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Psalm 87

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Privileges of Citizenship in Zion
MT Intro
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song
The Glories of the City of God Sons Praising Zion As the Mother of Believers Everywhere In Praise of Jerusalem Zion, Mother of Nations
87:1-7 87:1-3 87:1-3 87:1-3 87:1-2
        87:3
  87:4 87:4 87:4 87:4
  87:5-6 87:5-6 87:5-7 87:5
        87:6-7
  87:7 87:7    

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm praises YHWH's choice of a people to reveal and represent Himself to the other nations.

B. The imagery used is one of nations (cf. Ps. 87:4). YHWH set the boundaries of all the nations (cf. LXX, Deut. 32:8, i.e., He is in control of geography and history).

The covenant nation was made up of

1. descendants of Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:1-3; Deut. 7:6-8)

2. descendants of the Patriarchs (Isaac, Jacob/Israel)

3. a special land, Canaan

4. a special city, Jerusalem

5. a special mountain, Moriah (i.e., the temple, cf. Deut. 12:5,11,21; 14:23,24; 16:2,6,11, etc.)

C. This special nation (cf. Exod. 19:5-6) is crucial for reaching all nations (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

D. As I read this Psalm I ask myself, "Is this still God's special place?" I struggle with this; please take a moment and read the Special Topic: OT Predictions of the Future vs. NT Predictions. The NT has universalized the OT promises to the world. The gospel, not Israel, is the full revelation of YHWH!

E. Psalm 87:4 implies an eschatological period where all people are part of God's people (i.e., Isa. 2:2-4; 12:4-5; 25:6-9; 42:6-12; 45:22-23; 49:5-6; 51:4-5; 60:1-3; 66:23).

F. The UBS Handbook, p. 757, brings up the question of who the speaker is in Ps. 87:4 and 5. It suggests, and I agree, that Ps. 87:4 must be God (because Deity is mentioned in the first person, "Me"), while Ps. 87:5 is the psalmist (because Deity is mentioned in the third person, also Ps. 87:6).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 87:1-7
 1His foundation is in the holy mountains.
 2The Lord loves the gates of Zion
 More than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.
 3Glorious things are spoken of you,
 O city of God.  Selah.
 4"I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me;
 Behold, Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia:
 ‘This one was born there.'"
 5But of Zion it shall be said, "This one and that one were born in her";
 And the Most High Himself will establish her.
 6The Lord will count when He registers the peoples,
 "This one was born there."  Selah.
 7Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say,
 "All my springs of joy are in you."

87:1 "foundation" This Hebrew root (BDB 414) has several connotations.

1. used in Ezra 7:9 as the beginning of something

2. foundation of a city - Ps. 137:7; Lam. 4:11; Micah 1:6

3. laying a foundation in a figurative sense - Isa. 28:16

4. creation of the earth - 2 Sam. 22:16; Ps. 18:16; 78:69; 82:5; Isa. 24:18; 40:21; Jer. 31:37

5. imagery related to mountains - Deut. 32:22; Ps. 18:7

6. from the day of the foundation of the temple - 2 Chr. 8:16 or its side chambers - Ezek. 41:8

 

▣ "the holy mountains" Mountains symbolize

1. permanence

2. stability

3. closeness to God (Ps. 121:1)

4. pillars of the earth

In this context it obviously is imagery connected to

1. Jerusalem/Zion (cf. Ps. 2:6; 48:1)

2. the temple

3. the covenant people

The plural may relate to the fact that Jerusalem was built on seven hills. For "Zion" see notes online at Ps. 2:6; 9:11 and 20:2.

YHWH is linked to several mountains.

1. Mt. Sinai/Horeb (Exodus 19-20)

2. Mt. Seir/Paran (Deut. 33:2; Hab. 3:3)

3. Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22; Ezek. 20:40)

4. a mountain in the north (cf. Ps. 48:2; Isa. 14:13; Ezek. 28:14,16)

 

87:2 This refers to Jerusalem/Zion and Judah (cf. Ps. 78:67-68). Judah was to be the tribe of the Messiah (cf. Gen. 49:8-12). "Jacob" refers to all the tribes that descended from Jacob/Israel. It became a collective term for the covenant people.

▣ "The Lord loves" YHWH's love for Jerusalem is also specifically stated in Ps. 78:68. It is His chosen place (cf. Ps. 132:13).

▣ "city of God" This refers to Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 46:4; 48:8). See Special Topic: Jerusalem.

▣ "Selah" This term seems to close a literary unit, see Ps. 87:6. For full note on the suggested meanings see Ps. 3:2.

87:4 "I shall mention" This verb (BDB 289, KB 269, Hiphil imperfect) can be understood as "record" (BDB 271, #4, as the title of a public officer who records (cf. 2 Sam. 8:16; 20:24; 1 Kgs. 4:3; 2 Kgs. 18:18,37; 1 Chr. 18:15; 2 Chr. 34:8; Isa. 36:3,22), thereby linking it to the idea of a city registry (Ps. 87:5-6).

▣ "among those who know Me" This implies that Gentiles from these countries have become believers and followers of YHWH. They are now citizens of the new eschatological city of God, "New Jerusalem" (cf. Revelation 21).

See Special Topic: Know.

87:4-5 The psalmist lists several nations.

1. Rahab (i.e., Egypt, cf. Ps. 89:10; Isa. 30:7)

2. Babylon (one wonders why Assyria is not mentioned, possibly giving an indication of the date of the Psalm's composition)

3. Philistia

4. Tyre (i.e., Phoenicia)

5. Ethiopia (i.e., Cush)

The purpose of their being mentioned is to compare their origins. In a sense all the nations came from God's sovereignty (cf. LXX, Deut. 32:8), but Israel was His special people (cf. Exod. 19:5-6; Rom. 9:4-5).

87:5 The first line of Ps. 87:5 is difficult but in context of the universal emphasis of Ps. 87:4, I think it refers to believers in YHWH having their citizenship transferred to God's holy city—Zion.

87:6 "registers" The imagery is that of the list of citizens kept by ANE cities. In a symbolic way it will show Israel was from Zion, God's special city, the unique place of the worship of YHWH (cf. Ps. 87:7).

See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD of God.

87:7 "springs" The term (BDB 745) is used in the symbolic sense of origins or the source of God's people (cf. Deut. 33:28).