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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 2

Verse 1


‘Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?’

Psalms 2:1

This psalm is full of that great national hope of the Jews concerning Him that was to come. The noblest kind of national hope is not simply a great event. It is the ideal of a great character that is to come to them, and then to create great character throughout all the people. The hope of the coming of such a being was the ruling idea of the Jewish people.

I. What is the philosophy of the Messianic psalms?—There are three speakers and series of utterances. The first is the writer of the psalm, who stands, as it were, to call the attention of the people to the two great Speakers. These two great Speakers are, first, the Lord Jehovah, Who stands behind everything in Judaism, and, in the second place, the coming One, the Anointed, the King, the Messiah Himself. The writer stands as the chorus in the great tragedy. He sees God taking the sovereignty of the world, and bringing to the world its Saviour. He sees, looking down through the ages, that persecution is going to come. So he breaks forth in astonishment, ‘Why do the heathen rage?’

II. But God’s great purpose of making Jesus King of the world is unchanged and unchangeable.—And so He speaks: ‘He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.’ Jesus shall reign. That is Jehovah’s determined purpose.

III. The third Speaker is Christ Himself.—‘I will declare the decree,’ etc. Christ is in the world, and He is sure of the world. Sitting upon the throne, recognising clearly who set Him there, He will never leave it until all the nations shall be His nations.

IV. At the close we come back to the writer of the chorus that tells us what the meaning of it all is.—‘Be wise now, ye kings,’ etc. There rings out the great voice of the Psalmist, which declares that in the end of things only he who is on the side of righteousness shall have place and power in this world. If we set ourselves against the Son of God and His righteousness our force shall die out of the world.

—Bishop Phillips Brooks.


‘No psalm seems to have sunk deeper into the thoughts of the earliest disciples of Jesus Christ. They quote it again and again in the New Testament as a wonderful promise and prophecy of the Redeemer’s kingdom. The first two verses of the psalm are blended into the triumphant “Te Deum” which broke out from the primitive Church after its earliest experience of persecution ( Acts 4:24-30). The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has applied the seventh verse to our Lord in two separate passages ( Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5). On St. Paul’s first missionary journey, and in his first recorded sermon ( Acts 13:33), he cited the same verse to the Jews in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch. And it is plain that the prophecy of Acts 13:8 next succeeding was also in the apostle’s mind, if not on his lips, when, since these Jews at Antioch disbelieved and rejected the Gospel, he turned forthwith away from them, and preached Christ to the heathen Gentiles.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 2". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.