Zion, Home of All Nations
1 A psalm of the sons of Korah.[b] A song.
The Lord has founded a city[c]
on the holy mountains.
2 He loves the gates of Zion
more than[d] any dwelling in Jacob.
3 Glorious things are said of you,
O city of God. Selah
4 [e]“I number Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge the Lord,
as well as Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia;
concerning them it can be said,
‘This one was born there.’ ”[f] Selah
5 However, of Zion it will be said,
“They were all born there,
for the Most High himself establishes her.”[g]
6 The Lord records in the register[h] of the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah
7 And as they play, they all sing,[i]
“In you are all my fountains.”
- Psalm 87:1 The psalmist here paints a picture of Jerusalem as the spiritual mother of all peoples and thus prefigures the Church of Christ (see Acts 2:5ff; Gal 4:26). No other canticle has given greater exaltation to the holy city, Zion, the chosen city of God. Not only is she at the heart of Israel, but in her, God lays the basis for the spiritual rebirth of all peoples, even the sworn enemies of Israel, such as Egypt and Chaldea, through their worship of the true God (see Ps 45:15f; Zec 2:15; 8:23). All will be admitted into her bosom, and God will declare her mother of all peoples.
After having encountered the conflicts of peoples and the persecution of Israel in so many psalms, here is a symphony with unforgettable melodies. We are enchanted by this universalist aspect and the perspective of a humanity reunited by God in his presence, in accord with the vision of the Prophets (see Isa 2:2-4; 19:19-25; 25:6; 45:14, 22-24; 56:6-8; 60:3; 66:23; Dan 7:14; Mic 4:1-3; Zec 8:23; 14:16). Such is also the vocation of the Church, the new Jerusalem, to be a leaven for the ingathering of all peoples.
Thus, in praying this psalm, Christians keep in mind not only the earthly Zion with its fulfillment, the Church, but also the heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly Church, which is our true and definitive home, the source of eternal life and perfect blessedness. At the end of time, this new Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride for her husband (see Rev 21:2, 24).
- Psalm 87:1 Sons of Korah: see note on Ps 42:1.
- Psalm 87:1 Lord has founded a city: it is the Lord himself who has made Zion his city (see Isa 14:32) and the temple his dwelling. Mountains: see note on Ps 2:6.
- Psalm 87:2 Loves . . . more than: Zion is more cherished by the Lord than any other Israelite city or town (see Pss 9:12; 78:68; 132:12-14). The gates of Zion: a common Hebrew idiom for the city. Jacob: i.e., Israel (see Gen 32:28-29).
- Psalm 87:4 These verses foresee a wholesale conversion to the Lord on the part of peoples who were longtime enemies of God and his kingdom (see Isa 19:21).
- Psalm 87:4 The Gentiles will be incorporated into the People of God and adopted by Zion, their religious homeland. As the representatives of all the Gentile nations, the psalmist mentions the arrogant Egypt (Rahab—the name of an ocean monster used poetically for Egypt) and Babylon, the two world kingdoms on the Nile and Euphrates, both of which had fought for centuries for the possession of Palestine. We also hear of the Philistines, archenemy of Israel, wealthy Tyre proud of its independence, and the ambitious Ethiopians.
- Psalm 87:5 The privileges of the holy city and her spiritual motherhood are divine in origin and hence indefectible. The eschatological community of the faithful is established by the Lord (see Ps 48:9; Isa 14:32; 28:16; 54:11f).
- Psalm 87:6 Here it is a case simply of a list (register) of the citizens of Zion (see Isa 4:3; Ezek 13:9) rather than the apocalyptic book of destinies (see Ps 69:28). Each people will thus have two homelands—one material and one spiritual. The basis for the people’s security and inclusion in Zion lies in the promise of the Lord and the fact that he is its builder (see Heb 11:10, 16).
- Psalm 87:7 Zion is associated with “the fountain of life” (Ps 36:10), of “salvation” (Isa 12:3), “a river whose streams bring joy to the city of God” (Ps 46:5; see Ezek 47; Rev 22:1-5). As they play, they all sing: an alternative translation is: “As they make music, they will sing.” Hence, the peoples will be admitted to the official liturgical worship (see Isa 66:21) and will at least be able to participate in the ritual dances (see Pss 149:3; 150:4; 2 Sam 6:5).