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a Bible passage
48. Psalm 48
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
2Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
3God is known in her palaces for a refuge.
4For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.
5They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away.
6Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
7Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.
8As 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.
9We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.
10According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.
11Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.
12Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
13Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.
14For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.
4 For, behold! the kings assembled Here that special deliverance of which I have spoken is touched upon. The prophet relates how, when the kings were assembled together to destroy Jerusalem, their efforts passed away without producing any effect, even as clouds in the atmosphere vanish away; yea, he tells us, that by a simple look at the city, they were defeated and undone, and that not after an ordinary manner, but like a woman who, when the hour of child-birth has come upon her, finds herself suddenly afflicted with pain and sorrow. We cannot affirm with certainty what particular part of Jewish history the prophet here speaks of; but the statements made suit very well both the time of Ahaz, and that of Hezekiah or Asa. It was indeed a wonderful work of God, when two very powerful kings — the king of Syria and the king of Israel, accompanied with an immense army — had smitten the city with such terror, that the king and his people were brought to the brink of despair, to see this formidable host suddenly routed and disappointed of the certain expectation which they entertained of making themselves masters of the city. Hence the prophet Isaiah 7:4 ironically calls them “smoking firebrands,” because they were, so to speak, burning torches to kindle and consume by fire the whole country of Judea. Nor was the destruction of the countless host of Sennacherib in one night by an angel, without the intervention of man’s agency, a less stupendous miracle, (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36.) In like manner, when the king of Ethiopia gathered together an army of ten hundred thousand men, and came to besiege Jerusalem, the overthrow of so great a host was a memorable instance of the power of God, (2 Chronicles 14:9.) But whatever was the occasion on which this psalm was composed, the sacred writer informs us that the Jews found from manifest experience that God was the guardian and protector of the holy city, when he opposed himself to the invincible power of their enemies. He first declares that the kings assembled By these words he intimates that they had confederated and conspired together to destroy the Church. The expression, passed away together, may be explained in two ways; either as meaning that the armies when they had gathered themselves together were reduced to nothing, or that they undertook together, and with one consent, the expedition, as it were marshalled in battle array.
This second sense seems to me the most suitable to the scope of the passage; for it follows immediately after in the fifth verse, that they stood stricken with astonishment whenever they saw the city; and yet there will be no impropriety in understanding this verse as added by way of amplification. But as it affects very little the substance of the passage which of these two interpretations is adopted, I leave the reader to choose that which he considers the most appropriate. When the Psalmist says that upon beholding the city they marvelled — were frightened — fled precipitately — and were seized with sorrow, like the pangs of a woman in travail — he heaps together as many and varied expressions as possible, in order to set forth the greatness of the miracle which God had wrought in the overthrow of such a vast and formidable host. The language should be resolved thus: As soon as they saw the city they marvelled. It is related of Caesar in ancient times, that when speaking of the ease with which he subdued Egypt, he made use of the laconic saying, “I came, I saw, I conquered;” but the prophet here states, on the contrary, that the ungodly were struck with amazement at the mere sight of the city, as if God had dazzled their eyes with the splendor of his glory. The particle כן, ken, so, is put as it were to show the thing by pointing to it with the finger. In the verse which immediately follows, the adverb שם, sham, there, is used in the same sense. The comparison of a woman in travail is intended to express the sudden change which came upon the enemies of Israel. It afforded a more bright and illustrious manifestation of the grace of God, that they were seized with a fear which they had not anticipated, lost their courage all at once, and from the height of secure and presumptuous pride, instantly fell into such a state of terror, and were so confounded, that they precipitately betook themselves to flight. 193193 “Et d’une fierte pleine d’asseurance et outrecuidance sont incontinent tombez en espouvantement et ont tellement este estourdis, qu’ils s’en sont fuis grand erre.” — Fr. From this passage we are taught that it is no uncommon thing, if in our day the Church is assailed by powerful adversaries, and has to sustain dreadful assaults; for it has been God’s usual way from the beginning thus to humble his own people, in order to give more irrefragable and striking proofs of his wonderful power. At the same time, let us remember that a nod alone on the part of God is sufficient to deliver us; and that, although our enemies may be ready to fall upon us on every side to overwhelm us, it is in his power, whenever he pleases, to strike them with amazement of spirit, and thus to make their hearts fail in a moment in the very midst of their efforts against us. Let this reflection serve as a bridle to keep our minds from being drawn away, to look in all directions for human aid.