Psalm 87

A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song.

1 His foundation is in the holy mountains.

2 The Lord loves the gates of Zion
More than all the dwellings of Jacob.

3 Glorious things are spoken of you,
O city of God! Selah

“I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to those who know Me;
Behold, O Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia:
‘This one was born there.’ ”

And of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her;
And the Most High Himself shall establish her.”

6 The Lord will record,
When He registers the peoples:
“This one was born there.” Selah

Both the singers and the players on instruments say,
“All my springs are in you.”

This is a prophecy. The singer is looking on. The order of the earthly realization of the Kingdom of God is seen as established. First, the city is contemplated at the center of everything, with Jehovah as its God. Then the peoples of the earth are seen in their true relation to that city. … God’s love is set upon the city, and her fame is wide-spread; glorious things are spoken of her. The outcome is seen in the effect produced upon the surrounding peoples. Her ancient enemies are finally to be born, that is, realize their true life, through this governing city of God. — Morgan, page 161.


The opening phrase (v.1) refers to the foundation of His (God’s) Temple, which was built on Mount Moriah (cf. 2 Chronicles 3:1) among the holy mountains—i.e., those mountains (Mount Zion, the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, etc.) that surround Moriah and which, by virtue of their proximity to the Temple, “partake” of the holiness sourced in God’s presence (the cloud of glory) that dwelt therein (see Exodus 40:34). It is this site that the LORD loves (v.2)—i.e., the place that He has chosen to be the focal point of His “dwelling” presence on earth, not just in past history during the days of the Two Temples, but also, when He returns to establish His kingdom on earth, for all time (see Jeremiah 3:17; Ezekiel 43:7; Revelation 21:22ff). — Wechsler, pages 212-213.


Looking ahead to that time when Zion (i.e., Jerusalem) will serve as the focal point of God’s rule on earth—just as it did in the past through the “viceregency” of His chosen kings (see 1 Chronicles 29:23)—the psalmist refers to the presence there of multiple ethnicities (v.4). Although the list of these ethnicities is brief—and hence necessarily selective—the expansiveness and force of God’s mercy and grace (in fulfillment of His promise in Genesis 12:3b) are poignantly emphasized by calling attention to the fact that, among those who know (i.e., have a relationship with) God are some from among Israel’s greatest historical enemies—to wit: Rahab (a poetic designation for Egypt, see Psalm 89:9-10; Isaiah 51:9-10), Babylon, and Philistia. — Wechsler, page 213.


The words “This one was born there (or, in her) occur in three separate sentences attributed to God, and contain the basic concept of the whole poem. “This one and that one” refers to the nations such as Rahab (Egypt); Babylon, from whose great power the children of Israel had been rescued; Philistia, Tyre, both typical of Israel’s age-long enemies, and Ethiopia, representative of the remote peoples of the earth. The words “was born there” imply the identity of these Gentile nations with Israel; they receive similar privileges of citizenship. Indeed in the spiritual Zion each and every nation, “this man and that man,” shall claim incorporation on the ground of a rebirth, and the Most High Himself shall make it so. — Guthrie, page 505.


According to Isaiah 19:22-25, Egypt will turn to the Lord in the last days. At least a remnant of them will accept the LORD, and will be blessed along with Israel and Assyria. — Phillips, page 179.


The psalm concludes with a brief glimpse of the praise and rejoicing that will characterize that future time when God rules from Zion, when those who sing as well as those who play the flute (or “who dance”)—both of which activities are associated in Scripture with rejoicing and praise (cf. 1 Samuel 18:16; 1 Kings 1:10)—will say, “All my springs are in you”—i.e., their source of live (both spiritual and eternal; the plural “springs” being for emphasis), which is God Himself, the Lamb on His Throne, is in Zion (cf. Revelation 22:3). — Wechsler, page 213.

Williams’ take:

This prophetic song was probably given by the Spirit on the occasion of the bringing up of the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). The theme is the birth of Messiah in the hill country of Judea, and the subsequent establishment of His throne and sanctuary in Mount Zion. The glory of Zion will not then be her beauty or wealth or military strength but the presence of Emmanuel. The consequent supremacy of Zion and of Israel over other nations is declared.

The following translation is suggested: “His foundation is in the holy mountains, i.e., plural of majesty for Mount Zion. Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, oh city of God. By those knowing Me I will cause Egypt and Babylon to remember—Philistia and Tyre with Cush—that this Man was born there. Yea as to Zion it shall be said, a Man, yea a Man was born in her; He shall establish her—Himself the Most High. Jehovah shall record when writing the history of nations that this Man was born there. And every singer as well as every dancer shall say: “All my springs of joy are in thee.” — Williams, page 367.

While I generally like Williams’ view, he seems to take some liberties with the meaning of words here. I lean towards Wechsler’s view regarding the nations (above).

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