The Strong City

“Who will bring me into the strong city?”—asked David. (Psalm 60:9)

King David was what we today call a Renaissance man. Son of a shepherd, David was a mighty warrior who defeated the hostile tribes threatening Israel and he greatly expanded the borders of the kingdom. He built fortifications throughout the country to defend it and maintained standing armies. He launched construction projects in Jerusalem and brought the Ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. David was also a musician. He organized ensembles of musicians and singers for services at the tent where the Ark was kept. David sang songs of praise to God and played the harp.

In addition, David was also a writer of psalms. There are 150 psalms in the book of Psalms, and 73 of them are attributed to David. They were probably sung at the tent of the Ark and, later, at the Temple that Solomon built.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s tribute to David

‘Abdu’l-Bahá paid the following tribute to David in 1912 during a talk at a synagogue in San Francisco:

Among the great Prophets was Abraham, Who, being an iconoclast and a Herald of the oneness of God, was banished from His native land. He founded a family upon which the blessing of God descended, and it was owing to this religious basis and ordination that the Abrahamic house progressed and advanced. Through the divine benediction noteworthy and luminous prophets issued from His lineage. There appeared Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon. The Holy Land was conquered by the power of the Covenant of God with Abraham, and the glory of the Solomonic wisdom and sovereignty dawned. All this was due to the religion of God which this blessed lineage established and upheld.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 362

David’s lament and supplication to God

Psalm 60 is one of those psalms that is attributed to David. It is one of lament and supplication to God for deliverance at a time of calamity at the hands of the Edomites, a people who lived in the southeast and were inveterate enemies of the Israelites:

You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
    you have been angry—now restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open;
    mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown your people desperate times;
    you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
    to be unfurled against the bow.
Save us and help us with your right hand,
    that those you love may be delivered.

Psalm 60:1­­-5

David then recounts past promises of God for deliverance and victories and then asks the stirring question, “Who will bring me into the strong city?”

Who will bring me into the strong city?
    Who will lead me into Edom?
Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
    and no longer go out with our armies?
Give us help from trouble, for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
    And he will trample down our enemies.

Psalm 60:9–12

The Strong City is ‘Akká

What was the strong city, and why would David want to be led to it? Bahá’u’lláh solves this puzzle when He exhorted a person He was addressing:

Lend an ear unto the song of David. He saith: ‘Who will bring me into the Strong City?’ The Strong City is ‘Akká, which hath been named the Most Great Prison, and which possesseth a fortress and mighty ramparts.

Bahá’u’lláh, The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 144

Twenty-nine centuries in the future

This psalm offers a good example of a prophetic phrase―the strong city―being layered into historical reality about twenty-nine centuries in the future. The psalm transcended this huge length of time and tapped into the imprisonment of Bahá’u’lláh in the prison city of Akka in Ottoman Palestine. Credulity is stretched until it is remembered that our concept of time is not God’s. Divine time combines, past, present, and future. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentioned this when He wrote:

 [The] hidden mysteries of the days to come were revealed to the Prophets, who thus became acquainted with future events and who proclaimed them in turn. This knowledge and proclamation were not the cause of the occurrence of these events.

Likewise, God’s knowledge in the contingent world does not produce the forms of things. Rather, that knowledge is freed from the distinctions of past, present, and future, and is identical with the realization of all things without being the cause of that realization.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, no. 35.3–4, 156–57

And this is how the Hebrew Bible is full of prophecies and commentaries not only for the Israelites but also for our time, and this is why I have spent many years investigating them. Sometimes it’s just a line here and a verse there, and sometimes many verses or a whole psalm. When the Baha’i Writings authenticate these treasures, long or short, we know that the Hebrew prophets were indeed mouthpieces for God.

Author’s note: I was intrigued how one short sentence—Who will bring me into to the strong city?—could have such prophetic importance, and how its meaning was never known until Bahá’u’lláh explained it. The validity of this prophecy also raised the question of how anyone can know the future, which I addressed in my article The Concept of Time in Prophecy.

In December 2020, I wrote a blog for about the mysterious lament of Psalm 60 called The Strong City: a Mysterious Lament of Psalm 60 Explained.