In the light of the word begotten, why doesn’t Ps. 2: 7 refer to the Lord’s birth?
To answer the question we must carefully consider the text of the psalm itself on the one hand and note how its quotations in the NT are employed on the other.
Psalm 2 is a prophecy of the Kingdom when the Christ will assert His authority and reign as King over the whole earth in the world to come. In this prophetic setting we read “And I have anointed my king upon Zion, the hill of my holiness. I will declare the decree: Jehovah hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; I this day have begotten thee” (vs 6, 7). Now Biblical prophecies generally have a twofold aspect: a partial one that is applicable to the time when written and a complete fulfilment in the future. Appreciation of this principle is vital to a correct interpretation of v7. That Christ will fulfil this psalm in the future is beyond doubt, but what was the immediate application? According to Acts 4: 25, David wrote the psalm. Now v7 is in the first person (I and me). It is not in the abstract third person (he and him) that is used for many prophetic Scriptures such as Isaiah 53. This verse was spoken by David personally: “I will declare the decree: Jehovah hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; I this day have begotten thee” (Ps. 2: 7). Hence in the first instance, the details must apply to him. When did Jehovah speak to David? In eternity before he was born? Of course not! When he was born as a babe? No! When a child? Hardly! The decree and the words were surely spoken to David when he was a man, possibly at his anointing by Samuel (see 1 Sam. 16: 13). This suggests that the fulfilment of the words of v7 in Christ, do not refer to His birth but when He was a man.
The next thing to be considered is the word begotten and whether it always refers to birth. Yes, the Hebrew word is certainly used for birth on both the male side (see begot in Gen. 4: 18) and the female (see bear in Gen. 3: 16). However it is also employed in a figurative sense when it is translated bring forth in such Scriptures as Job 15: 35, Prov. 27: 1 and Zeph. 2: 2. The latter Scripture reads “before the decree bring forth, [before] the day pass away as chaff, before the fierce anger of Jehovah come upon you, before the day of Jehovah’s anger come upon you”. Dr Robert Young in his literal translation also translates the Hebrew word as brought thee forth in Ps. 2: 7. Now the decree of Ps. 2: 7 was given to the Lord at His baptism for it is then that we hear the words from heaven “Thou art my beloved son, in thee I have found my delight” (Mark 1: 11, see also Matt. 3: 17; Luke 3: 22). It was then that the Lord was brought forth into the sphere of public testimony in view of the Kingdom being offered to Israel—hence John the Baptist’s statement “I knew him not; but that he might be manifested to Israel, therefore have I come baptising with water” (John 1: 31).
Psalm 2: 7 is quoted three times in the NT—each time by Paul and always to a Jewish audience. The first is his address in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia where he says “And we declare unto you the glad tidings of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this to us their children, having raised up Jesus; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13: 32–33). While the expression raised up is used of seed (see Gen. 38: 8 etc.), it is more often used of prophets, judges etc. (see Deut. 18: 15; Judges 2: 18; etc.). When Peter addressed the Jewish nation in Acts 3: 22, he applied Deut. 18: 15 to the raising up of the Lord Jesus as a prophet. Paul uses Ps. 2: 7 to the same end in connection with the Lord’s kingship in Acts 13: 33.
The psalm is quoted by Paul in Heb: 1: 5 and 5: 5 but as Heb. 5: 5 refers back to Heb. 1: 5, we need only consider Heb. 1: 5. Now the thrust of Paul’s argument in Heb. 1 is to show the greatness of the Son in comparison to angels, which he does by quoting three Scriptures, the first of which is Ps. 2: 7. His readers would know that angels are sometimes referred to as sons of God (see Job 1: 6; 2: 1; 38: 7). If the word begotten in the psalm referred to the Lord’s birth, what is the point of the comparison with angels who have no birth, no childhood and are always presented as mature? However, while angels are called sons of God, no angel is ever addressed as My Son. They are never more than “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1: 14). Christ alone is the Son.
One final point: the word begotten in Ps. 2: 7 is often wrongly identified with the Lord as the “only begotten Son” (John 1: 14 etc.)—a description peculiar to John’s ministry. The phrase only begotten (monogenhς) is a term of supreme affection as shown by Paul’s application to Isaac over against Ishmael in Heb. 11: 17. For Isaac was not Abraham’s first–born son, let alone his only one.