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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 47

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-9


Superscription.—“To the Chief Musician, a psalm for the sons of Korah.” See Introduction to Psalms 42:0.

The author of the psalm, and the occasion on which it was composed, are alike unknown. It is a psalm of triumph, and presents indications of having been composed on the occasion of some signal victory. Professor Alexander and Hengstenberg suggest that it was composed to celebrate the victory of Jehoshaphat over the combined forces of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites (2 Chronicles 20:0). The suggestion seems to us very reasonable. Reasons such as these are offered in support of it:—

1. The manifestation of the hand of God in the victory, as it was obtained without any fighting on the part of the chosen people.

2. Special mention of the Kohathites as having been present in the army (2 Chronicles 20:19).

3. A service of praise to God was held in the valley before the departure of Jehoshaphat and his people (2 Chronicles 20:26), which probably suggestedPsalms 47:5; Psalms 47:5 of the psalm. “From that valley God made, as it were. His ascent to heaven, after having achieved redemption for His people.”


We have in the psalm—

I. Reasons why we should praise God. The one great general reason upon which the Psalmist bases his appeal to men to praise God is that of His reign over the earth. But he brings forward particular reasons.

1. Because of His majesty and power. “For the Lord most High is terrible.” He is exalted infinitely above the noblest created being. He is “Most High” over all, and should be reverenced by all. He had shown Himself “terrible” in the destruction of the enemies of His people; therefore, let all who are not loyally subject unto Him stand in awe of Him. The justice and power of God are “terrible” to the enemies of His Church.

2. Because of the universality of His rule. “A great King over all the earth.… God reigneth over the heathen.” He reigns over all kings and princes. He “bringeth the princes to nothing, He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” Over the affairs of the whole universe God is supreme. The darkness and evil He permits and curbs; the light and goodness He enjoins and originates. He has abandoned no part of the earth. He “hath established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom ruleth over all.” All things are being ordered and controlled and overruled by Him for the accomplishment of His own wise and blessed purposes. Even the hostility of sin and sinners, and of the devil, He restrains and overrules for the good of His universe. Satan is but a vassal in the great empire of the Lord our King. Therefore let us praise Him.

3. Because under His government the interests of His loyal subjects are specially secured. We see this

(1) In the subjugation of their enemies. “He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.” The people of God had just witnessed a striking proof of this. Their foes had been utterly defeated, and they had neither discharged an arrow nor struck a blow; nothing was left for them to do but to gather the spoil. The words in which the Psalmist sets forth the subjugation by God of the enemies of His people suggest two ideas. (a) The ease with which it is accomplished. “He shall subdue.” The word which is here translated “subdue” (דָּבָר) signifies to speak, to command, to decree, &c. God has but to utter His commands, and His enemies are discomfited. (b) The completeness with which it is accomplished. “Under us, … under our feet.” What an illustration we have of this in the battle which this psalm is supposed to celebrate! “When Judah came toward the watch-tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.”

(2) In the excellence of their own portion. “He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom He loved.” God had given to them the holy land as their portion. He selected it for them. He enabled them to take possession of it. He enabled them to guard that possession; or, as in this victory, He guarded it for them without any effort on their part. The poet speaks of this land as “the excellency of Jacob,”—literally, “the pride of Jacob.” It was a land of which he would have been proud, and in the possession of which he might well have gloried. It was “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills,” &c. (Deuteronomy 8:7-9). God in His government still has special regard to the interests of His loyal subjects. “No weapon that is formed against them shall prosper.” “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?” In this aspect of His government we have a most powerful reason for praising God and His reign.

4. Because of the holiness of His government. “God sitteth upon the throne of His holiness.” God’s government is

(1) Holy in its authority. He has a right to reign. He is the greatest, the most mighty, the best Being in the universe. He created and sustains all creatures; He is the Father of all His intelligent creatures. On these grounds the righteousness of His authority is indefeasible.

(2) Holy in its aim. All its laws are true and just, and are both designed and fitted to abolish all falsehood, error, and evil, and to establish righteousness and truth in all places firmly and for ever. The end of all God’s dealings with our race has been to bless us in turning us from darkness unto light, and from sin unto holiness.

(3) Holy in its results. In proportion as men yield loyal obedience to the commands of God, holiness, peace, and joy are diffused in our world. Let all men everywhere yield hearty obedience to the Lord our King, and holiness shall be universal, and the blessedness of the race complete. Here, then, we have an urgent incentive to praise God because of His government.

5. Because of the success of His government. “The princes of the people are gathered together unto the people of the God of Abraham; for the shields of the earth belong unto God; He is greatly exalted.” We understand this as a voluntary gathering of heathen princes, that they may be received among the people of the Lord. “All kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him.” “He shall speak peace unto the heathen; and His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.” The government of the Lord shall not fail, but succeed gloriously. He is the rightful Sovereign of all the mighty ones. That right shall be completely established. All powers shall own His supremacy. He shall be greatly exalted. That which to the eye of the poet was present as he closed this psalm shall one day be fully and splendidly realised. Here, then, we have another reason for praising God for His government. It shall succeed, and all men shall enjoy its blessings. Some would limit the “all ye people” of the first verse to the Jewish people. There is no need to do that, for the time is hastening on when all the people from all lands will gladly respond to the exhortation of the Psalmist, and praise God for His government of the world.

II. Directions how we should praise God.

1. Enthusiastically. “O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises,” &c. In the fifth verse the poet represents God as having come down to earth to aid His people in the war, and having wrought salvation for them, returning to heaven amid the enthusiastic rejoicings of the people. There is perhaps a reference to the thanksgiving on the field of battle, and the joy with which Jehoshaphat and his people returned to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 20:26-28). Certainly this poetical statement, and the exhortations of the Psalmist, urge us to enthusiasm in the praise of our King and God. The clapping of the hands for joy, the shout of triumph, the blast of the trumpet, and the voice of song, are all called for by the poet in this celebration. Let not our praise of our Redeemer and King be measured, cold, and heartless, but hearty, warm, and enthusiastic. If we are rightly sensible of what He has done for us, we shall feel that even

“Eternity’s too short
To utter all His praise.”

2. Intelligently. “Sing ye praises with understanding.” Margin: “Every one that hath understanding.” But neither the textual nor the marginal rendering expresses the meaning of the Hebrew. The word is מַשְׂכִּיל, maschil. “Sing a maschil.” Hengstenberg: “Sing a song with edification.” Their praise of the King was to be intelligent and instructive. “Every song in praise of God, on account of His glorious deeds, contains a rich treasure of instruction and improvement. Here the instruction which should be drawn out of the foregoing deeds is expressly declared. It is this, that God is King over the whole earth, that He reigns over the heathen, that these shall also some time own His sovereignty.” St. Paul in like manner exhorts Christians to pray and “sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also,” that the Church might be edified. If others are to be edified by them, our praises must be intelligent.

CONCLUSION.—Are we praising or rebelling against this government? Consider, sinner, the wickedness of thy rebellion. This government is perfectly holy, and is exercised to bless men. Rebellion against it is sin against all that is true and right and good in the universe. Consider the madness of thy rebellion. “He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength; who hath hardened himself against Him and hath prospered?” “He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.” You must yield to be saved by His grace, or be crushed by His power and wrath. “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,” &c. Cease your rebellion; accept the mercy of the King; serve Him as a loyal subject; and unite in praising Him because of His glorious government of the world.


(Psalms 47:4.)

This verse presents to us three matters for consideration.

I. Distrust of self. We would not choose our own inheritance because of,

1. Our ignorance.

(1) We are to a great extent ignorant of ourselves. Possibilities of both good and evil are latent within us which God only knows. If the choice of our lot were with us, we might choose such an one as would tend to crush the true and good in us, and to quicken the evil into awful and ruinous development. God alone thoroughly understands our heart.

(2) We are ignorant of the future. We know not what a day or an hour may bring forth. The choice which amid the circumstances of to-day seems wise and good, amid those of to-morrow may seem evil and painful. God alone thoroughly knows what is before us in the future.

2. Our proneness to self-indulgence. We are apt to choose the pleasant rather than the painful, the bright rather than the dark, &c. And yet the dark and painful may be good for us, and quite essential to our wellbeing. We dare not choose our own inheritance.

II. Trust in God. “He shall choose our inheritance for us.” Committing freely the choice to Him implies confidence,—

1. In His wisdom. “His understanding is infinite.” “The only wise God.” He cannot err.

2. In His goodness. Unless assured of this we could not thus commit the choice of our inheritance to Him. “The Lord is gracious,” &c. (Psalms 145:8-9).

3. In His interest in us individually. Before we can heartily trust God as to the appointments of our life and lot we must have a persuasion of His knowledge of us and interest in us individually. We have this. “He calleth His own sheep by name.” No act of kindness rendered even “unto one of the least of the brethren” of our Lord is overlooked by Him. He never loses sight of the particular in the general, or of the individual in the community. So we trust in Him. “He shall choose,” &c.

III. Trust in God rewarded. “The excellency of Jacob whom He loved.” He chooses an inheritance for us such as Jacob might have been proud of and rejoiced in. And He who chooses also bestows the inheritance. What a precious spiritual heritage is ours in the present! pardon, purity, peace, sustaining and sanctifying grace! &c. And for temporal and material things we have the assurance that “no good will He withhold from” us. What a glorious heritage awaits us in the future! He hath chosen for us “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,” &c. And He will bestow it upon us.

Thankfully and gladly let us accept in all things His wise and gracious ordering of our life and affairs.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 47". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/psalms-47.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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