John T. Willis

Thursday, December 01, 2016

God is Our Great King, Defense, and Guide--Psalm 48

The worshippers of Psalm 48 have recently experienced Yahweh's deliverance from threatening enemies. The precise historical setting of Psalm 48 is uncertain. Some scholars have proposed that this alludes to Sennacherib's invasion of Jerusalem in 701 BCE [see 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37]. While this is possible, there is not enough information to know the exact historical background of Psalm 48.

The psalmist or composer or writer is anonymous. The superscription says: "A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites." The superscriptions in the psalms were added later, and it would be a mistake to identify persons, events, and dates connected with the psalms. Throughout Psalm 48, the composers or writers are PLURAL, not singular. Note carefully the uses of "we" in Psalm 48:8 [twice], 9, and "our" in Psalm 48:1, 14 [twice]. Apparenly, one of the members of this anonymous group actually put together this psalm.

Psalm 48 naturally falls into four brief stanzas.

1. The worshippers of Psalm 48 praise Yahweh in Jerusalem. Psalm 48:1-2.
    a. The worshippers begin by declaring that Yahweh is GREAT and GREATLY to be praised. The focus is on God, not on any earthly entity. 48:1a.
    b. The worshippers describe Jerusalem uses SIX terms to describe Jerusalem. 48:1b-2.
         1. The city of our God. While some biblical texts call Jerusalem "the city of David" (cf.
2 Samuel 5:7, 9; 6:10), in reality Jerusalem actually belongs completely to Yahweh, not to David or anyone else.
         2. His holy mountain. Several passages in the Bible call Jerusalem Yahweh's Holy Mountain or Yahweh's Holy Hill (see Psalms 2:6; 3:4; 15:1; 43:3; 87:1; Isaiah 11:9).
         3. Beautiful in elevation.
         4. The joy of all the earth. The Lord of all the earth dwells within Jerusalem=Zion (Psalm 47:2). From Jerusalem=Zion, Yahweh disseminates his blessings to all humankind, the chiefest of which is the dissemination of Yahweh's word or law (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:3).
         5. In the "far north." This is not true geographically; the worshippers are not thinking of Zion geographically. According to Canaanite mythology, the gods lived on a mountain in the far north, (see Isaiah 14:13; and the Ugaritic texts of the 13th century BCE discovered beginning in 1929). The worshippers of Psalm 48 are borrowing Canaanite language and applying it to Israel's historical situation and to the true God, Yahweh, must in the same way that Paul borrowed a line from a Greek poet in his sermon on the Areopagus in Athens, Greece, and reapplied it from a Christian perspective (Acts 17:28).
         6. The city of the Great King. The great king here is not David or Solomon or any other earthly king, but Yahweh, the King over all the Earth (see Psalm 47:2, 7-8).

2. The poet describes a recent enemy invasion which Yahweh overthrew. Psalm 48:3-8.
    a. The psalmist begins by declaring that within the citadels of Jerusalem Yahweh has demonstrated that he is a "sure defense." While Jerusalem was fortified, surrounded by a well-fortified wall, the only dependable defense was Yahweh. 48:3.
    b. Several foreign kings have made an alliance to attack Jerusalem. But when they and their armies saw the city of God, they were astounded; they were in panic, and took to flight. Trembling took hold of them at Jerusalem, pains as of a woman in labor. [The figure of a woman in labor appears often in the Bible to communicate the idea of anguish or pain. Micah 4:9, 10; Jeremiah 4:31; 6:24; 22:23]. Yahweh's defeat of his enemies was like an east wind shattering the ships of Tarshish. Tarshish is the modern Tartessus located on the southern tip of Spain. The ships are Tarshish were famous for transporting wealthy produces on the high seas [see 1 Kings 10:22; 22:48; Psalm 72:10; Jonah 1:3]. 48:4-7.
    c. God's worshippers had HEARD that Yahweh delivered his city in the past, but in this new situation, they have actually SEEN Yahweh's miraculous intervention. After all, this was "the city of the Lord of hosts [the Lord of the heavenly armies]," "the city of our God," not the city of David or of anyone else, but ONLY of God. And God ESTABLISHES his city forever. 48:8.

3.  The worshippers reflect on the threatening event which just occurred. Psalm 48:9-11.
     a. After the threat of enemies attacking Jerusalem, the worshippers gather at the Jerusalem temple and PONDER Yahweh's "steadfast love" which he has just demonstrated .48:9.
     b. The worshippers proclaim that Yahweh's NAME, that is Yahweh's reputation, like his praise, reaches to the end of the earth. Any time Yahweh does something, this affects all people throughout planet earth. Yahweh's intervention and defeating the impending enemies show that Yahweh's right hand is filled with victory. 48:10.
     c. Because of Yahweh's righteous judgments, the worshipper declares: Let Mount Zion be glad, let the daughters [towns] of Judah rejoice. 48:11.

4. The present generation has the responsibility of telling the following generation what Yahweh has done. Psalm 48:12-14.
    a. The worshippers encourages their hearers to walk around Jerusalem=Zion, to count Zion's towers, to consider well Zion's ramparts, to go through Zion's citadels that they might TELL the next generation that Yahweh alone is God. 48:12-14a.
    b. Because of this, all can count on the truth that Yahweh will be our GUIDE forever. 48:14b.

Share YOUR insights and experiences and reversals and commendations and doubts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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