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Psalms 46:1-3

Context
Psalm 46 1 

For the music director; by the Korahites; according to the alamoth style; 2  a song.

46:1 God is our strong refuge; 3 

he is truly our helper in times of trouble. 4 

46:2 For this reason we do not fear 5  when the earth shakes, 6 

and the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, 7 

46:3 when its waves 8  crash 9  and foam,

and the mountains shake 10  before the surging sea. 11  (Selah)

1 sn Psalm 46. In this so-called “Song Of Zion” God’s people confidently affirm that they are secure because the great warrior-king dwells within Jerusalem and protects it from the nations that cause such chaos in the earth. A refrain (vv. 7, 11) concludes the song’s two major sections.

2 sn The meaning of the Hebrew term עֲלָמוֹת (alamoth, which means “young women”) is uncertain; perhaps it refers to a particular style of music. Cf. 1 Chr 15:20.

3 tn Heb “our refuge and strength,” which is probably a hendiadys meaning “our strong refuge” (see Ps 71:7). Another option is to translate, “our refuge and source of strength.”

4 tn 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 (mÿod, “greatly”) has an emphasizing function.

5 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).

6 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.”

7 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.

8 tn Heb “its waters.”

9 tn Or “roar.”

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

11 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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