Psalm 2:9
You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
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(9) Thou shalt break.—The LXX. translated, “thou shalt pasture them,” understanding by the rod (Heb., shevet), as in Leviticus 27:32, a shepherd’s crook. (Comp. Ezekiel 20:37; Micah 7:14.) Elsewhere the rod is a sceptre (Psalm 125:3); in Proverbs 22:15 it is a rod of correction. The use to be made of it—to dash the nations in pieces, as one breaks a potter’s vessel—points to the latter of these significations here.

“Then shalt thou bring full low

With iron sceptre bruised, and them disperse

Like to a potter’s vessel shivered so.” (Milton’s trans.)

Psalm 2:10 begins the fourth section of the poem. Subject princes are warned to be wise in time, and, as a religious duty as well as a political necessity, to submit to Jehovah.

Rejoice with trembling.—Literally, quake, referring to the motion of the body produced by strong emotion, and therefore used both of joy and terror. Our version follows the LXX.; most of the old versions paraphrase the word: Chaldean, “pray”; Syriac,” cleave to him”; Arabic, “praise him.” It is historically interesting to remember that the words of this verse—et nunc reges intelligite—formed the legend of the medal struck in England after the execution of Charles I.

Psalm 2:9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron — Those people that will not quietly submit to thee shall be crushed and destroyed by thy mighty power, which they shall never be able to resist. This was in part fulfilled when the Jews, who persisted in unbelief, were destroyed by the Roman power: and in the destruction of the pagan power when the Christian religion came to be established. But it will not be completely fulfilled till all opposing power and principality be put down. 2:7-9 The kingdom of the Messiah is founded upon an eternal decree of God the Father. This our Lord Jesus often referred to, as what he governed himself by. God hath said unto him, Thou art my Son, and it becomes each of us to say to him, Thou art my Lord, my Sovereign'. The Son, in asking the heathen for his inheritance, desires their happiness in him; so that he pleads for them, ever lives to do so, and is able to save to the uttermost, and he shall have multitudes of willing, loyal subjects, among them. Christians are the possession of the Lord Jesus; they are to him for a name and a praise. God the Father gives them to him, when, by his Spirit and grace, he works upon them to submit to the Lord Jesus.Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron - That is, evidently, thine enemies, for it cannot be supposed to be meant that he would sway such a scepter over his own people. The idea is that he would crush and subdue all his foes. He would have absolute power, and the grant which had been made to him would be accompanied with authority sufficient to hold it. That dominion which was to be conceded to him would be not only one of protection to his friends, but also of punishment on his enemies; and the statement here is made prominent because the former part of the psalm had respect to rebels, and the Messiah is here represented as being invested with power sufficient to punish and restrain them. The Vulgate renders this "thou shalt rule;" the Septuagint, "thou shalt feed - ποιμανεῖς poimaneis; that is, thou shalt feed them as a shepherd does his flock; thou shalt exercise over them the care and protection of a shepherd. This rendering occurs by a slight change in the pointing of the Hebrew word, though the most approved mode of pointing the word is that which is followed in our common translation. DeWette, Hengstenberg, Alexander, Horsley, adopt the common reading. What is said in this verse has been urged as an objection to referring it to the Messiah. The remark of DeWette on this matter has been quoted in the introduction to this psalm, Section 4 (3). But it may be observed, while it is everywhere represented that the scepter of the Messiah over the earth will be a mild scepter, it is also everywhere stated that he will ultimately crush and overthrow all his foes.

Thus, in Isaiah 11:4 : "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked." So Psalm 110:6 : "He shall judge among the heathen; he shall fill the places with the dead bodies." So, likewise, Revelation 19:15 : "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." So also in Matthew 25, and elsewhere, it is said that he will come to judgment, and will consign all his foes to appropriate punishment. While it is said that the reign of the Messiah would be a mild reign, and that his kingdom would not be of this world, and while he is represented as the Prince of peace, it is also said that he would be invested with all the authority of a sovereign. While he would have power to protect his friends, he would also have power to humble and crush his foes. The expression "with a rod of iron" refers to the scepter which he would bear. A scepter was sometimes made of wood, sometimes of gold, sometimes of ivory, and sometimes of iron. The idea, when the past was the case, was, that the dominion was absolute, and that there was nothing that could resist it. Perhaps the idea of justice or severity would be that which would be most naturally suggested by this. As applicable to the Messiah, it can only mean that his enemies would be crushed and subdued before him.

Thou shalt dash them in pieces - The same idea is here expressed in another form, but indicating more particularly the ease with which it would be done. The word rendered "dash them in pieces" means to break in pieces as an earthen vessel, Judges 7:20; Jeremiah 22:28. It is used to denote the crushing of infants on stones, Psalm 137:9. The word "shiver" would well express the idea here - "thou shalt shiver them."

Like a potter's vessel - A vessel or instrument made by a potter; a vessel made of clay. This is easily broken, and especially with a rod of iron, and the idea here is that he would crush and subdue his enemies as easily as this could be done. No image could more happily express the ease with which he would subdue his foes; and this accords with all the representations of the New Testament - that with infinite case - with a word - Christ can subdue his enemies, and consign them to ruin. Compare Matthew 25:41, Matthew 25:46; Luke 19:27. The sense here is, simply, that the Messiah would be absolute; that he would have power to quell all rebellion against God, and to punish all those that rise up against him; and that on those who are incorrigibly rebellious he would exercise that power, and take effectual means to subdue them. This is merely what is done by all just governments, and is by no means inconsistent with the idea that such a government would be mild and gentle toward those who are obedient. The protection of the righteous makes the punishment of the wicked necessary in all governments, and the one cannot be secured without the other. This verse is applied to the Messiah in the Book of Revelation, Revelation 2:27, note; Revelation 19:15, note; compare Revelation 12:5, note (see the notes at these passages).

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.

Thou shalt break them, i.e. those people that will not quietly submit to thee, shall be crushed and destroyed by thee.

With a rod of iron; with thy mighty power, which they shall never be able to resist. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,.... Not his inheritance and possession among the Gentiles, the chosen ones given him by the Father; these he delights in, takes care of, protects, and preserves: but the stubborn and rebellious ones among the Heathen, and in each of the parts of the world, who will not have him to reign over them; who treat his person with contempt, reject his government, disobey his Gospel, and despise his commands; towards these Christ will use severity, and will exert his power and break them in pieces. The Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, render it, "shall feed" or "rule them"; and so it is cited in Revelation 2:27; and applied to Christ, the Word of God, and King of kings; and must be understood, as it is in those places, of the severity of his government over them, of the strictness of his justice, without the least display of mercy; and then the sense is the same with those versions which render it, "shall break them:" as the word used is interpreted by the Targum, and the Jewish commentators on the place; and which is confirmed by what follows:

thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel; which is very easily done with a bar of iron; and, when it is done, the pieces can never be put together again: so that by the metaphor is signified the easy and irreparable ruin of the wicked; see Isaiah 30:14. The word signifies that they should be so crumbled into dust, that they should be scattered about as with the wind; which, so far as it relates to the Jews, was fulfilled in their destruction by the Romans, and will have its accomplishment in the antichristian nations at the latter day; see Revelation 2:26.

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron] A figure for the severity of the chastisement that awaits rebels. Or perhaps, ‘an iron sceptre’ (Psalm 45:6), symbol of a stern and irresistible rule. But the word rendered break them, if read with different vowels, may mean rule (lit. shepherd) them. so the LXX (and after it Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15), Syriac, and Jerome. In this case rod will mean a shepherd’s staff (Micah 7:14), and the phrase will be an oxymoron.

a potter’s vessel] An emblem of easy, complete, irreparable destruction. The confederacy is shattered into fragments which cannot be reunited. Cp. Jeremiah 19:11; Isaiah 30:14; Proverbs 6:15.Verse 9. - Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron. It is said that these words, and those of the next clause, "cannot describe the mild rule of Christ" (Rosenmuller, Do Wette, Hupfeld, etc.). But the objectors forget that there is a severe, as well as a mild, side to the dealings of God with his human creatures. St. Paul notes in the same verse both the "severity" and the "goodness" of God (Romans 11:22). Christ, though "the Prince of Peace," "came to send a sword upon the earth" (Matthew 10:34). As the appointed Judge of men, he takes vengeance on the wicked, while he rewards the righteous (Luke 3:17; Matthew 25:46). Nay, St. John, in the Apocalypse, declares that "out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations. and "ye shall rule them with a rod of iron" (Revelation 19:15; comp. 2:27; 12:5). So, with respect to the other clause of the verse - Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel - it is to be noted that there is a similar threat made by the Lord of hosts against Jerusalem in the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 19:11), and that under the new covenant the same is threatened in the Revelation (Revelation 2:27). In truth, both covenants are alike in denouncing the extreme of God's wrath on impenitent sinners, such as those here spoken of. The Psalm begins with a seven line strophe, ruled by an interrogative Wherefore. The mischievous undertaking condemns itself, It is groundless and fruitless. This certainty is expressed, with a tinge of involuntary astonishment, in the question. למּה followed by a praet. enquires the ground of such lawlessness: wherefore have the peoples banded together so tumultuously (Aquila: ἐθορυβήθησαν)? and followed by a fut., the aim of this ineffectual action: wherefore do they imagine emptiness? ריק might be adverbial and equivalent to לריק, but it is here, as in Psalm 4:3, a governed accusative; for הגה which signifies in itself only quiet inward musing and yearning, expressing itself by a dull muttering (here: something deceitful, as in Psalm 38:13), requires an object. By this ריק the involuntary astonishment of the question justifies itself: to what purpose is this empty affair, i.e., devoid of reason and continuance? For the psalmist, himself a subject and member of the divine kingdom, is too well acquainted with Jahve and His Anointed not to recognise beforehand the unwarrantableness and impotency of such rebellion. That these two things are kept in view, is implied by Psalm 2:2, which further depicts the position of affairs without being subordinated to the למה. The fut. describes what is going on at the present time: they set themselves in position, they take up a defiant position (התיצּב as in 1 Samuel 17:16), after which we again (comp. the reverse order in Psalm 83:6) have a transition to the perf. which is the more uncoloured expression of the actual: נוסד (with יחד as the exponent of reciprocity) prop. to press close and firm upon one another, then (like Arab. sâwada, which, according to the correct observation of the Turkish Kamus, in its signification clam cum aliquo locutus est, starts from the very same primary meaning of pressing close to any object): to deliberate confidentially together (as Psalm 31:14 and נועץ Psalm 71:10). The subjects מלכי־ארץ and רוזנים (according to the Arabic razuna, to be weighty: the grave, dignitaries, σεμνοί, augusti) are only in accordance with the poetic style without the article. It is a general rising of the people of the earth against Jahve and His משׁיח, Χριστὸς, the king anointed by Him by means of the holy oil and most intimately allied to Him. The psalmist hears (Psalm 2:3) the decision of the deliberating princes. The pathetic suff. êmō instead of êhém refers back to Jahve and His Anointed. The cohortatives express the mutual kindling of feeling; the sound and rhythm of the exclamation correspond to the dull murmur of hatred and threatening defiance: the rhythm is iambic, and then anapaestic. First they determine to break asunder the fetters (מוסרות equals מאסרות) to which the את, which is significant in the poetical style, points, then to cast away the cords from them (ממּנוּ a nobis, this is the Palestinian mode of writing, whereas the Babylonians said and wrote mimeenuw a nobis in distinction from ממּנוּ ab eo, B. Sota 35a) partly with the vexation of captives, partly with the triumph of freedmen. They are, therefore, at present subjects of Jahve and His Anointed, and not merely because the whole world is Jahve's, but because He has helped His Anointed to obtain dominion over them. It is a battle for freedom, upon which they are entering, but a freedom that is opposed to God.
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