Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This psalm is entitled, "To the chief Musician, a psalm for (margin, of) the sons of Korah." On the phrase "To the chief Musician," see the notes at the title to Psa 4:1-8. On the phrase "For the sons of Korah," see the notes at the title to Psa 42:1-11.
The occasion on which the psalm was composed, and the name of the author, are alike unknown. It is a triumphal psalm, and was composed apparently on some occasion of "victory" over enemies, with reference to a triumphal procession. Professor Alexander supposes that it was composed to commemorate the victory of Jehoshaphat over the Ammonites and Edomites, recorded in 2 Chr. 20. It is, as he remarks, a coincidence of some importance, that there is express mention made of the presence of the "Kohattlites" on that occasion, as among those who "stood up to praise the Lord," Ch2 20:19. This is not, however, decisive, as they might have been present on other similar occasions, and as it is probable, in fact, that they usually took part in celebrations of this kind. All that can be expressed with any certainty in regard to the occasion on which the psalm was composed is, that it was on an occasion of victory.
The psalm consists of two parts, quite similar in structure and in design. Each part consists of an exhortation to praise God, followed by a statement of reasons why, it should be done.
I. The first part comprises the first five verses:
(1) An exhortation to praise God - to celebrate the joy of the soul by a clapping of hands, and by a shout of triumph, Psa 47:1.
(2) reasons for doing this, Psa 47:2-5. These reasons are that he is terrible; that he is king over all the earth; that he will subdue the nations, and make them subject to his own people; and that, in anticipation of this, and in proof of this, he had now achieved a signal victory, and had gone up as from that victory to his own abode in heaven.
II. The second part embraces the Last four verses of the psalm:
(1) An exhortation, as before, to praise God, Psa 47:6.
(2) reasons for this, Psa 47:7-9. These reasons are, as before, that God is king over all the earth; that he now sits upon the throne of his holiness, and that Psa 47:9 the princes of the nations - the subdued kings and rulers - are borne along in triumph to the people of the God of Abraham; and that in this victory it has been shown that the shields of the earth belong to God. See the notes at Psa 47:9.
The psalm, therefore, is a triumphal ode, and was probably composed to be sung on occasion of some military triumph - some solemn procession on a return from battle, with captive princes marching in the procession, and with a display of the "shields" and other implements of war taken from the foe. All this is celebrated as indicative of the interposing power of God in victory, and as evidence of his purpose to protect his chosen people in time of peril. The psalm may yet be used in a higher sense by the church at large, when all the foes of God on earth shall be subdued, and when his kingdom shall be in fact set up over all the world.
O clap your hands, all ye people - A common way of expressing joy, or indicating applause. Compare the notes at Isa 55:12. The "people" here referred to are probably the Jewish people, and the call on them is to rejoice, with the customary marks of joy, in view of the great victory which God had gained over their enemies.
Shout unto God - Make a joyful noise in praise of God; that is, in acknowledgment that this victory has been gained by his interposition.
With a voice of triumph - With such a shout as is usually raised when a victory is obtained; such a shout as occurs in a triumphal procession. Compare Sa2 6:15; Ch1 15:28; Job 39:25; Zac 4:7; Exo 32:18; Isa 12:6; Isa 42:11; Isa 44:23; Jer 50:15. There are doubtless times when loud shouts, as expressive of joy, are proper.
For the Lord most high - Yahweh, the Most High God; that is, who is exalted above all other beings. Compare Exo 18:11; Ch1 16:25 Psa 96:4; Ch2 2:5; Psa 95:3.
Is terrible - literally, is to be feared; that is, reverenced and adored. There is an idea in the words "terrible" and "terror" which is not contained in the original, as if there were something harsh, severe, stern, in his character. The word in the original does not go beyond the notion of inspiring reverence or awe, and is the common word by which the worship of God is designated in the Scriptures. The meaning is, that he is worthy of profound reverence or adoration.
He is a great king over all the earth - He rules the world. He is a universal Sovereign. The immediate "occasion" of saying this, when the psalm was composed, was evidently some victory (which had been achieved over the enemies of the people of God) so decided, and so immediately by the divine power, as to prove that he has absolute control over all nations.
He shall subdue the people under us - Compare Psa 18:39, note; Psa 18:47, note. The word rendered "subdue" is that which commonly means" to speak." The idea in the use of this word here is that he has only to speak and it is done (compare Psa 33:9), or that he could do it by a word. Compare, however, on the use of the word here, Gesenius (Lexicon), on the word - דבר dâbar, 2, Hiphil.
And the nations under our feet - That is, they shall be entirely or effectually subdued. See Psa 7:5, note; Psa 44:5, note. As God would enable them to do this, it was an occasion for thankfulness and triumph.
He shall choose our inheritance for us - He has chosen or selected the land which we inherit. Of all the countries which compose the world, he has chosen "this" to be the inheritance of his own people, or the place where they should dwell. The thought in this verse is based on the idea so common in the writings of the Hebrews, that their country was the glory of all lands - the place of all on earth most desirable to dwell in. It is in view of this fact that they are here called on to praise God, and to rejoice in him.
The excellency of Jacob - literally, "the pride - גאון gâ'ôn - of Jacob." Septuagint, "beauty" - καλλονὴν kallonēn. So the Vulgate, "speciem." The meaning is, that it was a land of which Jacob, the ancestor of the people, might be proud, or which he did boast of. It was ever regarded as an honor among the Jews that they dwelt in a land which had been the abode of the prophets; and especially was anything regarded as of value that could be traced to Jacob; that bad been once in his possession; or that could be regarded as his gift. Compare Joh 4:12.
Whom he loved - As one of the patriarchs. Perhaps special allusion is here made to "Jacob" rather than to Abraham and Isaac, because the land came actually into the possession of the Hebrew people in the time of Jacob's sons. It was divided among the descendants of his sons, the twelve tribes, bearing their names; and thus Jacob was most naturally referred to as having been in possession of the land. Abraham and Isaac dwelt in the land as strangers and pilgrims Heb 11:9-10, Heb 11:13, having no possession there, not even of a burying-place except as they purchased it (compare Gen 23:12-16); and the land actually came into the possession of the nation only in the family of Jacob.
God is gone up with a shout - That is, he has ascended to heaven, his home and throne, after having secured the victory. He is represented as having come down to aid his people in the war by the overthrow of their enemies, and (having accomplished this) as returning to heaven, accompanied by his hosts, and amidst the shouts of triumph. All this is, of course, poetical, and is not to be regarded as literal in any sense. Compare the notes at Psa 7:7.
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet - Yahweh, accompanied with the notes of victory. All this is designed to denote triumph, and to show that the victory was to be traced solely to God.
Sing praises to God, sing praises - This commences the "second" part of the psalm. The "repetition" shows that the heart was full, or was overflowing with joy. It is a call on all to celebrate the praises of God, especially as he had enabled his people to triumph over their enemies.
Sing praises unto our King - Unto God, who has shown himself to be the King of his people - one who rules in their behalf, and who has interposed for their deliverance in danger.
For God is the King of all the earth - He has shown himself to be a universal sovereign. All nations are subject to him, and he has a claim to universal praise.
Sing ye praises with understanding - Margin, Every one "that hath understanding." Neither the text here, however, nor the margin, expresses the true idea of the original. The Hebrew is, "Sing a Maschil" - משׂכיל maśkı̂yl; that is, Sing, or play, a didactic psalm or tune; that is, a song or ode adapted to convey valuable lessons of instruction. See the word explained in the notes at the title to Psa 32:1-11. The idea is, that the occasion was one on which "such" a psalm or song would be especially appropriate; an occasion on which great lessons or truths had been taught by the dealings of God, which it became his people now to set forth in a becoming manner. Those lessons or truths pertained to the fact that God is the great King over all the earth, or that he is a sovereign among the nations: a truth of immense importance to mankind, and a truth which the occasion on which the psalm was composed was especially adapted to bring to view.
God reigneth over the heathen - Over the "nations;" not over the "heathen" in the sense in which that term is understood now. It does not mean that God reigns, or that he has set up his throne over the people that have not the true religion, but that he is exalted over the "nations" of the earth as such; or, that he has universal dominion. See the notes at Psa 46:10.
God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness - Upon his holy throne, The idea is, that his government is established in holiness or justice.
The princes of the people are gathered together - The marginal reading is, "The voluntary of the people are gathered unto the people of the God of Abraham." The word rendered "princes" - נדיב nâdı̂yb - means properly, voluntary, ready, prompt; then, generous, liberal; then, those of noble birth, princes, nobles. It is evidently used here in this latter sense. The word "people" here may mean either the people of Israel, or the people of other lands; but in this place it seems evidently to denote the latter. The words "are gathered together" may refer either to a voluntary or an involuntary assembling; meaning either that they came in chains as prisoners of war, subdued by the arms of the people of God, and thus rendering an involuntary tribute to their power and their religion; or that they came in a voluntary manner, and submitted themselves, acknowledging the God of Israel to be the true God. It seems to me that the connection requires that we should understand this in the former sense, as referring to the subjugation of the enemies of of the people of God, and to their being led along as captives, assembled thus from distant parts of the world as proof that the God of Israel reigned.
Even the people of the God of Abraham - The word "even" is not in the original. The meaning is, "to" the people of the God of Abraham; that is, they come and mingle with the people of the God of Abraham; or, they come as captives in war "to" that people, and confess in this manner that their God is the true God. The image is that of the assemblage of great numbers of foriegn princes and nobles as furnishing either a voluntary or involuntary acknowledgment of the fact that the God of Abraham was the true God, and that the people of Israel were his people.
For the shields of the earth belong unto God - Are of right his. This would seem to have been suggested by the marching in triumph of subdued and vanquished princes and warriors, their shields or weapons of war being borne along in the procession, demonstrating that Jehovah was King among the nations. It was seen in such a march that all those weapons of war "belonged" to him, or that he had a right to dispose of them, and to use them as he pleased.
He is greatly exalted - That is, one who can thus subdue nations, and lead along captive princes and warriors, "must" be a Being greatly exalted; a Being that has dominion over the nations of the earth. This completes the imagery in the psalm, and gives occasion for the shouts and the joys of triumph. God had shown that he was a great King over the earth. Princes and armies were subdued to his will. They were led along as captives, and were gathered together to the people of God, as if to acknowledge their own inferiority; and in this solemn manner the nations thus subdued owned Yahweh to be the true God. In a higher sense this will be true when all the earth shall be subdued by the power of truth, and when kings, and princes, and people everywhere shall come and acknowledge God, reigning through the Messiah, to be the King of all nations. Compare Isa. 60.