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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 2


psa 2:0

The Kingdom of God and of His Christ,to Which Everything Must Bow

The didactic Psa 1:1-6 which began with אשׁרי, is now followed by a prophetic Psalm, which closes with אשׁרי. It coincides also in other respects with Psa 1:1-6, but still more with Psalms of the earlier time of the kings (Psa 59:9; Psa 83:3-9) and with Isaiah's prophetic style. The rising of the confederate nations and their rulers against Jahve and His Anointed will be dashed to pieces against the imperturbable all-conquering power of dominion, which Jahve has entrusted to His King set upon Zion, His Son. This is the fundamental thought, which is worked out with the vivid directness of dramatic representation. The words of the singer and seer begin and end the Psalm. The rebels, Jahve, and His Anointed come forward, and speak for themselves; but the framework is formed by the composer's discourse, which, like the chorus of the Greek drama, expresses the reflexions and feelings which are produced on the spectators and hearers. The poem before us is not purely lyric. The personality of the poet is kept in the background. The Lord's Anointed who speaks in the middle of the Psalm is not the anonymous poet himself. It may, however, be a king of the time, who is here regarded in the light of the Messianic promise, or that King of the future, in whom at a future period the mission of the Davidic kingship in the world shall be fulfilled: at all events this Lord's Anointed comes forward with the divine power and glory, with which the Messiah appears in the prophets.

The Psalm is anonymous. For this very reason we may not assign it to David (Hofm.) nor to Solomon (Ew.); for nothing is to be inferred from Act 4:25, since in the New Testament "hymn of David" and "psalm" are co-ordinate ideas, and it is always far more hazardous to ascribe an anonymous Psalm to David or Solomon, than to deny to one inscribed לדוד or לשׁלמה direct authorship from David or Solomon. But the subject of the Psalm is neither David (Kurtz) nor Solomon (Bleek). It might be David, for in his reign there is at least one coalition of the peoples like that from which our Psalm takes its rise, vid., Sa2 10:6 : on the contrary it cannot be Solomon, because in his reign, though troubled towards its close (Kg1 11:14.), no such event occurs, but would then have to be inferred to have happened from this Psalm. We might rather guess at Uzziah (Meier) or Hezekiah (Maurer), both of whom inherited the kingdom in a weakened condition and found the neighbouring peoples alienated from the house of David. The situation might correspond to these times, for the rebellious peoples, which are brought before us, have been hitherto subject to Jahve and His Anointed. But all historical indications which might support the one supposition or the other are wanting. If the God-anointed one, who speaks in Psa 2:7, were the psalmist himself, we should at least know the Psalm was composed by a king filled with a lofty Messianic consciousness. But the dramatic movement of the Psalm up to the ועתה (Psa 2:10) which follows, is opposed to such an identification of the God-anointed one with the poet. But that Alexander Jannaeus (Hitz.), that blood-thirsty ruler, so justly hated by his people, who inaugurated his reign by fratricide, may be both at the same time, is a supposition which turns the moral and covenant character of the Psalm into detestable falsehood. The Old Testament knows no kingship to which is promised the dominion of the world and to which sonship is ascribed (Sa2 7:14; Psa 89:28), but the Davidic. The events of his own time, which influenced the mind of the poet, are no longer clear to us. But from these he is carried away into those tumults of the peoples which shall end in all kingdoms becoming the kingdom of God and of His Christ (Rev 11:15; Rev 12:10).

In the New Testament this Psalm is cited more frequently than any other. According to Act 4:25-28, Act 4:1 and Act 4:2 have been fulfilled in the confederate hostility of Israel and the Gentiles against Jesus the holy servant of God and against His confessors. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Psa 110:1-7 and Psa 2:1-12 stand side by side, the former as a witness of the eternal priesthood of Jesus after the order of Melchisedek, the latter as a witness of His sonship, which is superior to that of the angels. Paul teaches us in Act 13:33, comp. Rom 1:4, how the "to-day" is to be understood. The "to-day" according to its proper fulfilment, is the day of Jesus' resurrection. Born from the dead to the life at the right hand of God, He entered on this day, which the church therefore calls dies regalis, upon His eternal kingship.

The New Testament echo of this Psalm however goes still deeper and further. The two names of the future One in use in the time of Jesus, ὁ Χριστὸς and ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, Joh 1:50; Mat 26:63 (in the mouth of Nathanael and of the High Priest) refer back to this Ps. and Dan 9:25, just as ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου incontrovertibly refers to Psa 8:5 and Dan 7:13. The view maintained by De Wette and Hupfeld, that the Psalm is not applicable to the Christian conceptions of the Messiah, seems almost as though these were to be gauged according to the authoritative utterances of the professorial chair and not according to the language of the Apostles. Even in the Apocalypse, Ps 19:15; Psa 12:5, Jesus appears exactly as this Psalm represents Him, as ποιμαίνων τὰ ἔθνη ἐν ῥάβδῳ σιδηρᾷ. The office of the Messiah is not only that of Saviour but also of Judge. Redemption is the beginning and the judgment the end of His work. It is to this end that the Psalm refers. The Lord himself frequently refers in the Gospels to the fact of His bearing side by side with the sceptre of peace and the shepherd's staff, the sceptre of iron also, Mat 24:50., Mat 21:44, Luk 19:27. The day of His coming is indeed a day of judgment-the great day of the ὀργὴ τοῦ ἀγνίου, Rev 6:17, before which the ultra-spiritual Messianic creations of enlightened exegetes will melt away, just as the carnal Messianic hopes of the Jews did before His first coming.

Psalms 2:1

psa 2:1

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 Psa 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 Psa 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 Psa 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 Sa1 17:16), after which we again (comp. the reverse order in Psa 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 Psa 31:14 and נועץ Psa 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 (Psa 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 = 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.

Psalms 2:4

psa 2:4

Above the scene of this wild tumult of battle and imperious arrogance the psalmist in this six line strophe beholds Jahve, and in spirit hears His voice of thunder against the rebels. In contrast to earthly rulers and events Jahve is called יושׁב בּשּׁמים: He is enthroned above them in unapproachable majesty and ever-abiding glory; He is called אדני as He who controls whatever takes place below with absolute power according to the plan His wisdom has devised, which brooks no hindrance in execution. The futt. describe not what He will do, but what He does continually (cf. Isa 18:4.). למו also belongs, according to Psa 59:9; Psa 37:13, to ישׂחק (שׂחק which is more usual in the post-pentateuchal language = צחק). He laughs at the defiant ones, for between them and Him there is an infinite distance; He derides them by allowing the boundless stupidity of the infinitely little one to come to a climax and then He thrusts him down to the earth undeceived. This climax, the extreme limit of the divine forbearance, is determined by the אז, as in Deu 29:19, cf. שׁם Psa 14:5; 36:13, which is a "then" referring to the future and pointing towards the crisis which then supervenes. Then He begins at once to utter the actual language of His wrath to his foes and confounds them in the heat of His anger, disconcerts them utterly, both outwardly and in spirit. בּהל, Arab. bhl, cogn. בּלהּ, means originally to let loose, let go, then in Hebrew sometimes, externally, to overthrow, sometimes, of the mind, to confound and disconcert.

Psa 2:5-6

Psa 2:5 is like a peal of thunder (cf. Isa 10:33); בּחרונו, Psa 2:5, like the lightning's destructive flash. And as the first strophe closed with the words of the rebels, so this second closes with Jahve's own words. With ואני begins an adverbial clause like Gen 15:2; Gen 18:13; Psa 50:17. The suppressed principal clause (cf. Isa 3:14; Ew. 341, c) is easily supplied: ye are revolting, whilst notwithstanding I.... With ואני He opposes His irresistible will to their vain undertaking. It has been shown by Bttcher, that we must not translate "I have anointed" (Targ., Symm.). נסך, Arab. nsk, certainly means to pour out, but not to pour upon, and the meaning of pouring wide and firm (of casting metal, libation, anointing) then, as in הצּיג, הצּיק, goes over into the meaning of setting firmly in any place (fundere into fundare, constituere, as lxx, Syr., Jer., and Luther translate), so that consequently נסיך the word for prince cannot be compared with משׁיח, but with נציב.

(Note: Even the Jalkut on the Psalms, 620, wavers in the explanation of נסכתי between אמשׁחתיה I have anointed him, (after Dan 10:3), אתיכתיה (I have cast him (after Exo 32:4 and freq.), and גדלתיו I have made him great (after Mic 5:4). Aquila, by rendering it καὶ ἐδιασάμην (from διάζεσθαι = ὑφαίνειν), adds a fourth possible rendering. A fifth is נסך to purify, consecrate (Hitz.), which does not exist, for the Arabic nasaka obtains this meaning from the primary signification of cleansing by flooding with water (e.g., washing away the briny elements of a field). Also in Pro 8:23 נסּכתּי means I am cast = placed.)

The Targum rightly inserts וּמניתיהּ (et praefeci eum) after רבּיתי (unxi), for the place of the anointing is not על־ציּון. History makes no mention of a king of Israel being anointed on Zion. Zion is mentioned as the royal seat of the Anointed One; there he is installed, that He may reign there, and rule from thence, Psa 110:2. It is the hill of the city of David (Sa2 5:7, Sa2 5:9; Kg1 8:1) including Moriah, that is intended. That hill of holiness, i.e., holy hill, which is the resting-place of the divine presence and therefore excels all the heights of the earth, is assigned to Him as the seat of His throne.

Psalms 2:7

psa 2:7

The Anointed One himself now speaks and expresses what he is, and is able to do, by virtue of the divine decree. No transitional word or formula of introduction denotes this sudden transition from the speech of Jahve to that of His Christ. The psalmist is the seer: his Psalm is the mirrored picture of what he saw and the echo of what he heard. As Jahve in opposition to the rebels acknowledges the king upon Zion, so the king on Zion appeals to Him in opposition to the rebels. The name of God, יהוה, has Rebia magnum and, on account of the compass of the full intonation of this accent, a Gaja by the Sheb (comp. אלהי Psa 25:2, אלהים Psa 68:8, אדני Psa 90:1).

(Note: We may observe here, in general, that this Gaja (Metheg) which draws the Sheb into the intonation is placed even beside words with the lesser distinctives Zinnor and Rebia parvum only by the Masorete Ben-Naphtali, not by Ben-Asher (both about 950 a.d.). This is a point which has not been observed throughout even in Baer's edition of the Psalter so that consequently e.g., in Psa 5:11 it is to be written אלהים; in Psa 6:2 on the other hand (with Dech) יהוה, not יהוה.)

The construction of ספּר with אל (as Psa 69:27, comp. אמר Gen 20:2; Jer 27:19, דּבּר Ch2 32:19, הודיע Isa 38:19): to narrate or make an announcement with respect to... is minute, and therefore solemn. Self-confident and fearless, he can and will oppose to those, who now renounce their allegiance to him, a חק, i.e., an authentic, inviolable appointment, which can neither be changed nor shaken. All the ancient versions, with the exception of the Syriac, read חק־יהוה together. The line of the strophe becomes thereby more symmetrical, but the expression loses in force. אל־חק rightly has Olewejored. It is the amplificative use of the noun when it is not more precisely determined, known in Arabic grammar: such a decree! majestic as to its author and its matter. Jahve has declared to Him: בּני אתּה,

(Note: Even in pause here אתּה remains without a lengthened ā (Psalter ii. 468), but the word is become Milel, while out of pause, according to Ben-Asher, it is Milra; but even out of pause (as in Psa 89:10, Psa 89:12; Psa 90:2) it is accented on the penult. by Ben-Naphtali. The Athnach of the books תאם (Ps., Job, Prov.), corresponding to the Zakeph of the 21 other books, has only a half pausal power, and as a rule none at all where it follows Olewejored, cf. Psa 9:7; Psa 14:4; Psa 25:7; Psa 27:4; Psa 31:14; Psa 35:15, etc. (Baer, Thorath Emeth p. 37).)

and that on the definite day on which He has begotten or born him into this relationship of son. The verb ילד (with the changeable vowel i)

(Note: The changeable i goes back either to a primary form ילד, ירשׁ, שׁאל, or it originates directly from Pathach; forms like ירשׁוּה and שׁאלך favour the former, ē in a closed syllable generally going over into Segol favours the latter.))

unites in itself, like γεννᾶν, the ideas of begetting and bearing (lxx γεγέννηκα, Aq. ἔτεκον); what is intended is an operation of divine power exalted above both, and indeed, since it refers to a setting up (נסך) in the kingship, the begetting into a royal existence, which takes place in and by the act of anointing (משׁח). Whether it be David, or a son of David, or the other David, that is intended, in any case 2 Sam 7 is to be accounted as the first and oldest proclamation of this decree; for there David, with reference to his own anointing, and at the same time with the promise of everlasting dominion, receives the witness of the eternal sonship to which Jahve has appointed the seed of David in relation to Himself as Father, so that David and his seed can say to Jahve: אבי אתּה, Thou art my Father, Psa 89:27, as Jahve can to him: בּני אתּה, Thou art My son. From this sonship of the Anointed one to Jahve, the Creator and Possessor of the world, flows His claim to and expectation of the dominion of the world. The cohortative, natural after challenges, follows upon שׁאל, Ges. 128, 1. Jahve has appointed the dominion of the world to His Son: on His part therefore it needs only the desire for it, to appropriate to Himself that which is allotted to Him. He needs only to be willing, and that He is willing is shown by His appealing to the authority delegated to Him by Jahve against the rebels. This authority has a supplement in Psa 2:9, which is most terrible for the rebellious ones. The suff. refer to the גּוים, the ἔθνη, sunk in heathenism. For these his sceptre of dominion (Psa 90:2) becomes a rod of iron, which will shatter them into a thousand pieces like a brittle image of clay (Jer 19:11). With נפּץ alternates רעע (= רעץ frangere), fut. תּרע; whereas the lxx (Syr., Jer.), which renders ποιμανεῖς αὐτοὺς ἐν ῥάβδῳ (as Co1 4:21) σιδηρᾷ, points it תּרעם from רעה. The staff of iron, according to the Hebrew text the instrument of punitive power, becomes thus with reference to שׁבט as the shepherd's staff Psa 23:4; Mic 7:14, an instrument of despotism.

Psalms 2:10

psa 2:10

The poet closes with a practical application to the great of the earth of that which he has seen and heard. With ועתּה, καὶ νῦν (Jo1 2:28), itaque, appropriate conclusions are drawn from some general moral matter of face (e.g., Pro 5:7) or some fact connected with the history of redemption (e.g., Isa 28:22). The exhortation is not addressed to those whom he has seen in a state of rebellion, but to kings in general with reference to what he has prophetically seen and heard. שׁפטי ארץ are not those who judge the earth, but the judges, i.e., rulers (Amo 2:3, cf. 1:8), belonging to the earth, throughout its length or breadth. The Hiph. השׂכּיל signifies to show intelligence or discernment; the Niph. נוסר as a so-called Niph. tolerativum, to let one's self be chastened or instructed, like נועץ Pro 13:10, to allow one's self to be advised, נדרשׁ Eze 14:3, to allow one's self to be sought, נמצא to allow one's self to be found, Ch1 28:9, and frequently. This general call to reflection is followed, in Ch1 28:11, by a special exhortation in reference to Jahve, and in Psa 2:12, in reference to the Son. עבדוּ and גּילוּ answer to each other: the latter is not according to Hos 10:5 in the sense of חילוּ Psa 96:9, but, - since "to shake with trembling" (Hitz.) is a tautology, and as an imperative גילו everywhere else signifies: rejoice, - according to Psa 100:2, in the sense of rapturous manifestation of joy at the happiness and honour of being permitted to be servants of such a God. The lxx correctly renders it: ἀγελλιᾶσθε αὐτῷ ἐν τρόμῳ. Their rejoicing, in order that it may not run to the excess of security and haughtiness, is to be blended with trembling (בּ as Zep 3:17), viz., with the trembling of reverence and self-control, for God is a consuming fire, Heb 12:28.

The second exhortation, which now follows, having reference to their relationship to the Anointed One, has been missed by all the ancient versions except the Syriac, as though its clearness had blinded the translators, since they render בר, either בּר purity, chastity, discipline (lxx, Targ., Ital., Vulg.), or בּר pure, unmixed (Aq., Symm., Jer.: adorate pure). Thus also Hupfeld renders it "yield sincerely," whereas it is rendered by Ewald "receive wholesome warning," and by Hitzig "submit to duty" (בּר like the Arabic birr = בּר); Olshausen even thinks, there may be some mistake in בר, and Diestel decides for בו instead of בר. But the context and the usage of the language require osculamini filium. The Piel נשּׁק means to kiss, and never anything else; and while בּר in Hebrew means purity and nothing more, and בּר as an adverb, pure, cannot be supported, nothing is more natural here, after Jahve has acknowledged His Anointed One as His Son, than that בּר (Pro 31:2, even בּרי = בּני) - which has nothing strange about it when found in solemn discourse, and here helps one over the dissonance of פּן בּן - should, in a like absolute manner to חק, denote the unique son, and in fact the Son of God.

(Note: Apart from the fact of בר not having the article, its indefiniteness comes under the point of view of that which, because it combines with it the idea of the majestic, great, and terrible, is called by the Arabian grammarians Arab. 'l-tnkı̂r lt'dı̂m or ltktı̂r or lthwı̂l; by the boundlessness which lies in it it challenges the imagination to magnify the notion which it thus expresses. An Arabic expositor would here (as in Psa 2:7 above) render it "Kiss a son and such a son!" (vid., Ibn Hishâm in De Sacy's Anthol. Grammat. p. 85, where it is to be translated hic est vir, qualis vir!). Examples which support this doctrine are בּיר Isa 28:2 by a hand, viz., God's almighty hand which is the hand of hands, and Isa 31:8 מפּני־חרב before a sword, viz., the divine sword which brooks no opposing weapon.)

The exhortation to submit to Jahve is followed, as Aben-Ezra has observed, by the exhortation to do homage to Jahve's Son. To kiss is equivalent to to do homage. Samuel kisses Saul (Sa1 10:1), saying that thereby he does homage to him.

(Note: On this vid., Scacchi Myrothecium, to. iii. (1637) c. 35.)

The subject to what follows is now, however, not the Son, but Jahve. It is certainly at least quite as natural to the New Testament consciousness to refer "lest He be angry" to the Son (vid., Rev 6:16.), and since the warning against putting trust (חסות) in princes, Psa 118:9; Psa 146:3, cannot be applied to the Christ of God, the reference of בו to Him (Hengst.) cannot be regarded as impossible. But since חסה בּ is the usual word for taking confiding refuge in Jahve, and the future day of wrath is always referred to in the Old Testament (e.g., Psa 110:5) as the day of the wrath of God, we refer the ne irascatur to Him whose son the Anointed One is; therefore it is to be rendered: lest Jahve be angry and ye perish דּרך. This דּרך is the accus. of more exact definition. If the way of any one perish. Psa 1:6, he himself is lost with regard to the way, since this leads him into the abyss. It is questionable whether כּמעט means "for a little" in the sense of brevi or facile. The usus loquendi and position of the words favour the latter (Hupf.). Everywhere else כּמעט means by itself (without such additions as in Ezr 9:8; Isa 26:20; Eze 16:47) "for a little, nearly, easily." At least this meaning is secured to it when it occurs after hypothetical antecedent clauses as in Psa 81:15; Sa2 19:37; Job 32:22. Therefore it is to be rendered: for His wrath might kindle easily, or might kindle suddenly. The poet warns the rulers in their own highest interest not to challenge the wrathful zeal of Jahve for His Christ, which according to Psa 2:5 is inevitable. Well is it with all those who have nothing to fear from this outburst of wrath, because they hide themselves in Jahve as their refuge. The construct state חוסי connects בו, without a genitive relation, with itself as forming together one notion, Ges. 116, 1. חסה the usual word for fleeing confidingly to Jahve, means according to its radical notion not so much refugere, confugere, as se abdere, condere, and is therefore never combined with אל, but always with בּ.

(Note: On old names of towns, which show this ancient חסה. Wetzstein's remark on Job 24:8 [Comm. on Job, en loc.]. The Arabic still has hsy in the reference of the primary meaning to water which, sucked in and hidden, flows under the sand and only comes to sight on digging. The rocky bottom on which it collects beneath the surface of the sand and by which it is prevented from oozing away or drying up is called Arab. hasâ or hisâ a hiding-place or place of protection, and a fountain dug there is called Arab. ‛yn 'l-hy.)

Next: Psalms Chapter 3