The Davidic Seed as Royal Son: Psalm 2:6-9
What I will discuss in this post is crucial for understanding not only Romans 1:4 but the biblical theology of Jesus' Sonship in the New Testament.
In Psalm 2 we not only discover many of the same images from 2 Sam. 7, but the vision is greatly enriched. The Psalm is explicitly tied to 2 Samuel 7 by the Psalmist’s description of the decree of Yahweh in v. 7. A comparison of 2 Sam. 7:14 and Psalm 2:7 shows the connection:
"I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me, 'You are my son; today I have begotten you.'" (Psalm 2:7)
"I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son" (2 Sam. 7:14)
The author of Hebrews makes the connection explicit, quoting both passages side by side: “For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You’? And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son’? (Heb. 1:5).
What we see, therefore in Psalm 2 is the conceptual connections we noted earlier in 2 Sam. 7 made explicit and even enlarged. “My Son” is “My king” (Ps. 2:6). Sonship entitles one to rule (Ps. 2:9). The establishment of Yahweh’s rule will be accomplished by means of the Son’s quelling of his enemies’ rebellious uprising (2:1-3), either by the exercise of his wrath or by the humble submission of the enemies (2:10-12).
And again, we have the reign of Yahweh coordinated and implemented by the Son, so that by serving the Son one serves Yahweh (2:11-12). Yahweh is enthroned in heaven (2:4), but he mediates his rule by means of his Son, who is installed “on Zion, my holy hill” (2:6). When the Son of David rules on Zion, the reign of Yahweh is properly on earth (1 Chron. 28:5; 29:23; 2 Chron. 9:8).
The Psalmist's mention of Zion and Yahweh’s holy mountain is one example of the way he enlarges upon, or better, unpacks the relational/symbolic connections associated with the Davidic Son. Now we learn that the Son as King is installed on Zion, Yahweh’s holy mountain). Of course, we knew from 1 Kings 7:1 and 9:10 that David’s son, Solomon, not only constructed a house/palace for Yahweh, but he also built a palace for himself adjacent to the Yahweh’s temple. These are often mentioned in tandem (e.g. 2 Kings 23:14), because they were built side by side.
The temple of Yahweh contained the ark of God which was his “footstool” (1 Chron. 28:2; Ps. 99:5; Lam. 2:1). He reigns from heaven but his presence or “dwelling place” is situated at his footstool, the ark in the temple (Ps. 132:7; Acts 7:49). Solomon’s house/palace also had a throne with a “golden” footstool (remember ark was covered with gold, 1 Chron. 28:18; Heb. 9:4) as well as two guardian lions which were poised over the footstool on the arm rests (2 Chron. 9:18), calling to mind the two Cherubim guardians covering the ark. All of this not only suggests once again the close connection between Yahweh’s house/throne and the Royal son of David’s, but the architectural imagery was no doubt striking in its symbolism.
Yahweh’s heavenly throne’s footstool terminated in his earthly temple on Mt. Zion and right next to it on that same holy mountain was his son’s palace and throne. Architecturally, then, the son reigned at the right hand of Yahweh. Thus, when the old Mosaic symbolic world of the tabernacle was transfigured into the Davidic covenantal arrangement with the permanent, stone temple at its center, the new covenantal polity was made visible in the symbolic architecture of Yahweh’s temple and beside it the palace of the Davidic king.
The son of David, then, is the son of Yahweh’s right hand, and as such he is ruler (see Psalm 80:14, 17, where the “son” is the man at God’s right hand, who has been “strengthened ” or “raised up”; cf. Jer. 22:24). The right hand is the position of power and rule (Ex. 15:6, 12; Ps. 20:6, and the many references in the Psalms to the security and deliverance found in the “right hand” of Yahweh). We might understand better now why Psalm 110 is associated with Psalm 2 in the minds of the Apostles as prophetic of the resurrection and enthronement of Jesus (Mark 16:19; Acts 22:33. 34; 5:33; 7:55; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22), and why even Jesus himself understood his coming exaltation as being a positioning at the right hand of his Father (Matt. 26:64; Mk. 14:62; Luke 22:26).
Moreover, the son at God’s right hand, is the son that will inherit the Father’s blessing (Gen. 48:13, 14, 17, 18, “And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father; for this one is the first-born; put your right hand upon his head”). Which means that the Davidic son is also inheritor, according to Ps. 2:8 (“Ask of me, and I will me the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession”). Both of these Hebrew words are associated with “inheritance”—the first typically with land and the second also with land, but sometimes with persons (eg. Ps. 37:18; 74:2; 79:1; Isa. 19:25; Ez. 36:12; 44:28; Micah 7:14, 18) and other more intangible “possessions” like blessings, the family or tribal name, etc (Gen. 31:14; Num. 18:21-26; Ps. 127:3). In Psalm 2 the son is promised “the nations” and “the ends of the earth” for his inherited possession.
Furthermore, in context these nations are the foreign powers aligned against Yahweh and his “anointed one” (Ps. 2:1-5). A more comprehensive vision can hardly be conceived. The Royal son gets all the nations and every square inch of land on earth. Such a conception of world dominion (Ps. 18:43-47; 72:8-11; 89:25), although not fully achieved by any Judahite king, is nevertheless not simply exaggeration, but remained “hidden” and prophetic of the reign of the Greater Son of David. Not surprisingly, Paul references the mission of the appointed Son of God as bringing about “the obedience of faith among all the nations/Gentiles” (Rom. 1:5), precisely what is said to be promised to the Son as his inheritance upon his enthronement in Psalm 2:8 (“the nations for your inheritance”). In the New Testament, the Son/Image of God is one who has the rights and inheritance of the Firstborn (Ex. 4:22; Ps. 89:27; Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 1:5).
Mention of the world-wide extent of the son of David’s rule also ties in with the original mandate and promise given to Adam, the son of God. Whatever else Adam’s being made in the “image and likeness” of God entailed, according to the context of Genesis 1:26, it involved “ruling” over all the earth. It is given to Adam as a mandate: “Let us make man in our image and let them rule over the. . . earth ” (1:26) and “Rule over the fish. . .” (1:28). In addition, we learn from Genesis 5:3 and Luke 3:38 that being an image-bearer is linked to sonship. Man as the image of God means man is a son of God. The New Testament makes this clear when it brings the terms “son” and “image” together when it describes Christ. And as we have seen, one function of being a son/image of God was dominion or ruling. Adam was created to rule over the entire earth as God’s son, his vicegerent. This was not to happen. Man fell.
What does this have to do with the Son of David? The two are connected by the phrases “the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9, 17; 3:5) and “knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). The phrase is not used very often in the Old Testament. In Deut. 1:39, 2 Sam. 19:35, and Isa. 7:15, 16 when one lacks the knowledge of good and evil it is evidence of childhood and immaturity, of the lack of discernment and inability to govern wisely. In 2 Sam. 19:35 Samuel complains that because he is 80 years old he can no longer “know good and evil.” Old age makes one unfit for the discernment required for governing. All these references so far have concerned the ability to adjudicate and discern right from wrong, something essential for those who rule. The phrase, then, refers to what is foundational to governing, the competence to “judge between good and evil.” This would suggest that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was associated with mature judgment and rule. Satan’s challenge to Adam and Eve—that they upon eating from the tree they would be “like gods” (elohim) is not entirely inaccurate since the title is often used in the Old Testament to refer to human rulers/judges (Ex. 21:6; 22:8, 9, 28; Ps. 58:1; Ps. 82: 6-7; cf. Jn. 10:34). The knowledge of good and evil is what a son needs to rule. According to 1 Kings 3:9 it is precisely what David’s son, Solomon, asks for when given the chance to request anything of Yahweh:
Give to your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people,Solomon does not assume that he already possesses this discernment, but ask Yahweh to gift him with it. Once God grants Solomon’s appropriate, kingly request we immediately see him exercise his judicial wisdom (3:28). Solomon has been gifted with what Adam impatiently grasped for in Genesis 3. As the new son/image of Yahweh, he has been granted the wise discernment (“the knowledge of good and evil”) necessary to rule over men.
that I may know good and evil,
for who is able to rule this your great people?
Moreover, Solomon is presented as an Adamic king in the Bible. Just as Adam named the animals (Gen. 2:19-20) so also Solomon gained wisdom as he investigated the creation. “Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish” (1 Kings 4:33). The kingship of Solomon, in other words, was a fulfilment not only of the promises made to Abraham and Israel, but of God’s commission to Adam as well. Just so, Solomon, the son of David—indeed, as we have seen, son of Yahweh’s—becomes the typological model for the Greater Son of David’s rule as the Second Adam.
Jesus is appointed Son of God with power when he is gifted with ruling over all of creation as man. “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation” (Col. 1:15). In fact, the scope of Jesus dominion is much greater than Solomon’s. It embraces the entire creation. Another reference to Jesus as the resurrected Lord who rules over all as the “second man” or Adam is 1 Cor. 15:20-57. This passage, of course, has christological and soteriological significance that goes well beyond our narrow concerns here; nevertheless, royal sonship imagery is not peripheral to Paul’s purpose (note the references to Christ’s kingdom, 1 Cor. 15:24; his reign, 15:25; the vanquishing of his enemies, 15:27 [Ps. 110:1]; and the references to Jesus as the “last Adam,” 15:45-49, whose “image” we shall all bear when we are “raised in power” like he has been, 15:43, 49).