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Psalm chapter 48

New International Version

1 A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. 2 Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.
3 God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress. 4 When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, 5 they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. 6 Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor.
7 You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind.
8 As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever. 9 Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. 10 Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11 Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments. 12 Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers,
13 consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. 14 For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
English Standard Version

1 A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. 3 Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress. 4 For behold, the kings assembled; they came on together. 5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic; they took to flight. 6 Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labor. 7 By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. 8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever. Selah 9 We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. 10 As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. 11 Let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of your judgments! 12 Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, 13 consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation 14 that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.
King James Version

1 {A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah.} Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. 2 Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. 3 God is known in her palaces for a refuge. 4 For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. 5 They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. 6 Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail. 7 Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah. 9 We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple. 10 According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness. 11 Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. 12 Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. 13 Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. 14 For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.
New American Standard Bible

1 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised In the city of our God, His holy mountain. 2 Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King. 3 In its palaces, God has made Himself known as a stronghold. 4 For, behold, the kings arrived, They passed by together. 5 They saw it, then they were amazed; They were terrified, they fled in a hurry. 6 Panic seized them there, Anguish, as that of a woman in childbirth. 7 With the east wind You smash the ships of Tarshish. 8 Just as we have heard, so have we seen In the city of the LORD of armies, in the city of our God; God will establish her forever. Selah 9 We have thought over Your goodness, God, In the midst of Your temple. 10 As is Your name, God, So is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness. 11 Mount Zion shall be glad, The daughters of Judah shall rejoice Because of Your judgments. 12 Walk around Zion and encircle her; Count her towers; 13 Consider her ramparts; Go through her palaces, So that you may tell of her to the next generation. 14 For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will lead us until death.
New Living Translation

1 A song. A psalm of the descendants of Korah. How great is the LORD, how deserving of praise, in the city of our God, which sits on his holy mountain! 2 It is high and magnificent; the whole earth rejoices to see it! Mount Zion, the holy mountain, is the city of the great King! 3 God himself is in Jerusalem's towers, revealing himself as its defender.
4 The kings of the earth joined forces and advanced against the city. 5 But when they saw it, they were stunned; they were terrified and ran away. 6 They were gripped with terror and writhed in pain like a woman in labor. 7 You destroyed them like the mighty ships of Tarshish shattered by a powerful east wind.
8 We had heard of the city's glory, but now we have seen it ourselves--the city of the LORD of Heaven's Armies. It is the city of our God; he will make it safe forever. Interlude
9 O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. 10 As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory. 11 Let the people on Mount Zion rejoice. Let all the towns of Judah be glad because of your justice.
12 Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. 13 Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. 14 For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.
Christian Standard Bible

1 The Lord is great and highly praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain, 2 rising splendidly, is the joy of the whole earth. Mount Zion--the summit of Zaphon-- is the city of the great King.
3 God is known as a stronghold in its citadels. 4 Look! The kings assembled; they advanced together. 5 They looked and froze with fear; they fled in terror. 6 Trembling seized them there, agony like that of a woman in labor,
7 as you wrecked the ships of Tarshish with the east wind.
8 Just as we heard, so we have seen in the city of the Lord of Armies, in the city of our God; God will establish it forever. Selah 9 God, within your temple, we contemplate your faithful love. 10 Like your name, God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with justice.
11 Mount Zion is glad. Judah's villages rejoice because of your judgments. 12 Go around Zion, encircle it; count its towers, 13 note its ramparts; tour its citadels so that you can tell a future generation: 14 "This God, our God forever and ever -- he will always lead us."

What does Psalm chapter 48 mean?

This passage parallels ideas found in Psalms 44, 46 and 47. The city of Jerusalem is held up as a living example of God's greatness. The writer notes that history—to that point—had established the city as a place fortified by the power of the Lord (Psalm 48:1–3).

During the reign of Jehoshaphat, several nations combined forces to attack Jerusalem. Through God's miraculous intervention, the assault was thwarted without Israel needing to fight, at all (2 Chronicles 20). This psalm's description of kings fleeing in panic may refer to that event. Symbolically, the enemy's fear was as all-consuming as the pain of a woman giving birth. Likewise, mention of "ships of Tarshish" and "the east wind" appear to be symbolic notes describing God's vast superiority to any forces which might attack Jerusalem (Psalm 48:4–9).

Those viewing the city in the psalmist's time are encouraged to look at the intact walls, towers, and other defensive measures. These inspire the people living there—the "daughters of Judah"—to acknowledge God's favor. This reputation spreads around the entire world, along with God's glory. That the city is untouched hints at the failed siege of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19), which was routed by the Lord before any attack could be mounted. Just as prior generations passed along stories of God's redemption, so too should those who hear the psalm plan to tell others about the great things God had done for Israel (Psalm 48:10–14).