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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 2

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 2:0


The Reign of the Lord's Anointed______________No MT Intro The Messiah's Triumph and Kingdom The Lord Gives Universal Dominion to His King (A Royal Psalm, Composed for a Coronation) God's Chosen King The Messianic Drama
Psalms 2:1-3 Psalms 2:1-3 Psalms 2:1-3 Psalms 2:1-3 Psalms 2:1-3
Psalms 2:4-6 Psalms 2:4-6 Psalms 2:4-6 Psalms 2:4-6 Psalms 2:4-6
Psalms 2:7-9 Psalms 2:7-9 Psalms 2:7-9 Psalms 2:7-9 Psalms 2:7-9
Psalms 2:10-12 Psalms 2:10-12 Psalms 2:10-12b Psalms 2:10-12 Psalms 2:10-12
Psalms 2:12c

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This Psalm is understood in the NT to be Messianic (cf. Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5, i.e., a son, cf. Psalms 2:7). It is used by

a. Peter in Acts 4:25

b. Paul in Acts 13:33

The problem with this referring to Jesus is verse Psalms 2:7. See full notes there relating to “today I have begotten You.”

B. The Messianic reign will be universal (this is the obvious conclusion to monotheism (see Special Topic: The Son of God, cf. Psalms 2:8; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:5; see my commentary on Revelation online at www.freebiblecommentary.org).

C. There will be opposition from “the nations” (cf. Psalms 2:1-3). Many commentators relate this as an end-time military conflict (i.e., premillennialism) between those who know YHWH and His Messiah and those who do not! This is the consummation of the promise in Genesis 3:15 and the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21-22. Everything in between is a terrible parenthesis of rebellion which abrogated God's plan of fellowship with His highest creation (i.e., Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 3:8).

D. Conflict may come but YHWH has an eternal plan of redemption which involves His Messiah.


Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 2:1-3 1Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3”Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!”

Psalms 2:1-3 This describes the independence of the fallen human spirit (esp. Psalms 2:3; Genesis 3:0). Nationalism was God's way of protecting humans from the one-world government (cf. Genesis 10-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:0). However, one day the world will be united under God's Messiah. For the church this reversal of the Tower of Babel occurred at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:0, i.e., “they all heard the gospel in their own language”).

Psalms 2:1 The AB (p. 6) translates this first verse as “Why do the nations forgather, and the peoples number their troops?” This reading is based on

1. parallelism

2. Ugaritic word usage

3. the first verb (“be in tumult,” BDB 921, KB 1189, Qal perfect) is found only here in the OT

4. the use of the root, “vain thing,” ריק (BDB 937) in Genesis 14:14, is translated by the LXX (i.e., “he counted his own homebreds”)

It seems to form a better parallel to verse Psalms 2:2.

Psalms 2:2 “kings. . .rulers” These are also parallel in Judges 5:3; Proverbs 8:15 (poetry).

“of the earth” The term “earth” has a wide semantical field. Context must determine if it is local, regional, or global. The question here is “Did this Psalm originally refer to the nations surrounding Israel, the nations of the ANE, or all nations (cf. Psalms 2:8)”? In a sense this may be a multi-fulfillment prophecy like Isaiah 7:14 or typology like Psalms 22:0. In light of this Psalm's usage in the NT, it has a universal sense (i.e., Messianic, eschatological, global).


“the Lord” This is the covenant name for Israel's Deity. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

“Anointed” This is the Hebrew word for “messiah.” It is translated into Greek as “Christ.” It symbolized the special presence of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God's assigned task through a person (cf. 1 Samuel 10:1, 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 19:16; Isaiah 61:1).



Psalms 2:3 This verse has two cohortatives.

1. let us tear BDB 683, KB 736, Piel cohortative, cf. Jeremiah 5:5

2. let us cast away BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil cohortative

Fallen humans (individuals and corporate groups) want independence from their Creator (cf. Genesis 3:0).

The terms “fetters” (BDB 64) and “cords” (BDB 721) refer to things that bind prisoners (here, vassals). They (like all fallen humans) saw YHWH's law as restricting their freedom, while in reality, His law is designed to keep us safe, happy, and productive in a fallen world. The laws are the loving guidelines of a parent, providing guidance and wisdom!

Verses 4-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 2:4-6 4He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6”But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

Psalms 2:4-6 This describes YHWH's thoughts and actions in response to the nations' uproar. This is anthropomorphic language.

1. sits

2. laughs (cf. Psalms 59:8; Proverbs 1:26)

3. scoffs

4. speaks in anger

Can fallen, corporate humanity resist YHWH's will (i.e., Genesis 10-11)? No!

SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS A HUMAN (anthropomorphic language)

Psalms 2:4 “sits in the heavens” This refers to the place of God's throne, where He reigns! For “heavens” see Special Topic below.



“laughs” The verb (BDB 965, KB 1315, Qal imperfect ) is a literary way of denoting YHWH's sovereignty. THE UBS Handbook (p. 26) has an insightful comment. “In Psalms 1:1‘scoffers' are people who make fun of God; here it is God who mocks the pagan rulers.”

“Lord” Psalms 1:4a and 4b are parallel, so the Deity referred to is YHWH (cf. Psalms 2:2c). Here the word is not YHWH but Adon the Hebrew word for “owner,” “husband,” “lord.” See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

Psalms 2:6 YHWH, in contradistinction to the idols who cannot see, hear, or act, installed (lit. “consecrated,” BDB 651, KB 703, Qal perfect) His King! Israel's King acted as YHWH's representative.

Notice the use of the personal pronoun, “Me,” “My” (twice). YHWH is personally present and active in the world, and especially with His covenant people.

“Zion, My holy mountain” These both refer to Mount Moriah, the hill in Jerusalem on which the temple was built. Originally Zion referred to the hill on which the Jebusite fortress was built (i.e., Jerusalem encompassed seven hills). David conquered it and built his palace on this hill. Later it came to be a way to designate the entire city of Jerusalem.


Verses 7-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 2:7-9 7”I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. 9You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.'“

Psalms 2:7-9 The speaker is the new King, here called YHWH's “Son” (cf. Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 7:28).


Psalms 2:7 “today I have begotten You” In a sense this phrase represents the divine promises of 2 Samuel 7:0 (cf. Psalms 89:26-27), where YHWH promises in figurative language to be a “father” to David's royal descendants. “Today” would refer to the king's coronation day. Note John H. Walton, ANE Thought and the OT, p. 89, footnote 19,

“the idea that procreation is related to role rather than to substance is evident even in the biblical statements like. . .(Psalms 2:7) in which the king is born to his royal position.”

Also note G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, p. 190. However, in this Psalm it is used of the Messiah (i.e., Jesus, cf. Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22; Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5), which caused some theological problems particularly in relation to “monotheism,” and later the NT heresy of adoptionism.


The theological issue is “Is the Messianic king pre-existent deity” or a created being (cf. Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 1:4)? John 1:1-3 answers this issue. It is so important that I have included my notes from John 1:1-3.

John 1:0 John 1:1 “In the beginning” This reflects Genesis 1:1 and is also used in 1 John 1:1 as a reference to the incarnation. It is possible that 1 John was a cover letter to the Gospel. Both deal with Gnosticism. John 1:1-5 are an affirmation of Jesus Christ's divine pre-existence before creation (cf. John 1:15; John 8:56-59; John 16:28; John 17:5; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-7; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 10:5-8). The NT is described as 1. a new creation, not marred by the Fall (i.e., Genesis 3:15 fulfilled for mankind) 2. a new conquest (Promised Land) 3. a new exodus (fulfilled prophecy) 4. a new Moses (law giver) 5. a new Joshua (cf. Hebrews 4:8) 6. a new water miracle (cf. Hebrews 3-4) 7. new manna (cf. John 6:0) and so many more, especially in Hebrews.

“was” (thrice) This is an imperfect tense (cf. John 1:2:1, John 1:2, John 1:4, John 1:10) which focuses on continual existence in past time. This tense is used to show the Logos' pre-existence (cf. John 8:57-58; John 17:5, John 17:24; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 10:5-7). It is contrasted with the aorist tenses of John 2:3, John 2:6, and 14.

“the Word” The Greek term logos referred to a message, not just a single word. In this context it is a title which the Greeks used to describe “world reason” and the Hebrews as analogous with “Wisdom.” John chose this term to assert that God's Word is both a person and a message. See Contextual Insights, C.

“with God” “With” could be paraphrased “face to face.” It depicts intimate fellowship. It also points toward the concept of one divine essence and three personal eternal manifestations (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at John 14:26). The NT asserts the paradox that Jesus is separate from the Father, but also that He is one with the Father.

“the Word was God” This verb is imperfect tense as in Psalms 2:1a. There is no article (which identifies the subject, see F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 66) with Theos, but Theos is placed first in the Greek phrase for emphasis. This verse and Ps. 2:18 are strong statements of the full deity of the pre-existent Logos (cf. John 5:18; John 8:58; John 10:30; John 14:9; John 17:11; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1). Jesus is fully divine as well as fully human (cf. 1 John 4:1-3). He is not the same as God the Father, but He is the very same divine essence as the Father.

The NT asserts the full deity of Jesus of Nazareth, but protects the distinct personhood of the Father. The one divine essence is emphasized in John 1:1; John 5:18; John 10:30, John 10:34-38; John 14:9-10; and John 20:28, while their distinctives are emphasized in John 1:2, John 1:14, John 1:18; John 5:19-23; John 8:28; John 10:25, John 10:29; John 14:11, John 14:12, John 14:13, John 14:16.

Psalms 1:2 This is parallel to John 1:1 and emphasizes again the shocking truth in light of monotheism that Jesus, who was born around 6-5 B.C., has always been with the Father and, therefore, is Deity.

Psalms 1:3 “All things came into being through Him” The Logos was the Father's agent of creation of both the visible and the invisible (cf. John 1:10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). This is similar to the role wisdom plays in Psalms 33:6 and Proverbs 8:12-23 (in Hebrews “wisdom” is a feminine gender noun).

“apart from Him nothing came into being” This is a refutation of the Gnostic false teaching of angelic aeons between the high, good god and a lesser spiritual being that formed, pre-existent matter.

It must be noted that the “Father. . .son” imagery is a figurative way to show a personal relationship (cf. Deuteronomy 32:18). The human family is an easily understood way to symbolize this fellowship. This same truth is also part of the Hebrew concept of “know.” See Special Topic: Know.

Psalms 2:8 The reign of the Messiah will be universal (cf. Psalms 67:7; Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 52:10; Jeremiah 16:19; Micah 5:4, see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth). This is God's world. It was created as a platform for God and the creatures made in His image (cf. Genesis 1:26-27) for fellowship (cf. Genesis 3:8). The rebellion of Adam and Eve (cf. Genesis 3:0) damaged the image of God in mankind and negatively affected physical creation (cf. Romans 8:18-25). This is not the world that God intended it to be! However, He has refused to give up on mankind. He revealed Himself through Israel and sent His Son (cf. Genesis 3:15) to restore creation to its intended purpose. The Bible starts with God and mankind in a garden setting (cf. Genesis 1-3; Psalms 1:3) and it concludes with God and mankind in a garden setting (cf. Revelation 21-22). Everything between Genesis 3:0 and Revelation 21-22 is God cleaning up the mess!

“inheritance. . .possession” Both of these words have theological significance to God's gift, to His covenant people. The first is often especially related to the Levites. The second is a promise to the descendants of Abraham (cf. Genesis 17:8; Genesis 48:4; Leviticus 25:34).

Psalms 2:9 “You will break them with a rod of iron” The Hebrew verb (BDB 949, KB 1270, Qal imperfect) is from the root עער, but the LXX and Peshitta read it as “rule” or “shepherd,” רעה (BDB 944). The early church used the LXX and this is how the phrase is used in Revelation 2:27; Psalms 2:5 and 19:15.

However, the parallelism with the next line of Hebrew poetry (i.e., “shatter” BDB 658, KB 711, Piel imperfect) favors “break.”

“rod” The noun (BDB 986) can mean “rod,” “staff,” or “scepter.” The last option seems best in the royal context (cf. Psalms 45:6; Psalms 125:3; Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 14:5; Ezekiel 19:11, Ezekiel 19:14; Zechariah 10:11). Although if “shepherd” is correct, then it would be “staff” (cf. Psalms 23:4; Micah 7:14).

“You will shatter them like earthenware” The breaking of a clay vessel was an ANE visual symbol of judgment.

Verses 10-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 2:10-12 10Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. 11Worship the Lord with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Psalms 2:10-12 Notice the series of imperatives as the psalmist (i.e., David, cf. Acts 4:25), speaking for YHWH, warns the rulers of this world to prepare to meet Him (cf. Proverbs 8:12-21).

1. show discernment BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil imperative

2. take warning BDB 415, KB 418, Niphal imperative

3. worship the Lord BDB 712, KB 773, Qal imperative

4. rejoice with trembling BDB 162, KB 189, Qal imperative

5. do homage to the Son (lit. “kiss”) BDB 676, KB 730, Piel imperative

Psalms 2:12 “the Son” There is some doubt about this translation. The Hebrew word “son,” בן (BDB 119), is used in Psalms 2:7 but here the word is רב (BDB 135, i.e., the Aramaic word for “son,” cf. Proverbs 31:2 [thrice]), which in Hebrew can mean “pure” (BDB 141 II, cf. Psalms 24:4; Psalms 73:1; Job 11:4; Proverbs 14:4). The NRSV and NJB translate Psalms 2:11-12a as “with trembling kiss his feet.” The UBS Text Project (p. 164) gives “kiss the Son” a “B” rating (some doubt).

Some scholars have assumed that since Psalms 2:11-12 are directed to surrounding pagan nations, there is a purposeful switch from the Hebrew “son” to the Aramaic “son.” The general thrust of “submission” is clear even if the linguistic details are not!

“you perish in the way” One wonders if it is by accident that both the words “perish” (BDB 1, KB 2) and “way” (BDB 202) are used in Psalms 1:0. Biblical faith is a daily relationship with YHWH and His Messiah. Jesus may surely have used Psalms 1:0 and 2 as an outline in Matthew 5-7, esp. Matthew 7:13, Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 7:26-27.

“How blessed are all who take refuge in Him” The last line of Psalms 2:0 links to the first line of Psalms 1:0, possibly a literary technique called inclusio. Thereby, Psalms 1:0 Psalms 2:0 comprise one literary unit (cf. Acts 13:33). The Talmud suggests that Psalms 1:0 and Psalms 2:0 form one psalm (cf. b. Ber. 9b-10a). Blessed is the true believer who reverences YHWH and obeys His revelation! Faith and faithfulness must go together. Justification and sanctification cannot be separated!

Notice that both Psalms 2:1 and 2:12 accentuate human choices and activities. Biblical faith is a life journey of trust and obedience.

YHWH is described in several metaphors as a place of safety, security, and rest. We can trust/take refuge in

1. a rock Deuteronomy 32:37; 2 Samuel 22:2, 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 18:2

2. a fortress 2 Samuel 22:2; Psalms 144:2

3. a stronghold Psalms 18:2; Psalms 62:2; Psalms 144:2

4. a deliverer 2 Samuel 22:2; Psalms 144:2

5. a shield Genesis 15:1; 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 3:3; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 144:2; Proverbs 30:5

6. a horn of salvation 2 Samuel 22:26; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 75:10

7. a mother bird Psalms 17:8; Psalms 36:7 (also note Deuteronomy 32:10-11); Psalms 57:1; Psalms 63:7; Psalms 91:4


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is this Psalm considered Messianic?

2. Are the nations local or worldwide?

3. Define “Anointed” in Psalms 2:2.

4. Are “His Anointed” and My Son the same person?

5. If this refers to Jesus does Psalms 2:7 imply he was created?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 2". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-2.html. 2021.
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