Psalm 2:2
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
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(2) Set themselvesi.e., with hostile intent, as in Jeremiah 46:4, where the same word is used of warriors: “Stand forth with your helmets.”

Rulers.—Properly, grave dignitaries.

Take counsel.—Better, have taken their pians, and are now mustering to carry them into effect. Notice the change of tense: in the first clause, the poet sees, as it were, the array; in the second, he goes back to its origin.

Against the Lord.—Notice the majestic simplicity of this line. The word Messiah is applicable in its first sense to any one anointed for a holy office or with holy oil (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16). Its distinctive reference to an expected prince of the chosen people, who was to redeem them from their enemies, and fulfil completely all the Divine promises for them, probably dates from this psalm, or more distinctly from this psalm than from any one passage. At least, that the traditional Jewish interpretation had fastened upon it as of this importance is shown by the frequent and emphatic quotation of this psalm in the New Testament. (See New Testament use of these verses in Acts 4:25, and Note in New Testament Commentary.)

Psalm 2:2. The kings of the earth — So called by way of contempt, and to show their madness in opposing the God of heaven. Herod the Great, Herod the Tetrarch, Pilate and other princes and magistrates, with or after them, are chiefly intended; set themselves — Hebrew, יתיצבו, jithjatzebu, set themselves in opposition, as Chandler renders it. The word expresses their firm purpose and professed hostility, together with the combination of their counsels and forces. And the rulers take counsel together — Or assemble together, and instigate each other, according to Waterland and Chandler. David’s enemies urged and instigated each other in their opposition to him; and the Jewish priests, elders, and council instigated false witnesses to accuse the Messiah, Pilate to condemn him, and the people to clamour for his crucifixion; the people also instigated Pilate to release Barabbas, and crucify Jesus; and the devil instigated them all to perpetrate this impious murder: as he afterward instigated kings and nations to persecute, imprison, torture, and put to death, in a variety of ways, his apostles, evangelists, and other followers. See the apostolic exposition of these verses, Acts 4:25. “Persecution,” says Dr. Horne, “may be carried on by the people, but it is raised and fomented by kings and rulers. After the ascension of Christ, and the effusion of the Spirit, the whole power of the Roman empire was employed in the same cause by those who, from time to time, swayed the sceptre of the world. But still, they who intended to extirpate the faith, and destroy the church, how many and how mighty soever they might be, were found only to ‘imagine a vain thing.’ And equally vain will every imagination be that exalteth itself against the counsels of God for the salvation of his people.” Against the Lord — Hebrew, Jehovah, either directly and professedly, or indirectly and by consequence, because against his counsel and command; and against his Anointed — Against the king whom he hath chosen and exalted: that is, in fact, against all religion in general, and against the Christian religion in particular. And it is certain, all that are enemies to Christ, whatever they may pretend, are enemies to God himself. Thus our Lord, They have hated both me and my Father. The great Author of our holy religion is here termed the Lord’s Anointed, or Messiah, or Christ, in allusion to the anointing of David to be king. He is both authorized and qualified to be the church’s head and king; is duly invested with the office, and every way fitted for it, and yet he is opposed by many; nay, is therefore opposed, because his opposers are impatient of God’s authority, envious at this king’s advancement, and have a rooted enmity to the Spirit of holiness.

2:1-6 We are here told who would appear as adversaries to Christ. As this world is the kingdom of Satan, unconverted men, of every rank, party, and character, are stirred up by him to oppose the cause of God. But the rulers of the earth generally have been most active. The truths and precepts of Christianity are against ambitious projects and worldly lusts. We are told what they aim at in this opposition. They would break asunder the bands of conscience, and the cords of God's commandments; they will not receive, but cast them away as far as they can. These enemies can show no good cause for opposing so just and holy a government, which, if received by all, would bring a heaven upon earth. They can hope for no success in so opposing so powerful a kingdom. The Lord Jesus has all power both in heaven and in earth, and is Head over all things to the church, notwithstanding the restless endeavours of his enemies. Christ's throne is set up in his church, that is, in the hearts of all believers.The kings of the earth - This verse is designed to give a more specific form to the general statement in Psalm 2:1. In the first verse the psalmist sees a general commotion among the nations as engaged in some plan that he sees must be a vain one; here he describes more particularly the cause of the excitement, and gives a nearer view of what is occurring. He now sees kings and rulers engaged in a specific and definite plot against Yahweh and against His Anointed. The word "kings" here is a general term, which would be applicable to all rulers - as the kingly government was the only one then known, and the nations were under the control of absolute monarchs. A sufficient fulfillment would be found, however, if any rulers were engaged in doing what is here described.

Set themselves - Or, take their stand. The latter expression would perhaps better convey the sense of the original. It is the idea of taking a stand, or of setting themselves in array, which is denoted by the expression; - they combine; they resolve; they are fixed in their purpose. Compare Exodus 2:4; Exodus 19:17; Exodus 34:5. The attitude here is that of firm or determined resistance.

And the rulers - A slight addition to the word kings. The sense is, that there was a general combination among all classes of rulers to accomplish what is here specified. It was not confined to any one class.

Take counsel together - Consult together. Compare Psalm 31:13, "While they took counsel together against me." The word used here, יחד yachad, means properly to found, to lay the foundation of, to establish; then, to be founded (Niphal); to support oneself; to lean upon - as, for example, to lean upon the elbow. Thus used, it is employed with reference to persons reclining or leaning upon a couch or cushion, especially as deliberating together, as the Orientals do in the divan or council. Compare the notes at Psalm 83:3. The idea here is that of persons assembled to deliberate on an important matter.

Against the Lord - Against Jehovah - the small capitals of "Lord" in our common version indicating that the original word is Yahweh. The meaning is, that they were engaged in deliberating against Yahweh in respect to the matter here referred to - to wit, his purpose to place the "Anointed One," his King (Psalm 2:6), on the hill of Zion. It is not meant that they were in other respects arrayed against him, though it is true in fact that opposition to God in one respect may imply that there is an aversion to him in all respects, and that the same spirit which would lead men to oppose him in any one of his purposes would, if carried out, lead them to oppose him in all things.

And against his Anointed - - משׁיחו meshı̂ychô - his Messiah: hence, our word Messiah, or Christ. The word means "Anointed," and the allusion is to the custom of anointing kings and priests with holy oil when setting them apart to office, or consecrating them to their work. Compare Matthew 1:1, note; Daniel 9:26, note. The word Messiah, or Anointed, is therefore of so general a character in its signification that its mere use would not determine to whom it was to be applied - whether to a king, to a priest, or to the Messiah properly so called. The reference is to be determined by something in the connection. All that the word here necessarily implies is, that there was some one whom Yahweh regarded as his Anointed one, whether king or priest, against whom the rulers of the earth had arrayed themselves. The subsequent part of the psalm Psa 2:6-7 enables us to ascertain that the reference here is to one who was a King, and that he sustained to Yahweh the relation of a Son. The New Testament, and the considerations suggested in the introduction to the psalm (Section 4), enable us to understand that the reference is to the Messiah properly so called - Jesus of Nazareth. This is expressly declared Acts 4:25-27 to have had its fulfillment in the purposes of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, in rejecting the Saviour and putting him to death. No one can doubt that all that is here stated in the psalm had a complete fulfillment in their combining to reject him and to put him to death; and we are, therefore, to regard the psalm as particularly referring to this transaction. Their conduct was, however, an illustration of the common feelings of rulers and people concerning him, and it was proper to represent the nations in general as in commotion in regard to him.

2. The kings and rulers lead on their subjects.

set themselves—take a stand.

take counsel—literally, "sit together," denoting their deliberation.

anointed—Hebrew, "Messiah"; Greek, "Christ" (Joh 1:41). Anointing, as an emblem of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, was conferred on prophets (Isa 6:1); priests (Ex 30:30); and kings (1Sa 10:1; 16:13; 1Ki 1:39). Hence this title well suited Him who holds all these offices, and was generally used by the Jews before His coming, to denote Him (Da 9:26). While the prophet has in view men's opposition generally, he here depicts it in its culminating aspect as seen in the events of Christ's great trial. Pilate and Herod, and the rulers of the Jews (Mt 27:1; Lu 23:1-25), with the furious mob, are vividly portrayed.

The kings; either those mentioned 2 Samuel 5 2Sa 8; or rather Herod the Great, and the other Herod, and Pilate, and others with or after them.

Of the earth; so called in way of contempt, and to show their madness in opposing the God of heaven.

Set themselves: the word notes their firm purpose and professed hostility, and the combination of their counsels and forces.

Against the Lord; either directly and professedly; or indirectly and by consequence, because against his anointed, and against his counsel and command. And; or, that is, as that particle is oft used; the latter clause explaining the former, and showing in what sense they fought against that God whom they pretended to own and worship.

Against his anointed; against such a king whom God hath chosen and exalted, and wonderfully accomplished and set up for his work and service, who therefore will certainly defend him against all his enemies.

The kings of the earth set themselves,.... Rose and stood up in great wrath and fury, and presented themselves in an hostile manner, and opposed the Messiah: as Herod the great, king of Judea, who very early bestirred himself, and sought to take away the life of Jesus in his infancy; and Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, who is called a king, Mark 6:14; who with his men of war mocked him, and set him at nought; and Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, who represented the Roman emperor, and condemned him to death, Matthew 27:26; and all the kings of the earth ever since, who ever persecuted Christ in his members, and have set themselves with all their might to hinder the spread of his Gospel and the enlargement of his interest;

and the rulers take counsel together; as did the Jewish sanhedrim, the great court of judicature among the Jews, the members of which were the rulers of the people, who frequently met together and consulted to take away the life of Christ: though it may also include all other governors and magistrates who have entered into schemes

against the Lord, and against his Anointed, or Messiah, Christ: by "the Lord", or Jehovah, which is the great, the glorious, and incommunicable name of God, and is expressive of his eternal being and self-existence, and of his being the fountain of essence to all creatures, is meant God the Father; since he is distinguished from his Son, the Messiah, his anointed One, as Messiah and Christ signify; and who is so called, because he is anointed by God with the Holy Ghost, without measure, to the office of the Mediator, Prophet, Priest, and King; from whom the saints receive the anointing, which teacheth all things, and every grace of the Spirit in measure; and who, after his name, are called Christians. This name of the promised Redeemer was well known among the Jews, John 1:41; and which they took from this passage, and from some others;

saying, as follows:

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
2. The kings of the earth] In contrast to ‘my king,’ Psalm 2:6. Cp. the use of the phrase in striking contexts, Psalm 76:12; Psalm 89:27; Psalm 102:15; Psalm 138:4; Psalm 148:11; Isaiah 24:21.

set themselves] The tenses of the original in Psalm 2:1-2 give a vividness and variety to the picture which can hardly be reproduced in translation. Rage and take counsel are perfects, representing the throng as already gathered, and the chiefs seated in divan together: imagine and set themselves are imperfects (the graphic, pictorial tense of Hebrew poetry), representing their plot in process of development. The rapid lively rhythm moreover well suggests the stir and tumult of the gathering host.

against the Lord] They would not deny that in making war upon Israel they were making war upon Israel’s God (2 Kings 18:32 ff.); but they little knew Whom they were defying (2 Kings 19:22 ff.).

Verse 2. - The kings of the earth set themselves; or, draw themselves up in array (comp. Jeremiah 46:4). Such kings as Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa, Nero, Galerius, Diocletian, Julian the Apostate, etc. There is always a warfare between the world and the Church, in which kings are apt to take a part, most often on the worldly side. And the rulers take counsel together. "Rulers" are persons having authority, but below the rank of kings Such were the ethnarchs and tetrarchs of the first century, the governors of provinces under the Roman emperor, the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and the like. These last frequently "took counsel against the Lord" (see Matthew 26:3 - 5; Matthew 27:1; Acts 4:5, 6; Acts 5:21-41). Against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying. In David's time the recognized "anointed of the Lord" was the divinely appointed King of Israel (1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 12:3, 5; 1 Samuel 16:6; 1 Samuel 24:6, 10; 1 Samuel 26:7, 16; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16: 19:21; 22:51; Psalm 17:50; 20:6; 28:8) - first Saul, and then David; but David here seems to designate by the term a Greater than himself - the true theocratic King, whom he typified. Psalm 2:2The Psalm begins with a seven line strophe, ruled by an interrogative Wherefore. The mischievous undertaking condemns itself, It is groundless and fruitless. This certainty is expressed, with a tinge of involuntary astonishment, in the question. למּה followed by a praet. enquires the ground of such lawlessness: wherefore have the peoples banded together so tumultuously (Aquila: ἐθορυβήθησαν)? and followed by a fut., the aim of this ineffectual action: wherefore do they imagine emptiness? ריק might be adverbial and equivalent to לריק, but it is here, as in Psalm 4:3, a governed accusative; for הגה which signifies in itself only quiet inward musing and yearning, expressing itself by a dull muttering (here: something deceitful, as in Psalm 38:13), requires an object. By this ריק the involuntary astonishment of the question justifies itself: to what purpose is this empty affair, i.e., devoid of reason and continuance? For the psalmist, himself a subject and member of the divine kingdom, is too well acquainted with Jahve and His Anointed not to recognise beforehand the unwarrantableness and impotency of such rebellion. That these two things are kept in view, is implied by Psalm 2:2, which further depicts the position of affairs without being subordinated to the למה. The fut. describes what is going on at the present time: they set themselves in position, they take up a defiant position (התיצּב as in 1 Samuel 17:16), after which we again (comp. the reverse order in Psalm 83:6) have a transition to the perf. which is the more uncoloured expression of the actual: נוסד (with יחד as the exponent of reciprocity) prop. to press close and firm upon one another, then (like Arab. sâwada, which, according to the correct observation of the Turkish Kamus, in its signification clam cum aliquo locutus est, starts from the very same primary meaning of pressing close to any object): to deliberate confidentially together (as Psalm 31:14 and נועץ Psalm 71:10). The subjects מלכי־ארץ and רוזנים (according to the Arabic razuna, to be weighty: the grave, dignitaries, σεμνοί, augusti) are only in accordance with the poetic style without the article. It is a general rising of the people of the earth against Jahve and His משׁיח, Χριστὸς, the king anointed by Him by means of the holy oil and most intimately allied to Him. The psalmist hears (Psalm 2:3) the decision of the deliberating princes. The pathetic suff. êmō instead of êhém refers back to Jahve and His Anointed. The cohortatives express the mutual kindling of feeling; the sound and rhythm of the exclamation correspond to the dull murmur of hatred and threatening defiance: the rhythm is iambic, and then anapaestic. First they determine to break asunder the fetters (מוסרות equals מאסרות) to which the את, which is significant in the poetical style, points, then to cast away the cords from them (ממּנוּ a nobis, this is the Palestinian mode of writing, whereas the Babylonians said and wrote mimeenuw a nobis in distinction from ממּנוּ ab eo, B. Sota 35a) partly with the vexation of captives, partly with the triumph of freedmen. They are, therefore, at present subjects of Jahve and His Anointed, and not merely because the whole world is Jahve's, but because He has helped His Anointed to obtain dominion over them. It is a battle for freedom, upon which they are entering, but a freedom that is opposed to God.
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