Psalm 2:2
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Set themselvesi.e., with hostile intent, as in Jeremiah 46:4, where the same word is used of warriors: “Stand forth with your helmets.”

Rulers.—Properly, grave dignitaries.

Take counsel.—Better, have taken their pians, and are now mustering to carry them into effect. Notice the change of tense: in the first clause, the poet sees, as it were, the array; in the second, he goes back to its origin.

Against the Lord.—Notice the majestic simplicity of this line. The word Messiah is applicable in its first sense to any one anointed for a holy office or with holy oil (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16). Its distinctive reference to an expected prince of the chosen people, who was to redeem them from their enemies, and fulfil completely all the Divine promises for them, probably dates from this psalm, or more distinctly from this psalm than from any one passage. At least, that the traditional Jewish interpretation had fastened upon it as of this importance is shown by the frequent and emphatic quotation of this psalm in the New Testament. (See New Testament use of these verses in Acts 4:25, and Note in New Testament Commentary.)

Psalm 2:2. The kings of the earth — So called by way of contempt, and to show their madness in opposing the God of heaven. Herod the Great, Herod the Tetrarch, Pilate and other princes and magistrates, with or after them, are chiefly intended; set themselves — Hebrew, יתיצבו, jithjatzebu, set themselves in opposition, as Chandler renders it. The word expresses their firm purpose and professed hostility, together with the combination of their counsels and forces. And the rulers take counsel together — Or assemble together, and instigate each other, according to Waterland and Chandler. David’s enemies urged and instigated each other in their opposition to him; and the Jewish priests, elders, and council instigated false witnesses to accuse the Messiah, Pilate to condemn him, and the people to clamour for his crucifixion; the people also instigated Pilate to release Barabbas, and crucify Jesus; and the devil instigated them all to perpetrate this impious murder: as he afterward instigated kings and nations to persecute, imprison, torture, and put to death, in a variety of ways, his apostles, evangelists, and other followers. See the apostolic exposition of these verses, Acts 4:25. “Persecution,” says Dr. Horne, “may be carried on by the people, but it is raised and fomented by kings and rulers. After the ascension of Christ, and the effusion of the Spirit, the whole power of the Roman empire was employed in the same cause by those who, from time to time, swayed the sceptre of the world. But still, they who intended to extirpate the faith, and destroy the church, how many and how mighty soever they might be, were found only to ‘imagine a vain thing.’ And equally vain will every imagination be that exalteth itself against the counsels of God for the salvation of his people.” Against the Lord — Hebrew, Jehovah, either directly and professedly, or indirectly and by consequence, because against his counsel and command; and against his Anointed — Against the king whom he hath chosen and exalted: that is, in fact, against all religion in general, and against the Christian religion in particular. And it is certain, all that are enemies to Christ, whatever they may pretend, are enemies to God himself. Thus our Lord, They have hated both me and my Father. The great Author of our holy religion is here termed the Lord’s Anointed, or Messiah, or Christ, in allusion to the anointing of David to be king. He is both authorized and qualified to be the church’s head and king; is duly invested with the office, and every way fitted for it, and yet he is opposed by many; nay, is therefore opposed, because his opposers are impatient of God’s authority, envious at this king’s advancement, and have a rooted enmity to the Spirit of holiness.2:1-6 We are here told who would appear as adversaries to Christ. As this world is the kingdom of Satan, unconverted men, of every rank, party, and character, are stirred up by him to oppose the cause of God. But the rulers of the earth generally have been most active. The truths and precepts of Christianity are against ambitious projects and worldly lusts. We are told what they aim at in this opposition. They would break asunder the bands of conscience, and the cords of God's commandments; they will not receive, but cast them away as far as they can. These enemies can show no good cause for opposing so just and holy a government, which, if received by all, would bring a heaven upon earth. They can hope for no success in so opposing so powerful a kingdom. The Lord Jesus has all power both in heaven and in earth, and is Head over all things to the church, notwithstanding the restless endeavours of his enemies. Christ's throne is set up in his church, that is, in the hearts of all believers.The kings of the earth - This verse is designed to give a more specific form to the general statement in Psalm 2:1. In the first verse the psalmist sees a general commotion among the nations as engaged in some plan that he sees must be a vain one; here he describes more particularly the cause of the excitement, and gives a nearer view of what is occurring. He now sees kings and rulers engaged in a specific and definite plot against Yahweh and against His Anointed. The word "kings" here is a general term, which would be applicable to all rulers - as the kingly government was the only one then known, and the nations were under the control of absolute monarchs. A sufficient fulfillment would be found, however, if any rulers were engaged in doing what is here described.

Set themselves - Or, take their stand. The latter expression would perhaps better convey the sense of the original. It is the idea of taking a stand, or of setting themselves in array, which is denoted by the expression; - they combine; they resolve; they are fixed in their purpose. Compare Exodus 2:4; Exodus 19:17; Exodus 34:5. The attitude here is that of firm or determined resistance.

And the rulers - A slight addition to the word kings. The sense is, that there was a general combination among all classes of rulers to accomplish what is here specified. It was not confined to any one class.

Take counsel together - Consult together. Compare Psalm 31:13, "While they took counsel together against me." The word used here, יחד yachad, means properly to found, to lay the foundation of, to establish; then, to be founded (Niphal); to support oneself; to lean upon - as, for example, to lean upon the elbow. Thus used, it is employed with reference to persons reclining or leaning upon a couch or cushion, especially as deliberating together, as the Orientals do in the divan or council. Compare the notes at Psalm 83:3. The idea here is that of persons assembled to deliberate on an important matter.

Against the Lord - Against Jehovah - the small capitals of "Lord" in our common version indicating that the original word is Yahweh. The meaning is, that they were engaged in deliberating against Yahweh in respect to the matter here referred to - to wit, his purpose to place the "Anointed One," his King (Psalm 2:6), on the hill of Zion. It is not meant that they were in other respects arrayed against him, though it is true in fact that opposition to God in one respect may imply that there is an aversion to him in all respects, and that the same spirit which would lead men to oppose him in any one of his purposes would, if carried out, lead them to oppose him in all things.

And against his Anointed - - משׁיחו meshı̂ychô - his Messiah: hence, our word Messiah, or Christ. The word means "Anointed," and the allusion is to the custom of anointing kings and priests with holy oil when setting them apart to office, or consecrating them to their work. Compare Matthew 1:1, note; Daniel 9:26, note. The word Messiah, or Anointed, is therefore of so general a character in its signification that its mere use would not determine to whom it was to be applied - whether to a king, to a priest, or to the Messiah properly so called. The reference is to be determined by something in the connection. All that the word here necessarily implies is, that there was some one whom Yahweh regarded as his Anointed one, whether king or priest, against whom the rulers of the earth had arrayed themselves. The subsequent part of the psalm Psa 2:6-7 enables us to ascertain that the reference here is to one who was a King, and that he sustained to Yahweh the relation of a Son. The New Testament, and the considerations suggested in the introduction to the psalm (Section 4), enable us to understand that the reference is to the Messiah properly so called - Jesus of Nazareth. This is expressly declared Acts 4:25-27 to have had its fulfillment in the purposes of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, in rejecting the Saviour and putting him to death. No one can doubt that all that is here stated in the psalm had a complete fulfillment in their combining to reject him and to put him to death; and we are, therefore, to regard the psalm as particularly referring to this transaction. Their conduct was, however, an illustration of the common feelings of rulers and people concerning him, and it was proper to represent the nations in general as in commotion in regard to him.

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.

The kings; either those mentioned 2 Samuel 5 2Sa 8; or rather Herod the Great, and the other Herod, and Pilate, and others with or after them.

Of the earth; so called in way of contempt, and to show their madness in opposing the God of heaven.

Set themselves: the word notes their firm purpose and professed hostility, and the combination of their counsels and forces.

Against the Lord; either directly and professedly; or indirectly and by consequence, because against his anointed, and against his counsel and command. And; or, that is, as that particle is oft used; the latter clause explaining the former, and showing in what sense they fought against that God whom they pretended to own and worship.

Against his anointed; against such a king whom God hath chosen and exalted, and wonderfully accomplished and set up for his work and service, who therefore will certainly defend him against all his enemies. The kings of the earth set themselves,.... Rose and stood up in great wrath and fury, and presented themselves in an hostile manner, and opposed the Messiah: as Herod the great, king of Judea, who very early bestirred himself, and sought to take away the life of Jesus in his infancy; and Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, who is called a king, Mark 6:14; who with his men of war mocked him, and set him at nought; and Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, who represented the Roman emperor, and condemned him to death, Matthew 27:26; and all the kings of the earth ever since, who ever persecuted Christ in his members, and have set themselves with all their might to hinder the spread of his Gospel and the enlargement of his interest;

and the rulers take counsel together; as did the Jewish sanhedrim, the great court of judicature among the Jews, the members of which were the rulers of the people, who frequently met together and consulted to take away the life of Christ: though it may also include all other governors and magistrates who have entered into schemes

against the Lord, and against his Anointed, or Messiah, Christ: by "the Lord", or Jehovah, which is the great, the glorious, and incommunicable name of God, and is expressive of his eternal being and self-existence, and of his being the fountain of essence to all creatures, is meant God the Father; since he is distinguished from his Son, the Messiah, his anointed One, as Messiah and Christ signify; and who is so called, because he is anointed by God with the Holy Ghost, without measure, to the office of the Mediator, Prophet, Priest, and King; from whom the saints receive the anointing, which teacheth all things, and every grace of the Spirit in measure; and who, after his name, are called Christians. This name of the promised Redeemer was well known among the Jews, John 1:41; and which they took from this passage, and from some others;

saying, as follows:

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. The kings of the earth] In contrast to ‘my king,’ Psalm 2:6. Cp. the use of the phrase in striking contexts, Psalm 76:12; Psalm 89:27; Psalm 102:15; Psalm 138:4; Psalm 148:11; Isaiah 24:21.

set themselves] The tenses of the original in Psalm 2:1-2 give a vividness and variety to the picture which can hardly be reproduced in translation. Rage and take counsel are perfects, representing the throng as already gathered, and the chiefs seated in divan together: imagine and set themselves are imperfects (the graphic, pictorial tense of Hebrew poetry), representing their plot in process of development. The rapid lively rhythm moreover well suggests the stir and tumult of the gathering host.

against the Lord] They would not deny that in making war upon Israel they were making war upon Israel’s God (2 Kings 18:32 ff.); but they little knew Whom they were defying (2 Kings 19:22 ff.).Verse 2. - The kings of the earth set themselves; or, draw themselves up in array (comp. Jeremiah 46:4). Such kings as Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa, Nero, Galerius, Diocletian, Julian the Apostate, etc. There is always a warfare between the world and the Church, in which kings are apt to take a part, most often on the worldly side. And the rulers take counsel together. "Rulers" are persons having authority, but below the rank of kings Such were the ethnarchs and tetrarchs of the first century, the governors of provinces under the Roman emperor, the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and the like. These last frequently "took counsel against the Lord" (see Matthew 26:3 - 5; Matthew 27:1; Acts 4:5, 6; Acts 5:21-41). Against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying. In David's time the recognized "anointed of the Lord" was the divinely appointed King of Israel (1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 12:3, 5; 1 Samuel 16:6; 1 Samuel 24:6, 10; 1 Samuel 26:7, 16; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16: 19:21; 22:51; Psalm 17:50; 20:6; 28:8) - first Saul, and then David; but David here seems to designate by the term a Greater than himself - the true theocratic King, whom he typified. The exclamatory אשׁרי, as also Psalm 32:2; Psalm 40:5; Proverbs 8:34, has Gaja (Metheg) by the Aleph, and in some Codd. even a second by שׁ, because it is intended to be read asherê as an exception, on account of the significance of the word (Baer, in Comm. ii. 495). It is the construct of the pluralet. אשׁרים (from אשׁר, cogn.ישׁר, כּשׁר, to be straight, right, well-ordered), and always in the form אשׁרי, even before the light suffixes (Olsh. 135, c), as an exclamation: O the blessedness of so and so. The man who is characterised as blessed is first described according to the things he does not do, then (which is the chief thought of the whole Ps.) according to what he actually does: he is not a companion of the unrighteous, but he abides by the revealed word of God. רשׁעים are the godless, whose moral condition is lax, devoid of stay, and as it were gone beyond the reasonable bounds of true unity (wanting in stability of character), so that they are like a tossed and stormy sea, Isaiah 57:20.;

(Note: Nevertheless we have not to compare רעשׁ, רגשׁ, for רשׁע, but the Arabic in the two roots Arab. rs' and rsg shows for רשׁע the primary notion to be slack, loose, in opposition to Arab. tsdq, צדק to be hard, firm, tight; as Arab. rumhun tsadqun, i.e., according to the Kamus Arab. rmh ṣlb mtı̂n mstwin, a hard, firm and straight spear. We too transfer the idea of being lax and loose to the province of ethics: the difference is only one of degree. The same two primary notions are also opposed to one another in speaking of the intellect: Arab. hakuma, wise, prop. thick, firm, stout, solid, and Arab. sachufa, foolish, simple, prop. thin, loose, without stay, like a bad piece of weaving, vid., Fleischer's translation of Samachschari's Golden Necklace pp. 26 and 27 Anm. 76. Thus רשׁע means the loose man and indeed as a moral-religyous notion loose from God, godless comp. Bibl. Psychol. p. 189. transl.].)

חטּאים (from the sing. חטּא, instead of which חטא is usually found) sinners, ἁμαρτωλοί, who pass their lives in sin, especially coarse and manifest sin; לצים (from לוּץ, as מת from מוּת) scoffers, who make that which is divine, holy, and true a subject of frivolous jesting. The three appellations form a climax: impii corde, peccatores opere, illusores ore, in accordance with which עצה (from יעץ figere, statuere), resolution, bias of the will, and thus way of thinking, is used in reference to the first, as in Job 21:16; Job 22:18; in reference to the second, דּרך mode of conduct, action, life; in reference to the third, מושׁב which like the Arabic mglis signifies both seat (Job 29:7) and assembling (Psalm 107:32), be it official or social (cf. Psalm 26:4., Jeremiah 15:17). On הלך בּ, in an ethical sense, cf. Micah 6:16; Jeremiah 7:24. Therefore: Blessed is he who does not walk in the state of mind which the ungodly cherish, much less that he should associate with the vicious life of sinners, or even delight in the company of those who scoff at religion. The description now continues with כּי אם (imo si, Ges. 155, 2, 9): but (if) his delight is, equals (substantival instead of the verbal clause:) he delights (חפץ cf. Arab. chfd f. i. with the primary notion of firmly adhering, vid., on Job 40:17) in תורת ה, the teaching of Jahve, which is become Israel's νόμος, rule of life; in this he meditates profoundly by day and night (two acc. with the old accusative terminations am and ah). The perff. in Psalm 1:1 describe what he all along has never done, the fut. יהגּה, what he is always striving to do; הגה of a deep (cf. Arab. hjj, depressum esse), dull sound, as if vibrating between within and without, here signifies the quiet soliloquy (cf. Arab. hjs, mussitando secum loqui) of one who is searching and thinking.

With והיה,

(Note: By the Sheb stands Metheg (Gaja), as it does wherever a word, with Sheb in the first syllable, has Olewejored, Rebia magnum, or Dech without a conjunctive preceding, in case at least one vowel and no Metheg-except perhaps that standing before Sheb compos. - lies between the Sheb and the tone, e.g., ננתּקה (with Dech) Psalm 2:3, ואענהוּ Psalm 91:15 and the like. The intonation of the accent is said in these instances to begin, by anticipation, with the fugitive ĕ.)

in Psalm 1:3, the development of the אשׁרי now begins; it is the praet. consec.: he becomes in consequence of this, he is thereby, like a tree planted beside the water-courses, which yields its fruit at the proper season and its leaf does not fall off. In distinction from נטוּע, according to Jalkut 614, שׁתוּל means firmly planted, so that no winds that may rage around it are able to remove it from its place (אין מזיזין אתו ממקומו). In פּלגי מים, both מים and the plur. serve to give intensity to the figure; פּלג (Arab. fal'g, from פלג to divide, Job 38:25) means the brook meandering and cleaving its course for itself through the soil and stones; the plur. denotes either one brook regarded from its abundance of water, or even several which from different directions supply the tree with nourishing and refreshing moisture. In the relative clause the whole emphasis does not rest on בּעתּו (Calvin: impii, licet praecoces fructus ostentent, nihil tamen producunt nisi abortivum), but פּריו is the first, בּעתּו the second tone-word: the fruit which one expects from it, it yields (equivalent to יעשׂה it produces, elsewhere), and that at its appointed, proper time ( equals בּעדתּו, for עת is equals עדת or עדת, like רדת, לדת, from ועד), without ever disappointing that hope in the course of the recurring seasons. The clause ועלהוּ לא יבּול is the other half of the relative clause: and its foliage does not fall off or wither (נבל like the synon. Arab. dbl, from the root בל).

The green foliage is an emblem of faith, which converts the water of life of the divine word into sap and strength, and the fruit, an emblem of works, which gradually ripen and scatter their blessings around; a tree that has lost its leaves, does not bring its fruit to maturity. It is only with וכל, where the language becomes unemblematic, that the man who loves the Law of God again becomes the direct subject. The accentuation treats this member of the verse as the third member of the relative clause; one may, however, say of a thriving plant צלח, but not הצליח. This Hiph. (from צלח, Arab. tslh, to divide, press forward, press through, vid., Psalm 45:5) signifies both causative: to cause anything to go through, or prosper (Genesis 34:23), and transitive: to carry through, and intransitive: to succeed, prosper (Judges 18:5). With the first meaning, Jahve would be the subject; with the third, the project of the righteous; with the middle one, the righteous man himself. This last is the most natural: everything he takes in hand he brings to a successful issue (an expression like 2 Chronicles 7:11; 2 Chronicles 31:21; Daniel 8:24). What a richly flowing brook is to the tree that is planted on its bank, such is the word of God to him who devotes himself to it: it makes him, according to his position and calling, ever fruitful in good and well-timed deeds and keeps him fresh in his inner and outward life, and whatsoever such an one undertakes, he brings to a successful issue, for the might of the word and of the blessing of God is in his actions.

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