Posted by: religionthink | September 10, 2009

Psalm 2: I Will Tell Of The Decree Of The Lord

Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He 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, with trembling
kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.

(Psalms 2:1-12 NRSV)

Psalms Two can be divided into three sections one through three tells of the local kings plotting rebellion against the new Overlord. In verses four to nine, describes God’s reaction and thought on the matter. Finally, verses ten through twelve explain the judgment of the matter. The good will be rewarded and the evil will parish (Dahood 7-8).

The above text show just how seriously the office of the King was taken in the time of this texts composition. In Hebrew culture and in the biblical texts, the King was chosen by Yahweh. Any issues you had with Yahweh’s anointed, you also offended Yahweh himself. One example of this would be the account of David choosing not to kill Saul even though he was urged by some to do so at the time of opportunity.

The king in early Hebrew culture was the son of the deity only through the covenant and was not divine, unlike their neighbors whom claimed to be the incarnate or “God on earth”. In Ugaritic literature, King Kirta is said to be the son of El, the ruler of the Canaanite pantheon (Walton pp. 518-519).

The Assembly of the gods arrived,
And Baal the Conqueror said:
“Come now El the Kind, the Compassionate: bless Kirta the Noble,
Show your favor to the Gracious One, The Lad of El:
El took a cup in his hand,
A goblet in his right hand;
He pronounced a blessing over his servant,
El blessed Kirta the Noble,
He showed his favor to the Gracious One, The Lad of El: (Coogan p. 66)

The idea of Yahweh laughing in response to his enemies is not a new one. Elsewhere in the biblical texts we hear Yahweh laugh at his enemies: Psalms 52:6; 59:8; Proverbs 1:26, to name a few. It is interesting to note that almost the same theme that is in verse 4 of Psalms 2 is used also in Psalms 59:8 But you laugh at them, O Lord; you hold all the nations in derision.

In verses seven to nine the Psalmist prophesies that when Yahweh is asked, he will deal out vengeance on the rebellious. He promises the chosen king their lands and the earth his procession. Yahweh has assured the king victory.

The warning comes rather stern in verses ten through twelve, serve Yahweh or pay dearly. The rebellious wicked are reminded that they are rulers of the earth. Also, in Psalms 82 Yahweh warns the gods that if they continue to do evil they to will be mortals. To be rulers of heaven comes to those who are righteous and are the chosen Sons of Yahweh.

Coogan, Michael David. Stories from Ancient Canaan. The Westminster Press Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1978.

Dahood, Mitchell. The Anchor Bible: Psalms 1-50. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York 1968.

Walton, John H, Matthews, Victor H. and Chavalas, Mark W. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. InterVarsity Press. Illinois 2000.

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