Continued from Chapter 34 (Psalms 2:12)

“Do homage in purity”

In Psalms 2:12 it is stated: “Do homage in purity [nash-ku bar], lest He be angry, and you perish in the way.” The Christian rendering of the Hebrew phrase nash-ku bar as “kiss the son” is based on a misinterpretation. The meaning of the Hebrew word (bar) is “pure” or “clear.” Only in Aramaic does it have the meaning of “son (of).” However, in Aramaic, bar is used only as a construct “son of ” (Proverbs 31:2; Ezra 5:1-2, 6:14), whereas the absolute form of “son” in Aramaic (which would have to be used in verse 12) is ber’a ̶ “the son”. Thus, according to the Christian conception, the verse should have read nash-ku ber’a, “kiss the son,” not nash-ku bar, “kiss the son of.” Even though “son” could refer to David in verse 12, it is not the proper translation. There is no compelling reason to employ an Aramaism in view of the use of the Hebrew noun bein, “son,” in verse The phrase is best rendered as, “do homage in purity,” because kissing is generally an expression of homage, as found, for example, in 1 Samuel 10:1: “Then Samuel took the vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him.” Bar, meaning “purity,” occurs in the phrase “pure in heart” (Psalms 24:4, 73:1). The intention implied in verse 12 is: with sincerity of heart, acknowledge me, David, as God’s anointed, and thereby avoid incurring God’s anger. Thus, the Hebrew phrase nash-ku bar simply means “do homage in purity,” in the sense of expressing sincere loyalty.


There is a misconception that states that the Jewish biblical commentator, Ibn Ezra, explained nashku bar as “kiss the son.” As such, his commentary is incorrectly rendered as: “‘Serve the Lord’ refers to the Lord, while ‘kiss the son’ refers to his anointed one, and the meaning of bar is like [the meaning of bar in the phrase] ‘what, my son [beri], and what, son of my womb [bar bitni, Proverbs 31:2]And thus it is written, ‘You are My son’ [Psalms 2:7]. And it is the custom of the nations in the world to put their hands under the hand of the king, as the br5s of Solomon did [see 1 Chronicles 29:24], or for the servant [to put his hand] under the thigh of his master [see Genesis 24:2], or to kiss the king. And this is the custom until today in the land of India.” It is improbable that Ibn Ezra would have explained the word bar by appealing to the Aramaic word bar, “son of,” which being in the construct state would, in any case, be incorrect grammatically. Of course, there is the possibility that because of the proximity of the phrase, “you are My son,” there was an impetus to make a linguistic equation between the bar in the phrase nashku bar with the Aramaic word, bar. Indeed, there are some Jewish commentators who use a midrashic approach rather than citing the plain meaning and therefore render bar in this context as “son.” But this would not be consistent with the exacting exegesis associated with Ibn Ezra. More than likely, it is the common understanding of what he wrote that is incorrect. The key to a proper understanding of his commentary is found in his reference to Proverbs 31:2; at that verse, a “son” is referred to. But, in this totally Hebrew passage the words beri and bar appear and are commonly rendered as if derived from the Aramaic for “my son” and “son of ” respectively. However, as the 19th century commentator Meir Leibush Malbim explains, Proverbs 31:2 should be explained in terms of a son who is held in great esteem and designated, using the Hebrew, as bar, “chosen” or “beloved” (see Song of Songs 6:9Psalms 65:14 — in the sense of purified). This noun is from the Hebrew verb form barar, “select,” “choose,” “cleanse,” “purify,” “sift.” Hence, the verse should read, “What, my chosen one [beri], and what, beloved one of my womb [bar bitni]. Returning to Ibn Ezra’s words, we should render them as, “‘Serve the Lord’ refers to the Lord, while ‘kiss [or, “do homage to”] the chosen [or, “beloved”] one’ refers to his anointed one, and the meaning of bar is like [the meaning of bar in the phrase] ‘What, my chosen one [beri], and what, beloved one of my womb [bar bitni; Proverbs 31:2]? And thus it is written, ‘You are My son’ {Psalms 2:7]. Literally rendered, Ibn Ezra is saying nashku bar means “kiss the chosen [beloved] one,” that is, give homage to he who is called “My son” [bini] as mentioned in verse 2. For the Jewish proto-Christian community, who had known Jesus and his family he was a human being, a great teacher, one who was a “son of God” through fulfillment of mission. This notion developed in Hellenistic Jewish-Christian circles into identification with the divine Logos (Word) concept familiar from the writings of Philo.1 But, Jesus was still not divine in the ontological sense that developed in later Christianity. All Israel are considered to be the children of God,2 “Israel is My firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22, Hosea 2:1) and David and Solomon as personifications of that ideal are specifically designated as sons of God. Of David it is written: “The Lord said to me: ‘you are My son, today I have begotten you’” (Psalms 2:7) and of Solomon, God says, “I will be to him for a father, and he shall be to Me for a son” (2 Samuel 7:14). Whether or not one gives these verses a messianic significance or not, it is clear that in the biblical setting neither Israel nor these two monarchs are to be regarded as God’s sons in the sense of a union between a woman and a manifestation of God, that is, a miraculous conception. Rather the significance of this designation is specifically because they are the chosen of God. The same may be said of the Messiah as well; he is to be regarded as God’s son only in the fact that he is the chosen of God. With the stories of the virgin conception of Jesus in the respective Gospels of Matthew and Luke the figurative idea of being God’s son is transformed so as to refer literally to one’s being physically God’s son from conception in the Hellenistic sense. However, even in the New Testament itself, this meaning of divine sonship from conception is contradicted. As seen above, for Mark divine sonship was bestowed upon Jesus at his baptism. For Paul, whose writings antedate those of the Gospels, Jesus is God’s son not from birth or baptism, but from his alleged resurrection at which time he supposedly entered this special relationship. Paul declared Jesus to be “the son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4, see also Acts 13:33 where Psalms 2:7 is applied to the resurrection). With time, Christian theology made the significant reverse transformation from “son of God” to “God the Son,” the second person of the Trinity. 1 According to Philo’s Logos notion, it was the Logos that mediated the action of God in this material universe: in creation, providence, and salvation. Philo saw this as the force of rationality and physical and moral order. The means through which God brings about the reordering of the disordered and sinful. 2 The use of the masculine in this case includes females as well. © Gerald Sigal Continued