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Psalms 46:2-3

Context

46:2 For this reason we do not fear 1  when the earth shakes, 2 

and the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, 3 

46:3 when its waves 4  crash 5  and foam,

and the mountains shake 6  before the surging sea. 7  (Selah)

1 tn 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).

2 tn 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.”

3 tn 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.

4 tn Heb “its waters.”

5 tn Or “roar.”

6 tn The three imperfect verbal forms in v. 3 draw attention to the characteristic nature of the activity described.

7 tn 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).



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