Bible Commentaries
Psalms 2

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-12

Psalms 2:0

1          Why do the heathen rage,

And the people imagine a vain thing?

2     The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying,

3     Let us break their bands asunder,

And cast away their cords from us.

4     He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh:

The Lord shall have them in derision.

5     Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath,

And vex them in his sore displeasure.

6     Yet have I set my King

Upon my holy hill of Zion.

7     I will declare the decree:

The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son;

This day have I begotten thee.

8     Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,

And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9     Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;

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

10     Be wise now therefore, O ye kings:

Be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

11     Serve the Lord with fear,

And rejoice with trembling.

12     Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way,

When his wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.


Character and Composition. The 1st Psalm first declares the truly pious servant of Jehovah blessed, without deciding whether the description is only an ideal one, or there is truly such an ever green tree of life; and then draws the counterpart without intimating the possibility or way of salvation of those who walk in wrong ways to destruction. The 2d Psalm, which in isolated expressions reminds us of the 1st Psalm, begins with a description of the world rebellious against God and His government, which passes over into a dramatic tone (Psalms 2:1-3); describes over against this the action of Jehovah likewise running out into a dramatic mode of expression (Psalms 2:4-6); then, without naming Him, makes the anointed of Jehovah Himself speak so that He explains the decree of Jehovah by a reference to a former ordinance of Jehovah (Psalms 2:7-9); and closes with an exhortation to the rebellious to repent, which passes over into a declaration of the blessedness of those who make known their allegiance to the kingdom of the Messiah (Psalms 2:10-12).

The prophetic or direct Messianic explanation can alone explain this Psalm (all ancient Jewish and ancient Christian interpreters, with some from all periods); neither the typical (Hofmann), nor the historical (the later Jewish and many recent interpreters), nor the poetical (Hupf., as a general glorification of the theocratic kingdom), nor indeed the explanation to be found in the transition from the typical to the prophetic (Kurtz) can suffice. This the explanation which follows will show. [Perowne: “He begins to speak of an earthly king and his wars with the nations of the earth, but his words are too great to have all their meaning exhausted in David, Solomon, or Ahaz, or any other Jewish monarch. Or, ere he is aware, the local and the temporal are swallowed up in the universal and eternal. The king who sits on David’s throne has become glorified and transfigured in the light of the promise. The picture is half ideal, half real. It concerns itself with the present, but that only so far as it is typical of greater things to come. The true king who, to the prophet’s mind, is to fulfil all his largest hopes, has taken the place of the visible and earthly king.”—C. A. B.]

The author is unknown. Most interpreters, indeed, from different stand-points, think of David, whilst they grant that Acts 4:25 is not decisive.6 They differ likewise widely from one another in their estimate of the historical situation (comp. De Wette). [Perowne refers it to the events 2 Samuel 10:0. The confederacy of Syrians, Ammonites, and others who had formerly been subdued (2 Samuel 8:3; 2 Samuel 8:12), and who now make a last effort for independence.—C. A. B.] Rosenm. (I. Edit. only), Paul. Ewald, Bleek, think of Solomon.7 Maurer thinks of Hezekiah with reference to 2 Chronicles 28:18; Hitzig of the Maccabean prince, Alex. Jannæus; Delitzsch thinks of the period of the prophecy of Immanuel, Isaiah 7-12, perhaps the prophet Isaiah himself, partly because of the similarity of circumstances, partly on account of the similarity of subject and even modes of expression.

Str. I. Psa 2:1. Why.—The question thrown up by the Psalmist, which already begins to be solved in Psalms 2:1 b as the change of position and the mood of the verb show, is only a rhetorical one, a question of displeasure, of astonishment, and of derision=wherefore then? why then? [De Wette: “The poet transports himself at once into his situation and feelings. He looks upon the undertakings of the rebels with indignation and contempt, and breaks forth in the exclamation, Why?=to what end?”—C. A. B.]

Rage.—The Hebrew verb does not denote actual rebellion, but that intimation of the speedy outbreak of rebellion which is given by crowds surging in gloomy and confused resentments, murmurs and alarms.

[Imagine.—In old English this word had the meaning of scheme, devise, plot, vid.Worcester’sDict. This meaning has now passed out of use. It is better, therefore, to substitute devise, with the meaning of meditating evil. This is the same word as is used Psalms 1:2 b. De Wette: “of wicked, Proverbs 24:2, here of rebellious undertakings;” Hupf.: “of wicked and deceitful devices,” Psalms 38:12; Isaiah 59:3; Isaiah 59:13.—Vain thing.—רִיק, “here substantive, a foolish and vain device—what is proved to be idle by the result.”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 2:2. The idea of sitting together passes over into that of deliberation, here that of conspiring. This is described by the perfect as an accomplished fact, as Psalms 2:1 a, and as preceding the hostile setting themselves, which in the imperf. appears as enduring and still continuing, as Psalms 2:1 b, and as finishing the description in Psalms 2:1 a.

Psalms 2:3. The rebels are immediately introduced speaking, and they speak in figurative language, taken from refractory bulls, which express their carnal love of liberty and their unruliness.8

Str. II. Psa 2:4. The ancient translations express all the imperfects in the antistrophe Psalms 2:4 sq. by the future, [so A. V.]; Ewald, Delitzsch, et al., at least those in Psalms 2:5 [this is better—C. A. B.]; but, according to Hupfeld, they are all to be regarded as present, though subsequent to one another. Laughing is often an expression of the feeling of security and of the consciousness of superiority in contrast to fear; scorn rejects the presumption of the impotent with deserved contempt, and discloses their weakness: wrath punishes them. [De Wette: “With the rage and exertion of his enemies the poet sets in beautiful contrast the laughing quiet of his God, who can with one word bring these proceedings to naught.” Hupfeld: “A beautiful gradation in thought from the quiet laughing to the agitated scorn, and from this to wrath, which breaks out in the following verse in word and act.”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 2:5. Jehovah speaks here with real words, not in thunder (Herder), although the words whiz and roll along like thunder and lightning [in the style]; and בהל, according to Hupfeld, is frequently used for terror, which confuses, and especially that which is caused by God, and drives into mad flight and leads to destruction.

Psalms 2:6. [Yet have I.—De Wette: “וְ often makes a contrast—here it is with the riotous proceedings of the kings. The pronoun I is emphatic.”—C. A. B.] Böttcher has shown (Aehrenlese, p. 4) that we must not translate: anointed, but set (according to the Sept. and Vulg.). Some translate “But I have been constituted king by him.”—[My King.—Hupf.: “My king so far as he is appointed by God as king over His realm, comp. 1 Samuel 16:1, and by virtue of the theocratic idea, His representative.”—C. A. B.] Zion was not the anointing place either for David (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 2:4), or for Solomon (1 Kings 1:39), or for Christ (Zechariah 9:9), but the seat of government of the Anointed (Psalms 110:2; 2 Samuel 5:9). The assertion that Zion in the Old Testament constantly is used as the equivalent of Jerusalem, and that it is the name of a special height is disproved by 2 Samuel 5:7; 2 Samuel 5:9; 1 Kings 8:1; Hupfeld, however, asserts that according to prophetical and poetical usage it indicates synecdochically the entire holy mountain city as the seat of God, and naturally rejects the translation of J. H. Michaelis and Hofmann עַל צִיּוֹן ‘al Zion, over its citizens, the people of God; so likewise the translation, mountain of my sovereignty (Herder, Rosenm., et al.). [Delitzsch: “Zion is the hill of the city of David (2 Samuel 5:7; 2 Samuel 5:9; 1 Kings 8:1) including Moriah. That mountain of holiness, holy mountain, which is the place of the Divine presence, and therefore towers above all the heights of the earth, is assigned to him as the seat of his throne.”—C. A. B.]

Str. III. Psa 2:7. Declare.—In this strophe it is not the poet which speaks, but the anointed of Jehovah. This is not David nor any other historical king of Israel, moreover not the personified theocratic kingdom, but the Messianic king; not in bodily reality, it is true, nor speaking magically from the Psalm, but appearing in the Psalm dramatically as a person.9 This does not mean, by any means, as a poetical figure. For the person of the Messiah, as promised by God, and therefore surely coming, existed in the faith of the Psalmist not less than in the faith of the prophets and the church, although, in lyrical parts of Scripture the expressions of faith concerning him appear in different forms from those in the historical or didactic, and the prophetical writings in a narrower sense. The Messianic king in this place appeals for the explanation of Psalms 2:6, not only to a feigned oracle (De Wette) but to a חק, an ordinance (whether regulation or arrangement). There is also in its meaning a reference to an express, inviolable, and peculiar declaration of Jehovah of a historical kind, such as that which is found for the relation in question, in 2 Samuel 7:14 sq., alone. This promise of God, given to David through Nathan before the birth of Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24), is the historical root of the biblical prophecies of the seed of David, who likewise stands in the relation of sonship to Jehovah. This expression does not denote the divine origin of royalty, or a management of the government according to the will of Jehovah (De Wette), but, first of all, a relation of love to Jehovah, and especially with reference to care and training, which however, at the same time, includes a reference to faithfulness, so much the more as the covenant of God with Israel is regarded as a marriage covenant (Hengst., Hupf.) In this last turn of thought there is a thread of meaning, which has been for the most part neglected; yet which alone can lead us to a correct understanding of the passage, viz.: If Israel stands partly in a relation of sonship to Jehovah, the God of historical revelation, partly in a marriage covenant with Him as the only living, true, and faithful God of the covenant, and indeed the latter, in the sense of Monogamy, over which God watches with jealousy; then the following consequences ensue, viz.: (1) That every attempt to make a parallel with the sons of Elohim (whether angels or princes, Psalms 82:6) and with the children of Zeus is entirely unsuitable, and entangles the entire conception. (2) That the use of the word ילד (which seldom means to beget, but generally to bear) is not to be regarded as merely a rhetorical variation of the idea of sonship, but gives rise to this thought; that in a determined case some one has been placed in this relation by God Himself, and indeed in the midst of the history of revelation, in which sense Israel also is called the first-born son of Jehovah (Exodus 4:22). (3) That in such a case to-day has not only a mere poetical, or indeed a metaphysical, but a historical meaning. The meaning is not of an eternal, or of a temporal, or spiritual begetting of a person, a setting him in existence; so also not as is frequently supposed of the establishment of an Israelitish king in the government, which was disputed by mighty opponents. In connection with this supposition an unknown writer in Paulus,Memorab. III., regards the Psalm as a coronation address composed by Nathan when Solomon ascended the throne.

It is certainly a king of Israel, an anointed of Jehovah, who speaks, but this happens partly after his establishment on Zion by Jehovah, and partly as a demonstration, not indeed of his theocratic title (for this he had as the one appointed by Jehovah), but of his personal capacity for the government in question, which was to overcome, and embrace the world. Moreover, a general call to the position of sonship to Jehovah would not have been sufficient, because such a call is also ascribed in general to pious Israelites, Deuteronomy 14:1; Psalms 73:15; Proverbs 14:26. Therefore in this place he appeals to a special ordination, and indeed so that he refers to an appointment of Jehovah with reference to this very thing, as a word spoken to him as a personal being who already was in existence; that is, the speaker wishes to make known: (1) That he, and no one else, is the one to whom this appointment applies; (2) that he has not been made the son by it for the first time, but declared to be the son; (3) that this declaration was in time and not in eternity, and has the meaning of a historical recognition. At the same time the form of the declaration shows it to be an explanation, and indeed not only of the previous oracle in Psalms 2:6 (Herder, Hupf., et al.), but also of the appointment of Jehovah mentioned. There can be no doubt but that ספּר has this meaning of “more exact account or explanation,” Psalms 50:16. Even this shows this declaration to be an advance in the declarations of Revelation. But the same is also shown, in fact. For a word of Jehovah of this kind is found only, Psalms 89:27 sq., mentioned with reference to David, and 2 Samuel 7:14 with reference to David’s son. But in the passage Psalms 89:27, it is likewise not David who speaks, but this passage and the prophecy, 2 Samuel 7:14, indeed first after his death, were rather referred to him and his seed, and interpreted as Messianic, so that a remarkable agreement is evident with the passage in which we are now engaged. Both Psalmists already treat that historical word of God as Messianic, and find the right to this conception in the fact that the prophecy of Nathan treats of the government of the world with invincible power and of eternal duration. This declaration prevents the necessary consideration of the immediate reference of the oracle to Solomon, and in connection with other prophetical statements respecting the seed of David, especially after the death of David and Solomon, gives to his Divine sonship a narrower, a specific, namely a, Messianic signification. This also comes forth, in the Psalm before us, not merely typically, but directly. For David cannot be the speaker introduced by the Psalmist, since the ordination of Jehovah, to which the sovereign who claims the name Son of God appeals, is referred to the son of David and we cannot think of Solomon, because the circumstances alluded to in the Psalm do not at all suit his government, which is expressly mentioned as peaceful (1 Kings 5:4-5; 1 Kings 5:18). If, then, we are compelled to go beyond this king, there is no further support for the typical idea in any one of the succeeding rulers, and the historical explanation is satisfied only when it finds the fulfilment of the declaration of this Psalm in Jesus, the historical Messiah, that is to say, treats it as directly Messianic, as is frequently the case in the New Testament. Comp. the doctrinal and ethical thoughts which follow, and my exposition of Hebrews 1:5. [Alexander: “These words are cited in Acts 13:34, and Hebrews 1:5, to prove the solemn recognition of Christ’s sonship, and His consequent authority by God Himself. This recognition was repeated, and as it were, realized at our Saviour’s baptism and transfiguration, where a voice from heaven said (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5): ‘This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.’ ”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 2:8. Ask of me and I will give thee.—[Perowne: “A poetical figure, by which is represented God’s willingness to give to His anointed the kingdoms of this world. The Father’s love will withhold nothing from the son.” God will have His own son, His beloved, ask of Him; He delights in giving, but He likewise delights in being asked, and exhorts to the asking with promises of bestowing. As with all His children, so with the Messiah above all. In this connection it is well to recall Jesus’ habit of prayer to the Father. This verse asserts the share of the Gentiles in the blessings of the Messiah’s rule, yet not as heathen, but as submissive to the Messianic kingdom. This is the constant idea of the Psalmist and the Prophets.—C. A. B.]

Psalms 2:9. Break.—According to the Sept., with other vowel points, “to rule” [ποιμαίνειν] with reference to Micah 7:14. The Messiah is thus represented also, Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15. This already shatters the objections of De Wette and Hupfeld to the Messianic interpretation. This form, moreover, presupposes the prophecy, Numbers 24:17, and has its internal reasons in the fact that the Messiah is at once Judge and Saviour, vid. Doct. and Ethical. [Potter’s vessel.—De Wette: “With little trouble, and to entire destruction, Jeremiah 19:11; Isaiah 30:14.”—C. A. B.]

[Str. IV. Psalms 2:10. Delitzsch: “The Psalmist closes with an application of that which he has seen and heard, to the great ones of the earth. The warning is directed not to those who have been seen in rebellious commotion, but to kings in general, with a glance at that which he has seen and understood in prophecy.”—Judges of the earth.—Delitzsch: “Not those who judge the earth, but those judges and regents who belong to the earth in its length and breadth.”

Psalms 2:11. This verse stands in beautiful contrast to Psalms 2:3, as it is based upon what has been seen in prophecy, Psalms 2:8-9.—Serve the Lord with fear.—This must be taken in a religious sense, as is usually the case, but the political sense is likewise involved, as we see from Psalms 2:8-9. The religious and the political submission are combined in the Messianic kingdom (vid. Riehm and Perowne).—Rejoice with trembling.—Delitzsch: “Their rejoicing lest it should turn into security and pride, is to be with trembling, trembling with reverence and self-discipline, for God is a consuming fire, Hebrews 12:28.”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 2:12. Kiss the son.—That is, do homage to him (1 Samuel 10:1; comp. 1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2; Job 31:27.) The Aramaic בַּר for בֵּן is also found, Proverbs 31:2, and the absence of the article suits entirely the Messianic interpretation. The word then stands in the transition to a proper noun. According to the example adduced by Delitzsch, an Arabic interpreter would explain: kiss a son and what son? All the ancient translations, except the Syriac, have different interpretations, whilst they either take בַּר as an adverb = pure, clean (Aquil., Symm., whom Jerome follows: adorate pure); or read בֹּר (= purity, chastity, modesty) and נשׁק in the sense of lay hold of, embrace. Hence ςράξασθε παιδείας (Sept.), apprehendite disciplinam (Vulg., Chald.), lay hold of purity (Ewald, Köster). The Arabic translation of Saadia interprets: Prepare yourself with purity, that is, with sincerity, to obey Him. Hupfeld regards the original meaning of the verb as to join, to follow, and translates: “submit yourself sincerely and honestly.” But since there is no evident use of בר in this sense, he supposes, with Olsh., a mistake, and would read בוֹ = submit yourself to Him (join Him); whilst he grants that even this construction is not found elsewhere. The same objection applies to the translation: Submit yourself to duty, namely, obedience (Hitzig).10

The kiss, as a sign of reverence is, in the Orient, for the most part given on the hand, or the clothing of another (Rosenm.,Altes and Neues Morgenland, III., no. 496; IV., no. 789), yet at times even on the mouth, or thrown by a movement of the hand, which is regarded as an act of homage.

Even with the Messianic interpretation, it is questionable whether the subject of the following clause is the son (Hengst.), which is the most obvious, or Jehovah (with Aben Ezra and most interpreters, with the supposition of a change of subject which is frequent in prophecy and poetry) because this corresponds better with the consciousness of the believing Israelite. But both clauses, with lest and when, contain merely confirmed warnings in the mouth of the Psalmist, entirely the same as that which immediately before he has had the Messiah speak; and if there is in the closing clause the word often used of believing refuge in Jehovah, yet this does not decide, in view of the Divine majesty and power ascribed to the Messiah. It would rather seem to be decided by the fact that in Psalms 2:11 already again Jehovah Himself is named as Sovereign, whom the kings and judges of the earth are to serve. But this very passage favors, in the highest degree, the Messianic character of the entire Psalm. For the discourse is of the previously heathen princes and leaders of the nations, who are not to be made Jews by compulsion, as it happened for the first time under Alex. Jannæus, to whom on this account Hitzig brings down this Psalm; but who are exhorted to conversion to Jehovah, ere the crushing judgment of the Messiah shall be fulfilled on all those who are not members of the people of God, even the mightiest. These also declare, with all their expressions of joy, still ever that holy awe, and that indelible trembling of the creature before the Almighty and Holy God, which is mentioned likewise in the New Covenant, e.g., “working out salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12; Hebrews 12:28). The context itself is against the interpretation of the hypocritical joy at the homage festival, of those who have been overcome by force, and who obey from fear (Ilgen in Rosenm., and part also Hengst.)

[From the way.—Alexander: “By the way.” Riehm: “In order that you may not perish with regard to the way = go in a way which is destruction for you. דרך is an accusative of reference, (Hitzig, of limitation.)” So also Delitzsch, et al.—C. A. B.]

The construction of the closing clause being disputed, we cannot gain from it any evidence of the Messiahship of the Anointed, but since this Messiahship is proved elsewhere, the contents of the clause forbid a reference merely to an earthly king, Psalms 118:9; Psalms 145:3, but not to God’s King, whose solemn name of Messiah and Son of God has here its first biblical expression and abiding support. Instead of “little” some translate with the Sept., “in short,” “soon;” but in hypothetical connections only the first meaning of the Hebrew word can be safely shown. Sachs’ translation “as nothing,” is too strong. [Hupfeld, חוֹסֵי בּוֹ, “not to put their trust in Him, but to seek or take refuge with Him.” So Hitzig et al. This meaning is clear in מַחֲסַה = refuge, in the shadow of His wings, Psalms 36:8; Psalms 57:2; under His wings, Psalms 91:4; Ruth 2:12; of a rock, shield, etc., Psalms 18:3; Psalms 18:31; Psalms 144:2; Deuteronomy 32:37, etc.—C. A. B.]

With Bugenhagen we say, at the close of this Psalm, “epiphonema dignius ut mediteris quam ut a me tractetur.”


1. When those who are without the kingdom of God oppose it and attack it, even though they assemble themselves in masses, riot against it after the manner of the nations, according to the ways and in the interests of the kingdom of this world, combine under mighty princes and wise leaders, yet their rebellion is not only deplorable, but is also miserable, abject, and blameable; yes, it is from the beginning condemned as without reason and without effect. They consult together, it is true, but nothing comes of it. They would undertake something, but they cannot, and properly they are not allowed to. They are as cowardly as they are boastful. They merely excite one another, and stimulate one another with presumptuous words to wicked and impotent pretensions. Furit in unum populus et miseretur omnium Christus.

2. The enemies of Divine sovereignty on earth are of many minds and split into parties, yet they agree in the wish to limit its extension as far as possible. So far as it is in heaven, they do not trouble themselves about it, but with every advance it makes in the world, they feel that their interests are threatened. Although they are still without its limits they have a presentiment that Divine Sovereignty is in all earnestness an absolute Sovereignty embracing the whole world. They feel that by this very fact they are assailed in their natural claims, which they call human rights, and in their native tendencies, to cherish which they regard as their most sacred necessity. When it is demanded that they should obey the will of God, and submit to His ordinances, which bind all men without exception, they regard it with indignation as a direct attack upon their human rights of sovereignty, and consequently as a personal insult. They little think that the cords thrown out to them from the kingdom of God are holy bands of moral communion, and cords of love to assist them in pious discipline and life. That which is weaving itself about them and their children into a net of grace for their salvation, they regard only as a yoke of compulsion to their unsubdued hearts, and abuse it as a fetter to their freedom, and a restraint to their consciences. It seems to them a point of honor, based on natural rights, and enjoined by circumstances, to tear away and strip off those cords which are wound about them, and hold them in this way. “Even to-day we see that all the enemies of Christ find it as burdensome to be compelled to submit to His authority as to undergo the greatest shame,” (Calvin).

3. The internal contradictions of such reflections upon the world are truly great, but the blindness of those who are entangled therein is equally great. ‘Their pathos is as hollow as their power and their rights; their talk as empty as their counsel; their efforts as frivolous as their conceit; their ability as vain as their intentions. Thus they perform a drama whose fearful earnestness they are no more able to conceive than the absurdity of the part they play in it, and whose comic side ceases to excite laughter when history discloses it as really tragedy, and reveals to the anxious heart of man, that even the bright glance of the serene eye of God emits the lightnings of wrath, which work ruin and set the world in flames; and that the word of the scorner will come forth from the mouth of the Almighty in the crushing thunders of judgment. “Thus God decrees, that the ungodly should storm and rage against the pious, excite all their counsels against them. But all this is as the stormy, swollen waves of the sea, which rush along as if they would break down the shore, but before they reach the shore they quiet down again, vanish in themselves, or break up with a little foam upon the shore.” Luther.

4. And yet God has made preparations in history against the destruction of the world, and these are embraced in the Messianic institutions of salvation, which were not only typically symbolized in the theocratic institutions of the Old Covenant, but were historically prepared and foretold by the prophetic words of Revelation. From these prophecies, even in the darkest times, the severest afflictions, the bright light of consolation streams forth, because these not only point with certainty to the providence of God in history, but also to the indestructible power, the sure and constantly approaching victory of the kingdom of God over all the powers of the world. As these prophecies are consoling to the citizens of the kingdom of God, so are they threatening and calculated to terrify its foes.

5. The Messianic prophecies explain the entire history of the world and of salvation, illuminating it with the light of Divine revelation. These again have their centre of light in the declarations respecting the person of the Messiah. The faith in this person, that He will surely come and appear in history, has its living root in the hearts of believers. But this root does not spring from the soil of human longings, or the national spirit of the people of Israel, but it grows under the influence of the Divine Spirit from the soil of special Divine revelations made to Israel, and it develops in testimonies, which may become prophecies, as in the circumstances of this Psalm.

And these prophecies on the one side strengthen and nourish faith, and on the other find their true development and progress in history.—“Such a hope as this we must firmly maintain, and not deviate from it for any cause whatever,” (Luther).
6. On account of this historically growing and developing character of Biblical prophecy, it is possible that its elementary beginnings, which on account of their germinal nature embrace and contain in embryo the forms which afterwards appear separately, were neither clearly understood by their contemporaries, nor always explained in the same way by subsequent writers. If, however, the explanations maintain the direction indicated by the writing itself, and lay hold of that thought which is prominent, and which alone is authorized, then there is not the least occasion for ambiguity, or of a perplexing manifold sense. But these thoughts, which alone are authorized, have found their expression successively in the Scriptures themselves, so that we need not seek for any other rule. The fulness of meaning in the biblical expressions Anointed, and Son of God, cannot be derived either simply from etymology of the words, nor directly from the first historical use of these terms; it can be gained only from a consideration of the use of these terms made by the biblical writers in the time of the fulfilment in the New Testament. If therefore Psalms 2:7 of this Psalm makes the first biblical use of this expression with reference to the Messiah, on the basis of a Divine decree, then we can conceive the right of the Messianic use of this and other verses of this Psalm in the New Testament in various forms. This is the case in express citations, as Acts 4:25 sq., where Peter and John, with the rest of the Apostles, treat as a fulfilment of the words, Psalms 2:1-2, the rebellion against Christ, in which the unbelieving Jews had shown that they were entirely agreed with the princes of the heathen, who not only ruled them but led them; furthermore, Acts 13:33, where Paul derives from Psalms 2:7 the propriety and reasonableness of the resurrection of Jesus as the Son of God; finally Hebrews 1:5, where the argument for the super-angelic nature and rank of Jesus as the Messiah is derived from the same verse. So also these words are used literally, in the Messianic sense; thus Hebrews 5:5, where the idea is advanced in connection with words from Psalms 2:7, that Jesus Christ was placed in the glory of His high priesthood by God, who had declared Himself his Father long before, and in contrast to His predecessors; furthermore, Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15, where the judicial activity of the Messiah is described with words from Psalms 2:9. Finally there are parallel facts mentioned, such as the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 7:16), the Sovereignty of God and His Messiah over the world (Revelation 11:15), which might have been suggested by other passages, it is true, but which yet confirm the Messianic character of the Psalm. If we should reject this Messianic character we would be finally forced to the evasion made by the Arabic translation of Saadia, which translates in Psalms 2:7 the Hebrew ben with friend, because the most obvious meaning cannot be understood.

7. It is worthy of special consideration that in this Psalm the generation referred to Jehovah, or rather the birth of the Messiah, is understood as a Divine declaration of the Messiah as Son of Jehovah, made by a word of revelation upon a historical day; that likewise the corresponding Divine declaration, Psalms 89:27, transfers the title of first-born, which was previously given to the people of God, to the Messiah in His type David; that then John and Paul, in connection with the deeper insight of the New Testament into the idea of the Divine Sonship applied the name of first-born to Jesus, the historical Messiah, (Daniel 9:24-25; Luke 2:11; John 1:49), and indeed partly with reference to His birth from God, before the creation of any creature (Colossians 1:15), partly with reference to His relation to the Church brought about by His resurrection from the dead (Colossians 1:18; Rom 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:20; Acts 26:23; Revelation 1:5). Again, in close connection with this is the fact that Paul, Acts 13:33, treats the resurrection of Jesus as the actual fulfilment effected by God upon a historical day of the declaration of the Messiah as His Son, expressed in the words, Psalms 2:7 (comp. Romans 1:4); furthermore, that Hebrews 1:6, immediately after the use of the Psalm already mentioned, briefly speaks of the exalted Messiah with reference to His second advent, under the name of the first-born; finally that in Revelation 12:5 the entrance of the Messiah upon His sovereignty over the world, when snatched away to God and to His throne, is regarded as a birth from the Church according to the analogy of Isaiah 66:7; Micah 4:4; Micah 5:1-2. Once, when Melanchthon was asked by some one, through his servant, why we sing every year, at Christmas, “Born to-day,” answered, “Ask your master whether he does not need the consolation today.”

8. The kingdom of God is not only to acquire a historical form on earth among the people of Israel and in the land of Canaan, but is to be spread abroad among all nations, even to the ends of the earth, yet not in the form of the theocracy of the Old Covenant, but in the Messianic form, or the Christocracy. The assurance that the power of the Divine kingdom over all people is conferred upon the Messiah rests upon the will of Jehovah guaranteed by the promise (comp. Psalms 82:8); but the historical fulfilment of this promise is made dependent upon a demand yet to be made by the Messiah, whose time, manner, circumstances and conditions are not mentioned here, compare Luke 22:29; Revelation 11:15.

9. The Messiah’s power over the kingdom of God is destined to be a Divine government, not only to embrace the world, but also to conquer the world: and it has not only this destiny, but has also sufficient means in its own constitution to accomplish both of these purposes. We must distinguish, however, (1) the means of grace, which are offered previously to all the world (Matthew 24:14; Matthew 28:19), the use of which conveys a blessing to all those who willingly submit themselves to him (Mark 16:16), so that those who take refuge with God and His anointed are not cast down and buried beneath the ruins of a world which is judged by the Lord (Luke 28:30), but they find deliverance; and (2) the powers which infinitely surpass all the powers of this world, and which are greatly to be feared when they unfold in their strength, in the exhibition of wrath (Romans 2:5), in the Messianic judgment (John 4:22).

10. In the intervening time the Divine word addresses itself not only to the lowly and the weak, but very emphatically to the powerful and those in high positions in the world, who are in especial danger of over-rating themselves and of boasting, and, in consequence of this, of misunderstanding, neglecting, and transgressing the laws of the kingdom of God, which lie at the basis of all human order, and therefore they need an earnest and gracious admonition to be mindful of their responsibility to the Heavenly King and Judge, and to lead their subordinates in witnessing faithful obedience to their Lord and God, who not only has established the office of magistrate in the world and maintains, protects and blesses the power of the magistrate among men, but also would stand in a personal relation and communion with those who are clothed with this power, in order that the sceptre and sword, money and property with which they have been invested by Him, may be used to the glory of God, the good of the kingdom, and the benefit of men, and that they may work out their own salvation on the one side with fear and trembling, and on the other with sacred joy. Spes sine tremore luxuriat in præsumtionem, et timor sine spe degenerat in desperationem (Gregory).


It is as impossible to destroy the kingdom of God on earth as to take heaven by storm. God will not allow Himself to be dethroned.—The sovereignty of Christ is to believers an easy yoke, to unbelievers an oppressive fetter; therefore, obedience is to the former a sweet pleasure—to the latter an insupportable burden; but it cannot be shaken off—the sceptre of blessing becomes a rod of iron.—All persons in authority should assist in the carrying out of God’s will on earth, and use their powers to this end; but it is allotted to the Son of God alone to set up the kingdom of God and carry it on in the world.—Rebellion against the Lord and His anointed is shameful as it is presumptuous; foolish as it is daring; impotent as it is wicked and audacious.—The higher our position in this world, the greater our accountability to God.—The Lord proclaims the presence of His grace, as well as His coming to judgment, and so no one has excuse. God gives time for repentance to the individual as well as to nations; blessed is he who uses this time of grace and takes refuge with the God of all salvation, who reveals Himself in History as Saviour and as Judge.

Starke:—Where the kingdom of Christ breaks forth with power, the world is excited and rebellious, but all in vain.—This is a perverse generation which finds the snares of Satan easy and pleasant, but rejects as cumbersome the cords of Jesus’ love.—He who would be a true anointed of the Lord cannot and must not oppose the Messiah, but must build up this kingdom.—The Lord and His anointed are so inseparably united that their enemies must combat them both together.—It is pleasurable to be a servant of sin (Romans 6:12), and at the same time a servant of perdition (2 Peter 2:19); but to be a servant of God and of Jesus is regarded as too troublesome for the flesh (Acts 24:25), prejudicial to freedom (John 8:33), and dishonorable (John 9:28).—When our Lord in His time had sufficiently proved the faith and perseverance of His Church, He deprived His persecutors of their courage, so that those who had previously been the source of fear to every one, feared and trembled themselves.—Christ was, according to His office, a preacher; according to His majesty, a King on Mount Zion, therefore, true man; a Son begotten to-day, therefore true God; a wonderful Hero and Lord!—Christ is a universal King, therefore He has His Church in all parts of the world.—The enemies of Christ suppose that His sceptre is still a reed, as in the time of His sufferings; but they will be obliged to experience, some day, to their greatest shame, the iron sceptre in His hand.—Generally those who are the highest in dignity acquire self knowledge and humility with difficulty, yet this is indispensable to their improvement.—What is more reasonable than that those who have received more honor than others should render the most reverence to God? (2 Samuel 12:7 sq.).—Those are the best friends of magistrates who remind them of their duty to the Son of God, in order that they may not be exposed to His wrath.—How great a change of heart there must be, if we are to resolve to serve and truly hold Him for our Lord whom formerly we despised and opposed.—Christ is gracious, so that He willingly allows Himself to be kissed; but if he is not kissed at all, or with a Judas kiss, He can be as angry as He is gracious.

Moller:—God speaks to the ungodly more by His arm than by His mouth.—Selnekker: All will go well with those whose hopes are in Christ, who know Him by faith, accept Him and confess Him.—Dauderstadt: We have only God to serve with fear, not Satan, not the flesh, not the world.—Geier: The flesh always seeks release from restraint, but to its own destruction.—To be truly wise is to know ourselves and our danger at the right time.—Francke: Just as it is the part of man constantly to ask, so also is it the part of our Heavenly Father constantly to give.—Renschel: Although the enemies of Christ rage still, yet He remains King.—He who serves and honors Him will live with Him forever.—His kingdom, the Church, will survive when all His enemies perish.—Herberger: The Lord Jesus has many and mighty enemies, but He is greater than they all; therefore, the best advice is to gain His love and be blessed forever by Him.—The enemies of the Christian religion speak their own shame.—The longer the storm is coming, the harder it beats; the longer God withholds His wrath, the more terrible the punishment.—That which has been established by our Heavenly Father, no devil or tyrant will overthrow.—The Church is oppressed, but not suppressed.—Beware of God’s wrath, for wrath and destruction are close together.—Bengel: In the kingdom. of Omnipotence all things must be arranged for the best.—Umbreit: Only those who reject the breath of love, feel the iron of justice.—R. Stier: The kingdom of the Anointed Son of God, which is ever invincible to rebels, will be graciously offered to faith, before it is asserted with judgment.—Guenther: David beholds the victory of his successor on his eternal throne, and shall we tremble when unbelief seeks its booty on Christian thrones—Taube: Christ is the Man of decision for all; in Him is rooted the contrast between the righteous as believing subjects, and the ungodly as unbelieving enemies.—Diedrich: When human powers are opposed to the Messiah’s kingdom they are like earthen vessels to iron.

[Matt. Henry: One would have expected that so great a blessing to this world should have been universally welcomed and embraced, and that every sheaf should immediately have bowed to that of the Messiah, and all the crowns and sceptres on earth should have been laid at His feet; but it proves quite contrary. Never were the notions of any sect of philosophers, though never so absurd, nor the power of any prince or state, though never so tyrannical, opposed with so much violence as the doctrine and government of Christ. A sign it was from heaven, for the opposition was plainly from hell originally.—Spurgeon: We shall not greatly err in our summary of this sublime Psalm if we call it the Psalm of Messiah the Prince; for it sets forth as in a wondrous vision the tumult of the people against the Lord’s Anointed, the determinate purpose of God to exalt His own Son, and the ultimate reign of that Son over all His enemies. Let us read it with the eye of faith, beholding as in a glass the final triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over all His enemies.—It was a custom among great kings to give to favored ones whatever they might ask (Esther 5:6; Matthew 14:7), so Jesus hath but to ask and have.—There must ever be a holy fear mixed with the Christian’s joy. This is a sacred compound, yielding a sweet smell, and we must see to it that we burn no other upon the altar. Fear without joy is torment; and joy without holy fear would be presumption.—Our faith may be slender as a spider’s thread, but if it be real, we are in our measure blessed. The more we trust, the more fully shall we know the blessedness. We may therefore close the Psalm with the prayer of the Apostles: “Lord, increase our Faith.”

Plumer: It is easy for God to destroy His foes … Behold Pharaoh, his wise men, his hosts and his horses, ploughing and plunging, and sinking like lead in the Red Sea. Here is the end of one of the greatest plots ever formed against God’s chosen. Of thirty Roman emperors, governors of provinces, and others high in office, who distinguished themselves by their zeal and bitterness in persecuting the early Christians, one became speedily deranged, after some atrocious cruelty, one was slain by his own son, one became blind, the eyes of one started out of his head, one was drowned, one was strangled, one died in a miserable captivity, one fell dead in a manner that will not bear recital, one died of so loathsome a disease that several of his physicians were put to death because they could not abide the stench that filled his room; two committed suicide, a third attempted it, but had to call for help to finish the work, five were assassinated by their own people or servants, five others died the most miserable and excruciating deaths, several of them having an untold complication of diseases, and eight were killed in battle, or after being taken prisoners. Among these was Julian the Apostate. In the days of his prosperity he is said to have pointed his dagger to heaven, defying the Son of God, whom he commonly called the Galilean. But when he was wounded in battle he saw that all was over with him, and he gathered up his clotted blood and threw it into the air, exclaiming, “Thou hast conquered, O thou Galilean.” Voltaire has told us of the agonies of Charles IX. of France, which drove the blood through the pores of the skin of that miserable monarch, after his cruelties and treachery to the Huguenots.—C. A. B.]


[6][Delitzsch: “Because in the New Testament David’s Psalm and Psalm are corresponding terms.” This is generally admitted by German commentators, though it is not generally allowed by English and American writers, such as Wordsworth, Barnes, Alexander, etc. Delitzsch is probably correct in his statement.—C. A. B.]

[7][Ewald: “In this Psalm we hear the voice of a king who, a short time before, was solemnly anointed in Zion. The tributary nations are rebellious and threaten to regain their freedom. The young king stands over against them, self-possessed, conscious of his union with Jehovah as His son and representative, inspirited by the prophetic word at his anointing, and strong in the power of Jehovah. This young king was Solomon—this Psalm his own composition, like those mentioned 1 Kings 4:32.” It is more than likely that the tributary nations plotted together, hoping to throw off the yoke of the young king. It is not necessary to suppose an actual rebellion. The Psalmist speaks of rebellious thoughts and designs. I think that this Psalm and the former are Psalms of Solomon.—C. A. B.]

[8][Wordsworth: “At Christ’s passion the heathen world represented by the imperial power of Rome, combined with the rulers and people of Israel against God and His Messiah. ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’ was their language, Luke 19:14—‘We have no king but Cæsar,’ John 19:15”—C. A. B.]

[9][Delitzsch: “The Anointed Himself now takes the word, and speaks out what He is, and what He can do in virtue of the Divine decree. There is no word of transition, no formula of introduction to indicate the leap of the Psalmist from the word of Jehovah to the word of His Christ; the poet is a seer; his Psalm is a mirror of that which is seen, an echo of that which is heard.”—C. A. B.]

[10][Hupfeld: “The language does not allow of the translation of ב‏‏‏‏ר as Son, for the following reasons, (1) בַר in this sense is not a Hebrew word, but an Aramaic word, and only occurs in Proverbs 31:2, in a passage of very late composition, which has likewise other Chaldaisms, whilst this Psalm is the product of the best period of literature, and it is inconceivable that poetical license even would excuse such a word. (2) It is without sense apart from Jehovah, and without the article. (3) The subject of the following clause is Jehovah, as in the preceding verse, which makes it improbable that a new subject should step in between. It is difficult to take בר in any other way than as an adverb, as Sym., and Jerome.” Hupfeld is correct here, I think; we must not be misled by the beauty of the idea, kiss the Son, or a desire for another Messianic allusion. There is sufficient reference to the Messiah in the 3d strophe, and this allusion would have no significance apart from that. Then again בֵן is used in that strophe for the Messiah. It would seem strange for the Psalmist to select an Aramaic form so soon after.—C. A. B.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.