, which were granted; he asked for the persons of all the elect to be his bride and spouse, and his heart's desire was given him, and the request of his lips was not withheld from him: he asked for all the blessings of grace for them; for spiritual life here, and eternal life hereafter; and all were given him, and put into his hands for them, Psalm 20:2; and here it is promised him,
and I shall give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession; by "the Heathen", and "the uttermost parts of the earth", are meant God's elect among the Gentiles, and who live in the distant parts of the world; which are Christ's other sheep, the Father has given to him as his portion, and whom he has made his care and charge: as if it was not enough that he should be King of Zion, or have the government over his chosen ones among the Jews, he commits into his hands the Gentiles also; see Isaiah 49:6; and these are given him as his inheritance and possession, as his portion, to be enjoyed by him; and who esteems them as such, and reckons them a goodly heritage, and a peculiar treasure, his jewels, and the apple of his eye. These words respect the calling of the Gentiles under the Gospel dispensation; and the amplitude of Christ's kingdom in all the earth, which shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,.... Not his inheritance and possession among the Gentiles, the chosen ones given him by the Father; these he delights in, takes care of, protects, and preserves: but the stubborn and rebellious ones among the Heathen, and in each of the parts of the world, who will not have him to reign over them; who treat his person with contempt, reject his government, disobey his Gospel, and despise his commands; towards these Christ will use severity, and will exert his power and break them in pieces. The Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, render it, "shall feed" or "rule them"; and so it is cited in Revelation 2:27; and applied to Christ, the Word of God, and King of kings; and must be understood, as it is in those places, of the severity of his government over them, of the strictness of his justice, without the least display of mercy; and then the sense is the same with those versions which render it, "shall break them:" as the word used is interpreted by the Targum, and the Jewish commentators on the place; and which is confirmed by what follows:
thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel; which is very easily done with a bar of iron; and, when it is done, the pieces can never be put together again: so that by the metaphor is signified the easy and irreparable ruin of the wicked; see Isaiah 30:14. The word signifies that they should be so crumbled into dust, that they should be scattered about as with the wind; which, so far as it relates to the Jews, was fulfilled in their destruction by the Romans, and will have its accomplishment in the antichristian nations at the latter day; see Revelation 2:26.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings,.... This address is made not so much to the kings of the earth in David's time, as to those who would be under the Gospel dispensation, and times of the Messiah; and particularly who would rise up, and set themselves against the Lord and his Anointed, Psalm 2:2; and with these are to be understood their subjects: for if they are to serve the Lord, and be subject to Christ, then much more those that are under them; and they are rather spoken to particularly, because their examples have great influence on those over whom they rule, whether for good or evil these are exhorted to be wise, or to act the wise part; for great men are not always wise; wisdom, riches, and honour, do not always go together; men may be in high places, and yet be of low understandings; however, they do not always act wisely, and particularly those kings did not, when they rose up and set themselves against the Lord and his Messiah; since such opposition must be fruitless, nor is there any counsel against the Lord. And we learn, from the connection of these words with the following, that the truest wisdom in kings and people is to fear God, be subject to Christ, and trust in him. The words are an inference from what goes before; "therefore", since Christ is set as King over Zion, and he is no other than the Son of God, and who has a power over all flesh; one part of the world is his inheritance and possession, and the other part he will in a little time break and dash to pieces; wherefore "now", under the Gospel dispensation, while it is today, and now is the accepted time and day of salvation, before the blow is given; act the wise part and leave off opposing, and become subject to so great and powerful a King;
be instructed, ye judges of the earth; who are under kings, being appointed by them to hear causes and minister justice; they answer to the sanhedrim of the Jews; to the rulers in Psalm 2:2. These are exhorted to receive instructions, not in things political and civil they may be well acquainted with; but in things religious and evangelical, in the worship of God, in the Gospel of Christ, and in his ordinances; for persons in such posts should not be above instruction in these things. The word may be rendered, "be ye chastised" or "corrected"
Serve the Lord with fear,.... Not the creature, neither more, nor besides, nor with the Creator; God and mammon cannot both be served; nor any fictitious and nominal deities, the idols of the Gentiles, who are not gods by nature; but the true Jehovah, the one and only Lord God, he only is to be worshipped and served, even Father, Son, and Spirit. Here it may be understood either of the Lord Christ, the Son of God, who is to be served by the kings and judges of the earth, he being King of kings, and Lord of lords; or rather of Jehovah the Father, since the Son seems to be distinguished from him in Psalm 2:12, and the service these persons are called unto lies not in the discharge of any office in the church, as in preaching the word, which is serving God in the Gospel of his Son; and hence the ministers of the word are eminently called the servants of the most high God; for kings and judges are not required hereby to lay aside their crowns and sceptres, and leave their seats of justice, and become preachers of the Gospel; but in acting according to the will of God revealed in his word, and in the whole worship of him, both internal and external: and this is to be done "with fear", not with fear of man, nor with servile fear of God, but with a godly and filial fear, with a reverential affection for him, and in a way agreeable to his mind and will; with reverence and awe of him, without levity, carelessness, and negligence;
and rejoice with trembling; some reference may be had to the joy in public worship, as at sacrifices and festivals, and the music in divine service under the law; and the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs under the Gospel; and especially to the Gospel dispensation itself, which is a time of joy and rejoicing; the Gospel is good tidings of great joy; the kingdom of God is not in things external, but in joy in the Holy Ghost; and, above all, respect is had to a rejoicing in Christ Jesus, in his person, righteousness, and salvation: and which is consistent with "trembling"; not with a fearful looking for of judgment, but with modesty and humility; in which sense this word, when joined with "fear" as here, is used Philippians 2:12, and stands opposed to pride, haughtiness, and arrogance; men should so rejoice in Christ as to have no confidence in the flesh, or assume any degree of glory to themselves, or have any rejoicing in themselves, but wholly in Christ, giving all the glory of what they have to him.
Kiss the Son,.... The Son of God, spoken of in Psalm 2:7; the word used is so rendered in Proverbs 31:2; and comes from another which signifies to "choose", and to "purify", or "to be pure"; hence some render it "the elect" or "chosen One", or "the pure One"
"there is no בר but the law, according to Psalm 2:12;'
which agrees with the Septuagint version;
lest he be angry; though he is a Lamb, he has wrath in him, and when the great day of his wrath comes in any form on earth, there is no standing before him; and how much less when he shall appear as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire; then kings and freemen will call to the rocks to fall upon them, and hide them from him;
and ye perish from the way; the Syriac version renders it "from his way", the Son's way; and the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions "from the righteous way"; and the Arabic version "from the way of righteousness"; or "as to the way", as others
when his wrath is kindled but a little; either to a small degree, or but for a little while; for the least degree and duration of it are intolerable, and who then can dwell in everlasting burnings, or abide the devouring flames? or when it is kindled פתאום, "suddenly"
blessed are all they that put their trust in him; not in horses and chariots, in riches and honours, in their own wisdom, strength, and righteousness; but in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and who is truly and properly God; or otherwise faith and trust would not be required to be put in him: and happy are those who betake themselves to him as to their strong hold and place of defence; who look to him and believe in him for pardon, peace, righteousness, every supply of grace and eternal life; these are safe and secure in him, nor shall they want any good thing needful for them; and they have much peace, joy, and comfort here, and shall have more grace as they want it, and hereafter eternal glory and happiness.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter