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Psalm 2:9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 You shall break them with an iron scepter
and smash them like a piece of pottery.”
You shall break them with an iron scepter. That is, evidently, your enemies, for it cannot be supposed to be meant that he would sway such a scepter over his own people. The idea is that he would crush and subdue all his foes. He would have absolute power, and the grant which had been made to him would be accompanied with authority sufficient to hold it. That dominion which was to be conceded to him would be not only one of protection to his friends, but also of punishment on his enemies; and the statement here is made prominent because the former part of the psalm had respect to rebels, and the Messiah is here represented as being invested with power sufficient to punish and restrain them. The Vulgate renders this “thou shalt rule;” the Septuagint, “thou shalt feed”—ποιμανεῖς; that is, thou shalt feed them as a shepherd does his flock; thou shalt exercise over them the care and protection of a shepherd. This rendering occurs by a slight change in the pointing of the Hebrew word, though the most approved mode of pointing the word is that which is followed in our common translation. De Wette, Hengstenberg, Alexander, Horsley, adopt the common reading. What is said in this verse has been urged as an objection to referring it to the Messiah. The remark of De Wette on this matter has been quoted in the introduction to this psalm, § 4 (3). But it may be observed, while it is everywhere represented that the scepter of the Messiah over the earth will be a mild scepter, it is also everywhere stated that he will ultimately crush and overthrow all his foes. Thus in Isa. 11:4: “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” So Ps. 110:6: “He shall judge among the heathen; he shall fill the places with the dead bodies.” So, likewise, Rev. 19:15: “And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and he treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” So also in Matt. 25, and elsewhere, it is said that he will come to judgment and will consign all his foes to appropriate punishment. While it is said that the reign of the Messiah would be a mild reign, and that his kingdom would not be of this world, and while he is represented as the Prince of peace, it is also said that he would be invested with all the authority of a sovereign. While he would have the power to protect his friends, he would also have the power to humble and crush his foes. The expression with a rod of iron refers to the scepter that he would bear. A scepter was sometimes made of wood, sometimes of gold, sometimes of ivory, and sometimes of iron. The idea, when the last was the case, was that the dominion was absolute and that there was nothing that could resist it. Perhaps the idea of justice or severity would be that which would be most naturally suggested by this. As applicable to the Messiah, it can only mean that his enemies would be crushed and subdued before him.
And smash them. The same idea is here expressed in another form, but indicating more particularly the ease with which it would be done. The word rendered “dash them in pieces” means to break in pieces as an earthen vessel, Judges 7:20; Jer. 22:28. It is used to denote the crushing of infants on stones, Ps. 137:9. The word shiver would well express the idea here—“thou shalt shiver them.”
Like a piece of pottery. A vessel or instrument made by a potter; a vessel made of clay. This is easily broken, and especially with a rod of iron, and the idea here is that he would crush and subdue his enemies as easily as this could be done. No image could more happily express the ease with which he would subdue his foes, and this accords with all the representations of the New Testament—that with infinite ease—with a word—Christ can subdue his enemies and consign them to ruin. Comp. Matt. 25:41, 46; Luke 19:27. The sense here is, simply, that the Messiah would be absolute; that he would have the power to quell all rebellion against God, and to punish all those that rise up against him; and that on those who are incorrigibly rebellious he would exercise that power and take effectual means to subdue them. This is merely what is done by all just governments and is by no means inconsistent with the idea that such a government would be mild and gentle towards those who are obedient. The protection of the righteous makes the punishment of the wicked necessary in all governments, and the one cannot be secured without the other. This verse is applied to the Messiah in the Book of Revelation, ch. 2:27; 19:15; comp. 12:5.
By Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews
 LXX SYR AT “You will shepherd” MT “You will break”