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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 47



Verses 1-4

1-4. The first division of the psalm ends, (Psalms 47:4,) with a “selah;” but the theme is one throughout, namely, the universal dominion of Jehovah, of which Israel is the centre and glory.

Clap your hands—The highest demonstrations of joy are called for on an occasion of unexampled mercy. Psalms 98:8; Isaiah 55:12.

Most high—A descriptive title of Jehovah, as also great King, quoted by Malachi (Malachi 1:14) in the same relation to his dominion over the heathen as here.

Subdue the… nations under our feet—This is not a description of the conversion of the nations, but of their forced and unwilling subjection, like that of captives in war, or tributary nations. So the word denotes. See notes on Psalms 66:3; Psalms 81:15; Psalms 18:44; compare, also, Deuteronomy 33:29.

He shall choose our inheritance for us—This is a salient point in the psalm, and touches its historic occasion. The future tense is to be taken as the present, or as the continuance of a past act. God had chosen Israel for his peculiar people, and the land of Canaan for Israel’s possession. The ancient act of election, which was one of grace and not of merit, (Romans 9:11,) was for all time, and involved the place of their dwelling. Genesis 15:7. The enemy had intended nothing less than to cast out Israel from his land, (See 2 Chronicles 20:11;) but by defending their title through the recent miraculous deliverance, God had reaffirmed the ancient election, and maintained the right and dignity of his Church, through which the nations should yet make their submission to Him.

The excellency of Jacob—The pride or excellency of Jacob was the good land to which he became heir, according to the rank of the first born.

Whom he loved—See notes on Malachi 1:2; Romans 9:13. God sovereignly conferred on Jacob the birthright, with its high temporal and spiritual honours, for public ends, leaving his personal salvation on the same ground of free grace and free will as that of Esau, or any other man.

Verses 5-9

5-9. This second strophe continues the strain of praise to Jehovah the King.

God is gone up—More fully, Psalms 68:18, “Thou hast ascended on high.” Prophetic of Christ, as quoted by Paul from the Septuagint of the last quoted passage. Ephesians 4:8. This going “up” of Jehovah is his return to his throne, from whence he had descended for the purpose of executing judgment on the nations. His return is triumphal, as becoming a conqueror. See note on Psalms 7:7. Thus by the ancient prophets a Christologic event is often seen through the medium of a Jehovistic act. This verse has led the Church to select this psalm for use on Ascension Day.

Understanding—Hebrew, with a maschil, or causing to understand; that is, a song that shall rehearse the acts of God, for this only could give instruction. On “maschil” see note on title of Psalms 32. God is honoured by having his works understood, not as to their physical or civil relations only, but especially as to their moral and ultimate design. Here the lesson is the universal dominion of God as king over all nations.

Verse 8

8. God reigneth over… heathen— גוים, (goyim,) Gentiles, heathen nations, and in Psalms 47:2 ; Psalms 47:8, “king over all the earth”Psalms 47:4, “peoples.” This Jehovistic reign was fully vindicated of old by calling or defending his Church in the midst of hostile nations. Thus he displayed his sovereign power over Egypt, the nations of Canaan, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, and Arabia. But the language takes a prophetic form, and is fully realized only in the call and gathering of the nations under Messiah’s reign into one spiritual commonwealth, so often and strongly brought out by the great apostle to the Gentiles. See Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:11-19; Ephesians 3:10.

God sitteth upon the throne—To which he had ascended, (Psalms 47:5,) and where he receives the homage and submission of the nations.

Verse 9

9. The princes of the people are gathered—Literally, the willing minded of the nations are gathered. The word rendered “princes” means, willing minded, free, voluntary, and hence nobles, princes. These had voluntarily assembled, as representatives, to pay tribute to Jehovah, their liege Lord and sovereign. The language has a prophetic outlook of gospel times. The poet had just announced that “God reigneth over the Gentiles,” (Psalms 47:8;) and now the princes of the עמים, am-meem peoples, nationsmeet to tender their submission and homage.

Even the people of the God of Abraham—The word “even” is not in the Hebrew, and “people,” here, ( עם,) is in the singular, of which peoples in the preceding line is plural. Taking the singular in its definitive sense of “people of the God of Abraham “ the Hebrew stockand the plural in the sense of peoples, or nations of the Gentiles, which is in harmony with the connexion and admissible in usage, we derive the idea of the Church universal gathered out of all the nations: or, with Delitzsch, we may suppose “the princes of the nations band themselves into a people of the God of Abraham.”

Shields of the earth belong unto God— “Shields of the earth” are, probably, here put for the princes of the nations just mentioned, who are the natural protectors of society. See Hosea 4:18, where shields is translated rulers. So God is called “our shield,” Psalms 84:9. These centres and heads of civil power are in the hands and at the disposal of God, and when they submit the people will follow.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 47:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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