Psalm 48

Psalm 48


A Song. A PsalmA of the Korahites.B

Notes on superscript

A “Psalm” = mizmor. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody or a psalm.
B “Korahites” = ben + Qorach. Literally “sons of Korah.” Ben is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Qorach is from qarach (to shave bald, perhaps freeze). This is Korah, perhaps meaning “ice.”

GreatC is the LordD and greatly to be praisedE
    in the cityF of our God.G

Notes on verse 1a

C “great” = gadol. From gadal (to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing). This is great, high, bigger, noble, old, marvelous. It can also refer to someone who is powerful or distinguished.
D “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
E “praised” = halal. This is to be clear – it originally referred to a sound, then a color. It was to shine and then make a show or boast then to rave. In a causative sense it came to mean celebrate, give glory, sing praise, or be worth of praise. Because of the celebratory nature of the word, it could also mean to give in marriage. This is where Hallelujah comes from.
F “city” = iyr. From uwr (to awaken or wake oneself up). This can mean excitement in the sense of wakefulness or city. Properly, this is a place that is guarded. Guards kept schedules according to watches. This sense of the word would include cities as well as encampments or posts that were guarded.
G “God” = Elohim.

His holyH mountain, beautifulI in elevation,J
    is the joyK of all the earth,L

Notes on verses 1b-2a

H “holy” = qodesh. This is set apart and so sacred. God is different from us and so God is holy/set apart. Things we dedicate to God’s service are set apart for God and so they, too, are holy, etc.
I “beautiful” = yapheh. From yaphah (to be beautiful, decorate; root means being bright, which implies being beautiful). This is beautiful in a literal or figurative sense – appropriate, handsome, godly, pleasant.
J “elevation” = noph. 1x in OT. Perhaps from nuph (to rock back and forth, wave, sprinkle, quiver, beckon, offer, present). This is height or elevation.
K “joy” = masos. 17x in OT. From sus (to rejoice, be glad; properly, to be bright or cheerful). This is delight, joy, something that causes joy or the feeling itself.
L “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.

Mount Zion,M in the farN north,O
    the cityP of the great King.

Notes on verse 2b

M “Zion” = tsiyyon. The word is related to tsyiyyun (signpost, monument); from tsavah (to charge someone, to command, order); from the same as tsiyyah (dryness drought); from a root meaning parched as desert, dry land. Zion can refer to a mountain in Jerusalem as well as another name for Jerusalem itself or the people.
N “far” = yerekah. From yarek (thigh, side, body, shank; can be figurative for genitalia). This is flank, side, recesses, border, quarter, extreme parts.
O “north” = tsaphon. From tsaphan (to hide, hoard, reserve; to cover over or figuratively to deny; also to lurk). This is properly hidden, dark, or gloomy. It can also be used to refer to the north.
P “city” = qiryah. From qarah (to happen, meet, bring about). This is a place where there are buildings so it could be a fortress or a town.

Within its citadelsQ God
    has shownR himself a sure defense.S

Notes on verse 3

Q “citadels” = armon. Root might mean to be high in elevation. So, this is any kind of fortified building like a citadel, castle, tower, or palace.
R “shown” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment. Here, to make known.
S “sure defense” = misgab. 17x in OT. From sagab (raise, lifted, high, secure on high, excellent, strong; literal and figurative). This is a high or inaccessible location. Abstractly, it can be altitude. Concretely it is a cliff or height. Figuratively, it is a refuge or stronghold – a high fort or tower. There is also a place called Misgab in Moab.

ThenT the kings assembled,U
    they came onV together.W

Notes on verse 4

T {untranslated} = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!
U “assembled” = yaad. This is to appoint, assemble or gather selves, agree. Here, it is to meet at a prearranged place/time or to gather as to go to war.
V “came on” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
W “together” = yachad. From yachad (to join, be united). This is a unit, both, altogether, unitedness, alike.

As soon as they sawX it, they were astounded;Y
    they were in panic,Z they took to flight;AA

Notes on verse 5

X “saw” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
Y “were astounded” = tamah. 9x in OT. This is to be amazed, wonder, be dumbfounded.
Z “were in panic” = bahal. To be afraid or dismayed or amazed. This is deep trembling within. So, figuratively, it refers to being suddenly agitated. This implies moving or acting quickly/anxiously.
AA “took to flight” = chaphaz. 9x in OT. This is hurry or alarm. It is something that begins with a start so it can mean to hurry away or to panic, tremble, fear.

tremblingBB took hold ofCC them there,
    painsDD as of a woman in labor,EE

Notes on verse 6

BB “trembling” = ra’ad. 5x in OT. From ra’ad (to tremble or shudder with more or less force). This is trembling or quaking.
CC “took hold of” = achaz. This is to grasp, catch, seize, take and hold in possession. It can also be to be afraid or hold back.
DD “pains” = chil. 7x in OT. From chul (whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain; used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear; can also be falling in pain or waiting). This is writhing, pain, pang, or anguish. It can be used specifically for labor pains.
EE “woman in labor” = yalad. This is to bear or bring forth. It can mean to act as midwife or to show one’s lineage. This is often used for birth or begetting.

as when an eastFF windGG shattersHH
    the ships of Tarshish.II, JJ

Notes on verse 7

FF “east” = qadim. From the same as qedem (front, formerly, before, east, eternal, everlasting, antiquity). This is the front part and so eastward. Sometimes used as a shorthand for the east wind.
GG “wind” = ruach. This is breath, wind, air, cool, spirit. This is wind, which resembles the breath and so this can be used figuratively for life itself or being frail/mortal/impermanent. It can refer to the air of the sky or the spirit.
HH “shatters” = shabar. This is break, collapse, destroy, break in pieces, tear. It is bursting in a literal or figurative sense.
II “Tarshish” = Tarshish. Perhaps from the same as tarshish (a gemstone like yellow jasper, beryl, or topaz) OR from Persian Tarshata (his excellency) OR from tarsata (feared, revered) OR from rashash (to break down, shatter; perhaps subjection) OR tor (dove) + shayish (alabaster, white, crystal). This is Tarshish – a port city on the Mediterranean – exact whereabouts unknown today. See
JJ Literally “as when with an east wind you break the ships of Tarshish.”

As we have heard,KK so have we seen
    in the cityLL of the Lord of hosts,MM

Notes on verse 8a

KK “heard” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
LL “city” = iyr. Same as “city” in v1. See note F above.
MM “hosts” = tsaba. From tsaba (to wage war, serve, assemble, fight, perform, muster, wait on). This is a large group of persons (used figuratively for a group of things). It implies a campaign literally as with army, war, warfare, battle, company, soldiers. Can also be used figuratively for hardship or for worship.

in the cityNN of our God,
    which God establishesOO forever.PP SelahQQ

Notes on verse 8b

NN “city” = iyr. Same as “city” in v1. See note F above.
OO “establishes” = kun. Properly, this means in a perpendicular position. So, it is set up in a literal sense – establish, fix, fasten, prepare. In a figurative sense, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous.
PP “forever” = ad + olam. Literally “even to everlasting.” Olam is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
QQ “Selah” = selah. From salal (to lift up, build, pile, extol, exalt; can also be used for opposing as a dam holds back water). This is to lift up or exalt. Also, “selah” in the psalms where its precise meaning is uncertain. It could be a pause in the music, a moment of silence. It could signal a change in the service or mean something akin to amen.

We ponderRR your steadfast love,SS O God,
    in the midstTT of your temple.UU

Notes on verse 9

RR “ponder” = damah. This is to be like, resemble, devise. It can be to think using analogies.
SS “steadfast love” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
TT “midst” = qereb. Perhaps from qarab (to come near or approach). This is among, in the midst, before, the center It is the inward part, whether literal or figurative. It can also be used for the heart, the site of thoughts and feelings. This word is also used as a technical term for the entrails of the animals who are sacrificed.
UU “temple” = hekal. Perhaps from yakol (to be able, endure, overcome, prevail). This is a large building with public access such as a palace or temple.

10 Your name,VV O God, like your praise,WW
    reaches to the endsXX of the earth.

Notes on verse 10a

VV “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
WW “praise” = tehillah. Related to “praised” in v1. From halal (see note E above). This is praise or a song of praise. It is to offer God a hymn, to boast in God. This shares a root with “hallelujah.”
XX “ends” = qatsu. 4x in OT. From qatsah (to cut off, cut short; figuratively, to destroy). This is an end, edge, boundary, corner, or limit. It is also used twice for the “ends of the earth.”

Your right handYY is filledZZ with victory.AAA

Notes on verse 10b

YY “right hand” = yamin. May be from yamam (to go or choose the right, use the right hand; to be physically fit or firm). This can mean right hand, right side, or south. Since most people are right-handed, the metaphorical usage of this word presumes that the right hand is stronger and more agile. Thus, it is the instrument of power and action.
ZZ “filled” = male. This is fill, satisfy, replenish, accomplish, fulfill, confirm, or consecrate. It is fill in a literal or figurative sense.
AAA “victory” = tsedeq. This is rightness, righteousness, vindication. It is everything that is just or ethical. That which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense. It also includes just weights (i.e. true weights). Figuratively, this is justice, righteousness, equity – even prosperity.

11     Let Mount Zion be glad,BBB
let the townsCCC of JudahDDD rejoiceEEE
    because of your judgments.FFF

Notes on verse 11

BBB “be glad” = samach. This is to rejoice or be glad. Properly, it is to brighten up in a literal or figurative sense.
CCC “towns” = bat. Literally, “daughter,” but can be used in a figurative sense.
DDD “Judah” = Yehudah. Probably from yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise); from yad (hand). This is Judah, meaning “praised.”
EEE “rejoice” = gil. Properly, this is twirling around because of a strong feeling whether of rejoicing or from fear. This can be rejoice, be glad or joyful, or to cry.
FFF “judgments” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.

12 Walk aboutGGG Zion, go all aroundHHH it,
    countIII its towers,JJJ

Notes on verse 12

GGG “walk about” = sabab. This is turning around, going around; to surround, cast, walk, fetch. It is to revolve or border in a literal or figurative sense.
HHH “go all around” = naqaph. 19x in OT. This is to strike, cut down, surround, destroy, corrode, knock together, or enclose. It can be to surround as a guard or like the sea. It can meaning coming to the end of a festival time or enclosing in a net or trap.
III “count” = saphar. From sepher (writing, document, book, evidence). This is properly to tally or record something. It can be enumerate, recount, number, celebrate, or declare.
JJJ “towers” = migdal. Related to “great” in v1. From gadal (see note C above). This is a tower, podium, bed of flowers. This is perhaps the root of “Magdalene.”

13 considerKKK wellLLL its ramparts;MMM
    go throughNNN its citadels,

Notes on verse 13a

KKK “consider” = shith. This is to place, set, bring, appoint, consider, bring, array or look.
LLL “well” = leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
MMM “ramparts” = cheylah. Related to “pains” in v6. 1x in OT. From chayil (strength, wealth, ability, activity; a soldier or a company of soldiers; goods; a force of people, means, or goods; valor, virtue, or strength); from chul (see note DD above). This is bulwark or entrenchment.
NNN “go through” = pasag. 1x in OT. This is to pass through or figuratively to contemplate.

that you may tellOOO the nextPPP generationQQQ
14     that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
    He will be our guideRRR forever.SSS

Notes on verses 13b-14

OOO “tell” = saphar. Same as “count” in v12. See note III above.
PPP “next” = acharon. From achar (to be behind, delay, be late, procrastinate, continue). This is end, last, coming behind, to loiter, later. It can also refer to the west.
QQQ “generation” = dor. From dur (to move in a circle, which implies living somewhere or remaining there; it can also be the sense of piling or heaping up). This is a revolution of time, which is to say, an age or generation. It can also be a dwelling or one’s posterity.
RRR “be…guide” = nahag. This is to drive as in driving flocks, but also driving in animal or vehicle like a chariot. It can mean to carry away, lead, drive away, proceed, or guide. It can also relate to behavior and what one is accustomed to.
SSS “forever” = al + mut. Literally “to death.” Mut is 2x in OT. From mut (to die in a literal or figurative sense; a dead body). This is death.

Image credit: Illustration by Lilien from the book “Songs of the Ghetto” by Morris Rosenfeld, 1903.

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