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Psalms 2:1-12

Context
Psalm 2 1 

2:1 Why 2  do the nations rebel? 3 

Why 4  are the countries 5  devising 6  plots that will fail? 7 

2:2 The kings of the earth 8  form a united front; 9 

the rulers collaborate 10 

against the Lord and his anointed king. 11 

2:3 They say, 12  “Let’s tear off the shackles they’ve put on us! 13 

Let’s free ourselves from 14  their ropes!”

2:4 The one enthroned 15  in heaven laughs in disgust; 16 

the Lord taunts 17  them.

2:5 Then he angrily speaks to them

and terrifies them in his rage, 18  saying, 19 

2:6 “I myself 20  have installed 21  my king

on Zion, my holy hill.”

2:7 The king says, 22  “I will announce the Lord’s decree. He said to me: 23 

‘You are my son! 24  This very day I have become your father!

2:8 Ask me,

and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, 25 

the ends of the earth as your personal property.

2:9 You will break them 26  with an iron scepter; 27 

you will smash them like a potter’s jar!’” 28 

2:10 So now, you kings, do what is wise; 29 

you rulers of the earth, submit to correction! 30 

2:11 Serve 31  the Lord in fear!

Repent in terror! 32 

2:12 Give sincere homage! 33 

Otherwise he 34  will be angry, 35 

and you will die because of your behavior, 36 

when his anger quickly ignites. 37 

How blessed 38  are all who take shelter in him! 39 

1 sn Psalm 2. In this royal psalm the author asserts the special status of the divinely chosen Davidic king and warns the nations and their rulers to submit to the authority of God and his chosen vice-regent.

2 tn The question is rhetorical. Rather than seeking information, the psalmist expresses his outrage that the nations would have the audacity to rebel against God and his chosen king.

3 tn The Hebrew verb רָגַשׁ (ragash) occurs only here. In Dan 6:6, 11, 15 the Aramaic cognate verb describes several officials acting as a group. A Hebrew nominal derivative is used in Ps 55:14 of a crowd of people in the temple.

4 tn The interrogative לָמָּה (lamah, “why?”) is understood by ellipsis in the second line.

5 tn Or “peoples” (so many English versions).

6 tn The Hebrew imperfect form describes the rebellion as underway. The verb הָגָה (hagah), which means “to recite quietly, meditate,” here has the metonymic nuance “devise, plan, plot” (see Ps 38:12; Prov 24:2).

7 tn Heb “devising emptiness.” The noun רִיק (riq, “emptiness”) may characterize their behavior as “worthless, morally bankrupt” but more likely refers to the outcome of their plots (i.e., failure). As the rest of the psalm emphasizes, their rebellion will fail.

8 sn The expression kings of the earth refers somewhat hyperbolically to the kings who had been conquered by and were subject to the Davidic king.

9 tn Or “take their stand.” The Hebrew imperfect verbal form describes their action as underway.

10 tn Or “conspire together.” The verbal form is a Niphal from יָסַד (yasad). BDB 413-14 s.v. יָסַד defines the verb as “establish, found,” but HALOT 417 s.v. II יסד proposes a homonym meaning “get together, conspire” (an alternate form of סוּד, sud).

11 tn Heb “and against his anointed one.” The Davidic king is the referent (see vv. 6-7).

12 tn The words “they say” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The quotation represents the words of the rebellious kings.

13 tn Heb “their (i.e., the Lord’s and the king’s) shackles.” The kings compare the rule of the Lord and his vice-regent to being imprisoned.

14 tn Heb “throw off from us.”

15 tn Heb “sitting.” The Hebrew verb יָשַׁב (yashav) is here used metonymically of “sitting enthroned” (see Pss 9:7; 29:10; 55:19; 102:12; 123:1).

16 tn As the next line indicates, this refers to derisive laughter. The Hebrew imperfect verbal forms in vv. 4-5 describe the action from the perspective of an eyewitness who is watching the divine response as it unfolds before his eyes.

17 tn Or “scoffs at”; “derides”; “mocks.”

18 sn And terrifies them in his rage. This line focuses on the effect that God’s angry response (see previous line) has on the rebellious kings.

19 tn The word “saying” is supplied in the translation for clarification to indicate that the speaker is the Lord (cf. RSV, NIV).

20 tn The first person pronoun appears before the first person verbal form for emphasis, reflected in the translation by “myself.”

21 tn Or perhaps “consecrated.”

22 tn The words “the king says” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The speaker is the Lord’s chosen king.

23 tn Or “I will relate the decree. The Lord said to me” (in accordance with the Masoretic accentuation).

24 sn ‘You are my son!’ The Davidic king was viewed as God’s “son” (see 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 89:26-27). The idiom reflects ancient Near Eastern adoption language associated with covenants of grant, by which a lord would reward a faithful subject by elevating him to special status, referred to as “sonship.” Like a son, the faithful subject received an “inheritance,” viewed as an unconditional, eternal gift. Such gifts usually took the form of land and/or an enduring dynasty. See M. Weinfeld, “The Covenant of Grant in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East,” JAOS 90 (1970): 184-203, for general discussion and some striking extra-biblical parallels.

25 sn I will give you the nations. The Lord promises the Davidic king universal dominion.

26 tc The LXX reads “you will shepherd them.” This reading, quoted in the Greek text of the NT in Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15, assumes a different vocalization of the consonantal Hebrew text and understands the verb as רָעָה (raah, “to shepherd”) rather than רָעָע (raa’, “to break”). But the presence of נָפַץ (nafats, “to smash”) in the next line strongly favors the MT vocalization.

27 tn The Hebrew term שֵׁבֶט (shevet) can refer to a “staff” or “rod,” but here it probably refers to the Davidic king’s royal scepter, symbolizing his sovereignty.

28 sn Like a potters jar. Before the Davidic king’s awesome power, the rebellious nations are like fragile pottery.

29 sn The speaker here is either the psalmist or the Davidic king, who now addresses the rebellious kings.

30 tn The Niphal has here a tolerative nuance; the kings are urged to submit themselves to the advice being offered.

31 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.

32 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.

33 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).

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

35 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).

36 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.”

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

38 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).

39 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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