As I promised in my last post, I will be sharing here some of my thoughts after reading Psalm 2.  While my comments will draw from some of the studies I have done recently and commentaries read, the purpose of this post is not to give an in-depth or full commentary on the psalm, but to explore it just a bit and share what thoughts come to mind.  Thus, I don’t mean for this to be my full and final explanation or official opinion on the subject — just some “musings.”

Now with that little disclaimer aside, I really enjoy Psalm 2.  It’s rather short, but packs in a ton of important content. We Christians usually read this as a Messianic psalm — and indeed it should be considered as such.  We must also remember, however, that the Messianic ideal was an important part of the religion of the Israel during the Davidic monarchy.  The original “life-setting” of this psalm, I believe, was during the monarchy, or the First Temple period.  The Lord’s anointed (v. 2) is the Davidic king.  There is a special relationship between God and the earthly king. The king is God’s mortal counterpart on the Earth. The king represents God to the people, and God has covenanted to protect the king.


Psalm 2 should be understood as part of the cultic drama that occurred in conjunction with the annual New Year Festival that some theorize took place in ancient Israel.  This festival most likely was held in the Autumn.  Besides a dramatic presentation of the battle of Yahweh with the forces of Chaos (the Waters) and the subsequent creation of the Cosmos, one of the main purposes of the festival was to remind the people of the Kingship of Yahweh (which he gained, in part, because of these victories).  The enthronement of Yahweh was celebrated, but also the enthronement of his earthly counterpart — the Davidic king.  We can perhaps see an echo of this notion in 1 Chron. 29, where Solomon is succeeding David as king. At his enthronement, the scriptures say:

23 Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him.

Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord, apparently representing Yahweh as king.  Even stronger language is used a couple of verses previous to this.

20 ¶ And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the Lord your God. And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord, and the king.


The only explanation I can think of for the people of Israel worshiping the king is if they saw him for what he represented — the Lord on the Earth.  When he sat on the throne of the Lord and acted in the name of the Lord, he was seen as more than a mortal man. He was the Lord’s anointed (messiah).

The text of Psalm 2 was likely part of this enthronement ceremony.  According to J. Eaton, “this text will have been recited by the king or on his behalf”1.  For A.R. Johnson, this psalm comes at the end of the cultic drama, after a representation of the evil forces nearly overcoming the king.  The king is saved from “Death” by Yahweh, is given new life, and raised to the throne2.

The Text

1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,

3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.


The kingship of the Davidic ruler reflects the Lord’s kingship in many ways.  Just as Yahweh had to face and overcome the forces of Chaos, the earthly king likewise has many enemies to subdue.  Just as the Waters of Chaos must be compelled to remain within their bounds, the king here is challenged by evil forces that rebel against his authority.  While the king surely faced real enemies, this psalm, as part of a dramatic re-enactment, likely presents imagined foes that threaten the stability of the kingdom.

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

The king makes it clear that Yahweh/the king’s reign is not in danger.  His foes are no match for the limitless power of the Lord.  The Lord/King will not allow this evil rebellion and his words issue out as a warning.  In the dramatic presentation, the enemies have surrounded the king and the kingdom faces utter destruction, but the king has faith that God will save him.  This assurance is expressed in the following verses.

6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.


On the day of his ascension, anointing, and enthronement, the king becomes the Son of God, begotten of Him (there is so much more we could say about this topic).  The king, as adopted Son, is entitled to God’s protection and is promised the entire earth as his possession.  His is promised power to overcome all his “heathen” enemies.  This part of the drama represents the legitimation of the king, and the promise that he will rule successfully and provide security for his people.

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

With the decree of sonship from the Lord and bestowal of divine authority and power, the king now issues a stern warning to the rebellious nations.  All the earth must serve God and his Son, the king.  Indeed, they are instructed to “kiss the Son” in order to avoid his wrath.  Feet-kissing was a sign of subjection and homage in the ancient Near East (see also Isa. 49:23)3.

kissing feet

The king, with the guaranteed protection of God, begins his reign, giving the people the assurance that all will go well according to the will of the Lord.  According to Eaton, “The full installation of a new king was probably enacted in the framework of the autumnal festival and may have been renewed there every year as part of a sacramental drama”4.  The repetition of this drama every new year helped remind the people of God’s plan and interaction with people.  They were assured that Yahweh was in control of the Cosmos and that he had overcome evil and created the world.  The Earth –the created order– was, in a sense, renewed at the beginning of each year.

Another reason, I believe, for the repetition of the drama was to remind Israel of God’s future plans, as well (past, present, and future are all the same for the Lord).  The King of Israel who was the anointed Divine Son, whom the kings represented, was also a heavenly reality.  While the earthly kings stood in his place, the early Christians recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah (of the line of David) who had come down from Heaven.  The power promised to the Davidic Monarchy was a type and foreshadowing of the power wielded by the true and literal Son of God.  The promises made to the Davidic kings — the Messianic Hope — were to only be fully fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ — and yet not even fully in his first coming (this being a drama that spans the entire history of the world), but in his triumphant Second Coming.


  1. J. Eaton, Psalms (London: SCM Press, 1967), 31
  2. see A.R. Johnson, Sacral Kinship in Ancient Israel (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1967), 128
  3. S. Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship, vol. 1 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 55
  4. Eaton, 32

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