(א) לָמָּה רָגְשׁוּ גוֹיִם וּלְאֻמִּים יֶהְגּוּ רִיק:
(1) Why are the nations assembling and why are the peoples talking foolishly?
NOTE: For a PDF of this mizmor, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev. 15]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 002 – Defending the Kingdom
This mizmor is a continuation of the first mizmor where David praises the Torah way of life for every individual Jew. Now he turns to the national level and the need to defend the Jewish people from the cruel nations that continue to threaten their existence. He emphasizes that Hashem has chosen a king to guide the nation and lead its armies. That king is David himself, with whom Hashem has established a warm relationship, like that of a father to a son.
Mizmor 002 was composed seven years after David had been anointed by Shmuel. These were difficult years because there were many who remained loyal to King Shaul and refused to accept David as king. But after finally gaining the loyalty of the entire nation, David faced a new threat. The Plishtim (Philistines) who had long been antagonists of the Jewish people decided to attack before David’s kingdom was further consolidated. They were afraid of the power that a united Jewish nation could wield. They were especially concerned that they might end up being subservient to the moral authority of the Jews and the Torah.
Navigating Tehillim. When David first succeeded in suppressing the Plishtim and establishing his new kingdom, he composed a Mizmor (021) in celebration and gratitude.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. THE FOOLISH FOE. The mizmor begins with a rhetorical question in which David wonders at the audacity and foolishness of his enemies.
(א) לָמָּה רָגְשׁוּ גוֹיִם וּלְאֻמִּים יֶהְגּוּ רִיק: (ב) יִתְיַצְּבוּ מַלְכֵי אֶרֶץ וְרוֹזְנִים נוֹסְדוּ יָחַד עַל ה’ וְעַל מְשִׁיחוֹ:
(1) Why are the nations assembling and why are the peoples talking foolishly? (2) Why are the kings of the earth taking a stand and why are the nobles conspiring in unison against Hashem and against His anointed?
The Plishtim were overconfident because they had recently defeated the Jewish armies under Shaul, killing Shaul and his sons. David now appeared as the Jewish king in Shaul’s place and the Plishtim were convinced they could defeat him as well.
David used sarcasm in referring to the leaders of the Plishtim as “kings of the earth.” In actual fact they did not have the stature or title of kings.
PART 2. DISCARDING RESTRAINTS. David mocks the enemy by visualizing them as oxen who want to get rid of their yokes. Their objective is be free of the perceived restraints on their behavior.
(ג) נְנַתְּקָה אֶת מוֹסְרוֹתֵימוֹ וְנַשְׁלִיכָה מִמֶּנּוּ עֲבֹתֵימוֹ:
(3) [The Plishtim say,] “Let us remove their harness straps and let us cast off their ropes from ourselves.” [But David responds:]
PART 3. THE WILL OF HASHEM. David now reinforces his rhetorical question of Part 1 by describing Hashem’s reaction to the schemes of the Plishtim. Because they are going against the will of Hashem their schemes will surely fail.
(ד) יוֹשֵׁב בַּשָּׁמַיִם יִשְׂחָק, אֲדֹ־נָי יִלְעַג לָמוֹ: (ה) אָז יְדַבֵּר אֵלֵימוֹ בְאַפּוֹ וּבַחֲרוֹנוֹ יְבַהֲלֵמוֹ: (ו) וַאֲנִי נָסַכְתִּי מַלְכִּי עַל צִיּוֹן הַר קָדְשִׁי:
(4) He who sits in Heaven is laughing. Hashem is mocking them. (5) Then, He will speak to them in His anger and in His wrath He will confound them saying: (6) “I Myself have anointed My king upon Tzion, My holy mountain.”
PART 4. DAVID TESTIFIES. David now speaks for himself and defends his position as king.
(ז) אֲסַפְּרָה אֶל חֹק ה’ אָמַר אֵלַי בְּנִי אַתָּה אֲנִי הַיּוֹם יְלִדְתִּיךָ: (ח) שְׁאַל מִמֶּנִּי וְאֶתְּנָה גוֹיִם נַחֲלָתֶךָ וַאֲחֻזָּתְךָ אַפְסֵי אָרֶץ: (ט) תְּרֹעֵם בְּשֵׁבֶט בַּרְזֶל כִּכְלִי יוֹצֵר תְּנַפְּצֵם:
(7) [And so David says:] I must tell you that Hashem said to me, “You are My son. I have begotten you today. (8) Ask of Me and I will make nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession. (9) You will smash them with an iron sword; you will shatter them like a potter’s vessel.
PART 5. EXHORTATION. Having assumed the authority and the power given to him by G-d, David exhorts the Plishtim to desist from their plans and accept the authority of G-d. He concludes with an important reminder that the Jewish people rely on Hashem’s protection.
(י) וְעַתָּה מְלָכִים הַשְׂכִּילוּ הִוָּסְרוּ שֹׁפְטֵי אָרֶץ: (יא) עִבְדוּ אֶת ה’ בְּיִרְאָה וְגִילוּ בִּרְעָדָה: (יב) נַשְּׁקוּ בַר פֶּן יֶאֱנַף וְתֹאבְדוּ דֶרֶךְ כִּי יִבְעַר כִּמְעַט אַפּוֹ אַשְׁרֵי כָּל חוֹסֵי בוֹ:
(10) And now you kings, be intelligent. Accept my rebuke, you judges of the earth. (11) Serve Hashem in awe and rejoice, but do it with trembling. (12) Yearn for a pure loyalty, lest He grow wrathful, and [your] way be doomed, for in a brief moment His anger will flare up. Then fortunate will be all those that trust in Him.
Navigating Tehillim. This second mizmor ends with the same word (“ashrei”) that began the first mizmor, demonstrating that the two mizmorim are connected. The Gemara says that when David wanted to show a special affection for a mizmor he started and ended it with “ashrei” (Berachos 10a).
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1. THE FOOLISH FOE.
(א) לָמָּה רָגְשׁוּ גוֹיִם
וּלְאֻמִּים יֶהְגּוּ רִיק:
Since the wicked people of the earth are doomed to perish (Tehillim 1:6), why are the enemy nations assembling — לָמָּה רָגְשׁוּ גוֹיִם – to develop battle plans, and why are the peoples talking foolishly — וּלְאֻמִּים יֶהְגּוּ רִיק – about attacking G-d and the king He has anointed? Don’t they realize they will surely fail?
(ב) יִתְיַצְּבוּ מַלְכֵי אֶרֶץ
וְרוֹזְנִים נוֹסְדוּ יָחַד
עַל ה’ וְעַל מְשִׁיחוֹ:
Why are the kings of the earth taking a united stand — יִתְיַצְּבוּ מַלְכֵי אֶרֶץ – and why are the nobles conspiring in unison — וְרוֹזְנִים נוֹסְדוּ יָחַד , against Hashem and against His anointed — עַל ה’ וְעַל מְשִׁיחוֹ ? Don’t they realize they are fighting against G-d Himself?
PART 2. DISCARDING RESTRAINTS.
(ג) נְנַתְּקָה אֶת מוֹסְרוֹתֵימוֹ
וְנַשְׁלִיכָה מִמֶּנּוּ עֲבֹתֵימוֹ:
“Let us remove their harness straps — נְנַתְּקָה אֶת מוֹסְרוֹתֵימוֹ – and let us cast off their ropes from ourselves — וְנַשְׁלִיכָה מִמֶּנּוּ עֲבֹתֵימוֹ – so that we will not have to serve them.”
PART 3. THE WILL OF HASHEM.
(ד) יוֹשֵׁב בַּשָּׁמַיִם יִשְׂחָק,
ה’ יִלְעַג לָמוֹ:
He Who sits in Heaven is laughing — יוֹשֵׁב בַּשָּׁמַיִם יִשְׂחָק – at them. His might is infinitely greater than that of mere human beings. Besides that, His throne, the seat of His glory, is symbolically in Heaven above. The Plishtim should realize that anyone in such a lofty position has the advantage. Hashem is mocking them — ה’ יִלְעַג לָמוֹ – for thinking they can nullify His words.
(ה) אָז יְדַבֵּר אֵלֵימוֹ בְאַפּוֹ
Then, if they persist in developing their pointless schemes, He will speak to them in His anger — אָז יְדַבֵּר אֵלֵימוֹ בְאַפּוֹ , and in His wrath He will confound them — וּבַחֲרוֹנוֹ יְבַהֲלֵמוֹ , saying:
(ו) וַאֲנִי נָסַכְתִּי מַלְכִּי,
עַל צִיּוֹן הַר קָדְשִׁי:
“Why do you make plans to defeat David and depose him? Do you think you can stand up against My wishes? I Myself have anointed him as My king — וַאֲנִי נָסַכְתִּי מַלְכִּי – by the hands of Shmuel upon Tzion, My holy mountain — עַל צִיּוֹן הַר קָדְשִׁי .”
PART 4. DAVID TESTIFIES.
(ז) אֲסַפְּרָה אֶל חֹק,
ה’ אָמַר אֵלַי
I shall now tell you what I am obliged — אֲסַפְּרָה אֶל חֹק – to proclaim. Hashem said to me — ה’ אָמַר אֵלַי – through the nevi’im Nosson, Gad, and Shmuel:
בְּנִי אַתָּה, אֲנִי הַיּוֹם יְלִדְתִּיךָ:
“I have designated You, David, as My son — בְּנִי אַתָּה . I have given you the role of serving Me as king over My nation Yisrael. On the day you were anointed I said, ‘I have begotten you today’ — אֲנִי הַיּוֹם יְלִדְתִּיךָ . On that day I granted you ruach hakodesh (the holy spirit), enabling you to compose and sing these mizmorim.”
(ח) שְׁאַל מִמֶּנִּי
וְאֶתְּנָה גוֹיִם נַחֲלָתֶךָ
וַאֲחֻזָּתְךָ אַפְסֵי אָרֶץ:
“Since you are My son, ask of Me — שְׁאַל מִמֶּנִּי – for whatever you need and there is no limit to what I will grant to you. I will make nations your inheritance — וְאֶתְּנָה גוֹיִם נַחֲלָתֶךָ , and the ends of the earth your possession — וַאֲחֻזָּתְךָ אַפְסֵי אָרֶץ .”
(ט) תְּרֹעֵם בְּשֵׁבֶט בַּרְזֶל
כִּכְלִי יוֹצֵר תְּנַפְּצֵם:
“As for the nations that rise up against you, you will smash them with an iron sword — תְּרֹעֵם בְּשֵׁבֶט בַּרְזֶל ; you will shatter them like a potter’s vessel — כִּכְלִי יוֹצֵר תְּנַפְּצֵם .”
PART 5. EXHORTATION.
(י) וְעַתָּה מְלָכִים הַשְׂכִּילוּ
הִוָּסְרוּ שֹׁפְטֵי אָרֶץ:
And now — וְעַתָּה , since my kingship is authorized from Hashem, I call upon you kings to be intelligent — מְלָכִים הַשְׂכִּילוּ . It is not in your power to revoke G-d’s decree. He has ordered that I should be king; accept my rebuke — הִוָּסְרוּ – and don’t speak as you have been doing, you nobles, the judges of the earth — שֹׁפְטֵי אָרֶץ .
(יא) עִבְדוּ אֶת ה’ בְּיִרְאָה
Serve Hashem in awe — עִבְדוּ אֶת ה’ בְּיִרְאָה . Instead of resenting His power over you, subjugate your will to His and rejoice — וְגִילוּ – in serving Him, but do it with trembling — בִּרְעָדָה – in constant fear of His anger, should you neglect your duty.
(יב) נַשְּׁקוּ בַר
פֶּן יֶאֱנַף וְתֹאבְדוּ דֶרֶךְ
כִּי יִבְעַר כִּמְעַט אַפּוֹ
Yearn for a pure loyalty — נַשְּׁקוּ בַר , to accept His kingdom completely without reservation, lest He grow wrathful — פֶּן יֶאֱנַף , and your way be doomed — וְתֹאבְדוּ דֶרֶךְ . If that happens, you won’t know which way to turn for in a brief moment His anger will suddenly flare up — כִּי יִבְעַר כִּמְעַט אַפּוֹ .
אַשְׁרֵי כָּל חוֹסֵי בוֹ:
You should follow my example and acknowledge Him willingly. Then the praises of all those that trust in Him — אַשְׁרֵי כָּל חוֹסֵי בוֹ – will be clearly evident.
Living the Mizmor
Listed below are some of the lessons that you can draw from this mizmor, as well as some of the thoughts you might have in mind when you say the words of the mizmor as a tefillah asking for your needs, or expressing devotion to Hashem.
Lessons for Life – Your Attitude.
[2:7] TOTAL DEPENDENCE. – בְּנִי אַתָּה אֲנִי הַיּוֹם יְלִדְתִּיךָ – “You are My son. I have begotten you today.” Think of yourself as a newborn baby who is entirely dependent on the mother who has given birth to him and for whom he has done nothing. She is happy with him because of her quality of chesed (lovingkindness) and his potential for the future.
[2:11] YIRAH. – עִבְדוּ אֶת ה’ בְּיִרְאָה וְגִילוּ בִּרְעָדָה – “Serve Hashem in awe and rejoice, but do it with trembling.” When you experience great joy, such as in making a simchah, don’t lose your sense of yiras Hashem (the fear of Hashem), that is, “rejoice … with trembling.”
Tefillos for Life – Your Geulah.
[2:6] DAVID’S DYNASTY. – וַאֲנִי נָסַכְתִּי מַלְכִּי עַל צִיּוֹן הַר קָדְשִׁי – “I Myself have anointed My king upon Tzion, My holy mountain.” When you say the blessing “Es Tzemach David” in the daily Shemoneh Esrei have in mind that you are earnestly asking for the final Geulah (Redemption) and that this depends on the restoration of David’s dynasty to rule over Yisrael in the same spirit with which David composed Tehillim.
Tefillos for Life – Your Yeshuah.
[2:9] CONFLICT. – תְּרֹעֵם בְּשֵׁבֶט בַּרְזֶל – “You will smash them with an iron sword.” If you are facing a military conflict, plead with Hashem to help you by vanquishing your enemies.
The primary sources for the interpretation this mizmor have been Rashi, Radak, and Metzudos.