The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 46

Psa 46:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "OF THE SONS OF KORAH. A SONG." ("Alamoth" pertains to Psa 45.) All the Korah psalms fit the Hezekiah period remarkably well. This psalm and Psalms 47,48 form a trilogy on the same theme: the destruction of Sennacherib's Assyrian army (2Ki 18). The awesome army of the Assyrian "wolf" is decimated by divine power (Psa 46), and God is at last glorified in the earth (Psa 47). And Jerusalem, the "city of the great king" (Psa 48:2; Mat 5:35), is preserved. Various passages (Isa 29:6; 30:30,31; 31:8,9) suggest that the Assyrians were destroyed by a mighty exercise of divine power -- hurricane, earthquake, or the Cherubim of glory; maybe, in fact, by all of these combined! The vivid language of this psalm adds to the picture.

REFUGE: Machseh: "that to which one flees". Nsw as vv 7,11. Many from surrounding cities and villages fled from the depredations of Sennacherib, until the only refuge remaining was the city of Jerusalem. So, thankfully, they pressed into it, until it was filled to overflowing.

Psa 46:2

THEREFORE WE WILL NOT FEAR: "The Psalmist could see for himself, as others in his place, seas roar and mountains tremble, and yet be still, and know that 'there is a river, whose streams make glad the city of our God'; and we can echo his words when the sea and the waves roar, and some men fear, and some men doubt and some blaspheme, and we can be still and know 'that our redemption draweth nigh' " (ADN).

THOUGH THE EARTH GIVE WAY: Suggestion of earthquake here (cp v 3). Lit, "at the changing of the earth" -- perhaps as of a worn-out garment (cp the related Psa 102:26).

AND THE MOUNTAINS FALL INTO THE HEART OF THE SEA: (NT) Achieved figuratively in the first century by the faith of the disciples (Mar 11:23), and will be achieved lit in the days of Messiah's glory (Isa 54:10; Psa 76:1-6; Zec 14:4,5).

Psa 46:3

THOUGH ITS WATERS ROAR: In Isaiah's figure, the mighty waters of the Euphrates River (sym Assyrian power) "invade" God's Land. What a ct with "the waters of Shiloah that go softly" (v 4; Isa 8:7,8; 17:12-14; and note "Immanuel" and "Lord of hosts" in Isa 8:10,13 -- cpd with vv 5,7,11 here).

(NT) The sea and the waves roaring (Luk 21:25; cp Psa 89:9; Jer 31:35,36). The nations are like a troubled sea which cannot rest (Isa 57:20,21; cp Psa 48:22).

The chaotic waters are perhaps intended to conjure up the picture -- familiar in Canaanite and Babylonian mythology -- of the god's (ie, in this case, Yahweh's) primordial victory over Leviathan the "god" of the sea: see Lesson, Leviathan -- esp "OT History".

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 46:4

RIVER: "Nachar" (a constantly flowing stream), in contrast to "nachal" (a wadi, an erratic, often dry desert stream bed). This river, this "nachar", which gladdens the city of God is Hezekiah's conduit, driven through solid rock by two teams of engineers, so as to insure an adequate supply of water for the besieged people of Jerusalem (2Ki 20:20; 2Ch 32:2-5; cp Psa 42:7n). (Before this time, Jerusalem had depended upon rock-cistern storage for rain water, and upon the fountain of the Virgin's Spring located outside the walls of the city.) At the same time as the conduit was being constructed, a new wall was going up to enclose the area of Siloam, at the south end of the city, as a sizeable reservoir. Hezekiah's conduit is, even today, an amazing feat of planning and execution. But it is more than that: it is also an eloquent symbol of the silent, hidden purpose of the Almighty (the "still, small voice"), by which Israel was sustained during her severest trials (cp Psa 87:7; Isa 22:9,11).

(NT) The waters of Shiloah (Isa 8:5-7), or Siloam, remind us of the miracle performed by Christ in conjunction therewith (Joh 9:1-7). We too have, in a spiritual sense, been born blind. We too have been bidden by Jesus to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. So, washing ourselves in the pool of "the One Sent" (Joh 9:7), we see -- for the first time -- the hidden resources of strength and sustenance and protection to be found in the Lord of hosts: Christ, the "river of life" (Gen 2:10; Rev 22:1), the river flowing from under God's throne (Eze 47:1-5), "a spring whose blessings never fail". And, further, the Kingdom of God will witness "living waters" going forth from Jerusalem, both literal and figurative (Zec 14:8; Joe 3:18; Isa 30:25; 33:21; 41:18; 43:19,20; Joh 7:37), and in Christ himself a "fountain" for the purification of sin and uncleanness (Zec 13:1).

THE HOLY PLACE WHERE THE MOST HIGH DWELLS: AV has "tabernacles" (plural), prob ref to the "great tabernacle", ie Solomon's temple (Heb intensive plural). (NT) The Son of David has not yet established the full glory of his temple in his glorified saints.

THE MOST HIGH: Elyon, a title of the Almighty often associated with Gentiles: Gen 14:18; Deu 32:8; Psa 18:13; 47:2,3; Isa 14:14. It is first used of Melchizedek, priest of Elyon and king of Salem, the exalted (v 10 here) or elevated (Psa 48:2) city of God.

Psa 46:5

SHE WILL NOT FALL: "She shall not be moved" (AV) -- and this in spite of the devastating cataclysm destroying the Assyrian camp less than a mile away (the ancient name of Mount Scopus is "the camp of the Assyrians"). The great "waves" of the Assyrian flood surged through Judah -- sweeping everything before them -- but they could not overflow Jerusalem, which was in God's plan fixed and immovable (Psa 124:1,4,5; 125:1,2). The same word is used, for contrast, in v 2 (mountains "carried", or moved) and v 6 (kingdoms moved).

(NT) Quoted in Heb 12:28, about the "heavenly Jerusalem... the general assembly, and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven". What a ct with v 6 here.

GOD WILL HELP HER AT BREAK OF DAY: "God shall help her, and that right early" (AV). Lit, at the dawn of the morning (RV mg), or "at the opening of the dawn" (Eur 2:17). The best commentary on these words is 2Ki 19:35 and Isa 37:36.

"O Thou whose ear is ever bowed to strains of human care;
Who writest on my darkest cloud Thy rainbow soft and fair:
When silent grief implores Thy aid, and begs Thy hand to move,
Let my extremity be made the chariot of Thy love.

"A triumph of Thy loving skill, I rest upon Thy grace,
Though midnight pains and tears conceal the glory of Thy face.
Help me to wait till light appears, and let the morning prove
How false and baseless were my fears,
How faithful is Thy love."

Psa 46:6

What a superb ct here. When the feared Assyrians "raged" (like uncontrollable waters: Isa 8:7), many kingdoms trembled. God speaks but once (in His storm and earthquake), and the whole earth is demoralized and abjectly silent!

Psa 46:7

THE LORD ALMIGHTY IS WITH US: "Immanuel"! The Isa 7:14 prophecy about, first, Hezekiah and then Christ is alluded to here. Lord of hosts = the Cherubim of Glory (1Sa 4:4; 2Sa 6:2; Isa 6:1-3; 37:15,16; Psa 24:10; 80:1,4; Hag 2:7). The LXX suggests "hosts of angels" -- hence...

THE GOD OF JACOB: The Jacob who saw God's angelic host at Mahanaim (Gen 32:1,2; cp Gen 28:15).

FORTRESS: Misgab (as in v 11) sig an impregnable place. A "fortress" (RSV). The sw occurs in Isa 33:16 (Isa 33 has quite a number of verbal contacts with Psa 46-48).

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 46:8

(NT) With v 9, A satisfying picture of the final end of all human frightfulness, and of war itself: Isa 2:4; Eze 39:9; Hos 2:18; Hag 2:22; Rev 11:18.

SEE: "Behold" (AV). This Heb word is normally used of seeing a divine revelation, in this instance the "theophany" of desolations wrought by the angel of the Lord.

THE DESOLATIONS HE HAS BROUGHT ON THE EARTH: Eretz: Land, ie of Israel. And even this sounds like an understatement when contemplating 185,000 corpses!

Psa 46:9

HE MAKES WARS CEASE: After this the warlike Assyrians left Judah severely alone for a long time. The rest of this v describes the havoc in the Assyrian camp (cp Isa 9:4,5, which foretold all this; also cp Isa 2:2-4).

SHIELDS: AV and NIV mg have "chariots". Chariots (agaloth) is, lit, carts (prob ox-drawn). The Assyrians were bringing up heavy siege equipment from the capture of Lachish, when overtaken by the avenging angel. (The LXX -- followed by NEB and NIV -- has, by one vowel change, "shields".)

Psa 46:10

BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD: "Let go, desist"; cease from your own labors. "Give in" (Moffatt). And Hezekiah's faith rested on this: " 'Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us that with him: With him is an arm of flesh: but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.' And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah" (2Ch 32:7,8). And the people rested themselves on the faith of Hezekiah also! (In general, see also Exo 14:13 -- the words of Moses, in a time of comparable deliverance.)

"A man whispered, 'God, speak to me', and a meadowlark sang.
But the man did not hear.
So the man yelled, 'God, speak to me',
And the thunder rolled across the sky.
But the man did not listen.

"The man looked around and said, 'God, let me see you.'
And a star shone brightly.
But the man did not notice.
And the man shouted, 'God, show me a miracle',
And a life was born.
But the man did not notice.

"At last the man cried out in despair,
'Touch me, God, and let me know You are here.'
Whereupon God reached down and touched the man.
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on."

"This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion. We are at the opposite end of the pole from there. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, 'Be still, and know that I am God,' and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence" (AWT).

Psa 46:11

See Lesson, Selah.


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