Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher - Works Upon This Psalm
TITLE. A Psalm or Song for the sons of Korah. A sacred
hymn and a national lyric. A theocracy blends the religious and the patriotic
ideas in one; and in proportion as nations become Christianized, their popular
songs will become deeply imbued with pious sentiments. Judged by this standard,
our own land is far in arrears. This "Psalm or song" was either composed by the
sons of Korah, or dedicated to them: as they kept the doors of the house of the
Lord, they could use this beautiful composition as a Psalm within the doors, and
as a song outside.
SUBJECT AND DIVISION. The song is in honour of Zion, or
Jerusalem, and it treats of God's favour to that city among the mountains, the
prophecies which made it illustrious, and the honour of being a native of it.
Many conceive that it was written at the founding of David's city of Zion, but
does not the mention of Babylon imply a later date? It would seem to have been
written after Jerusalem and the Temple had been built, and had enjoyed a
history, of which glorious things could be spoken. Among other marvels of God's
love in its later history, it had been untouched by Sennacherib when other
cities of Israel and Judah had fallen victims to his cruelty. It was in
Hezekiah's reign that Babylon became prominent, when the ambassadors came to
congratulate the king concerning his recovery, at that time also Tyre would be
more famous than at any period in David's day. But as we have no information,
and the point is not important, we may leave it, and proceed to meditate upon
the Psalm itself. We have no need to divide so brief a song.
Verse 1. His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Psalm
begins abruptly, the poet's heart was full, and it gained vent on a sudden.
"God's foundation stands forever
On the holy mountain towers;
Sion's gates Jehovah favours
More than Jacob's thousand bowers."
Sudden passion is evil, but bursts of holy joy are most
precious. God has chosen to found his earthly temple upon the mountains; he
might have selected other spots, but it was his pleasure to have his chosen
abode upon Zion. His election made the mountains holy, they were by his
determination ordained and set apart for the Lord's use. The foundation of the church, which is the mystical Jerusalem,
is laid in the eternal, immutable, and invincible decrees of Jehovah. He wills
that the church shall be, he settles all arrangements for her calling,
salvation, maintenance and perfection, and all his attributes, like the
mountains round about Jerusalem, lend their strength for her support. Not on the
sand of carnal policy, nor in the morass of human kingdoms, has the Lord founded
his church, but on his own power and godhead, which are pledged for the
establishment of his beloved church, which is to him the chief of all his works.
What a theme for meditation is the founding of the church of God in the ancient
covenant engagements of eternity; the abrupt character of this first verse
indicates long consideration on the part of the writer, leading up to his
bursting forth in wonder and adoration. Well might such a theme cause his heart
to glow. Rome stands on her seven hills and has never lacked a poet's tongue to
sing her glories, but more glorious far art thou, O Zion, among the eternal
mountains of God: while pen can write or mouth can speak, thy praises shall
never lie buried in inglorious silence.
Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the
dwellings of Jacob. The gates are put for the city itself. The love of
God is greatest to his own elect nation, descended from his servant Jacob, yet
the central seat of his worship is dearer still; no other supposable comparison
could have so fully displayed the favour which Jehovah bore to Jerusalem, --he
loves Jacob best and Zion better than the best. At this hour the mystical
teaching of these words is plain, God delights in the prayers and praises of
Christian families and individuals, but he has a special eye to the assemblies
of the faithful, and he has a special delight in their devotions in their church
capacity. The great festivals, when the crowds surrounded the temple gates, were
fair in the Lord's eyes, and even such is the general assembly and church of the
first born, whose names are written in heaven. This should lead each separate
believer to identify himself with the church of God; where the Lord reveals his
love the most, there should each believer most delight to be found. Our own
dwellings are very dear to us, but we must not prefer them to the assemblies of
the saints; we must say of the church--
"Here my best friends, my kindred dwell:
Here God, my Saviour reigns."
Verse 3. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.
This is true of Jerusalem. Her history, which is the story of the nation of
which she is the capital, is full of glorious incidents, and her use and end as
the abode of the true God, and of his worship, was preeminently glorious.
Glorious things were taught in the streets, and seen in her temples. Glorious
things were foretold of her, and she was the type of the most glorious things of
all. This is yet more true of the church: she is founded in grace, but her
pinnacles glow with glory. Men may glory in her without being braggarts, she has
a lustre about her brow which none can rival. Whatever glorious things the
saints may say of the church in their eulogies, they cannot exceed what prophets
have foretold, what angels have sung, or what God himself has declared. Happy
are the tongues which learn to occupy themselves with so excellent a subject,
may they be found around our fire sides, in our market places, and in all the
spots where men most congregate. Never let thy praises cease, O thou bride of
Christ, thou fairest among women, thou in whom the Lord himself hath placed his
delight, calling thee by that pearl of names, Hephzibah, --"for my delight is in
her." Since the Lord has chosen thee, and deigns to dwell in thee, O thou city
of beauty, none can rival thee, thou art the eye of the world, the pearl, the
queen of all the cities of the universe; the true "eternal city", the
metropolitan, the mother of us all. The years to come shall unveil thy beauties
to the astonished eyes of all peoples, and the day of thy splendour shall come
to its sevenfold noon. Selah. With the prospect before him of a world converted,
and the most implacable foes transformed into friends, it was meet that the
Psalmist should pause. How could he sing the glories of new born Tyre and
Ethiopia, received with open arms into union with Zion, until he had taken
breath and prepared both voice and heart for so divine a song.
Verse 4. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that
know me. This shall be a glorious subject to speak of concerning
Zion, that her old foes are new born and have become her friends, worshipping in
the temple of her God. Rahab or Egypt which oppressed Israel shall become a
sister nation, and Babylon in which the tribes endured their second great
captivity, shall become a fellow worshipper; then shall there be mention made in
familiar talk of the old enmities forgotten and the new friendships formed. Some
consider that these are the words of God himself, and should be rendered "I will
mention Rahab and Babylon as knowing me": but we feel content with our common
version, and attribute the words to the Psalmist himself, who anticipates the
conversion of the two great rival nations and speaks of it with exultation. Behold
Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia. These also are
to bow before the Lord. Philistia shall renounce her ancient hate, Tyre shall
not be swallowed up by thoughts of her commerce, and distant Ethiopia shall not
be too far off to receive the salvation of the Lord. This man was born there. The word man is inserted by
the translators to the marring of the sense, which is clear enough when the
superfluous word is dropped, --"Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this was born
there" --i.e., this nation has been born into Zion, regenerated into the church
of God. Of the new births of nations we will make mention, for it is at once a
great blessing and a great wonder. It is a glorious thing indeed when whole
nations are born unto God.
"Mark ye well Philistia's legions,
Lo, to seek the Lord they came;
And within the sacred regions
Tyre and Cush have found a home."
Many understand the sense of these verses to be that all men
are proud of their native country, and so also is the citizen of Zion, so that
while of one it is said, "he was born in Egypt" and of another, "he came from
Ethiopia", it would be equally to the honour of others that they were home born
sons of the city of God. The passage is not so clear that any one should become
dogmatical as to its meaning, but we prefer the interpretation given above.
Verse 5. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was
born in her. Not as nations only, but one by one, as individuals, the
citizens of the New Jerusalem shall be counted, and their names publicly
declared. Man by man will the Lord reckon them, for they are each one precious
in his sight; the individual shall not be lost in the mass, but each one shall
be of high account. What a patent of nobility is it, for a man to have it
certified that he was born in Zion; the twice born are a royal priesthood, the
true aristocracy, the imperial race of men. The original, by using the noblest
word for man, intimates that many remarkable men will be born in the church, and
indeed every man who is renewed in the image of Christ is an eminent personage,
while there are some, who, even to the dim eyes of the world, shine forth with a
lustre of character which cannot but be admitted to be unusual and admirable.
The church has illustrious names of prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors,
reformers, missionaries and the like, which bear comparison with the grandest
names honoured by the world, nay, in many respects far excel them. Zion has no
reason to be ashamed of her sons, nor her sons of her. "Wisdom is justified of
her children." And the highest himself shall establish her --the only
establishment worth having. When the numbers of the faithful are increased by
the new birth, the Lord proves himself to be the builder of the church. The Lord
alone deserves to wear the title of Defender of the Faith; he is the sole and
sufficient Patron and Protector of the true church. There is no fear for the
Lord's heritage, his own arm is sufficient to maintain his rights. The Highest
is higher than all those who are against us, and the good old cause shall
triumph over all.
Verse 6. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people,
that this man was born there. At the great census which the Lord
himself shall take, he will number the nations without exception and make an
exact registry of them, whether they were by their natural descent Babylonians
or Tyrians, or other far off heathen. May it be our happy lot to be numbered
with the Lord's chosen both in life and death, in the church roll below, and in
the church roll above. Jehovah's census of his chosen will differ much from
ours; he will count many whom we should have disowned, and he will leave out
many whom we should have reckoned. His registration is infallible. Let us pray
then for that adoption and regeneration which will secure us a place among the
heaven born. It was thought to be a great honour to have one's name written in
the golden book of the Republic of Venice, kings and princes paid dearly for the
honour, but the book of life confers far rarer dignity upon all whose names are
Verse 7. In vision the Psalmist sees the citizens of Zion
rejoicing at some sacred festival, and marching in triumphant procession with
vocal and instrumental music: --As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be
there. Where God is there must be joy, and where the church is increased by
numerous conversions the joy becomes exuberant and finds out ways of displaying
itself. Singers and dancers, Psalmists and pipers, united their efforts and made
a joyful procession to the temple, inspired not by Bacchus, or by the Castalian
fount, but by draughts from the sacred source of all good, of which they each
one sing All my springs are in thee. Did the poet mean that
henceforth he would find all his joys in Zion, or that to the Lord he would look
for all inspiration, comfort, strength, joy, life and everything. The last is
the truest doctrine. Churches have not such all sufficiency within them that we
can afford to look to them for all, but the Lord who founded the church is the
eternal source of all our supplies, and looking to him we shall never flag or
fail. How truly does all our experience lead us to look to the Lord by faith,
and say "all my fresh springs are in thee." The springs of my faith and all my
graces; the springs of my life and all my pleasures; the springs of my activity
and all its right doings; the springs of my hope, and all its heavenly
anticipations, all lie in thee, my Lord. Without thy Spirit I should be as a dry
well, a mocking cistern, destitute of power to bless myself or others. O Lord, I
am assured that I belong to the regenerate whose life is in thee, for I feel
that I cannot live without thee; therefore, with all thy joyful people will I
sing thy praises.
"With joy shall sing the choral train,
The minstrels breathe the answering strain:
`O Zion, Zion fair, I see
The fountains of my bliss in thee.'"
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. --A Psalm or Song for the Sons of Korah. The
title prefixed is "A Psalm to be sung by the sons of Korah", i.e. of fallen man.
Korah signifies the state in which trees are during winter, when stript of their
verdure and fruit. In the same sense it is used for the bald head, when age or
sickness has deprived it of its glory and left it without hair. This is a lively
description of fallen man. He has lost his pristine beauty and fruitfulness.
When he left God and turned to his own ways, he became like the trees of the
field in winter, from which the genial warmth of the sun is withdrawn, or like
the head, which by the abating of the natural heat and rigour is left naked and
bald. But being brought to a light sense of this, and finding himself stript of
all the glory which the first Adam had in paradise, he has been led to seek the
restoration of his nature, and has obtained of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, a much better state than he had lost. Every
such person is entitled to sing this sacred hymn, and he is called upon to do
it. The name of the person whom he is to celebrate is not mentioned at first,
but is soon discovered by the character given of him. --William Romaine.
Whole Psalm --Bishop Bruno entitles this Psalm, "The voice
of prophecy concerning the heavenly Jerusalem", that is, the Church of Christ.
Verse 1. --His foundation is in the holy mountains. The
foundation that God has given his city is in "the holy mountains." What are
these holy mountains? What can they be but the eternal purpose of Jehovah--the
purpose out of which the being of the Church and the whole dispensation of
Divine love have sprung? What but those attributes of mercy, justice, holiness,
and sovereignty, from the ineffable embrace and holy cooperation of which it
comes to pass that his chosen people are redeemed? What but the promise of life
that was given in Christ to the elect before the world began? What but the
everlasting covenant, "ordered in all things and sure" from which grace and
salvation proceed? What but these things, and Christ himself, the Rock of Ages,
on which rock we know that the Church is so firmly founded, that the gates of
hell cannot prevail against her? Yes, these are the holy mountains, whereon the
city of God is built, and in which its deep and sure foundations are laid. The
sure decree, the divine perfections, the promise of him that cannot lie, the
oath and covenant of God, and the incarnate Son himself, are the holy mountains,
the perpetual hills, whose summits are gloriously crowned by the city of the
Great King. There the city sits securely, beautiful for situation, the joy of
the whole earth. --Andrew Gray.
Verse 1. Mountains. The situation of Jerusalem is in several
respects singular amongst the cities of Palestine. Its elevation is remarkable,
occasioned, not from its being on the summit of one of the numerous hills of
Judaea, like most of the towns and villages, but because it is on the edge of
one of the highest table lands of the country. Hebron, indeed, is higher still,
by some hundred feet; and from the south, accordingly, the approach to Jerusalem
is by a slight descent. But from every other side, the ascent is perpetual; and,
to the traveller approaching Jerusalem from the west or east, it must always
have presented the appearance, beyond any other capital of the then known
world--we may add, beyond any important city that has ever existed on the
earth--of a mountain city; breathing, as compared with the sultry plains of the
Jordan or of the coast, a mountain air; enthroned, as compared with Jericho or
Damascus, Gaza or Tyre, on a mountain fastness. In this respect it concentrated
in itself the character of the whole country of which it was to be the
capital--the "mountain throne", the "mountain sanctuary", of God. "The `mount' of
God is as the `mount' of Bashan; an high mount as the mount of Bashan. Why leap
ye so, ye high `mountains'?this is the `mountain' which God desireth to dwell
in" ...It was emphatically the lair of the lion of Judah, of "Ariel", the Lion
of God. "In Judah is God known; his name is great in Israel. In Salem is his
`leafy covert', and his `rocky den' in Zion...Thou art more glorious and
excellent than the `mountains of the robbers'". And this wild and fastness like
character of Jerusalem was concentrated yet again in the fortress, the
"stronghold" of Zion. That point, the highest in the city, the height which most
readily catches the eye from every quarter, is emphatically the "hill fort", the
"rocky hold" of Jerusalem --the refuge where first the Jebusite, and then the
Lion of God, stood at bay against the hunters. --Arthur Penrhyn Stanley.
Verses 1-2. --If we suppose the Psalm to have been composed in
the days of Hezekiah, it will appear quite intelligible that the Psalmist should
break out so suddenly at the beginning with praise of the security of
Sion: he merely lends his mouth in this case to the full heart of the people;
The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of
Jacob, is seen in its true light, for this preference for Sion was at that
time verified --its gates remained closed upon the enemies, while all the
rest of the country was subject to their sway.-- E.W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates, etc. The gates of a
walled city give access to it and power over it, and are therefore naturally
here put for the whole. The Hebrew participle (loving) implies constant
and habitual attachment. --J.A. Alexander.
Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion. Because of the
going out and coming in of the people of God. Thus indeed the disposition of
lovers is shown, that they are filled with a remarkable affection of love
towards those places through which those whom they love frequently pass, as
doors and gates, and those ways which they daily traverse. What other reason
could God have for loving the gates of Zion? --Musculus.
Verse 2. The gates of Zion are the doctrines of the Gospel,
the tabernacles of Jacob are the teachings of the law, the law was
accomplished in the gospel; therefore it is said that "the Lord loveth the gates
of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." --"Plain, Commentary",
Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more, etc. No
doubt the prayers which the faithful put up to heaven from under their private
roofs were very acceptable unto him; but if a saint's single voice in prayer be
so sweet to God's ear, much more the church choir, his saints' prayers in
concert together. A father is glad to see any one of his children, and makes him
welcome when he visits him, but much more when they come together; the greatest
feast is when they all meet at his house. The public praises of the church are
the emblem of heaven itself, where all the angels make but one concert.
Verse 2. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all,
etc. It is here assumed that the Lord loves the dwellings of Jacob--he loves
those that are true Israelites. These are succeeded by the name
Christian, for the Christian Church is now become the true Israel of God.
He loves his saints on account of that image of himself which they bear; he
loves them on account of those graces which are infused into them when they are
renewed by the Spirit; he loves them on account of the relation they stand in to
him as his people, and as his church, who are qualified for the duties of the
relation by that love of their Father, that reliance upon his care, that delight
in his person, that enjoyment in his service, which belongs to dutiful and
affectionate children. He loves them because they imitate his perfections in
some humble measure--because they receive the word of his mouth--because they are
ready to obey every call of his providence, setting themselves in the paths of
his testimony wherever he may direct--because they yield themselves to God, as
those that are alive from the dead, and their bodies as instruments of
righteousness, no longer walking after the deeds of the flesh, but after the
will of God. He takes a delight in them; the Lord delighteth in the righteous;
he knoweth their way; he loves, approves, and confirms them. The most common
occupations of life--the honest industry of the servants of God, is looked upon
by him with approbation. By these they show forth their Father, and the praises
of him who called them from darkness to light. The most ordinary duties of our
calling become sacrifices to God, and religious duties, when performed in the
Spirit, and directed to the great end of glorifying God. He looks with peculiar
complacency on the dwellings of his people on account of those domestic
devotional acknowledgments of his majesty which are there maintained, when the
head walks before his family as a priest to offer praise and thanksgiving; this
attracts peculiar approbation and delight. He loves to see his people training
up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and their children
walking after them in the paths of that obedience which he has enjoined. He
delights to see the course of purity which runs in Christian families. He loves
to see the progress which the younger parts of religious families make in piety,
while they grow in grace, and in favour with God and man. He looks down with
peculiar delight on such circles as these: there he deigns his presence, and
bestows peculiar blessings. However obscure the dwellings of Jacob may be, to
him they are open and manifest at all times; and whether in cottages or in
palaces, his eye rests there with complacency; and he says of such places, "Here
will I dwell forever and ever." Prayer and devotion sanctify every family, and
diffuse a spirit of piety through all the avocations of life, so that we need
not retire from the world, but are rather called to show forth the virtues of
the Christian life in it. But it is said, that, although "he loves the dwellings of
Jacob", yet "he loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of
Jacob" --that nothing in the dwellings of Jacob so much attracts his attention as
the people of God connected together in a spiritual capacity.
1. In the first place, the Divine Being regards with peculiar
complacency the worship of his saints on its own account.
2. On account of that union of mind and consent of heart,
evinced in the assembling of God's people together, and constituting themselves
into a church.
3. Because of the testimony which the church bears toward the
4. Upon account of that deference to his authority, which is
evinced by maintaining and keeping up the practice of those institutes which
rest entirely on that authority.
5. By making the assembly of the saints the grand means of
6. That peculiar presence of God is generally vouchsafed to
his saints, and made manifest to them, although it be hidden from the world,
which induces the conviction that God is present of a truth.
7. The Divine Being shows his preference of the gates of Zion
to the dwellings of Jacob, by continually maintaining in operation those gifts
which are for the edification of the saints, and without which the union of the
saints would be with difficulty maintained.
8. The Divine Being shows his preference to Zion by that
marvellous protection which is afforded to the interests of the church of God:
whereby, though weak, and frequently reduced to a handful of disciples, yet they
have been protected, and their society on earth continued. --Robert Hall.
Verse 2. Some absent themselves from public worship, under
pretence that they can serve the Lord at home as well in private. How many are
apt to say, they see not but their time may be as well spent at home, in
praying, reading some good book, or discoursing on some profitable subject, as
in the use of ordinances in public assemblies! They see not but private prayer
may be as good to them as public, or private reading and opening the Scripture
as profitable as public preaching; they say of their private duties, as Naaman
of the waters of Damascus, 2Ki 5:12: May I not serve the Lord as acceptably,
with as much advantage, in private exercises of religion? May I not wash in
these and be clean? They see not the great blessings God has annexed to public
worship more than to private. Oh, but if it be thus, if one be as good as the
other, what means the Lord to prefer one before the other? To what purpose did
the Lord choose the gates of Zion, to place his name there, if he might have
been worshipped as well in the dwellings of Jacob? How do men of this conceit
run counter to the Lord? He prefers the gates of Zion, not only before one or
some, but before all the dwellings of Jacob; and they prefer one such dwelling
before the gates of Zion. --David Clarkson.
Verse 3. Glorious things are spoken of the people of God.
Take the church for a visible congregation, a mixed congregation; glorious
things are spoken of that. It is the house of God. Take it as visible, `the
vessels of honour and dishonour', 2Ti 2:20, and the field, the `tares and the
wheat', Mt 13:1 etc., it is God's field. Though we take the church as visible,
it hath a glorious name for the good that is in it, especially for the wheat.
But take the church of God for the company of his children that are gathered by
the means of grace, dwelling in the visible church, enjoying the ordinances: so
they are the house and temple of Christ, `the temple of the Holy Ghost, the body
of Christ, the spouse of Christ.' They are God's delight, they are spiritual
kings and priests, etc. The most glorious things that can be, all other
excellencies in the world are but titular things, mere shadows of things. There
is some little reality in earthly things, but it is nothing in comparison, it is
scarce worth the name of reality, but Solomon calls them "vanity of vanities."
In comparison of the excellencies of the church all is nothing. I might be large
in these particulars. It is enough to give you the generals of the delights and
excellencies of God's house, "the beauty of the Lord." --Richard Sibbes.
Verse 3. The glories of the wilderness are in thee. The
Schechinah, which appeared upon Sinai, and marshalled the army of the Israelites
upon their journey through the wilderness, has now fixed its residence in thee,
O city of God. Compare Ps 68:17. --Samuel Horsley
Verse 4. --I will make mention, etc. As if he had said, I do
not deny the due praises which belong to other places and countries, but rather
am wont to make honourable mention of them among my acquaintance; and to allow
that this man, that is, some notable person, though comparatively of no
great value, was born in them. --Thomas Fenton.
Verse 4. Rahab, a poetical name of Egypt. The same
word signifies "fierceness, insolence, pride"; if Hebrew when applied to Egypt,
it would indicate the national character of the inhabitants. --Smith's
Dictionary of the Bible.
Verse 4. --It should comfort the church that God is able to
make her chiefest enemies to become converts, and that he hath done it sundry
times, and will yet do it more; and that he can take order with those enemies
which shall not be converted, as he did with Rahab and Babylon;
for, I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know
me, signifieth a mention making of them; viz., to the edification of
the church's children, both concerning what God had done in those nations in
justice; and what he would do to them in mercy, or unto other enemies like unto
them. --David Dickson.
Verse 4. Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia. This is
the glory of the Church, that into her the fulness of the nations shall enter,
--the proud from Egypt, who for her haughtiness is called Rahab, --the worldly
from Babylon, the city of confusion, --the wrathful from Philistia, so long the
enemies of Israel, --the covetous from Tyre, the rich city of the traders, --and
the slaves of ignorance from Cush, and from the land of Ham, --all these shall
learn the love of Christ and confess his truth, and shall enter into that all
glorious city, and be admitted and acknowledged as citizens of the celestial
Sion. --"Plain Commentary".
Verse 4.--By this testimony of the nations here mentioned, we
may understand the testimony of the Gentile Christians in general, though,
perhaps, a special reference is had to that extraordinary scene which took place
at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost: "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem
Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised
abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man
heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled,
saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how
hear we every man in his own tongue, wherein we were born?" Ac 2:5-8. The reader will find that there is a remarkable agreement
between the nations specified in the book of the Acts, and the nations pointed
out in the Psalm before us. Rahab, that is, Egypt, is first mentioned; and in
the Acts we find enumerated, "Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene"; next
Babylon is in the record; and the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, and the
dwellers in Mesopotamia, were inhabitants of what once was the Babylonian
empire: Philistia is also mentioned; and "dwellers in Judea" are spoken of in
the Acts-- "dwellers in Judea" speaking a different language from what was common
at Jerusalem. Who could these be, so probably, as the inhabitants of the ancient
Philistia, which was in the precincts of the allotment of Judah? Here, too,
perhaps, on account of its port of Joppa, was a grand resort of "Cretes and
Arabians", and "strangers of Rome." The Grecian settlements of Asia Minor are the only ones
specified in the Acts of the Apostles, which we have not noticed in the Psalm--
"Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia": but what could so probably
indicate these countries, and all who spoke the dialects of the Grecian tongue,
as the great mart of Tyre, in frequenting which, the Jews would have the most
frequent opportunity of intercourse with these nations? --John Fry.
Verse 4. Born in her. The Missionary Society set
forth in the Prophets, by our Lord and by his apostles, is, the Church; and so,
whereas our natural state, after Adam's fall, was alienation from God, and
disunion among ourselves, would He restore "glory to God in the highest and on
earth peace, good will towards men", by binding us up in one holy fellowship,
and making the continuance of his blessings dependent upon that unity, which he
imparted and preserves. To adduce the whole proof for this, would be to go
through the whole Old Testament; for the Old Testament is direct prophecy and
type, is one large prophecy of the Redeemer and his Kingdom or Church. No sooner
had disunion multiplied with the multiplying of men, but in the second
generation from Adam, he formed union through a Church, and "Men began to call
upon the name of the Lord" (Ge 4:26), i.e., they began to unite in
worshipping the Lord, and amid the growing corruption, religion was no longer
entrusted to the insulated care of single families, but concentrated in a
church. And when, after the flood, one righteous man was called out of the fast
corrupting world, unity was preserved, in that one only was called, but in that
one a church was founded; for this was the reason assigned by God himself: "All
the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I know him, that he will
command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of
the Lord", (Ge 18:18-19). "God called Abraham alone, and blessed him, and
increased him" (Isa 51:2), and formed the Jewish Church out of him, that however
largely it might spread, it might be bound in one by its origin of one; and he
gave it also outward marks and signs between him and it, which by severing it
from others, might keep it one in itself. The temporal people had their union
through a temporal birth of one, and outward signs; the Christian Church has its
unity by a spiritual birth, and inward graces, through the power deposited in
her to give spiritual birth, so that through one mother, we are all born of one
Father, God, and amongst ourselves are brethren, by being members of One, our
ever blessed Lord.
The unity of the Christian Church and her office of gathering
all nations unto the Lord, are set forth, in many ways, in prophecy. Thus, in
our Psalm, Zion is set forth as the special object of God's love, as having (in
language which anticipates the Gospel) been "founded" by him "on the holy
mountains", as the "city of God", whereof "glorious things are spoken." And what
are these? That she should be the spiritual birthplace of all nations. It is not
merely said, as in other places, that they should "come to her", should "flow
into her", but that they should be "born in her." "Of Zion it shall be said,
This and that man (i.e. all, one by one) was born in her; "and whence?
all the nations of the earth, Rahab or Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, Ethiopia,
Philistia, the most learned, the most powerful, the wealthiest, the furthest,
and her nearest, oldest and bitterest enemy Philistia, all, being already born
after the flesh, as Egyptians, Babylonians, Ethiopians, Tyrians, Philistines,
should be "born in her", and by being "born there", should become children of
God, citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, written by God in the roll of his book.
"The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born
there"; he shall account them as his, being reborn in his Church. In like manner, with regard to every prophecy, whereat men's
hearts beat, as an encouragement to Missionary labours. Throughout, it is the
Lord and Saviour of the Church, or the Church itself, filled with his Spirit,
and restored and enlarged, and widening herself by his favour, and gathering his
people into herself, his fold. --E.B. Pusey, in a Sermon entitled, "The Church
the Converter of the Heathen." 1838.
Verses 4-6. It is made the honour and dignity of Sion, that
is, of the true Church of God, to have such and such born in it: "this
and that man was born in her." There are two things signified in
this expression, as branches of their honour; the one is the quality of
the persons; and the other is the number of them. For the quality
of them, this; for the number of them, this and that. To have both
of these born in Sion, persons of note and eminency, and a multitude
and plurality of such persons; this is a part of that dignity and renown
which belongs unto it. . . . And so for the noun, man; the Hebrew word vya which is here used
for a man, except qualified by some other word as joined with it, signifies a
man of worth, not a common or ordinary person. The Church brings forth
such as these, Mvh yvna, men of renown, famous and eminent men, and that in
all kinds of perfections, whether natural, or civil, or spiritual; men of parts,
or men of power, or men of piety. There are those in all these excellencies
which have been and still are born in her.
First, take it for natural or acquired abilities;
men of parts, and knowledge, and wisdom, and improved understandings; the church
is not without these: this man, i.e., this learned man, or
this wise man was born in Sion. All are not idiots who are Christians;
no, but there are some of very rare and admirable accomplishments in all kinds
and pieces of learning and secular knowledge, which are graciously qualified.
There's Paul with his parchments, and Peter with his fisher's net.
secondly, take it for civil or secular qualifications; men of dignity, and
power, and estate: "this man", i.e., this honourable man,
Mynp awvn, eminent in countenance, as he is called, Isa 3:2, he is likewise
born in Sion; the mighty man, and the man of war. The Syriac interpreter was so
far sensible of this, as that he expresses it in the very text; and therefore
instead of saying, "This man was born there", he says, "A potent
man was born there, `and he has established it; '"whereby (as I
conceive), he takes in the word highest, which follows afterwards in the
verse, and refers it here to this place...And again, the Chaldee paraphrast in
the text, "This King was born there", understanding thereby Solomon, as
most conceive and apprehend it.
Thirdly, take it for spirituals, and for these
accomplishments especially; This man, i.e., this godly man;
this is that which is most proper and essential to Sion, and to the being born
in it; yea, it is that which makes Sion itself, in the sense we now take
it. It is the highest perfection of it, and the greatest commendation to it of
any thing else. This is the great honour of the church, that it forms men to
such qualities and dispositions as those are, which no other place does
beside...As for other places, they may perhaps now and then reach to some
other principles, and those likewise very glorious in the eyes of the
world --morality, and civility, and ingenuity, and smoothness of
behaviour. The school of nature and common reason may sometimes come up to
these, and that in a very great measure; yea, but now go a little higher, to
brokenness of heart, to self denial, to love of enemies, to closing with Christ,
the frame and spirit of the gospel; this is to be found nowhere but only in
Sion. And here it is: "This man was born there."
Behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was
born there. Here's the excellency of the ordinances, and that power
and energy which is stirring in the Church of Christ; that it is able to work
such a miraculous alteration as this; to bring men from darkness to
light, from Satan to God, from a state of sin and corruption and unregeneracy,
to a state of grace and holiness and regeneration; yea, from the lowest degree
of the one to the highest degree of the other. That Philistia should turn
into Palestina, Tyre into, Jerusalem, Ethiopia into
Judea;here's the wonder of all; the reconciling of these two opposite
terms thus both together. That "princes should come out of Egypt", and
that Ethiopia should stretch out her hands to God, as it is in Ps 68:31;
that the blackamoor should change his skin, and that the leopard should change
his spots; and that this Ethiopian should become this Christian; "that he which
was born there, should be born here." Thomas Horton, in "Zion's
Birth Register unfolded in a Sermon to the native citizens of
Verses 4-6. Foreign nations are here described not as
captives or tributaries, not even as doing voluntary homage to the greatness and
glory of Zion, but as actually incorporated and enrolled, by a new birth, among
her sons. Even the worst enemies of their race, the tyrants and oppressors of
the Jews, Egypt and Babylon, are threatened with no curse, no shout of joy is
raised at the prospect of their overthrow, but the privileges of citizenship are
extended to them, and they are welcomed as brothers. Nay more, God himself
receives each one as a child newly born into his family, acknowledges each as
his son, and enrols him with his own hand on the sacred register of his
children. It is the mode of anticipating a future union and brotherhood of all
the nations of the earth, not by conquest, but by incorporation into one state,
and by a birthright so acquired, which is so remarkable. In some of the
prophets, more especially in Isaiah, we observe the same liberal, conciliatory,
comprehensive language towards foreign states, as Tyre and Ethiopia, and still
more strikingly toward Egypt and Assyria (Isa 19:22-25). But the Psalm stands
alone amongst the writings of the Old Testament, in representing this union of
nations as a new birth unto the city of God ...It is the first announcement of
that great amity of nations, or rather of that universal common citizenship of
which heathen philosophers dreamt, which was "in the mind of Socrates when he
called himself a citizen of the world", which had become a common place of Stoic
philosophy, which Judaism tried finally to realize by the admission of
proselytes, through baptism, into the Jewish community; which Rome accomplished,
so far as the external semblance went, first by subduing the nations, and then
by admitting them to the rights of Roman citizenship. But the true fulfilment of
this hope is to be found only in that kingdom which Christ has set up. He has
gathered into his commonwealth all the kingdoms of the earth. He has made men
one, members of the same family, by teaching them to feel that they are all
children of the same Father. He has made it evident that the hope of the Jewish
singer is no false hope; that there is a Father in heaven who cares for all,
whatever name they bear. Thus the Psalm has received a better and higher
fulfilment than that which lies on the surface of its words. It was fulfilled in
Christ. --J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verses 4-7. The main thought is that contained in Ps 87:4-7,
the glorifying of Sion by the reception of the heathen into the number of its
citizens; and a well defined form and arrangement of this thought forms the
proper kernel of the Ps 87:1-7, "Sion, the birth place of the nations",
which occurs in every one of the three verses (Ps 87:4-6), which are bounded by
a Selah behind and before. --E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 5. This man. The word rendered "Man" is
generally used for a person of eminence; and the clause "this and that man", is
simply, "a Man and a Man", which some think is used as a peculiar superlative,
and means, the most eminent of men, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and they
suppose that He, in his divine nature, is the Highest who "shall
establish the church." No doubt he is the glory of the church, and of his
people Israel; but his crucifixion was the deepest disgrace imaginable to
Jerusalem itself. --Thomas Scott.
Verse 5. This man. It is well to observe that the word for
man, used here, is not Mda adam, the common name for man, but
ish, which is usually employed when a name is introduced to be designated
with distinction and honour. There are in Hebrew, in fact, three words to
designate man, with varied signification-- Mda adam, the common name;
ish, the name of excellency and honour; and vwna enosh, man in his weak
and inferior character, as liable to misfortune, misery, and death. The
illustrative discrimination with which these words are respectively employed,
gives to many passages of the Hebrew Scriptures a force and significance which
cannot be preserved in translation into a language which has but one word to
represent all these meanings--or indeed has no word for man but the one answering
to Adam, unless indeed our "male", in a sense of dignity and strength,
answers in some measure to ish. --John Kitto, in "The Pictorial
Verse 6. --The Lord will count (rpoy) record it in
a book, when he writes up the people (Myme bwtkb) registers the
several nations of the earth; that "this man, was born in"
Sion. The Psalmist here describes the peculiar regard of God to the inhabitants
of Jerusalem, and figuratively represents him, as keeping a register of
all the nations of the earth, and marking, as it were, in that register every
one that was a citizen of Jerusalem, as thereby entitled to his
distinguishing favour and protection. --Samuel Chandler.
Verse 6. --This man was born there. When events shall be
traced to their principles at the last day, many a scene will come forth into
prominence, which now is of little regard. Humble churches will then prove to
have been the birthplace, and stately palaces the graves of many an immortal
soul, while every saved soul will ascribe its springs of glory to its Redeemer,
through the instrumentality of that church, which he has ordained. --Edward
Verse 6. --Selah. The Hebrew text addeth "Selah",
which St. Jerome translates semper (always). For the Church, as a
bride glorious in her husband, shall evermore be preached of; glorious things
shall be spoken of her, and in her shall be continually sung the ineffable glory
of the everlasting grace of God in Christ our Lord. And so the Jews for the most
part interpret the word "Selah" by "everlasting". This is evident
in their epitaphs, even as the Jewish epitaph is in Hebrew at Basle--"His soul
continues in Paradise, Amen, Amen, Amen, forever and ever." --Urbanus Regius
(Le Roi) (1541) in "The Solace of Sion."
Verse 7. The singers; the players on instruments. Song and
music were prominent features of Divine worship in David's time. This is evident
from the large number of two hundred and eighty-eight Levites who were expressly
appointed for singing and the performance of music. Not less than two hundred
and fifty-five singing men and singing women returned from the exile...The chief
instruments used by the Levites were, according to the records of the Books of
Chronicles, cymbals, harps, and lutes: according to Ps 5:1-12 (title), we should
add the flute, which is frequently noticed on Egyptian monuments. --Augustus
Verse 7. (First clause). For all its inhabitants
are expert musicians; lit. Sing like flute players. The
Hebrews seem to have surpassed all nations in the skill of poetry and music; and
every citizen could sing and dance. This preeminence the Psalmist seems to hint
at. --Alexander Geddes.
Verse 7. All my springs are in thee. The original word
which we render "springs", is used in a figurative sense, to denote
any one's posterity. Thus Pr 5:16, "Let thy fountains be dispersed
abroad"; i.e., thy posterity be exceeding numerous. And thus in the place
before us: the inhabitants of Jerusalem should triumph and sing, "All my
springs", or fountains, all my friends, my family, my children, are in thee,
are thy citizens, enjoy the glorious privileges thou art favoured with, are all
inserted in God's register, and entitled to his protection and favour. Thus
there is a harmony and connection between all the parts of this ode, which I
think is very intelligible and poetical. --Samuel Chandler.
Verse 7. All my springs are in thee. Whatever conduit pipe
be used, Christ is the fountain and foundation of every drop of comfort; Christ
is the God of all true consolation. It is not in the power of all the angels of
heaven to give any soul one drop of comfort, nor can all on earth give you one
drop of comfort. They can speak the words of comfort, but they cannot cause the
soul to receive comfort. God comforts by them, 2Co 7:6. Titus was but an
instrument. Comforting is called frequently in Scripture the speaking to the
heart, Ho 2:14. Who is able to speak to the heart but he who is the Lord and
commander of the heart? God hath put all the oil of spiritual joy into the hands
of Christ, Isa 61:3, and none but he can give it out. He that wants comfort must
go to Christ, he that hath received any true comfort must ascribe it to Christ.
"All my springs", saith the Church, "are in thee." --Ralph Robinson.
Verse 7. The silver springs of grace, and the golden
springs of glory are in him. --Thomas Watson.
Verse 7. Springs. The meaning of this verse is obscure,
partly from its abrupt brevity, and partly from the ambiguity of one word. The
word "springs" is, beyond all controversy, to be here taken
metaphorically; but interpreters are not agreed as to the explanation of the
metaphor. Some understand it as denoting hopes, some affections,
and others thoughts. Did the idiom of the language admit, I would
willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who translate it melodies or
songs. But as this might be considered unsupported by the usage of the
Hebrew term, I am rather inclined to adopt, as most suitable to the subject in
hand, the opinion that lookings is the proper translation, the root of
the word signifying an eye. It is as if the Psalmist had said, I will
always be earnestly looking, as it were, with fixed eyes upon thee. --John
Verse 7. My springs.
Whether songs or melodies
In Thee are all my well springs.
This passage is given obscurely in most of the versions; it is
here rendered strictly, and, as the author hopes, perspicuously. As the Greeks
had their Pierian springs, their fountains of Aganippe dedicated to the Muses,
Jerusalem had, in like manner, her sacred springs, her fountains of inspiration,
in a much higher degree. It is to these the holy bard alludes in the passage
before us, as Milton does in the following, who has perhaps copied from the
present in his address to the "Heavenly Muse":
"Or if Zion's hill
Delight thee more, or Siloa's fount that flowed
Hard by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thine aid to my adventurous song."
Verse 7. --All my springs. Fitly may we here quote the
delightful hymn of Robert Robinson which has puzzled so many, but which has in
it a fine classical allusion to Hippocrene and Mount Parnassus.
"Come, thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace,
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above:
Praise the mount--oh fix me on it,
Mount of God's unchanging love." --C.H.S.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. The foundation of Zion.
(a) It is but one: "foundation."
(b) It is the Lord's: "his."
(c) It is in conformity with holiness: "holy mountains."
(d) It consists of eternal purposes.
(e) It is built up on immutable principles.
(f) It is situated in a glorious position.
2. The favour enjoyed by Zion.
(a) God "loves the dwellings of Jacob." He led, fed, guarded, lighted, visited them.
(b) He loves Zion "better"; and gives all those blessings in a richer form.
(c) There are more to love.
(d) Their occupations are more spiritual.
(e) Their songs and worship are more enthusiastic.
(f) Their testimony is more powerful.
(g) Their knowledge of truth is more clear.
(h) Their fellowship is on a scale more heavenly. Let us be in the Church, and love her.
3. The fame of Zion. "Glorious things are spoken",
(a) of her in history;
(b) in her by ministry;
(c) for her by Jesus;
(d) about her in prophecy.
Here is a fruitful theme.
Verse 3. The idea of the text presents the Church as "the
city of God": let us touch upon some of the "glorious things" that are spoken of
1. There are glorious things with respect to the
erection of the city.
(a) There is the plan of its erection. There was never a plan so faultless, so complete, so wonderful for its
beauty and grandeur. The gates, the walls, the buildings, the streets, the monuments, the fountains,
the gardens, unite to proclaim it a master piece of skill. The Architect was he who built the skies.
(b) There is the site where the city is erected. See Ps 87:1.
(c) There is the date of the city's erection. A halo and a glory attach, in a case like this, to great
antiquity. Now it is long since the city was built. It was standing in the days of Paul "Ye are come unto
the city of the living God." Heb 12:22. David was well acquainted with it. Ps 46:1-11.
(d) It was standing before the flood. Noah, Enoch, Abel, dwelt in it. It is almost as old as the creation.
2. There are glorious things to tell of the defences of
the city. It has been besieged ever since it was a city at all, and it is not
taken to this hour. "We have a strong city", etc.
3. There are glorious things in connection with the
stores and supplies on which the city depends;
(a) their excellence;
(b) their abundance;
(c) their source.
4. There are glorious things respecting the King of the
city; his name, person, character, etc.
5. There are glorious things in connection with the
citizens of the day. --Andrew Gray, 1805-1861.
1. Observe, that a city is not like a flower, a tree, or a
plant--something that grows out of the earth, and is nourished from the earth,
and dependent wholly on its juices. It is an artificial thing, constructed by
wisdom and raised by power, as it was designed by genius and forethought.
2. A city upon earth is surrounded generally by walls.
3. Jerusalem (the most celebrated of cities, from which this
figure is obviously drawn) was built upon the brow of a hill, an extremely
conspicuous and beautiful object.
4. In a city there are various buildings, and structures of
various shapes, materials and value: illustrate by the different denominations,
5. A city has municipal laws.
6. It has also trade, traffic, & c.
7. The figure, as applied to the Church of Christ, involves the
idea of safety or security, honour, & c.
8. There is also the idea of fewness. --John Cumming,
Verse 3. The things "spoken" of the city of God.
1. It shall be the permanent and the peculiar residence of God.
2. It shall be the scene of delightful privileges and
3. It shall be invested with absolute and inviolable security.
4. It shall possess renown and empire throughout the whole
5. Its institutions and existence shall be perfected in the
celestial state. --James Parsons, 1839.
Verse 4. (last clause).
1. Behold what the "man" was: a native of "Philistia", a
heathen, and an enemy to God.
2. Behold what happened to him: he "was born there," i.e. new born in Zion.
3. Behold what he became--he became by his new birth a freeman
and burgess of Zion, & c.
1. What is not the most honourable birth place--not Rahab nor
Egypt, nor Babylon, nor any earthly palace or kingdom.
2. What is? "Of Zion", & c.
(a) Because it is a nobler birth; a being born again of the Spirit of God.
(b) Because it is a nobler place; the residence of the Highest, and established for ever.
(c) Because it brings nobler rank and privileges. --G.R.
1. Zion shall produce many good and great men.
2. Zion's interest shall be established by divine power.
3. Zion's sons shall be registered with honour.
4. Zion's songs shall be sung with joy and triumph. --Matthew
1. The excellence of the church is here stated.
2. Her enlargement is here promised. --J. Scholefield,
Verse 5. The renowned men of the church of God.
1. Great warriors, who have fought with temptation.
2. Great poets, whose lives were Psalms.
3. Great heroes, who have lived and died for Jesus.
4. Great kings, who have ruled themselves, & c. Apostles,
martyrs, confessors, reformers, men renowned for virtues such as only grace can
Verse 5. This and that man. The individuality of true
1. Each soul sins for itself.
2. Rejects or accepts the Saviour for itself.
3. Must be judged, and
4. Saved or lost individually. The consequent need of personal
piety; the temptations to neglect it; and the habits which promote it.
Verse 5. (last clause). The Established Church of
God--her Head, her protection, her power. & c.
1. "The Lord" will make the Census.
2. He will "count" whether a man be rightly there or no.
3. Every man truly born in Zion shall be admitted on the
1. The time referred to. "When he writeth up", & c.; when
all the true Israel is saved.
2. The account to be taken: "When he writeth up", & c.,
i.e. revises and reenters the names in the Lamb's Book of Life. Compares the
called with the chosen.
3. The test to be applied.
(a) Their being in Zion, or having the means of grace.
(b) Their being born there.
4. The completion of their number: "The Lord shall count." An
exact number of stones in a perfect building and of members in a perfect body.
So in Christ's Church. All make one bride.
5. The notice taken of each one: "This man was born there." Men
fell as a whole; they are saved individually. --G.R.
1. In God our joy.
2. From God our supplies.
3. To God our praise.
Verse 7. (last clause). --All the springs within me,
all the springs which flow for me, are in my God. There are "upper and nether
springs", springs "shut up", "valley" springs (Ps 104:10), rock springs, &
c.; but all these flow from the Lord.
WORKS UPON THE EIGHTY-SEVENTH PSALM
In "Sermons preached before the University of Oxford
...by John Eveleigh, D.D., 1815, "is "Sermon, twelve, in which is
proposed a New Interpretation of the Eighty-Seventh Psalm."
The Solace of Sion, and Joy of Jerusalem. Or consolation of
God's Church in the latter age, redeemed by the preaching of the Gospel
universally. Being a godly and learned exposition of the Eighty-Seventh Psalme
of the Princelye Prophet David: Written in Letine by the reverend Doctor Urbanus
Regius, Pastor of Christes Church at Zelle, in Saxonie 1536. Translated into
English by R. Robinson, Citizen of London, 1587.