Psalms 461God is our strong refuge; ▼
he is truly our helper in times of trouble. ▼
▼ Heb “a helper in times of trouble he is found [to be] greatly.” The perfect verbal form has a generalizing function here. The adverb מְאֹד (me’od, “greatly”) has an emphasizing function.
2 For this reason we do not fear ▼
▼ The imperfect is taken in a generalizing sense (cf. NEB) because the situation described in vv. 2–3 is understood as symbolizing typical world conditions. In this case the imperfect draws attention to the typical nature of the response. The covenant community characteristically responds with confidence, not fear. Another option is to take the situation described as purely hypothetical. In this case one might translate, “We will not fear, even though the earth should shake” (cf. NIV, NRSV).when the earth shakes, ▼
▼ The Hiphil infinitival form is normally taken to mean “when [the earth] is altered,” being derived from מוּר (mur, “to change”). In this case the Hiphil would be intransitive, as in Ps 15:4. HALOT 560 s.v. II מור emends the form to a Niphal and derives it from a homonymic root מוּר attested in Arabic with the meaning “shake.”
and the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, ▼
▼ Heb “heart of the seas.” The plural may be used for emphasis, pointing to the deepest sea. Note that the next verse uses a singular pronoun (“its waters,” “its swelling”) in referring back to the plural noun.
3 when its waves ▼
▼ Heb “its waters.”crash ▼
▼ Or “roar.”and foam,
and the mountains shake ▼ before the surging sea. ▼
▼ Heb “at its swelling.” The Hebrew word often means “pride.” If the sea is symbolic of hostile nations, then this may be a case of double entendre. The surging, swelling sea symbolizes the proud, hostile nations. On the surface the psalmist appears to be depicting a major natural catastrophe, perhaps a tidal wave. If so, then the situation would be hypothetical. However, the repetition of the verbs הָמָה (hamah, “crash; roar,” v. 3) and מוֹט (mot, “shake,” v. 2) in v. 6, where nations/kingdoms “roar” and “shake,” suggests that the language of vv. 2–3 is symbolic and depicts the upheaval that characterizes relationships between the nations of the earth. As some nations (symbolized by the surging, chaotic waters) show hostility, others (symbolized by the mountains) come crashing down to destruction. The surging waters are symbolic of chaotic forces in other poetic texts (see, for example, Isa 17:12; Jer 51:42) and mountains can symbolize strong kingdoms (see, for example, Jer 51:25).(Selah)
4 The river’s channels bring joy to the city of God, ▼
▼ Heb “A river, its channels cause the city of God to be glad.”▼
▼ The city of God is Jerusalem (see Pss 48:1–2; 87:2–3). The river’s “channels” are probably irrigation ditches vital to growing crops. Some relate the imagery to the “waters of Shiloah” (see Isa 8:6), which flowed from the Gihon spring to the pool of Siloam. In Isa 8:6–8 these waters are contrasted with the flood waters symbolizing Assyria. Even if this is the reality behind the imagery, the picture of a river flowing through Jerusalem is idealized and exaggerated. The river and irrigation ditches symbolize the peace and prosperity that the Lord provides for Jerusalem, in contrast to the havoc produced by the turbulent waters (symbolic of the nations) outside the city. Some see here an adaptation of Canaanite (or, more specifically, Jebusite) mythical traditions of rivers/springs flowing from the high god El’s dwelling place. The Songs of Zion do utilize such imagery at times (see Ps 48:2). The image of a river flowing through Zion may have inspired prophetic visions of an eschatological river flowing from the temple (see Ezek 47:1–12; Joel 3:18).
the special, holy dwelling place of ▼
▼ Heb “the holy [place] of the dwelling places of.” The adjective “holy” is used here in a substantival manner and placed in construct with the following noun (see GKC 428 #132.c). Origen’s transliterated text assumes the reading קֹדֶשׁ (qodesh, “holiness; holy place”), while the LXX assumes a Piel verbal form קִדֵּשׁ (qidesh, “makes holy”) and takes the following form as “his dwelling place.” The plural form מִשְׁכְּנֵי (mishkeney, “dwelling places of”) is probably a plural of degree, emphasizing the special character of this dwelling place. See GKC 397 #124.b. The form stands as an appositional genitive in relation to the preceding construct noun.the sovereign One. ▼
5 God lives within it, ▼ it cannot be moved. ▼
▼ Another option is to translate the imperfect verbal form as future, “it will not be upended.” Even if one chooses this option, the future tense must be understood in a generalizing sense. The verb מוֹט (mot), translated “upended” here, is used in v. 2 of the mountains “tumbling” into the seas and in v. 6 of nations being “upended.” By way of contrast, Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place, is secure and immune from such turmoil and destruction.
God rescues it ▼
▼ Or “helps her.” The imperfect draws attention to the generalizing character of the statement.at the break of dawn. ▼ ▼
▼ At the break of dawn. The “morning” is viewed metaphorically as a time of deliverance and vindication after the dark “night” of trouble (see Ps 30:5; Isa 17:14). There may be an allusion here to Exod 14:27 (where the Lord destroyed the Egyptians at the “break of dawn”) or, more likely, to the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege, when the people discovered the dead bodies of the Assyrian army in the morning (Isa 37:36).
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms are overthrown. ▼
▼ Heb “nations roar, kingdoms shake.” The Hebrew verb הָמָה (hamah, “roar, be in uproar”) is used in v. 3 of the waves crashing, while the verb מוֹט (mot, “overthrown”) is used in v. 2 of mountains tumbling into the sea (see also v. 5, where the psalm affirms that Jerusalem “cannot be moved”). The repetition of the verbs suggests that the language of vv. 2–3 is symbolic and depicts the upheaval that characterizes relationships between the nations of the earth. As some nations (symbolized by the surging, chaotic waters) show hostility, others (symbolized by the mountains) come crashing down to destruction. The surging waters are symbolic of chaotic forces in other poetic texts (see, for example, Isa 17:12; Jer 51:42) and mountains can symbolize strong kingdoms (see, for example, Jer 51:25).
God ▼ gives a shout, ▼ the earth dissolves. ▼
7 The Lord who commands armies is on our side! ▼
The God of Jacob ▼ is our protector! ▼ (Selah)
8 Come! Witness the exploits ▼ of the Lord,
who brings devastation to the earth! ▼
9 He brings an end to wars throughout the earth; ▼
he shatters ▼
▼ The verb שָׁבַר (shavar, “break”) appears in the Piel here (see Ps 29:5). In the OT it occurs thirty-six times in the Piel, always with multiple objects (the object is either a collective singular or grammatically plural or dual form). The Piel may highlight the repetition of the pluralative action, or it may suggest an intensification of action, indicating repeated action comprising a whole, perhaps with the nuance “break again and again, break in pieces.” Another option is to understand the form as resultative: “make broken” (see IBHS 404–7 #24.3). The imperfect verbal form carries on and emphasizes the generalizing nature of the description.the bow and breaks ▼
▼ The perfect verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive carries along the generalizing emphasis of the preceding imperfect.the spear;
he burns ▼
▼ The imperfect verbal form carries on and emphasizes the generalizing nature of the description.the shields with fire. ▼
▼ Heb “wagons he burns with fire.” Some read “chariots” here (cf. NASB), but the Hebrew word refers to wagons or carts, not chariots, elsewhere in the OT. In this context, where military weapons are mentioned, it is better to revocalize the form as עֲגִלוֹת (’agilot, “round shields”), a word which occurs only here in the OT, but is attested in later Hebrew and Aramaic.
10 He says, ▼
▼ The words “he says” are supplied in the translation for clarification.“Stop your striving and recognize ▼
▼ Heb “do nothing/be quiet (see 1 Sam 15:16) and know.” This statement may be addressed to the hostile nations, indicating they should cease their efforts to destroy God’s people, or to Judah, indicating they should rest secure in God’s protection. Since the psalm is an expression of Judah’s trust and confidence, it is more likely that the words are directed to the nations, who are actively promoting chaos and are in need of a rebuke.that I am God!
I will be exalted ▼ over ▼
▼ Or “among.”the nations! I will be exalted over ▼
▼ Or “in.”the earth!”
The Lord who commands armies is on our side! ▼
The God of Jacob ▼ is our protector! ▼ (Selah)
▼ Psalm 47. In this hymn the covenant community praises the Lord as the exalted king of the earth who has given them victory over the nations and a land in which to live.
For the music director; by the Korahites; a psalm.11
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