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Psalm 87

The Joy of Living in Zion

Of the Korahites. A Psalm. A Song.


On the holy mount stands the city he founded;


the L ord loves the gates of Zion

more than all the dwellings of Jacob.


Glorious things are spoken of you,

O city of God. Selah



Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;

Philistia too, and Tyre, with Ethiopia—

“This one was born there,” they say.



And of Zion it shall be said,

“This one and that one were born in it”;

for the Most High himself will establish it.


The L ord records, as he registers the peoples,

“This one was born there.” Selah



Singers and dancers alike say,

“All my springs are in you.”

The meaning of this verse is obscure, partly from its abrupt brevity, and partly from the ambiguity of one word. The word springs is, beyond all controversy, to be here taken metaphorically; but interpreters are not agreed as to the explanation of the metaphor. Some understand it as denoting hopes, some affections, and others thoughts. Did the idiom of the language admit, I would willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who translate it melodies or songs. But as this might be considered unsupported by the usage of the Hebrew term, I am rather inclined to adopt, as most suitable to the subject in hand, the opinion that lookings is the proper translation, the root of the word signifying an eye. It is as if the Psalmist had said, I will always be earnestly looking, as it were, with fixed eyes upon thee.

Let us now inquire what is meant by the other clause, The singers as the players upon instruments. This, it is true, is an abrupt form of expression; but the sense, about which there is a general agreement, is, that so great will be the ground for rejoicing, that the praises of God will resound in Zion continually, with the energy of the living voice, as well as with musical instruments. This, then, is a confirmation of what was spoken before concerning the glorious restoration of Zion; for by the greatness of the joy, and the manifold harmony and melody of praises, is portrayed the happiness which shall prevail in the midst of it. At the same time, we have here described the great design of all the gifts which God has conferred upon his Church with so liberal a hand; namely, that the faithful, by hymns and songs, should testify their remembrance of his benefits and gratefully acknowledge them. 503503     Cresswell connects the second clause of this verse with the first, in this manner: — “Singers also, and players upon the pipe, shall chant, ‘All my wells are in thee;’” i.e., says he, “all my sources of refreshment, of hope, and of salvation, are in thee, O Zion!” He adds, “The phrase, wells of salvation, occurs in Isaiah 12:3, the Hebrew word being the same as that which, in our two English versions of the Psalms, is translated springs and fountains.” Walford connects the two clauses in the same manner, “They sing with musical instruments, ‘All my springs are in thee.’” “The persons who are here said to sing,” he observes, “accompanied by musical instruments, are the people spoken of in verse 6. They are described as uniting in a joyful song of praise and thanksgiving; and the burden of their song is, ‘All my springs are in thee.’ Springs or fountains are a constant image for the blessings which are productive of refreshment and happiness. These new-born converts are, therefore, represented as joining the universal Church, and offering ascriptions of praise to God, who is the overflowing source of all the streams of good, which refresh and bless the people.” The Hebrew word חוללים, cholelim, which we have rendered the players upon instruments, is translated by some, those who dance to the sound of instruments. 504504     “Afin que les fideles en chantant Pseaumes et Cantiques monstrent la souvenance qu’ils ont des benefices receus, et luy en facent recognoissance.” — Fr. But this is a matter of no great importance, it being enough to consider the meaning, in short, as this, that there will be a continual concert of God’s praises in the Church, where he unfolds the treasures of his grace, and that the faithful will be heard singing successively and in response. Moreover, the prophet shows his singular love to the Church, and the singular care and zeal which he exercised about her, to encourage and stir up all the godly, by his example, to cultivate and manifest the same zeal, agreeably to what is stated in another psalm,

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem! let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (Psalm 137:5)

All our affections are then settled on the Church, when, gathered in from the vague and vain objects by which they are distracted, and regarding with indifference the honors, pleasures, riches, and pageantries of the world, they find enough to engage and satisfy them in the spiritual glory of Christ’s kingdom, and in that alone.

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