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Psalms 46:4-5

Context

46:4 The river’s channels bring joy to the city of God, 1 

the special, holy dwelling place of 2  the sovereign One. 3 

46:5 God lives within it, 4  it cannot be moved. 5 

God rescues it 6  at the break of dawn. 7 

1 tn Heb “A river, its channels cause the city of God to be glad.”

sn 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).

2 tn 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 (mishkÿney, “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.

3 tn Heb “Most High.” This divine title (עֶלְיוֹן, ’elyon) pictures God as the exalted ruler of the universe who vindicates the innocent and judges the wicked. See especially Pss 7:17; 9:2; 18:13; 21:7; 47:2.

4 tn Heb “God [is] within her.” The feminine singular pronoun refers to the city mentioned in v. 4.

5 tn 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.

6 tn Or “helps her.” The imperfect draws attention to the generalizing character of the statement.

7 tn Heb “at the turning of morning.” (For other uses of the expression see Exod 14:27 and Judg 19:26).

sn 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).



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