Psalm Two – Translation of the Song

2,1 Why were the peoples gathered in a tumult and why will nations speak empty plotting?
2,2 Kings of the land will stand in readiness and rulers conspire together against ADONAI and against His mashiah:
2,3 “Let us tear off their cords, cast away their ropes from us”.
2,4 The One Who sits enthroned in heaven will laugh, the Master will ridicule them.
2,5 Then He will speak to them in His indignation, before His rage they will shudder with utter terror:
2,6 “But I have anointed My king over Zion, My holy mountain”.
2,7 I tell of the decree engraved in our memory: “Adonai spoke to me, ‘You are my son, I, from today on, give birth to you.
2,8 Ask of Me and I will give the peoples for your estate, and your holding, the ends of the earth.
2,9 You will smash them with a rod of iron; like a potter’s vessel, you will shatter them.’ ”
2,10 And now, kings, be wise; be ethical, judges of the earth.
2,11 Worship ADONAI in awe, and rejoice with trembling.
2,12 Act purely; if not, He will be indignant, and your way will be lost, because in a little while His indignation will blaze.
Happy all who shelter in Him.  

Notes on Translation, Psalm Two:

2.1: “Why”, in English, is a simple question. The Hebrew, however, לָמָּה, suggests a reproof; the questioner is berating the peoples and the nations.


2.1: the verb in the first phrase is in past tense; in the second, future. The entire verse is customarily translated in English as present tense; the sense of the Hebrew, however, is of a continual action, taking place in the past but continuing into the future.


2.1: the English inverts the order of the Hebrew. The literal Hebrew reads, “Why gathered were peoples in a tumult and [why] nations will speak empty plotting?” (The second “why” in the English is not repeated but is understood in the Hebrew.)


2.1: the Hebrew uses two distinct words for “peoples” and for “nations”, but the second noun implies a nation state, rather than an assembly.


2.2: the kings are gathering in a counsel of war. Again, the English reverses the Hebrew word order. The literal Hebrew reads, “Will stand in readiness the kings of the land”.


2.2: the root of the Hebrew word “conspire”, נוֹסְדוּ, has the connotation of “secret” and of “establish”. That is, the plotters establish in secret their rebellion.


2.3: the Hebrew for “cords”, מוֹסְרוֹתֵימוֹ, is a term used for the binding of animals and for enemy leaders taken captive in war. “Cords” has, as well, in Hebrew, the connotation of “ethics” (see Note, verse 6).


2.5: the image, in the Hebrew, of both “indignation” and “rage” is of steam coming out of an angry creature’s nose. The Hebrew for “indignation”, אַפּוֹ,  implies “nose” and for “rage”, חֲרוֹנוֹ, steam. (For a fuller explanation of this image, see “Notes on Translation”, Psalm 6, v. 2.)


2.7: both verbs, “tell” and “give birth”, are, in the Hebrew  — אֲסַפְּרָה, יְלִדְתִּיךָ—in present progressive tense; that is, they indicate an action that is continuing and continual.


2.7: the phrase, “engraved in memory”, has been added to the single Hebrew word, “decree”, חֹק,  in order to convey the implicit meaning in the Hebrew. The decree is not an explicit law, but rather one known to the people Israel.


2.8: in King David’s time, “the peoples” would refer to the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.


2.9: the Hebrew word for “smash”, תְּרֹעֵם, has the same letters as that for “thunder”, רַעַם (see Psalm 29, verse 3). The Hebrew for “shatter” has the connotation of “spread out”; the image, then, is of shattered shards of pottery.


2.10: the word “ethics”, הִוָּסְרוּ, has the same root, in Hebrew, as “cords”, מוֹסֵרוֹת. Thus, the cords that the kings wish to cast off, in verse 3, are established as God-given codes of ethics in verse 10.


2.11: “worship”, in Hebrew, עִבְדוּ, can also mean “serve”.


2.12: the verb “act” in Hebrew, נַשְּׁקוּ, also means, as a noun in Hebrew, “kiss” or “connection”.


2.12: as in verse 5, God’s rage is imagined as a nose emitting an emotional force, but whereas in verse 5 the image is of steam erupting, here it is of fire.

These translations are by Rabbi Maccabi and Dr. Rosenberg. The translations are as close to the literal Hebrew as possible.

Click here to study “Literary analysis of Psalm 2”

King James Psalms 2 Translation:

[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.