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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 46

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2981. B.C. 1023.

This Psalm is thought to have been composed upon the occasion of David’s victories over the neighbouring nations, 2 Samuel 8:1-2 , and the rest which God gave him from all his enemies round about. The style is lofty, and every way worthy of that royal author. With great force of expression he compares the powerful fury and terror of his enemies to that of an earthquake, or the threatening horrors of a tempestuous sea. It is a Psalm which encourages us to trust and hope in God, and in his power and providence, and gracious presence with his church in the worst of times, and directs us to give him the glory for what he has done and will do for us. We have here,

(1,) The safety of the church under God’s care, Psalms 46:1-7 .

(2,) An exhortation to behold his works, and to trust in him, Psalms 46:8-11 .

Title. A song upon Alamoth This word is translated by some, The virgins, and is supposed either to refer to some tune, then in common use, or some musical instrument, unknown to us, which was peculiarly adapted to the virgins, who sung in the choir, 1 Chronicles 15:20. Some, however, translate the expression, things secret, and suppose that it refers to the secret and hidden mysteries of the gospel. The Syriac says, “Taken in its prophetical sense, it alludes to the preaching of the apostles.”

Verse 1

Psalms 46:1. God is our refuge and strength He hath manifested himself to be so in the course of his providence in time past, and he has engaged to be so in time to come, and will not fail to fulfil his engagement. Are we in danger from visible or invisible enemies? God is our refuge, to whom we may flee, and in whom we may be safe. Have we work to do, a warfare to accomplish, and sufferings to endure? God is our strength to bear us up under our burdens, and to fit us for all our services and sufferings. Are we oppressed with troubles and distresses? He is a help in trouble: yea, a present help Hebrew, עזרה נמצא מאד , gnezra nimtza meod, a help found exceedingly, or, tried very much; one whom we have found by experience to be such; a help on which we may write, probatum est; or, a help at hand, that is, never far to seek, but always ready to be found of us. Or, a help sufficient, accommodated to every case and exigence whatever.

Verses 2-3

Psalms 46:2-3 . Therefore will not we fear They that, with a holy reverence, fear God, need not, with any amazement, be afraid of any power of earth or hell. If God be for us, who can be against us? It is our duty, it is our privilege to be thus fearless. It is an evidence of a clear conscience, of an upright heart, and of a lively faith in God and in his providence and promise. Though the earth The very foundation on which we stand, and on which are built all our temporal blessings; should be removed Out of its place; should no longer support, but sink under us: though all our creature-confidence fail us, and that which should uphold us, threaten to swallow us up, as the earth did Korah; and though the mountains The strongest and firmest parts of the earth; be carried into the midst of the sea And lie buried in the unfathomed ocean; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled Though the sea rage and foam, and make a dreadful noise, and its furious billows lash the shore with so much violence, that the mountains shake with the swelling thereof: yet, while we keep close to God, and have him for us, we have no cause to fear. What the heathen poet vainly boasted concerning his justum et tenacem propositi virum, his just and upright man, is really true of the believer that makes God his refuge and strength, and confides in him for support in trouble:

Si fractus illabatur orbis, Impavidum ferient ruinæ. HORACE.

“If the world should be dissolved, and fall in pieces around him, the ruins would strike him unappalled.” The psalmist, however, speaks figuratively. The earth represents the established course of human things, mountains are princes and kingdoms, and the waters of the sea multitudes of people. His meaning, therefore, is, though there should be nothing but shakings, commotions, and desolations, in all the nations around us; though kingdoms and states be in the greatest confusion, embroiled in wars, tossed with tumults, and their governments be overturned by insurrections of the people, and be in continual revolution; though their powers combine against the church and people of God, though they aim at no less than their ruin, and go very near to effect their purpose; yet will we not fear, knowing that all these troubles will end well for the church. If the earth be removed, those have reason to fear that have laid up their treasures on earth, and have set their hearts upon it; but not those who have laid up for themselves treasures in heaven, and who then can expect to be most happy, when the earth, and all the works that are therein, shall be burned up. Let those be troubled at the troubling of the waters, who build their confidence on such a floating foundation, but not those who are led to the Rock that is higher than they, and find firm footing upon that rock.

Verses 4-5

Psalms 46:4-5. There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city The church, of God Which cheer, refresh, and comfort her, and that at a time when the waters of the sea roar, and foam, and threaten her. He alludes to the brook Kidron, and its two streams, or rivulets, flowing from it, Gihon and Siloah, 2 Chronicles 32:30, and Isaiah 8:6, whose waters went softly by Jerusalem, and, being small and contemptible, or still and gentle, are not unfitly opposed to the vast and unruly waters of the sea. He insinuates the weak condition of God’s church, as to outward appearance, in that they had not one sea to oppose to another, but only a small river; which, however, though in itself apparently despicable, yet was sufficient to refresh and defend them in spite of their enemies. Now, as the sea and the waters thereof are to be understood metaphorically, so also are this river and its streams. The covenant of grace is the river, and its promises are the streams; or, the Spirit of grace is the river, and its influences, operations, and graces, are the streams. God’s word and ordinances are rivers and streams, with which he makes his saints glad in cloudy and dark days. God himself is to his church a place of broad rivers and streams, Isaiah 33:21. Mark, reader, the streams that make glad the city of God, are not rapid, but gentle, like those of Siloam. And observe, also, the spiritual comforts which are conveyed to the saints by soft and silent whispers, and which come not with observation, or rather, with outward noise and show, are sufficient to balance the most loud and boisterous threatenings of an angry and malicious world. The city of God Zion or Jerusalem, a figure of God’s church; and here, as frequently, put for it; the holy place of the tabernacles The place where God’s holy tabernacle is settled, the plural number being put for the singular, because the tabernacle included two apartments, the holy place, and the most holy, besides the different courts adjoining to it. God is in the midst of her

Not only by those symbols of his presence, the ark, the mercy-seat, and cherubim of glory, but by his own special residence, according to his promise. He is peculiarly present with and in his church, in all ages. She shall not be moved That Isaiah , 1 st, Not destroyed or removed as the earth may be, (Psalms 46:2,) God having undertaken her protection, and his honour being embarked in her. The church shall survive the world, and be in bliss when the world is in ruins. 2d, Not disturbed; not much moved with fears of the issue. If God be with us we need not be moved at the most violent attempts made against us. God shall help her Who then can hurt her? He shall help her under her troubles; that she shall not sink; nay, that the more she is afflicted, the more she shall multiply. God shall help her out of her troubles; and that right early, Hebrew, לפנות בקר , liphnoth boker, before the morning, or, when the morning appeareth, that is, very speedily, for he is a present help, (Psalms 46:1,) and very seasonably; then when things are brought to the last extremity, and when the relief will be most welcome. This may be applied by particular believers to themselves: if God be in the midst of us, in our hearts, by his word and Spirit, we shall be established, we shall be helped in time of need; let us therefore trust and not be afraid: all is well and will end well.

Verses 6-7

Psalms 46:6-7. The heathen raged At David’s coming to the throne, and at the setting up of the kingdom of the Son of David. Compare Psalms 2:1-2. The kingdoms were moved With indignation, and rose up in a tumultuous, furious manner to oppose it. He uttered his voice He spake unto them in his wrath, Psalms 2:5, and they were moved in another sense; they were struck into confusion and consternation, put into disorder, and all their measures broken. The earth melted So that they found no firm footing; their earthly hearts failed them for fear, and dissolved like snow before the sun. The Lord of hosts is with us He who commands all the armies of heaven is on our side. Why then should we be afraid? The God of Jacob is our refuge That God who preserved our forefather Jacob in all his distresses, and hath made a gracious covenant with his posterity, defends us as in an impregnable fortress, where we need not fear any danger.

Verses 8-9

Psalms 46:8-9. Come, behold the works of the Lord Draw near, all ye that doubt whether God be with us, and consider seriously these wonderful victories, which it would have been impossible for us to have obtained without the help of God; what desolations he hath made in the earth That is, among those people of the earth who were neighbouring and hostile to us, and thought to have laid us waste, 2 Samuel 8:1; 1 Chronicles 18:1. Mark, I beseech you, how many cities we have taken, and what desolations we have made, by his assistance, in their country. All the operations of providence must be considered as the works of the Lord, and his attributes and purposes must be taken notice of in them, particularly when he turns upon the enemies of his church that very destruction which they designed to bring upon her. He maketh wars to cease He hath ended our wars, and settled us in a firm and well-grounded peace; unto the end of the earth Or of this land, namely, of Israel, from one end of it to the other. Or, he may be understood as speaking more generally, that God, when he pleases, puts an end to the wars of nations, and crowns them with peace. For war and peace depend on his will and word, as much as storms and calms at sea.

Verse 10

Psalms 46:10. Be still, &c. He speaks, either, 1st, To the Israelites, and commands them henceforth silently and quietly to wait upon him, without fear or diffidence; to be calm and sedate, and tremble no more; but, knowing him to be God, God alone, who would be exalted above the heathen, to leave it to him to maintain his own honour, to fulfil his own counsels, and support his own interest in the world. Or, rather, 2d, He speaks to the heathen, who had raged, Psalms 46:6, and admonishes them to cease assaulting and disturbing his people. Let them threaten no more, but know, to their terror, that Jehovah is the only true and Almighty God, and that their gods are but dumb and vain idols: that in spite of all their impotent malice against his name and honour, he will be exalted among them, as well as among his own people; will make himself glorious by his great and wonderful works; will be exalted in the earth Or, in the world, as well as in the church. Let them, therefore, rage no more; for it is all in vain. He that sits in heaven laughs at them; the Lord has them in derision.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 46". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-46.html. 1857.
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