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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 48

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2981. B.C. 1023.

The author of this Psalm is not known, nor the particular time when it was composed. Most commentators infer from its contents, that it was made on the occasion of some providential deliverance which God had given to the city of Jerusalem, when it was violently attacked, or threatened, at least, by some very powerful and confederate enemies. “If all things else would agree,” says Bishop Patrick, “it might not unfitly be applied to the defeating Sennacherib’s army, which actually begirt that city, but, by a sudden pestilence, that in one night killed a vast number, was forced to quit the siege with shame, 2 Kings 18:19 . But the fourth verse of this Psalm speaks of a combination of kings, who had joined their forces together upon this design.” He therefore thinks it most applicable to the deliverance granted them in Jehoshaphat’s time, when Moab, Ammon, and they of mount Seir, came against him. But Mudge thinks it refers to the ineffectual attempt of Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel; and that the prophecy of Isaiah, chapters 7., 8., confirms this idea. Some, however, are of opinion, that the Psalm is as old as the time of David, because it is evident that when it was made, mount Sion, the chief subject of it, was in the highest reputation; whereas, that mount was not much regarded after the ark had been some time removed from thence. Be this as it may; on whatever occasion the Psalm was composed, it is very applicable to the gospel church, of which Jerusalem, or mount Sion was a type, especially when that church shall be in its triumphant state. We have here,

(1,) The glory and excellence of the church, Psalms 48:1-3 . Which God preserves from her enemies, Psalms 48:4-8 . God is praised for this, Psalms 48:9 , Psalms 48:10 . Who effectually provides for its safety, Psalms 48:11-14 .

Verse 1

Psalms 48:1. Great is the Lord, &c. Great is the majesty and the power of Jehovah; who is therefore to be celebrated with the highest praises; in the city of our God Especially in his own city Jerusalem, and by the inhabitants of it; in the mountain of his holiness In that mountain which he hath long ago set apart for the place of his worship, and hath now so marvellously defended.

Verse 2

Psalms 48:2. Beautiful for situation is mount Zion A beautiful place it is, which he hath chosen for his habitation; and that which especially renders it beautiful is, that it is the mountain of God’s holiness, the place where, in infinite wisdom, he hath fixed his sanctuary. The joy of the whole earth For the law was to go forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; the joyful doctrine of the gospel, the glad tidings of salvation, were to go out from thence unto all nations. The words however may be rendered, The joy of the, or this, whole land: for God’s sanctuary, the solemn feasts kept there, and the vast multitudes of people who from time to time assembled at them, rendered it a most desirable place. On the sides of the north It lies on the north side of Jerusalem; the city of the great King Of Jehovah, the King of heaven and earth. Zion, however, is thought by some to have been situated on the south side of the mountain; but the temple stood on the north side of it, and was its peculiar honour and distinction.

Verse 3

Psalms 48:3. God is known To his people, by sensible and long experience; in her palaces In the habitations of the city, and not only in the cottages, or meaner dwellings, but in the palaces: the princes and great men have recourse to God, and seek help from him. Possibly he may 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, protected the whole city and people. For a refuge Under whose shadow his people are more safe and secure than other cities are with their great rivers and impregnable fortifications. “Thus the great Founder of the church is also her protector and defender. The dependance of the new Jerusalem, like that of the old, is not in man, or in the arm of flesh, but in God, who resideth in the midst of her. For, surely, unless he kept the city, the watchmen in the towers would wake but in vain.” Horne.

Verses 4-6

Psalms 48:4-6. For lo, the kings were assembled The neighbouring princes confederate against Jerusalem: see the contents. They passed by In their march toward Jerusalem. They advanced, and marched on, not doubting but they should presently make themselves masters of the city. Or, they passed away together Departed without the success which they desired and expected. They saw it They only looked upon it, but did not enter it, nor shoot an arrow there, nor cast a bank against it, as was said upon this or the like occasion, 2 Kings 19:32. They marvelled Not so much at the structure or strength of the city, as at the wonderful works wrought by God on its behalf. They were troubled, and hasted away God impressed such terrors upon their minds as made them retire with precipitation. If he refer to the invasion by Sennacherib, he may allude to the fear he and his army were put into by tidings of Tirhakah’s coming against them; or to that terrible slaughter of them, mentioned 2 Kings 19:35. Thus “the potentates of the world saw the miracles of the apostles, the courage and constancy of the martyrs, and the daily increase of the church, notwithstanding all their persecutions; they beheld, with astonishment, the rapid progress of the faith through the Roman empire; they called upon their gods, but their gods could not help themselves. Idolatry expired at the foot of the victorious cross, and the power which supported it became Christian.” Horne.

Verse 7

Psalms 48:7. Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish, &c. Thou didst no less violently and suddenly destroy these 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.

Verses 8-9

Psalms 48:8-9. As we have heard, so have we seen The predictions of the prophets have been verified by the events. Or, we have had late and fresh experience of such wonderful works of God, as before we only heard of by the report of our fathers. God will establish it for ever God will defend her in all succeeding ages. And so God would have done, if Jerusalem had not forsaken him, and forfeited his protection. We have thought of thy loving-kindness It hath been the matter of our serious and deep meditation, when we have been worshipping in thy temple. For when the priests were offering incense, or sacrifices, the religious people were wont to exercise themselves in holy meditation and secret prayer to God, Luke 1:10. Or, we have silently, or patiently waited for thy loving- kindness, as דמינו חסדךְ , dim-minu chasdecha, more properly signifies, and some ancient and other interpreters render it. A consideration of the wondrous works which God has wrought for us tends to produce faith in his promises, and resignation to his will: “and he,” says Dr. Horne, “that with these dispositions waits for God’s mercies, in God’s house, shall not wait in vain.”

Verse 10

Psalms 48:10. According to thy name, so is thy praise Thou art 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, a strong tower to all that trust in thee; and whatever else thou art said to be in Scripture. None of thy names are empty titles, but all of them are fully answered by honourable and praiseworthy works. Thy right hand is full of righteousness That is, of righteous actions, by which thou discoverest thy truth, justice, and holiness, in destroying the wicked and incorrigible enemies of thy people, and in fulfilling thy promises made to thy church.

Verse 11

Psalms 48:11 . Let mount Zion rejoice That is, Jerusalem; let the daughters of Judah The other lesser cities, towns, and villages; be glad, because of thy judgments Upon thy and their enemies. Let the mother city give an example of joy and thankfulness to all the smaller places, and to the whole kingdom, and let them unanimously join together, with the greatest gladness, to express how sensible they are of thy power and goodness in the wonderful deliverance granted them. Just so, “the church and all her children ought to rejoice with joy unspeakable, on account of the manifestation of divine power on her behalf against her enemies. Thus, at the fall of mystic Babylon, it is said, Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets, for God hath avenged you on her, Revelation 18:20.” Horne.

Verses 12-13

Psalms 48:12-13. Walk about Zion, &c. He speaks probably to the people of the city and kingdom, who had been eye-witnesses of the glorious work God had wrought for their deliverance. Bishop Patrick thus paraphrases the words: “Make a solemn procession, and go round about the city, blessing and praising God, with thankful hearts, who hath preserved you from being begirt by the enemy. Tell all the towers as you go along, and see if there be so much as one wanting, or the least hurt done to any of them.” Some commentators, however, think that he speaks to the hostile kings and their armies, who had come up against Jerusalem, and had gone round her to reconnoitre her strength, in order to take her, but who were now fled away; and that he calls upon them to return, and go round her again, and see how entire her fortifications were; and bids them tell the next generation, that it would be in vain to attempt any thing against her while she had Jehovah for her protector.

Verse 14

Psalms 48:14. This God, &c. Who hath done this great work for us; is our God Who alone can protect us, and will be our defender, if we depend upon him, for ever and ever. He will be our guide even unto death While we have a being. He will not content himself with having delivered and preserved us once; but will be our conductor, and will exercise a most tender care over us, such as a shepherd doth over his sheep, all the days of our life. Birth and life, and the several ages of life and death, are often ascribed to churches and commonwealths, both in the Scriptures and in other authors. This promise was made to the old and earthly Jerusalem, upon condition of their obedience, in which, as they grossly failed, they lost the benefit of it; but it is absolutely made good to the new and heavenly Jerusalem, the church of Christ, and all the true members thereof. Observe, reader, if Jehovah be our God, he will be our guide, our faithful, constant guide, to show us our way to true happiness here and hereafter, and to lead us in it; he will be so even unto death, which will be the period of our way, and will bring us to our rest. He will conduct us safe to felicity and immortality on the other side of death, to a life most blessed, in which there shall be no more death nor suffering. If we take the Lord for our God, he will convey us safe to death, through death, and beyond death; down to death, and up again to glory.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 48". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-48.html. 1857.
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