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Go to Bible: Psalms 2
Psa 2:1

“Why do the nations rage.” Although it is not immediately obvious, Psalm 2 continues a theme that began in Psalm 1: the conflict between good and evil, between obedience and rebellion, between godliness and ungodliness. Both Psalms show good versus evil; Psalm 1 is on a personal level, while Psalm 2 is on a national level (but it nuances to a personal ending). So the Psalms begin with the most important theme in all existence: are you going to die, or live forever? In Psalm 1, the righteous flourish like a tree planted by water whereas the wicked will dry up and blow away like chaff and will perish. In Psalm 2, the rebellious unbelievers band together against Yahweh and the anointed king that He set up in Zion. But even banded together, their plans are futile and they end up broken in pieces like a smashed clay pot. Psalm 2 fittingly ends with an exhortation to people to pay homage to the Son. Those who refuse will perish while those who do will be blessed.

“a vain thing.” The unbelieving and rebellious peoples plot against God, which is futile. Despite the boasting of ungodly people, in reality they, and all humans, are quite powerless. The unbelievers plot “a vain thing” (ASV; NASB; NKJ); they are “devising plots that will fail” (NET); they “waste their time with futile plans” (NLT); and/or they “plot in vain” (CSB; ESV). Humans cannot control their own destiny, indeed, they cannot even determine the day of their death. So when humans plot against God they are planning in vain and their plans will come to nothing. The only way to be truly successful in this life (and the next) is to love and obey God.

Psa 2:2

“his Anointed.” God’s anointed is the reigning king, and ultimately, the Messiah Jesus Christ. Psalm 2 has two levels of meaning. One is that it is an exaltation of the Davidic kings who reigned in Jerusalem. Psalm 2 was included in the Psalms that were recited (or sung) at the coronation of Judah’s king. For example, God called Solomon a “son” in 2 Sam. 7:14. God chose David from among his brothers and worked behind the scenes to give him the position of king. He then made a covenant that the Messiah would reign upon David’s throne, and the Messiah is called “the son of David.” In typical hyperbolic fashion, the Davidic king is exalted and grandiose things are said about him, such as that he could rule to the ends of the earth.

On another level, however, we see that the Davidic king is only a shadow of the real subject of the Psalm, the Messiah. The New Testament shows us that the primary and intended subject of the psalm was the Messiah (Acts 4:25-26; 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5). Furthermore, only the Messiah will actually fulfill the text of the psalm and reign over the whole earth and all the nations. No other king of Israel did anything close to that. James Mays writes: “The second psalm is a poetic speech by the Messiah. It is the only text in the Old Testament that speaks of God’s king, Messiah, and son in one place, the titles so important for the presentation of Jesus in the Gospels.”a

Mays also points out that Psalm 2 is a psalm that deals with the question of power: “Where does power to control the powers at work in world history ultimately reside?” In Psalm 2 we see that ultimate power resides with Yahweh, and He then delegates that power to the Messiah.

Psalm 2 is one of the great sections of Scripture that points out how magnanimous God is and how great His Messiah is. God elevated His Messiah, Jesus Christ, to be His king, reigning on the earth; and Jesus Christ lived a sinless life in obedience to God and deserves his elevated position as God’s king, along with all the authority and adoration we give him.

Psalm 2 is also one of the many sections of Scripture that gives evidence that the doctrine of the Trinity is not correct. The Messiah is portrayed as being Yahweh’s choice and under Yahweh’s control and direction. The Messiah is “Yahweh’s Anointed” (Ps. 2:2), Yahweh’s king (Ps. 2:6), and “today” begotten of Yahweh, which means he is not eternal like Yahweh is.

[For more on Jesus Christ being the Son of God, not God the Son, and there being no Trinity, see Appendix 10, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Not God the Son.”]

James Mays, Psalms, Interpretation, 44.
Psa 2:3(top)
Psa 2:4

“laughs.” This verse is not saying that God laughs at wicked people who defy him as if He had contempt for them and could not wait to destroy them. Many verses show how much it hurts God’s heart when people reject Him. In Ezekiel 33:11 God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but desire that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

God does not laugh at people’s rejection of him, but He laughs at their efforts to defeat Him—meaning He finds their efforts futile and foolish. He created the universe from nothing, and no power can prevail against Him. He laughs at the foolishness of anyone thinking they can somehow defeat God.

Psa 2:5(top)
Psa 2:6

“my king.” Here the Messiah is being shown to be God’s king, ruling under His authority, and furthermore, ruling on God’s holy mountain, showing that God, not the king, is the true owner of the earth (Exod. 9:29; Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26). See commentary on Psalm 2:2.

Psa 2:7

“today.” Although commentators argue about which day “today” refers to, one thing that is clear by this statement is that the Messiah was begotten at a specific time in history. This is in direct contrast to the Trinitarian doctrine that the Messiah is “eternally begotten.” See commentary on Psalm 2:2.

Psa 2:8(top)
Psa 2:9

“You will break them with a rod of iron.” The word “break” is “shepherd” in the Septuagint. That Jesus will conquer the earth and rule with a rod of iron is a well-established prophecy and occurs four times in Scripture (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).

[For more detail on Jesus ruling with a rod of iron, see commentary on Revelation 2:27.]

Psa 2:10(top)
Psa 2:11

“fear.” Although the Hebrew word for “fear” has a wide semantic range and can mean “respect” or “awe,” and those meanings apply in this verse to some degree, even that respect is based in healthy fear. Here in Psalm 2, the context of “fear” is God’s fearsome power and God’s judgment of His enemies, and that God is not to be trifled with. For more on “fear” and fearing God, see commentary on Proverbs 1:7.

“trembling.” Although some commentators assert that the “trembling” in this verse is trembling with joy and excitement at serving God, that does not fit with the context. “Fear” and “trembling” are healthy responses to being close to the Most High God. But they do not refer to the torturous kind of fear and trembling, such as being “frozen” with fear; in this context, they refer to the healthy kind of fear and trembling that accompany the realization of the power and authority of God, and accompany the realization that we are His created beings and He expects certain things from us, such as love and obedience.

Psa 2:12

“Kiss the Son.” This phrase has been the subject of much scholarly speculation for various reasons. One is that the word translated “son” is Aramaic, not Hebrew, and another is that the Septuagint reading is different. However, considering that God wanted all people, including foreign kings, not just the Jews, to pay homage to the Son, the Aramaic makes sense.a Kissing, usually done on the cheek, could signify different things depending on the social context. Among family and friends, kissing on the cheek was a sign of friendship and loyalty. In this context of kissing the Son, it was a sign of homage, loyalty, and recognition of the higher position of the one being kissed. Also, in this case, kissing the “Son” meant also kissing the One who sent him, i.e., God Himself. God is the creator of the heavens and the earth, and He makes the rules. He decided to save people based on their relation to His Son, and here He makes clear the choice before all people: honor the Son or “perish.” This is the same basic message as in John 3:16. People cannot save themselves or give themselves everlasting life. That gift comes from God, and to receive it we must do things God’s way. Humble people pay homage to the Son and live forever; prideful people ignore or reject the Son and perish as a result.

“for his wrath will suddenly be kindled.” The Hebrew word translated “suddenly” is meat (#04592 מְעַט, pronounced “may-at”), and it can mean “suddenly” or “soon.” Here in Psalm 2:12, and at this time in history, “suddenly” is the better translation and the better way to understand the text. Although it was known that God’s day of vengeance upon the wicked would someday come, it was not known that it would come “soon,” and of course, it did not come soon. In fact, Ecclesiastes 12:5, written after Psalm 2, refers to a person’s grave as his age-long home, indicating that the wrath of God on His enemies and His deliverance of His saved people was a long way in the future, which has turned out to be true. It will be the case that when the wrath of God is poured out upon His enemies, it will happen “suddenly,” and that is expressed in other scriptures as well (cp. Mal. 3:1-2; 1 Thess. 5:3; ).

Cp. Allen P. Ross, A commentary on the Psalms, 1:212, Kregel Exegetical Library.

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