New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 2:1 Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot a vain thing?- The question "Why?" may be purely rhetorical, as if to say that their raging is in vain because they are fighting against God and His anointed. As noted on :2, this Psalm has multiple later applications; but the primary application may have been to David as the Lord's anointed (:2) feeling under threat of Gentile invasion, but calming himself with the realization that he as Yahweh's faithful anointed would be preserved. He had learnt that in his wilderness years, surrounded by Saul's forces; and as in our lives, the lessons are repeated in different contexts in our later years.

Consider how many different applications the NT gives to Psalms 2 and 110. There is a tendency amongst some personality types to turn every disagreement over interpretation of Scripture into a right : wrong, truth : error scenario. Matters relating to basic doctrine are capable of being dealt with like this. But to turn the interpretation of every Bible verse into a conflict area is a recipe for ecclesial disaster. So often the debate becomes personal, with a brother sure that he is right and the other wrong, and the other must be shown to be wrong. This leads inevitably to pride, and there is the possibility that the other party is degraded and feels abused by the other. We simply have to accept that much of Scripture is open to various levels of interpretation, which if placed side by side would appear to be contradictory. .



Psa 2:2 The kings of the earth take a stand-
In the sense of military confrontation (s.w. 1 Chron. 11:14). The picture of Jerusalem surrounded by armies with the Christ within it has specific reference to the last days. But the exact chronology of latter day events is impossible to work out ahead of time, for the purpose of Bible prophecy is not to provide world history in advance. Rather, when these things come to pass, then we shall know. The same scene is found in Revelation when Gog and Magog surround the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem and are destroyed; I have argued in commentary on Revelation that this refers to events around the Lord's return and not later.

And the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh, and against His Anointed saying- See on :1. The Greek word “Christ” means ‘anointed’. This Psalm is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Scripture. It’s applied in various contexts- e.g. to the Roman and Jewish rulers trying to destroy Christ at His death (Acts 4:26); to the resurrection of Christ (2:7 = Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5); to the opposition to Christ’s people as they preached the Gospel (Acts 4:25) and to the situation soon after His return, when the rebellious nations will seek to overthrow Christ’s rule (2:9 = Rev. 2:27). What this shows is that Old Testament scripture can have multiple interpretations, in the same way as different people at different times can find the same Scripture speaking personally to them; and as we can find a single Bible passage amazingly relevant to us in different contexts and various times of our lives.

Psa 2:3 Let’s break their bonds apart, and cast their cords from us-
The primary application would be to peoples once under David's domination desiring to rebel and even attack Jerusalem.

Psa 2:4 He who sits in the heavens will laugh. The Lord will have them in derision-
One application of this Psalm was to Hezekiah being surrounded by the Assyrians in Jerusalem. God's view was that the faithful daughter of Zion had laughed at and derided the Assyrians (Is. 37:22). But here we read that this was true of God. The faithful remnant, the daughter of Zion, were scared of the Assyrians at the time, and hardly seemed confident. But God imputed His confidence and attitudes, His Spirit, to that of His weak but faithful people.

Psa 2:5 Then He will speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His wrath-
Connecting this with :12, this appears to be a conditional statement. God's anger could have been turned away had they reverenced His Son.

Psa 2:6 Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion-
If the idea were simply of 'seating' then an appropriate word would have been used. But the Hebrew used here for "set" is usually translated 'to pour', 'sacrifice' (s.w. Ps. 16:4) or 'cover'. Clearly there is a suggestion of the sacrifice of God's Son on a hill near Zion. From this point, the speaker becomes His Son (:7).

Psa 2:7 I will tell of the decree-
The same phrase used of declaring the covenant (Ps. 50:16). The new covenant was declared in the death (:6) and resurrection of the Son of God; and here we have Him as it were proclaiming that new covenant.

Yahweh said to me, You are My son. Today I have become your father- This is given various applications in the New Testament, especially to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 13:33 cp. Rom. 1:4). This would be appropriate to the allusion to the Lord's death noted on :6. But the application to Hezekiah in Jerusalem continues; the same words are used for how Hezekiah felt that "this day" (s.w. "today"), the children are come to the birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth" (Is. 37:3, s.w. "become your father"). Yahweh was strong enough. The righteous remnant, the primary fulfilment of the "suffering servant" prophecies, could have been brought forth after the enemies surrounding Jerusalem were destroyed. But they were not, and instead of 'inheriting' the Gentiles (:8), Hezekiah didn't "ask of Me" for that, and rather made covenants with them involving accepting their gods. The great potential possible wasn't realized, and so the Psalm was reapplied to the things of the Lord Jesus.

There is no recorded moment when God said these words to the Lord Jesus, although He surely did (Heb. 1:5). Presumably we have here a unique insight into the words spoken by the Father to the Son on the resurrection morning; it is perhaps appropriate that they aren't recorded historically. The moment was too intimate.


Psa 2:8 Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, the uttermost ends of the earth for your possession-
See on :7 for the potential reference to Hezekiah. God promised Abraham a very specific "inheritance... possession" in Canaan (Gen. 17:8; Dt. 4:21; 32:49). And yet this promise seems to be interpreted in later Scripture as referring to the world-wide Kingdom which will be established at the second coming (e.g. Rom. 4:13 speaks of how Abraham was promised that he would inherit the world; Ps. 72 and other familiar prophecies speak of a world-wide Messianic Kingdom, based on the promises to Abraham). One possible explanation is found in Psalm 2, where the Father seems to encourage the Son to ask of Him "the heathen [i.e., not just the Jews] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [not just the land of promise] for thy possession" (Ps. 2:8). Could it be that due to the Lord's spiritual ambition, the inheritance was extended from the Jewish people to all nations, and from literal Canaan to all the earth? This is not to say, of course, that fundamentally the promises to Abraham have been changed. No. The promise of eternal inheritance of Canaan still stands as the basis of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Gal. 3:8), but that promise has been considerably extended, thanks to the Lord's spiritual ambition.

I suggested on :7 that we have here a prophecy of a conversation between the Father and Son at the resurrection. "Ask of me... and I can give you anything you ask for" was the typical boast of ancient rulers, and we recall the experience of Esther and the daughter of Herodias. But in God's case it was true. He has been "given" the nations, but in the sense that they were to submit to His Son (:10). And this is the spirit in which we go forth and obey the great commission.

Could it be that due to the Lord's spiritual ambition, the inheritance was extended from the Jewish people to all nations, and from literal Canaan to all the earth? This is not to say, of course, that fundamentally the promises to Abraham have been changed. No. The promise of eternal inheritance of Canaan still stands as the basis of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Gal. 3:8), but that promise has been considerably extended, thanks to the Lord's spiritual ambition.

Psa 2:9 You shall break them with a rod of iron, you shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel-
Quoted about the Lord Jesus and those in Him, in Rev. 2:27. As He will rule the world with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:9) and brake the nations to powder at His return (Dan. 2:44), so will each of those in Him (Rev. 2:27). And notice how Ps. 2:1,2, a prophecy about opposition to Jesus personally, is appropriated to those who preach Him, because they are in Him (Acts 4:25,26). The breaking as a potter's vessel recalls the imagery of Jeremiah, where this is only done because the clay has not responded as required. The nations this is done to have therefore had a chance to respond to the Divine hand, and have chosen not to. In the last days, this would imply that the Gospel must first go to all nations who are then going to be judged for refusing to respond to it. And the Lord specifically stated this (Mk. 13:10).

Psa 2:10 Now therefore be wise, you kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth-
The judgment upon the nations of :9 doesn't have to happen; if they are wise and are "instructed". True wisdom is to repent; knowledge in the Hebraic sense refers to relationship with God, rather than technical knowledge of information. In fact the first sin was to partake of the fruit which would apparently make men "wise" (Gen. 3:6). It was a short cut to 'wisdom' in the sense of relationship. And too often the same mistake is made today, whereby knowledge is confused with the wisdom and instruction of repentant relationship with God.

Psa 2:11 Serve Yahweh with respect and rejoice with trembling-
That trembling, joy and respect is what arises from realizing that they should have been condemned (:9), but the outcome had been changed because they had the wisdom to repent. This mixture of joy, humility and certainty in His grace is very persuasive in our witness; when it is evidenced within the very fibers of the being of those saved by grace through faith. The essence of powerful personal witness is contained, I suggest, in the mixture of these two elements within the personality of the preacher. It’s the paradox of Ps. 2:11: “Rejoice with trembling / contrition”. The sense that ‘we have the truth… yes, by God’s grace I will truly be there, and so can you be’; and yet the awful, worrying sense of our own inadequacy as women and men, which should grip and haunt every sensitive spiritual soul.

Psa 2:12 Give sincere homage to the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way, for His wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him-
As explained on :10, the judgment upon the nations of :9 doesn't have to happen; if they are wise and are "instructed" in repentance. The urgency of the appeal is because "soon" the wrath of the Son is to be poured out. This appears therefore to be effectively the text of our latter day appeal, as we take the great commission to the nations which have been given to Him (see on :8). The implication is that none will survive the judgments to come unless they repent. But I suggested on :9 that the people in view are those who have already had a chance to respond to the Gospel, and not the ignorant world.