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.