Universal Reign of the Messiah
1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples devise futile plots?
2 The kings of the earth rise up,
and the princes conspire together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One:[b]
3 “Let us finally break their shackles
and cast away their chains from us.”
4 The one who is enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord mocks their plans.
5 Then he rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I myself have anointed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”[c]
7 I will proclaim the decree[d] of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my son;
this day I have begotten you.”
8 Simply make the request of me,
and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
and the ends of the earth as your possession.[e]
9 You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will shatter them like a potter’s vessel.[f]
10 Therefore, O kings, pay heed;
take warning, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before him;
with trembling 12 bow down in homage[g]
lest he become angry
and you perish from the way,
for his wrath can flare up in an instant.
Blessed are all those
who take refuge in him.
- Psalm 2:1 Although the surrounding peoples are rising up, the People of God are enthroning a new king; empowered by God’s assistance, he shatters the coalition of their foes. This is the drama evoked in the present psalm, and it recurs more than once in the history of Israel. Thus, this poem found its place in a liturgy for royal consecration, for each king was a “messiah,” that is, a man anointed with the sacred unction in the name of God. But the Prophets and the New Testament enlarged these perspectives. Hence, this ancient text evokes the whole drama of the world. It proclaims the sovereignty of God in the midst of the tumult of peoples and our human rebellions.
Behind the king of verse 6 can be glimpsed the Messiah (the Christ), a descendant of David and the Son of God, who will save his people (see Isa 9:5-6; Acts 4:25; 13:33; Heb 1:5). There is a premonition of the struggle that will take place at the end of time (see Ezek 38–39; Dan 12), a struggle already begun in the Passion of Jesus and in the persecutions of the Church (see Acts 4:25-28). But the psalm also expresses the hope of a final conversion of all the nations as they at last acknowledge the Lord (see Isa 45; Rev 19:15). God’s plan will be achieved in the glory of the Messianic Kingdom.
- Psalm 2:2 Anointed One: in Hebrew, Mashiah (whence the word “Messiah”), which in the Greek translation is Christos; it referred originally to the Davidic King but ultimately to Jesus Christ. This phrase has given rise to two titles of Jesus: “Messiah” from the Hebrew and “Christ” from the Greek. In Israel the power of office was bestowed by anointing both on kings (see Jdg 9:8; 1 Sam 9:16; 16:12f) and on high priests (see Lev 8:12; Num 3:3).
- Psalm 2:6 Holy mountain: reference to the site of the temple (see 2 Chr 3:4; 15:1; 33:15). Psalms 43:3; 46:5 have “holy mountain” and “holy place” respectively. Psalm 48:2 has “holy mountain” and Psalm 87:1 has “holy mountains.”
- Psalm 2:7 Decree: this is nothing less than the prophecy of Nathan (see 2 Sam 7:14) applied to the Messiah by 1 Chr 17:13 (see Ps 89:27). Here the Messiah speaks after the rebels (v. 3) and after God who in an oracle (v. 6) has just enthroned him as King of Israel. He has also declared him his Son according to a formula familiar to the ancient Orient.
- Psalm 2:8 The Messiah’s reign will be coextensive with that of God (see Isa 49:6; Dan 7:14). This verse is applied by Heb 1:5 (see Heb 5:5), then by tradition and the Liturgy, to the eternal generation of the Word.
- Psalm 2:9 The Book of Revelation applies this verse to Christ’s triumphant reign (see Rev 12:5; 19:15).
- Psalm 2:12 Bow down in homage: another possible translation is: “honor the Son.” Blessed: see note on Ps 1:1.