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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 46


psa 46:0

A Sure Stronghold Is Our God

(Note: "Ein feste Burg is unser Gott.")

When, during the reign of Jehoshaphat, the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites (more particularly the Maonites, for in Ch2 20:1 it is to be read מהמּעוּנים) carried war into the kingdom of David and threatened Jerusalem, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziכl the Asaphite in the temple congregation which the king had called together, and he prophesied a miraculous deliverance on the morrow. Then the Levite singers praised the God of Israel with jubilant voice, viz., singers of the race of Kohaath, and in fact out of the family of Korah. On the following day Levite singers in holy attire and with song went forth before the army of Jehoshaphat. The enemy, surprised by the attack of another plundering band of the sons of the desert, had turned their weapons against one another, being disbanded in the confusion of flight, and the army of Jehoshaphat found the enemy's camp turned into a field of corpses. In the feast of thanksgiving for victory which followed in Emek ha-Beracha the Levite singers again also took an active part, for the spoil-laden army marched thence in procession to Jerusalem and to the temple of Jahve, accompanied by the music of the nablas, citherns, and trumpets. Thus in the narrative in Ch2 22:1-12 does the chronicler give us the key to the Asaphic Ps 83 (76?) and to the Korahitic Ps 46-48. It is indeed equally admissible to refer these three Korahitic Psalms to the defeat of Sennacherib's army under Hezekiah, but this view has not the same historical consistency. After the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign the congregation could certainly not help connecting the thought of the Assyrian catastrophe so recently experienced with this Psalm; and more especially since Isaiah had predicted this event, following the language of this Psalm very closely. For Isaiah and this Psalm are remarkably linked together.

Just as Psa 2:1-12 is, as it were, the quintessence of the book of Immanuel, Isa 7:1, so is Psa 46:1-11 of Isa. 33, that concluding discourse to Isa 28:1, which is moulded in a lyric form, and was uttered before the deliverance of Jerusalem at a time of the direst distress. The fundamental thought of the Psalm is expressed there in Psa 46:2 in the form of a petition; and by a comparison with Isa 25:4. we may see what a similarity there is between the language of the psalmist and of the prophet. Isa 33:13 closely resembles the concluding admonition; and the image of the stream in the Psalm has suggested the grandly bold figure of the prophet in v. 21, which is there more elaborately wrought up: "No indeed, there dwells for us a glorious One, Jahve - a place of streams, of canals of wide extent, into which no fleet of rowing vessels shall venture, and which no mighty man-of-war shall cross." The divine determination expressed in ארוּם we also hear in Isa 33:10. And the prospect of the end of war reminds us of the familiar prediction of Isaiah (Isa 2), closely resembling Micah's in its language, of eternal peace; just as Psa 46:8, Psa 46:11 remind us of the watch-word עמנו אל in Isa 7:1. The mind of Isaiah and that of Jeremiah have, each in its own peculiar way, taken germs of thought (lit., become impregnated) from this Psalm.

We have already incidentally referred to the inscribed words על־עלמות, on Psa 6:1. Bttcher renders them ad voces puberes, "for tenor voices," a rendering which certainly accords with the fact that, according to Ch1 15:20, they were accustomed to sing בּנבלים על־עלמות, and the Oriental sounds, according to Villoteau (Description de l'Egypte), correspond aux six sons vers l'aigu de l'octave du medium de la voix de tenor. But עלמות does not signify voces puberes, but puellae puberes (from עלם, Arab. glm, cogn. חלם, Arab. ḥlm, to have attained to puberty); and although certainly no eunuchs sang in the temple, yet there is direct testimony that Levite youths were among the singers in the second temple;

(Note: The Mishna, Erachin 13b, expressly informs us, that whilst the Levites sang to the accompanying play of the nablas and citherns, their youths, standing at their feet below the pulpit, sang with them in order to give to the singing the harmony of high and deep voices (תּבל, condimentum). These Levite youths are called צערי or סועדי הלויים, parvuli (although the Gemara explains it otherwise) or adjutores Levitarum.)

and Ps 68 mentions the עלמות who struck the timbrels at a temple festival. Moreover, we must take into consideration the facts that the compass of the tenor extends even into the soprano, that the singers were of different ages down to twenty years of age, and that Oriental, and more particularly even Jewish, song is fond of falsetto singing. We therefore adopt Perret-Gentil's rendering, chant avec voix de femmes, and still more readily Armand de Mestral's, en soprano; whereas Melissus' rendering, "upon musical instruments called Alamoth (the Germans would say, upon the virginal)," has nothing to commend it.

Psalms 46:1

psa 46:1

(Heb.: 46:2-4) The congregation begins with a general declaration of that which God is to them. This declaration is the result of their experience. Luther, after the lxx and Vulg., renders it, "in the great distresses which have come upon us." As though נמצא could stand for הנּמצעות, and that this again could mean anything else but "at present existing," to which מאד is not at all appropriate. God Himself is called נמצא מאד as being one who allows Himself to be found in times of distress (Ch2 15:4, and frequently) exceedingly; i.e., to those who then seek Him He reveals Himself and verifies His word beyond all measure. Because God is such a God to them, the congregation or church does not fear though a still greater distress than that which they have just withstood, should break in upon them: if the earth should change, i.e., effect, enter upon, undergo or suffer a change (an inwardly transitive Hiphil, Ges. ֗53, 2); and if the mountains should sink down into the heart (בּלב exactly as in Eze 27:27; Jon 2:4) of the sea (ocean), i.e., even if these should sink back again into the waters out of which they appeared on the third day of the creation, so that consequently the old chaos should return. The church supposes the most extreme case, viz., the falling in of the universe which has been creatively set in order. We are no more to regard the language as being allegorical here (as Hengstenberg interprets it, the mountains being = the kingdoms of the world), than we would the language of Horace: si fractus illabatur orbis (Carm. iii. 3, 7). Since ימּים is not a numerical but amplificative plural, the singular suffixes in Psa 46:4 may the more readily refer back to it. גּאוה, pride, self-exaltation, used of the sea as in Psa 89:10 גּאוּת, and in Job 38:11 גּאון are used. The futures in Psa 46:4 do not continue the infinitive construction: if the waters thereof roar, foam, etc.; but they are, as their position and repetition indicate, intended to have a concessive sense. And this favours the supposition of Hupfeld and Ewald that the refrain, Psa 46:8, 12, which ought to form the apodosis of this concessive clause (cf. Psa 139:8-10; Job 20:24; Isa 40:30.) has accidentally fallen out here. In the text as it lies before us Psa 46:4 attaches itself to לא־נירא: (we do not fear), let its waters (i.e., the waters of the ocean) rage and foam continually; and, inasmuch as the sea rises high, towering beyond its shores, let the mountains threaten to topple in. The music, which here becomes forte, strengthens the believing confidence of the congregation, despite this wild excitement of the elements.

Psalms 46:4

psa 46:4

(Heb.: 46:5-8) Just as, according to Gen 2:10, a stream issued from Eden, to water the whole garden, so a stream makes Jerusalem as it were into another paradise: a river - whose streams make glad the city of Elohim (Psa 87:3; Psa 48:9, cf. Psa 101:8); פּלגיו (used of the windings and branches of the main-stream) is a second permutative subject (Psa 44:3). What is intended is the river of grace, which is also likened to a river of paradise in Psa 36:9. When the city of God is threatened and encompassed by foes, still she shall not hunger and thirst, nor fear and despair; for the river of grace and of her ordinances and promises flows with its rippling waves through the holy place, where the dwelling-place or tabernacle of the Most High is pitched. קדשׁ, Sanctum (cf. el-Ḳuds as a name of Jerusalem), as in Psa 65:5, Isa 57:15; גּדל, Exo 15:16. משׁכּני, dwellings, like משׁכּנות, Psa 43:3; Psa 84:2; Psa 132:5, Psa 132:7, equivalent to "a glorious dwelling." In Psa 46:6 in the place of the river we find Him from whom the river issues forth. Elohim helps her לפנותבּקר - there is only a night of trouble, the return of the morning is also the sunrise of speedy help. The preterites in Psa 46:7 are hypothetical: if peoples and kingdoms become enraged with enmity and totter, so that the church is in danger of being involved in this overthrow - all that God need to is to make a rumbling with His almighty voice of thunder (נתן בּקולו, as in Psa 68:34; Jer 12:8, cf. הרים בּמּטּה, to make a lifting with the rod, Exo 7:20), and forthwith the earth melts (muwg, as in Amo 9:5, Niph. Isa 14:31, and frequently), i.e., their titanic defiance becomes cowardice, the bonds of their confederation slacken, and the strength they have put forth is destroyed - it is manifest that Jahve Tsebaoth is with His people. This name of God is, so to speak, indigenous to the Korahitic Psalms, for it is the proper name of God belonging to the time of the kings (vid., on Psa 24:10; Psa 59:6), on the very verge of which it occurs first of all in the mouth of Hannah (Sa1 1:11), and the Korahitic Psalms have a royal impress upon them. In the God, at whose summons all created powers are obliged to marshal themselves like the hosts of war, Israel has a steep stronghold, משׂגּב, which cannot be scaled by any foe - the army of the confederate peoples and kingdoms, ere it has reached Jerusalem, is become a field of the dead.

Psalms 46:8

psa 46:8

(Heb.: 46:9-12) The mighty deeds of Jahve still lie visibly before them in their results, and those who are without the pale of the church are to see for themselves and be convinced. In a passage founded upon this, Psa 66:5, stands מפעלות אלהים; here, according to Targum and Masora (vid., Psalter, ii. 472), מפעלות יהוה.

(Note: Nevertheless מפעלות אלהים is also found here as a various reading that goes back to the time of the Talmud. The oldest Hebrew Psalter of 1477 reads thus, vide Repertorium fr Bibl. und Morgenlnd. Liter. v. (1779), 148. Norzi decides in favour of it, and Biesenthal has also adopted it in his edition of the Psalter (1837), which in other respects is a reproduction of Heidenheim's text.)

Even an Elohimic Psalm gives to the God of Israel in opposition to all the world no other name than יהוה. שׁמּות does not here signify stupenda (Jer 8:21), but in accordance with the phrase שׂוּם לשׁמּה, Isa 13:9, and frequently: devastations, viz., among the enemies who have kept the field against the city of God. The participle משׁבּית is designedly used in carrying forward the description. The annihilation of the worldly power which the church has just now experienced for its rescue, is a prelude to the ceasing of all war, Mic 4:3 (Isa 2:4). Unto the ends of the earth will Jahve make an end of waging war; and since He has no pleasure in war in general, much less in war waged against His own people, all the implements of war He in part breaks to pieces and in part consigns to the flames (cf. Isa 54:16.). Cease, cries He (Psa 46:10) to the nations, from making war upon my people, and know that I am God, the invincible One, - invincible both in Myself and in My people, - who will be acknowledged in My exaltation by all the world. A similar inferential admonition closes Psa 2:1-12. With this admonition, which is both warning and threatening at the same time, the nations are dismissed; but the church yet once more boasts that Jahve Tsebaoth is its God and its stronghold.

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