<and Psalm for the sons of Korah.>> Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
Verse 1. - Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; rather, great is the Lord, and greatly is he praised. The psalmist speaks of what is, not of what ought to be. Jehoshaphat had solemnly praised God for the deliverance from the Moabites and Ammonites, both in the valley of Berachah, when he came upon the bodies of the slain (2 Chronicles 20:26), and in the temple after his return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 20:28). In the city of our God (comp. Psalm 46:4; Psalm 101:8). In the mountain of his holiness. The "holy hill of Zion" (Psalm 2:6), on which the temple and a great part of the city stood.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
Verse 2. - Beautiful for situation; literally, for elevation; i.e. in respect of its lofty position. "Jerusalem, above all other great capitals," says Professor Cheyne, "is a mountain city." "It is a glorious burst," says Canon Tristram, "as the traveller rounds the shoulder of Mount Olivet, and the Haram wall starts up before him from the deep gorge of the Kedron, with its domes and crescents sparkling in the sunlight - a royal city" ('Land of Israel,' pp. 111, 112). The joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion (comp. Romans 2:15). The psalmist writes as a devout Israelite. To him there is nothing in the world so lovely, nothing so gladdening, as Mount Zion and the holy city seated on it. He does not mean to say that all the earth felt as he did; though he may have thought that, if men were wise, they would so feel. On the sides of the north. Professor Cheyne regards this clause as a gloss which has crept into the text. Others give a mystical interpretation founded on Isaiah 14:15. But the simplest explanation seems to be the best. Zion, the city of David, lay to the north of the temple, and abutted on the city's northern wall. The city of the great King (comp. ver. 1, "the city of our God").
God is known in her palaces for a refuge.
Verse 3. - God is known in her palaces for a Refuge; or, in her castles. The palaces of the king and his chief nobles are, no doubt, intended.
For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.
Verse 4. - For lo, the kings were assembled; they passed by together. Some see in these "kings" Sennacherib's princes, who, according to him (Isaiah 10:8), were "altogether kings." But actual monarchs, each leading his own army, seem rather to be intended.
They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away.
Verse 5. - They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. The sight of the city, with its walls and towers (vers. 12, 13), was enough for them - they recognized that the place was too strong to be attacked with any prospect of success; "marvelled," or "were amazed" (Cheyne), at its strength, and, being troubled in mind, hasted away. The unconnected verbs remind the commentators of Caesar's famous despatch, "Vent, vidi, vici."
Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
Verse 6. - Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail. This description is wholly inapplicable to the destruction of Sennacherib's host, unperceived until it was accomplished (2 Kings 19:35), but is sufficiently in agreement with the narrative of 2 Chronicles 20:1-23.
Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.
Verse 7. - Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. The literal exposition is wholly out of place, since history does not speak of any co-operation of a fleet with a land army in any attack upon Pales. fine. The expression must be used metaphorically of a great and violent destruction wrought by the arm of God upon Israel's foes. Still, the imagery would scarcely have been used, unless there had been something in the circumstances of the time to suggest it, as there certainly was in Jehoshaphat's time, whose fleet of "ships of Tamhish" was "broken" at Ezion-geber (1 Kings 22:48). The poet may have witnessed the catastrophe.
As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah.
Verse 8. - As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God; i.e. as we have heard of former deliverances of Jerusalem from the attacks of enemies; e.g. from Shishak (2 Chronicles 12:2-12), from Zorah (2 Chronicles 14:9-13), so now we have seen with our own eyes a deliverance of the same favoured city, such as might be expected from the fact that she is "the city of the Lord of hosts, the city of our God." Having seen with our own eyes Jerusalem thus delivered, we come to the conclusion that God will establish it for ever.
We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.
Verse 9. - We have thought of thy loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple. Jehoshaphat, on his return to Jerusalem from the scene of his adversaries' slaughter, held a thanksgiving service in the temple, "with psalteries, and harps, and trumpets," because the Lord had made the people to rejoice over their enemies (2 Chronicles 20:27, 28).
According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.
Verse 10. - According to thy Name, O God, so is thy praise. The "Name of God," i.e. the character that he has established for himself by former mighty deeds, and the praise which he has now won by the recent deliverance, are coextensive. Both of them reach unto the ends of the earth; i.e. over all the regions known to the writer. Thy right hand is full of righteousness. Thou hast dealt out a righteous judgment by thy right hand and thy stretched-out arm, thereby showing how full thy right hand is of justice and judgment.
Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.
Verse 11. - Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad; i.e. let there be a chorus of joyful thanks over the length and breadth of the land, not only in Jerusalem, but in every city of Judah (Joshua 15:45) equally. Because of thy judgments. Because thou hast vindicated thy people, and executed judgment on their enemies.
Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
Verse 12. - Walk about Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers thereof. Admire, i.e., O Israelites, your glorious city, which God has preserved for you intact. Walk around it, view it on every side; observe its strength and beauty. Nay, count its towers, and see how many they are, that ye may form a true estimate of its defences, which render it well-nigh impregnable. Such a survey would "tend to the glorifying of the God of Israel, and to the strengthening of their faith" (Hengstenberg).
Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.
Verse 13. - Mark ye well her bulwarks (or, her ramparts), consider her palaces. Note the height and fine masonry of her outer wall, which no people could destroy except the Romans (Nehemiah 1:3; Nehemiah 2:13-17; Nehemiah 4:6). And note also the grand houses of her princes and nobles (Amos 6:11), which show themselves even above the ramparts. That ye may tell it to the generation following. That ye may let them know "how splendid Jerusalem appeared on the morrow of its great danger" (Cheyne).
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.
Verse 14. - For this God (i.e. the God who has now delivered us) is our God for ever and ever; i.e. he will always remain faithful to us, as we will to him. He will be our Guide even unto death. Dr. Kay translates "even over death," and understands that God's loving protection is promised to the faithful even in the land beyond the grave. But he stands alone in this interpretation. Host moderns question whether the words על־מוּת are any part of the psalm, and, comparing them with the על־מוּת לבּן of the title to Psalm 9, suggest that they are a mere musical notation. But the psalm would end abruptly without the words, and the meaning, "he will be our Guide unto death," is quite satisfactory (so Hengstenberg and the Revised Version).