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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 48

Verse 1

Psalms 48:0.

The ornaments and privileges of the church.

A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah.

Title. קרח לבני מזמור שׁיר Shiir mizmor libnei korach. This is a triumphant hymn, the author of which is not known, nor the particular time when it was composed. It appears from the contents of it, that it was made upon 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. Mudge thinks that it refers to the ineffectual attempt of Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel: Isa 7:1 and that the prophesy of Isaiah, in that and the succeeding chapter, confirms this idea. See also the 4th, 5th, and 6th verses. But an anonymous writer well observes, that mount Sion is the main subject of the poem, which was not much regarded after the ark had been some time removed from thence; whereas, at the time this psalm was made, it was evidently in its highest reputation; whence it is probable, that the psalm is as old as David's time. The LXX, Vulgate, and Arabic, subjoin the words, "on one of their sabbaths," or "on the second sabbath," to the title: by which they would insinuate, that the use of this psalm was to be appropriated to the sabbath: for indeed some of the psalms were peculiar to the service on week-days, and others set apart for the public solemnities, and the sabbath, on which only they were to be used.

Verse 2

Psalms 48:2. Beautiful for situation, &c.— The expression of mount Sion's being the joy of the whole earth, seems to allude to the promise made to the patriarch, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. And the law, the Christian law, may be said literally to have gone out from mount Zion into all lands. On the sides of the north, or north side [lies] the city of the great king, means the city of Jerusalem. It may be asked, why this circumstance is mentioned as an encomium upon the hill of Sion, that Jerusalem lay on the north of it: The answer is, that it is mentioned as a proof of its greater security; for the hill of Sion was almost inaccessible on any other side, than towards the north; and here it was defended by Jerusalem, which was exceedingly strong: But though the psalmist mentions this as a material circumstance, he shews that it was not in the strength of it that he confided, but in the presence and protection of God; God is known in her palaces for a refuge.

Verse 7

Psalms 48:7. Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish, &c.— Or, like the east wind, which in a moment dasheth in pieces the ships of Tarshish. Green. I have added, says he, in a moment, because the east wind in those parts is remarkably violent, (comp. Job 27:21.Jeremiah 18:17; Jeremiah 18:17. Isaiah 27:8. Habakkuk 1:9.) and because it more easily conveys to the reader in what point of comparison it lies; namely, in the suddenness of the king's being seized with trembling and fear.

Verse 9

Psalms 48:9. We have thought of thy loving-kindness We were waiting for thy loving-kindness. Green.

Verse 10

Psalms 48:10. Thy right hand, &c.— Righteousness consecrates thee.

Verses 11-13

Psalms 48:11-13. Let mount Zion rejoice, &c.— Dr. Delaney thinks that these verses allude to the great improvements made at Jerusalem, the temple on mount Moriah, Millo, the house of the forest of Lebanon, the palace of Pharaoh's daughter, and that of Solomon, &c. See b. ii. c. 8. Green renders Psalms 48:11, When the daughter of Sion heard, she rejoiced; the daughters of Judah were transported with joy because of thy judgments. Mudge thinks that the three first verses of this psalm were insultingly thrown out upon the kings who had come up against Jerusalem, and had gone round her to reconnoitre her strength, in order to take her, but were now fled away; calling upon them to return and go round her again, and see how entire her fortifications were; and bidding them tell the next generation, that it would be in vain to attempt any thing against her, while she had Jehovah for her protector. "Tell the next generation that this God is our God; He will be our guide for ever and ever:" For Bishop Hare seems to have proved, beyond doubt, that מות על al mut, rendered unto death, should be rendered one word, and make part of the title of the following psalm, being the same word which is rendered alamoth in the title of Psalms 46:0. Fenwick, however, thinks that there is no need of any correction, the sacred writer meaning, "God will lead us as conquerors, and enable us to triumph over death."

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The work of heaven will be everlasting praise; it is good to antedate the joy.

1. Great is the Lord, who in his mediatorial glory is so highly exalted, and greatly to be praised for all his wonderous works of power, grace, and love, manifested in all ages to his faithful people: and this his glory is to be set forth,

2. In the city of our God, in Jerusalem, the mountain of his holiness, in Zion, where, in his temple, his sacred presence dwelt between the cherubims: Beautiful for situation, eminent to view, and the country around it like the garden of Eden: the joy of the whole earth is mount Zion, being the favoured residence of the God of the whole earth, on the sides of the north, turned from the sultry beam of day, the city of the great King, where most eminently he fixes his throne, and manifests his glory. God is known in her palaces for a refuge, having protected it from every foe; and all who come to worship there find safety under his wings. Thus glorious was the earthly Jerusalem, but how much in glory does the spiritual Zion exceed her. In his church the great Redeemer is pleased to dwell now; bright in holiness she shines, and filled with inhabitants as a city: In beauty excellent, watered with the streams of grace, which flow from the fountain of blessedness, adorned with living palaces, the residence of the eternal Spirit: here a sure refuge is found in the arms of Jesus from guilt and sin, known by the word of his gospel, and proved by the experience of every faithful soul.

3. All attempts of foes to hurt are fruitless, where God is thus known and praised. This Jerusalem had experienced. The assembled kings passed by, they saw Almighty Power engaged to protect her, and with astonishment fled; a panic fear seized them, they were dashed in pieces by the stormy wind: and such will be the issue of the war against the church of God carried on by the antichristian foes, Revelation 19:19-21. They will fall before the power of Jesus, be overthrown with perpetual desolations, and sink as a stone in the mighty waters of God's wrath, and never rise up again.

2nd, We have the church of God declaring by experience the truth of what the Psalmist had asserted. As we have heard, either in former ages when God vouchsafed such mighty aid, or in the word of promise, so have we seen the accomplishment of the promise, and the like protection, in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God; Jerusalem bore testimony to God's faithfulness and care then, and in like manner may the people of God in every age increase the number of witnesses. God will establish it for ever; the gates of hell shall never prevail over the faithful children of God; but finally they shall triumph over all their enemies. We have thought of thy loving kindness, O God, from whence all his rich mercy springs, or waited for it, when dangers seemed to threaten, in the midst of thy temple, thy church, where in prayer we called upon thee, and with praises celebrated thy faithfulness. According to thy name, thy boundless perfections, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth, whither the glorious gospel has carried the discovery of that blessed name, the Lord our Redeemer and Saviour. Thy right hand is full of righteousness, every decision of his is equitable; and especially what seems here intended, the doom reserved for the opposers of God's truth and kingdom is altogether righteous. And herein let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad; all true believers, because of thy judgments, which shall be executed on the powers of Antichrist in the great day of retribution. And in the mean time, walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Jerusalem was regarded as an impregnable fortress; but stronger towers of angelic guards keep safe the spiritual Zion. Mark well her bulwarks, built on Christ, the rock of ages, defended by the arm of Omnipotence; consider her palaces, such as are the prophets, apostles, confessors, and faithful in every age, that ye may tell it to the generation following, for the support of their faith and hope in every exigence. For this God is our God for ever and ever, the same powerful protector, the same gracious and loving Saviour to all who trust in him. He will be our guide, the guide of the faithful, safely to preserve them from all the dangers of life; in death, to keep them from all fear or failing; and after death, to bring them to the eternal enjoyment of his blessed self. May we prove him such by happy experience!

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 48". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.