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.
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, Psalms 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So be it; and so it will be for evermore.
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.
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.
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.
Walk about Zion
Consider the beauty and magnificence of the temple, count the towers by which it is fortified.
Mark ye well her bulwarks
See the redoubts by which she is defended.
Consider her palaces
See her courts, chambers, altars, 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.
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, Psalms 48:1-3.
II. A narration of a miraculous deliverance she obtained, and the terror that fell upon her enemies, Psalms 48:4-8.
III. An exhortation to consider it, and to praise God, Psalms 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 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.