A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
Psalm 47 is another of the psalms of the sons of Korah. As we have said before, these men were singers, so either this means that they wrote this song, or else this means the song was dedicated to them to be sung. If the latter was the case, then we have no idea who wrote the psalm, or when. Ultimately, the circumstances of its writing may not matter overly much, for we believe this psalm to be a prophecy of the coming kingdom of God, and so it is not connected other than by time of authorship to the era in which it was written.
1. Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
All the peoples are called upon to clap their hands before God. We know that there are many different peoples of this earth, and all are called upon to praise Him. God will be King over all the earth, as verse 2 says, so all the peoples of the earth are called upon to clap their hands to praise Him.
In verses 3-4, the people being spoken to are all of the people of Israel. Yet this should not trouble us, for when every last Israelite is gathered together, as the Bible assures us they will be, then there will be many different peoples among them. In our day, there are many different kinds of Jews on the earth. There are Jews from Europe, from Africa, from Asia, and now there are those from the nations of America. There are what could accurately be called Spanish Jews, and German Jews, and Chinese Jews, and Jews from many, many different nations and peoples. When all these Jews are gathered together, they will form a conglomeration of many different peoples, yet all of them together will be able to clap their hands in praise to God.
So whether the “peoples” here are the peoples of all nations, or whether they are the Israelites of all nations matters little. When that day comes, all will have reason to clap their hands in praise to God!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
Now, along with their clapping, all these peoples are called upon to shout to God with the voice of triumph. What a great triumph indeed it will be for Israel to see themselves established at last as their own nation again in God’s kingdom! From Abraham to the generation that will be alive when that day comes, all will triumph together in the great blessing God will have brought upon them in that day. And what a triumph it will be as well for the whole earth to find itself freed from the law of sin and death to serve God in newness of life in the glorious kingdom He will make in that day.
2. For the LORD Most High is awesome;
God is called here “Jehovah Elyon,” the LORD Most High. The Companion Bible says of Jehovah, “While Elohim is God as the Creator of all things, Jehovah is the same God in covenant relation to those whom He has created.” Of Elyon, it says, “It is El and Elohim, not as the powerful Creator, but as ‘the possessor of heaven and earth.’” (See Appendix 4) So if we put the two together, we would have the God in relationship with His people Who possesses heaven and earth.
So the peoples are clapping and shouting to the LORD Most High because He is awesome, that is, awe-inspiring. We will learn why in the following verses.
He is a great King over all the earth.
The LORD Most High will, at this time, be a great King over all the earth. The Hebrew word for “King” is melek, which means an absolute ruler. From the smallest tribal chief to the greatest emperor, the word melek applies as long as the ruler is absolute, and the people under him have no appeal higher than him. This will be how it is with God when He takes control of the earth in His kingdom. His will be the final and last word. His word will be law, and all will be governed by it.
This is clearly not the way things are now. This is how things will be when God will have taken to Himself His great power and will be reigning. This is an example of what Romans 4:17 is talking about when it says that God “calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” This does not mean God speaks of imaginary things, but that He speaks of things that do not yet exist and yet will exist someday as if they existed already. Someday, God is going to be the absolute ruler over all the earth, and all the peoples of the earth will be subject to Him. He is not that today. Yet God here speaks of this, something that does not yet exist, as if it did, and as if He is already King. Someday, this will be sung when this is true, and it will be no less glorious to them, but rather all the more so, for their knowing at that time that this psalm was written long before these things became true. They will see them true then, and they will sing this song with triumph.
3. He will subdue the peoples under us,
Here we have Israel speaking. In that day, the peoples will be subdued under them. In the time since this psalm was written, Israel has been subject to many different nations and peoples. Always they have been subject to them, and never until just a few decades ago did they have a nation to call their own and which was subject to their own will and not that of others. Yet even that nation they have to fight constantly for today, as the nations around them will not even be satisfied for them to rule that nation as they see fit, not to mention subjecting their own nations to Israel. Yet in this day, the peoples will be subdued under Israel.
And the nations under our feet.
To be under the feet means to be under the control, as what is under your foot you can treat how you will, either stepping on it to crush it, or treating it gently, or whatever you wish. Thus this figure means to be under the authority. I do not believe that this means that Israel will be ruling all nations at that time, for all nations will have their own sovereignty, under God, of course. Yet Israel will be the premiere nation on earth, and will exercise great authority over all the nations around them. No nation will dare to go contrary to Israel in that day. No nation will dare to work against Israel’s interests. Every nation will seek Israel’s favor. Israel will be the primary nation in the kingdom, and all other nations will look to Israel, as they have looked to many other world powers in the past. Yet how much greater will Israel and all the other nations be at this time than anything the earth has seen before!
4. He will choose our inheritance for us,
As an Israelite the psalmist speaks here, assuring us that God will choose their inheritance for them. Their inheritance is the portion they will receive. We know this will be true, and we have in Ezekiel 48 a declaration by God of what will be the territory of the tribes of Israel during the kingdom of God. Their territories then will not be the same as they were in the past. But here we see an example of God choosing their portions for them. And what is true in Ezekiel 48 of the tribes will be true of individuals in Israel as well.
We know that many generations of Israelites will be raised from the dead when God’s kingdom comes to earth. Many of them will have lived on the same piece of land as their ancestors for many generations, as that land is passed on from father to son. Which of these many generations will get this land? Which will control it? Where will the others live? And besides this, Israel was exiled from their land long ago, and more generations have lived outside the land now than lived in it. Where will these generations find their place and portion? No one can say today, but this will not be a problem when the time comes. God will choose their portions for them. Every one of them will be put in his place and receive his portion. This is the promise of God.
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah
The portions God will divide are of the excellence of Jacob. Amos 6:8 helps us to know what this means.
8. The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself,
The LORD God of hosts says:
“I abhor the pride of Jacob,
And hate his palaces;
Therefore I will deliver up the city
And all that is in it.”
The word “pride” here is the same Hebrew word as “excellence” in Psalm 47:4. The excellence of Jacob, then, seems to be “his palaces,” and “the city.” The land and their homes and cities within it, and even Jerusalem as the crown of it all, are the excellence of Jacob. We can see the same thing in Nahum 2:2.
2. For the LORD will restore the excellence of Jacob
Like the excellence of Israel,
For the emptiers have emptied them out
And ruined their vine branches.
What had been “emptied out” at this time was the land of Jacob and Israel, the northern kingdom. So we see it is the land, the cities, and the houses that God is going to divide as a portion to His people in that day.
The word “Selah” is used here then to connect the great acts of God on behalf of His people with His exaltation over all the nations of the earth.
5. God has gone up with a shout,
God ascends here. This does not speak of the ascension of Christ as we read of it in Luke 24 and Acts 1, as there is no record of a shout or a trumpet blast there. The idea seems to be that God has visited the earth to announce Himself King, and now returns to His throne in heaven with a shout, as described here.
The LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
The sound of a trumpet has also accompanied the LORD as He has ascended up in the sight of His people. This ascension is not just a physical one. He has ascended as ruler over all the earth as well.
6. Sing praises to God, sing praises!
All God’s people are called upon to sing praises to God in light of His glorious ascension to rulership over the earth. The call is repeated, something not at all unusual in a piece of poetry like this. In Hebrew, this emphasizes it, urging them most strongly to sing great praises to Him.
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
This time, the double call to sing praises is to praise our King, for at this time God and King will be the same, as He will have become King and will be reigning!
7. For God is the King of all the earth;
This line explains the previous two: they are to sing praises to God and to their King because God is the King of all the earth. This is something that will be most gloriously true in the future, when God’s government comes to earth. Yet this is something that is not at all true now, and it is just foolishness to try to claim that it is true. We know that God is not King of all the earth. If He is, then every governmental rule and law, every move of every government, must be traceable back to Him. This is most ridiculous, and would make God of so many different and contradictory minds about things, and would make Him appear to change His mind and His policies so wildly so many times, that we could not come to any conclusion but that He is completely insane. But our unstable and shifting governments are not ruled over by God as their King.
This statement is a future reality, and is an example of God speaking of the things that are not as if they were (Romans 4:17.) Now, this is a prophecy of things that will yet be true in the future, even though it is written as though the psalmist were speaking of present realities. When this time comes, this psalm will be current and accurate, and the things it says will be blessed realities. Now, though, when we are reading it, this psalm is still a vision of a glorious future, and has not yet become a reality upon earth.
Sing praises with understanding.
When the psalmist wrote this psalm, those who sung these praises had to do so with understanding. They had to realize that they were not singing of something that was currently true, but of something that would yet be true in some far future time. Now, when we read the psalm, we still must realize that it is speaking of a future time, though that future might no longer be so very far away. Yet when the time comes, those living in the kingdom will sing these praises, and when they do, they will understand them in a way none of us can. They will be living in the time when God is King of all the earth, and they will understand the reality of that in a way that we today cannot understand it, never having lived in such a blessed condition.
8. God reigns over the nations;
To reign is simply to govern or rule, and in the time this speaks of God will be governing all the nations. This does not just refer to Israel, for this is plural, “the nations.” This is not speaking of some kind of overruling sovereignty, but of actual rule. It is clear, then, that God is not governing the nations today. If He is, then there is no way to explain the terrible misrule and mismanagement that we see going on in all nations today. If God is ruling over the nations, then either He is quite terrible at it, for the rule of many nations is very bad, or else He does not really have our best interests at heart, for surely many governments do many things that are not to their citizens’ good. No, it is most evident that God is not reigning over the nations today.
God sits on His holy throne.
God is doing this ruling while sitting on His holy throne. “Holy” means “set apart,” and a “throne” is a seat of government. Thus, God is seated on His set apart seat of government at this time while He is reigning. We received a clue as to where this seat is in verse 5, when we saw God “go up” from earth with a shout and the sound of a trumpet. Other verses in the Psalms make it clear to us where that throne is. First, consider Psalm 11:4.
4. The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
This tells us that Jehovah’s throne is in heaven. Psalm 103:19 says the same.
19. The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.
Therefore, when we see God ruling while sitting on His holy throne, we know that that throne will be in heaven during the kingdom of God.
9. The princes of the people have gathered together,
Here, we see all the nobles of the people are gathered together. This would seem to be in acknowledgment of God’s rule. Perhaps these are those He had met with before He ascended in verse 4. Perhaps they had gathered together to declare Him King and acknowledge His rule over them.
The people of the God of Abraham.
These nobles are nobles of the people of the God of Abraham. In other words, they are Israel’s rulers, come together to acknowledge their ultimate Ruler, God.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
These leaders of the people now all belong to God, having sworn themselves to Him. This seems to refer to an ancient custom wherein the leaders of the various tribes would present their shields before the king. All these nobles have done this, admitting their allegiance to Him by doing so. Now, God has their shields, in other words, their loyalty.
He is greatly exalted.
The result of this, as we might expect, is that God is greatly exalted. He is now acknowledged to be the supreme ruler over all the earth, and this magnifies Him in the eyes of all dwelling upon the earth. This will be a great day indeed. May that day come soon!