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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 47


psa 47:0

Exultation at the Lord's Triumphant Ascension

Whilst between Ps 45 and Psa 46:1-11 scarcely any other bond of relationship but the similar use of the significant על־כּן can be discovered, Psa 47:1-9 has, in common with Psa 46:1-11, not only the thought of the kingly exaltation of Jahve over the peoples of the earth, but also its historical occasion, viz., Jehoshaphat's victory over the allied neighbouring nations, - a victory without a conflict, and consequently all the more manifestly a victory of Jahve, who, after having fought for His people, ascended again amidst the music of their celebration of victory; an event that was outwardly represented in the conducting of the Ark back to the temple (Ch2 20:28). Psa 47:1-9 has grown out of this event. The strophe schema cannot be mistaken, viz., 8. 8. 4.

On account of the blowing of the trumpet

(Note: In connection with which, עלה then is intended to point to the fact that, when the sound of the trumpets of Israel begins, God rises from the throne of justice and takes His seat upon the throne of mercy: vid., Buxtorf, Lex. Talmud. col. 2505.)

mentioned in Psa 47:6, this Psalm is the proper new year's Psalm in the synagogue (together with Ps 81, the Psalm of the second new year's feast day); and on account of the mention of the ascension of Jahve, it is the Psalm for Ascension day in the church. Luther styles it, the "Christ ascended to Heaven of the sons of Korah." Paulus Burgensis quarrels with Lyra because he does not interpret it directly of the Ascension; and Bakius says: Lyranus a Judaeis seductus, in cortice haeret. The whole truth here, as is often the case, is not to be found on either side. The Psalm takes its occasion from an event in the reign of Jehoshaphat. But was the church of the ages succeeding required to celebrate, and shall more especially the New Testament church still celebrate, that defeat of the allied neighbouring peoples? This defeat brought the people of God repose and respect for a season, but not true and lasting peace; and the ascent at that time of Jahve, who had fought here on earth on behalf of His people, was not as yet the ascent above the powers that are most hurtful to His people, and that stand most in the way of the progress of salvation, viz., those powers of darkness which form the secret background of everything that takes place upon earth that is in opposition to God. Hence this Psalm in the course of history has gained a prophetic meaning, far exceeding its first occasion, which has only been fully unravelled by the ascension of Christ.

Psalms 47:1

psa 47:1

(Heb.: 47:2-4) "Thereupon the fear of Elohim" - so closes the chronicler (Ch2 20:29) the narrative of the defeat of the confederates - "came upon all kingdoms of the countries, when they heard that Jahve had fought against the enemies of Israel." The psalmist, however, does not in consequence or this particular event call upon them to tremble with fear, but to rejoice; for fear is an involuntary, extorted inward emotion, but joy a perfectly voluntary one. The true and final victory of Jahve consists not in a submission that is brought about by war and bloodshed and in consternation that stupefies the mind, but in a change in the minds and hearts of the peoples, so that they render joyful worship unto Him. In order that He may thus become the God of all peoples, He has first of all become the God of Israel; and Israel longs that this the purpose of its election may be attained. Out of this longing springs the call in Psa 47:2. The peoples are to show the God of revelation their joy by their gestures and their words; for Jahve is absolutely exalted (עליון, here it is a predicate, just as in Psa 78:56 it is an attribute), terrible, and the sphere of His dominion has Israel for its central point, not, however, for its limit, but it extends over the whole earth. Everything must do homage to Him in His own people, whether willingly or by constraint. According to the tenses employed, what is affirmed in Psa 47:4 appears to be a principle derived from their recent experience, inasmuch as the contemporary fact is not expressed in an historical form, but generalized and idealised. But יבחר, Psa 47:5, is against this, since the choosing (election) is an act done once for all and not a continued act; we are therefore driven to regard the futures, as in Num 23:7; Jdg 2:1, as a statement of historical facts. Concerning ידבּר, He bent, made to stoop, vid., Psa 18:48. There is now no necessity for altering יבחר into ירחב, and more especially since this is not suited to the fact which has given occasion to the Psalm. On the contrary, יבחר presupposes that in the event of the day God has shown Himself to be a faithful and powerful Lord [lit. feudal Lord] of the land of Israel; the hostile confederation had thought of nothing less than driving Israel entirely out of its inheritance (Ch2 20:11). The Holy Land is called the pride (גּאון) of Jacob, as being the gift of grace of which this, the people of God's love, can boast. In Amo 6:8 גאון יעקב has a different meaning (of the sin of pride), and again another sense in Nah 2:3 (of the glory of all Israel in accordance with the promise); here it is similar to Isa 13:19. את has a conjunctive accent instead of being followed by Makkeph, as in Psa 60:2; Pro 3:12 (these are the only three instances). The strophe which follows supports the view that the poet, in Psa 47:5, has a recent act of God before his mind.

Psalms 47:4

psa 47:4

(Heb.: 47:5-9) The ascent of God presupposes a previous descent, whether it be a manifestation of Himself in order to utter some promise (Gen 17:22; Jdg 13:20) or a triumphant execution of judgment (Psa 7:8; Psa 68:19). So here: God has come down to fight on behalf of His people. They return to the Holy City and He to His throne, which is above on Zion, and higher still, is above in heaven. On בּתרוּעה and קול שׁופר cf. Psa 98:6; Ch1 15:28, but more especially Amo 2:2; for the "shout" is here the people's shout of victory, and "the sound of the horn" the clear sound of the horns announcing the victory, with reference to the celebration of the victory in the Valley of praise and the homeward march amidst the clanging music (Ch2 20:26.). The poet, who has this festival of victory before his mind as having recently taken place, desires that the festive sounds may find an unending and boundless echo unto the glory of God. זמּר is first construed with the accusative as in Psa 68:33, then with the dative. Concerning משׂכּיל = ᾠδὴ πενυματική (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16), vid., on Psa 32:1. That which excites to songs of praise is Jahve's dominion of the world which has just been made manifest. מלך is to be taken in just the same historical sense as ἐβασίλευσας, Rev 11:15-18. What has taken place is a prelude of the final and visible entering upon the kingdom, the announcement of which the New Testament seer there hears. God has come down to earth, and after having obtained for Himself a recognition of His dominion by the destruction of the enemies of Israel, He has ascended again in visible kingly glory. Imago conscensi a Messia throni gloriae, says Chr. Aug. Crusius, tune erat deportatio arcae faederis in sedem regni.

Psalms 47:9

psa 47:9

(Heb.: 47:10) In the mirror of the present event, the poet reads the great fact of the conversion of all peoples to Jahve which closes the history of the world. The nobles of the peoples (נדיבי with the twofold meaning of generosi), the "shields (i.e., the lords who are the defenders of their people) of the earth" (Hos 4:18), enter into the society of the people of the God of Abraham; πέρας αἱ πρὸς τὸν πατριάρχην Ἀβραὰμ ἔλαβον ὑποσχέσεις, as Theodoret observes. The promise concerning the blessing of the tribes of the nations in the seed of the patriarch is being fulfilled; for the nobles draw the peoples who are protected by them after themselves. It is unnecessary to read עם instead of עם with Ewald, and following the lxx and Syriac; and it is also inadmissible, since one does not say נאסף עם, but ל or אל. Even Eusebius has rightly praised Symmachus and Theodotion, because they have translated the ambiguous ἀμ by λαὸς (τοῦ Θεοῦ Ἀβραάμ), viz., as being a nominative of the effect or result, as it is also understood by the Targum, Jerome, Luther, and most of the Jewish expositors, and among modern expositors by Crusius, Hupfeld, and Hitzig: They gather and band themselves together as a people or into a people of the God of Abraham, they submit themselves with Israel to the one God who is proved to be so glorious.

(Note: It is also accented accordingly, viz., נאספו with Rebia magnum, which (and in this respect it is distinguished from Mugrash) makes a pause; and this is then followed by the supplementing clause with Zinnor, Galgal, and Olewejored.)

The conclusion (v. 11) reminds one of the song of Hannah, Sa1 2:8. Thus universal homage is rendered to Him: He is gone up in triumph, and is in consequence thereof highly exalted (נעלה, 3rd praet., the result of consequence of the עלה in Psa 47:6).

Next: Psalms Chapter 48