Psalms 46

PSALM XLVI

The confidence of believers in God, 1-3.

The privileges of the Church, 4, 5;

her enemies, and her helper, 6, 7.

God's judgments in the earth, 8, 9.

He will be exalted among the heathen, and throughout the earth,

10, 11.

NOTES ON PSALM XLVI

The title in the Hebrew is, "To the chief musician for the sons

of Korah; an ode upon Alamoth, or concerning the virgins:"

possibly meaning a choir of singing girls. Some translate the word

secrets or mysteries; and explain it accordingly. Calmet thinks

it was composed by the descendants of Korah, on their return from

the Babylonian captivity, when they had once more got peaceably

settled in Jerusalem; and that the disturbances to which it refers

were those which took place in the Persian empire after the death

of Cambyses, when the Magi usurped the government. Many other

interpretations and conjectures are given of the occasion of this

fine ode. Houbigant thinks it was made on occasion of an

earthquake, which he supposes took place on the night that all

Sennacherib's army was destroyed, Dr. Kennicott thinks that

alamoth means a musical instrument. All I can pretend to say

about it is, that it is a very sublime ode; contains much

consolation for the Church of God; and was given by the

inspiration of his Holy Spirit.

Verse 1. God is our refuge] It begins abruptly, but nobly; ye

may trust in whom and in what ye please: but GOD (ELOHIM) is our

refuge and strength.

A very present help] A help found to be very powerful and

effectual in straits and difficulties. The words are very

emphatic: ezerah betsaroth nimtsa meod, "He is

found an exceeding, or superlative help in difficulties." Such we

have found him, and therefore celebrate his praise.

Verse 2. Therefore will not we fear] Let what commotions will

take place in the earth, we will trust in the all-powerful arm of

God. Probably the earthquake referred to, here means political

commotions, such as those mentioned under the title; and by

mountains, kings or secular states may be intended.

Verse 3. Though the waters thereof roar] Waters, in prophetic

language, signify people; and, generally, people in a state of

political commotion, here signified by the term roar. And by these

strong agitations of the people, the mountains-the secular rulers,

shake with the swelling thereof-tremble, for fear that these

popular tumults should terminate in the subversion of the state.

This very people had seen all Asia in a state of war. The Persians

had overturned Asia Minor, and destroyed the Babylonian empire:

they had seen Babylon itself sacked and entered by the Persians;

and Cyrus, its conqueror, had behaved to them as a father and

deliverer. While their oppressors were destroyed, themselves were

preserved, and permitted to return to their own land.

Verse 4. There is a river, the streams whereof] The Chaldee

understands the river, and its streams or divisions, as pointing

out various peoples who should be converted to the faith, and thus

make glad the city of God, Jerusalem, by their flowing together to

the worship of the true God.

But the river may refer to the vast Medo-Persian army and its

divisions: those branches which took Babylon; and, instead of

ruining and destroying the poor Jews, preserved them alive, and

gave them their liberty; and thus the city of God, and the

tabernacle of the Most High, were gladdened.

Verse 5. God is in the midst of her] God will not abandon them

that trust in him; he will maintain his own cause; and, if his

Church should at any time be attacked, he will help her, and that

right early-with the utmost speed. As soon as the onset is made,

God is there to resist. As by the day-break the shadows and

darkness are dissipated; so by the bright rising of Jehovah, the

darkness of adversity shall be scattered.

Verse 6. The heathen raged] There had been terrible wars on all

hands, and mighty states were crushed, when the poor Jews were, by

the especial favour of God, kept in peace and safety. Kingdoms

were moved while they were preserved.

He uttered his voice] These words seem to refer to thunder,

lightning, and earthquake. The expressions, however, may be

figurative, and refer to the wars and desolations already

mentioned. God gave the command; and one empire was cast down, and

another was raised up.

Verse 7. The Lord of hosts is with us] We, feeble Jews, were

but a handful of men; but the Lord of hosts-the God of armies, was

on our side. Him none could attack with hope of success, and his

legions could not be over-thrown.

The God of Jacob] The God who appeared to Jacob in his distress,

and saved him out of all his troubles, appeared also for us his

descendants, and has amply proved to us that he has not forgotten

his covenant.

Verse 8. Come, behold the works of the Lord] See empires

destroyed and regenerated; and in such a way as to show that a

supernatural agency has been at work. By the hand of God alone

could these great changes be effected.

Verse 9. He maketh wars to cease] By the death of Cambyses, and

setting Darius, son of Hystaspes, upon the Persian throne, he has

tranquillized the whole empire. That same God who for our

unfaithfulness has delivered us into the hands of our enemies, and

subjected us to a long and grievous captivity and affliction, has

now turned our captivity, and raised us up the most powerful

friends and protectors in the very place in which we have been

enduring so great a fight of afflictions.

He breaketh the bow] He has rendered useless all the implements

of war; and so profound and secure is the general tranquillity,

that the bow may be safely broken, the spear snapped asunder,

and the chariot burnt in the fire.

Verse 10. Be still, and know that I am God] harpu,

Cease from your provocations of the Divine justice; cease from

murmuring against the dispensations of his providence; cease from

your labour for a season, that ye may deeply reflect on the

severity and goodness of God-severity to those who are brought

down and destroyed; goodness to you who are raised up and

exalted:-cease from sin and rebellion against your God; let that

disgrace you no more, that we may no more be brought into distress

and desolation.

Know that I am God] Understand that I am the Fountain of power,

wisdom, justice, goodness, and truth.

I will be exalted among the heathen] By the dispensation of

punishments, the heathen shall know me to be the God of justice;

by the publication of my Gospel among them, they shall know me to

be the God of goodness.

I will be exalted in the earth.] I will have my salvation

proclaimed in every nation, among every people, and in every

tongue.

Verse 11. The Lord of hosts is with us] Having heard these

declarations of God, the people cry out with joy and exultation,

The Lord of hosts, the God of armies, is with us; we will not fear

what man can do unto us.

The God of Jacob is our refuge.] He who saved our fathers will

save us, and will never abandon his people in distress.

Selah.] This is a firm, lasting, unshaken, well-tried truth.

ANALYSIS OF THE FORTY-SIXTH PSALM

Two things especially are to be considered in this Psalm:-

I. The confidence the Church has in God, Ps 46:1-8.

II. The exhortation to consider him as the Lord of hosts, the

Punisher of the refractory and disobedient nations, often by means

of war; and the only Giver of peace and tranquillity, Ps 46:8-10.

I. He begins with a maxim which is the ground of all the

confidence which the people of God can have. God is our Asylum, or

place of refuge to fly to; our Strength, Stay, Munition, on which

to rely: "A very present help to deliver us in time of trouble."

From which maxim this conclusion is drawn: "therefore will we

not fear;" not even in the greatest calamities, nor in the midst

of the most numerous adversaries. This he expresses, first,

metaphorically; next, in plain terms:-

1. Though the earth on which the Church is seated be moved or

removed.

2. "Though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;"

that is, the greatest and strongest empires and kingdoms should be

ruined and overwhelmed.

3. "Though the waters roar and be troubled." Though multitudes

of people threaten, and join their forces to ruin the Church.

4. "Though the mountains (i.e., kingdoms) shake with the

swelling thereof." Waters mean people, Re 17:15.

More plainly, for we have the interpretation of these metaphors,

Ps 46:6: "Though the heathen raged, and the kingdoms were moved,"

yet we were not afraid, nor will we fear. We have a fine

illustration of this bold feeling (from a consciousness of

rectitude, and consequently Divine protection) from the pen of a

heathen poet:-

ustum et tenacem propositi virum

Non civium ardor prava jubentium,

Non vultus instantis tyranni,

Mente quatit solida: Neque Auster,

Dux inquieti turbidus Adriae,

Nec fulminantis magna Jovis manus.

Si fractus illabatur orbis,

Impavidum ferient ruinae.

HOR. Car. lib. iii., od. 3.

"The man, in conscious virtue bold,

Who dares his secret purpose hold,

Unshaken hears the crowd's tumultuous cries;

And the impetuous tyrant's angry brow defies.

Let the wild winds that rule the seas,

Tempestuous all their horrors raise;

Let Jove's dread arm with thunders rend the spheres;

Beneath the crush of worlds, undaunted he appears."

FRANCIS.

2. Of this undaunted state of mind he next descends to show the

reasons:-

1. "There is a river," &c. The city of God was Jerusalem, the

type of the Church; and the holy place of the tabernacles was

the temple. The little Shiloh, that ran softly, watered Jerusalem;

and the promises of the Gospel, that shall always flow in the

Church, shall make glad the hearts of God's people.

2. "God is in the midst of her," to keep, to defend her;

"therefore she shall not be moved," i.e., utterly removed, but

"shall remain for ever."

3. "God shall help her and deliver her;" right early-in the

proper season.

4. "He uttered his voice, and the earth melted." The hearts of

the men of the earth, that exalted themselves against his Church,

at the least word uttered from his mouth, melted-were struck with

fear and terror.

5. "The Lord of hosts is with us." And even the armies of our

enemies are at his command, and will fight for us whenever he

pleases: "He is the Lord of all hosts."

6. "The God of Jacob is our refuge." He is our Asylum, and he

will save us, Ps 46:7, 11.

II. The second part contains two exhortations:-

1. He calls on all to behold the works of the Lord; and he

produces two instances worthy of observation: 1. JUDGMENT is his

work, and he afflicts refractory and sinful nations by WAR: "See

what desolations he hath made in the earth!" 2. PEACE is his work:

"He maketh war to cease to the end of the earth."

2. Then, in the person of God, he exhorts the enemies of the

Church to be quiet; for their endeavours are vain, and their rage

is to no purpose: "Be still, and know that I am God."

3. And he concludes with a gracious promise, of being celebrated

among the heathen, and through the whole earth.

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