Psalm 47


This psalm, along with the previous and next psalm speak about the strength of God to help His people. This psalm begins by calling upon the people of the earth to praise God because He rules as King over all things and the plasm ends by describing the awesomeness of God’s glory.

We don’t know what the historical background is to this psalm, although some believe this psalm looks back to the deliverance from Sennacherib, Psalms 46:5 / Isaiah 37:36.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Psalms 46-48 form a group of three which we may assign with little doubt to the reign of Hezekiah, when Sennacherib’s army was suddenly destroyed, 2 Kings 19:35. They all three strike the same note of gratitude, confidence and praise, which is found in Isaiah’s references to the same event, Isaiah 29-31 / Isaiah 33 / Isaiah 37’.


‘For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this is a song, a psalm for the director of music. Some commentators believe that the ‘director of music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

The sons of Korah were Levites, from the family of Kohath, who by the time of David, served in the musical aspect of the temple worship, 1 Chronicles 9:19 / 1 Chronicles 26:1 / 1 Chronicles 26:19 / 2 Chronicles 20:19. It was David who originally organised the temple singers, 1 Chronicles 15:17 / 1 Chronicles 16:41-42 / 1 Chronicles 25:4-5.

Korah is probably most famous for his role in the rebellion against Moses during the wilderness days of the Exodus, Numbers 16 / Jude 11. God judged Korah and his leaders and they all died, but the sons of Korah remained, Numbers 26:9-11. It’s possible they were so grateful for this mercy that they became prominent in Israel for praising God.

‘Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. For the LORD Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.’ Psalm 47:1-4

The psalmist begins by calling upon the nations to clap their hands, the nations probably refer to the Jewish people. The clapping of the hands was a way of expressing their joy over the great victory which God had gained over their enemies, Isaiah 37:36 / Isaiah 55:12.

They were to shout to God cries of joy acknowledging what God has done for His people, Exodus 32:18 / 2 Samuel 6:15 / 1 Chronicles 15:28 / Job 39:25 / Zechariah 4:7 / Isaiah 12:6 / Isaiah 42:11 / Isaiah 44:23 / Jeremiah 50:15.

The rejoicing was great because of what and who the ‘LORD Most High’ is, that is, awesome. In other words, God is to be feared, He is worthy of worship and He is to be exalted above all other beings, Exodus 18:11 / 1 Chronicles 16:25 / 2 Chronicles 2:5 / Psalm 96:4 / Psalm 95:3.

God is described as the ‘great King over the earth’.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘No event in the history of Israel any more demonstrated this truth than the unqualified destruction of the army of Sennacherib. This truth is one that gets overlooked today, but the hand of God continually moves in human history. He rules in the kingdom of men, exalting whom he will, Daniel 4:25. God has even determined the appointed seasons of nations and the boundaries of their dwelling places, Acts 17:26. Men may not like this, or accept it as a fact, but it is true anyway. It was the Providence of God alone, for example, that gave Babylon the victory over Assyria’.

God, the Father, can reign without being on this earth, Psalm 44:4 / Psalm 48:2 / Psalm 74:12 / 1 Samuel 12:12 / Isaiah 41:21. Jesus has now assumed this reign, He has ascended to the throne in heaven and reigns over all things, Daniel 7:13-14 / Ephesians 1:20-24 / Philippians 2:5-11. He is reigning over all the earth as the Father reigned over all the earth before the ascension of Jesus, Matthew 28:18.

It was God who subdued the nations, that is, He only had to speak and it was done, Psalm 18:39 / Psalm 18:47 / Psalm 33:9. It was God who put the people under His people’s feet, Psalm 7:5 / Psalm 44:5, in other words, it was God who helped them be triumphant over their enemies.

It was God who chose their inheritance for them, that is, the Promised land.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following concerning the pride of Jacob.

‘The meaning is, that it was a land of which Jacob, the ancestor of the people, might be proud, or which he did boast of. It was ever regarded as an honour among the Jews that they dwelt in a land which had been the abode of the prophets, and especially was anything regarded as of value that could be traced to Jacob, that had been once in his possession, or that could be regarded as his gift, John 4:12.’

‘Perhaps special allusion is here made to ‘Jacob’ rather than to Abraham and Isaac because the land came actually into the possession of the Hebrew people in the time of Jacob’s sons. It was divided among the descendants of his sons, the twelve tribes, bearing their names, and thus Jacob was most naturally referred to as having been in possession of the land. Abraham and Isaac dwelt in the land as strangers and pilgrims, Hebrews 11:9-10 / Hebrews 11:13, having no possession there, not even of a burying-place except as they purchased it, Genesis 23:12-16, and the land actually came into the possession of the nation only in the family of Jacob.’

You may notice at the end of verse four, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine the psalmist pausing for a breath as they contemplate how praiseworthy their awesome God is.

‘God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.’ Psalm 47:5-9

When people acknowledge that God is king over all the earth, the natural response is one of praise. God ascended to heaven, which is His eternal dwelling place, Psalm 7:7.

If He ascended to heaven, this implies, that He must have descended at some point to help His people who were at war, by overthrowing their enemies. After the victory was secured, He returned to heaven amid shouts of joy, amid the sounding of trumpets and praise.

When we think of God ascending and descending we turn our thoughts to the apostle Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4:8-10, where Christ is described as doing the same thing, Revelation 11:15.

We can almost hear the joyous sounds of praises in these verses as they recognise that God is King over all things. It’s only God who is truly worthy of all praise. It is God who reigns over all things, today, He reigns through the hearts of those who are obedient to Him, Luke 17:20-21 / Romans 5:17.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following about the last verse.

‘The words ‘are gathered together’ may refer either to a voluntary or an involuntary assembling, meaning either that they came in chains as prisoners of war, subdued by the arms of the people of God, and thus rendering an involuntary tribute to their power and their religion, or that they came in a voluntary manner, and submitted themselves, acknowledging the God of Israel to be the true God.’

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The ‘peoples’ here are the ‘nations,’ i.e., ‘the Gentiles’, who are said to be gathered together for the purpose of becoming the people of the God of Abraham. In all the Bible there is not a clearer prophecy of God’s converting the Gentiles and of bringing them into the kingdom of God, alongside the Jews, than we have here, Galatians 3:28-29. Thus, as several writers have pointed out, we have the fulfilment here of what God promised Abraham, that through him “all the families of the earth would be blessed, Genesis 12:3 / Genesis 17:4.’

Whatever our understanding of these verses are, God is being greatly exalted, Isaiah 60.

Some commentators point out three prophecies within this psalm.

1. The Incarnation of Christ, certified by His ascension.

2. The establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.

3. The union of both Gentiles and Jews in the Messianic phase of God’s kingdom.


The psalmist uses the word ‘praise’ five times in the second part of the psalm, which really emphasises that only God is worthy of our praise.

John in his vision, tells us that the four living creatures just praised God day and night, saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.’ Revelation 4:8.

They go on to praise Him even more by saying, ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.’ Revelation 4:11.

When we go to Revelation 5, we find John weeping because no one is worthy to open the seals, and after thinking all was lost, an angel tells him, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5.

Afterwards, we read that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb and started to praise Him by singing a new song.

‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Revelation 5:9-10.

As Christians, our very lives and every aspect of our lives should be a continuous reflection of our praise to God, Psalm 145:3 / Romans 12:1. Even when all seems lost, we still find a reason to praise Him for Who He is, what He has done and what He will do, 1 Chronicles 16:34.

Go To Psalm 48


"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."