Question: "What does it mean to kiss the son (Psalm 2:12)?"
Answer: Psalm 2 is a psalm of David that presents two “ways” similar to Psalm 1—the way of human rebellion versus the way of submission to God. Psalm 2:12 at the conclusion of the psalm says, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (ESV). The phrase kiss the son is important, both in its original context and in its significant messianic implications.
In its original context, the phrase kiss the son refers to an act of submission or obedience. God’s anointed king of Israel (Psalm 2:2) was David. By the time we get to the end of the psalm, someone greater than David is in view: Psalm 2:10–12 says, “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” The hearers of this psalm were to “kiss his son” or submit to the Lord to keep Him from becoming angry with them. The NLT translates the phrase as “Submit to God’s royal son,” and the NASB says, “Do homage to the Son.”
At least two examples of kissing as a symbol of submission are found elsewhere in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 10:1 Samuel anoints Saul as king: “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?’” In 1 Kings 19:18 God tells Elijah, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” In both verses, kissing shows allegiance or submission.
The messianic implications of Psalm 2:12 are clear. It is not God who is being honored with a kiss but God’s “son.” Jesus is the Son of God to whom those who want to come to the Father must show allegiance. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Also, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Those who wish to know God must come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Those who do not kiss or honor the Son of God stand condemned by God (John 3:18).
In Psalm 2:12, the psalmist primarily has in mind the kiss of submission—a dignitary receiving the humble kiss of an inferior. The “inferiors” who are told to kiss the Son are the kings and rulers of the earth (verse 10). No matter how powerful or important a ruler of this world may be, wisdom dictates that he pay reverence to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.