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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 2

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-12


HERE we have again a psalm without a title, and, so far, we are left to conjecture its age and author. The Jews, however, have always regarded it as Davidical; and there is evidence in Scripture itself (Acts 4:25) that the early Christians were of the same opinion. Modern critics, for the most part, agree, although there are some (Ewald, Paulus, Bleek) who ascribe it to Solomon, and others (Maurer, Delitzsch) who suppose it written by Hezekiah or Isaiah.

The psalm is certainly Messianic. It is assumed to be so in Acts 4:25; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5. However it may, to a certain extent, apply to David, David cannot exhaust its allusions. Hebrews 5:7, Hebrews 5:8, and Hebrews 5:12 are inapplicable to David, and must refer to the Messiah. The Jews admitted the Messianic character of the psalm, until driven into denial by the controversy with Christians. Most modern critics allow it.

There is a certain correspondency between Psalms 1:1-6. and 1; which may account for their being placed together. In beth the main idea is the antagonism between the righteous and the wicked. Isaiah sets forth this antagonism by a contrast between two typical individuals. Psalms 51:1-19 shows the two kingdoms of light and darkness engaged in their internecine conflict.

Psalms 2:1

Why do the heathen rage? The psalmist writes with a vision before his eyes. He "sees Jehovah upon his throne, and Messiah entering upon his universal dominion. The enemies of both on earth rise up against them with frantic tumult, and vainly strive to east off the fetters of their rule." Hence his sudden outburst. "What ails the heathen (goim)," he says. "that they rage?" or "make an uproar" (Kay), or "assemble tumultuously" (margin of Authorized Version and Revised,Version)? What are they about? What do they design? And why do the people—rather, the peoples, or "the masses" (Kay)—imagine (or, meditate) a vain thing? It must be "a vain thing;" i.e. a purpose which will come to naught, if it is something opposed to the will of Jehovah and Messiah. The vision shows the psalmist Jew and Gentile banded together against the gospel of Christ. Its scope is not exhausted by the exposition of Acts 4:26, but extends to the whole struggle between Christianity on the one hand, and Judaism and paganism on the other. "The peoples" still to this day "imagine a vain thing"—imagine that Christianity will succumb to the assaults made upon it—will fade, die away, and disappear.

Psalms 2:2

The kings of the earth set themselves; or, draw themselves up in array (comp. Jeremiah 46:4). Such kings as Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa, Nero, Galerius, Diocletian, Julian the Apostate, etc. There is always a warfare between the world and the Church, in which kings are apt to take a part, most often on the worldly side. And the rulers take counsel together. "Rulers" are persons having authority, but below the rank of kings Such were the ethnarchs and tetrarchs of the first century, the governors of provinces under the Roman emperor, the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and the like. These last frequently "took counsel against the Lord" (see Matthew 26:3-5; Matthew 27:1; Acts 4:5, Acts 4:6; Acts 5:21-41). Against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying. In David's time the recognized "anointed of the Lord" was the divinely appointed King of Israel (1 Samuel 2:10; 1Sa 12:3, 1 Samuel 12:5; 1 Samuel 16:6; 1 Samuel 24:6,1Sa 24:10; 1 Samuel 26:7, 1 Samuel 26:16; 2Sa 1:14, 2 Samuel 1:16 : 2 Samuel 19:21; 2 Samuel 22:51; Psa 17:1-15 :50; Psalms 20:6; Psalms 28:8)—first Saul, and then David; but David here seems to designate by the term a Greater than himself—the true theocratic King, whom he typified.

Psalms 2:3

Let us break their bands asunder. Wicked men always feel God's rule and his Law to be restraints. They chafe at them, fret against them, and, in the last resort—so far as their will goes—wholly throw them off. And cast away their cords from us. "Bands" and "cords" are the fetters that restrain prisoners. The rebels determine to burst them, and assert their absolute freedom.

Psalms 2:4

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh. God "laughs" at the vain and futile efforts of man to escape from the control of his laws and throw off his dominion (comp. Psalms 37:13; Psalms 59:8). It is impossible that these efforts should succeed. Men must obey God willingly, or else unwillingly. The Lord (Adonay in the ordinary Hebrew text, but a large number of manuscripts have Jehovah) shall have them in derision. "Laughter" and "derision" are, of course, anthropo-morphisms. It is meant that God views with contempt and scorn man's weak attempts at rebellion.

Psalms 2:5

Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath. "Then" (אָז) means "after a time"—"presently" ('Speaker's Commentary'), when the fitting period has arrived. "He shall speak"—not in articulate words, not by a voice from heaven, not even by a commissioned messenger, but by accomplished facts. Christ does rule; Christ does reign; he sits a King in heaven, and is acknowledged as a King upon earth. In vain was all the opposition of the Jews, in vain persecution after persecution by the Gentiles. God has established his Church, and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." And vex them. "Strike terror and dismay into them" (Kay). In his sore displeasure; or, "in the heat of his anger" (Trench and Skinner).

Psalms 2:6

Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion; literally, and as for me, I have set my King upon Zion, the mount of my holiness. The words are uttered by Jehovah, and must refer to the Anointed One of Psalms 2:2. This Anointed One God has set up as King upon Zion, his holy mountain. Without denying some reference to David, the type, we must regard the Anti-type, Christ, as mainly pointed at. Christ is set up for ever as King in the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2-7; Revelation 22:1-5). There is no need to substitute "anointed" for "set" or" set up," as is done by Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Ewald, Zuuz, Umbreit, and others, since גסךְhas both meanings (comp. Proverbs 8:23).

Psalms 2:7

I will declare the decree. It is best to suppose that Messiah here takes the word, and maintains it to the end of Psalms 2:9, when the psalmist resumes in his own person. Messiah "declares," or publishes, a "decree," made by God the Father in the beginning of all things, and communicated by him to the Son, whereby he made known the relationship between them, and invested the Son with sovereign power over the universe. The Lord hath said unto me; rather, said unto me (see the Revised Version). It was said, once for all, at a distant date. Thou art my Son. Not "one of my sons,,' but "my Son;" i.e. my one Son, my only one—"my Son" κατ ἐξοχήν (comp. Psalms 89:27; Hebrews 1:5). This day have I begotten thee. If it be asked, "Which day?" the answer would seem to be, the day when Christ commenced his redemptive work: then the Father "committed all judgment"—"all dominion over creation'' to the Son" (John 5:22), gave him, as it were, a new existence, a new sphere, the throne of the world, and of all that is or that ever will be, in it (see 'Speaker's Commentary,' ad loc.).

Psalms 2:8

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance. A very small part of the heathen were the inheritance of David, and therefore the Messiah only can be spoken of in this verse. Before Messiah "all kings" were to "fall down; all nations to do him service" (Psalms 72:11; comp. Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 60:3, Isaiah 60:4; Matthew 28:19, etc.). And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession (comp. Isaiah 52:10; Jeremiah 16:19; Micah 5:4; Zechariah 9:10; Acts 13:47).

Psalms 2:9

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron. It is said that these words, and those of the next clause, "cannot describe the mild rule of Christ" (Rosenmuller, Do Wette, Hupfeld, etc.). But the objectors forget that there is a severe, as well as a mild, side to the dealings of God with his human creatures. St. Paul notes in the same verse both the "severity" and the "goodness" of God (Romans 11:22). Christ, though "the Prince of Peace," "came to send a sword upon the earth" (Matthew 10:34). As' the appointed Judge of men, he takes vengeance on tile wicked, while he rewards the righteous (Luke 3:17; Matthew 25:46). Nay, St. John, in the Apocalypse, declares that "out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations. and "ye shall rule them with a rod of iron" (Revelation 19:15; comp. Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5). So, with respect to the other clause of the verse—Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel—it is to be noted that there is a similar threat made by the Lord of hosts against Jerusalem in the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 19:11), and that under the new covenant the same is threatened in the Revelation (Revelation 2:27). In truth, both covenants are alike in denouncing the extreme of God's wrath on impenitent sinners, such as those here spoken of.

Psalms 2:10

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings. The remainder of the psalm contains the advice of the psalmist to the rebels of Psalms 2:1-3, and to all who may be inclined to imitate them. "Be wise," he says," be prudent. For your own sakes desist from attempts at rebellion. Jehovah and Messiah are irresistible. Ye will find it "hard to kick against the pricks.'" Be instructed, ye judges of the earth. "Be taught," i.e; "by experience, if ye are not wise enough to know beforehand, that opposition to God is futile." Compare the advice of Gamaliel (Acts 5:38, Acts 5:39).

Psalms 2:11

Serve the Lord with fear. "If ye will not serve him (i.e. honour and obey him) from love, do it from fear;" "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalms 111:10). And rejoice. Do not be content with fear. Go on from fear to love, and so to joy. Good men "rejoice in God alway" (Philippians 4:4). But such rejoicing must be with trembling; or, with reverence (Prayer-book Version), since no service is acceptable to God but such as is rendered "with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).

Psalms 2:12

Kiss the Son. It is certainly remarkable that we have here a different word for "Son" from that employed in Psalms 2:7, and ordinarily in the Hebrew Bible. Still, there is other evidence that the word here used, bar, existed in the Hebrew no less than in the Aramaic, viz. Proverbs 31:2, where it is repeated thrice. It was probably an archaic and poetic word, like our "sire" for "father," rarely used, but, when used, intended to mark some special dignity. Hengstenberg suggests that the writer's motive in prefering bar to ben in this place was to avoid the cacophony which would have arisen from the juxtaposition of ben and pen (פן); and this is quite possible, but as a secondary rather than as the main reason. By "kiss the Son" we must understand "pay him homage," salute him as King in the customary way (see 1 Samuel 10:1). Lest he be angry. The omission of a customary token of respect is an insult which naturally augers the object of it (Esther 3:5). And ye perish from the way; or, as to the way." To anger the Son is to bring destruction on our "way," or course in life. When his wrath is kindled but a little; rather, for soon his wrath may be kindled (see the Revised Version). Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. The writer ends with words of blessing, to relieve the general severity of the psalm (comp. Psalms 3:8; Psalms 5:12; Psalms 28:9; Psalms 41:13, etc.). (On the blessedness of trusting in God, see Psalms 34:8; Psalms 40:4; Psalms 84:12, etc.)


Psalms 2:8

The kingdom and glory of Christ.

"Ask," etc. We have the highest authority for regarding this psalm as a prophecy of the kingdom and glory of Christ. Interpreters labour in vain to fix on some occasion in Israel's history to account for its composition. No adequate explanation can be imagined of its scope and language but that given in Acts 4:25 (comp. Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5). Acts 4:10-12 would be blasphemous arrogance if spoken by and of a mere earthly king. Here is a declaration and a condition.


1. The voice of supreme authority. A grant of absolute dominion over the whole human race. This must be a Divine promise; else it were meaningless, impious (Psalms 22:28). Subordination is implied, as in 1 Corinthians 15:27; and in our Saviour's own declarations (John 6:38; John 15:1). But not inferior nature. If it were—if Jesus were human only—then the gospel would have immeasurably lowered our position towards God; put us further away, instead of bringing us nigh. For under the old covenant, Jehovah himself was King and Shepherd of Israel. On the other hand, the real Manhood of Christ is as indispensable to this Kingship as his Deity (see John 5:27).

2. Or' almighty power. What God promises, he is able to perform. How? How is human freedom reconciled with Divine control of all things, from the counsels of kings (Proverbs 21:1) to the sparrow's fall (Matthew 10:29)? A problem this that utterly defies human reason. But practically it is solved by faith and prayer (Philippians 2:13; Daniel 4:35).

3. Of Divine faithfulness. God's word is pledged and cannot be broken (Isaiah 11:9, Isaiah 11:10). As matter of right, the kingdom is Christ's (Matthew 28:18). It shall be so in fact (1 Corinthians 15:25) one day.

II. THE CONDITION. "Ask of me."

1. Our Lord Jesus personally fulfilled this condition, claimed the fulfilment of the promise, when he said, "I have finished," etc. (John 17:4; comp. Philippians 2:9-11).

2. But Christ is one with "the Church, which is his body." As he by his intercession makes our prayers his own, so we are to make this great request ours. He has taught us to set it foremost in our prayers: "Thy kingdom come" (comp. Psalms 72:15; and note the commencing fulfilment, Acts 1:14).


1. The scope of Christian hope and effort is as wide as God's presence—it embraces the whole world (Matthew 28:19; Galatians 3:8).

2. God's promises await our prayers (John 16:23).

Psalms 2:12

The kiss of homage.

"Kiss the Son," etc. That is, the Son of God, spoken of in Psalms 2:7. Our Saviour loved to call himself "Son of man," but he did not shrink from using also this name for which the Jews accused him of blasphemy (Matthew 11:27; John 9:35; John 10:36; John 19:7). The kiss of friendly greeting, still the ordinary custom in many countries, is referred to in innumerable passages of Scripture. Else the traitor Judas had not dared so to crown his treachery. Jesus noted the neglect of the kiss of hospitality (Luke 7:45); did not disdain the kisses showered on his feet by the weeping penitent. But the text speaks, not of any of these, but of the kiss of homage or worship.

I. THE SUMMONS. "Kiss the Son"' Kings and judges of the earth (cf. Psalms 148:11) are summoned to do homage to "the Son" as "Head over all" (Luke 5:6). "Serve the Lord ' (Psalms 2:11) implies this homage. Why rulers? As representing the nations (Psalms 2:1, Psalms 2:2). Civil power is God's ordinance (Romans 13:1, etc.). Otherwise neither despots nor democracies could have any right to make and execute laws. Christ's kingdom is not a kingdom of this world; but he is the Ruler of nations as well as individuals (Psalms 22:28). Till this is practically acknowledged—the whole of human life, public and private, rendered obedient to Christ's law—the nations cannot be "blessed in him" (Galatians 3:8; Revelation 11:15).

II. THE WARNING. "Lest he be angry." The compassion, gentleness, tenderness of Jesus, are sometimes dwelt on to the exclusion of his majesty and righteousness (but see Matthew 24:44, Matthew 24:50, Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:31, etc.; Luke 19:27). There is no more tremendous phrase in Scripture than" the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16).

III. THE DOOM OF THE DISOBEDIENT. "Perish from the way." What way? The way of salvation—of God; of truth; of holiness; of peace; of life (Acts 16:17; Mat 22:16; 2 Peter 2:2, 2 Peter 2:21; Isaiah 35:8; Luke 1:79; Matthew 7:14; Proverbs 15:24). The most fearful punishment of sin is incapacity for holinessspiritual death (Revelation 22:11). "Lest" is the awful shadow over the future, if you are rejecting Christ. "Now" is the sunshine on the path of faith and repentance (2 Corinthians 6:2; 2 Corinthians 5:20).


Psalms 2:1-12

The King in Zion: a Messianic psalm.

A close examination of this psalm will show it to be at once prophetic and Messianic. Its date and author are not certainly known. The style rather points to David as the probable writer. To him especially the promise of a King who should reign in righteousness formed part of that "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure." By faith in that covenant he foresaw him, who, being emphatically the Just One, should rule in the fear of God (see 2 Samuel 23:2-5, where, as well as in this psalm, we have a remarkable illustration of what the Apostle Paul speaks of as the foresight evinced in the Old Testament Scriptures; see also Galatians 3:8). In fact, we regard this psalm, though much briefer than Isaiah 53:1-12; yet as being as distinctly and clearly, yea, as wonderfully, Messianic as even that celebrated chapter of the evangelical prophet. Hence we regard it as affording as clear a proof of the guidance of a foreseeing Spirit, and of the facts of inspiration and of revelation, as are the starry heavens of the glory of God. For we know, as matters of fact,

(1) that this psalm finds its fulfilment in Christ;

(2) that it has been fulfilled in no one else;

(3) that hundreds of years intervened between prophecy and event; and

(4) that there are here not merely general statements,

but numerous minute details which no human eye could possibly have discerned beforehand; so that we are shut up, by a severely intellectual process, to the conclusion that the author of this psalm is none other than he who sees the end from the beginning. This will, we trust, appear as we proceed to examine and expound it. £

I. HERE IS AN ANOINTED ONE FORESEEN. (Isaiah 53:2.) "His Anointed." Who is this "Anointed One?" Let us see: Anointing was chiefly for purposes of consecration and inauguration. It signified the setting apart of the anointed one for God's service, and symbolized those heavenly gifts which were needed in its discharge. Priests, prophets, and kings were anointed (cf. Le Isaiah 4:3, Isaiah 4:5, 16; 7:35; 1 Kings 19:16; 1Sa 16:12, 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 1:39). There is in this psalm One referred to as the Anointed One. The Hebrew word for the Anointed is "Messiah." The Greek word, in its Anglicized form is "Christ." This Anointed One is the Son of God (see Isaiah 53:7). He is King (Isaiah 53:6). He has the nations for his possession (Isaiah 53:8). He is One before whom kings are to bow (Isaiah 53:10-12). This cannot possibly be any other than the King of kings. To no one can the words of the psalm possibly apply but to him who is Lord of the whole earth, i.e. to the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Psalms 132:17; Daniel 9:25, Daniel 9:26; Acts 17:3).


(1) from the nations, and also from

(2) kings and rulers. Five forms of resistance are indicated.

1. Raging. Tumultuous agitation, as when waves of ocean are lashed to fury.

2. Imagining. Meditating (same word as in Psalms 1:2). Turning over and over in the mind some plan of opposition.

3. Betting themselves. The result of the meditation in a resolution.

4. Taking counsel together. For combined action.

5. Saying, etc. Meditation, resolution, and concerted action taking effect in a verbal utterance: "Let us break their bands asunder," etc. (For the fulfilment of all this, see Matthew 21:33-44; Matthew 23:31-35; John 5:16-18; John 7:1, John 7:30, John 7:45; John 8:40-59; John 10:39; John 11:53, John 11:57; John 12:10; John 18:3; John 19:15, John 19:16, John 19:30; Acts 4:24, Acts 4:27.)

III. RESISTANCE TO THE ANOINTED ONE IS FOLLY. (Isaiah 53:1.) Why do the nations rage? Isaiah 53:4-6 foretell the utter discomfiture of the opponents, in four respects.

1. The utter impotence of the assault would be matter for infinite ridicule and scorn. (Isaiah 53:4.) It were as easy for a spider to remove Mont Blanc from its base as for puny man to injure the Lord's Anointed One.

2. The displeasure of God should trouble the opposers. (Isaiah 53:5; cf. Matthew 23:37, Matthew 23:38.) Note how fearfully the imprecation in Matthew 27:25 was fulfilled. Read the account in Josephus of the miseries that came on the Jews at the destruction of their city (cf. Acts 12:1, Acts 12:2, Acts 12:23).

3. The power of God would effect a mighty restraint, and even a complete destruction. (Matthew 27:9.) See Spurgeon's 'Treasury of David,' vol. 1. p. 29, for some admirable remarks on Matthew 27:9; Dr. Geikie, in his 'Holy Land and the Bible,' vol. 2. p. 50, et seq; for some strikingly instructive remarks on the pottery of the East; and also Dr. Plummer's extraordinary collection of historic facts on the miseries which have befallen the persecutors of the Church.

4. The Anointed One would be enthroned in spite of all. (Matthew 27:6, Matthew 27:7.) The seat of Christ's throne is called "my holy hill of Zion," in allusion to Zion as the city of David. Christ is the Son and Lord of David, and hence David's throne is the type of Christ's. Christ is now reigning in heaven. He is at once our Prophet, Priest, and King (see Acts 2:22-36; Acts 3:13-15; Acts 4:10-12; Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:13; 1 Corinthians 15:25).

IV. WHATEVER MAY BE THE DECREES OF EARTH, THERE IS A DECREE IN HEAVEN, WHICH THE ANOINTED ONE DECLARES. (Matthew 27:7-9.) "I will declare the decree." The decree of the kings and rulers, which they resolve to carry out, is given in Matthew 27:3; but! will tell of a decree from a higher throne. It has four parts.

1. The Anointed One is to be the begotten Son of God. (Matthew 27:7.)

2. He is to have the sway over the whole world. (Matthew 27:8.)

3. He is to have this as the result of his intercession. "Ask of me" (Matthew 27:8.)

4. His sway and conquest are to be entire and complete. (Matthew 27:9.) If men will not bend, they must break.


1. Be wise. Kings and judges are reminded that the only true wisdom is found in yielding to the Anointed One. There is no reason why he should be resisted. Resistance can end only in defeat.

2. Be instructed. Learn the Divine purpose and plan concerning the King in Zion.

3. Serve the Lord with fear. Not in servile terror, but in loyal reverence.

4. Rejoice with trembling. Be glad that the sceptre is in such hands.

5. Kiss the Son. Do homage, acknowledging his supremacy. This course is urged on them by two powerful pleas.

(1) If they refuse, they perish from the way; i.e. they wander; they miss the way so seriously as to be lost; they perish as the result of being, lost. Professor Cheyne's rendering is, "Ye go to ruin."

(2) If they yield the Anointed One allegiance and trust, they will be happy indeed (Matthew 27:12). £


1. It is very foolish to fret and chafe against the government of God.

2. All mankind are under Christ's sway, whether in this state of being or in any other.

3. Christ has a heart of love as well as a sceptre of power; and he rules to save.

4. Those who will not submit to the sceptre of Christ's grace must feel the weight of his iron rod.

5. True blessedness is found in submission to Christ; this blessedness is greater than tongue can express or heart conceive.—C.


Psalms 2:1-12

The heathen in three aspects.

I. AS SLAVES OF SIN. The condition of peoples varies. Civilization was more advanced in Greece and Rome than in other parts of the world. But though there may be superiority in some respects, with regard to the highest things there is no difference (Romans 3:9). What a terrible picture have we in this psalm of the crimes and violence and miseries that desolate the world, where "the lust of the eye, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life" prevail, and not the Law of God!

II. AS OBJECTS OF DIVINE INTEREST. The Jews were in covenant with God as his peculiar people. But this did not imply that other peoples were unloved and uncared for. God has his purposes with regard to all the tribes and kindreds of the earth. Though they have forsaken him, he has not forsaken them. In their conscience they feel his presence. In the results of their actions they arc subject to his Law. In their fears and darkness they are groping after him, and in their cruel rites and superstitions, consciously or unconsciously, they are declaring that without God they are without hope, and that the desire of their hearts is for his light and blessing. Things are dark and gruesome, but yet, in ways unknown to us, God is ruling over all, and working for the accomplishment of his own will and holy ends. The heathen are in God's hand. He promises to give them to Christ. All prayer and evangelistic effort should be founded on this: "Ask of me." Prayer is good; but prayer without work is vain. Have we the mind of Christ? Do our hearts yearn in love and pity over the multitudes who are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death? Then let us plead God's word, and labour to carry out Christ's command (Matthew 28:19, Matthew 28:20).


1. This inheritance is moral, not material. It is the people that God is concerned about. "All souls are mine."

2. This inheritance is obtained by right, and not by might. God "gives," not in an arbitrary way, but in accordance with law. There will be no forcing. The heathen must be won by truth and conviction if they are to be won at all. Hence there is scope for all reasonable motive and argument.

3. This inheritance is for spiritual good, not for personal aggrandizement. Empire has been often sought for selfish ends. If the heathen are given to Christ, it is not that they may remain in their heathenism, but that they may be renewed in the spirit of their minds and receive the blessings of the gospel. The more that we ourselves, who have so many representatives among the heathen, recognize that the power we have as a nation is given us of God, and should be used as a sacred trust for God's glory and the good of the people with whom we have to do, the better for us all. Woe to us if we seek our own and not also the things of others, if we are eager to make gain and to advance our own selfish ends and forget the claims of our brethren, who as surely belong to Christ as we do, and for whom he died!—W.F.

Psalms 2:2-6

The false and the true in kingship.

There is a silent contrast throughout this psalm between the "kings of earth" (Psalms 2:2) and" my King" (Psalms 2:6).

I. THE FALSE IS CHARACTERIZED BY SELF-SEEKING; THE TRUE BY SELF-SACRIFICE. The false begin and end with self. They act from and for "themselves" (Psalms 2:2). The true have regard to others, and are always ready to subordinate and sacrifice themselves for the good of others. In the one case it is the many for the one, the people for the king; in the other, it is the one for the many, the king for the people.

II. THE FALSE RULE BY FORCE; THE TRUE BY RIGHTEOUSNESS. "Bands" and "cords" mark the restraints of law, but the false care for none of these things. Might, not right, is their rule. Whatever stands in the way must give place to their ambitions. On the other hand, the true are animated by the spirit of justice. Instead of grasping violently what does not belong to them, they accept their place and use their powers as from God. They hold that the "decree" must be righteous to be respected—that the law must be just and good to commend itself to reason, and to command the obedience of the heart. Power that a man gains for himself he will use for himself, but power that is held as a trust from God will be wisely and rightly employed.

III. THE FALSE IS MARKED BY CORRUPTION AND MISERY; THE TRUE IS PRODUCTIVE OF THE HIGHEST GOOD. Great are the perils of power. Well did the Preacher say, "Oppression [i.e. the power of oppressing] maketh a wise man mad" (Ecclesiastes 7:7). If this be so with the wise, how much worse will it be with the unwise! The Books of Chronicles and Kings in the Old Testament, and the history of heathen and Christian nations, are full of proofs as to the evils of power wrongly and wickedly used. Crimes, revolts, revolutions, wars upon wars, with manifold and terrible woes, mark the course of the Pharaohs and the Nebuchadnezzars, the Herods and Napoleons of this world. On the other hand, the rule of the true is conducive to the highest interests of men. Their aim is to do justly and to love mercy. Their motto is, "Death to evil, life to good." "The work of righteousness is peace" (Isaiah 32:17).

IV. THE FALSE ARE DOOMED TO FAILURE; THE TRUE TO VICTORY AND IMMORTAL HONOUR. The rule of the false inevitably leads to ruin. Sin is weakness. Evil can only breed evil. Where obedience is given from fear, and not from love, it cannot last. Where homage is rendered for reasons of prudence, and not from conviction, it cannot be depended upon. Where there is not desert on the one hand, there cannot be devotion on the other. Empire founded on the wrong is rotten through and through. But the true reign after another fashion. Their character commands respect. Their government, being founded in righteousness, secures confidence and support. Their rule, being exercised for the benign and holy ends of love, contributes to the general good.

Two things follow.

1. God's ideal of kingship is found in Jesus Christ, and the nearer earthly kings resemble him, and the more perfectly they conform their lives and rule to his mind, the better for them and their subjects.

2. On the other hand, our first duty is to accept Christ as our King, and in love and loyalty to serve him. Thus we shall best fulfil our duty in all other relationships. The best Christian is the best subject.—W.F.


Psalms 2:1-12

The Divine King.

This psalm is supposed by some to have been written about the time of the coronation of Solomon. The heathen might then be the subject nations outside of Palestine, which threatened rebellion at this time. The seventh verse is applied to Christ in Hebrews 1:1-14. Let us use the psalm in this higher application of it to Christ.


1. Is an unrighteous rebellion. Rebellion against evil powers is a righteous thing. But Christ's rule is infinitely just and good and merciful.

2. Is an unsuccessful rebellion. "The people imagine a vain thing" if they think they can overthrow the rule of Christ. That belongs to the eternal order. The sea can shatter granite cliffs, but the throne of Christ is for ever and ever.

3. Such rebellion recoils upon the heads of the rebels. Every blow we strike against justice, love, and goodness rebounds upon ourselves; but we cannot injure God, however we may grieve his Fatherly heart.


1. By Divine appointment. (Hebrews 1:6.) And therefore God is said to laugh at, deride, and utter his wrath in sore displeasure against those who oppose him (Hebrews 1:4 Hebrews 1:6).

2. By Divine nature and character. "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Hebrews 1:7). The Divinest Being of all history, and, therefore, a King by the highest of all rights.

3. A King by the actual and possible extent of his empire. "I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance," etc. (Hebrews 1:8). He who has conquered a world is its rightful ruler. Christ is now worthy; but one day he will actually conquer the world.

III. THE UNAVOIDABLE INFERENCE. That we should be reconciled to God, and be at one with Christ. The wrath of God is unendurable, but "blessed are all they that put their trust in him."—S.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/psalms-2.html. 1897.
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