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Psalm 87:1-3

1. His foundations are in the holy mountains. 2. Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion above all the dwellings of Jacob. 3. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God! Selah.

 

1 His foundations are in the holy mountains. Those who conceive that Jerusalem is here meant, as if it were said to be founded upon the holy mountains, are in my judgment mistaken; for the relative is in the masculine gender. Some learned men, I am aware, defend this opinion, by supposing that the words, the people, are to be supplied, although it is the capital of Judea which is specified. But it is unnecessary for me to say any thing to prove what is apparent to all, that this exposition is forced. Some Jewish interpreters have thought it most probable that this opening sentence is to be referred to the psalm itself; and, accordingly, they explain foundations as denoting metaphorically the theme, or subject of the poem, because it treats of the holy city Jerusalem, which was situated upon mountains. But I am surprised that they should have been mistaken in a matter so very obvious. It being quite a common thing among the Hebrews to put a relative without its antecedent, 495495     “Il est advenu desja de pieca.” — Fr. this manner of speaking ought not to seem harsh or strange. The name of God is mentioned a little after; and we know that he is everywhere represented as having founded Jerusalem.

Some by the mountains understand Moriah and Zion, 496496     As examples of this, see 2 Samuel 1:19, 25; Psalm 114:2; Song of Solomon 1:2; Isaiah 23:1; 26:1, 3; 30:4; 41:2; 55:4; Jeremiah 33:2; Lamentations 3:1; Nahum 1:8. which were the two tops of a mountain cleft into two, but this is too forced. As the country was mountainous, we are rather to understand the prophet as having in his eye the several neighboring and contiguous mountains which formed a chain around Jerusalem; for we will see in another place that Jerusalem was surrounded by mountains, (Psalm 125:2.) The true and natural meaning then is, that God chose the holy mountains in order to found and erect his city in the midst of them. For a little after, in the prosecution of the subject, these words occur, “The Highest himself shall establish her.” He is indeed the founder of other cities also; yet we do not read of him saying with respect to any other city,

“This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it,”
(Psalm 132:14.)

There is this difference, which is always to be remembered, that while other cities were founded and built by the guidance and power of God, merely for the sake of civil government, Jerusalem was his peculiar sanctuary, and his royal seat. Isaiah also uses a similar form of expression, (Isaiah 14:32,) “The Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.” Besides, although the whole country of Judea was consecrated to God, yet he is said to have rejected all the other cities, and to have chosen this one for himself in which to reign. Here the question is not about earthly polity, but spiritual government; for the pure religion, and the true worship of God, and the doctrine of godliness, were at that time to be found nowhere but in Jerusalem.

2 Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion above all the dwellings of Jacob. Here we are taught that all the excellence of the holy city depended on the free choice which God had made of it. With this agrees what is stated in Psalm 78:60, 67, that God rejected Shiloh, the tribe of Ephraim, and the tabernacle of Joseph, that he might dwell in Zion which he loved. The prophet then points out the cause why God preferred that one place before all others; and the cause which he assigns is, not the worth of the place itself, but the free love of God. If it is demanded why Jerusalem was so highly distinguished, let this short answer be deemed sufficient, Because it so pleased God. To this the divine love is to be traced as its source; but the end of such a choice was, that there might be some fixed place in which the true religion should be preserved, and the unity of the faith maintained, until the advent of Christ, and from which it might afterwards flow into all the regions of the earth. This, then, explains why the prophet celebrates Jerusalem as possessing the high distinction of having God for its master-builder, its founder and protector. Farther, he attributes to the divine favor and adoption whatever excellence it possessed above other places. In putting Zion for Jerusalem, and the gates for the whole compass of the city, there is a double synecdoche.

3 Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God! The reading literally is, That which is spoken in thee are glorious things. We must consider the design of the prophet, or rather the object of the Spirit of God, speaking by the mouth of the prophet. From the low and despised condition of the whole people, from the many and terrible enemies who pressed hard upon them on all sides, from the small number who had sufficient courage to surmount the obstacles in their way, from the new and unlooked-for changes which were daily springing up, from the danger there was lest the state of affairs gradually sinking more and more into decay, should at length become desperate, it was difficult to cherish the hope that the holy city would be restored. That despair might not overcome the hearts of the faithful, and cause them to fail, there is set before them the supporting and consolatory consideration, that the Lord hath spoken differently concerning the future condition of the Church. Their attention, there can be no doubt, is called away from the present aspect of things, and directed to the promises which inspired them with the hope of the wonderful glory with which she should be adorned. Although, therefore, nothing appeared to the eye of sense and reason, calculated greatly to rejoice the heart, yet the prophet would have them encouraged by the word to stand as it were on a watch-tower, waiting patiently for the fulfillment of what God had promised. In this way they were admonished, first, to direct their attention to the ancient prophecies, and to keep in remembrance, especially those which are contained in Isaiah from the fortieth chapter (Isaiah 40) to the end of the book; and, secondly, to give ear to the servants of God, who at that time preached the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Whence it follows that a right judgment cannot be formed of the happiness of the Church, except when we estimate it according to the standard of God’s word.


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