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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 47

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-9

Psalms 47:0

To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah

          O clap your hands, all ye people;
Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

2     For the Lord most high is terrible;

He is a great King over all the earth.

3     He shall subdue the people under us,

And the nations under our feet.

4     He shall choose our inheritance for us,

The excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.

5     God is gone up with a shout,

The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.

6     Sing praises to God, sing praises:

Sing praises unto our King, sing praises.

7     For God is the King of all the earth:

Sing ye praises with understanding.

8     God reigneth over the heathen:

God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

9     The princes of the people are gathered together,

Even the people of the God of Abraham:

For the shields of the earth belong unto God:

He is greatly


Contents and Composition. With the glad notes of a solemn triumphal song, this Psalm celebrates a victory over foreign nations, gained by the immediate interposition of God. The possession of the promised land was thus secured, and an occasion was given to call upon all people to do homage to God, who, by this display of His power, has proved Himself to be King over all the earth. They, no less than the Israelites, are urged to praise this God, before whose majesty all the princes of the people, even the people of the God of Abraham bow in submission. The Psalm evidently had its origin in an historical event, and it embodies the Messianic idea of the extension of the Theocracy over all nations. It is not a simple expansion of the closing idea of the preceding Psalm, that God is exalted over all people, i. e. is Governor of the world. (Hupfeld). Nor is it a prediction of the universal reign of the Messiah, (Rabbins); nor of the Ascension of Christ (the Older critics). This latter view may have been derived from the typical entrance of the Ark (Claus, Stier) mentioned in 2 Samuel 6:0 and, as most expositors suppose, celebrated in Psalms 24:0. It is rather to be considered as a call to do homage to the God-king, by the people associated with Israel (Rosen). The special reference, however, is not to the subjugation and circumcision of the Idumæans, under John Hyrcanus, (Ols.); nor to the entrance into the Second Temple after the return from Babylon (Ewald); nor to the smiting of the Philistines by Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18:8, (Hitzig); but to the victory of Jehosaphat (2 Chronicles 20:0), over the combined Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Arabians. (Ven., Heng., Del).

Psalms 47:2-5. O clap your hands, all ye people.—Clapping of hands, though sometimes an expression of malicious pleasure (Nahum 3:19), is usually a sign of approval and joy. (Psalms 98:8 : Is. 4:12), like the loud shouts (teruiah) of festive occasions, especially those on which homage was formally rendered Numbers 23:21; 2Ki 11:12; 1 Samuel 10:24.—In Psalms 47:2 Eljôn may be understood as an attribute of Jehovah as in Psalms 78:56, but it suits the context better here to take it as a predicate. By the “excellency (or the pride) of Jacob” Psalms 47:4 is meant, not the temple as in Ezekiel 24:21; nor the sin of pride as in Amos 6:8; Amos 8:7 : nor the future excellency of Israel as in Nahum 2:3; but the Holy land, “the glorious land” of Daniel 8:9, which God had chosen as a possession or inheritance (Numbers 3:8; Numbers 15:4; Isaiah 58:14), for the people whom he loved (here called Jacob) Malachi 1:2. This sovereign choice by Almighty God (Exodus 19:15; Deuteronomy 32:8), as an undoubted fact, and proof of His love is often referred to in the Psalms (e. g,Psalms 33:12; Psalms 65:5; Psalms 135:3). Hence most modern expositors, like the older versions, understand the imperfects in Psalms 47:3-4, as stating historic facts, a view which accords with Psalms 47:8, and the triumphant tone of the song. The statement, however, has not a historic form, but is rather a praising generalization. The contents of Psalms 47:4 come after those of Psalms 47:3, probably, because the possession of the land having been in peril, was secured by God’s interposition. The older commentators (also Claus, Stier) take the imperfects in a future or optative sense, and explain Psalms 47:3 as, a Messianic prophecy of the future glory of God’s people, expressed also in Psalms 47:4, in the form of a wish, or as a promise that God would choose the heathen as an inheritance of this people. But as the form of expression is different in Psalms 2:8, and the “choosing” in this connection is objectionable, Hupfeld proposes to read יַרְחִב instead of יִבְחַדi. e. may He enlarge for us our inheritance with the subjugated people of Canaan.

[Perowne: Psalms 47:3-4. There is considerable difficulty in satisfactorily explaining these verses. They seem, at first sight, to refer to the past—to the destruction of the Canaanites and the establishment of Israel in the promised inheritance. So the LXX, Jerome, Vulg., Calvin. Luther makes the first verb future. Our Version renders both as future. Hupfeld translates both as optatives, and in the case of the first verb this seems required by the form (but see Isaiah 1:9).—According to this view “the inheritance” cannot refer to the Holy Land immediately, but to the nations who are to be gathered into it.—There is, however, a difficulty still, even with this explanation. The word “choose” is not the word we should expect. It seems awkward to say May he choose,etc., instead of “May he make the nations our inheritance.” Hence Hupfeld proposes to read (see above), but there is no support for such a conjecture either in Mss., or Versions. I am inclined therefore with Ewald, Heng., Bunsen to take both verbs as presents (which the previous context seems to require) either as referring to a recent act of God, or to a continued act.—J. F.]

Psalms 47:5-9. God is gone up with a shout. The display of God’s power on earth in special judgments and deliverances are described as a “descending from His throne:” so when his designs have been accomplished, He is said to “return” to it (Genesis 17:22; Judges 13:20; Psalms 7:8; Psalms 68:19). This throne “high and lifted up,” (Isaiah 6:1), is a symbol of His universal government (Isaiah 66:1; Psalms 103:19), and as it is God’s throne, it properly takes the predicate “holy,” like the temple in Psalms 5:8; Psalms 11:4. This ascension, or “going up” is attended by the joyful voices of the delivered people, and the music of trumpets and cornets (Amos 2:2; Psalms 98:6; 1 Chronicles 15:28.) The celebration of this victory begun (2 Chronicles 20:26), in the valley of Berachah (valley of Praise) shall continue without ceasing. It is designed to awaken in the Church a spiritual frame of mind by means of instructive and devotional songs (Maskil is erroneously taken as an adverb by Sept., Vulg., and some critics), and to produce the same effect on those Gentiles who having been admitted to the blessing of Abraham, have been, with the Israelites, consolidated into the one people of God.—The word “Princes” Psalms 47:9, is to be taken not in a moral but a political sense. These “princes” are also designated as “shields,” i. e. protectors (Hosea 4:18; Psalms 84:10). Here they are assembled to do homage in the name of their people,—not however as conquered princes, not simply to take part in the triumphant festivities (De Wette, Ols.), nor simply to ratify the election of a king as in 2 Samuel 6:1-2, (Rosen.), but to make their joint submission to the government of God, and to confess their fellowship with His people. Neither here nor in Psalms 47:2, is there any reference to the heads of the Jewish tribes as the “shields” of the land (Cler., Gesen). There is no need of inserting עִם before עַםi. e. with the people, (Hitz., Ols.); nor of the reading עִם= with the God of Abraham (Older Versions except Chald., Syr., Kimchi, Flamin, Ewald). We may not translate “to the people” (Calv., and others), whether we supply ל or אֶל, (Geier, Rosen.), or take it as an accusative (Heng.). The safest way and most accordant with gramatical rules, is to regard it as in apposition (Symm., Jer., J. H. Mich., Stier, De Wette, Hupf.).


1. All people are called upon humbly to adore and joyfully to praise God. God is the governor of the whole world, and of all its dominions, His omnipotent acts prove that He rules in all lands, that with a mighty hand and in a righteous way, punishes and protects, casts down and lifts up. As God’s chosen people are the special recipients of the blessings of His government, they are bound first of all to raise the sound of triumph, and to invite and instruct other nations to join in their songs of praise, and to serve the Lord.
2. Each blessing and revelation of God given to His Church is an occasion for a hymn of praise, and a grateful confession of His glory. Never can she, never dare she forget or conceal the fact that His love is the ground of her election, and the cause of her salvation. But she is especially urged to give thanks with heart, hand and voice, when God not only gives her victory over her enemies, but also protects and confirms her in the promised inheritance. For thereby God makes an actual revelation of His majesty, and shows that while graciously condescending to His people, He still governs the world, on His heavenly throne.
3. There is a distinction to be made between God’s general government of the world, and that special one—the theocracy—which He established on earth, in and through the seed of Abraham. Even in the imperfect and typical form which it assumes in Old Testament history this is described as His descending to the earth, and His ascending to heaven. This theocracy, insignificant as was its origin in Israel has a world-embracing destination. It shall gather into itself all nations, who, as one people of God shall serve and adore one and the same heavenly King; and their princes shall accomplish those purposes which God has ordained for them, viz., to be the leaders of their people to salvation, and their protectors in the service of God.


How should the Church express her gratitude for the triumphant ascension of the Lord?—Not until the Lord has effected the design of His coming down to the earth, will He ascend again to His heavenly throne.—Although God is the Lord of the whole world, yet in condescension to human wants, He allows His kingdom on earth to begin in the form of servitude. Though small and feeble in its beginning, the kingdom of God will victoriously spread itself over the whole world.—The God of Abraham has His throne in heaven; yet He visits His people from thence, and rules the whole world. The praises of God should be not only loud and cheerful, but rendered in such a way also as to instruct and edify,—Oh! that all men would join in the praise of God,—that all princes would bind themselves to the service of God; and that all people would come together as the people of God.—Nations should not forget that God has ordained rulers over them; but rulers should remember that they have a Lord in heaven, and a duty to perform on earth, and that they can discharge the latter properly, only by serving the former.—The people of God may well render grateful praise to their heavenly king, for His love is the ground of their election, and His protection the pledge of their security.—Luther: A prophecy concerning Christ, that He should ascend on high, and become a king of the whole world, not by means of the sword, but only through gladsome songs, and the sound of trumpets, i. e., the joyful preaching of the Gospel.

Starke: Though only a small part of mankind adores Jesus as the King of grace, He is nevertheless Lord of the universe, and will be hereafter fully revealed as such.—The kingdom of this world has its pleasures, as well as the kingdom of Christ, but those of the latter are by far the noblest and most precious, since they come from God, and shall endure throughout eternity.—The inheritance which God gives to His faithful ones is the glorious blessing of Jacob, or all the promises of the kingdom of grace and glory.—There is no greater purpose to which man can apply his reason and wisdom, than to constant meditation, how he may live in honor before his Divine Lord.—Wherever we may be we are still under the supreme rule of God.—The Gospel does not abolish the order of nobility that bears shields and helmets, but those belonging to it should be all the more intent to become and remain faithful subjects of the kingdom of Christ.—Great lords claim to be such, “by the grace of God;” for this reason, they should humble themselves under His mighty hand, should love and honor Him and His word, and should be as nursing fathers to His Church. Isaiah 49:23.—Osiander: By meditation upon the glory of the Lord, we should indeed humbly and obediently submit to Him, and under all circumstances seek His aid.—Selnecker: A thanksgiving for Christ’s kingdom, and its eternal spiritual blessings.—Franke: The shadows of the Old Testament point to the realities of the New.—Renschel: O! King of the world, grant that all the nations of the earth may be converted unto Thee, that we may render thanks to Thy name.—Frisch: The designation of princes as “shields of the earth,” should remind rulers as well as subjects of their respective duties.—Richter: (Family Bible). All nations shall finally surround Israel, as an ornament.—Tholuck: The earth belongs unto the Lord, though its inhabitants have hitherto neglected to do Him homage.—Guenther: God’s dominion over the whole world is presented as the ground of joy; the occasion that calls it out is the victory of God’s people over the heathen; and the result of this victory and grateful joy, is the increased certainty of their election.—Diedrich: The object that awakens our deepest and eternal joy is at once the Supreme Majesty, and a consuming fire to all His obstinate foes.—Taube: A call upon all people for a song of joy to Israel’s God, who by His victory and ascension on high has proved Himself to be King over all the earth, and over the heathen.

[Henry: Here is a needful rule. Psalms 47:7. Sing ye praises with understanding. 1. Intelligently; as those that do yourselves understand why and for what reasons you praise God, and what is the meaning of the service. This is the Gospel rule (1 Corinthians 14:15). To sing with the spirit and the understanding also. It is only with the heart that we make melody unto the Lord Ephesians 5:19. It is not an acceptable service, if it be not a reasonable service. 2. Instructively; as those that desire to make others understand God’s glorious perfections, and to teach them to praise Him.—Scott: The universal and absolute sovereignty of our holy God would be most terrible to every sinner, were it not administered by His incarnate Son from a mercy-seat; but now, it is terrible to the obstinate workers of iniquity alone.—If we are the chosen people of God, and His love and grace have made us more excellent than our unbelieving neighbors, we may be sure He has chosen for us a more honorable and excellent inheritance than all the kingdoms of the world, and that He will prepare our souls for that inheritance, by every dispensation here on earth.—J. F.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 47". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-47.html. 1857-84.
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