The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 48

Psa 48:1


HISTORICAL: Without any question, this Psa is about the glory of Zion being saved by her God, when He destroyed the vaunted Assyrian invaders. Thus, similarities between this Psa and Isa 33 ("Woe to the spoiler" -- ie Sennacherib).

(NT) In the LD there will be an assault on God's people and on God's city which will initially succeed: Zec 14:1,2. Then, in the extremity of Israel's need, Messiah comes to rescue people and city, and to manifest himself as King of the Jews (vv 3-11). Now Jerusalem is truly "the city of the great King" (Psa 48:2; Mat 5:35) and the city in which He has chosen to dwell (Psa 132:13,14; Joe 3:17-23; Isa 2:2-4; Eze 48:35). Before long, in fulfillment of Psa 2 and Ezekiel 38, a latter-day "Assyrian" comes with a confederacy from the north, only to be destroyed by divine power (cp Mic 5:4-7). This is the greater counterpart to the prophecies in Psa and Isa about the destruction of Sennacherib's army. Psa 48 needs to be reconsidered against this impending scenario. Note esp that there are marked correspondences (to be expected!) between this Psa and Psa 2.

Psa 48:2

LOFTINESS: "Situation" (AV). May sig "shaking", ref to (a) the earthquake (Psa 46:2,3) in the great theophany, both past and future; or (b) the offering of sacrifice (a fairly common usage). The RSV has, instead, "elevation" -- ref the lifting up (physically? or spiritually? or both?) of mount Zion (Isa 2:2; Zec 14:4,5,10). Elsewhere the phrase has been translated: "eminently beautiful", ie beautiful above all others!

ZAPHON: See mg: "north". AV has "Mount Zion on the sides of the north". Isa 14:13 is about this same event: The king of Babylon (ie in this case, of Assyria also) boasts that he will sit "upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north". This might mean: (a) the camp of the Assyrians was on the north side of the city; (b) the temple was on the north side of Jerusalem; or (c) the temple was just north of the king's palace, as a kind of protection for the royal house.

"Zaphon" may also designate the mythical mountain where Baal enthroned himself, to establish his ascendancy over all other "gods" (see Lesson, Isa 14: Canaanite mythology).

THE GREAT KING: But, in ct to Sennacherib's blasphemous boasts (2Ki 18:19), it is God, and only God, who is the Great King.

the joyful description of Jerusalem is contrasted by Jeremiah (Lam 2:15) with what he saw after the Babylonians had taken Judah captive.

Psa 48:3

GOD IS IN HER CITADELS: AV has: "An allusion to the righteousness of king Hezekiah, who -- assisted by Isaiah -- always kept his God at the forefront of his reign.

TO BE HER FORTRESS: Sw Psa 46:7,11. God is pictured as a refuge in 2Ch 32:7,8.

Psa 48:4

(NT) Vv 4-6: The picture of modern military might reduced to helplessness, as of a woman in travail (cp 1Th 5:3; Mat 24:8; Mar 13:8), is very impressive. Of course, a necessary item in the assertion of divine authority must be an exposure of the futility of human cleverness.

THE KINGS: The plural implies that, like Napoleon with his generals, so also Sennacherib made his favorites rulers over provinces. Or, this plural may refer to the many, like Arab chieftains, who would rather help the Assyrian than be plundered by him. Cp Psa 83:8, where "Assur" is linked with the Arab powers invading Israel.

WHEN THEY ADVANCED TOGETHER: Or, crossed over (ie the boundaries of Israel, as an invading force): cp the same verb in Jdg 11:29 and 2Ki 8:21. "They came on together" (RSV).

Psa 48:5

THEY SAW HER: But the record does not say what they saw, for the Shekinah Glory of God overwhelmed all their powers of description.

THEY FLED IN TERROR: A Passover word (Exo 12:11). This deliverance almost certainly happened at Passover: Isa 26:20,21; 30:29; 31:5.

Psa 48:6

The very effect these Assyrians were accustomed to producing in others was now their own experience.

Psa 48:7

YOU DESTROYED THEM LIKE SHIPS OF TARSHISH: Earlier Shalmanezer V had come against Tyre with a fleet of sixty ships; but the Tyrians, with only twelve ships, routed them and thus made themselves a great reputation (Jos Ant 9:14:2). But now Tyre was helping Sennacherib, and therefore paid for this disloyalty to Israel by having its proud fleet smashed by the hurricane of the Lord. This was precisely what had happened years before to the eastern fleet of Jehoshaphat (1Ki 22:48,49; 2Ch 20:36,37; cp Eze 27:26). (NT) See Lesson, Tarshish.

SHIPS OF TARSHISH: "Trading ships" (Isa 60:9). The use of "Tarshish" prob expresses type of ship, not origin (NIV: Making.. 97,98).

BY AN EAST WIND: Here "wind" (ruach) means "Spirit" (Isa 37:7, sw). An east wind is always associated with destruction: Gen 41:6,23-27; Exo 10:13; Job 27:21; Isa 27:8; Eze 17:10; 27:26; Jon 4:8 (cp Baly 52).

The chaotic waters are perhaps intended to conjure up the picture -- familiar in Canaanite and Babylonian mythology -- of the god's (ie, in this case, Yahweh's) primordial victory over Leviathan the "god" of the sea: see Lesson, Leviathan -- esp "OT History".

Psa 48:8

AS WE HAVE HEARD, SO HAVE WE SEEN: The people of Jerusalem, awestruck, saw the wreck of the Assyrian camp (vv 4-6). But what did they hear?

THE LORD ALMIGHTY: The God of the Cherubim (Isa 37:16).

GOD MAKES HER SECURE FOREVER: Just as He will establish (sw v 25) David's house and kingdom (2Sa 7:13,16,24,25). So mount Zion "shall not be moved" (Psa 46:5; 125:1).

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 48:10

LIKE YOUR NAME: Which name? "Shaddai", the "destroyer"!


YOUR RIGHT HAND: The king's palace was at God's "right hand", being immed south of the Temple.

(NT) "Your right hand is filled with righteousness": Here is a strange expression which only becomes meaningful when this divine King is seen as being a King-Priest, coming from the presence of God with upraised hand to impart blessing and forgiveness (Num 6:23-27).

RIGHT HAND: Strength (Exo 15:6; Psa 20:6; 63:8; 118:15,16); righteousness (Psa 48:10); authority (Isa 62:8); honor (Gen 48:13-18; 1Ki 2:19); salvation (Psa 17:7; 60:5); and fellowship (Psa 16:11).

IS FILLED WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS: Isa 41:10: "I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."

Psa 48:11

THE VILLAGES OF JUDAH ARE GLAD: "Let the daughters of Judah be glad" (AV). Lit, the maidens of the land singing a song of triumph, as in Exo 15:20,21 and 1Sa 18:6,7. Or, fig, the plundered cities and villages of the land (Isa 36:1; 46 in number according to Sennacherib himself) now rejoice after being restored to peace and prosperity. These satellite settlements are called "daughters" because Jerusalem (where Judah reigns) is the "mother" (cp Psa 87:2-6; Isa 54:1-5; 66:7,8,13; Gal 4:26).

BECAUSE OF YOUR JUDGMENTS: (NT) Gladness, as in the prototype, because the might of God has been exercised against human pride. The world is so far gone in evil that its education in godliness must necessarily begin with judgment. "For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isa 26:9). A rebellious child has to be taught first to respect authority. Then, and only then, does obedience follow.

Psa 48:12

(NT) Vv 12,13: "Towers... ramparts... citadels": The glory of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:10-23) is something to marvel at. (Cp also the description in Heb 12:22,23.) But to what extent this description should be taken lit rather than (or in addition to) figuratively, may safely be left to the future. Imaginative designs of the city and temple of the age to come lean far too much on supposed architectural expertise and far too little on solid Scriptural exposition.

COUNT HER TOWERS: Sennacherib had had his experts going about Zion, assessing the quality of its defenses (Isa 33:18). Now Zion's people glory in its impregnability, not because of its walls and towers, but because the Lord of hosts is there.

Psa 48:13

VIEW: From this Heb word Pisgah is derived. As Moses, standing on Pisgah, viewed the Land of Promise from afar (Deu 34:1-4), so now the faithful take pride in their city and their God.

HER CITADELS: Better: 'her wonderful temple' (an intensive plural). Sw v 3 and Psa 122:7: "(May) prosperity (be) within thy palaces."

THAT YOU MAY TELL OF THEM TO THE NEXT GENERATION: In the spirit of Psa 78:4-8, but also with special ref to Manasseh, not yet born. (But, alas, he seems to have taken little heed.)

Psa 48:14

FOR EVER AND EVER: (NT) And even the phrase "unto death" or "to the end" can be read (by a small textual change) "for ever" (as LXX, RSV, NEB). Or, as KD: "beyond death". Christ has destroyed that "which hath the power of death" -- so that his brethren need no longer fear the great enemy (Heb 2:14,15; 1Co 15:57; Rom 8:37,38).

HE WILL BE OUR GUIDE: "We tend to seek God's guidance generally but not specifically; vocally but not mentally; ritually but not actually. Regardless of our protestations, and even of what we think are our intentions, we tend in actuality to do what we think (or hope) that God will think is best. Seeking God's guidance is of little value unless it is a continuous, conscious process, applied to every detail of every decision. The flesh is like a powerful spring: though compressed, it will immediately re-extend the moment the pressure is relaxed. It is common to dutifully 'seek God's guidance' at the inauguration of a process of action (compressing the spring), and then immediately to relax the spring and act according to our own 'best judgment' -- presuming that therein God is guiding us. This is a complete fallacy. Even the utterly fleshly US Congress does this: ostentatiously intoning a solemn prayer for Divine guidance at each opening session, then putting the flesh completely in charge for the rest of the way. To seek God's guidance is: (1) to continually study the Word with the sincere, conscious intention of applying it in detail to our lives; and (2) to appeal to Him in silent prayer in every detail -- fully conscious that our own natural fleshly thinking is utterly undependable even momentarily, and realizing that if God does not guide us step-by-step and moment-by-moment, we shall never do anything right or worthwhile. We do not break the process down finely enough. We assume periodic spurts of guidance will keep us on track. But God's guidance is not like momentum which when set in motion will continue thereafter. Rather it is like electric power which stops immediately when the circuit is broken" (GVG).

HE WILL BE OUR GUIDE EVEN TO THE END: "Even unto death" (AV). Hezekiah knew precisely how many years he had to live, and meant to dedicate every one of them to his God. As Moses stood on Pisgah (see v 13 above), or Nebo, and surveyed the Promised Land (Deu 3:27; 34:1-4), yet knowing he was soon to die -- so Hezekiah stood on the "mountain peak" of rejoicing, viewing the Promised Land delivered from its oppressors, yet knowing that his own years were severely numbered.


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