Psalm 47

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2006-04-17 10:49.

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As in other psalms, the Hebrew designation natstách (possibly designating a musical director or leader) is rendered “to the end” in the Septuagint. This psalm is linked to the sons of Korah, probably the descendants of the Levite Korah’s sons who did not join him in rebellion against Moses and Aaron. (Numbers 26:9-11)

As an expression of great joy, all the “peoples” or “nations” (LXX) are directed to clap their hands. They are also to raise a shout to God, with a sound of jubilation or exultation. This would be an enthusiastic expression of praise comparable to the triumphant cry of a victorious army.

In view of who God is, anything less than a mighty shout of praise would be inappropriate. As the Most High, YHWH is the One who engenders a reverential awe or fear in those who are devoted to him. He is the great King or Sovereign over all the earth and, therefore, the One deserving of unqualified allegiance or devotion.

The psalmist acknowledged that, in the case of his people Israel, YHWH had made it possible for them to triumph over enemy nations, thus demonstrating that he is indeed king over all the earth. From the perspective of the psalmist, YHWH had subdued peoples and placed nations under the feet of the Israelites or made them their subjects.

The divinely chosen inheritance of Israel was the land of Canaan. This land is apparently referred to as the “pride of Jacob,” or a land of which Jacob could be proud. Because of YHWH’s love for him, Jacob’s descendants were given the land. (Deuteronomy 4:37, 38; 7:6-8)

The psalmist portrayed YHWH as going up or ascending, accompanied by a jubilant shout and the sound of a horn (a shofar or ram’s-horn trumpet). Because the psalmist apparently regarded him as having come down to aid his people to attain the victory, YHWH is referred to as going up, evidently to his dwelling place in the heavens. (Compare Psalm 18:9; 144:5; Isaiah 64:l, 2; Micah 1:3.)

On account of what Israel’s King had done for them, four times the people are urged to “sing praises.” Besides speaking of YHWH as “our King,” the psalmist referred to him as the “king of all the earth,” or the land areas far beyond the borders of Israel. For the fifth time, the imperative is, “sing praises.”

In the Masoretic Text, the expression “maskil” follows the words “sing praises.” There is uncertainty about its significance. In the Septuagint, it is rendered synetós, meaning “wisely” or “with understanding.” Apparently the basis for this is a link with the Hebrew root sakál (be wise, have insight, understand, or comprehend). The Septuagint rendering would suggest that the words of praise would reflect insight, or be appropriate for the occasion.

Emphasizing that YHWH’s dominion includes people besides the Israelites, the psalmist said that God reigns over the nations. Like an earthly sovereign, he is depicted as sitting on a throne. This, however, is a throne of holiness, with no taint of impurity (unlike the seats of human monarchs who often secured and maintained their position through ruthless aggression, cruel oppression, and injustice).

“Nobles of the peoples” or their “rulers” (LXX) would be non-Israelite leaders, chiefs, or princes. Their “gathering” could refer to their being assembled as captives of war. As such captives, they would be people belonging to YHWH, the God of Abraham. Possibly the “shields,” which likewise belong to God, are rulers to whom their subjects looked for protection. The reference could also be to literal shields that were obtained from the enemies. Once these shields fell into the hands of God’s people, they would be his possession, to be disposed of or used as he deemed appropriate. Evidently because of the decisive victory, the psalmist spoke of YHWH as being greatly exalted.

A number of translations have rendered the concluding words in a manner that gives them a prophetic sense, pointing to the time when non-Israelite rulers would become the people of Abraham’s God or join God’s people. “Their leaders come together and are now the people of Abraham’s God. All rulers on earth surrender their weapons, and God is greatly praised!” (CEV) “The nobles of the nations come together. They are now part of the people of the God of Abraham. The kings of the earth belong to God. He is greatly honored.” (NIRV) “The rulers of the world have gathered together. They join us in praising the God of Abraham. For all the kings of the earth belong to God. He is highly honored everywhere.” (NLT)

The Septuagint does not indicate that the rulers would become the people of Abraham’s God. It reads, “Rulers of the peoples were gathered with the God of Abraham, for by God the strong ones of the earth were exceedingly exalted [or, ‘God’s strong ones of the earth were exceedingly exalted’].”


The meaning of the transliterated Hebrew expression “selah” (in verse 4[5]) is uncertain. In the Septuagint, the corresponding designation diápsalma is understood to designate a pause or a musical interlude.

See Psalm 1 regarding the divine name (YHWH).