10 million Ukrainians without power because of Russia. Help us purchase electrical generators for churches.
Consider helping today!

Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Psalms 87

Psalms 87:0


The Privileges of Citizenship in ZionMT IntroA Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A SongThe Glories of the City of GodSons Praising Zion As the Mother of Believers EverywhereIn Praise of JerusalemZion, Mother of Nations
Psalms 87:1-7Psalms 87:1-3Psalms 87:1-3Psalms 87:1-3Psalms 87:1-2
Psalms 87:3
Psalms 87:4Psalms 87:4Psalms 87:4Psalms 87:4
Psalms 87:5-6Psalms 87:5-6Psalms 87:5-7Psalms 87:5
Psalms 87:6-7
Psalms 87:7Psalms 87:7

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This Psalm praises YHWH's choice of a people to reveal and represent Himself to the other nations.

B. The imagery used is one of nations (cf. Psalms 87:4). YHWH set the boundaries of all the nations (cf. LXX, Deuteronomy 32:8, i.e., He is in control of geography and history).

The covenant nation was made up of

1. descendants of Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

2. descendants of the Patriarchs (Isaac, Jacob/Israel)

3. a special land, Canaan

4. a special city, Jerusalem

5. a special mountain, Moriah (i.e., the temple, cf. Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:21; Deuteronomy 14:23, Deuteronomy 14:24; Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:6, Deuteronomy 16:11, etc.)

C. This special nation (cf. Exodus 19:5-6) is crucial for reaching all nations (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

D. As I read this Psalm I ask myself, “Is this still God's special place?” I struggle with this; please take a moment and read the Special Topic: OT Predictions of the Future vs. NT Predictions. The NT has universalized the OT promises to the world. The gospel, not Israel, is the full revelation of YHWH!

E. Psalms 87:4 implies an eschatological period where all people are part of God's people (i.e., Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 12:4-5; Isaiah 25:6-9; Isaiah 42:6-12; Isaiah 45:22-23; Isaiah 49:5-6; Isaiah 51:4-5; Isaiah 60:1-3; Isaiah 66:23).

F. The UBS Handbook, p. 757, brings up the question of who the speaker is in Psalms 87:4 and 5. It suggests, and I agree, that Psalms 87:4 must be God (because Deity is mentioned in the first person, “Me”), while Psalms 87:5 is the psalmist (because Deity is mentioned in the third person, also Psalms 87:6).

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 87:1-7 1His foundation is in the holy mountains. 2The Lord loves the gates of Zion More than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. 3Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. Selah. 4”I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me; Behold, Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia: ‘This one was born there.'“ 5But of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; And the Most High Himself will establish her. 6The Lord will count when He registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Selah. 7Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, “All my springs of joy are in you.”

Psalms 87:1 “foundation” This Hebrew root (BDB 414) has several connotations.

1. used in Ezra 7:9 as the beginning of something

2. foundation of a city - Psalms 137:7; Lamentations 4:11; Micah 1:6

3. laying a foundation in a figurative sense - Isaiah 28:16

4. creation of the earth - 2 Samuel 22:16; Psalms 18:16; Psalms 78:69; Psalms 82:5; Isaiah 24:18; Isaiah 40:21; Jeremiah 31:37

5. imagery related to mountains - Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalms 18:7

6. from the day of the foundation of the temple - 2 Chronicles 8:16 or its side chambers - Ezekiel 41:8

“the holy mountains” Mountains symbolize

1. permanence

2. stability

3. closeness to God (Psalms 121:1)

4. pillars of the earth

In this context it obviously is imagery connected to

1. Jerusalem/Zion (cf. Psalms 2:6; Psalms 48:1)

2. the temple

3. the covenant people

The plural may relate to the fact that Jerusalem was built on seven hills. For “Zion” see notes online at Psalms 2:6; Psalms 87:1 and 20:2.

YHWH is linked to several mountains.

1. Mt. Sinai/Horeb (Exodus 19-20)

2. Mt. Seir/Paran (Deuteronomy 33:2; Habakkuk 3:3)

3. Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:0; Ezekiel 20:40)

4. a mountain in the north (cf. Psalms 48:2; Isaiah 14:13; Ezekiel 28:14, Ezekiel 28:16)

Psalms 87:2 This refers to Jerusalem/Zion and Judah (cf. Psalms 78:67-68). Judah was to be the tribe of the Messiah (cf. Genesis 49:8-12). “Jacob” refers to all the tribes that descended from Jacob/Israel. It became a collective term for the covenant people.

“The Lord loves” YHWH's love for Jerusalem is also specifically stated in Psalms 78:68. It is His chosen place (cf. Psalms 132:13).

“city of God” This refers to Jerusalem (cf. Psalms 46:4; Psalms 48:8). See Special Topic: Jerusalem.

“Selah” This term seems to close a literary unit, see Psalms 87:6. For full note on the suggested meanings see Psalms 3:2.

Psalms 87:4 “I shall mention” This verb (BDB 289, KB 269, Hiphil imperfect) can be understood as “record” (BDB 271, #4, as the title of a public officer who records (cf. 2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 20:24; 1 Kings 4:3; 2 Kings 18:18, 2 Kings 18:37; 1 Chronicles 18:15; 2 Chronicles 34:8; Isaiah 36:3, Isaiah 36:22), thereby linking it to the idea of a city registry (Psalms 87:5-6).

“among those who know Me” This implies that Gentiles from these countries have become believers and followers of YHWH. They are now citizens of the new eschatological city of God, “New Jerusalem” (cf. Revelation 21:0).

See Special Topic: Know.

Psalms 87:4-5 The psalmist lists several nations.

1. Rahab (i.e., Egypt, cf. Psalms 89:10; Isaiah 30:7)

2. Babylon (one wonders why Assyria is not mentioned, possibly giving an indication of the date of the Psalm's composition)

3. Philistia

4. Tyre (i.e., Phoenicia)

5. Ethiopia (i.e., Cush)

The purpose of their being mentioned is to compare their origins. In a sense all the nations came from God's sovereignty (cf. LXX, Deuteronomy 32:8), but Israel was His special people (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Romans 9:4-5).

Psalms 87:5 The first line of Psalms 87:5 is difficult but in context of the universal emphasis of Psalms 87:4, I think it refers to believers in YHWH having their citizenship transferred to God's holy cityZion.

Psalms 87:6 “registers” The imagery is that of the list of citizens kept by ANE cities. In a symbolic way it will show Israel was from Zion, God's special city, the unique place of the worship of YHWH (cf. Psalms 87:7).


Psalms 87:7 “springs” The term (BDB 745) is used in the symbolic sense of origins or the source of God's people (cf. Deuteronomy 33:28).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 87". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.