George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 2

Psalm 47

1. Historical setting

Like its fellows, before and after, this psalm originated in the triumph by a marvel of divine power over the brutal Assyrian aggression. Sennacherib’s proclamation had been: “Thus saith the great king... ” (Isa. 36:4). And by attempting to conquer Jerusalem, he was asserting his claim to be “like the Most High” (v. 4; Isa. 14:13)! But this psalm responds to his challenge with: ‘There is only one Great King!’ — Yahweh (vv. 1,2,6,7,8). Psalms 93, 97, and 99 also belong to this majestic occasion. So also does Isaiah 52:7-10.

Clap your hands. Singular: “Clap your hand” — i.e. over your mouth. Biblically, a token of humility and silence (the same singular usage occurs in 2 Kings 11:12 and Isa. 55:12).

All ye people. Am = the people of Israel, “all” twelve tribes — since representatives of each had come to Hezekiah at Jerusalem.
For the Lord most high is terrible. Elyon emphasizes, as in 46:4, the Gentile context of the psalm.
The nations are l’ummim. The plural term refers probably to the surrounding Arab nations, who willingly reinforced the Assyrian onslaught (Isa. 5:26,30; 29:7; 30:28; Mic. 4:11; Psa. 79:6). Herodotus calls Sennacherib “the king of the Arabians”.
Jacob whom he loved alludes to the unification of the remnant of Israel with Judah, under Hezekiah.
God is gone up. ‘God coming down’ signifies the beginning of a theophany (e.g. Exod. 19:20). Likewise, ‘God going up’ describes the termination of a theophany — in this case the final manifestation of divine might by which the Assyrian camp was decimated. That is, ‘God is finished with them!’ (cp. Gen. 17:22; Psa. 68:18; Judg. 13:20 for similar usage; also see R. Abel, Wrested Scriptures, p. 204, for a more lengthy examination of these concepts).

The sound of a trumpet is another feature of theophany: Exod. 19:16,19; Josh. 6:16,20. Also, it is a summons to God’s people (Num. 10:1-10; Isa. 27:13).
The throne of his holiness: Isa. 6:1,3.
The princes of the people. This phrase might describe the rulers of Israel. But these rulers, acting in the place of an ill Hezekiah, switched to a faithless policy of reliance on Egypt (Isa. 30:1-17; 31:1-9). So it is more likely that here the word nadib (i.e. willing or voluntary) may refer to the men of Asher and Manasseh and Zebulun, who willingly “humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem” to keep Hezekiah’s special Passover (2 Chron. 30:11,12). Alternatively, the word may refer to the Angel-warriors, who fought for Israel.

The God of Abraham is the One who cares for Abraham’s seed, and who routs the enemies of Abraham: Gen. 14:14-16,20.

The shields of the earth belong unto God. The great armaments from the plundered Assyrian camp, are now dedicated as trophies to the honor of the Lord. Or, perhaps, the golden shields of Solomon (1 Kings 10:17), possibly paid out by Hezekiah to Sennacherib as a bribe (2 Kings 18:14-16), are now returned in triumph to their rightful owner.

2. Messianic reference

The more important theme is the assertion of the authority of God through His Messiah reigning in Zion. Now not only Israel but all the Gentiles (“nations” of v. 3, “heathen” of v. 8, etc.), and especially those who have been aggressively hostile to them, know that “God reigneth”.

He shall subdue the people (all Arab enemies) under us (Israel). This happens after there has been a period of Arab gloating that at last the hated people of Israel have not only been vanquished but are permanently (so they think!) reduced to inferiority: Psa. 83:4; Ezek. 35:10; 36:2; Obad. 15; etc.

Under our feet. All of (spiritual) Israel will experience something of the victory won initially by Christ — that is, his enemies being put under his feet (Psa. 8:6, notes; 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25).
The sound of a trumpet. Shophar (see Introduction, Chapter 5). Trumpets are directly connected with the resurrection in 1 Thes. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:51,52; and Rev. 11:15,18. Trumpets signaled the “jubilee” of liberty to all captives, and the restoration of their inheritance (Lev. 25:9-13,39-42,47-55; and cp. Psa. 47:4). And trumpets proclaimed the coronation or approach of a king (1 Kings 1:34,39; 9:13; 11:12,14; Psa. 98:6). This phrase also occurs in 2 Sam. 6:15, where the Ark of the Lord’s presence comes to dwell in His holy city.
Praises... God reigneth... upon the throne of his holiness. This emphasis is echoed in Rev. 19:4-6: “God that sat on the throne... Praise our God... the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
King of all the earth is used also in Zech. 14:9, with reference to the manifestation of Jehovah in His Son.
Princes = nadib, which signifies “willing, or voluntary ones” (see AV mg.). The same word describes those who are raised from the dead by Christ, when he asserts absolute dominion over the earth: “Thy people shall be willing (nadib) in the day of thy power... from the womb of the morning” (Psa. 110:3). These “willing ones” are gathered together (i.e. Gen. 49:10; Isa. 11:10; John 12:32), to be with Christ.

The people of the God of Abraham. Abraham’s true seed (even Gentiles!) share in the fulfillment of the Promises God made to him: Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 17:5,15-19; 22:17,18; Gal. 3:27-29.

3. Other details

The voice of triumph. “Loud songs of joy” (RSV).
Terrible means “to be reverenced or feared” (2 Chron. 20:29).
He shall choose our inheritance for us. Inheritance is nachalah, suggesting the allotments of the Land to the twelve tribes and Levi. The LXX uses “his inheritance”, suggesting that “Jacob” is the inheritance, or heritage, of the Lord. See, on both ideas, Psa. 16:5. Also, as to Israel being God’s special possession or heritage, see Exod. 19:5 and Mal. 3:16,17.

Excellency. Gaon: literally, “rising”, or metaphorically “pride” (as RSV). The very best portion of Jacob’s inheritance, in which he exults with grateful joy (cp. Isa. 35:6; 60:15).
Sing ye praises with understanding (maschil). Not just with an overflow of emotion. Not rashly, carelessly, or superficially, but with a proper insight into the words and works of a majestic God: “I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15,16; cp. also Col. 3:16).

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