On Psalm 48
(Psa 48:1) A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
The Hebrew word for "mountain" is also used in the following verse, where it is translated "mount".
(Psa 48:2) Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
Literally, the Hebrew phrase for "Beautiful for situation" is translated "Beautiful elevation". Mount Zion is south of the temple mount. Thus, the north sides of mount Zion face the temple mount. The verse states that there, on the sides of the north, will be "the city of the great King". Now, "it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills" (Is 2:2). Due to the proximity of mount Zion to the temple mount, we can assume that when the temple mount will be elevated, mount Zion will be elevated also. Increased elevation might also imply an increased space between the two mounts and a larger space available for the city. About the position of the city, Eze 48 mentions also that it will be south of the temple. Now, Eze 48 describes the city sometime before the return of the Lord. However, in view of the fact that "the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there" (Eze 48:35), we can infer that after the Lord returns, he will make his city there.
(Psa 48:3) God is known in her palaces for a refuge.
The word translated "palaces" means also "citadels, fortresses". We read that God is known for a refuge, not that her fortresses are known for a refuge. This is an indication of times when fortresses will be ineffective. A time when fortresses will be ineffective is mentioned in Zec 14:2: "I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken ...". This event will be followed by the return of the Lord (Zec 14:5). Then "the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel" (Joe 3:16). The Lord will bring deliverance.
(Psa 48:4) For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.
(Psa 48:5) They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away.
(Psa 48:6) Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
(Psa 48:7) Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.
In verse 6, the word translated "fear" means also "trembling". "And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour" (Zec 14:13). This would correspond to the occasion in which the kings of the earth and their armies will be gathered together against the Lord (Rev 19:19-21). In view of verses such as Zec 14:3-5, this will take place at Jerusalem. The kings will be at Armageddon at the time when the last bowl of wrath will be poured on the earth (Rev 16:16-21), but apparently they will go later to Jerusalem.
(Psa 48:8) As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah.
(Psa 48:9) We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.
(Psa 48:10) According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.
(Psa 48:11) Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.
(Isa 2:4) And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
In Is 2:4, the word for "people" means "peoples". As for mount Zion, it also represents those who belong to the Lord. We read that "ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:22).
(Psa 48:12) Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
(Psa 48:13) Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.
(Psa 48:14) For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.
Recent lexicons give the meaning "to pass between" to the verb translated "consider" in verse 13. Moreover, the word translated "palaces" is the same as in verse 3. It can also be translated "fortresses, citadels". Finally, the Hebrew phrase for "Mark ye well" literally means "Set your hearts on".
Towers, bulwarks, and fortresses could be used as a visual illustration of the protection of the Lord. They could also be used to illustrate the limits of human defenses and the need to rely on the Lord. However, these remarks are probably not the main point of verses 12 and 13, since the hearer is not invited to look at some fortified city but specifically at Zion. Nonetheless, it may be that Zion will have towers, bulwarks, and fortresses after the return of the Lord. If so, these will not serve for a military purpose, for there will be no more threats of war (Is 2:4). Rather, they will be built in a way that illustrates things pertaining to the Lord. Their meaning will have to be examined and taught to the next generation. Now, this interpretation would apply only to those living after the return of the Lord. Those living before the return of the Lord might use the following figurative application of verses 12 and 13. Zion refers to the city of the Lord. When one examines Zion, he examines the people there and specifically those whose example is recorded in the Bible. We are invited to examine what made them strong in this life and to teach it to the next generation. In particular, the hope that they had made them strong. For instance, we read that Jacob "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb 11:10). This psalm speaks about that city.