“Why do the nations conspire and
the peoples plot in vain?”
The introduction to the Psalter does not conclude with Psalm 1. It carries over to the second Psalm, as is immediately evident by the absence of a superscription at the beginning of Psalm 2 to mark it off from Psalm 1, as well as by the presence of a concluding “Blessed …” clause at the end of Psalm 2, which echoes the “Blessed …” clause at the beginning of Psalm 1 and forms a poetic bracket or envelope around both psalms in a way that shows them to be a two part introduction to all that follows.
But now the ground has shifted and we do not hear about the individual who follows God's righteous way. Rather we hear the tumult of nations in league, as powerfully articulated in Leonard Bernstein's musical expression of this Psalm in his “Chichester Psalms” (see the exposition of Psalm 23). The world of kings and empires is in view, not the modes of personal and moral conduct, the individual piety of which Psalm 1 speaks. The shift, however, may not be as radical as appears at first glance but may be more one of emphasis. For here also, as we noted above, there is a concern for identifying the kind of existence or conduct that evokes a judgment of approbation and envy by those who perceive it, a judgment that such a one and such a way are “blessed” (Ps. 2:12). Furthermore, there is a similar conclusion that warns of a way that does not endure; and God's knowing the way that is directed by the law or instruction of the Lord (Psalm 1) is balanced in Psalm 2 by God's wrath kindled against those who set themselves against the Lord's rule and purpose.
So there is a resonance between these two psalms that helps us hold them together as an introduction to the Psalter. Still the shift of empha