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Wherefore Do the Nations Rage

Full Text

1 Wherefore do the nations rage
and the people vainly dream
that in triumph they can wage
war against the LORD supreme?
His Anointed they deride,
and the rulers, plotting, say,
"Their dominion be defied,
let us cast their bonds away."

2 But the Lord will scorn them all;
calm, he sits enthroned on high.
Soon his wrath will on them fall;
angered, he will then reply,
"Yet according to my will
I have set my King to reign,
and on Zion's holy hill
my Anointed I maintain."

3 My LORD speaks, "You are my Son;
yes, I have begotten you.
I will give you every one
of the nations as your due.
From your rule, now let them learn:
break them with an iron rod,
dash them like a potter's urn,
crush those enemies of God."

4 Therefore, rulers, kings, come near,
listen to God's holy word.
Come with reverence, come with fear.
Kiss the Son and serve the LORD,
lest his anger quickly flame
and you perish in your way.
All are blest who trust in him;
yes, supremely blest are they.

Source: Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #2

Text Information

First Line: Wherefore do the nations rage
Title: Wherefore Do the Nations Rage
Meter: D
Language: English


A coronation song for God's anointed, proclaiming the new kings triumPh over his enemies.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-3
st. 2 = vv. 4-6
st. 3 = vv. 7-9
st. 4 = vv. 10-12

This messianic psalm about Yahweh's anointed king from David's line applies both to earthly kings and to David's greatest Son, who now reigns on David's throne (Luke 1:32; Acts 13:33). In the ancient world the power of a newly crowned king was usually challenged by subject monarchs and peoples; here, too, those who would resist the reign of God's anointed conspire to throw off the "chains" of God (v. 3) and of his appointed Son (w. 7, 12). The versification is from the 1912 Psalter, with alterations mainly in stanzas 3 and 4. It follows the psalm's thematic structure closely: first comes the almost incredulous "Why?"-What folly funds their dreams!-(st. 1); then we hear God's laughter and rebuke (st. 2); next, the Messiah confidently announces God's imperial proclamation enthroning him (st. 3); and that calls forth a warning to the rebels to submit with joy or taste the wrath of God and his Son (st. 4). The phrase "You are my Son" (st. 3) is quoted several times in the New Testament.

Liturgical Use
Advent, Easter, Ascension, and other celebrations of the enthronement of the LORD's anointed.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



Dick L. Van Halsema (b. Kentwood, MI, 1922) attended Calvin College and Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey; and Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Ordained in 1949, he served pastorates in Christian Reformed congregations in Monsey, New York; M…

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MESSIAH (Herold)


The tune is from the second chorus of Felix Mendelssohn's (PHH 279) Festgesang (Op. 68) for male voices and brass; it was first performed in 1840 at the Gutenberg Festival in Leipzig, a festival celebrating the anniversary of Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. Mendelssohn's tune is similar…

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The Cyber Hymnal #7352
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
  • XML score (XML)
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #2
  • Full Score (PDF, XML)
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)


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Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #2Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreAudio
The Cyber Hymnal #7352TextScoreAudio
Include 6 pre-1979 instances