Psalm 87:4
(4) This verse may be paraphrased--

I will mention to my intimates Rahab and Babylon; (I will say) look at Philistia and Tyre--yes, and even Ethiopia. So-and-so was born there.

The last clause is literally this was born there, and on its reference the whole meaning of the verse and the whole intention of the psalm turn. Now immediately after the mention of a place, there must surely refer to that place, and not to a place mentioned in the previous verse and there too addressed as in the second person. The demonstrative this, is evidently used in a general way. (Comp. the fuller form, Judges 18:4, &c.) The poet begins his special addition to the praises of Zion, by enumerating various renowned nations much in the same way as Horace's

"Laudabunt alii claram Rhodon, aut Mitylenen."

only instead of leaving them as a theme to others he tells us what he himself in ordinary conversation might say of these places, and of the estimation in which their natives were held. It is hardly possible to escape from the conclusion that the Palestinian Jew is here implying his superiority to those of his race who were born abroad, a spirit shown so strongly in the relations of the Hebrews to the Hellenistic Jews in the New Testament.

Rahab undoubtedly stands for Egypt, but the exact origin of the term and of its connection with Egypt is much disputed. Most probably it is a term (possibly Coptic) for some large sea or river monster symbolic of Egypt. (Comp. the word "dragons," Psalm 74:13, and see Job 9:13; Job 26:12.)

Ethiopia--Heb., Kh-sh (in Authorised Version Cush). (See Genesis 10:6 : 2Kings 19:9.)

There is no need with our explanation to look for emblematic reasons for the choice of names in this verse--as Egypt for antiquity; Babylon, strength; Tyre, wealth, &c. There is no one of the districts where Jews of the Dispersion might not have been found, but no doubt in his enumeration the poet takes care to mention countries near and far, as Philistia and Ethiopia. There appears, however, to have been a district in Babylonia known to the Hebrews as Kh-sh (Lenormant, Origines de l'Histoire; and see a paper on the site of Eden, in the Nineteenth Century for October, 1882). The parallelism would be improved by this reference here.

Verses 4-6. - The Almighty is introduced as making a revelation to the psalmist. He will cause the Gentiles to flock into his Church, even those who have been hitherto the most bitter enemies of Israel (ver. 4), and will place these strangers on a par with such as have belonged to his Church from their birth (vers. 4, 5, 6), admitting them to every blessing and every privilege. The Church, thus augmented, shall be taken under his own protection, and "established," or placed on a sure footing, forever. Compare our Lord's promise to St. Peter," On this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Verse 4. - I will make mention of Rahab; i.e. of Egypt. The context requires this meaning, which is found also in Psalm 89:10 and in Isaiah 51:9. Literally "Rahab" means "pride, arrogance." And Babylon. The fitting counterpart of Egypt, equally antagonistic to Israel, and equally lifted up with pride and presumption. To them that know me; rather, among them that know me; i.e. as belonging to them, included in their number (comp. Isaiah 19:21, "And the Lord shall be known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day;" and see also Psalm 72:11, 17; Psalm 82:8; Isaiah 66:23). Behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia. Other hostile nations (comp. Psalm 83:7; 2 Chronicles 12:3; 2 Chronicles 14:9-13). This man was horn there. There is no "man" in the original, and it is better to understand "nation;" this, that, and the other nation - all those mentioned, and others - are grafted into Zion, and have a second birth there.

87:4-7 The church of Christ is more glorious and excellent than the nations of the earth. In the records of heaven, the meanest of those who are born again stand registered. When God renders to every man according to his works, he shall observe who enjoyed the privileges of his sanctuary. To them much was given, and of them much will be required. Let those that dwell in Zion, mark this, and live up to their profession. Zion's songs shall be sung with joy and triumph. The springs of the joy of a carnal worldling are in wealth and pleasure; but of a gracious soul, in the word of God and prayer. All grace and consolation are derived from Christ, through his ordinances, to the souls of believers.I will make mention of Rahab,.... Not of Rahab the harlot, as Jerom and others of the ancients (y) interpret it; for the letters of both words are not the same in Hebrew; though mention is made of her in the Gospel, and Gospel times, in the genealogy of Christ, and by two of the apostles, Matthew 1:5, but of Egypt; and so the Targum interprets it, which is so called, as it is in Psalm 89:10 either from the pride of its inhabitants, the word having in it the sense of pride and haughtiness, and these being naturally proud and haughty, as Philo (z) the Jew observes; or from some city of this name in it; or rather this respects that part of Egypt called Delta, which was in the form of a pear; which "raab", or "rib", in the Egyptian language, signifies; in the midst of which was the city of Athribis of Ptolemy (a), which has its name from hence, and signifies the heart of a pear; and still this part of the country is called Errifia, as Leo Africanus (b) relates, and is here put for the whole country: the passage respects the conversion of it, and are the words of God foretelling it, and of which mention is made in Isaiah 19:18 and had its accomplishment, at least in part, on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:10 and will be further accomplished in the latter day, when the people that now inhabit that country shall be converted, which will be when the kingdoms of this world become Christ's: and Babylon; the country of the Assyrians and Chaldeans, of which Babylon was the metropolis: mention is made of the conversion of these in Isaiah 19:24 and which also was fulfilled, in part, on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:9 and in Babylon there was a church, in the times of the Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 5:13 these the Lord promises that he would make mention of:

to them that know me; says he, that so they might expect their conversion, and take notice of them, and receive them, when converted;

or among them that know me (c); that is, I will make mention of them, as such that know me, and belong to that number; even such that love the Lord, believe in him, own and confess him, and yield obedience to him, and whom he takes into communion and fellowship with himself, and makes his friends, familiars, and acquaintance:

behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; where also will be many converts, regenerate persons, and such as know the Lord; of which there has been a partial accomplishment already; of Philistia, see Acts 8:40, for Azotus, or Ashdod, was a city of the Philistines; and of Tyre, see Psalm 45:12 and of Ethiopia, and its conversion, mention is made in Psalm 68:31, and the Ethiopian eunuch is one instance of it, Acts 8:27 of all which there will be abundance of instances in the latter day; and thus, as the church is commended from her foundation, from the superlative love the Lord bears to her, and the glorious things spoken of her; so from the number of her converts in different nations, in which her glory in Gospel times would greatly lie; see Isaiah 49:18,

this man was born there; not any particular man; any single individual, famous for piety, wisdom, wealth, or power; as if it suggested that now and then such a person might be born in the above countries; whereas in Zion there were frequently many such persons born: nor is it to be understood of the Messiah, that should come out of Zion, as if that was the reason why multitudes from the above places should flock thither, because of the birth of this illustrious Person: the Targum understands it of a great personage, a king; and paraphrases it,

"a king is educated there;''

but it designs many persons in each of those countries that should be born again, of water, and of the Spirit, of the incorruptible seed of grace, by the ministry of the word; who, because they should be regenerated by means of the Gospel preached in Zion, therefore are said to be born there; and besides, being born again, they are admitted members of Zion, and to all the privileges of Zion, as true born Israelites; and are brought up there, are nourished with the sincere milk of the word, and nursed with the breasts of Gospel ordinances there administered; and so Zion, or Jerusalem, the Gospel church, is truly the mother of them all, Galatians 4:26.

(y) Aug. Euthymius, Theodoret, & alii, in Amama, Antibarbar. Bibl. I. 3. p. 820. (z) De Agricultura, p. 196. (a) Geograph. l. 4. c. 5. (b) Descriptio Africae, l. 8. c. 2.((c) "inter scientes me", Vatablus, Gejerus, Schmidt; "apud noscentes me", Junius & Tremellius; "apud familiares meos", Piscator; "apud notos meos", Amama.

Psalm 87:3
Top of Page
Top of Page