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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Psalms 87

Psalms 87:0


This Psalm was doubtless composed after the building of the temple; and, as learned men think, and it seems probable, when the people were newly returned out of Babylon, and laboured under many discouragements about the return of most of their brethren, and the difficulties which they met with in the rebuilding of their temple and city.

The prophet speaketh of the nature and glory of the endureth and God’s love to it, Psalms 87:1-3; of the increase, honour, and comfort of the members thereof, Psalms 87:4-7.

Verse 1

His foundation: whose foundation? Either,

1. The foundation, i.e. the argument or matter, of this Psalm or Song. So these words are thought to be a part of the title, the words lying thus in the Hebrew text,

For the sons of Korah, a Psalm or Song whose

foundation is in the Holy mountains. But,

1. The Hebrew word rendered foundation is no where used in that sense.

2. There is no example of any such like title in the Book of the Psalms. Or rather,

2. Of the city or temple of God, of which he speaks in the following verses. And whereas the beginning is somewhat abrupt, which seems to be the only ground of the foregoing exposition, that is no unusual thing in Scripture, and the pronoun relative, such as this is, is often put without any foregoing antecedent, and the antecedent is to be fetched out of the following words or verses, as Numbers 24:17, I shall see him, or it, to wit, the star, which follows afterward; Psalms 105:19, his word, i.e. the Lord’s; Proverbs 7:8, to her house, i.e. the harlot’s, mentioned Proverbs 7:10; and especially Song of Solomon 1:2, let him kiss, to wit, my beloved, who is there understood, but not expressed till Proverbs 7:14. And the ground of that abrupt and imperfect speech there seems to be the same with this here; for as the church was there in deep meditation and a great passion about her beloved, which caused that abruptness of speech, which is usual in such cases, so the psalmist’s thoughts were strongly fixed upon the temple and city of God; and therefore this relative his had a certain antecedent in his thoughts, though not in his words. The word foundations may possibly be emphatical, because this Psalm might probably be composed when the foundations of the second temple were newly laid, and the old men who had seen the glory of the former house were dejected at the sight of this, of which see Ezra 3:11,Ezra 3:12. And so the meaning of this passage may be this, Be not discouraged, O ye Jews, that your temple is not yet erected and built, but only the foundations of it laid, and those too are mean and obscure in comparison of the magnificence of your former temple; but take comfort in this, that your temple hath its foundations laid, and those sure and firm; sure in themselves, because they are not laid in the sand, nor in boggy or fenny grounds, but in the mountains; and sure by Divine establishment, because those mountains are holy, consecrated to God, and therefore maintained and established by him. Or he may use this word foundations in opposition to the tabernacle, which was movable, and without foundations, to note the stability and perpetuity of this building.

In the holy mountains; or, among or within the holy mountains, to wit, in Jerusalem, which was encompassed with mountains, Psalms 125:2, and in which were two famous mountains, to wit, Zion and Moriah. Or the plural number is here put for the singular, whereof we have seen examples formerly; and mountains are put for the mountain; either for Mount Moriah, upon which the temple stood; or for Mount Zion, which is mentioned in the next verse; which is often taken in a large and comprehensive sense, so as to include Moriah, in which sense the temple is said to be in Zion, Psalms 74:2; Psalms 76:2; Isaiah 8:18.

Verse 2

The gates, i.e. the city gates, being oft put for cities, as Deuteronomy 15:7; Deuteronomy 16:5; Psalms 9:14.

Of Zion; largely so called, as was now said, to wit, of Jerusalem, which was built upon and near Mount Zion. He saith Zion rather than Jerusalem, to intimate that he loved Jerusalem for Zion’s sake, or for the temple, which is oft said to be in Zion; which place he loved and chose for his peculiar dwelling-place.

More than all the dwellings of Jacob; more than all other places of the land of Canaan in which the Israelites dwelt. For although the tabernacle was for a season in some other parts of the land, yet the temple, the place of God’s fixed residence, was no where but in this city.

Verse 3

O Jerusalem, though thou and thy temple are yet in some sort in your ruins, and desolate and contemptible not only to thine enemies, but also in the eyes of thine own people, yet comfort thyself with these great and glorious things foretold concerning thee in the holy prophets, as Isaiah 62:1,Isaiah 62:7; Isaiah 65:18, &c.; Isaiah 66:10, &c.; Zechariah 1:14, &c.; Zechariah 2:4,Zechariah 2:12; Zechariah 8:3, &c. Zechariah 12:2, &c. Among other things, it was foretold that the glory of the latter house should be greater than of the former, Haggai 2:9. All which prophecies are to be understood, as this place also is, of a spiritual and evangelical glory accruing to Jerusalem; as by the birth and presence of Christ in it, so also by the accession of all people and nations to it, of which he speaks in the next verse.

Verse 4

I will make mention, i.e. I will reckon or account them in the number of my children and subjects.

Rahab, i.e. Egypt, so called, Psalms 89:10; Isaiah 51:9, but whether from its pride, or natural strength, or figure, or shape, is not material.

And Babylon: under these two and Philistia, the old and constant enemies of Israel, he seems to understand all the keenest enemies of the Israel or church of God, who shall now be not only reconciled, but united to them; which also was foretold under the similitude of the wolf’s dwelling with the lamb, &c., Isaiah 11:6. To them; or, with or among them, as the prefix lamed is frequently used.

That know me, to wit, truly, clearly, affectionately, and practically, so as to love, serve, and obey me, as this phrase is very frequently used in Scripture. And upon this account, not only heathens, but wicked Israelites, are said not to know God, as 1 Samuel 2:12, and oft elsewhere.

Behold; take notice of it as a thing new, and strange, and comfortable.

Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; the nations on every side of them; for Tyrus was on the north, Ethiopia or Arabia (for that seems rather to be meant by Cush, as hath been before observed) on the south, those nearest to them, and those more remote from them, that lived in the uttermost parts of the earth, as this very land is called, Matthew 12:42. This man was born there; or, saying, This man, &c., for this cohereth with the first words thus, I will make mention of Rahab, &c., saying, This man (i.e. these men or people now mentioned, the singular number put collectively for the plural; and the Scripture oft speaks of a nation as of one man, as Psalms 25:22; Psalms 130:8) was born there, or in her, as it is expressed, Psalms 87:5, to wit, in Zion; born by adoption and regeneration. See John 1:12; John 3:3,John 3:7; Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:26; 1 Peter 1:23. The Gentiles shall be ingrafted into the Jewish church, and into all their privileges.

Verse 5

Of Zion, i.e. of Jerusalem, or the church of God. It shall be said; it shall be mentioned by God, as was said, Psalms 87:4, and it shall be observed and acknowledged by men, as a great and wonderful work of God.

This and that man, i.e. men of this and that nation, i.e. of every nation, indifferently, Jews or Gentiles, according to that prediction, that Egypt, and Assyria, and Israel should be all joined together, and blessed and owned by God for his people, Isaiah 19:24,Isaiah 19:25. Heb. Man and man, i.e. every man, or all sorts of men, without difference of nations; as this very phrase man and man, Leviticus 17:10,Leviticus 17:13, is rendered every or whatsoever man; and as by day and day is meant every day, or from day to day, Esther 1:1,Esther 1:4; Psalms 61:8. And the Highest himself shall establish her: and this shall not be a sudden and transient, but a lasting work; Zion shall continue in its strength and fertility because the Almighty God is her Founder and Protector, and will finish the work which he hath begun.

Verse 6

The people; or, his people. So it is only a defect of the pronoun his, which is very frequent, and easily understood out of the foregoing word,

the Lord. The sense is, when God, the Maker and Governor of this city, shall take a survey of all his citizens and subjects. It is an allusion to princes or governors of cities that use to write and keep a register of all their people. Hence holy then and true Israelites are said to be written among the living in Jerusalem, Isaiah 4:3; or, in the writing of the house of Israel, Ezekiel 13:9.

Verse 7

There shall be great rejoicing and praising God, both with vocal and instrumental music, for this glorious and stupendous work of the conversion of the Gentiles. He describes evangelical worship by legal phrases and customs, as the prophets frequently do.

In thee, i.e. in Zion, or the church. These words may be here added as the burden or matter of the song, which these singers are supposed to have sung; and that either,

1. In their own names, and in the name of all the Zionites or people of God. So the sense is, All our desires and delights are in thee, all the springs of mercy, grace, and glory flow to us only in and through thee; for springs or fountains are oft put for all precious or desirable things, as Psalms 36:9; Isaiah 12:3; Hosea 13:15. Or,

2. In God’s name, whose words were frequently sung by the singers in the Old Testament. And so the sense is, All the springs or fountains of good things, or of my blessings are in Zion, or in the church, out of which no true blessings are to be expected or found. And this sense seems best to suit with the phrase, my springs; partly because it seems more proper to call them God’s springs, who is the author and giver of them, than men’s springs, who are only the receivers of them; and partly because this is more agreeable to the phrase and usage of Scripture, which every where ascribes and appropriates them to God.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 87". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.