Psalm 2 Study Notes


2:1 The question introduced by why is rhetorical and expresses surprise at the presumption of the nations in light of the reality of God’s reign through his co-regent (vv. 6-9). Elsewhere, nations that rage against God’s authority are compared to the raging sea (Is 17:12-13). The word plot is the same Hebrew word as “meditates” in 1:2, only in this case it is used negatively to describe contemplation of plans to be free of God’s dominion.

2:2 To take a stand is often used in military contexts to describe preparation for battle (1Sm 17:16; Jr 46:4). The kings and rulers are not just two specific groups, but they represent all governing authorities and dignitaries on the earth (see Jdg 5:3; Hab 1:10). Anointed is translated into Greek as christos, and it refers to God’s choice and establishment of his King. In this context, the Anointed One is the Davidic king who is ultimately, in the progress of divine revelation, Jesus Christ (Eph 1:20-22).

2:3 The desire of these rulers for autonomy is pictured as tearing off their chains and freeing themselves from ropes. For those who rebel against God, his dominion is seen as nothing more than slavery. Ironically, these same terms are used to describe what God did for his people in freeing them from the oppression of the wicked (107:14; 129:4).

2:4 The one enthroned in heaven is parallel to the Lord (Hb ’adonai, emphasizing God’s sovereignty), indicating that God’s place from which he reigns is heaven (11:4; 103:19). The combination of laughs and ridicules function together as one thought to show that God’s response to the rebellion of the nations is to mock them, knowing that their attempts are futile and that their destiny is certain (37:13; 59:8).

2:5 Although God is laughing in derision in the previous verse, this attitude leads to action, which in this case is speaking to them in anger.

2:6 The opening phrase I have installed uses a separate first-person pronoun, which would otherwise be unnecessary. This adds emphasis to the subject, sometimes represented as “I myself.” The point is that God’s king is established by God himself, so there is no ambiguity about the legitimacy of his reign.

2:7 To validate the point of legitimacy further, there is a decree from the Lord. This term is used to indicate royal protocol in order to validate the right to rule. This was a particular concern in the ancient world where there was often a conflict following the crowning of a new king. The idea of the Davidic ruler being identified as God’s Son was made clear in the covenant that God made with David (89:26-27).

2:8 The right of sonship includes the right to inheritance and possession of what belongs to one’s father. In this case, it is not limited but extends to the ends of the earth, an expression meaning the whole world and everything in it. This includes the nations, the same word used in v. 1 to identify those who were raging against God.

2:9 Some ancient manuscripts use “shepherd” instead of break, but the parallel shatter shows that “break” is better. Smashing nations like pottery represents the effortless way in which something is annihilated (Is 30:14; Jr 19:11). Such imagery appears in ancient Egyptian and Assyrian texts to indicate subjugation of one’s enemies.

2:10-11 The word of warning for the rebellious nations is to be wise and receive instruction. This bears a remarkable resemblance to OT Wisdom literature (Pr 8:32-33). The nations are given an opportunity to change their ways and submit to God’s King. Their submission should include reverential awe and trembling, showing the connection between fearing the Lord and the acquisition of wisdom (Pr 9:10).

2:12 The word Son here is a different word than the one used in v. 7. It is an Aramaic word, causing some scholars to question its authenticity because (1) it seems out of place, and (2) Aramaic did not become the main language of the region until the Neo-Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar. Therefore, some have proposed that it should be changed to “his feet,” adding a few Hebrew letters to the existing form. However, there is no good reason to reject this form as original since Aramaic, while not the main language of the region until later, had been in existence since Abraham’s time and was a more commonly used Semitic language than Hebrew among other nations. To pay homage is to express obedience. The alternative is to perish as a result of God’s anger that could ignite at any moment. This psalm ends where Ps 1 began—with the word happy. The contrast is that those who follow the Lord see his dominion as a place of refuge rather than slavery (v. 3).