[I]t is surely little to be wondered at that the sight of creatures in arms against their God should amaze the psalmist’s mind. We see the heathen rage, roaring like the sea, tossed to and fro with restless waves, as the ocean in a storm; and then we mark the people in their hearts imagine a vain thing against God. Where there is much rage there is generally some folly, and in this case there is an excess of it … However mad the resolution to revolt from God, it is one in which man has persevered ever since his creation, and he continues in it to this very day. – C. H. Spurgeon

If the Psalms do in fact show us the heart of Old Testament saints—and I believe that they do—then Psalm 2 must express the rebellious nature of the human heart against God Himself.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

— Psalm 2

The earliest uncovered manuscripts reveal that Psalms 1 & 2 were most likely linked together as one unit. This notion is furthered by the bookends “Blessed is the man who…” (Ps 1:1) and “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps 2:12). Hence, by linking these two Psalms together a much larger picture emerges. Where the first psalm contrasts one who delights in the teachings of God and His Anointed One against the individual who chooses to take life into his own hands; here, the contrast becomes global. Peter clearly understands the global force in Psalm 2 when he quotes verses 1-2 in his prayer for boldness in Acts 4:24-30. Peter understood rebellion against Christ as an on-going persecution of the Church. He understood Psalm 2 in a straight forward and historically literal way, that the nations of the world have always and will always continue in their rebellious activity.1

While God might laugh at the nations plotting, His laugh is not pleasing but derisive (v. 4). God’s scornful comment “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” is the only response necessary. For God’s words are fact and will come to fruition regardless of any thing the nations may plot. Furthermore, His response caries an escatological overtone; for “the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Ps 1:5). A simple statement from God caries the weight of eternity.

This notion is furthered by verse 7, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Paul, in Acts 13 uses this verse to bolster his argument; he holds that the resurrection from the tomb itself if proof of the Son’s inauguration. It is at this point the parallels from Psalm 1 come full circle. Just as the wicked are blown away like chaff; here they are shattered into pieces like a useless clay vessel.

It is interesting to note the warning given to the kings of the world in verse 10. The wisdom that one is to have is of intelligent discernment. The idea is to allow instruction, to allow advisement, to allow one’s self to be sought after. Proverbs 13:10 states, “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.” Reflection on one’s pride should be a frequent activity in life, but even this reflection is nothing without exhorting Yahweh “with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps 2:11), and take refuge in the Son (Ps 2:12).

A comment from James Montogmery Boice summarizes the thrust of this Psalm:

It is understandable that sinners should want to reject God’s rule. That is what sin is: a repudiation of God’s rule in favor of one’s own will. But although it is understandable, the folly of this attempt surpasses belief. How can mere human beings expect to get rid of God?2

  1. Bruce A. Baker, “Luke’s Use of the Old Testament,” CTJ 8 (2004), 30-31.
  2. James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 24.
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