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Why does Psalm 24:7 say to “lift up your heads”?

lift up your heads

The phrase lift up your heads in Psalm 24:7 is describing the praise of Israel at a specific time in its history: “Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”

It is likely that David wrote Psalm 24 after the ark of the covenant returned to Jerusalem. The ark had been seized by the Philistines over 20 years earlier. At the same time, many Israelites were killed, including the two sons of Eli, the high priest. Upon receiving the news, Eli was so horrified that he fell over dead. In her distress over the loss of her father-in-law and her husband, Eli’s daughter-in-law named her newborn son Ichabod saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured” (1 Samuel 4:22). King David’s celebration in Psalm 24 is for the ark’s return because it symbolized God’s presence returning to Israel.

David begins the psalm by proclaiming God’s sovereignty over all the earth. God created all things, sustains all things, and deserves all the glory. David reminds the people of Israel that they must repent of their idolatry and turn back to God to be in restored fellowship with Him. In this covenantal era, these actions were necessary to enter the tabernacle and receive blessing from God.

Then David writes, “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7, ESV). In this verse, David paints a picture of a king’s triumphal entry and personifies Jerusalem’s gates. The gates represent the inhabitants of Jerusalem. With this in mind, David invites the entire city to celebrate the ark’s return and the King of glory’s arrival (Psalm 24:8).

David’s command for the gates to “lift up their heads” also paints an image of a portcullis—a heavy gate lifted vertically by a pulley system. David indicates that the gates were too low for such a magnificent and glorious King, so they needed to be lifted high out of reverence for Him. When the ark approached the gates, the people lifted the portcullis, which caused the top of the gate to protrude above the walls. This caused the gates to, in a sense, “lift their heads.” Even the gates assumed a posture of praise to the King! Further, in ancient Eastern culture, people would sometimes remove the doors from their hinges to welcome guests (Spurgeon, C. H., Treasury of David, Exposition of Psalm 24). Thus, lifting the city gates in Psalm 24:7 is consistent with cultural methods and the way of showing sincere hospitality.

Psalm 24:7 also foreshadows the coming of the King of glory, Jesus Christ, into Jerusalem centuries later. Jesus, called “the Lord of glory” in 1 Corinthians 2:8, came to Jerusalem as “one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4) and could rightly be called “the Lord Almighty . . . the King of glory” (Psalm 24:10).

Throughout Psalm 24, David focuses both on heart posture before God and on the physical posture of the gates as the ark of the covenant enters the city. Both the gates of the city and the posture of people’s hearts needed to be open to welcome the King of glory. Just as the Israelites in Psalm 24 welcomed the presence of God via the ark’s return to Jerusalem, we can welcome God into our lives through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. May we all lift up our heads in praise to our eternal King!

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Why does Psalm 24:7 say to “lift up your heads”?
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This page last updated: June 15, 2023