Chapter 34 - YOU ARE MY SON

Continued from Chapter 33

(Psalms 2:7)

Psalms 2:7

The concept of physical sonship with God the Father is not found in biblical theology or in first century Judaism. What is found is the biblical concept of the covenantal relationship whereby Israel or an individual within that nation is metaphorically adopted as God’s son. One does not need to undergo a supernatural conception to be declared “son of God” in a Jewish context. In the Christian search for biblical proof of the belief in Jesus as the “Son of God,” proof has often been found where none exists by violating the integrity of the plain meaning of scriptural passages.

Prominent among these is Psalms 2:7, wherein it is stated: “The Lord said to me: ‘You are My son, this day I have begotten you.’” An examination of the context will show that this verse refers to the metaphoric father-and-son relationship between God and David. The king is not divine by nature, rather he is elected to a special relationship with God (metaphorically a father-son relationship; cf. Psalms 89:36). A similar relationship later existed between God and Solomon (2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 22:10, 28:6). This special relationship is not to be taken in a literal sense. We can only speak of God metaphorically, as for example, “mouth of God” (2 Chronicles 35:22), “the eye of the Lord” (Psalms 33:18), “the ears of God” (2 Samuel 22:7), and the like. It is in a similar metaphorical sense that the verse speaks of the son of God, or the sons of God, for whoever carries out the will of God is called “son,” as the son carries out the will of the father. It is for this reason that the text says, “You are My son, this day have I begotten you” (Psalms 2:7), and it states in similar fashion, “Israel is My son, My first born” (Exodus 4:22). To be singled out for God’s special favor as an individual or as a whole people is called, in the Scriptures, “to beget” (Deuteronomy 32:18). David, on his ascension to the throne, was declared to be begotten of God.

The title of son is given to all those who enjoy a special relationship with God (Exodus 4:22, Hosea 2:1). David becomes the son of God ex officio. Similar hyperbolic language is found in Psalm 110, a psalm that portrays the Davidic king enthroned at the right hand of God, reigning in Zion as God’s earthly representative. In all of these cases, the language of poetic hyperbole should not be construed to mean that the king (messiah) is regarded as a divine being. Christians may argue that the references to sonship are typologies pointing to the existence of an actual divine sonship embodied in Jesus. But this argument is obviously based on purely subjective reasoning, with no facts from the Jewish Scriptures to give it support. Psalms 2:7 could not at all refer to Jesus. The verse says: “The Lord said to me: ‘You are My son.’” Why would God have to inform Jesus, a fellow member of the Trinity, of the exact nature of their relationship? The verse then continues: “this day I have begotten you.” If Jesus is God, how can he be begotten? Are we to presume that this statement was made on the day of Jesus’ incarnate conception, and that God spoke to the fertilized egg? Moreover, should we presume that this fertilized egg had the ability to answer God, as is implied in verse 8? There, God states: “Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.”

Would Jesus, if he was a member of the Trinity, with all its implications, have to make this request of God? Did Jesus have to ask for these or any other possessions? If he were God, the heavens and the earth and all that they contain are already his possessions. Furthermore, if Jesus had the ability to understand God’s statement on the very day of his conception, it would seem incongruous for the New Testament to describe him as “increasing in wisdom and in physical growth with both God and men” (Luke 2:52). This offer by God would have had no meaning since Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 say Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Did God make an empty offer? If the statement, “This day I have begotten you” was made to Jesus at a date later than the day of his conception, and is thus figurative in meaning, he is then not distinguished from all the others who are in the “sonship of God.”

According to the New Testament accounts, Jesus certainly did not have an earthly kingdom during his lifetime. If this is supposed to occur during a second coming, then we come to a further problem. It is alleged that at that time Jesus would be coming back not in an earthly state, but exalted and as God. That being the case, he would not have to ask for either “inheritance” or “possession.” Actually, verse 7 does not mean that David was to inherit literally “the ends of the earth.” It is an obvious hyperbole, the true meaning of which is, a large expanse of territory, and can only apply to a human being that, unlike God, or allegedly Jesus, does not possess all of creation. Similar hyperboles can be found in the Scriptures, for example, “There was no end to his treasures … and there was no end to his chariots” (Isaiah 2:7), and David, who never left the vicinity of the Land of Israel, says: “From the end of the earth I will call you” (Psalms 61:3). A related statement parallel to that of Psalms 2:7 is found in Psalms 89:28: “I will also appoint him firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Since the latter verse clearly refers to the actual person of David, and not to any typological messiah, as is evident from verses 4, 21, 27, 36, and 37, there is good reason to assume that Psalms 2:7 refers to King David. There is no doubt that when the true Messiah comes he will rule the nations, as can be seen from Isaiah 11, and we do not have to seek out proof where none exists. Psalm 2 is a historical psalm and in its plain meaning does not speak about the messianic age. Nevertheless, there are Jewish sources which give this psalm a messianic context, especially midrashic literature.

The messianic interpretation of Psalm 2 occurs in the late Midrash Tehillim, but there “sonship” is metaphorical, “as when a master says to his slave, ‘you are my son’” (Psalms 2:7). It is simply an expression of endearment.

© Gerald Sigal