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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 87

Verse 1

Psalms 87:0.

The nature and glory of the church. The increase, honour, and comfort of the members thereof.

A Psalm or Song for the sons of Korah.

Title. שׁיר מזמור קרח לבני libnei korach mizmor shiir. The inscription of this psalm does not attribute it to David, nor is the occasion on which it was penned particularly mentioned. It is certain that it was written in praise of Jerusalem, and of the particular privileges of which it could boast above all other the most celebrated cities in the world: and by the manner of its beginning, I should think it was written when the author had completed his design in the repairing, enlarging, beautifying, and fortifying Jerusalem: and therefore I ascribe it to David, and think it was sent by him to the sons of Korah, to be sung by them on the solemn festival which was appointed to celebrate the foundation and building of the city. This conjecture is in some measure countenanced by the Chaldee paraphrast, who makes this psalm begin at the second verse: The Lord loveth the gates of Sion; and the first verse, His foundation is in the holy mountains, to be part of the inscription or title, which, according to him, must have been: "A song of the foundation in the mountains of holiness." Houbigant thinks the psalm was first sung upon laying the foundations of the temple in Mount Sion. But it is the city, and not the temple, which is spoken of as being founded in these mountains. The beginning of this psalm is striking, and, what a sudden exclamation of wonder and joy should be, abrupt and short: The ending, what every citizen of Jerusalem who knew and valued the privileges he was entitled to, would joyfully sing: All my springs are in thee. These circumstances, together with his glorying over it, for the preference which God gave it to all the other cities of Judah; his representing it as a greater honour to be born in, and an inhabitant of it, than to be a citizen of any of the most celebrated cities in the world; his assurance that God would protect and establish it: God's keeping a register of all the nations, and marking therein the citizens of Sion as his favourite people; and the joy and triumph of the inhabitants upon a review of their peculiar privileges, are beauties which will not be overlooked by a careful reader. See Dr. Chandler.

Psalms 87:1. His foundation is in the holy mountains, &c.— It is his foundation in the mountains of holiness: that is, "Sion is of God's founding." So Isaiah 14:32. The Lord hath founded Sion, &c. See Psalms 132:13. And as Jerusalem was built on several hills, mount Sion, mount Moriah, and other lesser ones, they are called holy mountains or hills, the whole city being consecrated to God; and the city itself the holy city, because God dwelt more especially therein, as it was the fixed abode of the ark of his presence. If we imagine the Psalmist to be surveying the new-built city from some eminence, or from the terrace on the roof of his palace, just as he had finished it, how natural was it for him to cry out with pleasure and gratitude to God, who had enabled him to complete this great design; It is his foundation in the mountains of holiness! Chandler.

Verse 3

Psalms 87:3. Glorious things are spoken of thee Glorious things, it shall be said, are in thee; i.e. all nations shall speak of them with surprise and wonder. Chandler.

Verse 4

Psalms 87:4. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon Shall I celebrate Egypt and Babylon to them that know me? Behold, O Phistia, Tyre, and Cush, such a man was born there.—"Is this his honour, shall I mention this as his privilege, that he was born in one or other of those celebrated cities and countries? No; But of Sion it shall be said, this or the other person was born in her. To be a citizen of any other place, is an honour nothing comparable to that of being a citizen of Sion." Thus Buchanan seems to have understood the words in his elegant version:

Tecumne Babylon se audeat componere?

Tecumne Memphis insolens? Praeclara quamvis et Palaestina et Tyros Jactet virorum Robora: Nihil ad Sionem fortibus foetam viris, Favore tutam Numinis.

R. S. Jarchi also expounds the words much in the same manner. "The Philistines, &c. extol Egypt and Babylon, nations celebrated for antiquity, learning, and arts, when they say, Such a man was born there. But that praise which formerly belonged to them shall now return to Sion; of which it shall with much more justice be said to his honour, This or the other person was born there." The privileges of being citizens of Sion were unspeakably greater than what the inhabitants of any other city in the world were entitled to; as the city had God for its founder, as the ark of his presence dwelt in it, as the solemnities of his worship were with great magnificence performed there, as it was governed by his laws, and as it was under his immediate and constant protection. In these things no other city could compare or vie with it.

Verse 5

Psalms 87:5. The Highest himself shall establish her That is what David promised himself; that as he had built the city under the direction of God, and had fixed for the ark a proper habitation in it; so God would now establish it, by guarding it from its enemies, and providing for its future prosperity: and I think it appears from hence, that this and the foregoing verse are the Psalmist's own words, and not the words of God concerning Jerusalem, as Grotius, Le Clerc, and others, make them. Chandler.

Verse 6

Psalms 87:6. The Lord shall count, &c.— Jehovah shall record it when he registers the nations: This man was born there. The Psalmist here describes the peculiar regard of God to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and figuratively represents him as keeping a register of all the nations of the earth, and marking as it were in that register every one who was a citizen of Jerusalem, as thereby intitled to his distinguished favour and protection.

Verse 7

Psalms 87:7. As well the singers, &c.— The literal version of the Hebrew is, They shall sing like those who lead up the dance: all my springs are in thee: i.e. "They shall sing very joyfully, and the burden of the song they should sing in praise of Sion should be this; All my springs or fountains are in thee; All my kindred shall sing and rejoice in thy safety," as Jarchi explains it. And I would observe, that the original word מעיני mangianai, which we render springs, is used in a figurative sense to denote any one's posterity. Thus Proverbs 5:16. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad; i.e. "Thy posterity be exceeding numerous:" and thus in the place before us, the inhabitants of Jerusalem should triumph and sing, "All my springs or fountains; all my friends, my family, my children, are in thee; are thy citizens, and enjoy the glorious privileges thou art favoured with." Thus there is a harmony and connection between all the parts of this ode, which I think is very intelligible, and is very poetical.

REFLECTIONS.—The Psalmist begins, as if he had been musing on the glories of God's Zion, and then instantly bursts forth in describing them.

1. His foundation is in the holy mountains; the Lord hath laid the foundations of his church on Christ, the rock of ages; it is supported by his promises, and stands firm in the beauty of holiness.

2. He delights in the work of his own hands. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob; though all are dear to him, yet not alike dear; in Zion he hath chosen to fix his peculiar abode. Note; God is present in every family of his worshipping people, and accepts their service; but his especial delight is in the great congregation, where all his people appear together before him.

3. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Jerusalem was a beautiful place, the joy of the whole earth, adorned with stately palaces, and most adorned with God's magnificent temple; but even this has no glory in comparison with that church of the faithful and glorified Redeemer (which so far excelleth,) the spouse of Christ, the purchase of his blood; where all are kings and priests unto God: the walls salvation, the gates praise; the building eternal; and which duration, so far from ruining, must improve.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 87". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.