24:7–8 The triumphal procession made its way through the gates into the sanctuary to offer praise for victory in warfare—as the phrases “mighty in battle” (v. 8) and “the Lord of Armies” (v. 10) suggest (Ex 15:2–3; Dt 10:17; Is 10:21). The title “the Lord of Armies” (usually “the Lord of Hosts” in Eng) was always associated with the presence of the ark of the covenant, which went before the Israelites in the wilderness and also in warfare to occupy the land of Canaan. This, together with the epithet of “King of glory,” suggests that the worshipers were following the ark of the covenant in procession (1Sm 4:21–22). Apparently the ark was occasionally removed from the sanctuary and then triumphantly returned to Zion, symbolic of Yahweh’s enthronement as King (Ps 47:5). (That the ark was carried outside the temple until the time of Josiah seems clear from 2Ch 35:3.) The psalmist might be addressing the gates themselves, as if to say the “King of glory” should not have to stoop to go under the gateway. Or he might be addressing the people in the gates, urging them to rejoice and welcome the victors and not be depressed (Is 14:31).
24:7 Lift up your heads The psalmists asks the doors of the temple to open for Yahweh’s entrance. This psalm was most likely used when the ark of the covenant returned from battle (see Num 10:35–36 and note).
The ark of the covenant symbolizes Yahweh’s presence. Israelites used the ark in military campaigns during the conquest of the land (Josh 6:1–21), the period of the judges (Judg 20:27–28; 1 Sam 4:1–11), and in the early days of the monarchy (1 Sam 14:18–23). They eventually housed it in Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs 8:6).
The Ark of the Covenant and the Temple EBC Ps—So
24:8 mighty in war The psalmist portrays Yahweh, the King of glory, as a mighty warrior (Exod 15:3). Throughout the ot, biblical writers portray Yahweh going out to battle with His people (Deut 20:2–4).
24:8 — Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
The Lord is not only glorious; He is the King of glory. He is the greatest in glory, the pinnacle of excellence, the mountaintop of majesty, the summit of splendor. He is “over all, the eternally blessed God” (Rom. 9:5).
24:6, 7 Lift up your heads: The gates of the city seem to sag; the doors appear loose. But they must rouse themselves for the King of glory. One is coming who is worthy to stand in the holy place. As He nears, the gates raise themselves to honor His entry.
24:8 Who is this King: This is praise for the King who is fresh from battle. This is the One who may enter the city, the Lord Himself. Only with the coming of Jesus did the meaning of this ancient poem become clear (Matt. 21:1–10; Rev. 19).
24:7, 8 I like to think that the procession has been singing the words of verses 1–6 as they cross the Valley of the Kidron. But now their singing is interrupted by the clarion call of the herald at the head of the parade. He calls out to the watchmen at the gates of Jerusalem: “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.” A sentry on the wall of the city calls back in loud, impressive tones, “Who is this King of glory?” The answer comes back in clear, stentorian words, “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.”
The Glory of His Reign (24:7–10)
24:7–9. The gates and ancient doors are parallel images of the king entering into Jerusalem, heading to the temple mount. David concluded by emphasizing the Anointed One of the previous psalm (23:5) as the King of glory (a title repeated in vv. 7, 8, 9). The focus is specifically on His military glory, as indicated by his repeated use of the word mighty (the Hb. term gibbor) which, though usually translated mighty, is in fact a noun specifically used to designate warriors characterized by highly distinguished military prowess (e.g., David himself [1Sm 16:18], Goliath [1Sm 17:51], Saul and Jonathan [2Sm 1:19, 25, 27], and David’s inner circle of 30 mighty men [1Ch 11:10]). This is no ordinary warrior—rather He is the divine messianic King, taking His seat in the temple after His military victories at the end of days.
24:10. The point is that God, the Lord of hosts (that is, Lord of the armies of heaven), is presented as the mighty warrior King returning victorious in battle (e.g., 1Sm 17:14). He is the mightiest warrior of all—as indicated both by the miraculous military victories He had already won for Israel (from the exodus [see Ex 15:3] up to David’s day [see 2Sm 5:24]) as well as by what He will one day do in the person of Jesus who will “strike down the nations, and … [tread] the wine press of the fierce wrath of God” (Rv 19:15).
7. These last verses reveal to us the great representative man, who answered to the full character laid down, and therefore by his own right ascended the holy hill of Zion. Our Lord Jesus Christ could ascend into the hill of the Lord because his hands were clean and his heart was pure, and if we by faith in him are conformed to his image we shall enter too. We have here a picture of our Lord’s glorious ascent. We see him rising from amidst the little group upon Olivet, and as the cloud receives him, angels reverently escort him to the gates of heaven.
The ancient gates of the eternal temple are personified and addressed in song by the attending cohort of rejoicing spirits.
“Lo his triumphal chariot waits,
And angels chant the solemn lay,
‘Lift up your heads, ye heavenly gates;
Ye everlasting doors, give way.’ ”
They are called upon “to lift up their heads,” as though with all their glory they were not great enough for the Allglorious King. Let all things do their utmost to honour so great a Prince; let the highest heaven put on unusual loftiness in honour of “the King of Glory,” He who, fresh from the cross and the tomb, now rides through the gates of the New Jerusalem is higher than the heavens; great and everlasting as they are, those gates of pearl are all unworthy of him before whom the heavens are not pure, and who chargeth his angels with folly. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates.”
8. The watchers at the gate hearing the song look over the battlements and ask, “Who is this King of glory?” A question full of meaning and worthy of the meditations of eternity. Who is he in person, nature, character, office and work? What is his pedigree? What his rank and what his race? The answer given in a mighty wave of music is, “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” We know the might of Jesus by the battles which he has fought, the victories which he has won over sin, and death, and hell, and we clap our hands as we see him leading captivity captive in the majesty of his strength. Oh for a heart to sing his praises! Mighty hero, be thou crowned for ever King of kings and Lord of lords.
Vers. 7, 8. Lift up your heads, O ye gates.—The ascension of Christ:—
It is generally admitted by expositors that these words have a secondary, if not a primary, reference to the return of the Mediator to heaven, when He had accomplished the work of human redemption. Bishop Horsley affirms that the Jehovah of this Psalm must be Christ; and the entrance of the Redeemer into the kingdom of His Father is the event prophetically announced. But you will say, Are we to rejoice in the departure of our Lord from His Church? Suppose that Christ had not been exalted to the right hand of God, would not the supposition materially affect our spiritual condition? The resurrection of Christ was both the proof and consequence of the completeness of His mediatorial work. If He had remained in the grave we could only have regarded Him as a man like one of ourselves: we could not have looked on Him as our substitute. It is easy to certify ourselves of the indispensableness of the resurrection, but why may not the risen Mediator remain with His Church? We reply, the reception of our nature, in the person of our surety, into heavenly places, was necessary to our comfort and assurance. So long as Christ remained on earth there was no evidence that He had won for our nature readmission to the paradise from which it had been exiled. If He had not returned to the Father we must always have feared that our redemption was incomplete. The plan of redemption was designed to reveal to the world the Trinity of the Godhead. There could not have been the thorough manifestation of the Divinity of the Son had not Christ ascended up on high. His ascension and exaltation may well furnish us with great matter of rejoicing. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The two ascensions of Christ:—
“The King of glory” is our Lord Jesus Christ, as we acknowledge Him every morning in the Te Deum, “Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.” He is the King of glory, the Giver and Owner of life and glory; the Brightness of His Father’s glory and the express Image of His Person. That holy Son had on the day of His incarnation emptied Himself of His glory for a while, and had become like unto the meanest of His creatures. On the day of His crucifixion He offered up all His humiliation, for a sacrifice to His Father; on His resurrection day He showed Himself ready to take His glory again; and on this ascension day He actually took it. The King of glory is Christ the Lord of Hosts, and the gates which He commands to be opened to Him are the gates of heaven—the gates of His own chief city, to which He is returning as David returned to Jerusalem, after His triumphant warfare against His and our enemies. He returns, as the Lord mighty in battle, having bruised Satan under His feet, first in His temptation, then in His passion on the Cross, lastly in His descent into hell. And as David came accompanied by his guards and soldiers, who had been fighting on his side, and could not but rejoice, as faithful and dutiful subjects, in their king’s victory; so the Psalm represents the Son of David returning to the Father’s right hand with a guard of angels; who, as they come near the holy and awful gate, cry aloud and say, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors.” But why is the song repeated? Why are the everlasting gates invited to lift up their heads a second time? We may not pretend, here or in any place, to know all the meaning of the Divine Psalms. But what if the repetition of the verse was meant to put us in mind that our Saviour’s ascension will be repeated also? He will not indeed die any more; death can no more have any dominion over Him; “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.” Neither, of course, can He rise again any more. But as He will come again at the end of the world, to judge the quick and the dead, so after that descent He will have to ascend again. Now observe the answer made this second time. Christ ascending the first time, to intercede for us at His Father’s right hand, is called “the Lord mighty in battle.” But Christ, ascending the second time, after the world hath been judged, and the good and bad separated forever, is called “the Lord of Hosts.” Why this difference in His Divine titles? We may reverently take it, that it signifies to us the difference between His first and second coming down to earth, His first and second ascension into heaven. As in other respects His first coming was in great humility, so in this, that He came in all appearance alone. The angels were indeed waiting round Him, but not visibly, not in glory. “He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.” He wrestled with death, hell, and Satan alone: alone He went up into heaven. Thus He showed Himself “the Lord mighty in battle,” mighty in that single combat. But when He shall come down and go up the second time, He will show Himself “the Lord of Hosts.” Instead of coming down alone, in mysterious silence, as in His wonderful incarnation, He will be followed by all the Armies of heaven. “The Lord my God will come, and all His saints with Him.” “The Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints.” Thus He will come down as the Lord of Hosts, and as the Lord of Hosts He will ascend again to His Father. After the judgment He will pass again through the everlasting doors, with a greater company than before; for He will lead along with Him, into the heavenly habitations, all those who shall have been raised from their graves and found worthy. This is Christ’s second and more glorious ascension, in which He will be visibly and openly accompanied by the souls and bodies of the righteous, changed and made glorious, like unto His glorious body. The angels and saints will come with Him from heaven, and both they and all good Christians will return with Him thither. (J. Keble.)
The three processions:—
I. The primary reference of the text. See the account of the removal of the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to Jerusalem.
II. The similar scene in the New Testament. The triumphal procession on palm Sunday. That procession could boast but few circumstances of dignity and majesty.
III. The spiritual passage of Christ by faith into the stronghold of the heart of man.
1. The heart is susceptible of comparison in many particulars with the literal city of Jerusalem.
2. The remedy is to be found in admission of Christ into the heart. He alone can thoroughly cleanse the desecrated temple.
3. Therefore lay aside your pride and self-righteousness, and become Christ’s disciples.
IV. The second advent is hastening forward. That progress is to be triumphant in character. Its issue must be certain victory. (E. M. Goulburn, D. C. L.)
Ver. 8. Who is this King of glory.—The King of glory:—
In the old days, when the king of England wished to enter the city of London through Temple Bar, the gate being closed against him, the herald advanced and demanded entrance. “Open the gate,” shouted the herald. “Who is there?” questioned a voice from within. “The king of England!” answered the herald. The gate was at once opened, and the king passed, amid the acclamations of the people. But the custom was an old one, and stretched back perhaps thousands of years before England was known under that name. Jesus is our “King of glory.” He is our Lord, “strong and mighty in battle” We may apply it very fitly to Christ’s ascension to heaven after His life and suffering and death and resurrection here on the earth. When Christ came to be born in Bethlehem He put aside the glory which He had before the world was, and, though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor. As one of the old preachers said, Christ has gone to heaven as a victor; leading sin, Satan, death, hell, and all His enemies in triumph at His chariot wheels. Christ went back to heaven after the mightiest battle ever fought in the universe, and went back triumphant over sin and death. We might properly apply these words to the coming of Christ, to the life of man, and to the civilisation of the world. Christ has been taking possession of the life of mankind. He is King of glory in modern civilisation. In spite of all the wickedness there is in the world, it has already come about that the most dominant personality in it is Christ. Christ has possessed and become King of glory in the very counting of the years in modern centuries. Christ has knocked at the gates of the world of art, and He is the King of glory in it. Go back and look at the works of the great masters and you will see that they are pictures of the Christ. And when, in modern times, has the world of art and modern invention in illustration been so stirred as in Tissot’s “Life of Christ in Art”? Christ has knocked at the door of literature, and He is the King of glory in the literature of the world. Where there is one book written against Christ there are a hundred thousand books written to illustrate His teaching or impress the lessons of His life. We may apply it also with great appropriateness to the door of our hearts. (L. A. Banks, D.D.)
24:7–10. Lift up your heads, you gates!
The final stanza contains a liturgical interchange between two unidentified persons. We must reconstruct the scene based on the content of their words. The first voice requests that the gates be opened to allow the King of glory to enter. The King of glory is obviously God. The request to open the gates is stated in what appears to be a poetic personification of the gates that they ‘lift up’ their heads. Since ancient gates swung open to the side and did not rise up like a medieval castle’s gate over a moat (which would close it), we take this as a figurative, not a literal, description. In the Bible, the idiom of ‘lifting one’s head’ (Gen. 40:13; Ps. 110:7; Luke 21:28) denotes joy and celebration. The gates could be those of the city of Jerusalem or perhaps the gates that led into the temple precincts, but in any case, the King of glory seeks entrance. While the first voice requests entrance, the second voice asks for identification: Who is this King of glory? As we explore the scene further, we will realize that the questioner knows full well who the King of glory is. However, the question allows for more praise, as the first speaker calls back, The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. This answer associates God with warfare and permits us to recognize the scene more precisely. The most likely scenario is that the army of Israel has returned from a successful battle against the enemy. When obedient Israel warred at God’s command against their enemies, they would take the ark of the covenant with them as a symbol of his presence as Warrior. Thus, as they return after the victory, the priests leading the way and carrying the ark would ask entry of a priest who was on the walls to open up the gates so they could return. God has manifested his glory in battle. He is the Lord Almighty, which is more literally translated ‘Lord of Hosts’, the hosts being his army.
The different parts of Psalm 24 at first seem only loosely connected to each other, opening with an affirmation of God’s authority as Creator of everything and everyone, moving to an entrance liturgy that asks who can enter the holy place and receive God’s blessing, and ending with a liturgical interchange between a priest at the head of the returning army and a priest manning the gates of the city or the temple. Stepping back to reconsider the whole, however, allows us to identify more coherence than is possible at first glance. Certainly, the entrance liturgy makes sense as a prelude to the return of the ark ultimately to the sanctuary, where it stays until it is taken out again with the army. The opening description of God’s authority, then, is a fitting prelude to the whole, particularly as God’s establishment of the earth as founded on the sea, which in the Bible often represents chaos. God is in control of both cosmic chaos as well as the chaos represented by those enemies who resist his rule.
Thus, the setting of the psalm is the aftermath of divinely commanded warfare in which God was seen as the One providing the victory over the enemy (see Deut. 20 for the principle of Yahweh war). How is such a psalm to be appropriated in Christian worship? Christians too are engaged in warfare, not against flesh-and-blood enemies, but ‘against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Eph. 6:12). Psalm 24 encourages Christian readers that their God continues to fight for them in the midst of the turmoil of life. They also wait in hope for the future reappearance of their Warrior, Jesus Christ, who will bring all evil, human and spiritual, to an end (Rev. 19:11–21).
7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates! The magnificent and splendid structure of the temple, in which there was more outward majesty than in the tabernacle, not being yet erected, David here speaks of the future building of it. By doing this, he encourages the pious Israelites to employ themselves more willingly, and with greater confidence, in the ceremonial observances of the law. It was no ordinary token of the goodness of God that he condescended to dwell in the midst of them by a visible symbol of his presence, and was willing that his heavenly dwelling-place should be seen upon earth. This doctrine ought to be of use to us at this day; for it is an instance of the inestimable grace of God, that so far as the infirmity of our flesh will permit, we are lifted up even to God by the exercises of religion. What is the design of the preaching of the word, the sacraments, the holy assemblies, and the whole external government of the church, but that we may be united to God? It is not, therefore, without good reason that David extols so highly the service of God appointed in the law, seeing God exhibited himself to his saints in the ark of the covenant, and thereby gave them a certain pledge of speedy succour whenever they should invoke him for aid. God, it is true, “dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” nor does he take delight in outward pomp; but as it was useful, and as it was also the pleasure of God, that his ancient people, who were rude, and still in their infancy, should be lifted up to him by earthly elements, David does not here hesitate to set forth to them, for the confirmation of their faith, the sumptuous building of the temple, to assure them that it was not a useless theatre; but that when they rightly worshipped God in it, according to the appointment of his word, they stood as it were in his presence, and would actually experience that he was near them. The amount of what is stated is, that in proportion as the temple which God had commanded to be built to him upon mount Sion, surpassed the tabernacle in magnificence, it would be so much the brighter a mirror of the glory and power of God dwelling among the Jews. In the meantime, as David himself burned with intense desire for the erection of the temple, so he wished to inflame the hearts of all the godly with the same ardent desire, that, aided by the rudiments of the law, they might make more and more progress in the fear of God. He terms the gates, everlasting, because the promise of God secured their continual stability. The temple excelled in materials and in workmanship, but its chief excellence consisted in this, that the promise of God was engraven upon it, as we shall see in Psalm 132:14, “This is my rest for ever.” In terming the gates everlasting, the Psalmist, at the same time, I have no doubt, makes a tacit contrast between the tabernacle and the temple. The tabernacle never had any certain abiding place, but being from time to time transported from one place to another, was like a wayfaring man. When, however, mount Sion was chosen, and the temple built, God then began to have there a certain and fixed place of abode. By the coming of Christ, that visible shadow vanished, and it is therefore not wonderful that the temple is no longer to be seen upon mount Sion, seeing it is now so great as to occupy the whole world. If it is objected, that at the time of the Babylonish captivity the gates which Solomon had built were demolished, I answer, God’s decree stood fast, notwithstanding that temporary overthrow; and by virtue of it, the temple was soon after rebuilt; which was the same as if it had always continued entire. The Septuagint has from ignorance corrupted this passage. The Hebrew word ראשים, rashim, which we have rendered heads, is no doubt sometimes taken metaphorically for princes; but the word your, which is here annexed to it, sufficiently shows that we cannot draw from it another sense than this—that the gates lift up their heads, otherwise we must say, Your princes. Some, therefore, think that kings and magistrates are here admonished of their duty, which is to open up the way, and give entrance to God. This is a plausible interpretation, but it is too much removed from the design and words of the prophet. Above all, from the natural sense of the words, we may perceive how foolishly and basely the Papists have abused this passage for the confirmation of the gross and ridiculous notion by which they introduce Christ as knocking at the gate of the infernal regions, in order to obtain admission. Let us, therefore, learn from this, to handle the holy word of God with sobriety and reverence, and to hold Papists in detestation, who, as it were, make sport of corrupting and falsifying it in this manner, by their execrable impieties.
8. Who is this King of glory? &c. The praises by which the power of God is here magnified are intended to teach the Jews that he did not sit idle in his temple, but took up his abode in it, in order to show himself ready to succour his people. It is to be observed, that there is great weight both in the interrogation, and in the repetition of the same sentence. The prophet assumes the person of one who wonders thereby to express with greater effect that God comes armed with invincible power to maintain and save his people, and to keep the faithful in safety under his shadow. We have already said, that when God is spoken of as dwelling in the temple, it is not to be understood as if his infinite and incomprehensible essence had been shut up or confined within it; but that he was present there by his power and grace, as is implied in the promise which he made to Moses, “In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee,” (Exod. 20:24.) That this was no vain and empty promise, but that God truly dwelt in the midst of the people, is what the faithful experienced who sought him not superstitiously, as if he had been fixed to the temple, but made use of the temple and of the service which was performed in it for elevating their hearts to heaven. The amount of what is stated is, that whenever the people should call upon God in the temple, it would manifestly appear, from the effect which would follow, that the ark of the covenant was not a vain and an illusory symbol of the presence of God, because he would always stretch forth his omnipotent arm for the defence and protection of his people. The repetition teaches us that true believers cannot be too constant and diligent in meditation on this subject. The Son of God, clothed with our flesh, has now shown himself to be King of glory and Lord of hosts, and he is not entered into his temple only by shadows and figures, but really and in very deed, that he may dwell in the midst of us. There is, therefore, nothing to hinder us from boasting that we shall be invincible by his power. Mount Sion, it is true, is not at this day the place appointed for the sanctuary, and the ark of the covenant is no longer the image or representation of God dwelling between the cherubim; but as we have this privilege in common with the fathers, that, by the preaching of the word and the sacraments, we may be united to God, it becomes us to use these helps with reverence; for if we despise them by a detestable pride, God cannot but at length utterly withdraw himself from us.
7–10. What a sublimity there is in these blessed words; and what a rich treasure they contain, in reference to the person and glory of our almighty Mediator! So important a doctrine was the triumph of Jesus, that God the Holy Ghost was pleased to shadow it forth in the Old Testament church, when the ark was conducted with all the splendour and gracefulness of holy worship to Mount Zion. See 1 Chron. 15 &c. But the glorious event itself was accomplished when the Lord Jesus Christ, having finished redemption-work upon earth, ascended to his throne in heaven. The disciples, and those that looked on, when Jesus gradually went up from the Mount of Olives, in presence of the many who were gathered together, saw, and wondered as they beheld, and were no doubt absorbed in contemplation, until the clouds received him out of their sight. Acts 1:9. But they knew not what was going on in heaven, but which this scripture records. Perhaps angels, or perhaps the church of the redeemed above, who had died in the faith of Christ before the wonders of his redemption had been wrought; perhaps both angels and the spirits of just men made perfect, were those who demanded the gates and everlasting doors to lift up their heads, at the approach of the almighty Conqueror. For angels, we are told, are at the gates of the New Jerusalem. Rev. 21:12. And, surely, the souls of the redeemed in glory, who had gained entrance there by virtue of Christ’s blood and righteousness, must have been longing with holy desires for the return of the Lord Jesus, Supposing then, that this holy company were those who demanded the gates to open; or supposing it was Jesus himself, how suited is the demand, by way of gracing his triumph! Angels kept the gates of heaven, and angels had kept the way to the tree of life, when man was turned out of Paradise. Gen. 3:24. Jesus had opened that way, by his blood, into the holy place, and now demanded entrance as our forerunner, into the holy place not made with hands, even heaven itself, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Heb. 9:11, 12. The inquiry, Who is this King of glory? seems to have been made with a view to heighten the triumphs of the Lord. Angels, when Jehovah brought his first begotten into the world, were commanded to worship him. And now, when he is returned from the spoils of war, and hath led captivity captive, let all heaven adore him. Who is this King of glory? Pause, Reader, contemplate that King of glory in thy nature; and while thou art beholding him, who is one with the Father over all, God blessed for ever, in the essence of Jehovah, behold him no less the Man, even thy brother, in the nature of manhood; and by the union of both in one person, even Christ, thus behold the king of glory, at whose approach those gates and doors, which but for him would have been everlastingly shut, were thrown open, and Jesus entered as the forerunner of his people, to take possession in their name. Oh, the astonishing mercies of redemption! Oh, the miracle of miracles contained in the love of Jehovah to our poor nature, as manifested in Jesus Christ! But Reader, let us not dismiss the subject yet. The Holy Ghost hath caused the demand for the opening of heaven’s gates to be twice made, at the entrance of Jesus, and as often the answers of the glories of his person and victories to be made. Well may we therefore go over them again. And is there not, besides Christ’s entrance into glory, another beautiful sense of these words, and, without violence to their meaning, capable of being made of them? Doth not the Lord Jesus demand admission into the hearts of his people, when, as he saith himself, Behold I stand at the door and knock? Rev. 3:20. Doth he not find in every individual instance of his redeemed, the door resolutely shut against him? And unless he who demands entrance puts in his hand by the hole of the door, and opens for himself, would not the heart remain everlastingly shut and bolted against him to all eternity? Song 5:4. John 1:11, 12. Blessed Jesus, how precious is it to know thee to be both King of grace, and King of glory!
24:7 Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors. “Heads” is a metaphor for the lintels of the temple gates. Yahweh was so marvelously great that the temple could not contain his presence. Therefore, the gates must, figuratively speaking, enlarge themselves high and wide to let the King of glory pass through. On the occasion of the dedication of the temple, Solomon prays, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). In that mode of thought, the voice in Psalm 24 commands the lintels of the gates to lift themselves up to allow the King of glory, the Creator of the universe (24:1–2), to come in.
24:8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty. The question here is a liturgical response, not a formal request for information. The word translated as “strong” is found in only one other place in the Old Testament (Isa. 43:17; NIV: “reinforcements”), where it describes a powerful army. The word “mighty” (gibbor) is quite common and is repeated in the following phrase, identifying Yahweh as a God who is powerful in military conflict (Exod. 15:3).
The Triumph of the King of Glory (vv. 7–10)
Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle (vv. 7–8). This psalm either dates from the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem (see 2 Sam. 6), or the return of the ark after a victorious battle. In the midst of the people is the ark, ‘which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark’ (2 Sam. 6:2; cf. also Num. 10:35). It represents God himself, and therefore the call goes out for the gates of Zion to receive the Lord. The removal of the ark to Jerusalem marked the end of the battles to obtain possession of the land. The Lord comes as a mighty warrior to his rightful dwelling place.
Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory. Selah (vv. 9–10). The words of verse 7 are repeated almost exactly (the only change is from ‘be lifted up’ to ‘lift up’). The final question draws attention to the character of this triumphant king. The king of glory is the Lord Almighty (yhwh tsevâʾôt). This name for God, ‘Lord of hosts’ or ‘Lord Almighty’, occurs here for the first of its fifteen appearances in the Psalter. It often carries military overtones, and so designates the Lord of the armies. This would be most fitting here, as the Lord leads his armies into Jerusalem. The procession into the temple is also an occasion to acknowledge afresh the Lord as the glorious king. He is Lord of creation (vv. 1–2) and also the exalted king of salvation (vv. 7–10).
7–10 If the second stanza maps the coming of mortals into God’s sphere, the final stanza returns the favor by heralding the coming of the King of Glory into the human realm. The stanza is a tightly composed antiphon, in which vv. 7 and 9 announce the coming of the King of Glory and vv. 8 and 10 name the identity of the king as the Lord. It is impossible to reconstruct where these processional verses were originally performed or who spoke which lines. Interpreters have to be satisfied with imagining different possible historical settings for the psalm and concentrating on the theological witness of the psalm to the entrance/return of God.
The psalm’s key word lift (nāśāʾ), which occurred twice in stanza 2, now appears four more times in stanza 3, in the twice-repeated call of vv. 7 and 9. But how to interpret the metaphor of gates lifting up their heads is a challenge. J. J. M. Roberts notes that “ancient Palestinian gates had no parts that moved up and down” and concludes that the imperative “to lift up their heads … is a secondary metaphor, borrowed from another setting.” Roberts identifies an Ugaritic parallel as the setting from which the metaphor is borrowed. The council of gods has learned that Yamm (sea) has claimed kingship among the gods. The gods sit with heads hanging in dejection.
They lowered their heads onto their knees and onto their royal seats. Baal rebuked them then, “Why do you lower, O gods, your heads?”
A few lines later, Baal exhorts them, “Lift up, O gods, your heads!” In this case, the idiom “to lift the head” seems to be a call to take courage. The idiom of lifting a part of one’s body can mean anything from expressing pride to demanding recognition to asking for help. In Ps. 25:1 nāśāʾ + yhwh is an expression of trust, while in 83:2 nāśāʾ + rōš connotes an arrogant assertion of autonomy, and in 121:1 nāśāʾ + ʿayin connotes the need for guidance. In 24:7–10 the metaphor seems to connote an acknowledgement of the Lord’s kingship. Perhaps having returned from victory in battle, the gates of the temple figuratively play the role of creation (including the full mortal and immortal realms) acknowledging the Lord’s claim on universal kingship.
This reverent and faithful attitude, metaphorically commanded of the temple gates, is the proper stance of all life toward the Lord. As the antiphonal response makes clear, the confession that is required when the Lord enters human space is to acknowledge that the Lord is king. As with all confessions of faith, this confession is simultaneously an anathema: as Roberts notes, to confess the Lord as king is to deny all other claims to sovereignty. “The king of glory is Yahweh. That is, he is not Baal or El as the Canaanites might claim. He is not Dagan as the Philistines say. Or Chemosh of the Moabites or Milcom of the Ammonites. The real king of glory is Yahweh.”
But this begs another question, who is the Lord? What is this Lord’s nature and character? There are manifold answers regarding this in the Psalter, but in this psalm, the answer is carried by the series of epithets: strong and mighty, mighty in battle, the Lord of hosts, and of course the main title in this stanza, the King of Glory. All together, this series of epithets conjures the image of the Lord as divine warrior-king. The sum of this metaphor is of the Holy One who has the power and presence to deliver creation from the threats of chaos and, moreover, of the one who has the power to grant vindication and deliverance to those who seek him (vv. 5–6). The warrior-king metaphor echoes the claims of vv. 1–2 of the psalm, because throughout the psalms (cf. Psalms 29, 89) the Lord’s kingship is established precisely through the act of creation (i.e., of founding creation on the waters of chaos).
7 It is difficult to be sure of this psalm’s original setting. Some explain it from the perspective of the ark’s return from battle (Craigie, 213–14). Others relate it to David’s bringing of the ark to Jerusalem from Kiriath-Jearim (K&D, 1:334). Weiser, 234–35 posits a cult dramatization of a theophany in the temple. This difficulty raises the question of the referent of “heads,” “gates,” and “doors.” Dahood, 1:152, explains “lift up your heads” as an idiom for rejoicing by the godly (cf. Lk 21:28). Similarly, A. A. Anderson, 1:204–5, proposes that “gates” may be symbolic of the people collectively, as in Isaiah 14:31 (cf. Briggs, 1:216–217). The sense of v. 7 would be: “Rejoice greatly, O you people [who live within the gates]” (cf. Zec 9:9). On the other hand, the psalmist may be literally addressing the gates of the temple to open up. Or since the temple itself was not yet erected in David’s time, the psalmist may be referring to the “ancient doors” of Jerusalem. Regardless of the referent, the point remains that Jerusalem had been a Jebusite city with a long history (cf. K. Kenyon, Royal Cities of the Old Testament [New York: Schocken, 1971], 13–35) and over which Melchizedek ruled in Abraham’s days (Ge 14:18). It became the city of God because God chose to dwell in it. Consequently, both the city and the people were called on to receive with joy and anticipation the Great King. The repetition in v. 9 of the refrain bears out the importance of proper preparation for “the King of glory.” Twice the people ask in antiphonal chorus, “Who is [he] this King of glory?” (vv. 8, 10).
8–10 “The King of glory” is “the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (v. 8) and “The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory” (v. 10). He is Yahweh (three times, vv. 8, 10), the God of the covenantal people. He brings blessing, victory, and vindication to his people because he is their God and Savior (v. 5). He is the Warrior (see Reflections, p. 733, Yahweh Is the Divine Warrior). The descriptive phrases “strong and mighty” and “mighty in battle” (v. 5) portray him as the Warrior for his people (cf. Ex 15:2–3; Nu 10:35; Dt 10:17; Isa 10:21; Jer 32:18)—coming not to fight against them but for them. He is “Lord Almighty” (ṣebāʾôt, “of hosts”) as he commands both the heavenly beings (89:6–8; 103:20–21; 148:2) and the host of stars and constellations (Isa 40:26; Joel 2:10–11; see Reflections, p. 263, Lord Sabaoth). The Creator-God is the King of Glory and has come down to dwell in the midst of the city of human beings.
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ps 24:8). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 582). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Jacobson, R. A., & Tanner, B. (2014). Book One of the Psalter: Psalms 1–41. In E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, & R. L. Hubbard Jr. (Eds.), The Book of Psalms (pp. 251–252). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.