Bible Commentaries
Psalms 87

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-3

1. The importance of Zion 87:1-3

God chose Zion as the place where He would meet with His people in a special sense. He met with them by residing in the temple and having fellowship with them through His priests. Among all the mountains near Mt. Zion, this one was His choice for habitation, and as such was the foundation of His dealings with the Israelites. There were some beautiful hilly sites in Israel, but this one was the best because God chose to make it His abode. Other ancient Near Eastern nations believed their gods lived in beautiful high mountains such as Mt. Carmel and Mt. Hermon. Zion was the city of God because God chose to make His earthly residence there in the temple.

Verses 1-7

Psalms 87

This psalm speaks about the glories of Zion, where the temple stood. The presence of God reigning among His people at this site constituted a blessing to them and to all other nations. John Newton’s great hymn "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" is a commentary on this psalm.

"The language of the poet is anything but flowing. He moulds his brief sentences in such a daring and abrupt manner that only a few characteristic features are thrown into bold relief while their inner connection is left in the dark." [Note: Weiser, pp. 579-80.]

Verses 4-6

2. The population of Zion 87:4-6

The English translators have rendered Psalms 87:4 as a quotation. Who is saying these words? Evidently these are the words of those who speak glorious things concerning Zion (Psalms 87:3). What are they saying? They appear to be ascribing equal glory to Zion with the other great nations mentioned. Rahab (lit. pride, tumult) is a nickname for Egypt (cf. Psalms 89:10; Isaiah 30:7; Isaiah 51:9). It may have been the name of a powerful demonic force thought to be behind Egypt. [Note: A. Ross, p. 857.] The statement, "This one was born there," means, "I was born there." In other words, people would take pride in having been born in Zion as they did in having been born in one of these other great nations.

However, two kinds of people would trace their ancestry back to Zion in the future (Psalms 87:5). Psalms 87:5 apparently distinguishes those physically born there and those with spiritual roots there. The latter group would include all the redeemed, since Zion was the home of their heavenly Father (to use New Testament terminology).

When God judges all people, He will note that every redeemed person stemmed from Zion spiritually (Psalms 87:6). Zion was not only the capital of the Israelites but it is also the home of many others who trust in Israel’s God (cf. Galatians 4:26-27; Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10). In this way the psalmist showed the surpassing glory of Zion.

"These people who had come to faith in Yahweh as proselytes had been born in a variety of places, among ethnic peoples, across the known world. But in their coming to faith in the living God, He, Yahweh, declared them born ’again.’ They were ’born there,’ that is, in Zion. Here, then, is one passage in Hebrew Scripture to which Jesus may have alluded when He expected that Nicodemus knew about being ’born again’ (John 3:3; John 3:10)." [Note: Ronald B. Allen, "Psalms 87, A Song Rarely Sung," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:610 (April-June 1996):139-40.]

Verse 7

3. The joy in Zion 87:7

Zion will be a place of joy and singing in the future. All those who rejoice will trace the source of their joy to this city because it is the habitation of God. All joy comes ultimately from God, and all joy will come from Zion because God dwells in Zion.

This psalm points prophetically to the time when all the redeemed will gather to Zion. This will take place in the Millennium when Jesus Christ makes it the world capital of His earthly kingdom. Then all nations will stream to it as the center of the earth (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1). However, one day a new Jerusalem will replace the present city (Revelation 21). It will be the home of the Lamb and His faithful followers throughout eternity.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 87". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.