A SONG AND PSALM FOR THE SONS OF KORAH
We should remember that the THE SONS OF KORAH were Levites descended from Korah who had rebelled against Moses and been swallowed alive by the earth opening up beneath him (Numbers chapter 16). The descendants of Korah were Levites who participated in the Temple Service and must have formed a kind of choir of their own since quite a few Psalms were composed for them. Apparently they did not go in the way of their famous ancestor but followed the path of the Torah and of Moses. This shows that even if some of us have questionable beginnings we can still make a name for ourselves amongst the righteous.
This present Psalm traditionally was sung every Second Day (Monday) of the week during the Temple Service.
[Psalms 48:1] GREAT IS THE LORD, AND GREATLY TO BE PRAISED IN THE CITY OF OUR GOD, IN THE MOUNTAIN OF HIS HOLINESS.
Jerusalem is the City of the God of Israel. It is our city. We should never forget this.
[Psalms 48:2] BEAUTIFUL FOR SITUATION, THE JOY OF THE WHOLE EARTH, IS MOUNT ZION, ON THE SIDES OF THE NORTH, THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.
[Psalms 48:3] GOD IS KNOWN IN HER PALACES FOR A REFUGE.
[Psalms 48:4] FOR, LO, THE KINGS WERE ASSEMBLED, THEY PASSED BY TOGETHER.
The Mairi (1249-1306) says this refers to the future war of Gog and Magog when the heathen will assemble together to war against Jerusalem.
[Psalms 48:5] THEY SAW IT, AND SO THEY MARVELLED; THEY WERE TROUBLED, AND HASTED AWAY.
The Mairi points to Ezekiel 38:22 where a similar situation is described
AND I WILL PLEAD AGAINST HIM WITH PESTILENCE AND WITH BLOOD; AND I WILL RAIN UPON HIM, AND UPON HIS BANDS, AND UPON THE MANY PEOPLE THAT ARE WITH HIM, AN OVERFLOWING RAIN, AND GREAT HAILSTONES, FIRE, AND BRIMSTONE [Ezekiel 38:22].
[Psalms 48:6] FEAR TOOK HOLD UPON THEM THERE, AND PAIN, AS OF A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.
[Psalms 48:7] THOU BREAKEST THE SHIPS OF TARSHISH WITH AN EAST WIND.
An east wind blows from east to west, i.e. the Ships of Tarshish must have been to the west. Traditionally Tarshish nis identified with Tartessos near Gibraltar in Spain.
Concerning the identity of Tarshish see our article:
"Answer to Queries About Tarshish"
Perhaps here the verse is referring the defeat of the Spanish Armada which attempted an invasion of England in 1588 but was beaten by storms and English seamanship? Most of the damage to the Spanish was in effect due to storms.
Malibim (48:4) The [heathen] kings were assembled to go to conquer Jerusalem. THEY PASSED BY TOGETHER in ships upon the Sea of TARSHISH [usually identified with the Atlantic Ocean] however they experienced Divine Providence with their own eyes (48:6) FEAR TOOK HOLD UPON THEM THERE and they attempted to flee AND PAIN, AS OF A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL. And what had they seen? The breaking of (48:7) THE SHIPS OF TARSHISH WITH AN EAST WIND. The Malbim attributes the events described in the Psalm to an earthquake and a real live experience of something that happened in the past. Most Commentators however believe the Psalm is basically referring to future events and we too agree with this.
Rashi on this verse appears to identify Tarshish ("Tarsis" in Aramaic) with Carthage on the North African Coast who were colonists of Tyre and pertained according to Rashi to Edom. The Carthaginians also settled in Spain and conquered and replaced the city of Tartessos which more usually is identified with Tarshish.
[Psalms 48:8] 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.
[Psalms 48:9] WE HAVE THOUGHT OF THY LOVINGKINDNESS, O GOD, IN THE MIDST OF THY TEMPLE.
[Psalms 48:10] ACCORDING TO THY NAME, O GOD, SO IS THY PRAISE UNTO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: THY RIGHT HAND IS FULL OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
[Psalms 48:11] LET MOUNT ZION REJOICE, LET THE DAUGHTERS OF JUDAH BE GLAD, BECAUSE OF THY JUDGMENTS.
[Psalms 48:12] WALK ABOUT ZION, AND GO ROUND ABOUT HER: TELL THE TOWERS THEREOF.
[Psalms 48:13] MARK YE WELL HER BULWARKS, CONSIDER HER PALACES; THAT YE MAY TELL IT TO THE GENERATION FOLLOWING.
[Psalms 48:14] FOR THIS GOD IS OUR GOD FOR EVER AND EVER: HE WILL BE OUR GUIDE EVEN UNTO DEATH.
God will guide us all our lives. Even when we die we will be aware that God is with us.