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Friday, September 29th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 2

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

Verse 1

Psalms 2:0.

The kingdom of Christ: kings are exhorted to accept it.

THE Jewish rabbis expound this Psalm (as Raschi informs us in his comment on the first verse) of king Messiah; though he himself explains it in the literal sense, as relative to David. The Chaldee paraphrase seems also to apply the Psalm to the Messiah. That, in the primary sense, David speaks of himself, I think there can be no reason to doubt; and Bishop Patrick acknowledges, that, under the history of David, it contains an illustrious prophesy of the kingdom of Christ; and, accordingly, he explains it first of David, and then of Christ, his son. We have, therefore, explained the whole Psalm as first describing the history of David's appointment by God to be king of Israel; and if the circumstances of the description do, in their literal sense, belong also to Christ, and are more eminently fulfilled in him than they ever were or could be in David, then this Psalm, in its literal sense, is equally descriptive of Christ as of David; and therefore very justly applied to him by the writers of the New Testament. It is certain that this Psalm was penned after the translation of the ark to Mount Sion; because it expressly calls Mount Sion, The hill of God's holiness, which name could not belong to it till God had chosen it for the residence of the ark; and it must have been 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; 2Sa 7:29 because he makes particular mention of God's determined purpose in favour of himself and family: nor could any time be more proper for a composition of this nature, than when this instance of God's peculiar favour to him was fresh in his mind, and he was now about to enter into new wars with neighbouring and powerful princes; for nothing could tend more to inspire his people with resolution and courage, than his assuring them that God beheld the attempts of his enemies with scorn and derision, and would enable him to break them with as much ease as he could dash in pieces a potter's vessel. See Dr. Chandler; from whom the following notes on this Psalm are principally taken.

Psalms 2:1. Why do the heathen rage Gather together; or, as in the Margin of our Bibles, Tumultuously assemble. Cocceius translates the root רגשׁ ragash by convenire concorditer, to meet together with unanimity, or one consent, whatever be the purpose of such meeting; and this sense suits well the place before us; as it represents the nations confederating together to disturb David's reign, and uniting their forces to hinder the increase of his power. It also answers to the fact, as related 2 Samuel 8:1.

Verse 2

Psalms 2:2. The kings of the earth set themselves, &c.— Or, Rise up, and the rulers assemble together. Chandler renders it, Set themselves in opposition, and instigate each other. This gives a very strong and significant meaning, as David's enemies urged and instigated each other in their opposition to him. Or, if we apply it to David, in his great successor the Messiah, it answers to real facts; the Jewish priests, elders, and council, instigating false witness to accuse him, Pilate to condemn, and the people to clamour their Messiah to the cross; the people instigating Pilate to release Barabbas, and crucify Jesus; and the devil instigating them all to perpetrate this impious murder. The opposition to which they instigated one another, was against the Lord, and against his Anointed; Jehovah, because he exalted David to be king in Jerusalem; and because Jesus, whom the princes and people crucified, was that Messiah and Saviour, in whom God had determined that the throne of David should be perpetuated as long as sun and moon should endure.

Verse 3

Psalms 2:3. Let us break their bands This is the language of the nations and people instigating each other to this impious war. To be in bonds, and tied with cords, is to be reduced to the utmost state of vassalage: and the kings and nations counted their subjection to David the most dishonourable servitude, and therefore were determined, if they could, to break their bands, and cast away their cords; i.e. to renounce the dominion of David whom the Lord had made king, and free themselves from all subjection to him. And thus the Jews, the nations, and princes of the earth, united themselves in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, to destroy his authority, extirpate his religion, and prevent men's obedience to, and worship of God, by Jesus Christ.

Verse 4

Psalms 2:4. He that sitteth, &c.— Or, He that dwelleth. This is spoken of God, (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 shall he speak unto them This denotes, not God's speaking to them by an audible voice; but his making them know, to their full conviction, by the disappointment of their schemes, and the vengeance taken of them, that David was established king in Jerusalem, and should reign in his son the Messiah throughout all generations. For David declares that God would speak to them in his wrath; i.e. by the effects of it; a language the most expressive and convincing of all others. The word בהל bahal rendered vex (in the Margin of our Bibles, trouble,) has a very strong and significant meaning; it implies, that God should 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 on them.

Verse 6

Psalms 2:6. Yet have I set my King It should have been rendered, I, even I, have anointed my King on Sion, or rather, over Sion, the mountain of my holiness. We do not read that David was ever anointed on Mount Sion, or in Jerusalem, king over Israel; and the meaning is not that God had anointed David on Sion, but to be king and reign in Sion; because David had chosen it for his own residence, and God for the habitation of the ark. The meaning of the passage seems to be this: David, probably, had some intelligence of the new confederacy which was forming against him. But he speaks of the confederate princes and nations with contempt; fully assured that their schemes would all be frustrated. How could he be thus assured? Because God had anointed him king; and, therefore, as they were confederate against God and his anointed, all their projects must finally come to nothing; and God would soon convince them of it, by speaking to them in his wrath, and letting them know by the most convincing arguments—I, even I, have anointed, or established my king on Sion.

Verse 7

Psalms 2:7. I will declare the decree Or, I will tell of a decree. David having introduced God as declaring that he would speak to the confusion of his enemies, and convince them that he had made him king in Sion, further says, for the encouragement of his subjects, that he would relate to them God's purpose concerning him, and the gracious assurances that he had been pleased to grant him. The decree concerning David was this: Thou art my son, &c. God himself was properly king over Israel; Psalms 89:18. David styles him, his God, and his king; Psa 68:24 but he declared concerning David, Thou art my son.—I will make him my first-born; Psa 89:27 namely, by giving him the rights of primogeniture, and advancing him as such to the kingdom. Kings in general, and magistrates, are styled gods, and sons of the Most High, in scripture; Ps. lxxxii, 1. 6 and by profane writers. See Callim. Hymn. in Jov. v. 80. But there is a peculiar propriety in this expression, Thou art my son, as used of David; because God did, in a great measure, by fixing him on the throne, and making it hereditary in his family, cede and transfer the kingdom and government, which were originally in himself, to David and his posterity; hereby making him, as it were, his son and successor in the kingdom. When God adds, I have begotten thee, it is not another expression denoting the same as thou art my son, but implies his being made son and heir by adoption. This description to denote the adoption of any person by, and his copartnership with another in, or succession to his kingdom, is not peculiar to the sacred writings. See Pliny's Panegyric on Trajan, cap. 6, 7, &c. The words this day, I suppose, denote the day in which David received the divine decree or constitution by the hand of Nathan. This I apprehend to be the literal meaning of the words, as they belong to David in person; but as they belong to him in his most illustrious successor, they have yet a nobler meaning. They are cited by St. Paul, in his sermon to the Jews at Antioch, as predictive of the resurrection of Christ; and by the author to the Hebrews applied to him as a proof of his being made better, that is, exalted to higher honour and dignity than the angels, by his resurrection and endless life. Hebrews 1:5. God, having declared him to be his Son with power, by his resurrection from the dead, and session at the right hand of the Majesty on high. See Rom 1:4 and Act 4:25 which contains a full proof that this Psalm was written by David.

Verses 8-9

Psalms 2:8-9. Ask of me, &c.— This, as it refers to David, denotes God's promise to extend his dominion over all the neighbouring states and princes that opposed him, around all the borders of Judaea; and this promise was literally made good. But this extent of dominion is too small to come up to the full meaning of the expressions here made use of, which were more amply fulfilled in his great successor the Messiah, to whom God put all things in subjection in heaven and earth, and who shall finally crush, as with an iron rod, all who will not have him to reign over them. Some writers have supposed, that the ninth verse more immediately alludes to the final destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews.

Verse 10

Psalms 2:10. Be instructed Or, Be reformed.

Verse 12

Psalms 2:12. Kiss the Son The Son primarily denotes David himself; but the character is more especially applicable to his great successor, who is the Son of God, in a more appropriate and much higher sense than David. A kiss in the East was a token of respect and reverence from inferiors to their superiors: so that kissing David means paying that homage and veneration which was due to him as God's adopted son and king, and which was paid to eastern monarchs by their subjects. Kissing the hand of sovereign princes is now an act of homage, an act of fealty and submission. As applied to the Messiah, it means submission to him in his character of Saviour, and honouring him, as we also honour the Father, in obedience to that Father's command. Dr. Chandler renders the next clause, and, like wandering sheep, ye utterly perish. The original notion of אבד abed, is not only to perish, but to wander, as sheep do; and, consequently, to be lost and perish by wandering so far as that they can never return or be recovered to the fold.

See Psalms 119:176. Jeremiah 50:6. But a little, refers either to degree or duration; for the word מעט meat, is frequently used in both senses. "If he arouse but a little of his indignation, or should his indignation last but a little while, the effect will be so awful, that it will abundantly appear that they only are, happy who trust in, and are secure under, his protection."

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Since the day that, after war in heaven, rebellion began on earth at the instigation of the old serpent cast out from his place in glory, the fierce contest and struggle has continued between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman: and this, with especial bitterness, was renewed when the bruiser of his head appeared incarnate, to destroy him and all his hated works. We have here,

1. This furious opposition to Christ and his kingdom described. Though he appeared as the prince of peace, came diffusing blessings on every side, brought the most welcome tidings, spake as never man spake, and, in his life, appeared the pattern of every thing great and excellent; yet against him is the fiercest rage of earth and hell levelled. [1.] The instruments employed are the heathen, the Roman governor and soldiery, and the people, the peculiar people, the Jews: their kings and governors head the riotous assembly; and Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the whole sanhedrim, unite for the destruction of the divine Messiah. Vainly promising themselves a temporal king, they cannot bear the pretensions of the lowly Jesus; and, confounded by his just and severe rebukes, they gnash upon him with indignation; persecute him with the most deliberate and unrelenting enmity; and, laying aside every quarrel among themselves, are joined in strictest league to suppress his rising kingdom among men. Note; (1.) The cause of Jesus has ever hitherto been a suffering one; they who embark in it must begin by taking up the cross. (2.) The religion of Jesus has often groundlessly excited the jealousy of earthly princes; his kingdom is not of this world. (3.) They who were at enmity, as great as was between Jew and Gentile, Scribe and Pharisee, will readily consent to drop all their differences, when the cause of Jesus is to be run down; and cordially unite against him and his. (4.) The enmity of the heart against the religion of Jesus, is unspeakably more bitter and inveterate than against anything beside; nor will the greatest harmlessness of conduct, or purity of manners, soothe the rage of persecutors. (5.) It is our comfort, that, however mighty our enemies, or however politic their contrivances, they imagine a vain thing; the church, and every faithful believer, are fixed upon a rock, against which the powers of earth and the gates of hell cannot prevail. [2.] The occasion of this fury is observed; they cannot endure the government of the Lord's Anointed, or bear him in any of his characters as prophet, priest, or king. Wise in their own conceit, they will not submit as little children to learn his heavenly doctrine: proud in their own sufficiency, and trusting in their own righteousness, they cannot stoop, as miserable and perishing sinners, to seek his atoning blood, as the only foundation of their acceptance before God: and, hating the holy ways of this heavenly king, their stubborn hearts reject his rule, and that internal spiritual kingdom which he erects in the soul, mortifying every earthly, sensual, devilish temper; this they cannot endure. Note; None can be the subjects of Christ's kingdom, who do not renounce their own wisdom, righteousness, and strength, and come to Jesus, to teach, atone for, and rule in and over them.

2. As the contest is highly unequal, the ruin of the enemy is sure. How vain for worms to oppose the mighty God? for dust of the earth to rise up against him who sitteth in the heavens? how foolish that secret counsel which cannot be hid from his all-seeing eye! and how mad the attempt to dethrone Omnipotence itself! (1.) God derides the impotent menaces of his foes; he sits secure against their rage, serene and undisturbed with their tumults; and looks down with scorn on their vain imaginations. (2.) His indignation rises at their wickedness, and at last he breaks the silence that he had kept, speaking to them in the awful strokes of providential judgments, and vexing them in his sore displeasure; filling their hearts with inward misery, and quickly about to pour out upon them wrath unto the uttermost. (3.) With triumph the king, Messiah, is exalted in spite of all his foes: Yet have I set, or, Behold I have set, &c. As mediator, he is invested with a delegated rule and authority, and given to be head of his church, the spiritual mount Zion; and to his sceptre all must bow as willing subjects, or break under the rod of his indignation as obstinate rebels.

2nd, Christ, being exalted to the mediatorial throne, speaks in his own person: I will declare the decree. 1. His title to the throne is here produced: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee: Which some interpret of the eternal generation of the Son of God, and ascribe to his person as begotten, though of the same substance with the Father, co-existent and co-eternal. I rather incline to refer it to him as mediator, and as spoken either when the purposes of God's grace to man were first declared in heaven, and the exalted Jesus in this divine character received the worship of adoring angels: or when, at his incarnation, his baptism, and most eminently at his resurrection and ascension, he was declared to be the Son of God with power, Romans 4:2. His influence, in virtue of this advancement, is described. Being exalted to the throne of Majesty on high in virtue of his sufferings, according to the conditions of the covenant of redemption, all power is given him in heaven and in earth. His intercession is now effectual; the Father always heareth him. Two things are promised him at his request: (1.) The hearts of believers. I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thus we see that the gospel of Jesus has already gone forth unto the ends of the earth, and reached even to us. Multitudes of the various nations of the world have yielded themselves up through grace, to his happy government; and we are still expecting, in virtue of this promise, the more extensive spread of the Redeemer's influence, when the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ. Our blessed island, in profession, already owns its sway; happy for us if our inmost souls actually enjoyed his government, and he reigned Lord of every motion there! (2.) The necks of his enemies. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. They who refuse the Saviour's gentle sway, must feel his heavy hand: the Jews, who rejected him, were first broken in pieces and dispersed: the heathen Rome, where the blood of his martyrs was shed, is long since destroyed; and it remains, that Rome, papal as well as pagan, still red with the blood of the saints, receive the same terrible doom, with all the other anti-christian powers, whether Jewish, Mahometan, or heathen; whose desolations are determined, when the Lord shall take his great power and reign, and his foes be made his foot-stool. Sinner, whoever thou art, tremble at that day, when, if thou art found an enemy and rebel against Jesus and his government, thy final and eternal overthrow will be completed, and thou as unable to resist as a potter's vessel before an iron rod, and thy ruin as irreparable as these shreds which never more can be united.

3rdly, Here is wisdom. Since Jesus is exalted king in Zion, and opposition vain, it is most highly our interest to court his favour, as it is our bounden duty to submit to his government.

1. The address is directed to the kings and judges of the earth. Those who, as most exalted, will be most apt to say, Who is Lord over us? Let them know that there is one who is higher than they, with whom is no respect of persons; and in whose sight they stand equally accountable with the meanest subjects: and as their station and influence is great, from them especially the Lord requires obedience, that they may set an example to those who are committed to their charge.
2. The exhortation directed to them is, (1.) To serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before him with trembling, or reverence. The service of Jehovah is the duty and happiness of every creature: his will must be our rule, his worship our daily exercise, his glory our constant aim. To rejoice in him, is both our privilege and duty, as our reconciled God in Christ, as our best portion in time, and our exceeding great reward in eternity: yet with fear and reverence we are commanded to serve him, and rejoice before him; knowing the corruption and deceitfulness of our hearts, the snares of the enemy, and the dangers with which we are encompassed; and especially need we fear the workings of pride and self-righteousness, which are so apt to creep in, and turn our eyes off the Lord Christ and our rejoicing in him, to have confidence in the flesh. Note; Holy jealousy and filial fear are most consistent with, yea, most productive of substantial and abiding joy. (2.) To kiss the Son. God wills that all should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.

3. The exhortation is enforced by a twofold powerful argument. (1.) Lest he be angry; for, though he sits on his throne, meek and gentle as a lamb to those who come to him as humble supplicants, he will roar as a lion against the obstinately impenitent, and tear them in pieces, while there is none to deliver them. Lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way; that is, by leaving the way of righteousness, and turning to the paths of sin and death: or, in the way, being cut off in the midst of your iniquities: or, suddenly, as the word may be rendered, by some divine judgment stopping the sinner short in his career of wickedness. When his wrath is kindled but a little, the least sin provokes it, and the least measure of his wrath is intolerable; and therefore, how should we fear to offend? (2.) Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. The pleasantness of Christ's yoke should engage us to yield our necks to it, as the terrors of his wrath should lead us to avoid them. They who trust in him are blessed; they now enjoy his favour and regard, peace in their conscience, reviving confidence of his protection, and transporting hope of the glory which shall be revealed; and hereafter how unutterably more blessed will they appear, when this king in Zion shall sit on the mount in judgment, place them at his right hand, welcome them to his presence, seat them on his throne; and while their enemies and his are gnawing their tongues with pain, and doomed to dwell in everlasting burnings, they shall be filled with everlasting consolations, and spend a glorious eternity in adoration, love, and praise. Lord, may my happy lot be with them!

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/psalms-2.html. 1801-1803.
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