Psalm 87:1
A Psalm or Song for the sons of Korah. His foundation is in the holy mountains.
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(1) His foundation.—This abrupt commencement with a clause without a verb has led to the conjecture that a line has dropped away. But this is unnecessary if we neglect the accents, and take gates of Zion in apposition with His foundation:

His foundation on the holy hill

Loveth Jehovah, (even) Zion’s gates,

More than all Jacob’s dwellings.

Here His foundation is equivalent to that which He hath founded, and the gates are put by metonymy for the city itself. (Comp. Jeremiah 14:2.)

With regard to the plural, mountains, it is probably only poetical, though geographically it is correct to speak of Jerusalem as situated on hills. Dean Stanley speaks of “the multiplicity of the eminences” which the city “shares, though in a smaller compass, with Rome and Constantinople” (Sinai and Palestine, p. 177).

Psalm 87:1. His foundation — Namely, the foundation of the city, or temple of God, of which he speaks in the following verses. The psalmist’s thoughts, we may suppose, were strongly fixed upon the temple and city of God; he had them full in his view, and was contemplating the glories of them, and at length breaks out into this abrupt expression, which has a reference, though not to what he had written before, yet to what he had deeply thought of; nor was his meaning obscure to any one who knew what had been the subject of his meditation. Thus Dr. Horne: “The psalmist having meditated on the strength, the beauty, and the glory of the holy city, and imagining the thoughts of his hearers or readers to have been employed on the same subject, breaks forth at once in this abrupt manner.” Is in the holy mountains — Hebrew, בהררי קדשׁ, beharree kodesh, the mountains of holiness; by which he means those mountains, or “hills of Judea, which God had chosen and separated to himself from all others, whereon to construct the highly-favoured city and temple, namely, mount Zion, mount Moriah, and other lesser hills. They are called holy mountains, or mountains of holiness, because the city and temple were, in a peculiar sense, consecrated to God, and because God in an especial manner dwelt therein, the ark of his presence being fixed there. The doctrines, and merits, and laws of Christ are those holy mountains on which his church, here typified by the city and temple of Jerusalem, is built; for it is built on Christ our Prophet, Priest, and King, and other foundation than this can no man lay. It is founded in and on holiness; Christ is a holy Prophet, a holy Priest, and a holy King; his doctrine, and merits and laws are all holy. And holiness is the strength and stability of his church; that, and that alone, will support it, and keep it from sinking: not so much,” says Henry, “that it is built upon mountains, as that it is built on holy mountains;” upon the word and promise of the holy God, for the confirming of which he hath sworn by his holiness; upon the mediation of his holy Son, who was manifested to take away our sins, and gave himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it; and upon the sanctifying influence of his holy Spirit and holy laws, all which, taken together, secure both the holiness and happiness of its members.

87:1-3 Christ himself is the Foundation of the church, which God has laid. Holiness is the strength and firmness of the church. Let us not be ashamed of the church of Christ in its meanest condition, nor of those that belong to it, since such glorious things are spoken of it. Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, even Jesus Christ. The glorious things spoken of Zion by the Spirit, were all typical of Christ, and his work and offices; of the gospel church, its privileges and members; of heaven, its glory and perfect happiness.His foundation - This is an abrupt commencement of the psalm. The adjective "his" has been supposed by some to refer to the psalm itself, and this expression has been considered to be a part of the title to the psalm, meaning that the foundation of the psalm is the holy mountain where the praises of God were celebrated; that is Zion. This, however, is a forced and unnatural interpretation. The most obvious explanation is to refer it to God, and the meaning is, that his "foundation," or that which he had founded and established, to wit, the place for his worship, or for the institutions of religion, was in the holy mountains of Jerusalem. It would seem that the psalmist was contemplating the city - looking on its walls, and its palaces, and especially on the place which had been reared for the worship of God, and that he breaks out in this abrupt manner, by saying that this was what God had founded; that here he had established his home; that here was the place where he was worshipped, and where he dwelt; that this was the place which he loved more than all the other places where the descendants of Jacob dwelt.

Is in the holy mountains - The mountains of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is surrounded by hills, and within the city itself there were the hills of Zion, Moriah, Acra, and Bezethah; See the notes at Matthew 2:1. These sacred hills God had selected as the place of his solemn worship - of his own abode. Compare the notes at Psalm 48:1-2.


Ps 87:1-7. This triumphal song was probably occasioned by the same event as the forty-sixth [see on [618]Ps 46:1, title]. The writer celebrates the glory of the Church, as the means of spiritual blessing to the nation.

1. His—that is, God's

foundation—or, what He has founded, that is, Zion (Isa 14:32).

is in the holy mountains—the location of Zion, in the wide sense, for the capital, or Jerusalem, being on several hills.

1 His foundation is in the holy mountains.

2 The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

3 Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.

4 I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.

5 And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her.

6 The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah.

7 As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there: all my springs are in thee.

Psalm 87:1

"His foundation is in the holy mountains." The Psalm begins abruptly, the poet's heart was full, and it gained vent on a sudden.

"God's foundation stands for ever

On the holy mountain towers;

Sion's gates Jehovah favours

More than Jacob's thousand bowers."

Sudden passion is evil, but bursts of holy joy are most precious. God has chosen to found his earthly temple upon the mountains; he might have selected other spots, but it was his pleasure to have his chosen abode upon Zion. His election made the mountains holy, they were by his determination ordained and set apart for the Lord's use.

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm was doubtless composed after the building of the temple; and, as learned men think, and it seems probable, when the people were newly returned out of Babylon, and laboured under many discouragements about the return of most of their brethren, and the difficulties which they met with in the rebuilding of their temple and city.

The prophet speaketh of the nature and glory of the endureth and God’s love to it, Psalm 87:1-3; of the increase, honour, and comfort of the members thereof, Psalm 87:4-7.

His foundation: whose foundation? Either,

1. The foundation, i.e. the argument or matter, of this Psalm or Song. So these words are thought to be a part of the title, the words lying thus in the Hebrew text,

For the sons of Korah, a Psalm or Song whose

foundation is in the Holy mountains. But,

1. The Hebrew word rendered foundation is no where used in that sense.

2. There is no example of any such like title in the Book of the Psalms. Or rather,

2. Of the city or temple of God, of which he speaks in the following verses. And whereas the beginning is somewhat abrupt, which seems to be the only ground of the foregoing exposition, that is no unusual thing in Scripture, and the pronoun relative, such as this is, is often put without any foregoing antecedent, and the antecedent is to be fetched out of the following words or verses, as Numbers 24:17, I shall see him, or it, to wit, the star, which follows afterward; Psalm 105:19, his word, i.e. the Lord’s; Proverbs 7:8, to her house, i.e. the harlot’s, mentioned Proverbs 7:10; and especially Song of Solomon 1:2, let him kiss, to wit, my beloved, who is there understood, but not expressed till Proverbs 7:14. And the ground of that abrupt and imperfect speech there seems to be the same with this here; for as the church was there in deep meditation and a great passion about her beloved, which caused that abruptness of speech, which is usual in such cases, so the psalmist’s thoughts were strongly fixed upon the temple and city of God; and therefore this relative his had a certain antecedent in his thoughts, though not in his words. The word foundations may possibly be emphatical, because this Psalm might probably be composed when the foundations of the second temple were newly laid, and the old men who had seen the glory of the former house were dejected at the sight of this, of which see Ezra 3:11,12. And so the meaning of this passage may be this, Be not discouraged, O ye Jews, that your temple is not yet erected and built, but only the foundations of it laid, and those too are mean and obscure in comparison of the magnificence of your former temple; but take comfort in this, that your temple hath its foundations laid, and those sure and firm; sure in themselves, because they are not laid in the sand, nor in boggy or fenny grounds, but in the mountains; and sure by Divine establishment, because those mountains are holy, consecrated to God, and therefore maintained and established by him. Or he may use this word foundations in opposition to the tabernacle, which was movable, and without foundations, to note the stability and perpetuity of this building.

In the holy mountains; or, among or within the holy mountains, to wit, in Jerusalem, which was encompassed with mountains, Psalm 125:2, and in which were two famous mountains, to wit, Zion and Moriah. Or the plural number is here put for the singular, whereof we have seen examples formerly; and mountains are put for the mountain; either for Mount Moriah, upon which the temple stood; or for Mount Zion, which is mentioned in the next verse; which is often taken in a large and comprehensive sense, so as to include Moriah, in which sense the temple is said to be in Zion, Psalm 74:2 76:2 Isaiah 8:18.

His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Jewish writers connect these words with the title of the psalm, and make the sense to be this; "the foundation" or argument "of it", the psalm, "is concerning the holy mountains" of Zion and Jerusalem; so Aben Ezra, Jarchi, and Kimchi; and the Targum joins them together thus,

"by the hands of the sons of Korah is said a song, which is founded by the mouth of the fathers that were of old:''

but the words are a part of the song or psalm, which begins in an abrupt manner, just as Sol 1:2 and may be rendered either "its foundation", or "his foundation", and refer either to the church, or to the Lord, and the sense is the same either way; for the church's foundation is also the Lord's foundation, a foundation of his laying; see Isaiah 14:32 and is laid "in the holy mountains"; alluding to the mountains of Zion and Moriah, where the temple stood, a type of the church; or to the mountains about Jerusalem, by which also the church is frequently signified; and by those, in a mystical and spiritual sense, may be meant the purposes and decrees of God, which are as mountains of brass, Zechariah 6:1, they are like the ancient mountains for the antiquity of them, and are high, and not to be reached and searched into, and are firm, solid, and immoveable; and are also holy, particularly the decree of election, that source of all true holiness, which has sanctification for its end and means; and is the foundation of the church, which supports and secures it, and stands sure, 2 Timothy 2:19, also the covenant of grace, which is sure and immoveable, and in which are provisions for holiness, internal and external; and is the foundation and security of the church, and all believers; but especially Jesus Christ, the Rock of ages, is meant, the Holy One of Israel, the sure foundation laid in Zion: some interpret these holy mountains of the holy apostles, who were in an high and eminent station in the church, and were doctrinally foundations, as they ministerially laid Christ, as the only foundation; see Ephesians 2:20, it may be rendered, "among the holy mountains" (w); and so may regard, as Cocceius explains it, the several kingdoms and provinces of the world in which the Gospel shall be preached; and the church shall be established and settled in the latter day even upon the tops of mountains, which shall become holy to the Lord, Isaiah 2:2.

(w) "inter montes sanctitatis", Junius & Tremellius; so Ainsworth.

<or Song for the sons of Korah.>> His {a} foundation is in the holy mountains.

(a) God chose that place among the hills to establish Jerusalem and his temple.

1. The Psalmist’s heart is full of his theme. He states it abruptly in a verse of a single line (cp. Psalm 18:1):

’Tis his foundation upon the holy mountains:

which stands by itself as a kind of title to his poem or inscription on his picture. Zion is a city founded by God Himself (Isaiah 14:32). Its site is consecrated (Psalm 2:6; Psalm 43:3; Psalm 48:1, and often) by the ownership and presence of Jehovah.

The plural mountains (cp. Psalm 133:3) may be merely poetical, or it may refer to the different hills upon which Jerusalem stood, or generally to the mountainous region in which it was situated. “Jerusalem was on the ridge, the broadest and most strongly marked ridge of the backbone of the complicated hills, which extend through the whole country from the Desert to the plain of Esdraelon.” Like Rome and Constantinople, it stood upon a “multiplicity of eminences,” and “the peculiarity imparted to its general aspect and to its history by these various heights is incontestable.” Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, pp. 176, 177. Comp. note on Psalm 48:2.

The brevity and abruptness of the verse have led some commentators to conjecture that the first line has been lost, and others to combine Psalm 87:1-2 in construction (cp. R.V. marg.) thus:

His foundation upon the holy mountains doth Jehovah love,

Yea, the gates of Zion &c.

The conjecture is unnecessary, and though the combination of Psalm 87:1-2 would give a good parallelism, the Ancient Versions support the division of the Massoretic Text, and the abrupt beginning is in accordance with the terse oracular style of the Psalm.

P.B.V. ‘her foundation’ is untenable. The gender of the pronoun in the Heb. shews that it cannot refer to the city.

1–3. The glory of Zion the city of God.

Verses 1-3. - The praises of Zion.

(1) She is built upon the holy mountains;

(2) God loves her pre-eminently; and

(3) a glorious future is assigned to her in the counsels of God. Ver. 1. - His foundation is in the holy mountains. God's foundation - the city which he has founded - is "in the holy mountains;" i.e. in the hill country of Judaea, a congeries of mountains, "holy," since they surround the holy city and belong to the "holy land" (Zechariah 2:12). Psalm 87:1The poet is absorbed in the contemplation of the glory of a matter which he begins to celebrate, without naming it. Whether we render it: His founded, or (since מיסּד and מוּסּד are both used elsewhere as part. pass.): His foundation (after the form מלוּכה, poetically for יסוד, a founding, then that which is set fast equals a foundation), the meaning remains the same; but the more definite statement of the object with שׁערי ציּון is more easily connected with what precedes by regarding it as a participle. The suffix refers to Jahve, and it is Zion, whose praise is a favourite theme of the Korahitic songs, that is intended. We cannot tell by looking to the accents whether the clause is to be taken as a substantival clause (His founded city is upon the holy mountains) or not. Since, however, the expression is not יסוּדתו היא בהררי־קדשׁ, יסודתו בהררי קדשׁ is an object placed first in advance (which the antithesis to the other dwellings of Jacob would admit of), and in Psalm 87:2 a new synonymous object is subordinated to אהב by a similar turn of the discourse to Jeremiah 13:27; Jeremiah 6:2 (Hitzig). By altering the division of the verses as Hupfeld and Hofmann do (His foundation or founded city upon the holy mountains doth Jahve love), Psalm 87:2 is decapitated. Even now the God-founded city (surrounded on three sides by deep valleys), whose firm and visible foundation is the outward manifestation of its imperishable inner nature, rises aloft above all the other dwelling-places of Israel. Jahve stands in a lasting, faithful, loving relationship (אהב, not 3 praet. אהב) to the gates of Zion. These gates are named as a periphrasis for Zion, because they bound the circuit of the city, and any one who loves a city delights to go frequently through its gates; and they are perhaps mentioned in prospect of the fulness of the heathen that shall enter into them. In Psalm 87:3 the lxx correctly, and at the same time in harmony with the syntax, renders: Δεδοξασμένα ἐλαλήθη περὶ σοῦ. The construction of a plural subject with a singular predicate is a syntax common in other instances also, whether the subject is conceived of as a unity in the form of the plural (e.g., Psalm 66:3; Psalm 119:137; Isaiah 16:8), or is individualized in the pursuance of the thought (as is the case most likely in Genesis 27:29, cf. Psalm 12:3); here the glorious things are conceived of as the sum-total of such. The operation of the construction of the active (Ew. 295, b) is not probable here in connection with the participle. בּ beside דּבּר may signify the place or the instrument, substance and object of the speech (e.g., Psalm 119:46), but also the person against whom the words are spoken (e.g., Psalm 50:20), or concerning whom they are uttered (as the words of the suitor to the father or the relatives of the maiden, 1 Samuel 25:39; Sol 8:8; cf. on the construction, 1 Samuel 19:3). The poet, without doubt, here refers to the words of promise concerning the eternal continuance and future glory of Jerusalem: Glorious things are spoken, i.e., exist as spoken, in reference to thee, O thou city of God, city of His choice and of His love.

The glorious contents of the promise are now unfolded, and that with the most vivid directness: Jahve Himself takes up the discourse, and declares the gracious, glorious, world-wide mission of His chosen and beloved city: it shall become the birth-place of all nations. Rahab is Egypt, as in Psalm 89:11; Isaiah 30:7; Isaiah 51:9, the southern worldly power, and Babylon the northern. הזכּיר, as frequently, of loud (Jeremiah 4:16) and honourable public mention or commemoration, Psalm 45:18. It does not signify "to record or register in writing;" for the official name מזכּיר, which is cited in support of this meaning, designates the historian of the empire as one who keeps in remembrance the memorable events of the history of his time. It is therefore impossible, with Hofmann, to render: I will add Rahab and Babylon to those who know me. In general ל is not used to point out to whom the addition is made as belonging to them, but for what purpose, or as what (cf. 2 Samuel 5:3; Isaiah 4:3), these kingdoms, hitherto hostile towards God and His people, shall be declared: Jahve completes what He Himself has brought about, inasmuch as He publicly and solemnly declares them to be those who know Him, i.e., those who experimentally (vid., Psalm 36:11) know Him as their God. Accordingly, it is clear that זה ילּד־שׁם is also meant to refer to the conversion of the other three nations to whom the finger of God points with הנּה, viz., the war-loving Philistia, the rich and proud Tyre, and the adventurous and powerful Ethiopia (Isaiah 18:1-7). זה does not refer to the individuals, nor to the sum-total of these nations, but to nation after nation (cf. זה העם, Isaiah 23:13), by fixing the eye upon each one separately. And שׁם refers to Zion. The words of Jahve, which come in without any intermediary preparation, stand in the closest connection with the language of the poet and seer. Zion appears elsewhere as the mother who brings forth Israel again as a numerous people (Isaiah 66:7; Psalm 54:1-3): it is the children of the dispersion (diaspora) which Zion regains in Isaiah 60:4.; here, however, it is the nations which are born in Zion. The poet does not combine with it the idea of being born again in the depth of its New Testament meaning; he means, however, that the nations will attain a right of citizenship in Zion (πολιτεία τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, Ephesians 2:12) as in their second mother-city, that they will therefore at any rate experience a spiritual change which, regarded from the New Testament point of view, is the new birth out of water and the Spirit.

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