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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 87

Finally, all enemies have been eliminated. Now all attention can be turned to Zion, Jerusalem. The “city of God” (Psa 87:3) is now the civil and religious capital of the world. This psalm describes the relationship between Zion and the nations, and is the further elaboration of what we have read in Psalm 86 (Psa 86:9). It is now about the time of the regeneration of the earth (Mt 19:28).

Verses 1-3

God’s Love for His City

This “psalm” is called “a song” (Psa 87:1a). By “a song” is usually meant a song of praise. It is a song of the remnant, of both the two and the ten tribes. This is “all Israel” that has been saved (Rom 11:26).

For “of the sons of Korah” see at Psalm 42:1.

The psalm sings of the future glory of Zion as the mother city of all nations (cf. Isa 2:1-4), as a joy to the whole earth (Psa 48:2). It is so because God has chosen it and laid His foundation for it (Psa 87:1b; cf. Heb 11:10). He has built His city upon “His foundation” (cf. Isa 14:32). That foundation is “in the holy mountains” (cf. Psa 3:5; Psa 15:1; Psa 99:9). Upon them “is” His foundation. It speaks of stability, of a stable and lasting peace.

The foundation and at the same time the stability of Zion lies in the fact that it was chosen by the love of God (Psa 87:2; cf. Deu 12:5; 14; 18; 21). Therefore, it is the “city of God”, which means both a great city – a superlative, as in Jonah 3 of Nineveh (Jona 3:3) – and the city where God Himself is present (Eze 48:35; Rev 14:1; cf. Isa 60:14).

The church of the living God, the new Jerusalem, is also built on a foundation that God has laid. That foundation is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God (1Cor 3:10; Mt 16:18). This foundation was laid by the apostles and prophets in their teaching about the church (Eph 2:20).

The foundation and location of the city distinguish it from all other cities. They are holy mountains, because He has set those mountains apart from all other mountains for Himself and His city. They are holy mountains, because He has given it that exalted place above all other cities (cf. Jer 31:23). The plural ‘mountains’ may have something to do with the fact that Jerusalem was built on several hills.

God chose the city because He loves it (Psa 87:2; Psa 78:68; cf. Deu 7:6-8). There is nothing in the city itself that would make it more attractive than other cities. Rather, it is originally repulsive (Eze 16:1-5), but He has taken care of it in love and made it attractive (Eze 16:6-8).

“The LORD loves the gates of Zion” because they allow access to the city to also partake of His blessing. The gates characterize the city as one that is accessible. People enter the city in crowds through the gates to worship the LORD. Gates are also the place where justice is spoken. They speak of the authority of God in the city. It is also the place of government of the city (Rth 4:1-10) from which law and power are exercised.

The city not only rises above other cities in a natural way, because of its location on the mountains. The city also rises above all the dwellings of Jacob in the love that God has for it. There are many beautiful dwellings or cities in Israel, but to none does His heart go out in the same way as to this city.

The “glorious things” are the things that God has worked in her (Psa 87:3). They are spoken of by the prophets in their prophecies about the city. They are also things noticed by the nations and their kings and spoken of by them. There is much to note about her sins, but in Christ there are only glorious things to mention. The same is true of the church.

All these very glorious things concern the “city of God”. Everything in the city reflects His glory. This can only refer to the future, for currently Jerusalem is not the city of God, God does not now dwell there. Israel is still Lo-Ammi, not My people (Hos 1:9). When He takes up His residence in the temple again, He will dwell there again (Eze 43:1-7; Eze 48:35).

Verses 4-6

This One Was Born There

After the Korahites sing of the glory of the city, they describe how children from various nations are counted to Zion (Psa 87:4). They are counted as children born there. This presupposes a relationship with Him. Five nations are mentioned, from which people come to belong to the city because they acknowledge Him. They surrender their old citizenship and receive the citizenship of Zion. They are not incorporated into Israel, but into God’s city.

First, two former superpowers are mentioned: Rahab and Babylon. Rahab is Egypt (Isa 30:7; Isa 51:9; Psa 89:11). Both have been world powers that have ruled over Israel. Babylon is the power north of Israel and Egypt is the power south of it. Egypt, too, will know and serve the LORD in the realm of peace (cf. Isa 19:25). The second kingdom, Babylon, prophetically refers to the restored Roman Empire (Isaiah 40-48; Revelation 17-18). Despite the destruction of Europe in the end time, there will again be people in Europe who will serve the LORD. All those who have been taken from the world’s powers by grace will be credited to Zion. They will turn to the God of Israel and come to know Him.

Rahab means pride and Babylon confusion. Both powers have been hostile to Israel in the past. Both powers will come to an end (Isa 2:11-17). The coming of the LORD is the end of all pride. The ruins of confusion caused by Babylon will also disappear through Christ, Who is more than Cyrus (Isa 44:26-28).

In addition to these world powers, there is “Philistia” who fought Israel so many times in the land to take possession of the land given to Israel by God. Further, there is “Tyre”. It represents economic power, the world of rich and proud traders. It rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem because of the commercial advantage he thought it would bring him (Eze 26:2). Finally, reference is made to “Ethiopia”. It represents the more distant peoples.

Individual inhabitants of these areas lay down their enmity. If these people (from the nations) want to come to know the LORD, they must travel to Zion to receive instruction (Isa 2:3). There they will come to repentance and faith, there they will be born again (cf. Mt 19:28) and therefore they are considered to have been born in Zion.

God says of them that they are “born there”, that is in Zion. They are all seen as citizens of the city of God, thereby sharing in the blessings God bestows upon the city. Paul, in relation to New Testament believers, speaks in such a way of “the Jerusalem above …; she is our mother” (Gal 4:26).

The blessing in connection with Zion is not so much for nations as a whole. It is an individual blessing (Psa 87:5). In the city, which at first was childless, the number of inhabitants is constantly increasing (cf. Isa 54:1-3). The city will not be divided by the increase of individuals, but will remain a unity. God will see to that, “the Most High Himself will establish her”. His presence guarantees the continuity of peace. The LORD has laid her foundation (Psa 87:1) and He will also confirm and maintain her. Then Jerusalem will truthfully be, according to the meaning of her name, ‘the city of peace’.

The LORD keeps a careful record of who has the civil rights of His city (Psa 87:6). He counts everyone who by new birth is in His city. No one is forgotten in this counting. The fact that He counts gives the assurance that someone belongs to the ‘numbered’ forever. For such a person the atonement money has been paid (Exo 30:11-16). All the numbered are counted among God’s people (cf. Jer 33:13).

Of each one of them the LORD says as a mark of truth: “This one was born there.” Such a person is counted and written down. This gives the numbered person the absolute assurance that he will never again be removed from the city of God. The seal of the ownership of God is upon him unbreakably. It is with it as with the sheep of the Lord Jesus, of whom He says that no one can snatch them out of His hand (Jn 10:28).

Verse 7

All My Springs Are In You

All the favors done to the nations bring about exuberant expressions of joy. Those who live in Zion are “those who sing”. There are also those who dance and sing in rows and in turn to express their joy. One part of the inhabitants sings, another part dances. In a great praise, they all sing about Zion: “All my springs [of joy] are in you” (cf. Psa 46:5; Rev 22:1-2; Eze 47:1-12). They can say that because the LORD, Who is the spring of living water, is there (Isa 12:3; cf. Jer 2:13). Zion is the city of grace. All who are included in it are there by grace.

They sing of “all my springs” because the true source of Zion, the Messiah, the LORD, dwells there. He is the spring of all blessing and joy in the realm of peace. During His life on earth He wept over the city (Lk 19:41). Now He can rejoice with her over all that is in her, for all that originates in Him. He can give that joy and blessing on the basis of His suffering on the cross (Jn 7:37-39). That suffering is described impressively in the following psalm.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 87". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.