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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 2

Verse 1



Psalms 2:1

"Why do the nations rage, And the peoples meditate a vain thing?"

The picture that surfaces here is one of rebellion and hatred against God's anointed, who can be none other than the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Cross-Reference Bible gives an alternative reading on the first line as, "Why do the nations tumultuously assemble?" and some of the versions render the 2nd line, as "And the peoples imagine a vain thing?"

This is dramatically opposite to the erroneous impression held by many to the effect that, "The reign of Christ on earth will be a time of universal felicity, prosperity, and righteousness." It will be no such thing.

The picture or rebellion and hatred against God's Christ depicted in this prophecy is exactly the same as that which emerges throughout the New Testament. "He shall reign until he has put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15;25; Hebrews 10:13), indicating that the reign of Christ will take place during the ages when his enemies actively oppose him, and that His reign shall end when that opposition ceases.

J. R. P. Sclater gives a classical example of the enormous error that mankind has generally received regarding the Reign of Messiah. Noting that the picture here is one of rebellion and opposition to God's Anointed, he actually denied the passage's reference to the Messiah at all, stating that the picture here, "Scarcely comports with the Messianic ideal."[1] Of course, it is true that the prophecy of the reign of Christ in this passage does not indeed "comport" or agree with the wild-eyed "ideal" of Messiah's reign as postulated by the Millennialists and other misled and erroneous groups; but we stoutly affirm that the passage here most certainly does conform in the minutest detail to the picture of the Reign of Christ throughout the ages as given in God's Word.

It should be remembered that the current dispensation IS the Millennium, and the rebellion of whole nations against God's Anointed as seen in this very century is exactly what is foretold right here in this second Psalm. Many scholars, like Sclater are apparently ignorant of the fact that Jesus Christ IS REIGNING NOW, as indicated by Matthew 28:18-20.

Verse 2

"The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against Jehovah, and against his anointed, saying,
Let us break their bonds asunder,
And cast away their cords from us."

This passage is without any doubt whatever a reference to Almighty God the Father and his Son the Messiah. As Albert Barnes effectively stated it:

"The idea here is that it was the purpose of Jehovah and his Anointed to establish a dominion over men, and that it was equally the purpose of the kings and rulers here referred to that it should not be done."[2]

It is ridiculous that some scholars actually apply this Psalm to David; but no one in his right mind can understand that the references here to his reigning to the uttermost parts of the earth could have any application whatever to the Jewish King David.

The New Testament makes it clear enough who is spoken of in this chapter. It is none other than the Christ. See Acts 4:25-28; 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5; Matthew 3:17; Romans 1:4; Revelation 2:26-27; and Revelation 19:15. Sclater, mentioned above, tried to make something out of the fact that Jesus Christ himself did not quote this Psalm; nevertheless, Almighty God Himself quoted it from heaven in broad open daylight before a multitude (See Matthew 3:17). Besides, the Divine promises throughout the New Testament are conveyed to us, not altogether by direct quotations from Jesus but by the word of the Apostles. The fact that Christ himself did not quote from this Psalm is of no significance whatever.

Furthermore, in Matthew 22:45, Christ himself did indeed clearly allude to the teaching of this very Psalm.

Verse 4

"He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh:
The Lord will have them in derision.
Then will he speak unto them in his wrath,
And vex them in his sore displeasure."

The alternate reading for "vex" in our version is "trouble." Has this come to pass? Indeed it has! In my lifetime, a mighty nation, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, the U.S.S.R., in effect declared war upon God and his Anointed; but God has indeed spoken unto that nation in His wrath!

Verse 6

"Yet I have set my King

Upon my holy hill of Zion.

I will tell of the decree:

Jehovah said unto me,

Thou art my Son;

This day have I begotten thee."

God Himself upon the occasion of Jesus' baptism made it clear enough who this Son is, thundering the message from heaven itself (Matthew 3:17). In the light of that testimony, who should dare to affirm otherwise?

"My holy hill of Zion." Of course, this is a reference to Jerusalem, referred to here as holy, meaning not that Jerusalem's citizens were holy, but that God had recorded his name there and that, in time, the Anointed would appear on her streets, that there he would be crucified, buried, and rise from the dead, and that there "The word of the Lord should go forth from Jerusalem."

"The Messianic King now speaks, quoting the promise given to David, the father of the dynasty, through Nathan the prophet. See 2 Samuel 7:4-17."[3] Israel's King David was indeed an Old Testament type of God's only begotten Son, as indicated in the very first verse of the New Testament; "Jesus Christ the son of David the son of Abraham." One of the favorite pre-Christian names of the Messiah was "The Son of David," but the Divine reference was only and always, not to some earthly successor to the Davidic throne, but to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 8

"Ask of me, and I will give thee nations for thine inheritance,

And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession."

These words forever remove the possibility that this prophecy is a reference to King David, except in the limited sense that he was indeed a Biblical type of our Lord. Zechariah 9:9-10 also indicated the universal reign of Messiah.

Of course, it is not a literal earthly kingship of Jesus Christ over worldly nations that is indicated here. Christ emphatically repudiated that kind of kingship during his earthly ministry; and those who expect him yet to be that kind of king are simply grossly mistaken. Christ's universal reign on earth is achieved in the truth that all over the world throughout the ages there are devout and faithful souls who love and serve him, who have become members of his "kingdom that cannot be shaken" and who alone shall stand redeemed in that day when God shall settle accounts with the wicked and cast evil out of his universe.

Verse 9

"Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;

Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

This is a reference to the Judgment of the Last Day, when, at last, God will wipe Adam off the face of the earth, as indicated in Zephaniah 1:3. (See my commentary on this in Vol. 3 of the minor prophets, page 131ff). Also we have a prophetic depiction of the same event in Revelation 19:11-21.

These verses refer to the ultimate end of Adam's rebellious race, which is on a collision course with disaster, which will eventually occur when God terminates the probation of our ungodly humanity. Even the philosophers have warned us that the Adamic race has no possibility of an endless continuation upon earth. A species in rebellion against the Creator is foredoomed to eventual annihilation in a cataclysmic disaster which only the Redeemed in Christ shall survive.

Verse 10

"Now therefore be wise, O ye kings:

Be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve Jehovah with fear, and rejoice with trembling."

The kings, rulers and judges of mankind should indeed be the spiritual leaders of the people, fearing God and showing by their example that allegiance and service which all men owe to their Creator. However, as this Psalm indicates, it is precisely this class of men who all too often have led the rebellion against God and His Christ.

It is the conceit and egotism of men which have frequently led them to excessive folly, as for example, when Herod Agrippa I arranged to have himself proclaimed as "a god" at Caesarea Philippi, as mentioned in Acts 12.

There are many more examples of such human perversity even in our own times. The late Kaiser Wilhelm of World War I times allowed it to be printed in the Royal Bulletin that, "Today (Sunday) the `Most High' went to church, paying his respect to the `Highest.' Also, generations of Japanese rulers have also accepted divine honors for themselves.

Verse 12

"Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way,

For his wrath will soon be kindled.

Blessed are all they who take refuge in him."

"Kiss the son." This was an accepted act of adoration, submission, and homage, paid to ancient kings and rulers. It was also adopted by pagan worshippers as a manner of honoring their false gods. The once-worshippers of God in the times of Hosea were saying, "Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves"! (Hosea 13:2). "Kissing the calves, or kissing the hand toward the calves or idols was an act of devotion or homage expressed toward the false deity."[4] How incredible was it that intelligent men should kiss the image of a bull calf! "Behind Hosea's statement is an utter disgust, unmatched elsewhere."[5]

However, it is just as disgusting when some egotistical son of the Devil such as the late Joseph Stalin was commanding all the children of the USSR to thank him for their daily bread!

"And ye perish in the way." Sinful, mortal, fallible men indeed "perish in the way," because as stated in one of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas, they are, "Here today and gone tomorrow, yes I know, that is so!" However, there is another, a more terrible "perishing" which awaits all of the wicked in the judgment of the Last Day.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 2". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.