Thanksgiving for the Deliverance of God’s People
1 A psalm of the sons of Korah.[b] A song.
2 Great is the Lord and worthy of high praise
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain,[c] 3 towering in its beauty,
is the joy of the entire earth.
Mount Zion, the true heights of the north,[d]
is the city of the great King.
4 God is in her citadels
and has revealed himself as her fortress.[e]
5 [f]For the kings conspired together
and came onward in unison.
6 As soon as they beheld her, they were astounded;
filled with panic, they fled.
7 They were seized with trembling,
with pains like those of a woman in labor,
8 as though a wind from the east[g]
were breaking up the ships of Tarshish.
9 What we had heard,
we have now beheld for ourselves[h]
in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God
that he established to endure forever. Selah
10 O God, as we stand in the midst of your temple,
we will meditate on your kindness.[i]
11 Like your name,[j] O God,
your praise extends to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness;
12 let Mount Zion rejoice.
Let the towns of Judah exult
in your saving judgments.[k]
13 [l]Walk around Zion; pass throughout her;
count the number of her towers.
14 Take careful note of her ramparts,
walk through her citadels,
so that you may recount for future generations
15 that such is God;
our God forever and ever,
he will be our guide eternally.[m]
- Psalm 48:1 With overflowing joy, this psalm sings of God and the holy city. All the glory of Jerusalem stems from the Lord who dwells, enveloped in mystery, in the temple on the hill in the heart of the city. From there he protects his people; he has even delivered this city from the assaults of the enemy. It is secure from the north (v. 3), east (v. 8), south (v. 11), and west (v. 14). There Israel encounters its God and gives him thanks. And from this dwelling of God, salvation, joy, and praise extend to all peoples and the whole universe. It is a grandiose vision; how can one not love this land of God in the midst of human beings!
To Christians, Zion stands for the Church of Jesus, soul of the world and sign of salvation for humankind, until all are gathered together into the kingdom of God, the heavenly Jerusalem (see Heb 12:22; Rev 14:1; 21:10-26).
- Psalm 48:1 Sons of Korah: see note on Ps 42:1.
- Psalm 48:2 Holy mountain: see note on Ps 2:6.
- Psalm 48:3 The true heights of the north: Zaphon. Mount Zaphon was in the far north, the home of the Canaanite storm-god Baal. The psalmist declares that, although Zion is only a small hill, it is higher than any other mountain because it is the home of the only true God (see Ps 68:16f).
- Psalm 48:4 The psalmist shows that Zion is impregnable not because of her walls but because of the fact that the Lord is present there as the strength of his people (see Pss 18:3; 122:7).
- Psalm 48:5 In recalling past defeats of Israel’s enemies who attacked Zion, the psalmist may have in mind the victory over the Moab-Ammon coalition at the time of Jehoshaphat (see 2 Chr 20:22-28) or over the Assyrians at the time of Hezekiah (see 2 Ki 19:35f).
- Psalm 48:8 East: geographical allusion mentioned in the introduction. Ships of Tarshish: i.e., the most powerful ships, built for long voyages—like those that went as far as Tarshish, perhaps Tartessus in southern Spain (see 1 Ki 10:22).
- Psalm 48:9 Heard . . . beheld for ourselves: the psalmist may be referring to the glorious things that new pilgrims had heard about the beauty and awesomeness of the holy city and now beheld with their own eyes. He may also be referring to the things the pilgrims had heard from their ancestors about the security of the temple at Jerusalem (see Pss 44:2; 78:3) and now beheld for themselves. They became even more convinced of God’s presence in Jerusalem ordering the world’s events and working out the redemption of his people. The Lord of hosts: see note on Ps 24:10.
- Psalm 48:10 The godly meditate on God’s mighty acts, taking comfort in, rejoicing in, and gratefully making offerings to the revelation of the perfections of the Lord. Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
- Psalm 48:11 Name: see note on Ps 5:12. Right hand: the reaction of praise is a positive response by the godly in contrast to the dread that befell the nations. The godly praise God from one end of the earth to another, declaring his righteousness, i.e., the Lord’s victories and glorious work whose benefits his people share. That work is symbolized by his “right hand,” which includes power, justice, righteousness, and love. As alluded to in the introduction to this psalm, “right hand” also has a connotation of “south” in Hebrew.
- Psalm 48:12 Judgments: God’s actions in human affairs (see Ps 105:7; Isa 26:9), especially his victories over Israel’s enemies (see Pss 98:8; 105:5; Deut 33:21).
- Psalm 48:13 The psalmist calls upon the people to walk around Jerusalem and see its great defenses (towers, ramparts, citadels). The physical defense system of Jerusalem may have been a symbol of a far greater strength—the protection of the Lord himself. Furthermore, inasmuch as the Lord was present in the temple at Jerusalem, defense of the city was an expression of loyalty to him.
- Psalm 48:15 After seeing the well-nigh impregnable fortifications of Jerusalem, the people will feel more secure and better understand the greatness of the Lord, who protects his city and his people in accord with his promises; they will then recount it to their children and grandchildren. The Lord is their God forever, the great Shepherd-King (see note on Ps 23), who will continue to guide them eternally (literally, “till death”).