Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
Ps 2:1-12. The number and authorship of this Psalm are stated (Ac 4:25; 13:33). Though the warlike events of David's reign may have suggested its imagery, the scenes depicted and the subjects presented can only find a fulfilment in the history and character of Jesus Christ, to which, as above cited and in Heb 1:5; 5:5, the New Testament writers most distinctly testify. In a most animated and highly poetical style, the writer, in "four stanzas of three verses each," sets forth the inveterate and furious, though futile, hostility of men to God and His anointed, God's determination to carry out His purpose, that purpose as stated more fully by His Son, the establishment of the Mediatorial kingdom, and the imminent danger of all who resist, as well as the blessing of all who welcome this mighty and triumphant king.
1. Why do the heathen, &c.—Beholding, in prophetic vision, the peoples and nations, as if in a tumultuous assembly, raging with a fury like the raging of the sea, designing to resist God's government, the writer breaks forth into an exclamation in which are mingled surprise at their folly, and indignation at their rebellion.
heathen—nations generally, not as opposed to Jews.
the people—or, literally, "peoples," or races of men.
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
2. The kings and rulers lead on their subjects.
set themselves—take a stand.
take counsel—literally, "sit together," denoting their deliberation.
anointed—Hebrew, "Messiah"; Greek, "Christ" (Joh 1:41). Anointing, as an emblem of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, was conferred on prophets (Isa 6:1); priests (Ex 30:30); and kings (1Sa 10:1; 16:13; 1Ki 1:39). Hence this title well suited Him who holds all these offices, and was generally used by the Jews before His coming, to denote Him (Da 9:26). While the prophet has in view men's opposition generally, he here depicts it in its culminating aspect as seen in the events of Christ's great trial. Pilate and Herod, and the rulers of the Jews (Mt 27:1; Lu 23:1-25), with the furious mob, are vividly portrayed.
Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
3. The rebellious purposes of men are more distinctly announced by this representation of their avowal in words, as well as actions.
bands … and … cords—denote the restraints of government.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
4. By a figure whose boldness is only allowable to an inspired writer, God's conduct and language in view of this opposition are now related.
He that sitteth in the heavens—enthroned in quiet dignities (compare Ps 29:10; Isa 40:22).
shall laugh—in supreme contempt; their vain rage excites His derision. He is still the Lord, literally, "Sovereign," though they rebel.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
5. Then shall he speak—His righteous indignation as well as contempt is roused. For God to speak is for Him to act, for what He resolves He will do (Ge 1:3; Ps 33:9).
vex them—agitate or terrify them (Ps 83:15).
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
6. The purpose here declared, in its execution, involves their overthrow.
Yet—literally, "and," in an adversative sense.
I have set—anointed, or firmly placed, with allusion in the Hebrew to "casting an image in a mould." The sense is not materially varied in either case.
my king—appointed by Me and for Me (Nu 27:18).
upon my holy hill of Zion—Zion, selected by David as the abode of the ark and the seat of God's visible residence (1Ki 8:1); as also David, the head of the Church and nation, and type of Christ, was called holy, and the Church itself came to be thus named (Ps 9:11; 51:18; 99:2; Isa 8:18; 18:7, &c.).
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
7. The king thus constituted declares the fundamental law of His kingdom, in the avowal of His Sonship, a relation involving His universal dominion.
this day have I begotten thee—as 2Sa 7:14, "he shall be My son," is a solemn recognition of this relation. The interpretation of this passage to describe the inauguration of Christ as Mediatorial King, by no means impugns the Eternal Sonship of His divine nature. In Ac 13:33, Paul's quotation does not imply an application of this passage to the resurrection; for "raised up" in Ac 13:32 is used as in Ac 2:30; 3:22, &c., to denote bringing Him into being as a man; and not that of resurrection, which it has only when, as in Ac 2:34, allusion is made to His death (Ro 1:4). That passage says He was declared as to His divine nature to be the Son of God, by the resurrection, and only teaches that that event manifested a truth already existing. A similar recognition of His Sonship is introduced in Heb 5:5, by these ends, and by others in Mt 3:17; 17:5.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
8. The hopes of the rebels are thus overthrown, and not only so; the kingdom they opposed is destined to be coextensive with the earth.
heathen—or, "nations" (Ps 2:1).
and the uttermost parts of the earth—(Ps 22:27); denotes universality.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
9. His enemies shall be subject to His terrible power (Job 4:9; 2Th 2:8), as His people to His grace (Ps 110:2, 3).
rod of iron—denotes severity (Re 2:27).
a potter's vessel—when shivered cannot be mended, which will describe utter destruction.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
10-12. kings … judges—For rulers generally (Ps 148:11), who have been leaders in rebellion, should be examples of penitent submission, and with fear for His terrible judgments, mingled with trust in His mercy, acknowledge—
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
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.
12. Kiss the Son—the authority of the Son.
perish from the way—that is, suddenly and hopelessly.
kindled but a little—or, "in a little time."
put their trust in him—or take refuge in Him (Ps 5:11). Men still cherish opposition to Christ in their hearts and evince it in their lives. Their ruin, without such trust, is inevitable (Heb 10:29), while their happiness in His favor is equally sure.