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This Psalm was composed upon the occasion of some eminent deliverance vouchsafed by God to the city of Jerusalem from some potent enemy and dreadful danger; either that in Jehoshaphat’s time, 2 Chronicles 20:0, or that under Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18:0; 2 Kings 19:0; in both which times there were holy prophets, by some of whom this Psalm might be made.
A Song and Psalm; of which see See Poole "Psalms 30:1", which hath the same title.
The prophet describeth the glory and excellency of the church, Psalms 48:1-3, preserved from her potent enemies, Psalms 48:4-8 for which God is glorified, Psalms 48:9,Psalms 48:10, and the faithful invited to take notice of its beauty and firmness, to transmit it to following generations, Psalms 48:11-14.
In the city of our God; in Jerusalem, which he hath chosen for his dwelling-place.
In the mountain of his holiness, i.e. in his holy mountain; either Zion, where the ark and tabernacle was; or rather Moriah, where the temple now was. Although both of them are supposed by some to be but one mountain, having two tops; and it is certain that both are frequently called by one name, to wit, Zion.
The joy of the whole earth: Jerusalem may be so called here, as it is also Lamentations 2:15, not actually, as if all people did rejoice in it, or for it; but,
1. Fundamentally or causally, because here was very great cause or ground or rejoicing for the Gentile world, if they had understood themselves, or their true interest; because here God was graciously present and ready to hear and answer the just desires and prayers, not only of the Israelites, but of any stranger, of what nation soever, according to Solomon’s prayer, 1 Kings 8:41, &c.; and here the Gentiles might find that God, whom like blind men they groped for, as the Greek phrase implies, Acts 17:27; and here they might be informed of the nature and properties, as also of the mind and will, of the almighty and everlasting God, of which they were so grossly ignorant, and of that Messias who was the desire of (and consequently matter of great joy unto) all nations, Haggai 2:7. And,
2. Prophetically, because the joyful doctrine of the gospel was to go from thence unto all nations; of which see Isaiah 2:2,Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:1,Micah 4:2. Yet these words may be and are by others rendered and understood thus, the joy of the, or this, (for here is an emphatical article,) whole land.
On the sides of the north, i.e. which is on the northern part of Jerusalem. But because Josephus and some others affirm that Mount Zion stood southward from Jerusalem, this clause possibly may be added to signify that Zion is not here to be understood strictly and properly for that mountain, or part of the mountain so called, but for that other mountain, or part of the same mountain upon which the temple was built, which was strictly called Moriah, but is here called Zion, because that name was far better known in Scripture, as being oft put for the temple, as Psalms 137:3; Isaiah 18:7; Jeremiah 51:10; Lamentations 5:18, and for the whole city, and for the church of God, in a multitude of places of Scripture.
The city of the great King, i.e. the city of God, as it was now called, Psalms 48:1, who justly calls himself a great King, Malachi 1:14, as being King of kings, and Lord of lords, Revelation 19:16.
God is known to his people by sensible and long experience, and to all neighbouring nations by their own observation.
In her palaces, i. e in the habitations, or to the inhabitants of that city. Possibly he may here point at the king’s palace and the temple, which was the palace of the King of heaven; which two palaces God did in a singular manner protect, and by protecting them he protected the whole city and people.
For a refuge; under whose shadow we are more safe and secure, than other cities are with their great rivers and impregnable fortifications.
Either those kings confederate against Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20:0; or the Assyrian princes, whom they vain-gloriously called
kings, Isaiah 10:8.
They passed by, in their march towards Jerusalem. Or, they passed away, i.e. departed without the success which they desired and confidently expected.
They saw it; they did only look upon it, but not come into it, nor shoot an arrow there, —nor cast a bank against it, as is said upon this or the like occasion, 2 Kings 19:32.
So they marvelled, not so much at the structure or strength of the city, as at the wonderful works wrought by God on their behalf.
They were troubled and hasted away: see 2 Kings 19:35.
Partly at the tidings of Tirhakah’s coming against them, 2 Kings 19:9, and partly for that terrible slaughter of their army there, 2 Kings 19:35.
This is not reported as a matter of fact, for we read of no ships in those expeditions to which this Psalm relates, nor did any ships come near Jerusalem, because that was at a great distance from the sea, and from any navigable river running into the sea; but only added by way of illustration or allusion. The sense is, Thou didst no less violently and suddenly destroy these proud and raging enemies of Jerusalem, than sometimes thou destroyest the ships at sea with a fierce and vehement wind, such as the eastern winds were in those parts, Exodus 14:21; Job 27:21; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 27:26. The words are and may be rendered thus, Thou didst break them as (such ellipses of the pronoun, and of the note of similitude, being very frequent; as I have again and again showed) the ships of the sea (for Tarshish, though properly the name of a maritime place in Cilicia, Ezekiel 27:25; Jonah 1:3, is usually put for the sea, as 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21; Psalms 72:10; Isaiah 2:16; Jeremiah 10:9) are broken
with an east wind. Albeit the enemies of Jerusalem, which are compared to the raging waters of the sea in Psalms 46:2,Psalms 46:3, may as fitly be compared to ships upon the sea.
The predictions of the prophets, either 2 Chronicles 20:14, or 2 Kings 19:20, &c., have been verified by the events. Or, we have had late and fresh experiences of such wonderful works of God, as before we only heard of by the report of our fathers. From this miraculous deliverance we plainly see that God hath a singular love to it, and care of it, and therefore will defend her in all succeeding ages against all her enemies. And so God would have done, if Jerusalem had not forsaken God, and forfeited his favour and protection.
It hath been the matter of our serious and deep meditation, when we have been worshipping there in thy temple. For when the priests were offering incense or sacrifice, the religious people exercised themselves in holy meditation or secret prayer to God, as may be gathered from Luke 1:10, and many other places of Scripture, and from the nature of the thing. Or, we have silently or patiently waited for, as some ancient and other interpreters render it.
For this and such-like glorious actions thou art praised and acknowledged, and evidently proved to be such a one as thou hast affirmed thyself to be in thy word, God almighty, or all-sufficient, the Lord of hosts, the King of thy church and people, and a strong Tower to all that trust in thee, and all other things which thou art called in Scripture. Thy name is not an empty title, but is filled up with honourable and praiseworthy works, answerable to it.
Full of righteousness, i.e. of righteous actions; by which thou discoverest thy justice and holiness in destroying the wicked and incorrigible enemies of thy people, and in fulfilling thy promises made to thy church.
Mount Zion; synecdochically put for Jerusalem. The daughters of Judah, i.e. the other and lesser cities and towns or villages (i.e. all the people) of Judah; for such are commonly called daughters in respect of the mother city, to which they are subjects: see Joshua 15:45; Joshua 17:16; Psalms 45:12; Psalms 137:8. He mentions Judah only, and not all Israel; partly because they were more immediately and eminently concerned in Jerusalem’s deliverance; and principally because ten of the tribes of Israel were now cut off from Jerusalem, and from the kingdom of David’s house, and possibly carried away captive, 2 Kings 18:9-11.
Because of thy judgments upon thine and their enemies; at which they were glad, not simply, but because it was highly conducible to God’s honour, and to the preservation and enlargement of God’s church in the world.
He speaketh, either,
1. To the enemies, as triumphing over them. Or rather,
2. To the people of that city and kingdom, who had been eye-witnesses of this glorious work of God, as appears from the following verses. He bids them mark well her towers, bulwarks, and palaces, here, and Psalms 48:13, not with vain ostentation, or carnal confidence, for he had said that God only was their refuge, Psalms 48:3; but with thankfulness to God, when they should find upon inquiry, that not one of them was demolished or any way defaced by so potent an enemy.
Consider; or, exalt, or admire, Tell it to the generation following, that they may be excited to continue their praises to God for this mercy, by which they hold and enjoy all their blessings, and to trust in God in the like difficulties for the future.
This God; who hath done this great work.
Even unto death, i.e. whilst we have a being. Birth and life, and the several ages of life and death, are oft ascribed to churches and commonwealths, both in Scripture and in other authors. This promise was made to the old and earthly Jerusalem, upon condition of their obedience, wherein they failing so grossly, lost the benefit of it, but it is absolutely made good to the new and heavenly Jerusalem, the church of Christ.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 48". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26