He subdues peoples under us and nations under our feet. Psalm 47:3 NASB
Subdues – You wouldn’t notice it in English, but there are a lot of unusual things about this song of praise. The first oddity is David’s choice of amim for “peoples.” Since David describes the triumph of God’s chosen over the other nations, we would have expected him to use a word like goy or ger (foreigner, pagan, stranger), like we find in verse 8. Instead, he uses a term that describes virtually everyone. It can be applied to Judah, Israel or all the citizens of the earth. In other words, while God chooses His own for a special purpose, He does not view those others as somehow less worthy. They are still His children inhabiting the earth.
If that choice is strange, then the verb is even stranger. The NASB glosses the verb “subdues,” but the actual word is “speaks” (dabar). Used hundreds of times, it is always about something communicated. YHWH speaks the amim under Israel. Once we realize that the verb is dabar, we notice that God’s spoken word is the real power here. It is God’s proclamation that produces the arrangement. It is quite enough for Him to speak it. What God says becomes reality. When did God speak peoples under Israel? How about when God spoke to Abraham or when He spoke to Moses? God spoke His children into existence by proclaiming them His own. In fact, even the creation of Adam comes about with the breath of God.
Isn’t it nice to know that the king of Israel recognized his dependence on the voice of the Lord? David doesn’t pretend that his army or his influence has anything to do with Israel’s supremacy. It all happens because God says it. God’s word is more powerful than hundreds of armies, thousands of weapons or the most influential heads of state. What do you suppose would happen in our world if we simply recognized what the greatest king of Israel penned with this odd expression? Would we see the same dependence on every word from the mouth of God? Would we acknowledge that it all began with “and God said”? Would we submit to His present declarations?
Does God subdue peoples? Of course, but that isn’t the lesson here. The lesson is that all of this is accomplished with a word! And what do we give back to Him for this unparalleled display of power? Words! Zamar (sing praise), teru’ah (shout) and tiku-kaf (clap the hand, yes, that’s right, it’s singular). What is the appropriate response to the declaration of the Lord? Make noise!
Once more the psalmist gives us permission to be rowdy, to make a joyful noise, to shout and sing, to get up and dance. God’s word brings forth our emotional reactions. So, when was the last time you jumped for joy, danced around the room or let loose with some heavenly noise? When was the last time you heard the sound of one hand clapping?
Topical Index: subdue, dabar, peoples, amim, clapping, noise, Psalm 47:3