Psalm 48:1
A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
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(1) To be praised.—See Psalm 18:3, Note.



Psalm 48:1 - Psalm 48:14

The enthusiastic triumph which throbs in this psalm, and the specific details of a great act of deliverance from a great peril which it contains, sufficiently indicate that it must have had some historical event as its basis. Can we identify the fact which is here embalmed?

The psalm gives these points-a formidable muster before Jerusalem of hostile people under confederate kings, with the purpose of laying siege to the city; some mysterious check which arrests them before a sword is drawn, as if some panic fear had shot from its towers and shaken their hearts; and a flight in wild confusion from the impregnable dwelling-place of the Lord of hosts. The occasion of the terror is vaguely hinted at, as if some solemn mystery brooded over it. All that is clear about it is that it was purely the work of the divine hand-’Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind’; and that in this deliverance, in their own time, the Levite minstrels recognised the working of the same protecting grace which, from of old, had ‘commanded deliverances for Jacob.’

Now there is one event, and only one, in Jewish history, which corresponds, point for point, to these details-the crushing destruction of the Assyrian army under Sennacherib. There, there was the same mustering of various nations, compelled by the conqueror to march in his train, and headed by their tributary kings. There, there was the same arrest before an arrow had been shot, or a mound raised against the city. There, there was the same purely divine agency coming in to destroy the invading army.

I think, then, that from the correspondence of the history with the requirements of the psalm, as well as from several similarities of expression and allusion between the latter and the prophecies of Isaiah, who has recorded that destruction of the invader, we may, with considerable probability, regard this psalm as the hymn of triumph over the baffled Assyrian, and the marvellous deliverance of Israel by the arm of God.

Whatever may be thought, however, of that allocation of it to a place in the history, the great truths that it contains depend upon no such identification. They are truths for all time; gladness and consolation for all generations. Let us read it over together now, if, perchance, some echo of the confidence and praise that is found in it may be called forth from our hearts! If you will look at your Bibles you will find that it falls into three portions. There is the glory of Zion, the deliverance of Zion, and the consequent grateful praise and glad trust of Zion.

I. There is the glory of Zion.

Hearken with what triumph the Psalmist breaks out: ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. Beautiful for situation {or rather elevation}, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.’ Now these words are something more than mere patriotic feeling. The Jew’s glory in Jerusalem was a different thing altogether from the Roman’s pride in Rome. To the devout men amongst them, of whom the writer of this psalm was one, there was one thing, and one only, that made Zion glorious. It was beautiful indeed in its elevation, lifted high upon its rocky mountain. It was safe indeed, isolated from the invader by the precipitous ravines which enclosed and guarded the angle of the mountain plateau on which it stood; but the one thing that gave it glory was that in it God abode. The name even of that earthly Zion was ‘Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is there.’ And the emphasis of these words is entirely pointed in that direction. What they celebrate concerning Him is not merely the general thought that the Lord is great, but that the Lord is great in Zion. What they celebrate concerning it is that it is His city, the mountain of His holiness, where He dwells, where He manifests Himself. Because there is His self-manifestation, therefore He is there greatly to be praised. And because the clear voice of His praise rings out from Zion, therefore is she ‘the joy of the whole earth.’ The glory of Zion, then, is that it is the dwelling-place of God.

Now, remember, that when the Old Testament Scripture speaks about God abiding in Jerusalem, it means no heathenish or material localising of the Deity, nor does it imply any depriving of the rest of the earth of the sanctity of His presence. The very psalm which most distinctly embodies the thought of God’s abode protests against that narrowness, for it begins, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein.’ The very ark which was the symbol of His presence, protests by its name against all such localising, for the name of it was ‘the ark of the covenant of the God of the whole earth.’ When the Bible speaks of Zion as the dwelling-place of God, it is but the expression of the fact that there, between the cherubim, was the visible sign of His presence-that there, in the Temple, as from the centre of the whole land, He ruled, and ‘out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shone.’

We are, then, not ‘spiritualising,’ or forcing a New Testament meaning into these words, when we see in them an Eternal Truth. We are but following in the steps of history and prophecy, and of Christ and His Apostles, and of that last vision of the Apocalypse. We are but distinguishing between an idea and the fact which more or less perfectly embodies it. An idea may have many garments, may transmigrate into many different material forms. The idea of the dwelling of God with men had its less perfect embodiment, has its more perfect embodiment, will have its absolutely perfect embodiment. It had its less perfect in that ancient time. It has its real but partial embodiment in this present time, when, in the midst of the whole community of believing and loving souls, which stretches wider than any society that calls itself a Church, the living God abides and energises by His Spirit and by His Son in the souls of them that believe upon Him. ‘Ye are come unto Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God.’ And we wait for the time when, filling all the air with its light, there shall come down from God a perfect and permanent form of that dwelling; and that great city, the New Jerusalem, ‘having the glory of God,’ shall appear, and He will dwell with men and be their God.

But in all these stages of the embodiment of that great truth the glory of Zion rests in this, that in it God abides, that from it He flames in the greatness of His manifestations, which are ‘His praise in all the earth.’ It is that presence which makes her fair, as it is that presence which keeps her safe. It is that light shining within her palaces-not their own opaque darkness, which streams out far into the waste night with ruddy glow of hospitable invitation. It is God in her, not anything of her own, that constitutes her ‘the joy of the whole earth.’ ‘Thy beauty was perfect, through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord.’ Zion is where hearts love and trust and follow Christ. The ‘city of the great King’ is a permanent reality in a partial form upon earth-and that partial form is itself a prophecy of the perfection of the heavens.

II. Still further, there is a second portion of this psalm which, passing beyond these introductory thoughts of the glory of Zion, recounts with wonderful power and vigour the process of the deliverance of Zion.

It extends from the fourth to the eighth verses. Mark the dramatic vigour of the description of the deliverance. There is, first, the mustering of the armies-’The kings were assembled.’ Some light is thrown upon that phrase by the proud boast which the prophet Isaiah puts into the lips of the Assyrian invader, ‘Are not my princes altogether kings?’ The subject-monarchs of the subdued nationalities that were gathered round the tyrant’s standard were used, with the wicked craft of conquerors in all ages, to bring still other lands under the same iron dominion. ‘The kings were assembled’-we see them gathering their far-reaching and motley army, mustered from all corners of that gigantic empire. They advance together against the rocky fortress that towers above its girdling valleys. ‘They saw it, they marvelled’-in wonder, perhaps, at its beauty, as they first catch sight of its glittering whiteness from some hill crest on their march; or, perhaps, stricken by some strange amazement, as if, basilisk-like, its beauty were deadly, and a beam from the Shechinah had shot a nameless awe into their souls-’they were troubled, they hasted away.’

I need not dilate on the power of this description, nor do more than notice how the abruptness of the language, huddled together, as it were, without connecting particles, conveys the impression of hurry and confusion, culminating in the rush of fugitives fleeing under the influence of panic-terror. They are like the well-known words, ‘I came, I saw, I conquered,’ only that here we have to do with swift defeat-they came, they saw, they were conquered. They are, in regard to vivid picturesqueness, arising from the broken construction, singularly like other words which refer to the same event in the forty-sixth psalm, ‘The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.’ In their scornful emphasis of triumph they remind us of Isaiah’s description of the end of the same invasion-’So Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.’

Mark, still further, the eloquent silence as to the cause of the panic and the flight. There is no appearance of armed resistance. This is no ‘battle of the warrior with garments rolled in blood,’ and the shock of contending hosts. But an unseen Hand smites once-’and when the morning dawned they were all dead corpses.’ The impression of terror produced by such a blow is increased by the veiled allusion to it here. The silence magnifies the deliverance. If we might apply the grand words of Milton to that night of fear-

‘The trumpet spake not to the armed throng,

But kings sat still, with awful eye,

As if they surely knew their sovereign Lord was by.’

The process of the deliverance is not told here, as there was no need it should be in a hymn which is not history, but the lyrical echo of what is told in history; one image explains it all-’Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.’ The metaphor-one that does not need expansion here-is that of a ship like a great unwieldy galleon, caught in a tempest. However strong for fight, it is not fit for sailing. It is like some of those turret ships of ours, if they venture out from the coast and get into a storm, their very strength is their destruction, their armour wherein they trusted ensures that they shall sink. And so, this huge assailant of Israel, this great ‘galley with oars,’ washing about there in the trough of the sea, as it were-God broke it in two with the tempest, which is His breath. You remember how on the medal that commemorated the destruction of the Spanish Armada-our English deliverance-there were written the words of Scripture: ‘God blew upon them and they were scattered.’ What was there true, literally, is here true in figure. The Psalmist is not thinking of any actual scattering of hostile fleets-from which Jerusalem was never in danger; but is using the shipwreck of ‘the ship of Tarshish’ as a picture of the utter, swift, God-inflicted destruction which ground that invading army to pieces, as the savage rocks and wild seas will do the strongest craft that is mangled between them.

And then, mark how from this dramatic description there rises a loftier thought still. The deliverance thus described links the present with the past. ‘As we have heard so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God.’ Yes, brethren! God’s merciful manifestation for ourselves, as for those Israelitish people of old, has this blessed effect, that it changes hearsay and tradition into living experience;-this blessed effect, that it teaches us, or ought to teach us, the inexhaustibleness of the divine power, the constant repetition in every age of the same works of love. Taught by it, we learn that all these old narratives of His grace and help are ever new, not past and gone, but ready to be reproduced in their essential characteristics in our lives too. ‘We have heard with our ears, O Lord, our fathers have told us what work Thou didst in their days.’ But is the record only a melancholy contrast with our own experience? Nay, truly. ‘As we have heard so have we seen.’ We are ever tempted to think of the present as commonplace. The sky right above our heads is always farthest from earth. It is at the horizon behind and the horizon in front, where earth and heaven seem to blend. We think of miracles in the past, we think of a manifest presence of God in the future, but the present ever seems to our sense-bound understandings as beggared and empty of Him, devoid of His light. But this verse suggests to us how, if we mark the daily dealings of that loving Hand with us, we have every occasion to say, Thy loving-kindness of old lives still. Still, as of old, the hosts of the Lord encamp round about them that fear Him to deliver them. Still, as of old, the voice of guidance comes from between the cherubim. Still, as of old, the pillar of cloud and fire moves before us. Still, as of old, angels walk with men. Still, as of old, His hand is stretched forth, to bless, to feed, to guard. Nothing in the past of God’s dealings with men has passed away. The eternal present embraces what we call the past, present, and future. They that went before do not prevent us on whom the ends of the ages are come. The table that was spread for them is as fully furnished for the latest guests. The light, which was so magical and lustrous in the morning beauty, for us has not faded away into the light of common day. The river which flowed in these past ages has not been drunk up by the thirsty sands. The fire that once blazed so clear has not died down into grey ashes. ‘The God of Jacob is our refuge.’ ‘As we have heard so have we seen.’

And then, still further, the deliverance here is suggested as not only linking most blessedly the present with the past, but also linking it for our confidence with all the future. ‘God will establish it for ever.’

‘Old experience doth attain

To something of prophetic strain.’

In the strength of what that moment had taught of God and His power, the singer looks onward, and whatever may be the future he knows that the divine arm will be outstretched. God will establish Zion; or, as the word might be translated, God will hold it erect, as if with a strong hand grasping some pole or banner-staff that else would totter and fall-He will keep it up, standing there firm and steadfast.

It would lead us too far to discuss the bearing of such a prophecy upon the future history and restoration of Israel, but the bearing of it upon the security and perpetuity of the Church is unquestionable. The city is immortal because God dwells in it. For the individual and for the community, for the great society and for each of the single souls that make it up, the history of the past may seal the pledge which He gives for the future. If it had been possible to destroy the Church of the living God, it had been gone long, long ago. Its own weakness and sin, the ever-new corruptions of its belief and paring of its creed, the imperfections of its life and the worldliness of its heart, the abounding evils that lie around it and the actual hostility of many that look upon it and say, Raze it, even to the ground, would have smitten it to the dust long since. It lives, it has lived in spite of all, and therefore it shall live. ‘God will establish it for ever.’

In almost every land there is some fortress or other, which the pride of the inhabitants calls ‘the maiden fortress,’ and whereof the legend is, that it has never been taken, and is inexpugnable by any foe. It is true about the tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion. The grand words of Isaiah about this very Assyrian invader are our answer to all fears within and foes without: ‘Say unto him, the virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. . . . I will defend this city to save it for My own sake, and for My servant David’s sake.’ ‘God will establish it for ever,’ and the pledges of that eternal stability are the deliverances of the past and of the present.

III. Then, finally, there is still another section of this psalm to be looked at for a moment, which deals with the consequent grateful praise and glad trust of Zion.

I must condense what few things I have to say about these closing verses. The deliverance, first of all, deepens the glad meditation on God’s favour and defence. ‘We have thought,’ say the ransomed people, as with a sigh of rejoicing, ‘we have thought of Thy loving-kindness in the midst of Thy temple.’ The scene of the manifestation of His power is the scene of their thankfulness, and the first issue of His mercy is His servants’ praise.

Then, the deliverance spreads His fame throughout the world. ‘According to Thy name, O God! so is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth. Thy right hand is full of righteousness.’ The name of God is God’s own making known of His character, and the thought of these words is double. They most beautifully express the profoundest trust in that blessed name that it only needs to be known in order to be loved. There is nothing wanted but His manifestation of Himself for His praise and glory to spread. Why is the Psalmist so sure that according to the revelation of His character will be the revenue of His praise? Because the Psalmist is so sure that that character is purely, perfectly, simply good-nothing else but good and blessing-and that He cannot act but in such a way as to magnify Himself. That great sea will cast up nothing on the shores of the world but pearls and precious things. He is all ‘light, and in Him is no darkness at all.’ There needs but the shining forth in order that the light of His character shall bring gladness and joy, and the song of birds, and opening flowers wheresoever it falls.

Still further, there is the other truth in the words, that we misapprehend the purpose of our own deliverances, and the purpose of God’s mercy to Zion, if we confine these to any personal objects or lose sight of the loftier end of them all-that men may learn to know and love Him. Brethren! we neither rightly thank Him for His gifts to us nor rightly apprehend the meaning of His dealings, unless the sweetest thought to us, even in the midst of our own personal joy for deliverance, is not ‘we are saved,’ but ‘God is exalted.’

And then, beyond that, the deliverance produces in Zion, the mother city and her daughter villages, a triumph of rapture and gladness. ‘Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad because of Thy judgments.’ Yes, even though an hundred and four score and five thousand dead men lay there, they were to be glad. Solemn and awful as is the baring of His righteous sword, it is an occasion for praise. It is right to be glad when men and systems that hinder and fight against God are swept away as with the besom of destruction. ‘When the wicked perish there is shouting,’ and the fitting epitaph for the oppressors to whom the surges of the Red Sea are shroud and gravestone is, ‘Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously.’

The last verses set forth, more fully than even the preceding ones, the height and perfectness of the confidence which the manifold mercies of God ought to produce in men’s hearts. The citizens who have been cooped up during the invasion, and who, in the temple, as we have seen, have been rendering the tribute of their meditation and thankful gratitude to God for His loving-kindness, are now called upon to come forth from the enclosure of the besieged city, and free from all fear of the invading army, to ‘walk about Zion, and go round about her and tell the towers,’ and ‘mark her bulwarks and palaces.’

They look first at the defences, on which no trace of assault appears, and then at the palaces guarded by them, that stand shining and unharmed. The deliverance has been so complete that there is not a sign of the peril or the danger left. It is not like a city besieged, and the siege raised when the thing over which contending hosts have been quarrelling has become a ruin, but not one stone has been smitten from the walls, nor one agate chipped in the windows of the palaces. It is unharmed as well as uncaptured.

Thus, we may say, no matter what tempests assail us, the wind will but sweep the rotten branches out of the tree. Though war should arise, nothing will be touched that belongs to Thee. We have a city which cannot be moved; and the removal of the things which can be shaken but makes more manifest its impregnable security, its inexpugnable peace. As in war they will clear away the houses and the flower gardens that have been allowed to come and cluster about the walls and fill up the moat, yet the walls will stand; so in all the conflicts that befall God’s church and God’s truth, the calming thought ought to be ours that if anything perishes it is a sign that it is not His, but man’s excrescence on His building. Whatever is His will stand for ever.

And then, with wonderful tenderness and beauty, the psalm in its last words drops, as one might say, in one aspect, and in another, rises from its contemplations of the immortal city and the community to the thought of the individuals that make it up: ‘For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even unto death.’ Prosaic commentators have often said that these last two words are an interpolation, that they do not fit into the strain of the psalm, and have troubled themselves to find out what meaning to attach to them, because it seemed to them so unlikely that, in a hymn that had only to do with the community, we should find this expression of individual confidence in anticipation of that most purely personal of all evils. That seems to me the very reason for holding fast by the words as being a genuine part of the psalm, because they express a truth, without which the confident hope of the psalm, grand as it is, is but poor consolation for each heart. It is not enough for passing, perishing men to say, ‘Never mind your own individual fate: the society, the community, will stand fast and firm.’

I want something more than to know that God will establish Zion for ever. What about me, my own individual self? And these last words answer that question. Not merely the city abides, but ‘He will be our guide even unto death.’ And surely, if so-if His loving hand will lead the citizens of His eternal kingdom even to the edge of that great darkness-He will not lose them even in its gloom. Surely there is here the veiled hope that if the city be eternal and the gates of the grave cannot prevail against it, the community cannot be eternal unless the individuals be immortal.

Such a hope is vindicated by the blessed words of a newer revelation: ‘God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a city.’

Dear brethren! remember the last words, or all but the last words of Scripture which, in their true text and reading, tell us how, instead of aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, we may become fellow-citizens with the saints. ‘Blessed are they that wash their robes that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gate into the city!’

Psalm 48:1. Great is the Lord, &c. — Great is the majesty and the power of Jehovah; who is therefore to be celebrated with the highest praises; in the city of our God — Especially in his own city Jerusalem, and by the inhabitants of it; in the mountain of his holiness — In that mountain which he hath long ago set apart for the place of his worship, and hath now so marvellously defended.

48:1-7 Jerusalem is the city of our God: none on earth render him due honour except the citizens of the spiritual Jerusalem. Happy the kingdom, the city, the family, the heart, in which God is great, in which he is all. There God is known. The clearer discoveries are made to us of the Lord and his greatness, the more it is expected that we should abound in his praises. The earth is, by sin, covered with deformity, therefore justly might that spot of ground, which was beautified with holiness, be called the joy of the whole earth; that which the whole earth has reason to rejoice in, that God would thus in very deed dwell with man upon the earth. The kings of the earth were afraid of it. Nothing in nature can more fitly represent the overthrow of heathenism by the Spirit of the gospel, than the wreck of a fleet in a storm. Both are by the mighty power of the Lord.Great is the Lord - That is, he is high and exalted; he is a Being of great power and glory. He is not weak and feeble, like the idols worshipped by other nations. He is able to defend his people; he has shown his great power in overthrowing the mighty forces that were gathered together against the city where he dwells.

And greatly to be praised - Worthy to be praised. In his own nature, he is worthy of adoration; in interposing to save the city from its foes, he has shown that he is worthy of exalted praise.

In the city of our God - Jerusalem. In the city which he has chosen for his abode, and where his worship is celebrated. See the notes at Psalm 46:4. This praise was especially appropriate there:

(a) because it was a place set apart for his worship;

(b) because he had now interposed to save it from threatened ruin.

In the mountain of his holiness - His holy mountain; either Mount Zion, if the psalm was composed before the building of the temple - or more probably here Mount Moriah, on which the temple was reared. The names Zion, and Mount Zion, however, were sometimes given to the entire city. Compare the notes at Isaiah 2:2-3.


Ps 48:1-14. This is a spirited Psalm and song (compare Ps 30:1), having probably been suggested by the same occasion as the foregoing. It sets forth the privileges and blessings of God's spiritual dominion as the terror of the wicked and joy of the righteous.

1. to be praised—always: it is an epithet, as in Ps 18:3.

mountain of his holiness—His Church (compare Isa 2:2, 3; 25:6, 7, 10); the sanctuary was erected first on Mount Zion, then (as the temple) on Moriah; hence the figure.

1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.

2 Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

3 God is known in her palaces for a refuge.

Psalm 48:1

"Great is the Lord." How great Jehovah is essentially none can conceive; but we can all see that he is great in the deliverance of his people, great in their esteem who are delivered, and great in the hearts of those enemies whom he scatters by their own fears. Instead of the mad cry of Ephesus, "Great is Diana." we hear the reasonable, demonstrable, self-evident testimony, "Great is Jehovah." There is none great in the church but the Lord. Jesus is "the great Shepherd," he is "a Saviour, and a great one," our great God and Saviour, our great High Priest; his Father has divided him a portion with the great, and his name shall be great unto the ends of the earth. "And greatly to be praised." According to his nature should his worship be; it cannot be too constant, too laudatory, too earnest, too reverential, too sublime. There is none like the Lord, and there should be no praises like his praises. "In the city of our God." He is great there, and should be greatly praised there. If all the world beside renounced Jehovah's worship, the chosen people in his favoured city should continue to adore him, for in their midst and on their behalf his glorious power has been so manifestly revealed. In the church the Lord is to be extolled though all the nations rage against him. Jerusalem was the peculiar abode of the God of Israel, the seat of the theocratic government, and the centre of prescribed worship, and even thus is the church the place of divine manifestation. "In the mountain of his holiness." Where his holy temple, his holy priests, and his holy sacrifices might continually be seen. Zion was a mount, and as it was the most renowned part of the city, it is mentioned as a synonym for the city itself. The church of God is a mount for elevation and for conspicuousness, and it should be adorned with holiness, her sons being partakers of the holiness of God. Only by holy men can the Lord be fittingly praised, and they should be incessantly occupied with his worship.

Psalm 48:2

"Beautiful for situation." Jerusalem was so naturally, she was styled the Queen of the East; the church is so spiritually, being placed near God's heart, within the mountains of his power, upon the hills of his faithfulness, in the centre of providential operations. The elevation of the church is her beauty. The more she is above the world the fairer she is. "The joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion." Jerusalem was the world's star; whatever light lingered on earth was borrowed from the oracles preserved by Israel. An ardent Israelite would esteem the holy city as the eye of the nations, the most precious pearl of all lands. Certainly the church of God, though despised of men, is the true joy and hope of the world. "On the sides of the north, the city of the great King." Either meaning that Jerusalem was in the northern extremity of Judah, or it may denote that part of the city which lay to the north of Mount Zion. It was the glory of Jerusalem to be God's city, the place of his regal dwelling, and it is the joy of the church that God is in her midst. The great God is the great King of the church, and for her sake he rules all the nations. The people among whom the Lord deigns to dwell are privileged above all others; the lines have fallen unto them ill pleasant places, and they have a goodly heritage. We who dwell in Great Britain in the sides of the north, have this for our chief glory, that the Lord is known in our land, and the abode of his love is among us.

Psalm 48:3

"God is known in her palaces for a refuge." We worship no unknown god. We know him as our refuge in distress, we delight in him as such, and run to him in every time of need. We know nothing else as our refuge. Though we are made kings, and our houses are palaces, yet we have no confidence in ourselves, but trust in the Lord Protector, whose well-known power is our bulwark. THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm was composed upon the occasion of some eminent deliverance vouchsafed by God to the city of Jerusalem from some potent enemy and dreadful danger; either that in Jehoshaphat’s time, 2 Chronicles 20, or that under Hezekiah, 2Ki 18, 19; in both which times there were holy prophets, by some of whom this Psalm might be made.

A Song and Psalm; of which see See Poole "Psalm 30:1", which hath the same title.

The prophet describeth the glory and excellency of the church, Psalm 48:1-3, preserved from her potent enemies, Psalm 48:4-8 for which God is glorified, Psalm 48:9,10, and the faithful invited to take notice of its beauty and firmness, to transmit it to following generations, Psalm 48:11-14.

In the city of our God; in Jerusalem, which he hath chosen for his dwelling-place.

In the mountain of his holiness, i.e. in his holy mountain; either Zion, where the ark and tabernacle was; or rather Moriah, where the temple now was. Although both of them are supposed by some to be but one mountain, having two tops; and it is certain that both are frequently called by one name, to wit, Zion.

Great is the Lord,.... The same that in the foregoing psalm is said to be gone, up to heaven with a shout, to sit on the throne of his holiness, to reign over the Heathen, and to be King over all the earth; who is great, and the Son of the Highest; the great God and our Saviour; great in his person as God-man, God manifest in the flesh, his Father's fellow and equal; and in the perfections of his nature, being of great power, and of great wisdom, and of great faithfulness, and of strict holiness and justice, and of wonderful grace and goodness; great in his works of creation and providence; in his miraculous operations when on earth, and in the work of man's redemption and salvation; great is he in all his offices, a great Prophet risen in Israel, a great High Priest over thee house of God, a Saviour, and a great one, and the great Shepherd of the sheep;

and greatly to be praised in the city of our God; the city of Jerusalem, the city of solemnities, where was the worship of God, and where the tribes went up to worship, and God was present with his people; and where the great Lord of all showed himself to be great; here Christ the great Saviour appeared, even in the temple, when a child, where Simeon and Anna saw him, and spoke great things of him; where he at twelve years of age disputed with the doctors, and showed his great wisdom; here when grown up he wrought many of his great miracles, and taught his doctrines; here he entered in great triumph, attended with the shouts, acclamations, and hosannas of the people; here he ate his last passover with his disciples; and in a garden near it was he taken and brought before the sanhedrim, assembled at the high priest's palace at Jerusalem; and then tried and condemned at the bar of Pilate; when being led a little way out of the city he was crucified on Mount Calvary; and on another mount, the mount of Olives, about a mile from it, he ascended to heaven; and here in this city he poured forth the Spirit in an extraordinary manner on his disciples at the day of Pentecost, as an evidence of his ascension; and from hence his Gospel went forth into all the world; and therefore was greatly to be praised here, as he was by his disciples, church, and people, Acts 2:46. Jerusalem is a figure of the Gospel church, which is often compared to a city, Isaiah 26:1; of which saints are citizens and fellow citizens of each other; this is a city built on Christ the foundation; is full of inhabitants, when together and considered by themselves; is governed by wholesome laws, enacted by Christ its King, who has appointed officers under him to explain and enforce them, and see that they are put in execution; and has many privileges and immunities belonging to it; and this is the city of God, of his building and of his defending, and where he dwells; it is, as in Psalm 48:2; "the city of the great King", the King Messiah, and where he displays his greatness; here he appears great and glorious, shows his power and his glory; is seen in the galleries and through the lattices of ordinances, in his beauty and splendour; here he grants his gracious presence, and bestows his favours and blessings; and is therefore greatly to be praised here, as he is by all his people on the above accounts, Even

in the mountain of his holiness; as Mount Zion is called on account of the temple built upon it, and the worship of God in it; and a fit emblem it was of the church of Christ, which, as that is, is chosen and, loved of God, and is his habitation, is impregnable and immovable, and consists of persons sanctified by God the Father, in the Son, and through the Spirit.

<<{a} A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah.>> Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the {b} city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.

(a) Some put this difference between a song and psalm, saying that it is called a song when there is no instrument but the voice, and the song of the psalm is when the instruments begin and the voice follows.

(b) Even though God shows his wonders through all the world, yet he will be chiefly praised in his Church.

1. greatly to be praised] The R.V. returns to Coverdale’s rendering (P.B.V.), highly to be praised. The same emphatic adverb occurs in each of the two preceding Pss. God has proved Himself to be an exceedingly present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1); by His triumph over the nations He is exceedingly exalted (Psalm 47:9); and therefore He is exceedingly worthy to be praised. Jehovah is the one object of Israel’s praise (Deuteronomy 10:21): Israel’s praises are as it were the throne upon which He sits (Psalm 22:3): the keynote of worship is Hallelujah, ‘praise ye Jah’; and the Hebrew title of the Psalter is Tehillim, i.e. Praises, Psalm 48:1 a recurs in Psalm 96:4 a, Psalm 145:3 a.

in the city of our God] Cp. Psalm 48:8; Psalm 46:4, note.

in the mountain of his holiness] R.V., in his holy mountain; i.e. Zion, which here and throughout the Psalm (Psalm 48:2; Psalm 48:11-12) denotes the whole city, not merely one of the hills on which it was built. Cp. Psalm 2:6, note. For another possible translation see note on Psalm 48:2.

1, 2. The theme of the Psalm: the greatness of Jehovah and the glory of His city.

Verse 1. - Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; rather, great is the Lord, and greatly is he praised. The psalmist speaks of what is, not of what ought to be. Jehoshaphat had solemnly praised God for the deliverance from the Moabites and Ammonites, both in the valley of Berachah, when he came upon the bodies of the slain (2 Chronicles 20:26), and in the temple after his return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 20:28). In the city of our God (comp. Psalm 46:4; Psalm 101:8). In the mountain of his holiness. The "holy hill of Zion" (Psalm 2:6), on which the temple and a great part of the city stood. Psalm 48:1(Heb.: 48:2-9) Viewed as to the nature of its subject-matter, the Psalm divides itself into three parts. We begin by considering the three strophes of the first part. The middle strophe presents an instance of the rising and falling caesural schema. Because Jahve has most marvellously delivered Jerusalem, the poet begins with the praise of the great King and of His Holy City. Great and praised according to His due (מהלּל as in Psalm 18:4) is He in her, is He upon His holy mountain, which there is His habitation. Next follow, in Psalm 48:3, two predicates of a threefold, or fundamentally only twofold, subject; for ירכּתי צפון, in whatever way it may be understood, is in apposition to הר־ציּון. The predicates consequently refer to Zion-Jerusalem; for קרית מלך רב is not a name for Zion, but, inasmuch as the transition is from the holy mountain to the Holy City (just as the reverse is the case in Psalm 48:2), Jerusalem; ὅτι πόλις ἐστὶ τοῦ μεγάλου βασιλέως, Matthew 5:35. Of Zion-Jerusalem it is therefore said, it is יפה נוף, beautiful in prominence or elevation (נוף from נוּף, Arabic nâfa, nauf, root נף, the stronger force of נב, Arab. nb, to raise one's self, to mount, to come sensibly forward; just as יפה also goes back to a root יף, Arab. yf, wf, which signifies "to rise, to be high," and is transferred in the Hebrew to eminence, perfection, beauty of form), a beautifully rising terrace-like height;

(Note: Luther with Jerome (departing from the lxx and Vulgate) renders it: "Mount Zion is like a beautiful branch," after the Mishna-Talmudic נוף, a branch, Maccoth 12a, which is compared also by Saadia and Dunash. The latter renders it "beautiful in branches," and refers it to the Mount of Olives.)

and, in the second place, it is the joy (משׂושׂ) of the whole earth. It is deserving of being such, as the people who dwell there are themselves convinced (Lamentations 2:15); and it is appointed to become such, it is indeed such even now in hope, - hope which is, as it were, being anticipatorily verified. but in what sense does the appositional ירכּתי צפון follow immediately upon הר־ציּון? Hitzig, Ewald, Hengstenberg, Caspari (Micha, p. 359), and others, are of opinion that the hill of Zion is called the extreme north with reference to the old Asiatic conception of the mountain of the gods - old Persic Ar-bur'g (Al-bur'g), and also called absolutely hara or haraiti,

(Note: Vid., Spiegel, Erân, S. 287f.)

old Indian Kailâsa and Mêru

(Note: Vide Lassen, Indische Alterthumskunde, ii.847.)

- forming the connecting link between heaven and earth, which lay in the inaccessible, holy distance and concealment of the extreme north. But the poet in no way betrays the idea that he applies this designation to Zion in an ideal sense only, as being not inferior to the extreme north (Bertheau, Lage des Paradieses, S. 50, and so also S. D. Luzzatto on Isaiah 14:13), or as having taken the place of it (Hitzig). That notion is found, it is true, in Isaiah 14:13, in the mouth of the king of the Chaldeans; but, with the exception of the passage before us, we have no trace of the Israelitish mind having blended this foreign mythological style of speech with its own. We therefore take the expression "sides of the north" to be a topographical designation, and intended literally. Mount Zion is thereby more definitely designated as the Temple-hill; for the Temple-hill, or Zion in the narrower sense, formed in reality the north-eastern angle or corner of ancient Jerusalem. It is not necessarily the extreme north (Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 39:2), which is called ירכתי צפון; for ירכּתים are the two sides, then the angle in which the two side lines meet, and just such a northern angle was Mount Moriah by its position in relation to the city of David and the lower city.

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