New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 48:1 A Song. A Psalm by the sons of Korah- "By" can as well be "for", so the Psalm may still be Davidic, but is dedicated to the memory of the sons of Korah. Korah had died in rebellion against God, but his children had been preserved (Num. 26:9-11); they therefore became representative of all who had overcome bad background to worship Yahweh independently, regardless of the sins of their fathers. They were therefore inspirational to the righteous remnant amongst the exiles in Babylon. Or these "sons of Korah" may refer to a group of musicians who were to perform the Psalm, the Levitical singers mentioned in 1 Chron. 26:1,2; 2 Chron. 20:19. Or if we insist on reading "by", it could have been a Davidic Psalm edited and as it were released by a group called "the sons of Korah" during the captivity in Babylon.

Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain-
I suggest this Psalm may follow on from Ps. 46 and Ps. 47, which give glory to God for saving Zion at the time of the Assyrian invasion. The last part of Ps. 47 invites the surrounding nations to accept Yahweh of Israel as their God; and Ps. 46:8 speaks of the prophetic intention that the victory over Assyria and her confederacy was to lead to Judah inviting those nations to come and "see" Yahweh's works, and therefore to accept Him as their God. But Hezekiah failed miserably in this. The intention was that Israel's God would be exalted, or accepted as alone worthy of praise, in the entire eretz promised to Abraham. But Hezekiah let the ball drop. The surrounding nations came and were allowed by Hezekiah to influence Judah, rather than Hezekiah and Judah bringing these nations beneath Israel's God. He was not "exalted in the earth" as was intended (Ps. 46:10; 47:8) and as was potentially possible. The intention was that the nations would come and praise God on "His holy mountain" of Zion, just as Is. 2:2-4 had prophesied as being possible in Isaiah's time.

Psa 48:2 Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the north sides, the city of the great King-
Sennacherib wanted to set his throne on the temple mount (compare Is. 14:13 and Ps. 48:2 and notice the many allusions in Ps. 48 to the raising of Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem). But now the city of Zion was to be perceived as the joy or praise of the entire eretz promised to Abraham.

I noted on Ps. 15:1 that "Yahweh, who shall dwell in Your sanctuary? Who shall live on Your holy hill?" was written before David took the hill of Zion from the Jebusites. He felt they shouldn't be living there because of how they lived so immorally, and was eager to make it his own inheritance by conquest; and it seems from Ps. 16:5,6 that David considered Zion his personal inheritance where he was to live. He considered Zion his great joy (Ps. 137:6), the ultimately pleasant place (Ps. 48:2).

Psa 48:3 God has shown Himself in her citadels as a refuge-
The entire eretz had seen that Yahweh, the God of Zion, had been a refuge there for His true people. But the Psalm was likely an edit of an earlier Psalm of David; according to Ps. 72:20, this Psalm was one of David's. David sees that Yahweh will be a "high tower" or place of refuge at the day of future judgment (Ps. 9:8,9, quoted about this in Acts 17:31). But David feels God has been like this to him in this life (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2; 46:7; 48:3; 59:9,16,17; 62:2; 94:22; 144:2). He therefore sees a seamless experience in his relationship with God in this life, and at the future day of judgment. God saves us right now and is a refuge for us in countless life situations; and this is the guarantee that He will be likewise at the last day.

Psa 48:4 For, behold, the kings assembled themselves, they passed by together-
This is the scene of Ps. 2; the nations assembled against Zion in Hezekiah's time, in that the Assyrian army was really comprised of a confederacy of local nations, just as will be seen in the attack of the latter day Assyrian. "Passed by together" is LXX "they came together". The desire to take Zion was what unified them; and so will the Jerusalem issue for the latter day Assyrian confederacy.

Psa 48:5 They saw it, then they were amazed. They were dismayed. They hurried away-
This would refer to the fleeing of the remnants of the Assyrian confederacy after they saw the slaying of 185,000 soldiers in one night by one Angel.

Psa 48:6 Trembling took hold of them there, pain, as of a woman in travail-
The image of a woman in her time of delivery may imply that

Psa 48:7 With the east wind, You break the ships of Tarshish-
The idea may be as NET and GNB, which sees this verse as developing the theme of 'trembling' of :6: "like ships tossing in a furious storm". This version of the text omits the word "Tarshish". If we retain it, then we are to understand that the destruction of the enemies of Zion will include the destruction of their "ships of Tarshish". I have argued on Ez. 38 that Tarshish is one of the ten surrounding peoples listed in Ez. 38 who will come against Zion in the last days. Tarshish is therefore again demonstrated to be against Zion and not for her. This is another nail in the coffin of the idea that Tarshish refers to  Anglo Saxon support of Israel in the last days. Tarshish is here presented as against God's people, not for them, and Ez. 38 says likewise.

Psa 48:8 As we have heard, so we have seen-
Isaiah's prophetic word came true.

In the city of Yahweh of Armies, in the city of our God- There were armies of Angels within the besieged city, and just one of them slew 185,000 soldiers.

God will establish it forever. Selah- The eternal establishment of Zion is the language of the Kingdom prophecies. The Kingdom of God established in Israel could have come in some form at Hezekiah's time. But it was precluded by Hezekiah's personal failure, and the refusal of the people to accept Isaiah's teaching.

Psa 48:9 We have thought about Your grace, God, in the midst of Your temple-
This could imply that the holy place in the midst of the temple was now open to all. And there was the reflection there that Zion had been saved by grace- because Judah were not at all spiritually strong at the time of her deliverance.

Psa 48:10 As is Your name, God, so is Your praise to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is full of righteousness-
God's right hand had judged the Assyrians, and His Name or reputation was rightly earned; the news of Him was true, and the ends of the eretz, including Babylon, had heard correctly about Him. Hence their ambassadors came to Hezekiah. But instead of leading them to accept Israel's God, Hezekiah failed.

Psa 48:11 Let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Your judgments-
The daughters of Judah would refer to the cities around Jerusalem which had fallen to the Assyrians but were now liberated.

Psa 48:12 Walk about Zion, and go around her. Number its towers-
Literally, "encircle it". It was the Assyrians who had encircled Jerusalem. It was their military commanders who had numbered her towers as they planned their assault (Is. 33:18). Instead, the believers were to as it were do the same, assessing Zion's defences- and as explained on :13, to conclude that her defence was in her God and His grace.

Psa 48:13 Mark well her bulwarks-
Or NET "defences". This then connects with :14 NET: "Our God is our defender for ever". Zion's defence was Yahweh. And the Psalm invites us to "mark well" what her defence was- her God.

Consider her palaces, that you may tell it to the next generation- "Palaces" is NET "fortresses", but the strong tower, or fortress, of Zion was her God.

Psa 48:14 For this God is our God forever and ever. He will be our guide even to death
- See on :13. "Guide" is a military term for leading forth an army. Judah never fought against the Assyrians; but spiritually they were led forth as an army of faith by God.