Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The author. This psalm, like the one preceding, is without any title prefixed to it, and, like that, is without anything in the psalm itself to indicate its authorship. Its authorship must be learned, therefore, elsewhere, if it can be ascertained at all. There is, however, every reason to suppose that David was the author; and by those who admit the authority of the New Testament this will not be doubted. The reasons for supposing that its authorship is to be traced to David are the following:
(a) It is expressly ascribed to him in Act 4:25-26 : "Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?" etc. There can be no doubt that this psalm is here referred to, and the quotation in this manner proves that this was the common understanding among the Jews. It may be presumed that in a matter of this kind the general tradition would be likely to be correct; and to those who admit the inspiration of the apostles as bearing on points like this, the fact of its being quoted as the production of David is decisive.
(b) This is the common opinion respecting its origin among Hebrew writers. Kimchi and Aben Ezra expressly ascribe it to David, and they are supposed in this to express the prevailing opinion of the Hebrew people.
(c) Its place among the Psalms of David may, perhaps, be regarded as a circumstance indicating the same thing. Thus, to the seventy-second psalm there are none which are ascribed expressly to any other author than David (except the Ps. 50, which is ascribed to Asaph, or 'for Asaph,' as it is in the margin), though there are several whose authors are not mentioned; and the common impression has been that this portion of the Book of Psalms was arranged in this manner because they were understood by the collector of the Psalms to have been composed by him.
(d) The character of the composition accords well with this supposition. It is true, indeed, that nothing can be certainly inferred from this consideration respecting its authorship; and that it must be admitted that there are no such peculiarities in the style as to prove that David is the author. But the remark now made is, that there is nothing inconsistent with this supposition, and that there is nothing in the sentiment, the style, or the allusions, which might not have flowed from his pen, or which would not be appropriate on the supposition that he was the author. The only objection that could be urged to this would be derived from Psa 2:6, "I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." But this will be considered in another place.
The time when written. As we cannot with absolute certainty determine who was the author, it is, of course, not possible to ascertain the exact time when it was composed; nor, if it be admitted that David was the author, can we now ascertain what was the occasion on which it was written. There are no names of the kings and people who are represented as conspiring against the Anointed One who is the chief subject of the psalm; and there is no local allusion whatever except in the single phrase the "hill of Zion," in Psa 2:6. The probability would seem to be that the psalm was not designed to refer to anything which had occurred in the time of the author himself, but, as will be seen in another part of these introductory remarks (Section 4), that the writer intended to refer mainly to the Messiah, who was to come in a distant age, although this may have been suggested by something which took place in the time of the writer.
The opposition made to David himself by surrounding nations, their attempts to overwhelm the Hebrew people and himself as their king, the fact that God gave him the victory over his foes, and established him as the king of his people, and the prosperity and triumph which he had experienced, may have given rise to the ideas and imagery of the psalm, and may have led him to compose it with reference to the Messiah, between whose treatment and his own there would be so strong a resemblance, that the one might suggest the other. If conjecture may be allowed where it is impossible to be certain, it may be supposed that the psalm was composed by David after the termination of the wars in which he had been engaged with surrounding nations, and in which he had struggled for the establishment of his throne and kingdom; and after he had been peacefully and triumphantly established as ruler over the people of God. Then it would be natural to compare his own fortunes with those of the Son of God, the future Messiah, who was to be, in his human nature, his descendant; against whom the rulers of the earth would also "rage," as they had against himself; whom it was the purpose of God to establish on a permanent throne in spite of all opposition, as he had established him on his throne; and who was to sway a scepter over the nations of the earth, of which the scepter that he swayed might be regarded as an emblem.
Thus understood, it had, in its original composition, no particular reference to David himself, or to Solomon, as Paulus supposed, or to any other of the kings of Israel; but it is to be regarded as having sole reference to the Messiah, in language suggested by events which had occurred in the history of David, the author. It is made up of the peaceful and happy reflections of one who had been engaged, in the face of much opposition, in establishing his own throne, now looking forward to the similar scenes of conflict and of triumph through which the Anointed One would pass.
The structure and contents of the psalm. The psalm is exceedingly regular in its composition, and has in its structure much of a dramatic character. It naturally falls into four parts, of three verses each.
I. In the first Psa 2:1-3 the conduct and purposes of the raging nations are described. They are in the deepest agitation, forming plans against Yahweh and His Anointed One, and uniting their counsels to break their bands asunder, and to cast off their authority, that is, as Psa 2:6 shows, to prevent the establishment of the Anointed One as King on the holy hill of Zion. The opening of the psalm is bold and abrupt. The psalmist looks out suddenly on the nations, and sees them in violent commotion.
II. In the second part Psa 2:4-6 the feelings and purposes of God are described. It is implied that he had formed the purpose, by a fixed decree (compare Psa 2:7), to establish his Anointed One as king, and he now calmly sits in the heavens and looks with derision on the vain designs of those who are opposed to it. He smiles upon their impotent rage, and goes steadily forward to the accomplishment of his plan. He solemnly declares that he had established his King on his holy hill of Zion, and consequently, that all their efforts must be vain.
III. In the third part Psa 2:7-9 the King himself, the Anointed One, speaks, and states the decree which had been formed in reference to himself, and the promise which had been made to him. That decree was, that he should be declared to be the Son of Yahweh himself; the promise was that he should, at his own request, have the nations of the earth for a possession, and rule over them with an absolute scepter.
IV. In the fourth part Psa 2:10-12 the psalmist exhorts the rulers of the nations to yield to the claims of the Anointed One, threatening divine wrath on those who should reject him, and promising a blessing on those who should put their trust in him.
The psalm is, therefore, regularly constructed, and the main thought is pursued through the whole of it - the exalted claims and ultimate triumph of him who is here called "the Anointed;" the vanity of opposition to his decrees; and the duty and advantage of yielding to his authority. "The several sentences are also very regular in form, exhibiting parallelisms of great uniformity." - Prof. Alexander. The psalm, in its construction, is one of the most perfect in the Book of Psalms, according to the special ideal of Hebrew poetry.
Section 4. The question to whom the psalm refers. There can be but three opinions as to the question to whom the psalm was designed to refer:
(a) That in which it is supposed that it refers exclusively to David, or to some other one of the anointed kings of Israel;
(b) that in which it is supposed that it had this original reference, but has also a secondary reference to the Messiah; and
(c) that in which it is supposed that it has exclusive and sole reference to the Messiah.
There are few who maintain the first of these opinions. Even Grotius, in respect to whom it was said, in comparison with Cocceius, that "Cocceius found Christ everywhere, and Grotius nowhere," admits that while, in his view, the psalm had a primary reference to David, and to the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Idumeans, etc., as his enemies, yet, in a more "mystical and abstruse sense, it pertained to the Messiah." The reasons why the psalm should not be regarded as referring exclusively to any Hebrew king are conclusive. They are summed up in this one: that the expressions in the psalm are such as cannot be applied exclusively to any Hebrew monarch. This will appear in the exposition of this psalm. For like reasons, the psalm cannot be regarded as designed to refer primarily to David, and in a secondary and higher sense to the Messiah. There are no indications in the psalm of any such double sense; and if it cannot be applied exclusively to David, cannot be applied to him at all.
The psalm, I suppose, like Isa 53:1-12, had an original and exclusive reference to the Messiah. This may be shown by the following considerations:
(1) It is so applied in the New Testament, and is referred to in no other way. Thus, in Act 4:24-27, the whole company of the apostles is represented as quoting the first verses of the psalm, and referring them to Christ: "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God ... who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things. The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together." If the authority of the apostles, therefore, is to be admitted in the case, there can be no doubt that the psalm was intended to refer to the Messiah. This statement of the apostles may also be adduced as proof that this was, probably, the prevailing mode of interpretation in their age.
Again, the psalm is quoted by Paul Act 13:32-33 as applicable to Christ, and with reference to the fact that it was a doctrine of the Old Testament that the Messiah was to rise from the dead: "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And again, in Heb 1:5, the same passage is quoted by Paul to establish the exalted rank of the Messiah as being above the angels: "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" These quotations prove that in the estimation of the writers of the New Testament the psalm had an original reference to the Messiah; and the manner in which they make the quotation proves that this was the current belief of the Jews in their day, as they appear to have been under no apprehension that the propriety of the application which they made would be called in question.
(2) But, besides this, there is other evidence that such was the prevailing interpretation among the ancient Hebrews: "In the older Jewish writings, as the Sohar, the Talmud, etc., there is a variety of passages in which the Messianic interpretation is given to the psalm. See the collections by Raym. Martini, Pug. Fid. ed. Carpzov., in several places, and by Schottgen, de Messia, pp. 227ff. Even Kimchi and Jarchi confess that it was the prevailing interpretation among their forefathers; and the latter very honestly gives his reasons for departing from it, when he says he prefers to explain it of David, for the refutation of the heretics; that is, in order to destroy the force of the arguments drawn from it by the Christians." (Hengstenberg, Christ., i. 77.)
(3) That it refers to the Messiah is manifest from the psalm itself. This will be apparent from a few subordinate considerations.
(a) It cannot be applied to David, or to any other earthly king; that is, there are expressions in it which cannot be applied with any degree of propriety to any earthly monarch whatever. This remark is founded particularly on the remarkable use of the word "Son" in the psalm, and the promise that "the uttermost parts of the earth" should be placed under the control of him to whom that word is applied. The word "son" is, indeed, of large signification, and is, in a certain sense, applied to the righteous in the plural number, as being the sons or the children of God by adoption; but it is not so applied in the singular number, and there is a peculiarity in its use here which shows that it was not intended to be applied to an earthly monarch, or to any pious man considered as a child of God. That appellation - the Son of God - properly denotes a nearer relation to God than can be applied to a mere mortal of any rank (compare the notes at Joh 5:18), and was so understood by the Jews themselves. It is not used in the Old Testament, as applied to an earthly monarch, in the manner in which it is employed here. The remark here made is entirely irrespective of the doctrine which is sometimes supposed to be taught in this passage, of "the eternal generation" of the Son of God, since what is here said is equally true, whether that doctrine is well-founded or not.
(b) There is an extent of dominion and a perpetuity of empire promised here which could not be applied to David or to any other monarch, but which is entirely applicable to the Messiah (see Psa 2:8, Psa 2:10).
(c) Such, too, is the nature of the promise to those who put their trust in him, and the threatening on those who do not obey him Psa 2:12. This is language which will be seen at once to be entirely applicable to the Messiah, but which cannot be so regarded in respect of any earthly monarch.
(d) There is a strong probability that the psalm is designed to refer to the Messiah, from the fact that they who deny this have not been able to propose any other plausible interpretation, or to show with any degree of probability to whom it does refer. There were no Israelite kings or princes to whom it could be regarded with any show of probability as applicable, unless it were David or Solomon; and yet there are no recorded circumstances in their lives to which it can be regarded as adapted, and there is no substantial agreement among those who maintain that it does refer to either of them. It is maintained by both Rosenmuller and DeWette that it cannot relate to David or Solomon. Some of the modern Jews maintain that it was composed by David respecting himself when the Philistines came up against him Sa2 5:17; but this is manifestly an erroneous opinion, for not only was there nothing in the occurrence there to correspond with the language of the psalm, but there was at that time no particular consecration of the hill of Zion Psa 2:6, nor was that mount regarded as holy or sacred until after the tabernacle was erected on it, which was after the Philistine war. The same remark may be made substantially of the supposition that it refers to the rebellion of Absalom, or to any of the circumstances in which David was placed. And there is still less reason for supposing that it refers to Solomon, for there is no mention of any rebellion against him; of any general attempt to throw off his yoke; of any solemn consecration of him as king in consequence of, or in spite of such an attempt.
(e) The psalm agrees with the account of the Messiah, or is in its general structure and details applicable to him. This will be shown in the exposition, and indeed is manifest on the face of it. The only plausible objection to this view is, as stated by DeWette, "According to the doctrine of Christianity, the Messiah is no conqueror of nations, bearing an iron scepter; his kingdom is not of this world." But to this it may be replied, that all that is meant in Psa 2:9 may be, that he will set up a kingdom over the nations of the earth; that all his enemies will be subdued under him; and that the scepter which he will sway will be firm and irresistible. See, for the applicability of this to the Messiah, the notes at Psa 2:9.
(4) It may be added that the psalm is such as one might expect to find in the poetic writings of the Hebrews, with the views which they entertained of the Messiah. The promised Messiah was the object of deepest interest to their minds. All their hopes centered in him. To him they looked forward as the Great Deliverer; and all their anticipations of what the people of God were to be clustered around him. He was to be a Prince, a Conqueror, a Deliverer, a Saviour. To him the eyes of the nation were directed; he was shadowed forth by their pompous religious rites, and their sacred bards sang his advent. That we should find an entire psalm composed with reference to him, designed to set forth his character and the glory of his reign, is no more than what we should expect to find among a people where poetry is cultivated at all, and where these high hopes were cherished in reference to his advent; and especially if to this view of their national poetry, in itself considered, there be added the idea that the sacred bards wrote under the influence of inspiration, nothing is more natural than that we should expect to find a poetic composition having such a sole and exclusive reference. Nothing would have been more unnatural than that, with these prevailing views and hopes, and with the fact before us that so much of the Old Testament is sacred poetry, we should have found no such production as the second psalm, on the supposition that it had an original and exclusive reference to the Messiah.
Why do the heathen rage - "Why do nations make a noise?" Prof. Alexander. The word "heathen" here - גוים gôyim - means properly "nations," with out respect, so far as the word is concerned, to the character of the nations. It was applied by the Hebrews to the surrounding nations, or to all other people than their own; and as those nations were in fact pagans, or idolators, the word came to have this signification. Neh 5:8; Jer 31:10; Eze 23:30; Eze 30:11; compare אדם 'âdâm, Jer 32:20. The word Gentile among the Hebrews (Greek, ἔθνος ethnos expressed the same thing. Mat 4:15; Mat 6:32; Mat 10:5, Mat 10:18; Mat 12:21, et soepe. The word rendered "rage" - רגשׁ râgash - means to make a noise or tumult, and would be expressive of violent commotion or agitation. It occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures only in this place, though the corresponding Chaldee word - רגשׁ regash is found in Dan 6:6, Dan 6:11, Dan 6:15 - rendered in Dan 6:6, "assembled together," in the margin "came tumultuously," - and in Dan 6:11, Dan 6:15, rendered "assembled." The psalmist here sees the nations in violent agitation or commotion, as if under high excitement, engaged in accomplishing some purpose - rushing on to secure something, or to prevent something. The image of a mob, or of a tumultuous unregulated assemblage, would probably convey the idea of the psalmist. The word itself does not enable us to determine how extensive this agitation would be, but it is evidently implied that it would be a somewhat general movement; a movement in which more than one nation or people would participate. The matter in hand was something that affected the nations generally, and which would produce violent agitation among them.
And the people - לאמים Le'umiym. A word expressing substantially the same idea, that of people, or nations, and referring here to the same thing as the word rendered "heathen" - according to the laws of Hebrew parallelism in poetry. It is the people here that are seen in violent agitation: the conduct of the rulers, as associated with them, is referred to in the next verse.
Imagine - Our word "imagine" does not precisely express the idea here. We mean by it, "to form a notion or idea in the mind; to fancy." Webster. The Hebrew word, הגה hâgâh, is the same which, in Psa 1:2, is rendered "meditate." See the notes at that verse. It means here that the mind is engaged in deliberating on it; that it plans, devises, or forms a purpose; - in other words, the persons referred to are thinking about some purpose which is here called a vain purpose; they are meditating some project which excites deep thought, but which cannot be effectual.
A vain thing - That is, which will prove to be a vain thing, or a thing which they cannot accomplish. It cannot mean that they were engaged in forming plans which they supposed would be vain - for no persons would form such plans; but that they were engaged in designs which the result would show to be unsuccessful. The reference here is to the agitation among the nations in respect to the divine purpose to set up the Messiah as king over the world, and to the opposition which this would create among the nations of the earth. See the notes at Psa 2:2. An ample fulfillment of this occurred in the opposition to him when he came in the flesh, and in the resistance everywhere made since his death to his reign upon the earth. Nothing has produced more agitation in the world (compare Act 17:6), and nothing still excites more determined resistance. The truths taught in this verse are:
(1) that sinners are opposed - even so much as to produce violent agitation of mind, and a fixed and determined purpose - to the plans and decrees of God, especially with respect to the reign of the Messiah; and
(2) that their plans to resist this will be vain and ineffectual; wisely as their schemes may seem to be laid, and determined as they themselves are in regard to their execution, yet they must find them vain.
What is implied here of the particular plans against the Messiah, is true of all the purposes of sinners, when they array themselves against the government of God.
The kings of the earth - This verse is designed to give a more specific form to the general statement in Psa 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 Exo 2:4; Exo 19:17; Exo 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 Psa 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 Psa 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 (Psa 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 Mat 1:1, note; Dan 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 Act 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.
Let us break their bands asunder - The bands of Yahweh and of his Anointed. They who are engaged in this combination or conspiracy regard Yahweh and his Anointed as one, and as having one object - to set up a dominion over the world. Hence, they take counsel against both; and, with the same purpose and design, endeavor to cast off the authority of each. The word "bands" here refers to the restraints imposed by their authority. The figure is probably taken from fastening a yoke on oxen, or the bands or cords which were used in plowing - the bands of the yoke being significant of their subjection to the authority or will of another. The same figure is used by the Saviour in Mat 11:29 : "Take my yoke upon you." The idea here is, that it was the purpose of Yahweh and his Anointed to establish a dominion over men, and that it was equally the purpose of the kings and rulers here referred to that it should not be done.
And cast away their cords from us - The same idea under another form - the cords referring not to that which would bind them as prisoners, but to the ropes or thongs which bound oxen to the plow; and, hence, to that which would bind men to the service of God. The word translated "cords" is a stronger word than that which is rendered bands. It means properly what is twisted or interlaced, and refers to the usual manner in which ropes are made. Perhaps, also, in the words "let us cast away" there is the expression of an idea that it could be easily done: that they had only to will it, and it would be done. Together, the expressions refer to the purpose among men to cast off the government of God, and especially that part of his administration which refers to his purpose to establish a kingdom under the Messiah. It thus indicates a prevalent state of the human mind as being impatient of the restraints and authority of God, and especially of the dominion of his Son, anointed as King.
The passage Psa 2:1-3 proves:
(1) that the government of Yahweh, the true God, and the Messiah or Christ, is the same;
(2) that opposition to the Messiah, or to Christ, is in fact opposition to the purposes of the true God;
(3) that it may be expected that men will oppose that government, and there will be agitation and commotion in endeavoring to throw it off.
The passage, considered as referring to the Messiah, had an ample fulfillment
(a) in the purposes of the high priests, of Herod, and of Pilate, to put him to death, and in the general rejection of him by his own countrymen;
(b) in the general conduct of mankind - in their impatience of the restraints of the law of God, and especially of that law as promulgated by the Saviour, demanding submission and obedience to him; and
(c) in the conduct of individual sinners - in the opposition of the human heart to the authority of the Lord Jesus.
The passage before us is just as applicable to the world now as it was to the time when the Saviour personally appeared on the earth.
He that sitteth in the heavens - God, represented as having his home, his seat, his throne in heaven, and thence administering the affairs of the world. This verse commences the second strophe or stanza of the psalm; and this strophe Psa 2:4-6 corresponds with the first Psa 2:1-3 in its structure. The former describes the feelings and purposes of those who would cast off the government of God; this describes the feelings and purposes of God in the same order, for in each case the psalmist describes what is done, and then what is said: the nations rage tumultuously Psa 2:1-2, and then say Psa 2:3, "Let us break their bands." God sits calmly in the heavens, smiling on their vain attempts Psa 2:4, and then solemnly declares Psa 2:5-6 that, in spite of all their opposition, he "has set his King upon his holy hill of Zion." There is much sublimity in this description. While men rage and are tumultuous in opposing his plans, he sits calm and undisturbed in his own heaven. Compare the notes at the similar place in Isa 18:4.
Shall laugh - Will smile at their vain attempts; will not be disturbed or agitated by their efforts; will go calmly on in the execution of his purposes. Compare as above Isa 18:4. See also Pro 1:26; Psa 37:13; Psa 59:8. This is, of course, to be regarded as spoken after the manner of men, and it means that God will go steadily forward in the accomplishment of his purposes. There is included also the idea that he will look with contempt on their vain and futile efforts.
The Lord shall have them in derision - The same idea is expressed here in a varied form, as is the custom in parallelism in Hebrew poetry. The Hebrew word לעג lâ‛ag, means properly to stammer; then to speak in a barbarous or foreign tongue; then to mock or deride, by imitating the stammering voice of anyone. Gesenius, Lexicon Here it is spoken of God, and, of course, is not to be understood literally, anymore than when eyes, and hands, and feet are spoken of as pertaining to him. The meaning is, that there is a result in the case, in the Divine Mind, as if he mocked or derided the vain attempts of men; that is, he goes calmly forward in the execution of his own purposes, and he looks upon and regards their efforts as vain, as we do the efforts of others when we mock or deride them. The truth taught in this verse is, that God will carry forward his own plans in spite of all the attempts of men to thwart them. This general truth may lie stated in two forms:
(1) He sits undisturbed and unmoved in heaven while men rage against him, and while they combine to cast off his authority.
(2) He carries forward his own plans in spite of them. This he does:
(a) directly, accomplishing his schemes without regard to their attempts; and
(b) by making their purposes tributary to his own, so making them the instruments in carrying out his own plans. Compare Act 4:28.
Then shall he speak unto them - That is, this seeming indifference and unconcern will not last forever. He will not always look calmly on, nor will he suffer them to accomplish their purposes without interposing. When he has shown how he regards their schemes - how impotent they are, how much they are really the objects of derision, considered as an attempt to cast off his authority - he will interpose and declare his own purposes - his determination to establish his king on the hill of Zion. This is implied in the word "then."
In his wrath - In anger. His contempt for their plans will be followed by indignation against themselves for forming such plans, and for their efforts to execute them. One of these things is not inconsistent with the other, for the purpose of the rebels may be very weak and futile, and yet their wickedness in forming the plan may be very great. The weakness of the scheme, and the fact that it will be vain, does not change the character of him who has made it; the fact that he is foolish does not prove that he is not wicked. God will treat the scheme and those who form it as they deserve - the one with contempt, the other with his wrath. The word "wrath" here, it is hardly necessary to say, should be interpreted in the same manner as the word "laugh" in Psa 2:4, not as denoting a feeling precisely like that which exists in the human mind, subject as man is to unreasonable passion, but as it is proper to apply it to God - the strong conviction (without passion or personal feeling) of the evil of sin, and the expression of his purpose in a manner adapted to show that evil, and to restrain others from its commission. It means that he will speak to them as if he were angry; or that his treatment of them will be such as men experience from others when they are angry.
And vex them - The word here rendered "vex" - בהל bâhal - means in the original or Qal form, to tremble; and then, in the form used here, the Piel, to cause to tremble, to terrify, to strike with consternation. This might be done either by a threat or by some judgment indicative of displeasure or anger. Psa 83:15; Dan 11:44; Job 22:10. The idea here is that he would alarm them, or make them quake with fear, by what is specified of his purpose; to wit, by his determination to set his King on his holy hill, and by placing the scepter of the earth in his hands. Their designs, therefore, would be frustrated, and if they did not submit to him they must perish (see Psa 2:9-12).
In his sore displeasure - literally, in his "heat" or "burning," that is, in his anger; as we speak of one that is inflamed with anger, or that burns with indignation; or, as we speak of the passions, kindling into a flame. The meaning here is, that God would be displeased with their purposes, and that the expression of his design would be adapted to fill them with the deepest alarm. Of course, all such words are to be interpreted in accordance with what we know to be the nature of God, and not in accordance with the same passions in men. God is opposed to sin, and will express his opposition as if he felt angry, but it will be in the most calm manner, and not as the result of passion. It will be simply because it ought to be so.
Yet have I set my king - The word "yet" is merely the translation of the conjunction "and." It is rendered in the Vulgate "but ...autem;" and so in the Septuagint, δέ de. It would be better rendered perhaps by the usual word "and:" "And I have set or constituted my king," etc. This is properly to be regarded as the expression of God himself; as what he says in reply to their declared purposes Psa 2:3, and as what is referred to in Psa 2:5. The meaning is, he would speak to them in his anger, and say, "In spite of all your purposes and all your opposition, I have set my king on the hill of Zion." That is, they had their plans and God had his; they meant to cast off his authority, and to prevent his purpose to set up the Messiah as king; he resolved, on the contrary, to carry out his purposes, and he would do it. The word rendered set - נסך nâsak - means, literally, to pour, to pour out, as in making a libation to the Deity, Exo 30:9; Hos 9:4; Isa 30:1; then, to pour out oil in anointing a king or priest, and hence, to consecrate, to inaugurate, etc. See Jos 13:21; Psa 83:11; Mic 5:5. The idea here is, that he had solemnly inaugurated or constituted the Messiah as king; that is, that he had formed the purpose to do it, and he therefore speaks as if it were already done. The words "my King" refer, of course, to the anointed One, the Messiah, Psa 2:2. It is not simply a king, or the king, but "my king," meaning that he derived his appointment from God, and that he was placed there to execute his purposes. This indicates the very near relation which the anointed One sustains to him who had appointed him, and prepares us for what is said in the subsequent verse, where he is called His Son.
Upon my holy hill of Zion - Zion was the southern hill in the city of Jerusalem. See the notes at Isa 1:8. It was the highest of the hills on which the city was built. It was made by David the capital of his kingdom, and was hence called the city of David, Ch2 5:2. By the poets and prophets it is often put for Jerusalem itself, Isa 2:3; Isa 8:18; Isa 10:24; Isa 33:14, et al. It did not obtain this distinction until it was taken by David from the Jebusites, Sa2 5:5-9; Ch1 11:4-8. To that place David removed the ark of the covenant, and there he built an altar to the Lord in the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, Sa2 24:15-25. Zion became thenceforward the metropolis of the king dom, and the name was transferred to the entire city. It is to this that the passage here refers; and the meaning is, that in that metropolis or capital God had constituted his Messiah king, or had appointed him to reign over his people. This cannot refer to David himself, for in no proper sense was he constituted or inaugurated king in Jerusalem; that is, there was no such ceremony of inauguration as is referred to here. Zion was called the "holy hill," or "the hill of my holiness" (Hebrew), because it was set apart as the seat of the theocracy, or the residence of God, from the time that David removed the ark there. That became the place where God reigned, and where his worship was celebrated. This must refer to the Messiah, and to the fact that God had set him apart to reign over his people, and thence over all the earth. The truth taught in this passage is, that God will carry forward his own purposes in spite of all the opposition which men can make, and that it is his deliberate design to make his anointed One - the Messiah - King over all.
I will declare the decree - We have here another change in the speaker. The Anointed One is himself introduced as declaring the great purpose which was formed in regard to him, and referring to the promise which was made to him, as the foundation of the purpose of Yahweh Psa 2:6 to set him on the hill of Zion. The first strophe or stanza Psa 2:1-3 is closed with a statement made by the rebels of their intention or design; the second Psa 2:4-6 with a statement of the purpose of Yahweh; the third is introduced by this declaration of the Messiah himself. The change of the persons speaking gives a dramatic interest to the whole psalm. There can be no doubt that the word "I" here refers to the Messiah. The word decree - חק chôq - means properly something decreed, prescribed, appointed. See Job 23:14. Compare Gen 47:26; Exo 12:24. Thus it is equivalent to law, statute, ordinance. Here it refers not to a law which he was to obey, but to an ordinance or statute respecting his reign: the solemn purpose of Yahweh in regard to the kingdom which the Messiah was to set up; the constitution of his kingdom. This, as the explanation shows, implied two things:
(a) that he was to be regarded and acknowledged as his Son, or to have that rank and dignity Psa 2:7; and
(b) that the pagan and the uttermost parts of the earth were to be given him for a possession, or that his reign was to extend over all the world Psa 2:8.
The word "declare" here means that he would give utterance to, or that he would now himself make a statement in explanation of the reason why Yahweh had determined to establish him as King on his holy hill of Zion. There is great beauty in thus introducing the Messiah himself as making this declaration, presenting it now in the form of a solemn covenant or pledge. The determination of Yahweh Psa 2:6 to establish him as King on his holy hill is thus seen not to be arbitrary, but to be in fulfillment of a solemn promise made long before, and is therefore an illustration of his covenant faithfulness and truth. "The Lord hath said unto me." Yahweh hath said. See Psa 2:2, Psa 2:4. He does not intimate when it was that he had said this, but the fair interpretation is, that it was before the purpose was to be carried into execution to place him as King in Zion; that is, as applicable to the Messiah, before he became incarnate or was manifested to execute his purpose on earth. It is implied, therefore, that it was in some previous state, and that he had come forth in virtue of the pledge that he would be recognized as the Son of God. The passage cannot be understood as referring to Christ without admitting his existence previous to the incarnation, for all that follows is manifestly the result of the exalted rank which God purposed to give him as his Son, or as the result of the promise made to him then.
Thou art my Son - That is, Yahweh had declared him to be his Son; he had conferred on him the rank and dignity fairly involved in the title The Son of God. In regard to the general meaning of this, and what is implied in it, see Mat 1:1, note; Heb 1:2, note; Heb 1:5, note; Rom 1:4, note; and Joh 5:18, note. The phrase "sons of God" is elsewhere used frequently to denote the saints, the children of God, or men eminent for rank and power (compare Gen 6:2, Gen 6:4; Job 1:6; Hos 1:10; Joh 1:12; Rom 8:14, Rom 8:19; Phi 2:15; Jo1 3:1); and once to denote angels Job 38:7; but the appellation "The Son of God" is not appropriated in the Scriptures to anyone but the Messiah. It does not occur before this in the Old Testament, and it occurs but once after this, Dan 3:25. See the notes at that passage. This makes its use in the case before us the more remarkable, and justifies the reasoning of the author of the epistle to the Hebrews Heb 1:5 as to its meaning. The true sense, therefore, according to the Hebrew usage, and according to the proper meaning of the term, is, that he sustained a relation to God which could be compared only with that which a son among men sustains to his father; and that the term, as thus used, fairly implies an equality in nature with God himself. It is such a term as would not be applied to a mere man; it is such as is not applied to the angels Heb 1:5; and therefore it must imply a nature superior to either.
This day - On the application of this in the New Testament, see the notes at Act 13:33 and the notes at Heb 1:5. The whole passage has been often appealed to in support of the doctrine of the "eternal generation" of Christ, meaning that he was "begotten" from eternity; that is, that his divine nature was in some sense an emanation from the Father, and that this is from eternity. Whatever may be thought of that doctrine, however, either as to its intelligibility or its truth, there is nothing in the use of the phrase "this day," or in the application of the passage in the New Testament Act 13:33; Heb 1:5, to sustain it. The language, indeed, in the connection in which it is found, does, as remarked above, demonstrate that he had a pre-existence, since it is addressed to him as the result of a decree or covenant made with him by Yahweh, and as the foundation of the purpose to set him as King on the hill of Zion. The words "this day" would naturally refer to that time when this "decree" was made, or this covenant formed; and as that was before the creation of the world, it must imply that he had an existence then.
The time referred to by the meaning of the word is, that when it was determined to crown him as the Messiah. This is founded on the relation subsisting between him and Yahweh, and implied when in that relation he is called his "Son;" but it determines nothing as to the time when this relation commenced. Yahweh, in the passage, is regarded as declaring his purpose to make him King in Zion, and the language is that of a solemn consecration to the kingly office. He is speaking of this as a purpose before he came into the world; it was executed, or carried into effect, by his resurrection from the dead, and by the exaltation consequent on that. Compare Act 13:33 and Eph 1:20-22. Considered, then, as a promise or purpose, this refers to the period before the incarnation; considered as pertaining to the execution of that purpose, it refers to the time when he was raised from the dead and exalted over all things as King in Zion. In neither case can the words "this day" be construed as meaning the same as eternity, or from eternity; and therefore they can determine nothing respecting the doctrine of" eternal generation."
Have I begotten thee - That is, in the matter referred to, so that it would be proper to apply to him the phrase "my Son," and to constitute him "King" in Zion. The meaning is, that he had so constituted the relationship of Father and Son in the case, that it was proper that the appellation "Son" should be given him, and that he should be regarded and addressed as such. So Prof. Alexander: "The essential meaning of the phrase "I have begotten thee" is simply this, "I am thy Father." This is, of course, to be understood in accordance with the nature of God, and we are not to bring to the interpretation the ideas which enter into that human relationship. It means that in some proper sense - some sense appropriate to the Deity - such a relation was constituted as would justify this reference to the most tender and important of all human relationships. In what sense that is, is a fair subject of inquiry, but it is not proper to assume that it is in anything like a literal sense, or that there can be no other sense of the passage than that which is implied in the above-named doctrine, for it cannot be literal, and there are other ideas that may be conveyed by the phrase than that of "eternal generation." The word rendered "begotten" (ילד yâlad) determines nothing certainly as to the mode in which this relationship was formed. It means properly:
(1) to bear, to bring forth as a mother, Gen 4:1;
(2) to beget, as a father, Gen 4:18; and then
(3) as applied to God it is used in the sense of creating - or of so creating or forming as that the result would be that a relation would exist which might be compared with that of a father and a son.
Deu 32:18 : "of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful." Compare Jer 2:27 : "Saying to a block (idol), Thou art my father, thou hast begotten me." So Paul says, Co1 4:15 : "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel." The full meaning, therefore, of this word would be met if it be supposed that Yahweh had given the Messiah this place and rank in such a sense that it was proper to speak of himself as the Father and the Anointed One as the Son. And was there not enough in designating him to this high office; in sending him into the world; in raising him from the dead; in placing him at his own right hand - appointing him as King and Lord - to justify this language? Is not this the very thing under consideration? Is it proper, then, in connection with this passage, to start the question about his eternal generation? Compare the notes at Rom 1:4. On this passage Calvin says (in loc.), "I know that this passage is explained by many as referring to the eternal generation of Christ, who maintain that in the adverb today there is, as it were, a perpetual act beyond the limits of time, denoted. But the Apostle Paul is a more faithful and competent interpreter of this prophecy, who in Act 13:33 recalls us to that which I have called a glorious demonstration of Christ. He was said to be begotten, therefore, not that he might be the Son of God, by which he might begin to be such, but that he might be manifested to the world as such. Finally, this begetting ought to be understood not of the mutual relation of the Father and the Son, but it signifies merely that he who was from the beginning hidden in the bosom of the Father, and who was obscurely shadowed forth under the law, from the time when he was manifested with clear intimation of his rank, was acknowledged as the Son of God, as it is said in Joh 1:14." So Prof. Alexander, though supposing that this is founded on an eternal relation between the Father and the Son, says, "This day have I begotten thee may be considered as referring only to the coronation of Messiah, which is an ideal one," vol. i., p. 15. The result of the exposition of this passage may therefore be thus stated:
(a) The term "Son," as used here, is a special appellation of the Messiah - a term applicable to him in a sense in which it can be given to no other being.
(b) As used here, and as elsewhere used, it supposes his existence before the incarnation.
(c) Its use here, and the purpose formed, imply that he had an existence before this purpose was formed, so that he could be personally addressed, and so that a promise could be made to him.
(d) The term "Son" is not used here in reference to that anterior relation, and determines nothing as to the mode of his previous being - whether from eternity essentially in the nature of God; or whether in some mysterious sense begotten; or whether as an emanation of the Deity; or whether created.
(e) The term, as Calvin suggests, and as maintained by Prof. Alexander, refers here only to his being constituted King - to the act of coronation - whenever that occurred.
(f) This, in fact, occurred when he was raised from the dead, and when he was exalted to the right hand of God in heaven Act 13:33, so that the application of the passage by Paul in the Acts accords with the result to which we are led by the fair interpretation of the passage.
(g) The passage, therefore, determines nothing, one way or the other, respecting the doctrine of eternal generation, and cannot, therefore, be used in proof of that doctrine.
Ask of me - That is, of God. This is a part of the "decree" or purpose, as mentioned in Psa 2:7. That decree embraced not only the design to constitute him as his Son, in the sense that he was to be king in Zion, but also the purpose to give him a dominion embracing "the heathen" and "the uttermost parts of the earth." This wide dominion was to be given him on condition that he would "ask" for it, thus keeping up the idea that Yahweh, as such, is the great source of authority and empire, and that the Messiah, as such occupies a rank subordinate to him. This relation of the Father and Son is everywhere recognized in the New Testament. As we may be sure that the Messiah will ask for this, it follows that the world will yet be brought under his scepter. It may be added that as this wide dominion is promised to the Messiah only on condition that he "asks" for it or prays for it, much more is it true that we can hope for this and for no favor from God, unless we seek it by earnest prayer.
And I shall give thee - I will give thee. That is, he would ultimately give him this possession. No time is specified when it would be done, and the prophecy will be fulfilled if it shall be accomplished in any period of the history of the world.
The heathen - The nations (notes, Psa 2:1); that is, the world. In the time of the writer of the psalm, the world would be spoken of as divided into Hebrews and other nations; the people of God and foreigners. The same division is often referred to in the New Testament under the terms Jew and Gentile, as the Greeks divided all the world into Greeks and barbarians. The word would now embrace all the nations which are not under the influence of the true religion.
For thine inheritance - Thy heritage; thy portion as my Son. There is an allusion here to the fact that he had constituted him as his Son, and hence, it was proper to speak of him as the heir of all things. See the notes at Heb 1:4.
And the uttermost parts of the earth - The farthest regions of the world. This promise would properly embrace all the world as then known, as it is now known, as it shall be hereafter known.
For thy possession - That is, as king. This, on the earth, was be to his possession as the Son of Yahweh, constituted as king. It may be remarked here,
(a) that this can have its fulfillment only in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not true of David nor of any other Hebrew monarch that he had conceded to him, in fact, any such possession. Their dominions extended, at any time, but little beyond the bounds of Palestine, and embraced a very limited part of the earth - but a small territory, even as compared with many then existing kingdoms. The phrase used here could never have been applied to the limited and narrow country of Palestine.
(b) The promise is to be understood as still in full force. It has never been cancelled or recalled, and though its fulfillment has seemed to be long delayed, yet as no time was specified, its spirit and meaning have not been disregarded. Events have shown that it was not intended that it should be speedily accomplished; and events, when no time is specified, should be allowed to be interpreters of the original meaning of the prophecy.
(c) The promise will yet be fulfilled. It is evidently supposed in the promise that the Messiah would ask for this; and it is solemnly affirmed that if he did, this wide inheritance would be granted to him. The world, then, is to be regarded as given by covenant to the Son of God, and in due time he will set up his dominion over the earth, and rule over mankind. The period is coming when the actual scepter swayed over the nations of the earth will be that of the Son of God, and when his right to give laws and to reign will be acknowledged from the rising to the setting sun. This is the only thing in the future that is certainly known to us, and this is enough to make everything in that future bright.
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 Isa 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 Psa 110:6 : "He shall judge among the heathen; he shall fill the places with the dead bodies." So, likewise, Rev 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 Matt. 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, Jdg 7:20; Jer 22:28. It is used to denote the crushing of infants on stones, Psa 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 Mat 25:41, Mat 25:46; Luk 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, Rev 2:27, note; Rev 19:15, note; compare Rev 12:5, note (see the notes at these passages).
Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings - This is to be understood as the language of the psalmist. See introduction to the psalm, Section 3. It is an exhortation addressed to the rulers and princes whom the psalmist saw engaged in opposition to the purpose of Yahweh Psa 2:1-3 - and hence, to all rulers and princes - to act the part of wisdom, by not attempting to resist the plans of God, but to submit to him, and secure his friendship. The psalmist cautions them to take warning, in view of what must certainly come upon the enemies of the Messiah; to cease their vain attempts to oppose his reign, and, by a timely submission to him, to ensure his friendship, and to escape the doom that must come upon his foes. The way of wisdom, then, was not to engage in an attempt in which they must certainly be crushed, but to secure at once the friendship of one appointed by God to reign over the earth.
Be instructed - In your duty to Yahweh and his Anointed One; that is, in the duty of submitting to this arrangement, and lending your influence to promote it. The word used here, and rendered "be instructed," means properly to chastise, chasten, correct; and it here means, be admonished, exhorted, or warned. Compare Pro 9:7; Job 4:3; Psa 16:7.
Ye judges of the earth - Ye who administer justice; that is, ye rulers. This was formerly done by kings themselves, as it is now supposed to be in monarchical governments, where the judges act in the name of the king. In Republics, justice is supposed to be administered by the people through those whom they have appointed to execute it. The word here is equivalent to rulers, and the call is on those who occupy posts of office and honor not to oppose the purposes of Yahweh, but to bring their influence to the promotion of his designs. At the same time, it cannot be doubted that it is implied that they should seek to be interested personally in his reign.
Serve the Lord with fear - With reverence, and with deep apprehensions of the consequences of not serving and obeying him. That is, serve him in not opposing, but in promoting his purpose of establishing a kingdom under the Messiah, with the deep apprehension that if you do not do it, he will arise and crush you in his wrath.
And rejoice - Prof. Alexander renders this "shout," and supposes that it refers to the customary recognition of a present sovereign. The word used - גיל gı̂yl - means properly to move in a circle, to revolve; and then to dance in a circle, to exult, to rejoice. Then, according to Gesenius, it means to tremble, to fear, from the leaping or palpitation of the heart Job 37:1; Hos 10:5; Psa 29:6. Gesenius renders it here "fear with trembling." The common translation, however, better expresses the sense. It means that they should welcome the purposes of Yahweh, and exult in his reign, but that it should be done with a suitable apprehension of his majesty and power, and with the reverence which becomes the public acknowledgment of God.
With trembling - With reverence and awe, feeling that he has almighty power, and that the consequences of being found opposed to him must be overwhelming and awful. The duty here enjoined on kings and rulers is that of welcoming the purposes of God, and of bringing their influence - derived from the station which they occupy - to bear in promoting the reign of truth upon the earth - a duty binding on kings and princes as well as on other men. The feelings with which this is to be done are those which belong to transactions in which the honor and the reign of God are concerned. They are mingled feelings, derived from the mercy of God on the one hand, and from his wrath on the other; from the hope which his promise and purpose inspires, and from the apprehension derived from his warnings and threatenings.
Kiss the Son - Him whom God hath declared to be his Son Psa 2:7, and whom, as such, he has resolved to set as King on his holy hill Psa 2:6. The word "kiss" here is used in accordance with Oriental usages, for it was in this way that respect was indicated for one of superior rank. This was the ancient mode of doing homage or allegiance to a king, Sa1 10:1. It was also the mode of rendering homage to an idol, Kg1 19:18; Hos 13:2; Job 31:27. The mode of rendering homage to a king by a kiss was sometimes to kiss his hand, or his dress, or his feet, as among the Persians. DeWette. The practice of kissing the hand of a monarch is not uncommon in European courts as a token of allegiance. The meaning here is that they should express their allegiance to the Son of God, or recognize him as the authorized King, with suitable expressions of submission and allegiance; that they should receive him as King, and submit to his reign. Applied to others, it means that they should embrace him as their Saviour.
Lest he be angry - If you do not acknowledge his claims, and receive him as the Messiah.
And ye perish from the way - The word from in this place is supplied by the translators. It is literally, "And ye perish the way." See the notes at Psa 1:6. The meaning here seems to be either "lest ye are lost in respect to the way," that is, the way to happiness and salvation; or "lest ye fail to find the way" to life; or "lest ye perish by the way," to wit, before you reach your destination, and accomplish the object you have in view. The design seems to be to represent them as pursuing a certain journey or path - as life is often represented (compare Psa 1:1) - and as being cut down before they reached the end of their journey.
When his wrath is kindled - When his wrath burns. Applying to anger or wrath a term which is common now, as when we speak of one whose anger is heated, or who is hot with wrath.
But a little - Prof. Alexander renders this, "For his wrath will soon burn." This, it seems to me, is in accordance with the original; the word "little" probably referring to time, and not to the intensity of his anger. This accords better also with the connection, for the design is not to state that there will be degrees in the manifestation of his anger, but that his anger would not long be delayed. In due time he would execute judgment on his enemies; and whenever his anger began to burn, his enemies must perish.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him - Kings, princes, people; - all, of every age and every land; the poor, the rich, the bond, the free; white, black, copper-colored, or mixed; all in sickness or health, in prosperity or adversity, in life or in death; all, of every condition, and in all conceivable circumstances - are blessed who put their trust in him. All need him as a Saviour; all will find him to be a Saviour adapted to their wants. All who do this are happy (compare the notes at Psa 1:1); all are safe in time and in eternity. This great truth is stated everywhere in the Bible; and to induce the children of men - weak, and guilty, and helpless - to put their trust in the Son of God, is the great design of all the communications which God has made to mankind.