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Psalm 2:2-3 - The kings of earth set themselves...against the LORD...

Nahum O'Brien on March 30, 2018

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,

Plumer notes, “By the kings of the earth the Psalmist points out those who have supreme owner in the government of the world; and by the rulers, the princes, or chief persons under kings, men in power, senators, governors, privy counselors. All these meet and plot. There is tumult and rage among them.” The kings of the earth set themselves against the LORD. The rulers take counsel together against the LORD. This is to say that those kings and rulers set themselves against or in opposition to the LORD. The Hebrew words for “set” and “take counsel together” denote a military sense, a rendezvous, posting, or a mustering of forces against the LORD. Spurgeon notes, “In determined malice they arrayed themselves in opposition against God. It was not temporary rage, but deep-seated hate, for they set themselves resolutely to withstand the Prince of Peace.”

Again, the psalmist views the actions of the kings and rulers with utter astonishment. The vanity of the nations raging and plotting against the LORD would equally apply here to the kings and rulers of the earth in their opposition to the LORD and His Anointed. Note the intention of these kings and rulers of earth:

Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.

The Hebrew sense of the verbs in this sentence denote a resoluteness; as if to say, “we will” burst their bonds and “we will” cast away their cords from us. Note the apparent confidence in their ability to do so. We will burst their bonds and cast away their cords, as if it was a forgone conclusion. The kings and rulers of earth claim they will burst from their bonds and cast away the cords. “Burst” suggests the ability to break or tear off. Having escaped the bonds the kings and rulers of earth intend to cast away, meaning to throw out or hurl the now torn cords. They plan to openly defy the LORD and to do so defiantly. The Hebrew term for “bonds” suggests a restraint and “cords,” a stronger term, denotes the strength of a intwined or twisted rope. To what then do they refer? I think they refer to the sovereign rule of the LORD. This is to include His will, His decrees, His laws, etc. Imagine the audacity of the kings and rulers of earth to think they have the ability to cast off the will or plans of the LORD. Spurgeon offers a humorous response:

What! O ye kings, do ye think yourselves Samsons? And are the bands of Omnipotence but as green withs before you? Do you dream that you shall snap to pieces and destroy the mandates of God—the decrees of the Most High—as if they were but tow? Yes! There are monarchs who have spoken thus, and there are still rebels upon thrones. However mad the resolution to revolt from God, it is one in which man has persevered ever since his creation, and he continues in it to this very day.

Spurgeon’s response is comical but he is exactly right. From the fall of Adam soon after creation man has openly rebelled against the LORD. Consider Cain’s refusal to offer the appropriate sacrifice. Or the opposition of Pharaoh to the will of God for his people. Consider further the response of King Herod to the news of the birth of the Christ. Or how the Pharisees sought to kill Jesus during His earthly ministry. Consider the persecutions of Nero against the early church resulting in the martyrdom of Peter and Paul. Take Diocletian for example; Diocletian was the Roman emperor from 284 to 305. Inscriptions have been found where Diocletian brags, “I, Diocletian…having everywhere abolished the superstition of Christ.” Elsewhere Diocletian claimed to have extinguished the name of Christians, who brought the Republic to ruin. Ironically, in AD 313, Emperor Constantine issued the ‘Edict of Milan’ granting official toleration of Christianity, which was still around, contrary to the claim of Diocletian. Eventually, Emperor Theodosius in AD 380, made Christianity the official religion of the empire. 

This simply illustrates the astonishment of the psalmist in regards to the foolish opposition of kings, rulers, nations and peoples against the will and plans of the LORD. Joseph Caryl notes, “Why do the heathen imagine a vain thing? It was vain, not only because there was no ground of reason why they should imagine or do such a thing, but vain also because they labored in vain, they could not do it.”