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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 46

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.

The psalm celebrates a great victory over the heathen armies, Psalms 46:6. It was not a foreign war, for the scene is laid in Judah. The capital had been threatened, (Psalms 46:4-5;) and its sudden deliverance (Psalms 46:9) the people are now invited to approach and witness. Psalms 46:8. The Jehovah Immanu, Jehovah with us, Psalms 46:7; Psalms 46:11 equal to Immanuel, God with us, (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:8,) has led some to suppose Isaiah was the author, but this, though possible, is unnecessary; and, as in the title, we may safely assign it to the Korahitic family. The mention of “chariot,” (Psalms 46:9,) as the pride and reliance of the enemy, decides that the occasion could not have been the overthrow of the Arabians in Jehoshaphat’s reign, (see introduction to Psalms 47:0; Psalms 48:0,) with whom the use of the war chariot was impossible, but could apply only to Sennacherib. (2 Kings 18:13. See notes for further evidence.) The joyful praise and triumphant faith of the psalm are suited to the Church in her greatest militant victories.


Sons of Korah See on title of Psalms 42:0.

Upon Alamoth “Alamoth” is taken by Furst to denote a musical choir, dwelling perhaps in Alemeth, a town supposed by Schwarz and others to be the same as Almit, or Almuth. about a mile northeast of Anathoth, and about four miles from Jerusalem. 1 Chronicles 6:60. Others, for etymological reasons, suppose it to denote an instrument of music, as a lute; others, with more probability, understand a mode of music, a virgin mode. 1 Chronicles 15:20. See on title of Psalms 9:0

Verse 1

1. Refuge and strength Two strong words to express complete safety.

Very present help Literally, God has been found a help in distress exceedingly. The idea is of greatness and sufficiency of help.

Verse 2

2. The all-sufficiency of divine aid precludes fear.

The earth be removed The most stable and abiding of figures. Psalms 104:5; Ecclesiastes 1:4.

Mountains Emblems of strength and firmness.

Job 9:6; Psalms 18:7. The suppositional conditions imply the greatest disorder, if not the dissolution of the system of nature, illustrating human catastrophes terrible and world wide. The prophetic writings abound in such imagery. Compare Habakkuk 3:17-19.

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Verse 4

4. A river The word denotes a perennial river, as distinguished from a winter torrent.

The streams whereof That is, its divisions, or channels. The idea is, that of a copious, living stream distributed by pipes and aqueducts.

Make glad the city of God Its abundant supply, even during the close siege from which they had been delivered, should refresh and enliven the city. The water supplies of ancient Jerusalem were the admiration of the world. If Assyria boasted of her Tigris, Babylon of her Euphrates, Damascus of her Abana and Pharpar, and Egypt of her Nile, so could Zion, in her nest among the mountains, glory in her peaceful and living Shiloah, especially as the emblem of the unfailing grace of Israel’s God. The holy place, etc. Hebrew, The holy, the dwelling places of the Most High. The reference to the temple and its outer buildings is clear. “Holy place” is not a synonymous parallel to “city of God,” but is an intensive carrying forward of the description, as if it read “the city of God, even the holy place” [temple.] The “river” here alluded to is, doubtless, the same as Shiloah, (Isaiah 8:6,) known in later times as Siloam, (John 9:7,) where it applies only to a pool supplied as we shall see by this river.

The psalmist alludes to this stream, not because it was the only supply, but an important one, which had just then, by Hezekiah’s energetic war preparations, gained unprecedented celebrity by having been diverted and brought through the city. Of this river it is said, 2 Chronicles 32:3, that it “ran through the midst of the land,” which the Septuagint reads: “flowed [literally, made a division ] through the city.” That Hezekiah caused it to flow through the city none will doubt. But in what direction, and where the “Upper Gihon” was located, are not so clear. Future discovery must finally determine this. Robinson supposed that the source of the stream was “the ancient Fountain of Gihon, on the higher ground west of the city,” northwesterly from the Jaffa Gate. This would bring its waters to the so-called Pool of Hezekiah, within the modern walls, and, eastward between Acra and Zion, to the temple area. But Ritter says: “It seems much more probable, much more conformable to all the conditions of the case, that they were connected with the north side of Jerusalem;” and with Krafft he locates the “Old Pool” of Isaiah (Isaiah 22:11) and “Upper Pool” of Isaiah (Isaiah 36:2, the source of Shiloah) near the modern Damascus gate. To the same effect Barclay argues. ( City of the Great King, p. 304, et seq.) The entire evidence on this subject, which seems quite conclusive, would determine the source of Shiloah to be some copious spring or fountain the chief, if not the only one of the city situated north, not far from the source of Kidron, supplied with tanks or reservoirs, probably the same as are still found there. This fountain was closed up by Hezekiah, and the overflow of its waters, brought down southward by an underground conduit, (2 Chronicles 32:4; Sir 48:17 ,) through the natural valley between Bezetha and Moriah on the east and Acra and Zion on the west, till, coming opposite the modern mosque Haram-es-Sherif, about midway of the temple area, it was turned eastward to the great reservoir under the temple, (under modern es-Sukrah, or the Rock;) thence, as it appears, southward to supply other subterranean tanks and cisterns known to exist within and around the mosque el-Aksa, on the southern limit of the ancient temple enclosure; thence southeasterly to the Fountain of the Virgin; thence southward to the Pool of Siloam; and thence to the Kidron and the Dead Sea. The waters of the fountain-head are known to resemble in taste those under the mosque, (the old temple site,) and those of the pools of the Virgin and of Siloam, showing that they have a common origin. It is already known that these pools are fed by the same stream whose rock-cut channel has been traced from Siloam to the southern wall of the old temple enclosure; while on the north, travellers, by putting their ears close to the ground, near the Damascus gate, “hear the noise of running water, which may be traced through the middle of the city (as above described) as far as opposite to es-Sukrah,” already mentioned. This is well attested, and this stream would seem to have been the main artery of the city and temple water works. Certainly the diversion of its waters through the city was one of the great acts of Hezekiah’s reign. Vast subterranean reservoirs, protected by heavy arched stone and mason work, and connected by pipes, still exist under the temple area and the city, which were filled partly by rain, but mostly by running water from abroad. These were reached through mouths, shafts, or wells in the temple enclosure, (Isaiah 12:3; John 7:37-38,) and elsewhere. This mysterious river, whose “streams,” or divisions, gladdened “the city of God and the holy place,” has a further symbolic significance of gospel grace and eternal life. See the figure expanded, in Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8, and “the river of life” proceeding “out of the throne of God and the Lamb,”

Revelation 22:1. Tacitus ( Hist., book 5, § 12,) mentions the “fountain of living water” under the temple at Jerusalem, which Milton calls

“Siloa’s brook, that flowed

Fast by the oracle of God.”

Isaiah (Isaiah 8:6) refers to the gentle flow of its waters, imparting life and cheer to the city.

Verse 5

5. God is in the midst of her Not the natural strength of the city, nor its improved fortifications, commissary supplies, extensive water works, military discipline, and arsenal stores, on which Hezekiah had bestowed such timely attention not these were the strength of the city, but God, who was in the midst of her.

Right early Literally, at the uncovering of dawn; the earliest day streak, before the dawn proper; that is, immediately, in the opportune moment.

Verse 6

6. The heathen raged Compare Isaiah 10:24-34, on Sennacherib’s entrance into Judah, and 2 Kings 18:17-35, on his blasphemous boasting.

He uttered his voice The voice of God is opposed to the arrogant and impious boasting of the enemy. This availed nothing, that caused the earth to melt, that is, the hearts of the enemy to dissolve in fear. See also Joshua 2:9. The Hebrew קול , ( kohl,) “voice,” does not always apply to the human “voice,” or even to articulate sound; but always means an audible sound of some sort of definite import, as “a voice of rain,” (thunder,) 1 Kings 18:41; and “ voice of chariots, and voice of horses,” 2 Kings 7:6. So “the voice of a marching in the tops of the mulberry trees,” 2 Samuel 5:24, (where see note,) might have been caused by a wind miraculously ordered. Isaiah (Isaiah 37:7) describes the overthrow of Sennacherib’s army to have been by a blast, or wind, ( רזח ,) which would fitly apply to the simoon, the scourge and terror of Palestine and the Desert. See on Psalms 103:16; Psalms 11:6. Though its approach is heard at a great distance, in this case it awoke no soldier, owing to the preternatural sleep referred to in Psalms 76:6, where see note.

Verse 7

7. A refrain, as in Psalms 46:1; Psalms 46:11, which see.

Verse 8

8. Come, behold An invitation to survey the fearful field of death. Read 2 Kings 19:35

Verse 9

9. Burneth the chariot in the fire This, according to Ezekiel 39:9-10, would mean that the chariots should serve as common fuel for the inhabitants. Thus what was intended as an engine of destruction, God converts into the humblest use of peaceful life. Thus the sword also shall be beaten into the ploughshare, Isaiah 2:4. God will rebuke the pride and ambition of man. The allusion to the war chariot could apply only to Sennacherib’s army, not to the Arabians in Jehoshaphat’s reign, (2 Chronicles 20:0,) and is decisive against dating the psalm at the latter invasion. See the introduction to Psalms 47:0

Verse 10

10. Be still, and know that I am God The great moral lesson of the psalm. The uproar of war is ended, the elements are hushed. The address is to Hebrew and Assyrian. Let the former “be still,” cease from his fears and anxieties, the latter from his arrogance and pride. Let God alone be exalted. He only is to be feared. Psalms 76:8

Verse 11

11. The Lord of hosts, etc. This is the befitting refrain (Psalms 46:1; Psalms 46:7)

for closing, as it is the key note and central idea of the psalm.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 46". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-46.html. 1874-1909.
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