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Psalm 46

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God the Refuge of His People
MT Intro
For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.
God the Refuge of His People and Conqueror of the Nations A Song of Zion Celebrating God's Ultimate Victory Over the Nations God Is With Us God Is With Us
46:1-3 46:1-3 46:1-3 46:1-3 46:1-3b
        46:3c
46:4-7 46:4-6 46:4-7 46:4-6 46:4-6
  46:7   46:7 46:7
46:8-11 46:8-9 46:8-11 46:8-10 46:8-10
  46:10      
  46:11   46:11 46:11

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm is the Scriptural inspiration for Martin Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

 

B. There is no known historical setting.

 

C. God is both

1. a fortress for protection (cf. Ps. 46:7, 11)

2. a warrior who caused war to cease in all the earth (cf. Ps. 46:9)

However, the great blessing is not just His power, but

1. His presence (cf. Ps. 46:1b)

2. His universal purposes (cf. Ps. 46:10, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan at Intro. to Psalm 2)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 46:1-3
 1God is our refuge and strength,
 A very present help in trouble.
 2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
 And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
 3Though its waters roar and foam,
 Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.  Selah.

46:1 "God" The second book of Psalms uses the title Elohim far more than YHWH. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Ps. 1:1.

▣ "our refuge and strength" These are recurrent descriptions of God (cf. Ps. 14:6; 18:1-2; 40:17; 62:7-8; 142:5).

46:2-3 The psalmist's faith assertion (i.e., "will not fear," cf. Ps. 23:4; 27:1) is made amidst times of crises.

1. though the earth should change

2. though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea

3. though its waters roar (BDB 242, המה) and foam (BDB 330 I, חמר, sound play)

4. though the mountains quake at its swelling pride

These kinds of cataclysmic events could refer to

1. what happens when YHWH approaches His creation (i.e., "melts," cf. Ps. 46:6b; 98:7-9; Micah 1:4)

2. metaphor for trouble (i.e., "tight places," BDB 865 I, feminine noun, cf. Deut. 31:17,21;

1 Sam.10:19; Ps. 71:20; Pro. 1:27)

 

46:3 This verse has three imperfects (i.e., ongoing action).

1. waters roar — BDB 242, KB 250, Qal

2. waters foam — BDB 330, KB 330, Qal

3. mountains quake — BDB 950, KB 1271, Qal

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1333) says this is "mythological language going back to Canaanite traditions. Before these myths were recovered, the psalm was often connected to the eschatological battles (so Rashi and Radak)."

The Anchor Bible (AB) on The Psalms by Mitchell Dahood, uses the literature of the Ras Shamra found at Ugarit to explain the Hebrew poetry and form of the Psalter. These Ugaritic texts are poetry about Ba'al and the Canaanite pantheon. Often Israel took the titles, imagery, and myths of the nations and changed them to extol their covenant Deity, YHWH, the one true God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Ps. 2:7)!

▣ "Selah" This term breaks the Psalm into three strophes.

1. vv. 1-3

2. vv. 4-7

3. vv. 8-11

For the possible meaning see notes at Ps. 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VIII.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 46:4-7
 4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
 The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
 5God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
 God will help her when morning dawns.
 6The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
 He raised His voice, the earth melted.
 7The Lord of hosts is with us;
 The God of Jacob is our stronghold.  Selah.

46:4-7 This strophe describes the tranquil peace surrounding God when the earth is in turmoil (i.e., Revelation 4-5).

1. a river continually flows (lit. "irrigation canal," BDB 625, cf. Ps. 36:8; 65:9; Ezek. 47:1; Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8; Rev. 22:1,17) in "the city of God" (cf. Ps. 48:1,8; 87:3; 101:8; Isa. 60:14; Rev. 3:12)

2. the city of God will not be moved (i.e., shaken) because YHWH is in her midst (cf. Hos. 11:9; Zech.2:5; Heb. 11:10; 12:22; 13:14)

3. God will help her (cf. Ps. 37:40; Isa. 41:14) when morning dawns (imagery of perfect timing, cf. Ps. 5:3; 17:15; 30:5; 90:14). This "help" links with "the nations made an uproar" in Ps. 46:6a (same verb in Ps. 46:3a, cf. Psalm 2). The "nations" are mentioned again in Ps. 46:10b. God's purposes have always included the nations (see Special Topic at Psalm 2 Intro.)!

4. the city of God will not be moved (i.e., imagery of stability and continuance)

 

46:4b

NASB, JPSOA"The holy dwelling places"
NKJV"The holy place of the tabernacle"
NRSV"the holy habitation"
TEV"the sacred house"
NJB"it sanctifies the dwelling"
LXX"sanctified his covert"
REB"the holy dwelling"

The MT (BDB 1015) has

1. tabernacle — Exod. 25:9; 26:30; 38:21; Num. 9:18,22; 40:34-35 (i.e., "tent of meeting"); Ps. 78:60

2. dwelling place

a. of Korah (i.e., tents) — Num. 16:24,27

b. of Jacob — Ps. 87:2

c. of YHWH (i.e., temple) — Ps. 26:8; 74:7

d. of YHWH (but plural, i.e., all the buildings on the temple mount) — Ps. 43:3; 84:1; 132:5,7; Ezek. 32:27

The plural could refer to

1. all the buildings of the temple

2. the plural of majesty (i.e., most holy)

You can see from the translations that some change "holy" (adjective, BDB 872) into the verb "sanctify" (LXX, Vulgate, NJB), which is a change of only vowels.

▣ "the Most High" This title for Deity (Elyon, BDB 751 II, see Special Topic at Ps. 1:1) is used in Gen. 14:18-22; Num. 24:15; and Deut. 32:8, but mostly (16 times) in the Psalms and in Daniel 7 (4 times). The basic meaning is "high." It is used mostly by non-Israelites.

46:6 Notice the contrast between

1. the nations uproar, Ps. 46:6a (ineffective)

2. YHWH's voice, Ps. 46:6b (effective)

The verb "melted" (BDB 556, KB 555, Qal imperfect) can be used

1. figuratively of enemies' courage — Exod. 15:15; Jos. 2:9,11,24; Isa 14:31

2. figuratively of judgment — Amos 9:5

3. literally (i.e., final cleansing of earth) — 2 Pet. 3:10

 

46:7 This same promise,

1. YHWH of Hosts is with us (cf. Ps. 24:10; see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Ps. 1:1, cf. Num. 14:9; 2 Chr. 13:12)

2. God of Jacob is our stronghold (cf. Ps. 9:9; 48:3; 59:9,16,17)

is repeated in verse 11 for emphasis! These statements are the psalmist's hope and YHWH's promises to His people.

▣ "is with us" This is the greatest promise (cf. Num. 14:9; I1 Chr. 13:12; Ps. 9:10; 37:28; 94:14; Heb. 13:5 [from Deut. 31:6; Jos. 1:5]). We need God!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 46:8-11
  8Come, behold the works of the Lord,
 Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
  9He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
 He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
 He burns the chariots with fire.
 10"Cease striving and know that I am God;
 I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
 11The Lord of hosts is with us;
 The God of Jacob is our stronghold.  Selah.

46:8-11 This strophe reveals the purpose of God. Notice the two imperatives of verse 8 and the parallel ones of verse 10.

1. come — BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative, Ps. 46:8

2. behold (lit. "see") — BDB 302, KB 301, Qal imperative, Ps. 46:8, cf. Job 23:9; Ps. 63:2; Isa. 26:11; 33:17,20; 48:6

3. cease (YHWH speaks in Ps. 46:10) — BDB 951, KB 1276, Hiphil imperative, Ps. 46:10 (i.e., in context a call to the world to stop fighting)

4. know — BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperative, Ps. 46:10 (i.e., YHWH's power and deliverance; this is theologically parallel to #2)

YHWH causes all wars to cease to the ends of the earth! A new day is coming (i.e., the Prince of Peace, cf. Isa. 9:6; 66:12; John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19). A day of exaltation for the merciful God of creation. All nations will acknowledge Him (cf. Isa.2:2-4; 25:6-9; 56:6-8; Eph. 2:11-3:13). See Special Topic: YHWH's Universal Redemtpive Plan from Introduction to Psalm 2.

46:8 "desolations" The TEV has "come and see what the Lord has done. See what amazing things he has done on earth." The word "desolations" (BDB 1031 I) is used only twice in the Psalms (here and 73:19), where it denotes destruction. The events of the exodus are called "amazing things" (see Special Topic at Ps. 9:1), so military destruction could be so characterized. The word appears most often in Jeremiah (24 times) and all of them denote destruction, ruin, horror, desolation. Apparently YHWH stops war by defeating the nations' military (cf. Ps. 46:9; Psalm 2).

46:9

NASB, NKJV"chariots"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB, REB,
LXX"shields"
JPSOA"wagons"

It is uncertain if the Hebrew root is

1. "round" — BDB 222, עגול עגל (DSS, "round shield," 1QM6:15)

2. "wheeled cart" — BDB 722, עגלה (never in MT as war chariot)

In this context a "round shield" fits best.

46:11 The parallelism demands a global emphasis! The wonderful city is for all (i.e., new Jerusalem, cf. Revelation 21-22!)

For "earth" (46:2,6,8,9,10) see Special Topic at Psalm 1:2.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is the imagery of verses 2-3 from end-time events or Canaanite mythology?

2. Explain the significance of a river flowing from God's city.

3. How is verse 6 like Psalm 2?

4. To whom is YHWH speaking in verse 10?

5. Is verse 10 about the nations' defeat or the nations' inclusion into the people of God?