Tips on Psalm 2

Put yourself in the shoes of the original readers of the famous second Psalm:

The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

Who would you, original reader, think the Lord’s “Anointed” is? That depends a good deal on when the psalm was written—and Scripture doesn’t tell us.

The average careful Bible reader is now stuck. And sometimes the average careful Bible reader needs to accept that and move on. The writers of the Psalms often purposefully avoid historical specificity so they can be used by all of God’s people throughout time.

But refusing to accept being stuck until every rock has been turned is what separates the above-average Bible reader from the average one. And in Psalm 2, the question of who the original readers were seems rather important. It’s bound up with the identity of the “Anointed”—is it David or Jesus? Wouldn’t you like to know?

But what rock do you turn over, exactly, if the Bible simply doesn’t tell us who wrote the psalm and when? How do you proceed?

When you have reached the limit of your interpretive skills, you turn to the commentators. And if you don’t have good commentaries, you are indeed stuck.

Waltke on Psalms

Every Logos base package from Bronze and up—which are all 20% off till Saturday, December 30—have two truly excellent Psalms commentary volumes. Both are written by one of the top Old Testament exegetes of our day, Bruce Waltke, whose work I have found very helpful. (They also contain helpful material from other authors, especially on the history of interpretation).

Waltke opens his comments on Psalm 2 in The Psalms as Christian Worship by arguing that the psalm is intended to be a companion to Psalm 1 and prelude to Psalms 3–7. He situates Psalm 2 in a Davidic story and sees it as a “coronation poem asserting Israel’s king’s right to rule all nations with the mandate to establish his dominion through prayer” (161).

Waltke thinks the psalm plays double duty. It was composed for Solomon and his successors, but it also holds greater, prophetic significance. “No Davidic king fulfilled this psalm’s vision of a Davidic king extending I AM’s rule to the ends of the earth.” (180)

Indeed, if David is “the Anointed” in Psalm 2, in what sense would the nations of the earth take counsel together and say “let’s burst the bonds and cast away the cords” around them? The kings of all the earth weren’t shackled by David, nor by any other king of his line. The Anointed king of Psalm 2 has to be the kind of king about whom the rest of the psalm speaks: you are my Son, you’ll get all the nations as your heritage, you’ll dash them all in pieces. It has to be the kind of king about whom the Father can say, Don’t just serve the Lord with fear, you kings, but kiss the Son. This is the kind of Son/king who can get angry at all the kings of the world and make them all perish in the way when his wrath is kindled but a little.

I know only one king like that, and we just celebrated his birth.

Buying books

I buy books because they help me toward right love and knowledge. I bought Logos 4 way back when because I needed the kind of insight that Waltke provides. I think that insight is what many Bible readers are seeking. No one wants to be stuck in Bible study when answers are out there to be had with a mouse click.

I want to be as confident as God permits in my Bible interpretation, and checking my work against that of good commentators is one of the final and most important steps toward confidence.


Get a Logos 7 base package while our 20% off deal remains, and we’ll ship Bruce Waltke’s insights straight into your computer.

Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. His most recent book is Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible (forthcoming, Lexham Press).


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  1. Seems pretty certain that David wrote Psalm 2 about his expectation concerning Solomon. 1 Chronicles 28:5–7 (ESV) 5 “…the LORD …has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. 6 He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7 I will establish his kingdom forever if he continues strong in keeping my commandments and my rules, as he is today.’” cf. 1 Chron 17:12-14, 22:9-10, and Davids’s prayer concerning Solomon Psa 72:7-8,17. When Solomon’s wives turned his heart from following the Lord (1 Kgs 11:4), he lost the Kingdom “forever” (1 Chron 28:9) but not personal salvation. The promise was left unclaimed for another son who would follow the LORD with an undivided heart. Jesus claimed that prize.

  2. Felmar Roel Rap. Singco says:

    Many of the oracles in the Holy Bible some times have not just single applications or realisations in actual history, but may have double and even triple applications or realisations in history.

    The first application or realisation of a Biblical oracle may already have happened ancient times back, and the second application or realisation may not have happened but is still to come, making that oracle fulfilled already in one sense (the realisation that already happened), and not yet fulfilled in an other sense (the actualisation that is still to come).

    In that way, a Biblical oracle can be an event that has already transpired, and at the same time a prophecy of a future event that is still to come.

    Viewing now Psalm 2 through this lens, we can tell that that Psalm has three (3) applications or realisations, two (2) of which had already happened, and the third not yet.

    Its first actualisation was in a King in ancient Israel (it can be King David, or King Solomon, or any other former King of Israel or of Judah, or even King Saul the first King of united Israel).

    Its second actualisation was in the LORD Jesus Christ during His first coming here on Earth at His incarnation and nativity; in which case, when it was written way back thousands of years, Psalm 2 was also a prophecy regarding the incarnation and nativity of the LORD Jesus Christ.

    It remains a prophecy also in our days, be cause Psalm 2’s third realisation will happen at the Second Coming of the LORD, where in He will come not just as a Saviour and Redeemer as at His first coming here (incarnation and nativity), but also as the spiritual, political, military, and governmental “King of kings and Lord of lords” in this Planet.

    Even so, Marana tha! Come, LORD Jesus!

  3. Philip Armstrong says:

    I appreciated the helpful comments of Mr. Singco. I think his points that this Psalm has three applications is probably correct (although I would argue that the second actualization has much more to do with our Lord’s death and resurrection than his incarnation – Acts 4:25,26; Acts 13:33). I also greatly appreciated Mark Ward’s very constructive insights. I, too, have enjoyed Dr. Waltke’s excellent commentary on this Psalm. May I also recommend E.W. Hengstenberg’s commentary that Dr. Waltke often cited as one of his main sources?

    The primary application for this psalm is for the time yet to come. In the first strophe (vss 1-3), the nations will be enraged against YHWH and His Son and will gather together to defeat them (Joel 3:2,14; Rev. 19:15). In the second strophe (vss 4-6), our God answers them in his wrath on the Day of the Lord; the nations will be utterly destroyed (Dan. 2:44). Then, God will turn over the eternal reign to His Son. In the third strophe (vss. 7-9), the Son declares the words of His Father, that He will “shatter the nations” into dust; that the earth and the nations will belong only to Him. Finally, it closes with an admonition to the (present?) leaders of the earth to do homage to the Son as his wrath may soon be kindled. This is a Psalm that contains a terrific message for our time.

  4. J W Peters says:

    I started with Logos many years ago and it has been a great delight in my studies. I also took a class under Dr. Bruce Waltke. If you desire an insight into Psalm 2 and the Old Testament I suggest the book the “The Unseen Realm” by Michael S. Heiser. I have that book in Logos 7, in print and in digital format and in audio. The first time you read it you will wonder where he is going. Give him a chance. I am on my fourth read through the book. I wish I could have had this book when I first started my journey with my Lord.

  5. William R Egbert says:

    I started an extensive library in print in the early 60’s thru to the 21st century (several thousands of volumes) until LOGOS came out. (I had an other digital program at the time also.) I now have collectors version of LOGOS and have given away most of my print books and the other bible software. I say this to tell you all, that Dr. Futato’s course, CM328 Preaching the Psalms (Videos), is the best thing I have ever gone through on the Psalms and the most helpful thing you will ever use to get an understanding of the book. (It covers Psalm 2 very well.) I wish i had it 45 years ago when I taught an adult Sunday classes on the Book of Psalms. It is worth every cent and then some. It covers most of the material in his other course on Interpreting the Psalms, which is also very good. It is an essential resource to any one in the preaching of teaching ministry of the Word of God.