I Have Set My King on Zion (Psalm 2)


“I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).

The second psalm summarizes the confrontation between worldly concerns and the plans of the Lord. It is presented somewhat like a drama in which the characters speak and respond.

The psalmist expresses astonishment that the peoples vainly stand in opposition to the Lord and his Anointed King. Their rulers plot their rebellion, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

Despite their arrogance, the Lord from his heavenly throne emphatically declares his plans: “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” He has installed his Anointed One as king. Then the Anointed King speaks, affirming the decree of the Lord. “The Lord said to me: ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’” As the Lord’s Son, the King will take possession of his inheritance and exercise his rule in victory over his foes. The Lord appeals to the rulers to do what is wise. Submit to him, serve him, and pay homage to his Son, his Anointed.

This psalm is one of several royal psalms, so designated by their focus on Israel’s king. It may have been composed at the coronation of a new king over Judah. In ancient times, subject nations often saw such an occasion as an opportunity to rebel and test the new king’s strength.

The king of Israel, upon his coronation, enjoyed a special relationship with God. Because he would be anointed by a prophet or priest, the king became “the Lord’s anointed.” Just as all Israel was called God’s son, his “firstborn” (Exod. 4:22), their king would fulfill the role of sonship in a special way (Ps. 89:26-27).

But Psalm 2 looks beyond Israel’s king. It sets forth an ideal to which no earthly king, even the best of them, could ever attain (cf. 2 Sam. 7:13-16). The psalm finds its true fulfillment in Jesus Christ as God’s Anointed, God’s only begotten Son.

This is born out in the many times the psalm appears in the New Testament. The opening verses are cited with reference to those who put Jesus to death and then persecuted his disciples (Acts 4:23-31). “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” (v. 7) is applied to Jesus in his resurrection and glorification (Acts 13:33, Heb. 1:5; 5:5). An echo may be heard in the Father’s testimony of Jesus as his beloved Son, at his baptism (Matt. 3:16-17) and his transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). The king’s rule with a rod of iron (v. 9) is applied in Revelation to Christ, as well as to those who overcome with him, in his victory over his foes (Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).

This great psalm is a clear assertion of God’s sovereignty and of his promise that he will fulfill his purpose of grace and redemption. It reminds us of the present rule of the Messiah, the Son of God, and his everlasting kingdom. It assures us that the victory he wrought on our behalf over sin and death shall be brought to its final completion (Col. 2:13-15; Heb. 2:14-18).

“Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

Dan Petty