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“Fascinating Colorful” is Psalm 2. It speaks on several levels at the same time into very diverse times and situations. “Scarifying Shambolic” it describes the situation of our world (verses 1-2). But from God’s perspective, the raging of the nations is “Reassuringly Ridiculous” (verses 3-4). “Dreadfully Direct” interferes the Creator of the universe in world affairs. He makes clear to his creatures where He begins to guide history in the tracks He intended (verses 5‑6).[1]

Now, in Psalm 2, verse 7, “the Lord’s Anointed speaks”[2], the One who was already mentioned in verse 2 as “Messiah of the Lord”. The rioting of the united nations is directed against Him. He is the inherently visible focus of their uproar. And this Anointed One acknowledges God’s declaration of intent as personal commission: “I will tell the decree of the Lord.”

This “telling” (אֲסַפְּרָה) is about reporting, about passing on facts. However, the narrator does not just present the perceived objectively or neutrally to discussion. He has an intention and pursues a specific direction (אֶל). This is shown by the unusual phrase “אֶל חֹק”, which literally means “towards a principle carved in stone.” He wants to influence, to change something with His reporting. Based on the writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch[3] the message of the Messiah “אֲסַפְּרָה אֶל חֹק” (verse 7a) might be paraphrased as follows: “I will talk about the fact that God has appointed His king on Mount Zion so often and so long until it becomes a life principle for the nations and their governments.”

“Through the prophets Nathan, Gad and Samuel,” explains Rashi[4], God let King David know, “You are my Son. Today I have begotten you” (Psalms 2:7b). The God of Israel reveals Himself as father. David is able to call God “my father” (compare Psalms 89:27: אָבִי אָתָּה) because God had addressed him as “my son” (בְּנִי אַתָּה).[5] In all this is crucial: “[The Anointed One] had not become king by inheritance. He had not made himself king. Nor had his kingship resulted primarily from the election of men. God Himself had chosen and appointed him king.”[6]

It is conceivable that these words were spoken at the inauguration of the Judean kings. With the anointing “as king to me” (1 Samuel 16:1), the Davidic king became the “Anointed One,” Hebrew “Mashiah/Messiah,” Greek “Christos/Christ.” “That means: This king is mine. He is my son and he is my servant. He listens to me” (Rashi). Likewise, it is said of David’s son Solomon: “I will be father to him and he will be my son” (2 Samuel 7:14). David, the biological father is no longer “father,” but God Himself. Not the dynasty, his natural descent is the decisive legitimation for this royal rule, but the decision and choice of the living God.

Radak[7] assumes that the “today I have begotten you” (Psalms 2:7) means that “on that very day the Spirit of God was born in him, as it is written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day’” (1 Samuel 16:13). From this Radak concludes: “From that day on David spoke songs and psalms in the Holy Spirit.”

Rashi recalls that the Son of God is not only King David, but that Israel in Egypt had already been called by God “my first-born son” (Exodus 4:22). Martin Luther in his interpretations of Scripture frequently refers to “Rabbi Solomon,” i.e., to “Rashi”. Usually, however, only if he feels compelled to contradict him. In his interpretation of Psalm 2, Luther now also reminds his readers that “Israel is called the firstborn son.” But then, almost in the same breath, he feels driven to distance himself from the Jewish people by declaring, “although many of them were idol worshipers.”[8] It speaks volumes, if the German reformer, who otherwise so much emphasizes the “sola gratia” (“by grace alone”), thinks he as to speak of merit when the issue of Israel’s being the son of God arises.

The midrash[9] and the Talmudic teachers (Succa 52a) see in Psalms 2:7 the future Messianic King who will redeem Israel, bring them back into the Land of Israel and guide them according to the will of God.[10] It is according to this line that the New Testament recognizes in the “son” of Psalms 2:7 a prophecy of Jesus of Nazareth (Hebrews 1:5). Martin Luther writes: “This is the purpose (scopus) of the whole gospel, that Christ is recognized as the Son of God.”[11]

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews hears in the statement “Today I have begotten you” not only the coronation ceremony to the king of Israel, but also a reference to the appointment of the high priest (Hebrews 5:5). Paul interprets Psalms 2:7 as prophesying the resurrection,[12] which again Luther picks up: “Therefore, as in the preceding verses the suffering and death of Christ is prophesied, so in this verse His resurrection is foretold, though somewhat obscure.”[13] Furthermore, Luther makes a reference to verse 4 and sees in the resurrection of Christ a “mocking of God,” because God “made the Jews and the Gentiles, who killed Christ, a mockery for the whole world, raising Him from the dead.”[14]

If Psalms 2:7 indeed has to be seen as predicting the resurrection of the messianic Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, the question arises, whether the statement “You are my son. Today I have begotten you” could not be understood as a prophecy of the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel as well? Maybe, consequently it even has to be understood in this way?!

After all, Ezekiel in his famous vision of the field of dry bones describes the return of the people of Israel as a resurrection from the dead: “Thus says God, the Lord: See, I open your graves. I lead you, my people, up out of your graves. I bring you to the soil of Israel. You will realize that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you, my people, out of your graves. I will give My Spirit in you. You will live! I will set you to rest on your soil. Then you will realize that I am the Lord. I say something. And then I also do it!” (Ezekiel 37:12-14).

The parallel between the death and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua of Nazareth on the one hand, and the fate of the Jewish people over the past two thousand years on the other hand, is also clear when we look at Hosea 6:2. There the nation of Israel says: “He will return us to life after two days. On the third day He will raise us up, so that we may live before Him.”

The Babylonian Amoreans[15] explained these “days” of the Prophet Hosea – probably concluding from Psalms 90:4 – as “millenia” (Sanhedrin 97a). In retrospect, these Jewish scholars seem to have been right. The worldwide diaspora of the Jewish people lasted two thousand years before they were being re-gathered into the Land of Israel at the dawn of the third day, the third millennium, i.e., in our time.

Perhaps one would have to rephrase Luther’s statement quoted above and conclude with reference to verse 4, that today God makes the whole world, and especially all those who have declared the Jewish people dead, a mockery, by leading His people back into the promised land despite all resistance.

Radak points out that these statements are not just valid for Israel, King David and the messianic Son of David, but “everyone who makes himself available to God as an attentive servant is called ‘his son.’ As the Son hears the Father, he is destined for service. Therefore, it says (Deuteronomy 14:1): ‘You are sons of the Lord, your God.’ And thus, Israel is called ‘sons of the living God’ (Hosea 2:1).”

Again, it becomes clear, how the different levels of understanding of this psalm[16] merge into each other. No single level of understanding can explain the content of this prophetic text on its own. If we take seriously that this multi-faceted text is an inspired word of God and not a coincidence, then we see how closely this prophecy relates the fate of the nation of Israel, her expulsion from the Land of Israel, her worldwide dispersion, her suffering and her regathering in our days to the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Christ Jesus of Nazareth. And both, the pilgrimage of God’s son Israel and the life of the Messiah, have a profound, crucial significance for us who today wish to be children of God. If Christ has risen from the dead, and today even the people of Israel, believed dead for two thousand years, return home from their graves, then this is pure hope.

If Messiah proclaims the principle that “He who sits in heaven” (Psalms 2:4) has indeed “appointed His king in Zion” (verse 6), then he expresses his agreement with his own divine calling in this context. He agrees “to serve the Lord, as a son honors the father” (Ibn Ezra[17]). In their remarks on these scriptural verses, classical Jewish exegetes develop and underline the biblical point of view, that the Messiah as Son of God is at the same time also the Servant of the Lord.

From the father-son-relationship between the God of Israel and His Messiah springs the commission of actively participating in God’s claim to sovereignty.[18] The Son of God is the bearer of this divine revelation. This is true of the people of Israel and its historic King David. If we follow all levels of interpretation of Psalm 2, then this consequently also applies to Messiah – be He the One who has already come, the one who comes or the one who will come again. And then that is also true for all who follow in His footsteps as well as for all who are on their way to greet Him for the first time. This revelation indeed “makes a mockery of all attempts to eradicate it from human consciousness.”[19]


[1] This article is the fifth part in a series of contributions to the interpretation of Psalm 2. You can see the previous parts under the following links: Fascinating Colorful. Psalm 2 – Part One (Introduction):
Scarifying Shambolic. Psalm 2 – Part Two:
Reassuringly Ridiculous. Psalm 2 – Part Three:
Dreadfully Direct. Psalm 2 – Part Four:

[2] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72. An Introduction & Commentary, TOTC (Leicester/England and Downers Grove, Illinois/USA: Inter-Varsity, 1973), 51.

[3] Psalmen (Basel: Verlag Morascha, 2. Neubearbeitete Auflage 2005), 9f. Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) came from Hamburg and served as Chief Rabbi in Oldenburg, Aurich, Osnabrück, Moravia and Austrian Silesia. As a distinguished representative of Orthodoxy, he was an outspoken opponent of reformist and conservative Judaism. Hirsch attached great importance to the study of all Scripture. From 1851 he was rabbi of the separatist Orthodox „Israelitischen Religions-Gesellschaft“ (“Israelite Religious Society”), engaged in education and published the monthly magazine “Jeschurun”. Hirsch had a great love for the land of Israel, was at the same time, however, an opponent of the proto-Zionist activities of Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. He is seen as one of the founding fathers of the neo-orthodox movement.

[4] Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzchak (1040-1105) or “Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki,” commonly called “Rashi,” was born in the northern French town of Troyes, studied for ten years in Mainz and Worms, before he returned to Troyes, where he distinguished himself as a judge and teacher. In his last years he witnessed the persecution of Jews during the Crusades. Rashi is one of the extraordinary interpreters of Jewish writings and the very first who explained the Bible and the Talmud comprehensively. His basic concerns were to bring Holy Scripture to the people, to promote the unity of the Jewish people and the theological confrontation with Christianity. Raschi made a sharp distinction between “pshat” (literal interpretation) and “drash” (allegorical interpretation), whereby the pshat gives the rash. His interpretation of Scripture has decisively shaped the reformer Martin Luther. Although his comments are still standard today, he often writes “I do not know”.

[5] C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Psalms 1-35, Commentary on the Old Testament vol.5/1. Translated by Francis Bolton (Peabody, Massachusetts/USA: Hendrickson Publishers, February 1989), 96.

[6] Samson Raphael Hirsch, Psalmen (Basel: Verlag Morascha, 2. Neubearbeitete Auflage 2005), 10.

[7] Rabbi David Ben Yosef Kimchi (1160-1235), the so-called “Radak”, was the first among the great exegetes and grammarians of the Hebrew language. He was born in Narbonne, southern France. His father died early, so David was brought up by his brother Moshe Kimchi. Radak allowed philosophical studies only to those whose faith in God and the fear of heaven were firmly established. Publicly he dealt with Christians and attacked primarily their allegorical interpretation of Scripture and the theological claim to be the “true Israel”.

[8] Johann Georg Walch (hg.), Dr. Martin Luthers Sämtliche Schriften. Vierter Band. Auslegung des Alten Testaments (Fortsetzung). Auslegung über die Psalmen (Groß Oesingen: Verlag der Lutherischen Buchhandlung Heinrich Harms, 2. Auflage, 1880-1910), 254.

[9] The term ‘midrash’ (מדרש) is derived from the Hebrew root ‘darash’ (דרש), which means ‘to seek,’ ‘to ask.’ So, ‘midrash’ is literally ‘research,’ ‘study,’ ‘interpretation,’ ‘teaching,’ but is used here as a comprehensive term for rabbinic interpretation, which was passed on orally in the ancient world, later in written form. As a literary genre, the ‘midrashim’ as an interpretation follow the biblical text, while the ‘Talmud’ deals with substantive issues and is ordered accordingly.

[10] Elhanan Ben Avraham, Mashiach ben Yoseph משיח בן יוסף (Jerusalem, Israel), 12, refering to Yalkut and Metsudat David.

[11] Johann Georg Walch (hg.), Dr. Martin Luthers Sämtliche Schriften. Vierter Band. Auslegung des Alten Testaments (Fortsetzung). Auslegung über die Psalmen (Groß Oesingen: Verlag der Lutherischen Buchhandlung Heinrich Harms, 2. Auflage, 1880-1910), 273.

[12] Acts 13:33 and then Romans 1:4; compare further Matthew 3:17; 16:16; 17:5; Luke 3:22; Matthew 4:3; John 1:49; 2 Peter 1:17, where Jesus is being designated as Son of God.

[13] Johann Georg Walch (hg.), Dr. Martin Luthers Sämtliche Schriften. Vierter Band. Auslegung des Alten Testaments (Fortsetzung). Auslegung über die Psalmen (Groß Oesingen: Verlag der Lutherischen Buchhandlung Heinrich Harms, 2. Auflage, 1880-1910), 264.

[14] Johann Georg Walch (hg.), Dr. Martin Luthers Sämtliche Schriften. Vierter Band. Auslegung des Alten Testaments (Fortsetzung). Auslegung über die Psalmen (Groß Oesingen: Verlag der Lutherischen Buchhandlung Heinrich Harms, 2. Auflage, 1880-1910), 264.

[15] The Amoreans (Aramaic: אמוראים, amora’im; translated the “speaking ones,” the “reporting ones”) where Jewish sages who taught from the third to the fifth century CE in Babylon and in the Land of Israel. Their discussions are preserved as oral torah in the gemarah.

[16] Compare for this the first part of this series “Fascinating Colorful”:

[17] Rabbi Avraham Ben Me’ir Ibn Ezra (1089-1164) is one of the outstanding poets, linguists, interpreters of Scripture and philosophers of the Middle Ages. He came from Toledo in then Muslim Spain. Long journeys took him all over North Africa and up to the Land of Israel. He wrote almost all of his books during the last 24 years of his life. While fleeing Muslim persecution of the Jews, he toured Christian Europe at this time. In 1161 his track is lost in French Narbonne. It is known that he died in January 1164. It is unknown where this happened. Rome, Spain or even England are up for debate. As an outspoken rationalist, Ibn Ezra was the first to question Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch. However, he believed in the prophetic significance of astrological phenomena – something which Rambam firmly rejected as idol worship. Since his works are written in Hebrew, he made accessible to European Jewry the intellectual wealth of oriental-Jewish scriptural interpretation, which is largely handed down in Arabic. Of particular value are his exact grammatical studies, always seeking the original, literal meaning of the text.

[18] C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Psalms 1-35, Commentary on the Old Testament vol.5/1. Translated by Francis Bolton (Peabody, Massachusetts/USA: Hendrickson Publishers, February 1989), 96.

[19] Samson Raphael Hirsch, Psalmen (Basel: Verlag Morascha, 2. Neubearbeitete Auflage 2005), 9.

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By Published On: June 12, 201713.3 min read
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