Psalm 2 & David’s Dynasty


In an earlier post, "Introduction to the Psalms," I said that I was going to examine six genres found in the book of Psalms: (1) lament, (2) praise, (3) thanksgiving, (4) kingship & covenant renewal, (5) trust, and (6) wisdom; however, my plan was to discuss these genres as they appeared in their canonical ordering. As such, we initially looked at Psalm 1, the first wisdom psalm, with two posts: "The Wisdom of Psalm 1" and "Applying the Wisdom of Psalm 1." With this post, we will begin an examination of Psalm 2, one of the theocratic kingship psalms that are a subcategory of the larger category entitled the kingship & covenant renewal genre. The psalms in this genre celebrate and affirm loyalty to God as King, the theocratic king, and God’s covenant. This category has three subcategories. First, divine kingship psalms celebrate the LORD’s sovereign rule over the universe. The psalms in this category are 24, 29, 47, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99. Second, theocratic kingship psalms, also often referred to as “royal psalms,” celebrate the Davidic dynasty and its universal kingdom. These psalms are joined by their focus on Israel’s earthly king. These psalms have the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7 (also 1 Chr 17) as their foundation. These psalms may focus on the importance of the Davidic line and its relationship to God as in Psalms 2, 89, 132. Psalm 18 is a royal thanksgiving psalm. Psalm 20 requests God’s blessing on the king. Psalm 45 focuses on a royal wedding. Therefore, the emphasis of these psalms is on the Davidic king but it can refer to various phases of kingship. The remaining royal psalms are 21, 72, 101, 110, 144. The theocratic kingship psalms are especially significant for Christians because they provide the background and at times find their culmination in our Lord Jesus Christ. Third, two psalms, 50 and 81, are intended to encourage Israel to renew her allegiance to God and the Mosaic Covenant (Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible, p. 176). I will analyze a key psalm from each of these subcategories. Because of God’s absolute sovereign control over his creation, we could begin this portion of our study with the divine kingship psalms. However, Psalm 2 with its focus on the sovereign rule of the Davidic king and Psalm 1 with its emphasis on the godly man’s relationship to the Law appropriately serve as an introduction to the Psalter. Having covered Psalm 1, our attention will now focus on Psalm 2 as an example of a royal genre.

This category of psalm is based entirely upon the thematic elements of God’s promised Davidic dynasty and his universal kingdom. Thus, the theocratic kingship psalms are set apart from other psalm categories by their emphasis on Israel’s king. As such, these psalms may also be referred to as “royal” or even “messianic” psalms, as is found in popular literature. Because this category does not include rhetorical elements, a theocratic kingship psalm may also be lament psalm as is the case in Psalm 144 or a thanksgiving psalm as in Psalm 18. When I interpret a psalm as a lament psalm, such as in Psalm 144 and clearly see a thematic emphasis on Israel’s king, I categorize this as a “royal lament.” Since Psalm 18 is a thanksgiving psalm and it has a focus on the success of the Davidic dynasty (see vv. 43–50), this would be a “royal thanksgiving psalm.”

In these psalms Israel’s king may be specifically referred to as “David,” the “king” or “anointed.” These psalms are predicated upon the promises given to David in the Davidic Covenant (see 2 Sam 7 and 1 Chr 17). The promises given in the Davidic Covenant focused upon David’s having an eternal and universal kingdom and a ruling dynasty, which, in light of progressive revelation, culminates in Jesus Christ. These promises are incorporated into many aspects of the theocratic kingship psalms. The Davidic Covenant is the prophetic foundation upon which many of the prophetic elements are poetically set forth in this type of psalm. Consequently, the theocratic kingship psalms may contain prophetic elements that point directly or indirectly to Jesus the Messiah and his universal kingdom (see Wendland, Analyzing the Psalms, pp. 49–50). However, because most of these psalms do not find an immediate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, I prefer to call them either "theocratic kingship" or "royal" psalms. However, there is in my opinion one royal psalm, Psalm 110, that is the most directly Messianic psalm (see the helpful article by Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary’s assistant librarian, John Aloisi, "Who Is David’s Lord? Another Look at Psalm 110:1," Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 10 (2005) [this article may be obtained by clicking here or by mailing your request to Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 4801 Allen Road, Allen Park, MI 48101]).

With this post, my objective has been to introduce you to the kingship & covenant renewal genre, with a more specific focus on the theocratic kingship psalms, with Psalms 2 as our focus. In the next two posts, I will focus on the development of Psalm 2’s message.


  1. Joel Tetreau says


    Great post…..I’m with Anderson on wishing we could see the rest of “the goods.” I can see in several of these Psalms a merging of both messianic as well as historic applications. Your classifications are helpful.

    I’m preaching my OT overview sermon series. We just finished Judges yesterday. I’m on to the ministry and life of Samuel this coming Sunday. What a thrill. I can’t tell you how much fun we had in the Judges. The Scriptures had the Jr Highers of the church setting on the edge of their seats……You know Jail with a nail, the son of Gideon who had the millstone dropped on his head……the hacking (into 12 pieces) of the unfaithful and dead wife of the Levite resulting in Civil War with Benjamin (by the way, interesting that God charges Judah as the point tribe against Benjamin in that War…..just a hundred + years prior to Benjamin and Judah’s merge into the Southern Kingdom)…..all very good stuff!

    As we come into Samuel and his ministry especially to the monarch, what Psalms would you say would represent well the sentiment of Samuel/Nathan/etc…. to the Kingly line? Can you think of any Psalms that speak to the Kingly line prior to David? (Maybe that’s a dumb question….forgive me).

    Shalom …. Son of Pedahzur!

    Straight Ahead!

    (YHWY is God!)

  2. says

    Thanks for your comments, Joel. I am not clear what you mean with your question: “Can you think of any Psalms that speak to the Kingly line prior to David?” Are you referring to Saul or to psalms that contain prophetic elements related to a lasting dynasty of kings? I need some illumination in order to respond to your question.

  3. Joel Tetreau says

    Sorry for the fuzzy question. What I was looking for were Psalms that might speak to Saul’s reign vis-a-vis David’s. The Psalms that speak to David and his personal heritage seem clear. Just curious.

    The deal is as I continue through 1 and 2 Samuel (followed by 1 and 2 Kings), we will be looking at the “Big Three”: Saul, David and Solomon. One other question…..when you take these 4 books – The Samuels and The Kings, you essentially have a historic chronology of the Kings from Saul to Zedekiah. On top of your memory….how many years was that?…..I could actually do the math myself but I’m lazy and just thought you might know.



  4. says

    In reference to your first question, five psalms have a superscription that mention Saul: Pss 18,52, 54, 57, & 59. If it was not for these superscriptions, we would not know that the any of the psalms refer to Saul. Each of the five psalms discuss David being delivered from his enemies and the superscription informs us that the enemy was Saul.

    In reference to your second issue, Saul reigned from 1050-1010, David 1010-970 and Solomon, 970-930 B.C. and Zedekiah’s reign ended at 586 BC with the final Babylonian judgment. The total years for all kings is about 465 years.

  5. Joel Tetreau says

    Thanks for the help.

    I will note these as I prepare to preach on Saul. Thanks for the confirmation on the time-table. OK….here’s the ten million dollar question. Is there any way that you see Saul as regenerate? Was he an OT version of Judas? Or was he truly regenerate such as Lot, yet vexed his soul? I’m tempted to say yes because of his apparent character at the beginning, plus he was grafted into the club of prophets (also what’s up with the phrase, “God gave him another heart” in 1 Sam 10:9? Is that essentially related to the prophecy deal in the following verses?). I’m tempted to say “no way!” when you see the rest of his life, the demonic thing resulting in the attempts at David’s life, as well as the sordid end……

    What say ye …….. oh “great one”?


  6. says

    I have had this question posed in a number of churches that I have spoken and I generally try to see the perspective of those who think Saul might have been saved. However in the final analysis, if I really believe in perseverance of the saints, I cannot see how Saul could have been saved. If it was not for subsequent revelation, I would not think Lot was a believer. Though Judas’ sin was more egregious than Saul’s in that he sold out our Lord, I see both of them as reflecting over time that they did not have the saving work of the Spirit.

    When I compare David’s response to Nathan confronting him about his sin (2 Sam 12:13) and Saul’s response to Samuel confronting him about his sin (1 Sam 15:30), the difference in response seems to relate to one having the Spirit’s saving work of grace in his life and the other as not having the work of the Spirit.

    IMNSHO, you are biblically correct to say that there is “no way” Saul could have been a believer, especially in light of the reasons you cited, namely, the remainder of Saul’s life was void of any marks of the Spirit.

  7. Ryan Coon says

    Dr. McCabe,

    I was wondering about your opinion on the recent commentaries by Goldingay on the Psalms from the Baker series. There really aren’t many good commentaries out there on the Psalms that I have found. Perhaps after you finish your work on Ecclesiastes you could make a contribution here.


  8. says


    I have been perusing Goldingay’s first two volumes (Psalms 1-41 and Psalms 42-89) of an announced three-volume set. Goldingay is a good writer and reflects a comprehensive knowledge of the key issues in the first 89 Psalms in our Psalter along with pertinent sources. With our next update of DBTS’s “Basic Library Booklist,” his commentaries will have my top rating for commentaries on Psalms.

    I am hoping that over the course of this semester, I will make some progress on Ecclesiastes, the Lord willing, of course.

    It is interesting that you mentioned writing something on the Psalms. There was a time when I wanted to write something that focused on the genre for each psalm and the development of each psalm’s structure and overall message. However, I think this need has been admirably met by the Ryken’s with their English Standard Version: The Literary Study Bible.

  9. Ryan Coon says

    Dr. McCabe,
    Thanks for the information.

    I recently got The Literary Study Bible per your recommendation and I have enjoyed using it so far. Their notes on the Psalms have been especially helpful, as you mentioned.

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