In my previous post I unpacked the first half of Psalm 87, noting God’s affection for Jerusalem, where all nations will come to worship Him.
The second half of Psalm 87 marks an unexpected and revolutionary turn. Those who are God’s enemies will be adopted into God’s family as if they were native born.
From the glorious city the psalmist now focuses on who will inhabit the city. The answer is startling:
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
“This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah
Note the repeated phrase: “This one was born there [vs 5, ‘in her’].” This language was used for native sons and daughters. The Hebrew word translated “born there” is yā·lǎḏ, meaning to “be born” or to be a “descendant.” Naturally you would expect it to refer to Jews born in Jerusalem. Such would have all the rights and privileges granted to those of the Abrahamic covenant.
But this is making a different claim: foreigners and even enemies will not only live there, but will be declared to have been born there.
Let’s unpack each of these three verses.
Verse 4 speaks of the enemies of God becoming citizens of the holy city: Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush— ‘This one was born there,’ they say.”
Note that God is speaking: “Among those who know me …” he includes nations that are typically enemies of Israel or, in the case of Cush, nations that are far off.
Psalm 87 says Egypt and Babylon will be adopted by God
God includes enemies and conquerors of the Jews among “those who know me.” Rahab (meaning pride) denotes the ancient enemy Egypt which enslaved the Hebrews for over 400 years. He includes Babylon, the ancient empire of Jewish conquest and captivity.
These are not simply distant cities; they inflicted great misery on God’s people. Tiny Israel lay between these great kingdoms. The Jews remembered these nations with angst. They brought suffering and pain. For millennia, the mighty armies of Babylon and Egypt had used Israel as a battleground and a spoil of war.
The next two regions lie near Israel. Philistia was often Israel’s enemy, at other times its ally. Their homeland is now the Gaza strip, extending north from the city of Gaza along the Mediterranean coast. They were one of the peoples from whom the modern day Palestinians descended. The word Philistine literally means “one of Palestine.”
Tyre today is a wealthy city, a secular, consumer society. Tyre and Sidon were ancient cities of the Phoenicians on the Mediterranean coast along Israel’s north flank. These neighbors’ mere presence might remind Israel of her relative poverty.
The final nation, Cush or Ethiopia, was not so much an enemy of Israel as a distant foreign land.
At the end of verse 4 we find these strange words: “This one was born there.” In fact these were not actually born in Israel. They were not descendants of the Jews. They were strangers from other nations.
These were foreign powers or city states. Each was unique in size, power, wealth and geography. Yet they had two things in common. First, they were not Israel’s friends. In fact, some were enemies. Second, they were designated by God as “born” in the city of Jerusalem.
God will adopt outsiders
God is the original adoptive parent. He embraces the outsiders, makes them His own, declares “they were born here.” Regarding this, Charles Spurgeon writes, “Jehovah’s census of his chosen will differ much from ours; he will count many whom we should have disowned, and he will leave out many whom we should have reckoned. His registration is infallible.”
Verse 5: “And of Zion it shall be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her’; for the Most High himself will establish her.’” God established the city. It was His plan and He will choose who will inhabit the city.
This is the Jewish holy city, and even more significant, it is God’s city. He was its architect and builder. It is HIS CITY, the place of His dwelling, the holy temple and the “place of His name.”
In history, Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, at an intersection of major trade routes between Asia, Europe, and Africa. People from all over the world came through Jerusalem. In eternity, people from all over the world will inhabit the New Jerusalem.
Again, the blessing of Abraham was to be passed on to all nations. It is the task of the Jewish people to bless nations; to those who have been grafted in, the Christians, the task is to disciple nations (Matt 28:18-20). God’s blessing and the gospel are meant to be spread to all nations.
- Darrow Miller
… to be continued