Psalms 87


The nature and glorious privileges of Zion and Jerusalem, 1-3.

No other city to be compared to this, 4.

The privilege of being born in it, 5, 6.

Its praises celebrated, 7.


The title, A Psalm or Song for the sons of Korah, gives us no

light into the author or meaning of this Psalm. It begins and ends

so abruptly that many have thought it to be only a fragment of a

larger Psalm. This opinion is very likely. Those who suppose it to

have been made when Jerusalem was rebuilt and fortified, imagine

it to have been an exclamation of the author on beholding its

beauty, and contemplating its privileges. If this opinion be

allowed, it will account for the apparent abruptness in the

beginning and end. As to its general design it seems to have been

written in praise of Jerusalem; and those who are for mystic

meanings think that it refers to the Christian Church; and, on

this supposition it is interpreted by several writers, both

ancient and modern. To pretend to have found out the true meaning

would be very absurd. I have done the best I could to give its

literal sense.

Verse 1. His foundation is in the holy mountains.] Jerusalem was

founded on the mountains or hills of Zion and Moriah. The after

increase of the population obliged the inhabitants to inclose all

the contiguous hills; but Zion and Moriah were the principal. We

know that ancient Rome was built on seven hills.

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

dwellings of Jacob.] That is, he preferred Zion for his

habitation, to be the place of his temple and sanctuary, before

any other place in the promised land. Mystically, the Lord prefers

the Christian Church to the Jewish: the latter was only a type of

the former; and had no glory by reason of the glory that

excelleth. To this position no exception can be made.

Verse 3. Glorious things are spoken of thee] Or, there are

glorious words or doctrines in thee. Does this refer to the

glorious doctrines of the Christian Church? These are glorious

sayings indeed.

Verse 4. I will make mention of Rahab] The meaning seems to be,

Rahab, i.e., Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, Philistia, and Ethiopia are

not so honourable as Jerusalem. To be born in any of them is no

privilege when compared with being a native of Jerusalem: their

cities are but heads of villages; Jerusalem alone is a CITY. I

have met with a very similar sentiment in a Persian work, of which

I know not the author:



Tche Mesr, o tche Sham, o tche Birr o Buhr.

Heme rustaee and, we Sheerazee Shuhr.

What celebrity can Egypt or Syria, or any thing on earth or

on the sea, pretend to?

"When compared to Sheeraz, those are but villages, but this

alone is a CITY."

The meaning seems to be the same in both the Hebrew and Persian


Verse 5. This and that man was born in her] It will be an honour

to any person to have been born in Zion. But how great is the

honour to be born from above, and be a citizen of the Jerusalem

that is from above! To be children of God, by faith in Christ

Jesus! The Targum has, "David the king, and Solomon his son, were

brought up here."

The Highest himself shall establish her.] The Christian Church

is built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles; Jesus

Christ himself being the Cornerstone.

Verse 6. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people]

bichthob ammim, in the register of the people. When

he takes account of those who dwell in Jerusalem, he will

particularly note those who were born in Zion.

This has an easy spiritual meaning. When God takes an account of

all professing Christians, he will set apart those for inhabitants

of the New Jerusalem who were born in Zion, who were born again,

received a new nature, and were fitted for heaven.

Verse 7. As well the singers, &c.] Perhaps, this may mean no

more than, The burden of the songs of all the singers and

choristers shall be, "All my fountains (ancestors and posterity)

are in thee;" and consequently, entitled to all thy privileges and

immunities. Instead of sharim, "singers," many MSS. and early

printed editions have, sarim, "princes." Some for mayenai,

"my fountains," would read with several of the Versions,

meoney, "habitations;" but no MS. yet discovered supports this


It would be a very natural cause of exultation, when considering

the great privileges of this royal city, to know that all his

friends, family, and children, were citizens of this city, were

entered in God's register, and were entitled to his protection and

favour. Applied to the Christian Church, the privileges are still

higher: born of God, enrolled among the living in Jerusalem,

having their hearts purified by faith, and being washed and made

clean through the blood of the covenant, and sealed by the Holy

Spirit of promise, such have a right to the inheritance among the

saints in light. I need not add that springs, wells, fountains,

and cisterns, and waters are used metaphorically in the sacred

writings for children, posterity, fruitful women, people, &c.; see

among others Pr 5:15, 16; Ps 68:26; Isa 48:1; and Re 17:15.

The old Psalter understands the whole as relating to Gospel times;

and interprets it accordingly. Bishop Horne takes it in the same

sense. The whole Psalm is obscure and difficult. I will venture a

literal version of the whole, with a few explanatory

interpolations, instead of notes, in order to cast a little more

light upon it.

1. A Psalm to be sung by the posterity of Korah. A prophetic


2. "Jehovah loves his foundation, the city built by him on holy

mountains. He loves the gates of Zion more than all the

habitations of Jacob."

3. "Honourable things are declared of thee, O city of God.


4. "I will number Egypt and Babylon among my worshippers; behold

Philistia and Tyre! They shall be born in the same place." They

shall be considered as born in the city of God.

5. "But of Zion it shall be said, This one, and that one,"

persons of different nations, "was born in it, and the Most High

shall establish it."

6. "Jehovah shall reckon in the registers of the people, This

one was born there."

7. "The people shall sing, as in leading up a choir, All my

fountains," the springs of my happiness, "are in thee."

I have nearly followed here the version of Mr. N. M. Berlin, who

wonders that there should be any doubt concerning this translation

of the last verse, when Symmachus and Aquila, who must have well

known the sense of the Masoretic text, have translated: και

αδοντηςωςχοροιπασαιπηγαιενσοι "And they shall sing, as in

leading up a dance, All my fountains are in thee." The translation

cannot be far from the meaning.


This Psalm contains marks of the beauty and perfection of the


1. Its foundation. The author is GOD, it is his foundation; not

laid in the sand, but upon the mountains, not common, but holy

mountains, Ps 87:1.

2. The Lord loveth his Church-this assembly, beyond all others:

"The Lord loveth," &c., Ps 87:2.

3. All the prophets have spoken glorious things concerning it,

and have considered it as the "city of God," Ps 87:3.

4. One of the glorious things spoken of it was the conversion of

the Gentiles to it. So here Egyptians, Babylonians, Tyrians,

Ethiopians, &c., are to be gathered into it by regeneration. They

shall all be brought to know the true God; and shall be classed in

the multitude of those who know him, i.e., who offer him a pure

and holy worship, Ps 87:4.

5. By having the word of God in this true Church, they shall be

converted to God; so that it may be said, "This and that man were

born to God in it," Ps 87:5.

6. All other cities shall decay and perish; but the Church of

God, the city of the Great King, shall be established for ever,

the gates of hell shall never prevail against it, Ps 87:5.

7. The converted Gentiles shall have equal privileges with the

converted Jews; and in the Christian Church they shall all be

enrolled without difference or precedence, Ps 87:6.

8. They shall enjoy a perpetual solemnity. They shall ever have

cause to sing and rejoice, Ps 87:7.

9. The highest privilege is that in God's Church he opens the

fountains of living water; in his ordinances God dispenses every

blessing; every sincere and upright soul rejoices in opportunities

to wait on God in his ordinances. Such a one can sing, "All my

springs are in thee." All other fountains are muddy; this alone is

as clear as crystal. Worldly springs yield no pure delight; all

there are mixed and turbulent: all here are refreshing,

satisfying, delightful.

Copyright information for Clarke