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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 46

 

 

Verses 1-11

Psalm 46

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

GOD is our refuge and strength,

A very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,

And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,

Though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,

The holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

God shall help her, and that right early.

6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved:

He uttered his voice, the earth melted.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,

What desolations he hath made in the earth.

9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;

He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;

He burneth the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God:

I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Contents and Composition. In regard to the Title, see Introd. § 12, 9. This Psalm, reechoed in Luther’s choral (Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.—A stronghold is our God), is not simply a general expression of trust in Jehovah, under all possible dangers. (Rosen.). The perfect tenses ( Psalm 5:7) following the many imperfects and the references ( Psalm 5:9), to a particular deed of Jehovah point to a special motive for this heroic Song of Solomon, which is so full of gratitude and victorious confidence, of joyful faith and hope of peace. But this conviction of permanent protection founded on the experience of Divine aid to God’s people, manifests itself in expressions of a feeling of security in general, based on the strength of this relation to God. Not only does the song begin with such expressions, but they are repeated in the refrain with which each strophe ends. Only the first strophe, in our present text (perhaps by mistake simply) has no such ending. (Ols, Ewald, Hup, Del.). For with the change of the infinitives into imperfects, verse 4 is neither in apposition to “remove” and “carried into,” (J. H. Michaelis, Heng.), nor is it to be taken in a concessive sense (Rosen. and others), but is a proposition, the concluding sentence of which must be supplied not by disturbing the strophical structure in Psalm 46:5, (Calvin) but must be completed in the way indicated above. The occasion of this Psalm, however was not the desolation produced by war among other nations, while Israel enjoyed peace (De Wette), but a mighty deed of Jehovah, by which Jerusalem beleaguered by enemies was delivered from them without a battle. It may refer to the sudden disappearance of the Syrians allied with Israel, on their approach to Jerusalem in the time of Ahaz, see Isaiah 7 (Hitzig); or better still to the defeat of the Assyrians under Sennacherib, Isaiah 36:29, (Heng, Ewald, Hup.); or to events under Jehoshaphat, recorded in 2 Chronicles20 (Del.). There are in this Psalm, (and in the two which follow and are closely related to it) many points of resemblance to Isaiah, particularly the term Immanu, but this will not warrant our ascribing its composition to this prophet (Ven, Hitz.). It is worthy of remark that in this Elohim Psalm, God is called Jehovah in respect to His influence in the history of the world, Psalm 5:9, and in the jubilant refrain He bears the name of Jehovah of Hosts, a title characteristic of the period of the kings, and which was first pronounced by the mouth of Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:11.

Psalm 46:1-2. A very present help, a help often found, i. e. frequently tried and proved. God is ever present in tribulations. He is ever found ofthose who are in trouble (2 Psalm 15:4). Luther’s translation (from Sept. and Vulg.): “in the great troubles which have befallen us,” is grammatically untenable. The “midst” or “heart” of the sea signifies the innermost part. It is used also with reference to the oak ( 2 Samuel 17:34), and Heaven ( Deuteronomy 4:11). The allusion is to the destruction of the world as now organized (Del.). The mountains being removed from their places, fall back into the waters, out of which they were raised on the third day of creation, (Sept, Vulg, Calvin, Geier, Hupf.). Others (De Wette, Hitzig) understand by the words: the tottering of the foundations of the mountains which are beneath the waters, and propose the rendering: “in the heart” (the dative). Grammatically it is admissible. But the allegorical interpretation (Hengst.) which regards the “sea” as the symbol of the world, and the “mountains in its heart” as its mightiest empires, is not warranted by any thing in the text. For if the rising of the sea is here expressed by a word sometimes applied to human pride, this is neither its only nor its original meaning. In the last sense the word occurs in Job 41:7, and refers to the “being lifted up by the shield of Leviathan;” while in Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:35 it is applied to the sovereignty of God. But it does not follow that in this place, on account of the singular suffix, the reference is to that sovereign power of God by which the mountains are made to quake, (Chald, Sept, Ols, Ewald). The singular suffix can be made here easily to refer to יַמִּים, (as it necessarily does in the preceding line), because “his waters” in this connection designate not those “of God,” but those “of the sea,” like the “his heavens” in Psalm 8:4. For it is not God Himself, but His “grace” symbolized by a “stream,” which is opposed to this “sea” ( Psalm 46:4.). The idea of the sea Isaiah, however, expressed by a plural but not in a numerical sense, as in Psalm 107:25.

[Perowne:Though the mountains, etc, the strongest figure that could be used, the mountains being regarded as the great pillars of the earth, Psalm 18:7; Psalm 75:3; Psalm 72:5; Job 9:6. Alexander:Let its waters roar, etc, Psalm 46:4. The singular pronoun refers to the sea, which is only poetically plural in the preceding verse. The verbs in this verse may also be explained as proper futures. Its waters shall roar, etc, but the people of God shall still be safe, as promised in the next verse. Barnes: The word rendered present (a very present help), נִמְצָא nimtza, means rather is found or has been found, i. e, he has proved himself to be a help in trouble. The word present, as if he were near to us, or close by us, does not accurately express the idea.—J. F.]

Psalm 46:4-11. There is a stream, etc.—The expression is in contrast with that describing the stormy and destructive sea, and hence the use of the nominative absolute. There is no reference to the softly flowing waters of Siloah, as in Isaiah 7:6 (Aben Ezra, Ewald), but it is simply an image drawn from this brook as described in Isaiah, with a possible allusion to the river of Paradise, Psalm 36:9 (Del.). It is not, however, an image of peace (De Wette), but of the blessings and gracious manifestations of God ( Jonah 4:18; Ezekiel 47; Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 14:1); for His “streams” i. e. arms, make glad the city of God, fructifying and refreshing it, as they flow around and through it. In Isaiah 48:18; Isaiah 66:12, the point of comparison is quite different, viz.: its fulness and wide extension. There is no need of supplementing the text by a word = “his grace,” (Ols.). Nor is the combination of the two lines of the verse into one—“a river, the stream of which—is the holy one of the dwellings of the Most High,” (Hitzig), and the reference to verse5 as the closing sentence, warranted by Isaiah 33:21. For here God is compared to a river which surrounds and defends the city. This figure, so simple and plain as used by the prophet, would here render the sense unclear and confused, especially in the following verse, where God is said to “dwell in the midst” of the city, not only being its security, but producing that security. Both the “blessing” mentioned in verse 4 and the “deliverances” in verse5, proceed from Him, not morning by morning (Hitz. De Wette), but as the day breaks after an anxious night, (Hengst. Del.). The expression is: of course, figurative, but we must not reduce its meaning to a simple “soon,” (Rosen. Gesen.) nor to the morning of deliverance in contrast with the night of misery, but rather suppose an allusion to a definite historical fact, as Exodus 14:27; Isaiah 17:14; Isaiah 37:36.—The “melting of the earth” verse6, not “trembling” (De Wette, Hupf.), nor “growing dumb” (Tholuck) denotes the dissolving effect of divine judgments, Psalm 75:5; Amos 9:5, (Heng.), which are elsewhere said to produce terror and consternation, Psalm 76:9; Exodus 15:14.—In 2 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 7:10; 2 Samuel 12:16; Psalm 68:34; Jeremiah 12:8, thunder is used as a symbol of Divine judgment. There is no need of understanding verse10 as an authoritative command given in a voice of thunder (Hitzig). In verse7 many codices (32Kenn46 De Ross.) have Elohim instead of Jehovah, a reading followed by the Syriac and Chaldean version, and many Rabbinical expositors. But it is possible that this various reading may have come from Psalm 66:5. Instead of “devastations” or “desolations” in verse9 (Chald. Jerome, Rab. Calvin, Geier, etc.), the Sept. Syr. J. H. Mich, Ewald, and Hitz, render the word “astonishing and terrific things,” a sense which its etymology allows.

[Perowne: Psalm 46:6. The absence of any copula in the verse adds much to the force of the description. The preterites are not hypothetical as Delitzsch explains. Each act of the drama Isaiah, so to speak, before the eyes of the Poet.—Alexander:He has uttered His voice, the earth will melt. As in many other instances, the Psalmist takes his stand between the inception and the consummation of the event which he describes. Hence the transition from the past tense to the future.

Verse8. Come see, etc. The first word properly means go, but it is constantly used in summoning and inviting others. Psalm 46:9. Silencing wars, etc.—The participle followed by the future, shows that the process is not finished, but is still going on.—J. F.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The Church of God can confidently appeal to Him for help, and rest assured that He who is supreme over all things, has not only promised, but will also grant her, His protection. She will enjoy peace in the midst of the storms of war, and the tumults of the world, as she also will when the world itself shall come to ruin. For the world is in a constant state of unrest and excitement, and will be until its final change. This is owing partly to its natural qualities and its external form, and partly to the historic life of its nations. But the Church is God’s habitation in this world. Not only is the sanctuary of God in the midst of her, but the living, almighty, gracious God Himself. Hence her feeling of perfect rest and blessed contentment.

If Christ protects His Church,

Then hell itself may rage.

2. So long as the Church is in the world, it must be, in its temporal aspect and earthly form, always in contact with the world’s movements. There is for it no external rest and security, but it is in constant danger of attacks and tribulations. But so long as its watchword is Immanuel, i. e, God with us, it will have internal peace, for God is within it, and external invincibility, for God is its defence. Even here, God gives, from time to time, seasons of rest and refreshment, for He breaks the weapons of the enemies, and sends desolation among them.

3. As God quickens the Church in which He dwells, by the outpouring of His gracious and manifold gifts, and as this stream from the sanctuary cannot be cut off, because of the relation already mentioned, it is the special duty and care of the Church to draw from this stream fresh courage and vigor, so that with perpetual joy, she may confess by word and deed, what God has revealed to her in His word, and how He has manifested Himself to her by His works in the present day, as well as in ages past. “That our faith may rest firmly in God, we must consider these two things jointly, viz.: the infinite power by which He prepared to subjugate the whole world, and His paternal love revealed in His word.” (Calvin).

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

God with us! the watchword of the pious1. Who has given it? 2. What is meant by it? 3. Who may use it?—Among all thrones, there is only one that is firm; among all kingdoms, only one is changeless; among all nations, only one has a King without an equal.—Is the Lord of Hosts your friend? then are you sure of victory over all your foes.—We need fear no struggle, when God is our refuge and strength.—Dwelling in the city of God implies going to the house of God, hearing His word, and observing His works.—He who would not fall when the foundations of the earth are shaken, must cling firmly to God. Thus will he be saved and enabled to praise the Most High.—God shows here on earth that He is above all things; and He also testifies that He dwells not only in heaven, but also in the midst of His people.—While God dwells among us, we can want nothing.—The proper flight is to the divine refuge.—The security of God’s kingdom, surrounded by streams that disturb the world.

Starke: As we seek God, so shall we also find Him.—If we steadily trust in Him as our Strength, we shall certainly find in our experience that He is so in fact.—God does not protect His Church by keeping danger at a distance from her, but by averting its destructive results.—Faith becomes especially victorious, when, according to all human appearance, there is no room for hope.—If God is your friend, you can stand firm in every trouble.—Faith apprehends God, both as the Lord of Hosts, and as a gracious Helper, abundant in mercy.—It is just as easy for God to destroy a mighty army, as to defend a little company of believers.—Oh! how blessed the time when God shall make wars to cease to the ends of the earth.—Osiander: The city of God shall never perish, even though all creatures should make war against it.—Arndt: Kingdoms are overturned on account of the sins of their people, but Christ has maintained His word and kingdom.—If God is our protector, what can Prayer of Manasseh, with all his power, do against us?—Tholuck: Let the people rage as fiercely as they please, when the voice of Jacob’s God is heard, they must grow dumb.—Richter Family Bible: The kingdom of darkness has no power of its own over nature. It could not even drown swine without Christ’s permission.—Vaihinger: He who has the God who protected Israel as his shield, need not be afraid of greater dangers even than those which Israel experienced.—Diedrich: God’s kingdom remains, because He is true to His word of promise, and defends those who believe it against all their enemies.—God is our eternal refuge.—Taube: The perfect repose and holy security of the Church of God1. Her faith’s comfort2. Her faith’s foundation3. Her faith’s victory.—Each fresh perception of God, derived from the experience of His ways, imparts new blessings, and establishes the heart more firmly in the faith.—Schaubach: (10th Sunday after Trinity). The Christian Church as typified by the city of God on earth.—Rose: Come and see the mighty works of the Lord, His wonderful counsels, and the unchangeable faithfulness of His covenant.

Henry: God is our refuge and strength; we have found Him Song of Solomon, He has engaged to be Song of Solomon, and He ever will be so. Are we pursued? God is our refuge to whom we may flee, and in whom we may be safe, and think ourselves so; secure upon good ground, Proverbs 17:10. Are we oppressed by troubles? Have we work to do, and enemies to grapple with? God is our Strength, to bear us up under our burdens, to fit us for all our services and sufferings; who will by His grace put strength into us, and on whom we may stay ourselves. Are we in distress? He is a Help, to do all that for us which we need; a present Help, a Help found, so the word Isaiah, one whom we have found to be so; a Help on which we may write Probatum Esther, or, a Help at hand, one that we shall never have to seek for, but that is always near. Or, a Help sufficient; a Help accommodated to every case and exigence; whatever it Isaiah, He is a very present Help; we cannot desire a better Help, nor shall ever find the like in any creature.—Here is (1) Joy to the Church, even in the most melancholy and sorrowful times. Psalm 46:4. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make it glad, even then when the waters of the sea roar and threaten it. Note.—The spiritual comforts which are conveyed to the saints by soft and silent whispers, and which come not with observation, are sufficient to balance the most loud and noisy threatenings of an angry and malicious world. (2) Establishment to the Church; though heaven and earth are shaken, yet God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved, Psalm 46:5. (1) Not destroyed; nor removed as the earth may be. (2) Not disturbed, not much moved with fears of the issue. (3) Deliverance to the Church, though her dangers be great; God shall help her, and who then can hurt her? He shall help her under her troubles, that she shall not sink; nay, that the more she is afflicted, the more she shall multiply. God shall help her out of her troubles, and that right early

Very speedily, and very seasonably.—Scott: If our faith were as strong as our security is good, we need fear no combination of enemies, no revolutions in kingdoms, and no convulsions in nature, but in the most tremendous dangers might triumph in the fullest assurance of security and victory—Happy they who are enrolled citizens of the holy city of our God, in which He dwells as a Father, Defender, and Comforter of His people.—J. F.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 46:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-46.html. 1857-84.

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