Psalm 87

Praise of Zion

A Psalm by the sons of Korah; a Song.

1 His foundation is in the holy mountains.
2 YHWH loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are spoken about you, city of God.


4 I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me.
Behold, Philistia, Tyre, and also Ethiopia:
"This one was born there."
5 Yes, of Zion it will be said, "This one and that one was born in her;"
the Most High himself will establish her.
6 YHWH will count, when he writes up the peoples,
"This one was born there."


7 Those who sing as well as those who dance say,
"All my springs are in you."

Psalm 87 was unusual because it didn't even address God directly. Instead, it praised Jerusalem. In this sense, it was a piece of civic boosterism, even propaganda against those who claimed their beliefs as the true faith (ie, Samaritans).

We can divide the psalm into three parts:  YHWH's preference for the city (87:1-3), the high reputation of both the inhabitants (87:4-6) and the liturgical singers/dancers (87:7). Notice the word "Selah" separated the sections. Scholars argue over the meaning of the word. The ancient Greek translation called the Septuagint rendered it as "pause." Some contend it indicated a musical interlude between sung lines.

The title of the song indicated its origin, "the sons of Korah." 2 Chornicles 20:19 recognized them as Temple musicians and singers.

87:1-3 glorified the city, claiming it contained the true presence of YHWH ("his foundation" in 87:1) and, so, had international bragging rights ("glorious things are spoken about you" in 87:3). 87:2 held YHWH preferred Jerusalem over the Samaritan worship center on Mt. Gerezim ("dwellings of Jacob" see John 4:12).

87:4-6 touted the reputation of the inhabitants. The repetition of the phrase "this one was born there" three times (in 87:4c, 5a, 6b) reinforced the notion of civic exaltation. The native born citizens of Jerusalem would be praised internationally ("Babylon...Philistia, Tyre, and also Ethiopia" in 87:4; "Rahab" was the wife of Jacob and a convert, so she could represent Gentiles who became Jews especially in the DIaspora) They also enjoyed favor over the Gentiles on the Day of the Lord ("...when he writes up the peoples…" in 87:6). Both its praise and its favor depended upon divine initiative ("the Most High himself will establish her" in 87: 5b).

87:7 instructed the singers/dancers to proclaim the city as the source of the people and its faith ("All my springs are in you"). This reinforced the propaganda that the city was central to Jewish identity.

Those who claim to be truly Jewish could use a short leap of logic to maintain citizenship in Jerusalem. Indeed, all who hold to faith in God could see themselves as inhabitants of the city. Thus, in some sense, "the one who was born there" represents all of us.

How do you count your self blessed?  How has God made you a citizen of his city?