A Classic Tragicomedy


by Rabbi Jeffrey A. Adler

Psalm 2 is a classic Biblical song about the war between sinful Man and the God who created him and wants to bring him to his greatest potential while Man, himself, refuses to acknowledge that his own ways are not the best and lead down a destructive path.

Verse 1 begins: “Lam-mah rag-shu goy-yim ulum-mim yehgu riq?” “Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples mutter vanity?” “Rag-shu” is the perfect tense of “ra-gash”, to “be in tumult or to rage”. The perfect tense makes the verb very decisive, conveying that the nations are really in a dither. Instead of being clear-minded and rational, the nations and people groups are focused on empty, useless, fruitless affectations. Verse 2 continues, “Yit-yatztz’vu malkey-eretz v’roz-nim nosdu-yachad al-Adonai v’al-M’shicho”. “The kings of earth set themselves up and rulers conspire together against Adonai and against His Anointed One.” “Yatzav” is used by the Lord in Joshua 1 where the Lord tells Moses’ successor that “no one will be able to stand before you all the days of your life”. The verb means to set oneself. Elohim does not say that opponents will not try, but, it will be as if they are standing on icy ground, they will not be able to gain any traction. In Psalm 2:2, world leaders will also try, but, will also be unable to gain any traction in their defiance of the Holy One. The use of the hit-pael stem says that they will seek to empower themselves, with the hit-pael’s reflexive mode, and the imperfect tense’s usage here reflecting constant attempts. The rebellion is not only against Adonai in general, but, against Messiah (M’shicho) in particular. Rejection of Messiah is rebellion against all of God.

The rebellion takes a particular form. “Let’s rip their chains apart (the use here of ‘their’ refers to the Divine Triad or Triunity), and throw their ropes off us.” The very commands of God which were designed by a loving Father to define us and train us for greatness are seen by these rulers to be mere attempts by “the man to hold us down”. Ezekiel frequently says that if a man obeys God’s commands, he “will live by them”. Psalm 119 describes Adonai’s Word as a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. Without God, all we know is how to die; we need Him to teach us how to live.

The result is a sort of tragic comedy. “He who sits in Heaven laughs! Adonai mocks them.” “Sa-chaq”, “laugh” and “laag”, “mock”, used here, are both occurring in the imperfect tense, thus, the laughter and mocking are recurring. Generation after generation, and people group after people group continue to believe that they improve their ways and lives by defying the One who created us in His own Image. It is a classic tragicomedy.

Verses 5 and 6: “So He will speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His fury: I have set up My king upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “Nasakhti”, the perfect tense of “nasakh”, to “pour out or mold” is amplified by the personal pronoun “ani”, “I”, here added for emphasis that while world leaders futilely attempt to push against Divine restraints, Adonai sets His own course and program, fashioning His own Kingdom His own way, sculpting His own King on Zion, the idyllic name for Jerusalem, named after the hill where David built his palace.

Of the real King, Elohim says, “I will declare the decree of Adonai. He said to Me: ‘You are My Son- today I have become Your Father. Ask Me, and I will give the nations as Your inheritance, and the far reaches of the earth as Your possession. You shall break the nations with an iron scepter. You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s jar.” Adonai fathers His real King, and empowers Him over and against those who defy His benevolent rule. This entire section of the Psalm reflects on the Great Tribulation and the Millennial Kingdom. The Great Tribulation is the culmination of millennia of human insistence that “we know better”, and, God’s backing off and allowing us to have it our own way. The Millennial Kingdom is, after Divine defeat of the rebels, God’s establishment of His way as intended all along.

“So now, O kings, be wise, take warning, O judges of the earth!” “Haskilu” is the hiphil imperative od “sakal”, “to be wise, or have sense”. My parents and grandparents used to exhort with the similar yiddish term to show “sey-chel”, good common sense. The hiphil stem carries the nuance of causing, so, here, “make yourselves be sensible”. “Serve Adonai with fear, and rejoice with trembling. “Yare” does not call for a fear that causes one to run away from God, but, to take Him seriously, including in His call to run to Him.

Verse 12: “Nishqu-bar…”, “Kiss the Son…”. Some rabbinic commentators translate this as “embrace purity”, and bristle at Messianic and Christian interpreters’ rendering it as God’s Son being here mentioned. However, the context of the psalm clearly refers to Messiah, the Divine Messiah fathered by Adonai, supported by many Talmudic sources, and, there are many common Jewish usages of “bar” referring to Jewish life, as, for instance “bar mitzvah”, “son of the commandment”. I think the Messianic intent of the passage is clear. The text goes on to state that the Messiah described in Psalm 2 is the Divine Son of Elohim and carries the clout to determine ultimate destiny. Faithful adherence to Yeshua, this Messiah, is absolutely necessary for any hope of a future with Adonai!

Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.