Why do the heathen rage - It has been supposed that David composed this Psalm after he had taken Jerusalem from the Jebusites, and made it the head of the kingdom; 2 Samuel 5:7-9. The Philistines, hearing this, encamped in the valley of Rephaim, nigh to Jerusalem, and Josephus, Antiq. lib. 7: c. 4, says that all Syria, Phoenicia, and the other circumjacent warlike people, united their armies to those of the Philistines, in order to destroy David before he had strengthened himself in the kingdom. David, having consulted the Lord, 2 Samuel 5:17-19, gave them battle, and totally overthrew the whole of his enemies. In the first place, therefore, we may suppose that this Psalm was written to celebrate the taking of Jerusalem, and the overthrow of all the kings and chiefs of the neighboring nations. In the second place we find from the use made of this Psalm by the apostles, Acts 4:27, that David typified Jesus Christ; and that the Psalm celebrates the victories of the Gospel over the Philistine Jews, and all the confederate power of the heathen governors of the Roman empire.
The heathen, גוים goyim, the nations; those who are commonly called the Gentiles.
Rage, רגשו rageshu, the gnashing of teeth, and tumultuously rushing together, of those indignant and cruel people, are well expressed by the sound as well as the meaning of the original word. A vain thing. Vain indeed to prevent the spread of the Gospel in the world. To prevent Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, from having the empire of his own earth. So vain were their endeavors that every effort only tended to open and enlarge the way for the all-conquering sway of the scepter of righteousness.
Why do the heathen rage - “Why do nations make a noise?” Prof. Alexander. The word “heathen” here - גוים gôyim - means properly “nations,” with out respect, so far as the word is concerned, to the character of the nations. It was applied by the Hebrews to the surrounding nations, or to all other people than their own; and as those nations were in fact pagans, or idolators, the word came to have this signification. Nehemiah 5:8; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 23:30; Ezekiel 30:11; compare אדם 'âdâm Jeremiah 32:20. The word Gentile among the Hebrews (Greek, ἔθνος ethnos expressed the same thing. Matthew 4:15; Matthew 6:32; Matthew 10:5, Matthew 10:18; Matthew 12:21, et soepe. The word rendered “rage” - רגשׁ râgash - means to make a noise or tumult, and would be expressive of violent commotion or agitation. It occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures only in this place, though the corresponding Chaldee word - רגשׁ regash is found in Daniel 6:6, Daniel 6:11, Daniel 6:15 - rendered in Daniel 6:6, “assembled together,” in the margin “came tumultuously,” - and in Daniel 6:11, Daniel 6:15, rendered “assembled.” The psalmist here sees the nations in violent agitation or commotion, as if under high excitement, engaged in accomplishing some purpose - rushing on to secure something, or to prevent something. The image of a mob, or of a tumultuous unregulated assemblage, would probably convey the idea of the psalmist. The word itself does not enable us to determine how extensive this agitation would be, but it is evidently implied that it would be a somewhat general movement; a movement in which more than one nation or people would participate. The matter in hand was something that affected the nations generally, and which would produce violent agitation among them.
And the people - לאמים Le'umiym A word expressing substantially the same idea, that of people, or nations, and referring here to the same thing as the word rendered “heathen” - according to the laws of Hebrew parallelism in poetry. It is the people here that are seen in violent agitation: the conduct of the rulers, as associated with them, is referred to in the next verse.
Imagine - Our word “imagine” does not precisely express the idea here. We mean by it, “to form a notion or idea in the mind; to fancy.” Webster. The Hebrew word, הגה hâgâh is the same which, in Psalm 1:2, is rendered “meditate.” See the notes at that verse. It means here that the mind is engaged in deliberating on it; that it plans, devises, or forms a purpose; - in other words, the persons referred to are thinking about some purpose which is here called a vain purpose; they are meditating some project which excites deep thought, but which cannot be effectual.
A vain thing - That is, which will prove to be a vain thing, or a thing which they cannot accomplish. It cannot mean that they were engaged in forming plans which they supposed would be vain - for no persons would form such plans; but that they were engaged in designs which the result would show to be unsuccessful. The reference here is to the agitation among the nations in respect to the divine purpose to set up the Messiah as king over the world, and to the opposition which this would create among the nations of the earth. See the notes at Psalm 2:2. An ample fulfillment of this occurred in the opposition to him when he came in the flesh, and in the resistance everywhere made since his death to his reign upon the earth. Nothing has produced more agitation in the world (compare Acts 17:6), and nothing still excites more determined resistance. The truths taught in this verse are:
(1) that sinners are opposed - even so much as to produce violent agitation of mind, and a fixed and determined purpose - to the plans and decrees of God, especially with respect to the reign of the Messiah; and
(2) that their plans to resist this will be vain and ineffectual; wisely as their schemes may seem to be laid, and determined as they themselves are in regard to their execution, yet they must find them vain.
What is implied here of the particular plans against the Messiah, is true of all the purposes of sinners, when they array themselves against the government of God.
God is good, and greatly to be praised. His mercies have been freely bestowed upon us. He has surrounded us with tokens of His love. The heathen may rage and imagine vain things, but the Lord is unchangeable. He has made the strength of the everlasting hills to be a safe retreat for His people. He has prepared the mountains and the caves for His oppressed and persecuted children. We may sing, “God is our refuge and strength in time of trial.” He who made the towering mountains, the everlasting hills—to Him we may look.—Manuscript 100, August 20, 1898, “Through Nature to Nature's God.” TDG 241.5Read in context »
God is good, and greatly to be praised. His mercies have been freely bestowed upon us. He has surrounded us with tokens of His love. The heathen may rage and imagine vain things, but the Lord is unchangeable. He has made the strength of the everlasting hills to be a safe retreat for His people. He has prepared the mountains and the caves for His oppressed and persecuted children. We may sing, God is our refuge and strength in time of trial. He who made the towering mountains, the everlasting hills—to Him we may look. And He will look from His high and holy place upon those who love and fear Him.... UL 327.5Read in context »
The priests gave directions for securing the sepulcher. A great stone had been placed before the opening. Across this stone they placed cords, securing the ends to the solid rock, and sealing them with the Roman seal. The stone could not be moved without breaking the seal. A guard of one hundred soldiers was then stationed around the sepulcher to prevent it from being tampered with. The priests did all they could to keep Christ's body where it had been laid. He was sealed as securely in His tomb as if He were to remain there through all time. DA 778.1
So weak men counseled and planned. Little did these murderers realize the uselessness of their efforts. But by their action God was glorified. The very efforts made to prevent Christ's resurrection are the most convincing arguments in its proof. The greater the number of soldiers placed around the tomb, the stronger would be the testimony that He had risen. Hundreds of years before the death of Christ, the Holy Spirit had declared through the psalmist, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed.... He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Psalm 2:1-4. Roman guards and Roman arms were powerless to confine the Lord of life within the tomb. The hour of His release was near. DA 778.2Read in context »