What is the background of Psalm 2?
The writer of the psalm is not named, but Acts 4:25-26 ascribes it to David. This psalm was composed for the coronation of Israel’s kings. It may have been based on Nathan’s oracle in 2 Samuel 7:8-16. The language of the psalm is too great to have its meaning exhausted in David or any succeeding king. Its language points to the King of Kings.
2:1 Why are the nations in an uproar,
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2:2 The kings of the earth take their stand,
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His anointed:
2:3 “Let us tear their fetters apart,
And cast away their cords from us!”
These verses describe what generally happened when one king died and a new king ascended the throne. Vassal nations saw this as the opportune time to break free of their vassalage. Enemy nations saw this as an opportunity to lead an attack against an incoming monarch. According to verse 1, the psalmist saw such premeditated and carefully planned activity as vain. Verse 2 pictures the kings of the earth plotting together “against the Lord and against His anointed (one set apart).” Verse 3 indicates that this coalition of rulers felt they possessed both the strength and the potential for victory. They felt confident they could break free of the fetters and cords that constrained them.
2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
2:5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury:
2:6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
These verses describe the divine response to the madness of the rulers of the earth. The Lord was aware of their petty plots and scoffed at them. Verse 5 accentuates the futility of plotting against the Lord. According to verse 6, God Himself installed His king in Zion (Jerusalem). The “kings of the earth” are actually opposing God’s own king.
2:7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son,
Today I have begotten Thee.
2:8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.
2:9 ‘Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,
Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.'”
These verses record the words of the one whom the Lord chose to rule. The king relates that he has been appointed and adopted by God. The language speaks of the utter catastrophe that awaited any nation or confederacy of nations that sought to overthrow God’s rule/ruler. The king has but to ask and God will strengthen him to overthrow and shatter his enemies. Note: Verse 7 is a messianic reference quoted in Acts 13:33.
2:10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
2:11 Worship the Lord with reverence,
And rejoice with trembling.
2:12 Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
These verses are a warning to any who might challenge God. Kings and judges are warned to “show discernment” and “take warning” in verse 10, “worship” and “rejoice” in verse 11, and “do homage to the Son” in verse 12. The “kings of the earth” are told to fear God.
Practical Consideration: It is foolish, vain, and unreasonable to rebel against God.
History is filled with examples of men who rebelled against God. Men who sought to silence His prophets and destroy His Word. Men who sought to end His influence in the earth. Men who declared the death of God. History and the march of time however, testify to the futility of such efforts. Only men who underestimate God and overestimate themselves are foolish enough to oppose God.