on Psalms 87 :4
I will make mention of Rahab - The meaning seems to be, Rahab, i.e., Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, Philistia, and Ethiopia are not so honorable as Jerusalem. To be born in any of them is no privilege when compared with being a native of Jerusalem: their cities are but heads of villages; Jerusalem alone is a City. I have met with a very similar sentiment in a Persian work, of which I know not the author:
Tche Mesr, o tche Sham, o tche Birr o Buhr.
Heme rustaee and, we Sheerazee Shuhr.
What celebrity can Egypt or Syria, or any thingon earth or on the sea, pretend to?
"When compared to Sheeraz, those are but villages, but this alone is a City."
The meaning seems to be the same in both the Hebrew and Persian poet.
on Psalms 87 :4
I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon ... - The word Rahab here refers to Egypt. See Isaiah 51:9. It is also applied to Egypt in Psalm 89:10. The reason why the name was given to Egypt is not certainly known. The Hebrew word properly means fierceness, insolence, pride; and it may have been given to Egypt by the Hebrews on account of its haughtiness, pride, and insolence. It has been supposed by some (Jablonski, Opusc. i. 228) that the name is of Egyptian origin, but this has not been clearly made out. (Gesenius, Lexicon) Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia, are mentioned here as among the best known nations and cities of the world; as places where it would commonly be regarded as an honor to have been born. The meaning is, "I will refer to these as places well-known and distinguished; I will refer to the honor of having been born there; but great as is such an honor, the honor of having been born in Zion is far above that; it conveys the idea of a much higher distinction; it should be more sacredly cherished as among those things on which men value themselves." The word "I" here seems to have reference to the psalmist, and not to God. The psalmist is mentioning what to him would seem to have a claim to the highest honor.
Philistia - The western portion of Palestine, from which the whole country was afterward named. See the notes at Psalm 60:8; compare Psalm 108:9; Isaiah 14:29, Isaiah 14:31. "And Tyre." See Psalm 45:12, note; Isaiah 23:1, note.
With Ethiopia - Hebrew, Cush. The reference here is probably to the southern portion of Arabia. See Psalm 68:31, note; Isaiah 18:1, note.
This man was born there - That is, It would be said of individuals that they were born in one of those places, and it would be regarded as an honor thus to have been born. People would pride themselves on the fact that they were born there, and the world would hold them in esteem on that account. This refers to a very natural, and a very common feeling among people. We can, of course, claim no credit, and deserve no real honor, on account of the place where we happen to have been born; but the fact that one has been born in a place distinguished for its advantages and its fame, - in a place where liberty, religion, and the arts have flourishcd - in a place renowned for its public spirit, and for producing illustrious people, - may be properly accounted as an occasion for gratitude, and as a stimulus to high and honorable efforts, and may thus be made an important auxiliary to virtue, patriotism, and piety.
on Psalms 87 :4
87:4 Rahab - Egypt, so called, either from its pride or natural strength. Babylon - Under these two and Philistia, the constant enemies of Israel, he seems to understand all the enemies of the church of God, who shall now be not only reconciled but united to them. Arabia - The nations on every side of them, for Tyre was on the north, Arabia on the South; those nearest to them, and those more remote from them.