PMW 2023-040 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Like Isaiah 2, Psalm 2 provides powerful evidence for postmillennialism in the Old Testament. As I did with the preceding articles on several Isaiah passages, here I will present just a quick, running analysis of this glorious Psalm.

Psa. 2:1–12

This is a royal psalm, wherein David (Acts 4:25) recalls his enthronement. It is also a Messianic Psalm, which skillfully weaves together David’s human kingship with Jesus’s divine (Messianic) kingship. As such it is a counterpart to Psalm 110 (see Psa. 110:1–7 Note). It is frequently cited in the New Testament (see esp. Acts 4:25–27; cp. Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:4; Heb. 1:5; etc.). David the king and Jesus the Messiah are related both biologically and theologically (Matt. 1:1; 22:41–46; Rom. 1:4): David is a type of Christ. Though the psalm opens with turmoil (vv. 1–3) it promises the universal dominion of God’s Son (vv. 7–9), then ends with a gracious invitation for kings to submit to God’s rule (vv. 10a, 11, 12a) — or be destroyed (vv. 10b, 12b).

Psa. 2:1
Why are the nations in an uproar

Evidently David writes this psalm during some crisis in his kingdom (perhaps 2 Sam. 10?). Knowing that God’s covenant promises his kingdom’s permanent establishment (2 Sam. 7:8–16), David is astonished that the nations would bother to rebel against his rule. Thus, the very opening of the psalm sounds a note of confidence regarding the “vain” attempt to overthrow his rule (vv. 2–3). The word translated “devising” is the same word translated “meditate” in Psalm 1:2. While the righteous meditate on God’s word for directives for righteous living, the wicked meditate on vain actions doomed to catastrophic failure.

Psa. 2:2a
The kings of the earth take their stand

Though this undoubtedly reflects some current crisis under David’s rule (see v. 1 Note), the New Testament recognizes its deeper significance. When Peter and John were warned by the Jewish authorities not to speak about Jesus in Jerusalem, they responded by referencing this psalm to show that opposition to Christ is “futile.” They apply this psalm to Herod and Pontius Pilate’s roles in crucifying Christ and in persecuting his followers (Acts 4:25–28). The apostles (Peter and John, Acts 4:19) are confident as the march of the Christian faith throughout the world begins (Matt. 28:18; Acts 1:8; cf. John 3:17; 12:32).

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Psa. 2:2b
Against the LORD and … His Anointed

The nations’s attempt to overthrow David’s rule is “vain” (v. 1), i.e., empty or worthless. This is because they align themselves not only against the Lord’s Anointed, but the Lord God himself. The Hebrew word for “Anointed” is mashiach, the word from which we derive “Messiah.” The Greek translation of the Hebrew word is christos (“Christ”). The prophets spoke of a coming Davidic king (Isa. 9:2–7; Jer. 23:5–6; 33:14–16; Eze. 34:23–24; Hos. 3:5) who would rule the nations in righteousness (Isa. 2:2–4; 11:10; Mic. 4:1–5).

Psa. 2:4–5
He who sits in the heavens laughs

Despite the raging of the nations, the Lord scornfully mocks the opposition to his rule (cf. v. 2). The psalmist turns his attention from the earthly sphere (vv. 1–3) to the heavenly realm as he declares his confidence in God’s rule. Believers must always factor God into their daily lives and concerns (Matt. 10:28; John 14:1, 27; Rom. 8:28).

Psa. 2:6a
I have installed My King

In the Hebrew, the “I” is emphatic as God counters the bombast of the kings of the earth (vv. 1–3). As with Israel of old, we must recognize that the outcome of all issues is up to God alone (Psa. 75:6–7; Dan. 2:21; 4:17).

Psa. 2:6b
Upon Zion

“Zion” is the name of a hill in Jerusalem, the city of David (Neh. 3:15; Luke 2:4, 11). It was the location of the fortress David captured from the Jebusites (2 Sam. 5:6–7; 1 Chron. 11:4–9). The name “Zion” applies to this stronghold in Jerusalem (Isa. 40:9; Mic. 3:12). God chose it as his dwelling place (Psa. 132:13).

Psa. 2:7–9
I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD

These verses highlight the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:8–16), which promises that his descendant’s rule will be forever. The rule is not only everlasting, but here is even declared to extend to all “the nations” and to the “ends of the earth” (v. 8; cp. Psa. 67:7). This ultimately speaks of the kingdom of David’s greater son, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32–33; Acts 2:25–36). This will be fulfilled by means of Christ’s Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20; cp. Acts 1:8). Christ’s kingdom is divinely-ordained to conquer the world in righteousness (Isa. 2:2–4; 9:6–7; 11:1–16; cp. Psa. 22:27; 72:8–11; John 3:17; 12:32; see Gen. 12:3 Note). This hope was already embedded in the patriarchal promises (Gen. 22:17–18; 26:4; 28:14) and is confirmed by Jesus (John 3:17; 12:31–32). Believers must always trust in Christ’s victory in time and on earth.

Psa. 2:7
You are My Son

This statement by the Lord in heaven (vv. 4, 6) declares the king to be his divine Son. David is such typologically (2 Sam. 7:12–16); but Jesus is God’s Son personally (Heb. 1:5; Matt. 1:1). According to Paul, this adoption comes to full expression at Jesus’s resurrection (Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:4). However, earlier declarations at his baptism (Matt. 3:17) and transfiguration (Matt. 17:5) marked him out as God’s Son.

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Psa. 2:9
You shall break them with a rod of iron

The Messiah (see vv. 1–12 Note) will effectively rule over the nations (v. 8), even if he has to employ destructive force. This verse appears three times in Revelation, once concerning Christians as co-rulers with Christ (Rev. 2:26–27) and twice regarding Christ himself (Rev. 12:5; 19:15). In the LXX the Hebrew word for “break” is translated “shepherd” or “rule.” Christians have a calling to engage Christ’s rule among the nations (2 Cor. 10:3–5; Rev. 20:4–6).

Psa. 2:10–12
Now therefore, O kings

The psalmist now calls on the world’s kings and judges (v. 10) to “worship the Lord” (v. 11). Serving him with “fear” would represent wisdom on their part (Psa. 111:10; Prov. 9:10; 15:33). This is a gracious call, even though it holds out a terrifying warning of his potential wrath.

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  1. Harry James May 19, 2023 at 5:56 am

    Where in the Bible was David referred to as a “human being?”

  2. leonardobastos01 May 19, 2023 at 10:26 am

    Excellent article! Thank you very much, Dr. Gentry!

  3. Kenneth Gentry May 22, 2023 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for reading!

  4. Kenneth Gentry May 22, 2023 at 11:19 am

    I don’t understand the point of your question. The Bible is filled with human beings who are not expressly designated “human being.”

  5. Harry James Neely May 22, 2023 at 2:01 pm

    The point is if the Bible is filled with “human beings” I would like you to define the term “human being” so that we might know what you are referring to when you use the term.

    I know that God created man in His own image but when and where did God first refer to the man He created in His own image as being a “human being?”

    I just can’t remember ever reading the term “human being” in the Bible and the term is not defined in Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words so in order to be diligent I would like you to define the term “human being” for me so I can know what you are referring to when you use the term.

    Black’s Law Dictionary defines the term “person” as a “natural person” or “human being.” Interestingly Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Edition does not define the term “human,” “being,” or “human being.” So, in order to KNOW what a “natural person” or “human being” is we must look elsewhere to define the term “human being.”

    You will agree that the unregenerate “natural man” receives not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him and he cannot KNOW them because they are spiritually discerned. But, God’s people can receive and know the things of the Spirit of God because they are not a “natural man” and they have the mind of Christ after being born anew. Only a “natural man” could be a “natural person” or “human being” I would think.

    Human – noun, circa 1533; a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens): MAN; broadly any living or extinct member of the family (Hominidae) to which the primate belongs. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, New World Edition 1998

    It appears the word “human” came into use circa 1533 and is a MAN but this man is a member of the family Hominidae to which the primates belong.

    Primate – any of an order (Primates) of mammals comprising HUMANS, apes, monkeys, and related forms (such as lemurs and tarsiers). Websters New World Edition 1998

    I finally found the term “human being” defined in the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd. Edition on page 901 as “a natural man, unenlightened or unregenerate,” and on Page 1461 of the same dictionary the term “unregenerate” is defined to mean “not regenerate, unrepentant, an unregenerate sinner, not convinced by or unconverted to a particular religion; wicked, sinful, dissolute.”

    In Balantine’s Self-Pronouncing Law Dictionary, 1948, page 389 “Human being” is defined as “See Monster.” What goes on here?

    Are God’s people spiritual men and women of God made in His image or are we “natural” men and woman – i.e. the highest order of mammals with the apes and, monkeys?

    In conclusion, I believe the term “human being” is a term created by the unregenerate natural man around 1533 and is not of Christ.

    Please correct me if you believe my conclusion is in error.

    Thanks for recognizing my question.


  6. Kenneth Gentry May 22, 2023 at 2:54 pm

    By “human being” I mean what virtually everyone in America would understand to mean “a man.”

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