Verse 2. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. The hill of Zion is the type of the believer's constancy, and the surrounding mountains are made emblems of the all surrounding presence of the Lord. The mountains around the holy city, though they do not make a circular wall, are, nevertheless, set like sentinels to guard her gates. God doth not enclose his people within ramparts and bulwarks, making their city to be a prison; but yet he so orders the arrangements of his providence that his saints are as safe as if they dwelt behind the strongest fortifications. What a double security the two verses set before us! First, we are established, and then entrenched; settled, and then sentinelled: made like a mount, and then protected as if by mountains. This is no matter of poetry, it is so in fact; and it is no matter of temporary privilege, but it shall be so for ever. Date when we please, "from henceforth" Jehovah encircles his people: look on as far as we please, the protection extends "even for ever." Note, it is not said that Jehovah's power or wisdom defends believers, but he himself is round about them: they have his personality for their protection, his Godhead for their guard. We are here taught that the Lord's people are those who trust him, for they are thus described in the first verses: the line of faith is the line of grace, those who trust in the Lord are chosen of the Lord. The two verses together prove the eternal safety of the saints: they must abide where God has placed them, and God must for ever protect them from all evil. It would be difficult to imagine greater safety than is here set forth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 2. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem. This image is not realised, as most persons familiar with our European scenery would wish and expect it to be realised. Jerusalem is not literally shut in by mountains, except on the eastern side, where it may be said to be enclosed by the arms of Olivet, with its outlying ridges on the north east and south west. Anyone facing Jerusalem westward, northward, or southward, will always see the city itself on an elevation higher than the hills in its immediate neighbourhood, its towers and walls standing out against the sky, and not against any high background such as that which encloses the mountain towns and villages of our own Cumbriau or Westmoreland valleys. Nor, again, is the plain on which it stands enclosed by a continuous though distant circle of mountains, like that which gives its peculiar charm to Athens and Innsbruck. The mountains in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem are of unequal height, and only in two or three instances -- Neby-Samwil, Er-Rain, and Tuleil el-Ful -- rising to any considerable elevation. Even Olivet is only a hundred and eighty feet above the top of Mount Zion. Still they act as a shelter: they must be surmounted before the traveller can see, or the invader attack, the Holy City; and the distant line of Moab would always seem to rise as a wall against invaders from the remote east. It is these mountains, expressly including those beyond the Jordan, which are mentioned as "standing round about Jerusalem", in another and more terrible sense, when on the night of the assault of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, they "echoed back" the screams of the inhabitants of the captured city, and the victorious shouts of the soldiers of Titus.* Arthur Penrhyn Stanly (1815-1881), in "Sinai and Palestine."
Verse 2. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem. Jerusalem is situated in the centre of a mountainous region, whose valleys have drawn around it in all directions a perfect network of deep ravines, the perpendicular walls of which constitute a very efficient system of defence. --William M. Thomson, in "The Land and the Book", 1881.
Verse 2. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, etc. The mountains most emphatically stand "round about Jerusalem", and in doing so must have greatly safeguarded it in ancient times. We are specially told that when Titus besieged the city, he found it impossible to invest it completely until he had built a wall round the entire sides of these mountains, nearly five miles long, with thirteen places at intervals in which he stationed garrisons, which added another mile and a quarter to these vast earthworks. "The whole was completed", says the Jewish historian, "in three days; so that what would naturally have required some months was done in so short an interval as is incredible." (Josephus. Wars of the Jews. Book 5, ch. 7, section 2.) Assaults upon the city, even then, could only be delivered effectively upon its level corner to the north west, whence every hostile advance was necessarily directed in all its various sieges. To those familiar with these facts, beautifully bold, graphic, and forceful is the Psalmist's figure of the security of the Lord's people --
"The mountains are round about Jerusalem;
And Jehovah is round about his people,
Henceforth, even for evermore."
These words must have been in Hebrew ears as sublime as they were comforting, and, when sung on the heights of Zion, inspiring in the last degree. --James Neil.
Verse 2. The LORD is round about his people. It is not enough that we are compassed about with fiery walls, that is, with the sure custody, tile continual watch and ward of the angels; but the Lord himself is our wall: so that every way we are defended by the Lord against all dangers. Above us is his heaven, on both sides he is as a wall, under us he is as a strong rock whereupon we stand so are we everywhere sure and safe. Now if Satan through these munitions casts his darts at us, it must needs be that the Lord himself shall be hurt before we take harm. Great is our incredulity if we hear all these things in vain. -- Martin Luther.
Verse 2. From henceforth, even for ever. This amplification of the promise, taken from time or duration, should be carefully noted; for it shows that the promises made to the people of Israel pertain generally to the Church in every age, and are not to expire with that polity. Thus it expressly declares, that the Church will continuously endure in this life; which is most sweet consolation for pious minds, especially in great dangers and public calamities, when everything appears to threaten ruin and destruction. --D. H. Mollerus, 1639.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 2. The all surrounding presence of Jehovah the glory, safety, and eternal blessedness of his people. Yet this to the wicked would be hell.
Verse 2. See "Spurgeon's Sermons", Nos. 161-2: "The Security of the Church."
Verse 2. The endurance of mercy: "From henceforth even for ever."
Verse 2. Saints hemmed in by infinite love.
- The City and the Girdle, or the symbols separated.
- Jerusalem imaging God's people. Anciently chosen; singularly honoured; much beloved; the shrine of Deity.
- The Mountain Girdle setting forth Jehovah: Strength; All sidedness; Sentinel through day and night.
- The City within the Girdle, or the symbols related.
- Delightful Entanglement. The view from the windows! (Jehovah "round about.") To be lost must break through God! Sound sleep and safe labour.
b) Omnipotent Circumvallation, suggesting -- God's determination; Satan's dismay. This mountain ring immutable. --W. B. Haynes, of Stafford.