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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 2

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2957. B.C. 1047.

“This Psalm,” says Bishop Patrick, “under the history of David, contains a most illustrious prophecy of the kingdom of Christ; whom God raised even from the dead, made the King of glory, and, notwithstanding all that the scribes and Pharisees, Herod and other princes, could do to hinder it, enlarged his kingdom to the uttermost parts of the earth.” That David might here speak with reference to his own advancement to, and settlement in, the throne of Judah and Israel, or at least might allude thereto, is very probable: but that “a greater than David is here,” appears, not only from the strength of the expressions, which are more properly applicable to the Messiah than to David; but also from the citations made from this Psalm in the New Testament, and from the consent of the ancient Hebrew writers, who unanimously expounded it of the Messiah, as is confessed by their own brethren, particularly by Rabbi Solomon Jarchi upon the place; who has this remarkable passage, “Our doctors expounded this Psalm of King Messiah; but that we may answer the heretics, (meaning the Christians,) it is expedient to interpret it of David’s person.” As we are not influenced by any such unreasonable and unscriptural prejudices as those which blind the minds of the modern Jews, we shall find no difficulty therefore in discerning and acknowledging, that under the emblem of the kingdom of David, which, although of divine appointment, met with much opposition, but prevailed at last, the Holy Ghost here foretels the opposition that should be raised by Jews and Gentiles against the kingdom of the Messiah, Psalms 2:1-3 . The defeating and punishing of that opposition, Psalms 2:4 , Psalms 2:5 . The setting up and confirming of Christ’s kingdom, notwithstanding that opposition, Psalms 2:6 , Psalms 2:7 . Promises the enlargement and success of that kingdom, Psalms 2:8 , Psalms 2:9 . Invites and exhorts kings and princes to yield themselves the willing subjects of it, Psalms 2:10-12 . As David was the author of this Psalm, (see Acts 4:25 ,) so it is evident he must have written it after the translation of the ark to mount Sion, because it expressly terms that mount, the hill of God’s holiness, Psalms 2:6 ; which name could not belong to it till God had chosen it for the residence of the ark. And it is probable it was also composed after the message he received from God by Nathan, of the perpetual establishment of his house, his throne, and kingdom, (2 Samuel 7:1 , &c.,) because he makes particular mention of God’s determined purpose with respect to this, Psalms 2:7 .

Verse 1

Psalms 2:1. Why do the heathen rage? Hebrew, גוים , goim, the nations, namely, 1st, Those bordering on Judea in David’s time, who raged against him, when exalted to the throne of Judah and Israel, 2 Samuel 5:6; 2 Samuel 5:17; 1 Chronicles 14:8; 1 Chronicles 1:0 Chronicles , 2 d, The Greeks and Romans, and other heathen nations, who raged against and persecuted Christ and his cause and people, Luke 18:32; Acts 4:25. Upon what provocation, and to what end or purpose, do they do so? And the people Namely, the Jews or Israelites, who also combined against David, 2 Samuel 2:8, and against Christ, Acts 4:27; imagine a vain thing? A thing which they shall never be able to effect, and which, if they could accomplish it, would produce consequences to themselves and others very different from those they expect.

Verse 2

Psalms 2:2. The kings of the earth So called by way of contempt, and to show their madness in opposing the God of heaven. Herod the Great, Herod the Tetrarch, Pilate and other princes and magistrates, with or after them, are chiefly intended; set themselves Hebrew, יתיצבו , jithjatzebu, set themselves in opposition, as Chandler renders it. The word expresses their firm purpose and professed hostility, together with the combination of their counsels and forces. And the rulers take counsel together Or assemble together, and instigate each other, according to Waterland and Chandler. David’s enemies urged and instigated each other in their opposition to him; and the Jewish priests, elders, and council instigated false witnesses to accuse the Messiah, Pilate to condemn him, and the people to clamour for his crucifixion; the people also instigated Pilate to release Barabbas, and crucify Jesus; and the devil instigated them all to perpetrate this impious murder: as he afterward instigated kings and nations to persecute, imprison, torture, and put to death, in a variety of ways, his apostles, evangelists, and other followers. See the apostolic exposition of these verses, Acts 4:25. “Persecution,” says Dr. Horne, “may be carried on by the people, but it is raised and fomented by kings and rulers. After the ascension of Christ, and the effusion of the Spirit, the whole power of the Roman empire was employed in the same cause by those who, from time to time, swayed the sceptre of the world. But still, they who intended to extirpate the faith, and destroy the church, how many and how mighty soever they might be, were found only to ‘imagine a vain thing.’ And equally vain will every imagination be that exalteth itself against the counsels of God for the salvation of his people.” Against the Lord Hebrew, Jehovah, either directly and professedly, or indirectly and by consequence, because against his counsel and command; and against his Anointed Against the king whom he hath chosen and exalted: that is, in fact, against all religion in general, and against the Christian religion in particular. And it is certain, all that are enemies to Christ, whatever they may pretend, are enemies to God himself. Thus our Lord, They have hated both me and my Father. The great Author of our holy religion is here termed the Lord’s Anointed, or Messiah, or Christ, in allusion to the anointing of David to be king. He is both authorized and qualified to be the church’s head and king; is duly invested with the office, and every way fitted for it, and yet he is opposed by many; nay, is therefore opposed, because his opposers are impatient of God’s authority, envious at this king’s advancement, and have a rooted enmity to the Spirit of holiness.

Verse 3

Psalms 2:3. Let us break their bands asunder That is, the laws of the Lord and his Anointed; the bands or yokes which they design to put upon our necks, that they may bring us into subjection. The laws of God and Christ, though easy and pleasant in themselves, and to all good men, Matthew 11:29-30; 1 John 5:3; yet are very grievous and burdensome to corrupt nature, and carnal, wicked men. And cast away their cords from us The same thing expressed with more emphasis. Let us not only break off their yoke, and the cords by which it is fastened upon us, but let us cast them far away. “These words, supposed to be spoken by the powers in arms against the Messiah, discover to us the true ground of opposition, namely, the unwillingness of rebellious nature to submit to the obligations of divine laws, which cross the interests, and lay a restraint upon the desires of men. Corrupt affections are the most inveterate enemies of Christ; and their language is, We will not have this man to reign over us. Doctrines would be readily believed if they involved in them no precepts; and the Church may be tolerated by the world, if she will only give up her discipline.” Horne.

Verse 4

Psalms 2:4. He that sitteth in the heavens As the judge upon his tribunal, weighing the actions of men, and as the king of the whole earth upon his royal throne; who, without moving from his place, can with one word or look destroy all his enemies. His sitting (or dwelling, as Dr. Waterland renders ושׁב , josheb, here) in the heavens is opposed to their being and reigning on the earth, (Psalms 2:2,) and is mentioned here, as in other places of Scripture, as an evidence both of God’s clear and certain knowledge of all things that are done below, and of his sovereign and irresistible power. Shall laugh Shall despise them and all their crafty devices. “This is spoken of God,” says Dr. Dodd, “after the manner of men, to denote his utter contempt of the opposition of his enemies; the perfect ease with which he was able to disappoint all their measures, and crush them for their impiety and folly; together with his absolute security, that his counsels should stand and his measures be finally accomplished; as men laugh at, and hold in utter contempt, those whose malice and power they know to be utterly vain and impotent. The introducing God as thus laughing at, and deriding his enemies, is in the true spirit of poetry, and with the utmost propriety and dignity. The whole description is grand: Jehovah is he who is seated in the heavens, far beyond the effects of their rage and malice: from thence he sees their secret counsels, confederate armies, and united obstinate endeavours to oppose what he had solemnly decreed.”

Verse 5

Psalms 2:5. Then In the midst of all their plots and confidence of success; shall he speak unto them in his wrath That is, severely rebuke them, not only by his prophets and other messengers in words, but by dreadful judgments, the effects of his wrath, which he will execute upon them. He shall make them know, to their full conviction, by the disappointment of their schemes and the vengeance taken on them, 1st, That David is established king in Jerusalem; and, 2d, That the Messiah, his son, shall reign throughout all generations. In other words, by pouring out his indignation on the adversaries of his anointed king, he shall no less evidently convict and reprove their folly and impiety than if he had actually spoken to them in terrible majesty from his eternal throne. The word יבהלמו , jebahaleemo, in the next clause, rendered vex, and in the margin, trouble them, has a very strong meaning, implying “that God would put them into the utmost terror and consternation of mind, and deprive them of all power and ability of soul and body, to save themselves from the vengeance which should be executed upon them:” a prediction most awfully verified in the terrible destruction which came upon the murderers of Christ and the persecutors of his church and people.

Verse 6

Psalms 2:6. Yet Notwithstanding all their artifices and powerful combinations, have I set Hebrew, נסכתי , nasachti, I have anointed, that is, designed, appointed, or constituted, as the word is frequently used in the Scriptures; my king Mine in a singular sense, who has not his kingdom by succession from former kings, or by election of the people, but by my special and extraordinary designation; and who rules in my stead, and according to my will, and for my service and glory; upon my holy hill of Zion Over my church and people. Zion, strictly taken, was a hill on the north part of Jerusalem, Psalms 84:2, where there was a strong fort, called the city of David; but in a more large sense it is put for the city Jerusalem; for the temple of Jerusalem, built upon the hill of Moriah, which was either a part of mount Sion, or adjoining to it; for the church of the Jews, and for the Christian church. David was advanced to the throne, and became master of the strong hold of Sion, notwithstanding the disturbance given him by the malcontents in his kingdom; and particularly the affronts he received from the garrison of Sion, who taunted him with their blind and their lame, their maimed soldiers, 2 Samuel 5:6. And the Lord Jesus is exalted to the right hand of the Father, has all power both in heaven and in earth, and is head over all things to the church, notwithstanding the restless endeavours of his enemies to hinder his advancement.

Verse 7

Psalms 2:7. I will declare Or publish, that all people concerned may take notice of it and submit to it, if they would escape the divine judgments which will be executed on the refractory and disobedient; the decree The will and appointment of God concerning my advancement to the throne of Judah and Israel, and that of the Messiah, my seed, to universal empire over all mankind, and concerning the submission and obedience which must be paid thereto. The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son These words, in some sort, might be said to, or of David, not only because kings in general, and magistrates, are, styled gods, and sons of the Most High; but because when God, who was properly king of Israel, fixed David on the throne of that kingdom, and made it hereditary in his family, he did, as it were, cede and transfer the government, and thereby the rights of primogeniture to him, hereby making him, as it were, his son and successor in the kingdom, according to Psalms 89:27, I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. But certainly the words much more properly belong to Christ, who is commonly known by this title, Son of God, both in the Old and New Testament, and to whom this title is expressly appropriated by the Holy Ghost, who is the best interpreter of his own words, Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5. This day have I begotten thee This also is applied by some to David, understanding, by this day, the day of his inauguration, when he might be said to be begotten by God, inasmuch as he was then raised and delivered from all his calamities and troubles, which were a kind of death, and brought forth and advanced to a new kind of life, of royal state and dignity: and so this was the birth-day, though not of his person, yet of his kingdom; as the Roman emperors celebrated a double birth-day, first the day on which they were born, and then the day when they were advanced to the empire. But this, it must be acknowledged, is a far-fetched and doubtful sense: and therefore not to be allowed by the rules of legitimate interpretation, since the words may, much more properly, be applied to Christ. And, so applied, may be understood, either, 1st, Of what has been termed his eternal generation, or sonship, this day, signifying from all eternity, which may be considered as well described by this day, there being no succession, no yesterday, no to-morrow, in eternity; but all being as one continued day, or moment without change or flux: or, 2d, Of the manifestation of Christ’s eternal sonship in time; which was done both in his birth and life, when his being the Son of God was demonstrated by the testimony of the angel, Luke 1:32, by that of God the Father, Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; and by his own words and works; and in his resurrection, which seems to be here chiefly intended, of which day this very place is expounded, Acts 13:33; when Christ was, in a most solemn manner, declared to be the Son of God with power, Romans 1:4. And at this day, or time, Christ might very well be said to be begotten by God the Father, 1st, Because the resurrection from the dead is in Scripture called a regeneration, or second birth, Matthew 19:28, as well it may, being a restitution of the very being which man received by his first birth: 2d, Because in this respect Christ is called, The first-begotten and firstborn from the dead: and, 3d, Because of that common observation, that things are often said to be done in Scripture when they are only declared, or manifested, to be done: see Genesis 41:13; Jeremiah 1:10; Ezekiel 43:3.

Verse 8

Psalms 2:8. Ask of me Claim or demand it of me as thy right by my promise, and thy birth and purchase; the heathen for thine inheritance To be possessed and enjoyed by thee in the manner of an inheritance, namely, surely and perpetually. Thus “Christ was to enter upon the exercise of the intercessorial branch of his priestly office, with a request to the Father that the heathen world, &c., might be given for his inheritance, in return for the labours he had undergone, and the pains he had endured; as also to supply the place of the Jews, who were his original inheritance and possession, but were cast off because of unbelief.” Horne.

Verse 9

Psalms 2:9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron Those people that will not quietly submit to thee shall be crushed and destroyed by thy mighty power, which they shall never be able to resist. This was in part fulfilled when the Jews, who persisted in unbelief, were destroyed by the Roman power: and in the destruction of the pagan power when the Christian religion came to be established. But it will not be completely fulfilled till all opposing power and principality be put down.

Verse 10

Psalms 2:10 . Be wise now therefore Understand your true interest while you have time and space for repentance and submission; O ye kings You and your people. Be instructed, ye judges Or rulers, you and those that are ruled by you. But he speaks of and to kings and rulers only, 1st, Because they most need the admonition, as presuming upon their own power and greatness; and thinking it below them to submit to him: 2d, Because their authority and example would have great influence on their people and inferiors; and, 3d, To intimate the greatness of this monarch, that he was King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Verse 11

Psalms 2:11. Serve the Lord with fear That is, with reverence and an awful sense of his great and glorious majesty, rendering you careful and diligent to please him, and afraid to offend him. And rejoice Do not esteem his yoke your dishonour and grievance, but know that it is a greater glory and happiness to be the subjects of this King than to be the emperors of the greatest empire; and accordingly rejoice in it, and bless God for this inestimable grace and benefit; with trembling This is added to signify the quality of the joy to which he calls them and to distinguish it from that carnal and worldly rejoicing which is usually attended with security and presumption; and to warn them to take heed that they did not turn this grace of God into wantonness; but, on the contrary, work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

Verse 12

Psalms 2:12. Kiss the Son The Son of God, in token of your subjection and adoration; of which this was a sign among the eastern nations; lest ye perish from the way Be taken out of the way by death or destruction. Or, perish out of the way by losing the right way, by taking wrong and evil courses, the end of which will be your certain and utter ruin. Or, in the way, that is, your wicked way or course; in the midst of your plots and rebellions against him: and so you will die in your sins, John 8:24, which would be a sad aggravation of their death, and therefore is here fitly proposed as a powerful argument to dissuade them from such dangerous and destructive courses. When his wrath is kindled but a little The least degree of his anger is very terrible, much more the heat and extreme of it, caused by such a desperate provocation as this is. But the Hebrew, אפו יבער כמעשׂ , jibgnar chimgnat appo, may be rendered, For his wrath will be kindled shortly, or suddenly. His patience will not last always, but will shortly be turned into fury; and, therefore, take heed that you neither deny nor delay to be subject to him; but speedily comply with his offers before it be too late. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him Who put themselves under his protection, believing in him, and expecting safety and happiness from him. This cannot, with any colour, be applied to David, who always dissuaded all men from putting their trust in princes, or any child of man, or any thing besides or below God. And therefore it would ill have become him to invite others to put their trust in himself, and that person is pronounced accursed that trusteth in man, Jeremiah 17:5. But Christ is everywhere set forth as an object of trust, not only in the New Testament, but also in the Old, as Isaiah 28:16. And therefore they are most truly and fitly said to be blessed that put their trust in him. Under which sentence the contrary is implied: that they are most accursed and miserable creatures that provoke and oppose him. Mark this well, reader!

In the day of wrath, when the wrath of Christ is kindled against others, they, and only they, will be blessed, who, by trusting in him, have made him their refuge and patron.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 2". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-2.html. 1857.
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