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Psalms 2:11-12

Context

2:11 Serve 1  the Lord in fear!

Repent in terror! 2 

2:12 Give sincere homage! 3 

Otherwise he 4  will be angry, 5 

and you will die because of your behavior, 6 

when his anger quickly ignites. 7 

How blessed 8  are all who take shelter in him! 9 

1 tn The Hebrew verb translated “serve” refers here to submitting to the Lord’s sovereignty as expressed through the rule of the Davidic king. Such “service” would involve maintaining allegiance to the Davidic king by paying tribute on a regular basis.

2 tn Traditionally, “rejoice with trembling” (KJV). The verb גִּיל (gil) normally means “rejoice,” but this meaning does not fit well here in conjunction with “in trembling.” Some try to understand “trembling” (and the parallel יִרְאָה, yirah, “fear”) in the sense of “reverential awe” and then take the verbs “serve” and “rejoice” in the sense of “worship” (cf. NASB). But רְעָדָה (rÿadah, “trembling”) and its related terms consistently refer to utter terror and fear (see Exod 15:15; Job 4:14; Pss 48:6; 55:5; 104:32; Isa 33:14; Dan 10:11) or at least great emotional distress (Ezra 10:9). It seems more likely here that גִּיל carries its polarized meaning “mourn, lament,” as in Hos 10:5. “Mourn, lament” would then be metonymic in this context for “repent” (referring to one’s rebellious ways). On the meaning of the verb in Hos 10:5, see F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Hosea (AB), 556-57.

3 tn Traditionally, “kiss the son” (KJV). But בַּר (bar) is the Aramaic word for “son,” not the Hebrew. For this reason many regard the reading as suspect. Some propose emendations of vv. 11b-12a. One of the more popular proposals is to read בִּרְעָדָה נַשְּׁקוּ לְרַגְלָיו (biradah nashÿqu lÿraslayv, “in trembling kiss his feet”). It makes better sense to understand בַּר (bar) as an adjective meaning “pure” (see Pss 24:4; 73:1 and BDB 141 s.v. בַּר 3) functioning here in an adverbial sense. If read this way, then the syntactical structure of exhortation (imperative followed by adverbial modifier) corresponds to the two preceding lines (see v. 11). The verb נָשַׁק (nashaq, “kiss”) refers metonymically to showing homage (see 1 Sam 10:1; Hos 13:2). The exhortation in v. 12a advocates a genuine expression of allegiance and warns against insincerity. When swearing allegiance, vassal kings would sometimes do so insincerely, with the intent of rebelling when the time was right. The so-called “Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon” also warn against such an attitude. In this treaty the vassal is told: “If you, as you stand on the soil where this oath [is sworn], swear the oath with your words and lips [only], do not swear with your entire heart, do not transmit it to your sons who will live after this treaty, if you take this curse upon yourselves but do not plan to keep the treaty of Esarhaddon…may your sons and grandsons because of this fear in the future” (see J. B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East, 2:62).

4 tn Throughout the translation of this verse the third person masculine pronouns refer to the Lord (cf. v. 11).

5 tn The implied subject of the verb is the Lord, mentioned in v. 11. Elsewhere the subject of this verb is consistently the Lord, suggesting it may be a technical term for divine anger. Anger is here used metonymically for judgment, as the following statement makes clear. A Moabite cognate occurs in the Mesha inscription, where it is used of the Moabite god Chemosh’s anger at his people (see J. B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East, 1:209).

6 tn Heb “and you will perish [in the] way.” The Hebrew word דֶּרֶךְ (derekh, “way”) here refers to their rebellious behavior (not to a pathway, as often understood). It functions syntactically as an adverbial accusative in relation to the verb “perish.”

7 tn Or “burns.” The Lord’s anger is compared here to fire, the most destructive force known in ancient Israel.

8 tn The Hebrew noun is an abstract plural. The word often refers metonymically to the happiness that God-given security and prosperity produce (see Pss 1:1; 34:9; 41:1; 65:4; 84:12; 89:15; 106:3; 112:1; 127:5; 128:1; 144:15).

9 sn Who take shelter in him. “Taking shelter” in the Lord is an idiom for seeking his protection. Seeking his protection presupposes and even demonstrates the subject’s loyalty to the Lord. In the psalms those who “take shelter” in the Lord are contrasted with the wicked and equated with those who love, fear, and serve the Lord (Pss 5:11-12; 31:17-20; 34:21-22).



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