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Psalm chapter 2

New International Version

1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.' 4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.' 7 I will proclaim the LORD's decree: He said to me, 'You are my son; today I have become your father. 8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.' 10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. 12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
English Standard Version

1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
King James Version

1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
New American Standard Bible

1 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 'Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!' 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 'But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.' 7 'I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. 9 'You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.'' 10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. 11 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
New Living Translation

1 Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? 2 The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. 3 'Let us break their chains,' they cry, 'and free ourselves from slavery to God.' 4 But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. 6 For the Lord declares, 'I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.' 7 The king proclaims the LORD's decree: 'The LORD said to me, 'You are my son. Today I have become your Father. 8 Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. 9 You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.'' 10 Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! 11 Serve the LORD with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Submit to God's royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities--for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!
Christian Standard Bible

1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the LORD and his Anointed One: 3 "Let's tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us." 4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. 5 Then he speaks to them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath: 6 "I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain." 7 I will declare the LORD's decree. He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with an iron scepter; you will shatter them like pottery." 10 So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling. 12 Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for his anger may ignite at any moment. All who take refuge in him are happy.

What does Psalm chapter 2 mean?

Psalm 2 is credited to David by the New Testament (Acts 4:25). The apostles applied this idea to the persecution of Jesus by Israel's religious leaders (Acts 4:27–28). This song expresses amazement that cultures and governments of earth would try to ignore God. The consequences of that will be dire. Instead, it is better to honor God and serve Him.

The opening lines of this psalm form a rhetorical question. The point is not to seek an answer, but to make a point. There seems no good reason why anyone, even kings and rulers, would try to defy God. The motivation of rebelling against God is selfishness and pride. This also comes with anger and hatred (1 Peter 4:3–4; John 15:18–19) (Psalm 2:1–3).

The fury of earthly people is not intimidating to God. In fact, His response to those who attempt to defy Him is laughter. The symbolism of God "laughing" implies His complete power and sovereignty. When a nation "rages," and God "laughs" in response, it suggests how outmatched sinful people are. Despite the angst of those who disobey, God will establish His rule, through Christ, just as He has promised (Psalm 2:4–6).

Part of this "royal psalm" includes references to the eventual rule of earth by the Messiah. This will not come to complete fulfillment until Jesus Christ returns and reigns for a thousand years (Revelation 19:11; 20:4). The imagery of this passage again emphasizes the absolute domination God will express against His enemies (Psalm 2:7–9).

David ends this psalm pleading with kings and rulers to make the wiser choice. In this context, "fear" refers to respect and submission, not to abject terror. To "rejoice with trembling" carries a similar idea: a reference to emotion and sincerity. In ancient culture, polite forms of a kiss were the equivalent of a modern hug or handshake. To "kiss the Son" implies giving due honor and respect to the Anointed One (John 6:28–29). Those who do so can be saved, while those who refuse will face the wrath of God (John 3:36). Those who rely on God will be called "blessed" (Psalm 2:10–12).