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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 2

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


Psalms 2

The Psalmist sees with wonder, Psalms 2:1-3, many nations and their kings rise against Jehovah and His Anointed, their rightful King. He then describes the manner in which Jehovah carries Himself toward this undertaking,—how He first laughs at, then terrifies them with an indignant speech, and declares their attempt to be in vain, because they revolt against Him, whom He Himself has set up as His King. In Psalms 2:7-9, the Anointed proclaims,—detailing at length, what the Lord had briefly thrown out against the insurgents,—that the Lord had given Him, as His Son, all the nations and kingdoms of the earth for a possession, and along with these, power and authority to punish those who rebelled against Him. The Psalmist finally turns, Psalms 2:10-12, to the kings, and admonishes them to yield a lowly submission to the anointed King and Son of God, who is as rich in mercy towards those that trust in Him, as in destruction toward those that rise up against Him. In few Psalms is the strophe-arrangement so marked as in this. One perceives at a glance, that the whole falls into four strophes of three members each. The verses, again, generally consist of two members; the last verse only has four, for the purpose of securing a fulltoned conclusion.

There are the clearest grounds for asserting, that by the King, the Anointed, or Son of God, no other can be understood than the Messias. It is generally admitted, that this exposition was the prevailing one among the older Jews, and that in later times they were led to abandon it only for polemical reasons against the Christians. In support of this position may be urged, not only the express declaration of Jarchi and a considerable number of passages in the writings of the older Jews, in which the Messianic sense still exists, and which may be found in those adduced by Venema in his Introduction to this Psalm, but also the fact, that two names of the Messias which were current in the time of Christ,—the name of Messias itself, the Anointed, and the name, Son of God, used by Nathanael in his conversation with Christ, John 1:49, and also by the high-priest in Matthew 26:63,—owed their origin to this Psalm in its Messianic meaning. The former is applied to the coming Saviour only in another passage, Daniel 9:25, the latter in this Psalm alone. But though this is certainly a remarkable fact, we could not regard it as, by itself, constituting a ground for the interpretation in question. Neither would we rest upon the circumstance, that the New Testament, in a series of passages, refers this Psalm to Christ (it is so by the assembled Apostles in Acts 4:25-26; by Paul. in Acts 13:33, as also in Hebrews 1:5, Hebrews 5:5; while the same Messianic sense lies at the basis of the plain allusions to the Psalm which occur in Revelation 2:27, Revelation 12:5, Revelation 19:15). Inasmuch as typical Messianic Psalms are not unfrequently in the New Testament referred to Christ, and the Psalm really contains an indirect prophecy respecting Him, even though it be primarily referred to some individual living under the Old Covenant, the two contending interpretations are not so far asunder from each other as at first view they might seem; and, consequently, we cannot build with perfect confidence upon those declarations, though undoubtedly the fact, that the authors of the New Testament followed the direct Messianic view, renders it very probable that it was the prevailing one among their contemporaries. But the proper proof we base on internal grounds alone, in regard to which we remark at the outset, that we can have no interest in deceiving ourselves about their meaning, since, in our opinion, the Messianic kernel of the Psalm, and its application to the present, would remain quite unaffected, even though the internal grounds should speak for its referring primarily, for example, to David. What assured him of the fruitlessness of the revolt of the peoples whom the Lord had subjected to him, to wit, his Divine installation, and the nearness of his relation to God, must be applicable with far higher force to Christ’s relation to His rebellious subjects. But the internal grounds speak so loudly and so decidedly for the Messianic sense, that we can only ascribe the disinclination manifested towards it to causes, the investigation of which is foreign to our present purpose.

Many traits present themselves in our Psalm which are applicable to no other person than Messiah. Superhuman dignity is attributed to the subject of the Psalm in Psalms 2:12, where the revolters are admonished to submit themselves, in fear and humility, to their King, since His opponents shall be destroyed by His severe indignation, while those who put their trust in Him shall be made blessed. The remark of Venema: “Ira regis eo modo metuenda proponitur, v. 12, qui creaturm minus convenit et fiducia in eo ponenda commendatur ibidem, quae a creatura abhorret,” is too well grounded to be capable of being rebutted, as the fruitlessness of all attempts to refer to the Lord, what is there said of His Anointed, abundantly shows. Against every other person but Messiah speaks also Psalms 2:12, where the King is distinctly called the Son of God, and Psalms 2:6-7, where the names “His King,” and “His Anointed,” are given Him in a sense which implies His dominion over the whole earth. Psalms 2:1-3, and Psalms 2:8-10, are decisive against all earthly monarchs; for they declare that the people and kings of the whole earth are given to be the possession of this King, and that they strive in vain to shake off His yoke. The extent of His kingdom is here described to be what the Messiah’s kingdom is always described in those passages which are generally admitted to refer to Him;—comp., for example, Zechariah 9:10; Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1. De Wette endeavours to support himself here, appealing to the pretended liking of the Hebrew poets for hyperbole, and the disposition of the enthusiastic members of the theocracy to conceive magnificent hopes.” But in all circumstances, hyperbole has its limits, and exaggeration could scarcely, in this case, have referred to pictures of the present, but only to the promises of the future. Hofman, in his work on Prophecy and its Fulfilment, p. 160, thinks that the words, “Ask of Me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession,” mean no more than that “whatever people, whatever distant lands he desires to have for a possession, these Jehovah would subject to him.” But David was modest; he only besought for himself some small territories in the neighbourhood of Canaan. Besides, it is overlooked, that this Divine appointment and plenipotence are held out against the kings of the earth, who have revolted against the King, their rightful Lord; and that, on the same ground, the judges of the earth, in Psalms 2:10, are admonished to return to their allegiance to their proper King. And then, where shall we find in the history, even the smallest intimation that the Lord made such an offer to David, as if it had been in his option to decide whether he would be ruler over the whole world? Not even the sovereignty of a single people was offered in that manner to David. He never waged a war of conquest; he merely defended himself against hostile attacks. It is further to be regarded as conclusive against an earthly king, that the revolt here mentioned against the Son, and the Anointed of Jehovah, is so completely represented as a revolt against Jehovah Himself, that the nations are exhorted to yield themselves to Him with humility and reverence. It would be quite a different thing if enemies who aimed at the overthrow of the kingdom of God were spoken of; the enemies, who stand forth here, have no other end in view than to free themselves from the yoke of the king. Although we would not absolutely maintain the impossibility of such a view, there are still no parallel passages to show that any such design would have been regarded as a revolt against Jehovah. The validity of this ground, which was already advanced in the first part of my Christology, is admitted by Hitzig. He denies still more decidedly than we would be disposed to do, that heathen nations, which had been subdued by the people of God, might simply on that account be regarded as Jehovah’s subjects, and that every attempt to regain their freedom would be a revolt against Jehovah. To serve a deity, says he, is either to profess a religion, or at least includes this, and presupposes it,—the Moabites served David, 2 Samuel 8:2, not God. On this account, though he will still not declare himself for the Messianic interpretation, which reconciles all difficulties, he has felt himself obliged to ascribe the composition of the Psalm to the time of the Maccabees, when the attempt was first made to incorporate vanquished heathens with the people of God, by subjecting them to the rite of circumcision,—a supposition in which he will certainly have no followers. Finally, the Messianic sense is supported by the same grounds which prove that of Psalms 45, Psalms 72, Psalms 110, which so remarkably harmonize with the Psalm now under consideration, that, as far as the Messiah is concerned, they must stand or fall together. These grounds are so convincing, that we find here among the defenders of the Messianic interpretation many even of those whose theological sentiments must have disposed them rather to adopt a different view,—in particular, Eichhorn, Bertholdt, Rosenmüller, Koester. Sack, also, in his Apolog., and Umbreit in his Erbauung a. d. Psalter, p. 141, have advocated the same opinion.

Though the Psalm has no superscription, yet that David was its author, as indeed he is expressly named in Acts 4:25, may be gathered from the undoubted fact, that the relations of David’s time evidently form the groundwork of the representation which is given,—comp. the closing remarks, as also the resemblance to Psalms 110. The general character of Psalm first, suitable for an introduction, would scarcely have warranted the compilers in placing it, and this second one so closely related to it, at the head of a long series of Davidic Psalms, unless they had felt convinced of David’s being their author. Besides other characteristics of the first, this Psalm shares its ease and simplicity of style; and that the discourse is of a more spirited character, arises from the different nature of the subject.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The why is an expression of astonishment and horror at the equally foolish and impious attempt of the revolters. The הגה is here taken by some in the sense of being in commotion, blustering; but in that sense the word does not elsewhere occur in the Hebrew; and as little does it occur in that of Koester, to murmur. The common meaning is here quite suitable. ריק , not an adverb, in vain, to no purpose, but a noun, vanity, nothing. The vanity or nothing is that which, being opposed to the Divine will, and, therefore, nothing, also leads to nothing, reaches not its aim, to wit, the revolt against the King, which, at the same time, is revolt against the Almighty God. The why at the beginning, and the vain thing at the end of this verse, are what alone indicate, in the otherwise purely historical representation of Psalms 2:1-3, the point of view from which the transaction is to be considered. But these two little words contain in germ the whole substance from Psalms 2:4 to Psalms 2:12, in which is unfolded the reason why the project of the insurgents is a groundless and vain one.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers sit with one another against the Lord and His Anointed. It is unnecessary, and destructive to the sense, to repeat, with De Wette, Koester, and others, the wherefore at the beginning of this verse. The word התיצב means simply, “to set oneself, to come forward, to appear;” and the hostility is not expressed in the word, but is indicated by the context, and by the addition of the words, “against the Lord.” The word על expresses “the oppressive, the inimical.” The kings of the earth,—the huge mass of tumultuous revolters draws upon itself so much the eye of the prophet, that he overlooks the small company of subjects who still remained faithful. The יסד means to found, in Niph. to be founded, Isaiah 28, Exodus 9:18; then poetically to sit down. This is the only legitimate exposition of the נוסדו . The idea of combination and common counsel is not contained in the verb itself, but only in the adverb יחד , together, with which the verb is connected also in Psalms 31:13. Against the Lord and His Anointed. Calvin remarks, that this does not necessarily imply that the revolt was publicly avowed to be against God; indeed, they could not revolt against Him otherwise than indirectly, that is, by seeking to withdraw themselves from the supremacy of His Son; and in that respect, to use Luther’s expression, the ungodly often do terrible deeds for God’s honour against God’s honour. The anointing in the Old Testament, whether it occur as an actually performed symbolical action, or as a mere figure, constantly signifies the communication of the gifts of the Holy Spirit,—see Christol. P. II. p. 445. This is evidently the meaning in the account given of Saul’s anointing, 1 Samuel 10:1, and David’s, 1 Samuel 16:13-14. The kings of Israel were said pre-eminently to be anointed, because they received a peculiarly rich measure of Divine grace for their important office. From them was the expression transferred to Him who is absolutely THE KING, the one in whom the idea of royalty was to be perfectly realized. That he should be endowed, with out measure, with that Spirit which was given only in limited measure to His types, is mentioned by Isaiah, ( Isaiah 11) chap. 11, as an essential feature. Luther remarks, making a suitable application to the members, of that which is here said concerning the Head: “Therefore God decrees that the ungodly shall boil and rage against the righteous, and employ against them all their devices. But all such attempts are like the swelling waves of the sea, blown up by the wind, which make as if they would tear down the shore, but before they even reach it, again subside, and melt away in themselves, or spend themselves with harmless noise upon the beach. For the righteous is so firmly grounded in his faith upon Christ, that he confidently scorns, like a beach, such vain impotent threatenings of the wicked, and such proud swellings, which are destined so soon again to disappear.”

Verse 3

Ver. 3. The enemies are introduced speaking: We will break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. The plural suffix has reference to Jehovah and His Anointed. Their bands,—that is, the bands which they have laid upon us. The prophet speaks as from the soul of the insurgents, to whom the mild yoke of the Lord and His Anointed appears as a galling chain. Calvin: “So even now we see that all the enemies of Christ find it as irksome a thing to be compelled to submit themselves to His supremacy, as if the greatest disgrace had befallen them.”

Verse 4

Ver. 4. The prophet looks away from the wild turmoil of enemies, from the dangers which here below seem to threaten the kingdom of the Anointed, to the world above, and sets over against them the almightiness of God. Calvin: “However high they may lift themselves, they can never reach to the heavens; nay, while they seek to confound heaven and earth, they do but dance like grasshoppers. The Lord meanwhile looks calmly forth from His high abode, upon their senseless movements.” He who is throned in the heavens laughs; the Lord mocks them. God is here emphatically described as being enthroned in heaven, to mark His exalted sovereignty over the whole machinery of earth, and, in particular, over the kings of the earth. “Laughter” and “derision” are expressive of security and contempt. Calvin: “We must therefore hold, that when God does not immediately punish the wicked, it is His time to laugh; and though we must sometimes even weep, yet this thought should allay the sharpness of our grief, nay, wipe away our tears, that God does not dissemble, as if He were tardy or weak, but seeks through silent contempt, for a time, to break the petulance of His enemies.” Expositors generally suppose that the למו is to be supplied to ישחק . This is not necessary, though it is certainly supported by Psalms 37:13, Psalms 59:8. Luther gives a course of admirable remarks upon this passage; some of these, we feel it our duty to quote, not for the sake of answering practical purposes independent of exegesis, but in the interest of exegesis itself. “All this is written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope. For what is here written of Christ, is an example for all Christians. For every one who is a sound Christian, especially if he teaches the word of Christ, must suffer his Herod, his Pilate, his Jews and heathens, who rage against him, to speak much in vain, to lift themselves up and take counsel against him. If this is not done now by men, by the devil, or, finally, by his own conscience, it will at least be done on his death-bed. There, at last, it will be in the highest degree necessary to have such words of consolation in remembrance as—“He who sits in heaven laughs: the Lord holds them in derision.” To such a hope we must cling fast, and on no account suffer ourselves to be driven from it. As if He would say

So certain is it, that they speak in vain, and project foolish things, let it appear before men as strong and mighty as it may, that God does not count them worthy of being opposed, as He would needs do in a matter of great and serious moment; that He only laughs and mocks at them, as if it were a small and despicable thing which was not worth minding. O how great a strength of faith is claimed in these words! For who believed, when Christ suffered, and the Jews triumphed over and oppressed Him, that God all the time was laughing? So, when we suffer and are oppressed by men, when we believe that God is laughing at and mocking at our adversaries; especially, if to all appearance we are mocked and oppressed both by God and men.” Upon the expression, “He that is enthroned in the heavens,” Luther specially remarks—“As if it were said, He who cares for us dwells quite secure, apart from all fear; and although we are involved in trouble and contention, He remains unassailed, whose regard is fixed on us; we move and fluctuate here and there, but He stands fast, and will order it so, that the righteous shall not continue for ever in trouble, Psalms 55:22. But all this proceeds so secretly that thou canst not well perceive it, unless thou wert in heaven thyself. Thou must suffer by land and sea, and among all creatures; thou mayest hope for no consolation in thy sufferings and troubles, till thou canst rise through faith and hope above all, and lay hold on Him who dwells in the heavens—then thou also dwellest in the heavens, but only in faith and hope. Therefore must we fix and stay our hearts, in all our straits, assaults, tribulations, and difficulties, upon Him who sitteth in the heavens; for then it will come to pass that the adversity, vexation, and trials of this world, can not only be taken lightly, but can even be smiled at.”

Verse 5

Ver. 5. The words of contempt are followed by others of indignation and threatening. Then He speaks to them in His wrath, and afrights them in His sore displeasure. אז , then, namely, when He has first laughed at and mocked them; others improperly, at the time of this revolt, or when they believe that they have broken the chains. The laughter directing itself upon the impotence of the revolters, is the first subject; the wrath excited by their criminal disposition to revolt, is the second. Many expositors, as Calvin, think that here is a reference to God’s speaking by deeds, to the judgments which He decrees against the insolent revolters, after having previously manifested His contempt of them; but without foundation. Psalms 2:6, where the speech of God follows, shows that the second. member here is to be expounded by the first; and in His rage He affrights them with the succeeding words, not the reverse. The actual punishment of the revolters, who even to this day have got no further than the speech, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us,” lies beyond the compass of this Psalm. In it, the Lord, the Anointed, and the Psalmist, come forth one after another against the rebels, and endeavour to turn them from their foolish purpose. It is not till they have shut their ear against all these admonitions and threatenings that the work of punishment properly begins. With a thundering voice of indignation, before which impotent sinners quail to their inmost heart, the Psalmist represents the Lord as speaking to them what follows in Psalms 2:6.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. And I have formed My King upon Zion, My holy hill. Few of the expositors take notice of the ו at the beginning, which yet well deserves to be noticed. It is never used without meaning, nor ever elsewhere than where we can also put our word and (Ewald, p. 540). The discourse, as is appropriate to a very excited state of mind, here begins in the middle. The commencement, “ Ye rise in rebellion,” is naturally suggested by the existing circumstances. The I here, the Lord of heaven and of earth, stands with peculiar emphasis in opposition to you. Luther: “They have withdrawn themselves from Him; but I have subjected to Him the holy hill of Zion, and all the ends of the earth. So that it will become manifest how they have been objects of laughter and scorn, and have troubled themselves, and taken counsel in vain.” The נסכתי is commonly rendered, I have anointed; and of the more recent expositors, Stier alone has raised doubts against this rendering, without, however, decidedly substantiating them. But it has been strikingly rebutted by Gousset. The supposition that נסךְ? , besides its ordinary meaning to pour, had also the sense to anoint, is supported only by Proverbs 8:23, and by the derivation נסיךְ? , a prince, though to signify “an anointed one.” But in the passage from Proverbs, all the old translations express the idea of creation or preparation (to pour out to form); and this idea is decidedly favoured by the context: “From everlasting was I formed,” is followed by, “from the beginning, or ever the earth was, was I born.” But נסיךְ? cannot possibly have the meaning an anointed one, since it is pre-eminently and specially used of princes, who hold their dignity in fief of a superior, and in whose case anointing was out of the question. See the decisive passage, Joshua 13:21; and Micah 5:4. The word נסיכים rather means strictly, those who are poured out, then those who are formed, invested, appointed, and refers, as Gousset justly remarks, to “ productio principis per communicationem influxumque potentiae,” with an allusion either to generation, or to the relation between an artist and his statue or picture. In the case before us, the signification to form is confirmed by the corresponding words, “I have begotten Thee,” in Psalms 2:7. The expression, “ My King,” is also deserving of special remark. If its peculiar emphasis is not considered, if it is merely expounded as if it were “I have appointed Him to be King,” the speech of God will then be unsuited to the end which it is meant to serve, that, namely, of representing the vanity of the revolt of the kings of the earth. For one might possibly have been set by God as king on Zion, without having any proper claim to the lordship of the heathen world. Then, in opposition to every exposition which weakens the force of the words, we have the corresponding words in Psalms 2:7, “Thou art My Son;” through which, as the conclusion drawn from them in Psalms 2:8 shows, a much more intimate relation to God is indicated than if He had been an ordinary king. The words, therefore, “I have formed My King,” can only mean, “I have appointed a King (as Luther renders נסכתי much more correctly than our recent expositors) who is most closely related to Me.” In the setting up or appointing of such a King, for whom nothing less than the whole earth could be a sufficient empire, there was given a proof of the nothingness of all attempts at insurrection which were now made against the King, and in the King against the Lord. על is most naturally regarded as indicating the place where the Lord’s King was constituted and set up by Him, implying of course that this place is at the same time the seat of His supremacy. The expression על ציון , “upon Zion,” occurs in Isaiah 31:4. Hoffmann’s explanation —“I have appointed My King (that He be King) upon Zion,” is too remote; and entirely to be rejected is the other, “I have appointed My King (that He be King) over Zion, My holy mountain,” as in 1 Samuel 15:17, Saul was anointed king over Israel. Zion can here be only the seat, the residence of the King, not the sphere of His rule—which is rather the whole earth. Zion, the holy mount of the Lord, is an appropriate seat for His King; for as it had been the centre of Israel from the time of David, who fixed his own abode and transferred there the ark of the covenant, so was it destined one day to be the centre of the world; for “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem,” Isaiah 2:3. The Lord is to govern the whole earth from there. The thought is there expressed in Old Testament language, that the kingdom of God should one day break through its narrow bounds, and bring the whole world under its sway. Upon הר קדשי , not the mountain of My holiness, but My holiness-mountain, My holy mountain, see Ewald, p. 580. Zion was raised to this honour by its having, had the ark of the covenant transferred to it by David. From that period it became the centre of the kingdom of God.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. The speech of the Lord, in proper adaptation to His majesty and indignation, is but short. Next appears the King appointed by God, reiterating, to the astonished rebels, what has been said by God, and further developing it: I will declare the statute: the Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. Rosenmüller explains, “narrabo secundum, juxta decretum;” but there is no ground for this, as the word סִ?פּ?ֵ?ר is elsewhere coupled with the preposition indicating the object of the narrative, Psalms 69:26; as also the similar verbs יודיע , “to make known,” אמר , דבר , and שמע ; see, for example, Isaiah 38:19; Jeremiah 27:19; Job 42:7. We may not, however, on the ground of such constructions, explain אל by of. They are explained by the circumstance of the relater’s or speaker’s mind being directed to the matter— the narrative or speech goes out upon it. Ewald, p. 602. As it is clear that אל may mark the thing to be announced, the exposition of Claus: “I will declare for a statute,” i.e. something which shall become an irrevocable law, is to be rejected as less simple, and hence less suited to the character of the Psalmist, who dislikes whatever is hard or artificial. But Claus is right in giving to the word חק its common signification of statute, law, for which most of the modern expositors substitute the arbitrary sense of decree, sentence, and then, in opposition to the accents, conceive that they must bring over to this member the word יהוה . “I will declare a law,” contains more than “I will declare a decree or sentence.” It intimates, that the sentence of the Lord just to be announced, has the force of law, and that it was perfectly in vain to undertake anything which wars against it. Since the Lord has spoken this, “Thou art My Son,” He has at the same time laid upon the heathen the law of serving His Son. Obedience is due to the laws of the Almighty, and punishment inevitably overtakes him who transgresses them.

The question now arises, what determination or sentence of Jehovah, having the force of an unchangeable law, is here meant? Rosenmüller, Ewald, and others, conceive, that the reference is to the Divine promise in 2 Samuel 7. But this supposition must be rejected. For then the words, “Thou art My Son,” would be spoken, not in the sense in which they occur here, as implying an investiture with dominion over the heathen. And, besides, this exposition would destroy the obvious connection between Psalms 2:6 and Psalms 2:7. What the Son here throws out against the revolters, call only be the further development of that which the Lord had advanced against them; the to-day becomes quite indeterminate, if it do not refer to the precise day on which the Lord had set His King on Zion; and the expression, “Thou art My Son,” can only point to the subject contained in the words, “My King.” So that the discourse here can only be of a determination of the Lord, which was issued to the Anointed at the time of His appointment: “I will declare the law,” which the Lord then gave; when He made Me His King on Zion, He said to Me, Thou art My Son, etc. The Psalmist has only in a general way before him, the terminus of the setting up as King. When Paul represents, in Acts 13:33, the words of our text as spoken to Christ, in consequence of His resurrection from the dead, he does but define them more closely from the fulfilment. The resurrection of Christ was the key-stone of His redemption-work, the starting point of His setting forth as the Son of God, and of His establishment in the kingdom.

The Lord addresses the King on the day of His installation as His Son. Where God, in the Old Testament, is represented as Father, where the subject of discourse is sonship to God, there is always (apart from a few passages not in point here, which speak of Him as the author of external existence, the giver of all good, Deuteronomy 32:18, Jeremiah 2:27, and perhaps Isaiah 64:7) an allusion, involving a comparison, to His tender love, as being similar to that of a father toward his son,—see, for example, Psalms 103:13, where the comparison is fully stated. In this sense, Israel is in a whole series of passages named God’s son. As in Exodus 4:22: “Israel is My son, My first-born” —where the expression, “My first-born,” points to the abridged comparison, as if it had been said, “Israel is as dear to Me as a first-born son;” Deuteronomy 14:1-2, where the words, “Ye are the children of the Lord your God,” are more fully explained by the following, “For thou art an Holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself above all nations;” Deuteronomy 32:6, where the question, “Is He not thy Father?” is followed by declarations testifying, in various particulars, to His fatherly love and carefulness; Isaiah 16, “Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; Thy name is from everlasting;” where the name of Father is used to denote what is related at large in Isaiah 16:7-14, the things He did in His great goodness towards the house of Israel; Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt;” Malachi 1:6, “If I be a Father, where is My honour?” the theme from Malachi 1:2-5 being this, “I have loved you”—in considering which, some have started with the false idea that the words, “Have we not all one Father,” were in synonymous parallelism with, “ One God hath created us,” Jeremiah 31:9; Jeremiah 31:20. With a just perception of what is implied in the abbreviated comparison, the Apostle, in Romans 10:4, gathers up what is said of Israel’s sonship in the Words, “whose is the adoption into the position of children,” υἱ?οθεσί?α . In the same sense the relation of David’s family to God is, in two passages, described as one of sonship. In 2 Samuel 7:14-15, the declaration, “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son,” is followed by the promise of His ever-abiding love as a sort of interpretation; and in Psalms 89:26, etc., which is based on the passage in Samuel, the words, “My Father,” stand in parallelism with “My God, and the rock of my salvation,” and is explained by, “My mercy I will keep for him for evermore,” in Psalms 89:29. Nowhere in the Old Testament is the idea of God’s sonship handled with reference to a generation through the Spirit, which Hoffmann would have to be the case in all the passages. Nowhere, also, does this expression proceed upon an identifying of creation with generation; and it is an entire mistake for Hitzig to maintain concerning Exodus 4:22, that all men or peoples are there considered as God’s sons, because made by Him. Nowhere does the expression, “Jehovah’s son,” as used of kings, point to the Divine origin of the kingly authority, or to the administration of the office according to the mind of Jehovah. Finally, nowhere in the Old Testament is the sonship spoken of as a production out of the nature of the Father, as the greater of the older expositors think they discover here. Now, as we cannot isolate the passage before us from all others, we may here also understand the words, “Thou art My Son,” as the inwardness of relation which subsists between the Lord and His Anointed. How inward this relation is, how emphatically sonship is here predicated of the Lord,—which is never on any other occasion, done of any individual king in it (for, in the two passages before noticed, it is spoken of the whole line of David), and far less still of heathen kings,—is shown by Psalms 2:7, where the sovereignty of the whole earth is announced as a simple consequence of the sonship. In that sense no earlier king of Israel, not even David, the man after God’s own heart, was the son and darling of Jehovah. Such an inward relationship cannot properly exist between God and a mere man.

When the sense of the words, “Thou art My Son,” is fairly settled, no great difficulty can be found with the parallel clause, “This day I have begotten Thee.” If the King is named the Son of God, not in a proper but in a figurative sense, then the reference here cannot be to a proper begetting, against which the word to-day also testifies (which word at the same time confirms the non-literal interpretation of the expression, “Thou art My Son”), but only to a begetting in a figurative sense—not a begetting which calls the person into existence, but one merely in which originates the intimate relationship between the Anointed and God. “I have begotten Thee to-day,” spiritually understood, exactly corresponds to “Thou art from henceforth, spiritually understood, My Son;” both alike imply that He was brought into the relation of sonship, or received into the innermost fellowship of life. This non-literal, temporal begetting, has certainly the essential and eternal one for its foundation, which is found here by the older expositors and theologians. Figuratively, of the appointment to the dignity of Son of God, the expression is taken by Paul in Acts 13:3; so also in Hebrews 5:5.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. For the King, and the Son of the Lord, nothing less than the whole earth is a proper dominion. Psalms 2:1-3 show, that He had accepted all, which the love of His Father here freely offered.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. If the nations will not obey Thee, My Son, as their rightful Lord and King, I give Thee the right and the power to chastise them for their disobedience. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. The LXX. render the first clause, “Thou wilt feed them with an iron sceptre,”—deriving the form תרעם from רָ?עָ?ה , to feed. So also the Syriac, Vulgate, and many later expositors. Then, either the present punctuation is held to be incorrect, and they read תִ?רְ?עֵ?מ , or the form is considered as Poel. But the parallelism requires that the form should be derived from רעע , “to break or shiver to pieces,” as is done by the Chaldaic. At the same time, we may perhaps suppose with Stier, that the word carries a sort of ironical allusion to רעה , which is so frequently used; comp. 2 Samuel 7:7, Psalms 81:16, Micah 7:14. שבט , “sceptre,” was anciently the sign of the dignity of ruler. The objections which Rosenmüller and others have brought against the application of this meaning here, are of little weight. It is true, indeed, we do not hear of iron sceptres having been actually used, but such only as were of wood, silver, gold, or ivory. But iron is here selected, as being the hardest metal, to indicate the strength and crushing force with which the Anointed would chastise the revolters; and it is perfectly allowable to use it in this figurative sense, although there actually existed no such thing as an iron sceptre. The comparison with the vessels of the potter, which occurs also in Jeremiah 19:11, expresses at once the ideas of w ithout trouble, and of entireness. It is, besides, to be remarked, what is omitted by De Wette, who argues from this expression, against the application of the Psalm to Christ, and by Umbreit, who labours to make that denote grace, which is manifestly said of punitive righteousness, that as the Messiah has here to do with impudent revolters, only one aspect of the power committed to Him by God is displayed. That He is as rich in grace to His people, as He is in overwhelming power against His enemies, is evident from Psalms 2:11 and Psalms 2:12. That, in like circumstances, the same aspect of power which is spoken of here, is also brought to notice by Christ in the New Testament, needs no proof. Those on His left hand, the compassionate, but still righteous Saviour, banishes into everlasting fire; he who treads under foot the Son of God, must endure infinitely sorer punishment than he who broke the law of Moses; and the destruction of Jerusalem is constantly represented by the Lord as His work. What alone suffices, is the circumstance, that, in the place referred to in Revelation, the punishment which Christ is going to execute upon His enemies is described in the very words of this Psalm. The question, whether what is here said of Christ be worthy of Him, resolves itself into this, whether God’s righteousness be an actual reality, and, consequently, to be continued under the New Testament. For what is true of God, is true also of His Anointed, to whom He has given up the whole administration of His kingdom. But, that this question is to be answered in the affirmative, will be shown in our excursus upon the doctrine of the Psalms.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. An admonition to the revolters to consider what had been said, and submit themselves to the King set up by the Lord. Here it comes clearly out, that the object aimed at in the reference to the punitive omnipotence of the Anointed, was to induce the revolters to flee from coming wrath by embracing His offers of grace and compassion. And now act wisely, O ye kings; be warned, ye judges of the earth. And now, since the case is as I have said, since the supremacy of the Anointed over you rests upon so immoveable a foundation, a severe punishment is ready to alight on the revolters. השכיל properly signifies, to make wise, namely, the actions, the behaviour, then to act wisely, finally, to be wise, to understand, discern. יסר , “to instruct, direct aright, warn,” in Niph. “to be warned,” and then “to let one’s self be warned, to lay the warning to heart,” and act according to it. The judges of the earth, corresponding to kings in the first clause, the men of authority and rule, because the office of judgment is considered as one of their chief functions. Judging is used in a wider sense. All governing is, in a certain sense, a judging. Various interests, claims, and rights, come before the ruler for decision.

Verse 11

Ver. 11. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. The serving stands opposed to the resolution in Psalms 2:3 to revolt. The admonition to serve the Lord involves a call on them to subject themselves to His Son and Anointed. Following the LXX. and Vulgate ( gaudeatis cum tremore), some explain גילו ברעדה to mean: “Rejoice that you have found so glorious and good a King; but along with this joy, think always of the terrible punishment which must overtake you, if ye withdraw yourselves from His benignant sway.” It is well remarked, however, by Stier, that this construction neither agrees with the parallelism nor with the prevailing tone of the whole context. The kings had scarcely got so far yet, that they could be called on to rejoice, even with the addition of trembling. But still more objectionable is the exposition approved of by De Wette, Stier, Gesenius, and others, “shake with trembling.” גיל never signifies anything but to rejoice, occurring very often in this sense in the Psalms never, however, to tremble or shake, not even in Hosea 10:5, where, before the expression עלִ?ו יגילו , the relative is to be supplied, and the rendering should be: “who rejoice thereat.” Besides, the shaking does not correspond to the serving and d oing homage, which require that גילו also, should express some mark of subordination. Now, this is the case if we refer the “rejoice” to the acclamations by which subjects testify their fealty to their sovereigns, to the “shout of a king,” spoken of in Numbers 23:21. In that case it is only the outward subjection which is primarily demanded for averting the threatened punishment. What rich blessings internal subjection and allegiance brings along with it, is first gently indicated at the close.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry. The kiss was, from the earliest times, the mark of subjection and respect in the East. Such a kiss was given for the most part not upon the mouth, but upon the kisser’s own garment, or upon the hand of the person kissed. [Note: Rosenmüller, A. u. N. Morgenland, Th. 3, Nr. 496, Th. 4, Nr. 786.] That this custom prevailed also among the Hebrews, appears from 1 Samuel 10:1, where Samuel, after he had anointed the king, as a mark of respect, gave him a kiss. The throwing of the kiss was also a religious usage, as appears from 1 Kings 19:18, Hosea 13:2, Job 31:27. Hence Symmachus translates here, explaining the figure: “adorate.” בר is found also in Proverbs 31:2, for בן . It prevails in the Aramaic, and seems to have belonged to the loftier poetic dialect in Hebrew, which has much in common with the Chaldaic; and this explains why the higher style delights in old words which no longer occur in common life. These words were handed down from the primeval times, when the Hebrews stood in closer connection with the people who spoke the Aramaic tongue. The reason why it is used here instead of בן , many suppose to be a wish to avoid the cacophony which would arise from the juxtaposition of בן and פּ?ן . Others conceive that בר is chosen as being the more dignified and significant expression. Various other explanations which have been tried have partly usage against them, and partly the circumstance that the mention of the Son of God here is quite natural after Psalms 2:7. This rendering is, in consequence, approved by most modern interpreters, not excepting those who find the sense thus given not quite convenient, as Rosenmüller, De Wette, Gesenius, Winer, and Hitzig. Ewald’s explanation, “Take counsel,” is quite arbitrary, since נשׁ?ק has in Pi. invariably the sense of kissing, and, though בר may signify “pure,” it could not possibly mean “good counsel,” without some further reason. The second arbitrariness is shunned by Koester, who renders, “embrace purity,” but the first still remains. Besides, in all these expositions the close connection is overlooked between our verses and Psalms 2:1-3. To “the raging and imagining a vain thing,” corresponds the exhortation, “Be wise and warned.” It is in reference to the revolt against the Lord, that the injunction, to “serve the Lord,” is uttered. But there is still wanting a special hortative reference to the Anointed, which is the main point of the whole; and this must be lost unless בר is rendered son. That this cannot possibly be awanting, becomes more evident still when we compare the entire exposition in Psalms 2:6-9, which prepared the way for it. Koester’s objection, that בר must then have the article, is of no force, as בר , here signifying absolutely “the Son,” is in a state of transition to becoming a nomen proprium. Comp. Ewald, 659. The King, who is the subject of this Psalm, appears here as Son of God in a sense as exclusive as that in which God Himself is God. One God and one Son of God. Even though the title, “Son of God,” according to what was remarked above, be much the same as the beloved of God, and we are not to regard it as conveying directly the idea of unity of nature with God, yet the distinct and peculiar dignity here ascribed to the Anointed, points indirectly to distinctness and peculiarity of nature.

The words ותאבדן דרךְ? , though perfectly plain in themselves, have occasioned much trouble to expositors, and have had many false renderings. Every intransitive or passive idea may, in Hebrew, find an immediate limitation, if it is relative; that is, if it admits of being extended to many particular cases. For example, he was sick, his feet; he was great to the throne. This concise mariner of speech is easily explained, if we only expand it a little more: he was sick, and this sickness affected his feet, etc. So also here, “perish the way,” must mean, “perish as to the way.” The way is used here, precisely as in Psalms 1:6, as an image of “state, condition.” For soon will his wrath be kindled. Blessed are all they who put their trust Him. כמעת shortly, soon. The כ , when denoting limits of time, retains in some measure its common signification of a particle of comparison. The time up to the beginning of this punishment, when repentance is too late, is like a short path חוסי stat. constr. for absol. This can only take place when the preposition serves merely as a description of the stat. constr. relation; so that, instead of the verb being followed by the preposition and pronoun, it might simply have been חוסין . חסה with ב signifies, from the first, “to confide in some one;” never “to fly to any one”—which has been taken as its import, only in consequence of a false interpretation of the phrase, “trusting in the shadow, i.e., in the support of any one.” Scripture constantly admonishes us to place our confidence in the Lord alone; on which account the verb before us is in a manner consecrated and set apart; and also warns men against confiding in earthly kings; comp. Psalms 118:9 “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in princes;” Psalms 146:3: “Trust not in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” In the words, therefore, “Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him,” an allusion is made to the superhuman nature and dignity of the Anointed. Many expositors, opposed to the Messianic interpretation, are driven to such straits by this, that they would refer the suffix in בו , with great violence, not to the Son, of whom mention had been made immediately before, and of whom it is said in this verse itself, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,” but to the Lord—which is an unwilling testimony to the Messianic character of this Psalm, as well as to the superhuman nature of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Others, as Abenezra, De Wette, Maurer, would refer even the words, “lest He be angry,” to Jehovah; overlooking, however, while they do so, the relation in which these words stand to Psalms 2:9, according to which, not Jehovah, but the Son, is to break the revolters with an iron sceptre, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel—a manifestation of wrath which they are here exhorted to flee from.

In conclusion, we have a few general remarks to make upon this Psalm. The Messianic predictions in the Psalms cannot so far coincide in character with those in the Prophets, that the distinction between Psalmist and Prophet here at once ceases to exist. We rather expect this distinction to manifest itself here. The essential nature of the distinction is, that the Prophets for the most part communicate the objective word of God, as that had been imparted to their internal contemplation, while the predominating character of the Psalms is subjective, the subject-matter taken from some earlier revelation being set forth in a vivid and perceptible form by means of the events and circumstances of the Psalmist’s own life, or of those of his time, yet all in such a way that the earlier revelation is often, through the special working of the Spirit of God, carried forward and advanced to a higher degree of clearness. The Messianic interpretation of a Psalm, then, can only be fully justified when we are both able to point to a revelation, through which the writer was incited to give a subjective representation of its contents, and can find a substratum for the writer’s mode of representation, either in his own circumstances, or in those of his time. But both conditions meet in the case before us. In regard to the first, David was incited to this and other Messianic Psalms, by the promise given to him by God of a perpetual kingdom in his family, 2 Samuel 7:7, which he could not but feel, after careful reflection, referred, in its highest sense, to Christ. In regard to the second, David found in the circumstances of his own life ample occasion to express, in the way and manner he has here done, the hope of the triumph of the promised King his successor, which the Spirit of God had stirred up within him. He had too frequently experienced, on the one hand, the contumacy and rebellious disposition of his domestic and foreign subjects; and on the other hand, the help of God in subduing them, to find it at all strange for him to transfer these relations in a more enlarged form to his antitype, which he probably did at a time when his experience in this respect was fresh and lively, about the period of his second great victory over the Syrians, 2 Samuel 8:6: “And the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts; and the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went;” 2 Samuel 10:6, where the Syrians are said to have joined with the Ammonites against David, and 2 Samuel 10:19, where we are told, that after David’s victory over them, “all the kings that were servants to Hadarezer, when they saw that they were smitten before Israel, made peace with Israel, and served them.” In regard, finally, to the progress made in this Psalm as regards the proclamations concerning the Messiah, it consists mainly in this, that there here dawns upon the Psalmist the superhuman nature and dignity of the Messiah, which is brought out still more distinctly in Psalms 110 and Psalms 45. It deserves to be noted, that the expositors who oppose the Messianic sense, are driven hither and thither, and can nowhere find solid ground for their feet to stand upon. Ewald has disputed the reference to David advocated by most writers, and yet has decided upon applying it to Solomon. But against his view we have to set, besides the positive grounds already adduced for the Messianic interpretation, the force of which he unwittingly acknowledges by violent explanations, such as that of : Psalms 12, not merely the silence of the historical books, of which he would make very light, but their most express and unequivocal declarations. The posture of affairs alluded to here, is one of general revolt. Now, if we place that at the commencement of Solomon’s reign, we shall be driven to pronounce the descriptions contained in the historical books entirely mythical. Hitzig has endeavoured to bring down the application to Alexander Jannaeus, a supposition which Koester, in his mild way, pronounces a make-shift. Maurer, again, would carry it up to the time of Hezekiah. He conceives, that by the people and kings of the earth, might very well be understood the Philistines. In Hoffmann, the non-Messianic interpretation has again arrived at David, only, however, after a very short time, once more to begin its wanderings.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 2". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-2.html.
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