Psalm 2

Psalm 1 deals with the Word; Psalm 2 with the world (human society). In a sense, both Psalms are a vestibule or gateway into the Psalter as a whole. Ps. 1 focuses on our inner spiritual life and personal destiny; Ps. 2 on the whole purpose of God in history and the destiny of the nations.

Some commentators identify Ps. 2 as a coronation psalm for the enthronement ceremony of a newly appointed Davidic king. In this view, the transition from one king to another is the occasion of tribal revolt (vv. 1-3), followed by the restoration of order (vv. 7-12).

This view misses the prophetic significance of the psalm.

  • It is “the nations” in revolt, not merely local tribes
  • The King, the Anointed One, also called the begotten Son, is ruling on Zion (2, 6, 7, 12)
  • “It is inconceivable that such notions were entertained in any directly personal way concerning the line of monarchs who followed in Judah. We have here, therefore, either the most blatant flattery the world has ever heard, or else the expression of a great ideal,” (F. F. Bruce, The New Bible Dictionary, p. 814) – a prophetic promise.
  • The psalm is cited in the New Testament and applied to Christ:
    • By the Jerusalem Christians (Acts 4:25-28)
    • By Paul (Acts 13:33)
    • By the Hebrew writer (Heb. 1:5)
    • In the Book of Revelation (Rev. 2:26-27)

In keeping with ideas presented above, the Israelites may have applied these words in some way to the Davidic monarchy, but the literal and highest realization of the words can only fit our Savior.

1. “Why do the nation’s rage?” 2:1-3

We are pummeled by honest questions in the Psalms, including the “why” that introduces the thought here. There is an initial astonishment at the senseless rejection of God and His anointed one. Verse 1 describes humanity seething in revolt and tumult. Verse 2 identifies the combatants: “the kings of the earth” and “the rulers” versus “the LORD and His Anointed.” “Messiah” is derived from the Hebrew word for “Anointed.” God had a plan in sending Jesus (Acts 4:25-28, esp. v. 28), but mankind was obtuse in crucifying Him (I Cor. 2:8). Verse 3 reveals the motive: men want unrestricted freedom from God’s rule and God’s ruler.

2. “He who sits in the heavens laughs” – 2:4-6

The divine response is twofold:

  • He derides them for their foolishness (v. 4); and
  • He furiously directs their attention to His appointed King (vv. 5-6).

Being seated is a sign of God’s authority (v. 4). An uproar on earth doesn’t dismay or alarm Him – cf. Isaiah 40:15, 17, 22-24. His laugh is not the laughter of aloofness but the laughter which recognizes the absurdity of rebellion against His authority. As we face frightening news, we must realize who is in charge: not an environmental disaster, a nuclear warhead, or a terrorist nightmare, but God! God is in control, and His appointed King is on the throne.

3. “I will tell of the decree” – 2:7-9

In these verses, the anointed King speaks in the first person, telling us about the divine decree concerning His destiny: “The LORD (YHWH) said to me…”

“You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” These words are cited in connection with:

  • Jesus’ baptism (Mt. 3:17)
  • Jesus’ transfiguration (Mt. 17:5; II Peter 1:17)
  • Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:33; cf. Rom. 1:4)

Verse 8 includes the extent of the Messiah’s rule: “the nations” and “the ends of the earth.” He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). He has “all authority… in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). His gospel is aimed at all people, on every continent – “even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Verse 9 reveals something about the manner of the Savior’s rule over the nations – cited in Rev. 2:26-27; 12:5; 19:15. It is a rule of absolute authority.

4. “Now therefore, O Kings, be wise…” – 2:10-12

Verse 10 is a call for wisdom and a warning: Stop the rebellion! Submit to the King! Verse 11 is a summons to worship. There are two components:

  • “Serve the LORD with fear” – with reverential awe
  • “And rejoice with trembling” – a mixture of joy and reverence

Verse 12 says, “Kiss the Son” – the Greek for “worship” means “come toward to kiss.” Notice the “wrath” of the Son as He exercises His rule over the nations. It is better to “take refuge in Him” than to suffer His fury. One commentator calls this an “evangelistic” psalm, adding that “it beats with a missionary heart.”

There is something of an inverted structure to this psalm:

  • The peoples in revolt – 1
    • Against the LORD and his Anointed – 2
      • Earthly kings taking counsel among themselves – 3
        • Derision against the nations – 4
          • Reining in the nations – 5
            • “I have set my King on Zion” – 6
            • “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” – 7
          • Reigning over the nations – 8
        • Breaking the nations – 9
      • Earthly kings taking counsel from God – 10
    • Serving the LORD and his Anointed – 11
  • The peoples taking refuge – 12

Mike Wilson