Psalm 48:11-14

11. Mount Zion shall rejoice, the daughters1 of Judah shall be glad, because of thy judgments. 12. Encompass Zion, and go round about her, number her towers. 13. Set your hearts2 to her walls, exalt her towers,3 that ye may make report to the generation to come. 14. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.


11. Mount Zion shall rejoice. The Psalmist now concludes his exhortation to rejoicing, telling us that Jerusalem and the other cities of Judea shall have cause to commend the righteousness of God,4 because they had found from undoubted experience that he was the protector of their welfare. He here makes use of the word judgment, because God, who undertook the cause of his Church, openly showed that he was the enemy of her oppressors, and that he would repress their presumption and audacity.

12 and 13. Encompass Zion, etc. Here the prophet again commends the situation and beauty of Jerusalem, intimating that the city was strongly fortified and impregnable; and he does this, because in these external things the blessing of God in some respect shone forth. We must always bear in mind what he stated in a preceding verse, that "God in her palaces is known for a fortress." In making mention here of her towers and walls, we are not to suppose that he would have the minds of the faithful to rest in these things. He rather sets them before us as a mirror in which the character of God may be seen. He therefore says, Encompass Zion that is, look upon it carefully and attentively on every side; -- number her towers, and apply your mind to consider her walls; that is, estimate her palaces as they deserve, and thus it will be manifest beyond all doubt that this is a city chosen of God, seeing it far surpasses all other cities. In insisting upon these points, his whole drift is to make manifest the character with which the Lord had invested Jerusalem in making it a sacred place, in which he himself might take up his abode, and in erecting it as a dwelling-place for his people. It seems, moreover, that the prophet, in stating that the object of his exhortation was, that the beauty and magnificence of the holy city might be reported to the succeeding generation, tacitly gives us to understand, that the time would at length come when that city would be no longer seen. What need would there be for making this report if it could be seen and were always before the eyes of the world? Although, then, he has said a little before that Jerusalem is established for ever, yet he now teaches us, by way of correction, what kind of perpetuity it will be -- that it will endure only till the time of the renovation of the Church. We belong to that generation to come, to whom it is said these things will be reported; for we are sharers in all the benefits which God, in the days of old, bestowed upon his ancient people. The outward splendor for which Jerusalem was admired does not, indeed, stand forth conspicuous amongst us at the present day; but since the coming of Christ into our world, the Church has been no less richly and magnificently adorned with spiritual gifts than Jerusalem, under the shadows of the Law, was in old time surrounded and fortified with strong walls and towers. I have translated the word wgop, pasgu, exalt, referring it to the value which ought to be put upon the towers of the city because of their excellence. To explain it, as is done by some, fortify or strengthen, seems to be less suitable. If any are inclined rather to follow the interpretation of those who render it look upon or behold, I have no great objection to it.

14. For this God is our God for ever and ever. From these words it appears still more clearly, that when the prophet spake of the palaces of Jerusalem, it was not that the godly should keep their eyes fixed upon them, but that by the aid of these outward things they should elevate their minds to the contemplation of the glory of God. God would have them to behold, as it were, the marks of his grace engraven wherever they turned themselves, or rather, to recognize him as present in these marks. From this we conclude, that whatever dignity or excellence shines forth in the Church, we are not to consider it otherwise than as the means of presenting God to our view, that we may magnify and praise him in his gifts. The demonstrative pronoun hz, zeh, this, is not superfluous; it is put to distinguish the only true God, of whose existence and character the faithful were fully persuaded, from all the false gods which men have set themselves to invent. The unbelieving may boldly speak of the name of God, and prate about religion; but however much they may do this, when they are more closely questioned, it will be found that they have nothing certain or settled on the subject. Yea, the vain imaginations and inventions of those who are not grounded in the true faith must necessarily come to nothing. It is, then, the property of faith to set before us not a confused but a distinct knowledge of God, and such as may not leave us wavering, as superstition leaves its votaries, which, we know, is always introducing some new counterfeit deities and in countless numbers. We ought, therefore, so much the more to mark the emphatic demonstrative pronoun this, which is here used. We meet with an almost similar passage in the prophecies of Isaiah,

"Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation:"-- Isaiah 25:9

as if the faithful had protested and declared, We have not an uncertain God, or a God of whom we have only a confused and an indistinct apprehension, but one of whom we have a true and solid knowledge. When the faithful here declare that God will continue unchangeably steadfast to his purpose in maintaining his Church, their object is to encourage and strengthen themselves to persevere in a continued course of faith. What follows immediately after, He will be our guide even unto death, seems to be added by way of exposition. In making this statement, the people of God assure themselves that he will be their guide and keeper for ever. They are not to be understood as meaning that they will be safe under the government and conduct of God in this life only, and that he will abandon them in the midst of death; but they express generally, and according to the common people's way of speaking,5 what I have stated, that God will take care of all who rely upon him even to the end. What we translate, Even unto death, consists of two words in the Hebrew text, twm la, al muth; but some read in one word, twmla, almuth, and take it for age or eternity6 The sense, however, will be the same whether we read the one way or the other. Others translate it childhood,7 in this sense, As God has from the beginning carefully preserved and maintained his Church, even as a father brings up his children from their infancy, so he will continue to act in the same manner. The first sense, however, in my opinion, is the more appropriate. Others translate it in secret or hidden,8 which seems equally remote from the meaning of the prophet; unless, perhaps, we should understand him as intending expressly to say, that God's way of exercising his government is hidden, that we may not measure or judge of it by carnal reason, but by faith.

1 "C'este, villes," -- Fr. marg. "That is, cities."

2 "C'est, prenez bien garde." -- Fr. marg. "That is, take good heed."

3 "Palais." -- Fr. "Palaces."

4 "Auront matiere de liesse." -- Fr. "Shall have matter of gladness."

5 "Et selon la facon de parler du commun peuple." -- Fr.

6 This is the view taken by the Septuagint, which renders it by, "Eiv touv aijwnav," "To all eternity." "A very large number of copies," says Street, "both of De Rossi's and Dr Kennicott's collation, have twmle in one word. Symmachus renders this expression by to dihnekev, perpetuum."

7 As if the word were derived from, Mle elem, a young man. Thus the Chaldee reads, "In the days of our youth." See twm, in Buxton's Lexicon.

8 This is the sense in which Houbigant understands twmla, almuth; for he reads it as one word; and he is of opinion that it belongs to the title of the following psalm, to which, he says, twmla, hidden, agrees very well, as an enigma is set forth in that psalm. Others, who read twm la, al muth, in two words, upon death, consider them also as belonging to the inscription of the following psalm, observing that there can be no propriety in saying -- ever and ever -- unto death. Merrick, however, remarks, "The words for ever and ever, and unto death, seem to me very consistent, as they relate to different propositions: This God will be our God to all eternity, and (by that power which he has already thus exerted in our protection) will conduct us through life with safety."


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