The joy of all the Earth — Psalm 48

Psalms of the Sons of Korah

“The sons of Korah describe Jerusalem as the joy of all the earth,’ because the holy city regularly gave atonement to mass throngs of troubled people who came to the Temple looking for spiritual uplifting.” Source The Jewish Weekly, 19th April 2018.

Earth from space showing Africa and Asia.
From publicdomainpictures,com

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

Psalms 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87 and 88 are attributed to the Sons of Korah. Korah, was a cousin of Moses and Arron who led a revolt against Moses: Korah died in the rebellion. His three sons were named as singers in the Tabernacle and their offspring in the Temple. The sons of Korah who wrote these psalms are descended from Korah’s sons, not necessarily the sons themselves.

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
    the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God
    has made himself known as a fortress.
For behold, the kings assembled;
    they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
    they were in panic; they took to flight.
Trembling took hold of them there,
    anguish as of a woman in labour.
By the east wind you shattered
    the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
    which God will establish for ever. Selah
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
    in the midst of your temple.
10 As your name, O God,
    so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11     Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
    because of your judgements!
12 Walk about Zion, go round her,
    number her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts,
    go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14     that this is God,
our God for ever and ever.
    He will guide us for ever.

Psalm 48 ESV UK

The universal theme in the psalms of the sons of Korah continues with the city of God being for all people.

Structure:

2 halves, 1-8, 9-14 each split into 2, 1-3, 4-8, 9-11, 12-14

v8 at the heart of the psalm is metrically different and is at the centre of a chiastic structure which is alliterative, mostly around the letter kaph. (A chiasm is a form of poetry where points are introduced and then the points are developed in reverse order.)

A ki (v. 4)
B hemma … ken (v. 5)
C ka’aser … ken (v. 8)
B’ ke- … ken (v. 10)
A’ ki (v.14)

The basic message of Psalm 48 is found in verse 8, the city attests to God’s power. Through the rest of the psalm are a list of ways in which God’s people and his enemies experience divine salvation:

  • Praising God who is in his city (v. 1)
  • Knowing God in Zion as a refuge (v. 2)
  • Marvelling at the construction of Zion (v. 5)
  • Trembling before Zion and the God who lives within its walls (vv. 5-6)
  • Hearing God’s acts in the past in establishing Zion (v. 8)
  • Contemplating God’s love (v. 9)
  • Rejoicing because of God’s judgement (v. 11)
  • Counting Zion’s towers (v. 12)
  • and finally, being led by God. (v.14)

That last one brings us to the point of the psalm. Chiastic poems come to a climax on the last point. The theme,taken from the middle point is about God’s power but it all boils down to being led by God. Is your country being led by God? Is your church being led by God? Are you being led by God?

Through this psalm the city of Zion is a metaphor for God. It is a solid reminder of the love and protection of God,and a place where the nations can come and learn about God, even the enemies of Judah can learn about the strength of God, because God is for all people. God is powerful and his love, protection and leading are for everyone. Are you being led by God?


< Psalm 47 | Psalm 48 | Psalm 49 >
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