Psalms 48

PSALM XLVIII

The ornaments and the privileges of the Church, 1-8.

The duty of God's people, 9-14.

NOTES ON PSALM XLVIII

The title: A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah. To which the

Vulgate, Septuagint, AEthiopic, and Arabic add, for the second

day of the week; for which I believe it would be difficult to find

a meaning. It is evidently of the same complexion with the two

preceding, and refers to the Jews returned from captivity; and

perhaps was sung at the dedication of the second temple, in order

to return thanks to the Lord for the restoration of their

political state, and the reestablishment of their worship.

Verse 1. Great is the Lord] This verse should be joined to the

last verse of the preceding Psalm, as it is a continuation of the

same subject; and indeed in some of Kennicott's MSS. it is written

as a part of the foregoing. That concluded with He is greatly

exalted; this begins with Great is the Lord, and greatly to be

praised; i.e., He should be praised according to his greatness; no

common praise is suited to the nature and dignity of the Supreme

God.

In the city of our God] That is, in the temple; or in Jerusalem,

where the temple was situated.

The mountain of his holiness.] Mount Moriah, on which the temple

was built. The ancient city of Jerusalem, which David took from

the Jebusites, was on the south of Mount Zion, on which the temple

was built, though it might be said to be more properly on Mount

Moriah, which is one of the hills of which Mount Zion is

composed. The temple therefore was to the north of the city, as

the psalmist here states, Ps 48:2: "Beautiful for situation, the

joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north,

the city of the great King." But some think that it is the city

that is said to be on the north, and Reland contends that the

temple was on the south of the city.

Verse 2. The joy of the whole earth] Commentators have been

greatly puzzled to show in what sense Zion, or the temple, could

be said to be the joy of the whole earth. If we take the earth

here for the habitable globe, there is no sense in which it ever

was the joy of the whole earth; but If we take col

haarets, as signifying the whole of this land, (and it has no

other meaning,) the assertion is plain and easy to be understood,

for the temple was considered the ornament and glory of the whole

land of Judea.

Verse 3. God is known in her palaces for a refuge.] All those

who worship there in spirit and truth, find God for their refuge.

But the words may be understood: God is known for the defence of

her palaces; and with this view of the subject agree the three

following verses.

Verse 4. For, lo, the kings were assembled] Many of the

neighbouring potentates, at different times, envied the prosperity

of the Jewish nation, and coveted the riches of the temple; but

they had no power against it till the cup of Jewish transgression

was full. In vain did they assemble-confederate, and invade the

land. Saw it-reconnoitered the place; marvelled at its excellence

and strength, for they were troubled-struck with fear; hasted away

for fear of destruction, for fear took hold on them as pains seize

on a woman in travail. Those who came to destroy were glad to make

their own escape.

Verse 7. Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish] Calmet thinks this

may refer to the discomfiture of Cambyses, who came to destroy the

land of Judea. "This is apparently," says he, "the same tempest

which struck dismay into the land-forces of Cambyses, and wrecked

his fleet which was on the coasts of the Mediterranean sea,

opposite to his army near the port of Acco, or the Ptolemais; for

Cambyses had his quarters at Ecbatana, at the foot of Mount

Carmel; and his army was encamped in the valley of Jezreel." Ships

of Tarshish he conjectures to have been large stout vessels,

capable of making the voyage of Tarsus, in Cilicia.

Verse 8. As we have heard, so have we seen] Our fathers have

declared what mighty works thou didst in their time; and we have

seen the same. God has often interposed and afforded us a most

miraculous defence. So it was when they were invaded by the

Assyrians, Syrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians and the

Greeks under Alexander.

The city of the Lord of hosts] His hosts defended the city, and

it was known to be the City of the great King.

God will establish it for ever.] This must refer to the true

temple, the Christian Church, of which the Jewish Church was a

type. The type perished, but the antitype remained, and will

remain till time shall be no more.

Selah.] So be it; and so it will be for evermore.

Verse 9. We have thought of thy loving-kindness] We went to thy

temple to worship thee; we meditated on thy goodness; we waited

for a display of it; and the panic that in the first instance

struck us, was transferred to our enemies; and fear took hold upon

them, they marvelled, were troubled, and hasted away.

Verse 10. According to thy name] As far as thou art known, so

far art thou praised; and where thou art known, thou wilt have

praise to the end of the earth. And why? "Thy right hand is full

of righteousness." Thou art continually dispensing thy blessings

to the children of men.

Verse 11. Let Mount Zion rejoice] The temple is restored in

majesty, which was threatened with total destruction; it is again

repaired.

Let the daughters of Judah be glad] That thou hast turned her

captivity, and poured out thy judgments upon her oppressors.

Verse 12. Walk about Zion] Consider the beauty and magnificence

of the temple, count the towers by which it is fortified.

Verse 13. Mark ye well her bulwarks] See the redoubts by which

she is defended.

Consider her palaces] See her courts, chambers, altars, &c.,

&c.; make an exact register of the whole, that ye may have to tell

to your children how Jerusalem was built in troublesome times; how

God restored you; and how he put it into the hearts of the heathen

to assist to build, beautify, and adorn the temple of our God.

Verse 14. For this God] Who did all these wonderful things,-

Is our God] He is our portion, and he has taken us for his

people.

He will be our guide] Through all the snares and difficulties of

life,-

Even unto death] He will never leave us; and we, by his grace,

will never abandon him. He is just such a God as we need; infinite

in mercy, goodness, and truth. He is our Father, and we are the

sons and daughters of God Almighty. Even unto and in death, he

will be our portion.

ANALYSIS OF THE FORTY-EIGHTH PSALM

Under the type of Jerusalem is set down the happiness of the

Church, which is always protected by the Divine favour. There are

three parts in this Psalm:-

I. The excellences and privileges of the city of God,

Ps 48:1-3.

II. A narration of a miraculous deliverance she obtained, and

the terror that fell upon her enemies, Ps 48:4-8.

III. An exhortation to consider it, and to praise God,

Ps 48:9-14.

I. The psalmist begins with a maxim: "Great is the Lord, and

greatly to be praised." Great in himself; and greatly to be

praised for all things, in all places; but especially in the city

of our God, in the mountain of holiness.

Then he descends to set forth the excellences and ornaments of

the Church.

1. It is "the city of God," built and governed by him, and in it

he resides.

2. "It is a holy mountain:" The religion in it is holy; the

people, a holy people.

3. "It is beautiful for situation:" God has put his beauty upon

it.

4. "The joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion:" The joy and

ornament of all the land of Judea then, and afterwards of the

whole world, because the law was to come out of Zion.

5. "It is the city of the great King," i.e., God. He founded,

and rules in it.

6. "God is known in her palaces:" In her is the knowledge of

God; yea, and by an experimental knowledge, he is found to be an

asylum, a sure refuge.

II. And it is well that it is so; for Jerusalem, i.e., the

Church, has many and great enemies, which (Ps 48:5) the prophet

begins to describe; and desires that notice may be taken of them,

for he points them out with "Lo! or Behold!"

1. They are many and powerful. They were "kings," a plurality of

them.

2. Confederate kings: "The kings were assembled." United power

is the more effectual.

But all the endeavours of those kings, those confederate kings,

came to nothing.

1. "They passed by together:" together they came, together they

vanished.

2. "They saw-they marvelled:" They saw the strength of this

city, and wondered how it could be so strangely delivered out of

their hands.

3. On this they were troubled, they trembled, and hasted away.

Fear took hold upon them; which the prophet illustrates by a

double similitude: 1. By a travailing woman; "Fear took hold upon

them, and pain, as of a woman in travail." 2. By the fear of

mariners at sea, when euroclydon threatens to destroy their ship;

their amazement was such "as when thou breakest the ships of

Tarshish with an east wind."

III. In this third part of the Psalm there are two especial

points:-

A grateful acknowledgment of God's protection of his Church: "As

we have heard, so have we seen in the city of our God." We have

heard that he will protect this city, and we see that he hath done

it; and persuaded we are that he will always do it: "God will

establish it for ever."

2. And this shall never be forgotten by us: "We have thought of

thy loving-kindness in the midst of thy temple."

3. And so thought of it as to praise thee for it: "According to

thy name so is thy praise; thy right hand is full of

righteousness." All the earth shall know that thou dost help with

thy powerful hand thy afflicted and oppressed people. Thou wilt

punish their adversaries, "for thy right hand is full of

righteousness-and justice."

The second point of this third part is an exhortation to God's

people.

1. That they exult and rejoice for what God does for them: "Let

Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of

thy judgments," in defending thy Church, and punishing their

enemies.

2. That they take especial notice of his miraculous deliverance

of Jerusalem; that, notwithstanding the army was great that lay

against it, yet no harm was done: "Walk about Zion, tell the

towers thereof; mark well her bulwarks, and her palaces." See

whether they be not all standing and entire.

3. And do it for this end: "That you may tell it to the

generation following." Leave it on record how miraculously God

hath delivered you.

4. For this there are two strong reasons: 1. "For this God," who

protects and defends us, "is our God for ever." 2. "He will be our

guide unto death." He will not leave us when all the world leaves

us. In the time in which we need him most, we shall find him most

powerfully present to help us. Therefore, exult, rejoice, mark it;

and make it known to the generations to come.

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