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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 46

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 46:0


God the Refuge of His People MT Intro For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song. God the Refuge of His People and Conqueror of the Nations A Song of Zion Celebrating God's Ultimate Victory Over the Nations God Is With Us God Is With Us
Psalms 46:1-3 Psalms 46:1-3 Psalms 46:1-3 Psalms 46:1-3 Psalms 46:1-3b
Psalms 46:3c
Psalms 46:4-7 Psalms 46:4-6 Psalms 46:4-7 Psalms 46:4-6 Psalms 46:4-6
Psalms 46:7 Psalms 46:7 Psalms 46:7
Psalms 46:8-11 Psalms 46:8-9 Psalms 46:8-11 Psalms 46:8-10 Psalms 46:8-10
Psalms 46:10
Psalms 46:11 Psalms 46:11 Psalms 46:11

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This Psalm is the Scriptural inspiration for Martin Luther's hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

B. There is no known historical setting.

C. God is both

1. a fortress for protection (cf. Psalms 46:7, Psalms 46:11)

2. a warrior who caused war to cease in all the earth (cf. Psalms 46:9)

However, the great blessing is not just His power, but

1. His presence (cf. Psalms 46:1b)

2. His universal purposes (cf. Psalms 46:10, see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan)

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 46:1-3 1God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; 3Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

Psalms 46:1 “God” The second book of Psalms uses the title Elohim far more than YHWH. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

“our refuge and strength” These are recurrent descriptions of God (cf. Psalms 14:6; Psalms 18:1-2; Psalms 40:17; Psalms 62:7-8; Psalms 142:5).

Psalms 46:2-3 The psalmist's faith assertion (i.e., “will not fear,” cf. Psalms 23:4; Psalms 27:1) is made amidst times of crises.

1. though the earth should change

2. though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea

3. though its waters roar (BDB 242, המה) and foam (BDB 330 I, חמר, sound play)

4. though the mountains quake at its swelling pride

These kinds of cataclysmic events could refer to

1. what happens when YHWH approaches His creation (i.e., “melts,” BDB 556, KB 555, Qal imperfect, cf. Psalms 46:6b; Psalms 97:5; Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5)

2. metaphor for trouble (i.e., “tight places,” BDB 865 I, feminine noun, cf. Deuteronomy 31:17, Deuteronomy 31:21; 1 Samuel 10:19; Psalms 71:20; Proverbs 1:27)

Psalms 46:3 This verse has three imperfects (i.e., ongoing action).

1. waters roar BDB 242, KB 250, Qal

2. waters foam BDB 330, KB 330, Qal

3. mountains quake BDB 950, KB 1271, Qal

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1333) says this is “mythological language going back to Canaanite traditions. Before these myths were recovered, the psalm was often connected to the eschatological battles (so Rashi and Radak).” See Special Topic: ANE Creation and Flood Myths.

The Anchor Bible (AB) on The Psalms by Mitchell Dahood, uses the literature of the Ras Shamra found at Ugarit to explain the Hebrew poetry and form of the Psalter. These Ugaritic texts are poetry about Ba'al and the Canaanite pantheon. Often Israel took the titles, imagery, and myths of the nations and changed them to extol their covenant Deity, YHWH, the one true God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM)!

“Selah” This term breaks the Psalm into three strophes.

Psalms 46:1. Psalms 46:1-3

Psalms 46:2. Psalms 46:4-7

Psalms 46:3. Psalms 46:8-11

For the possible meaning see notes at Psalms 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VII.

Verses 4-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 46:4-7 4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. 5God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. 7The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Psalms 46:4-7 This strophe describes the tranquil peace surrounding God when the earth is in turmoil (i.e., Revelation 4-5).

1. a river continually flows (lit. “irrigation canal,” BDB 625, cf. Psalms 36:8; Psalms 65:9; Ezekiel 47:1; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:17) in “the city of God” (cf. Psalms 48:1, Psalms 48:8; Psalms 87:3; Psalms 101:8; Isaiah 60:14; Revelation 3:12)

2. the city of God will not be moved (i.e., shaken) because YHWH is in her midst (cf. Hosea 11:9; Zechariah 2:5; Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14)

3. God will help her (cf. Psalms 37:40; Isaiah 41:14) when morning dawns (imagery of perfect timing, cf. Psalms 5:3; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 30:5; Psalms 90:14). This “help” links with “the nations made an uproar” in Psalms 46:6a (same verb in Psalms 46:3a, cf. Psalms 2:0). The “nations” are mentioned again in Psalms 46:10b. God's purposes have always included the nations (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan)!

4. the city of God will not be moved (i.e., imagery of stability and continuance)

Psalms 46:4b

NASB, JPSOA“The holy dwelling places” NKJV“The holy place of the tabernacle” NRSV“the holy habitation” TEV“the sacred house” NJB“it sanctifies the dwelling” LXX“sanctified his covert” REB“the holy dwelling”

The MT (BDB 1015) has

1. tabernacle Exodus 25:9; Exodus 26:30; Exodus 38:21; Exodus 40:34-35; Numbers 9:18, Numbers 9:22 (i.e., “tent of meeting”); Psalms 78:60

2. dwelling place

a. of Korah (i.e., tents) Numbers 16:24, Numbers 16:27

b. of Jacob Psalms 87:2

c. of YHWH (i.e., temple) Psalms 26:8; Psalms 74:7

d. of YHWH (but plural, i.e., all the buildings on the temple mount) Psalms 43:3; Psalms 84:1; Psalms 132:5, Psalms 132:7; Ezekiel 32:27

The plural could refer to

1. all the buildings of the temple

2. the plural of majesty (i.e., most holy)

You can see from the translations that some change “holy” (adjective, BDB 872) into the verb “sanctify” (LXX, Vulgate, NJB), which is a change of only vowels.

“the Most High” This title for Deity (Elyon, BDB 751 II, see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY) is used in Genesis 14:18-22; Numbers 24:16; and Deuteronomy 32:8, but mostly (16 times) in the Psalms and in Daniel 7:0 (4 times). The basic meaning is “high.” It is used mostly by non-Israelites.

Psalms 46:6 Notice the contrast between

1. the nations uproar, Psalms 46:6a (ineffective)

2. YHWH's voice, Psalms 46:6b (effective)

The verb “melted” (BDB 556, KB 555, Qal imperfect) can be used

1. figuratively of enemies' courage Exodus 15:15; Joshua 2:9, Joshua 2:11, Joshua 2:24; Isaiah 14:31

2. figuratively of judgment Amos 9:5

3. literally (i.e., final cleansing of earth) 2 Peter 3:10

Psalms 46:7 This same promise,

1. YHWH of Hosts is with us (cf. Psalms 24:10; see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, cf. Numbers 14:9; 2 Chronicles 13:12)

2. God of Jacob is our stronghold (cf. Psalms 9:9; Psalms 48:3; Psalms 59:9, Psalms 59:16, Psalms 59:17)

is repeated in Psalms 46:11 for emphasis! These statements are the psalmist's hope and YHWH's promises to His people.

“is with us” This is the greatest promise (cf. Numbers 14:9; 2 Chronicles 13:12; Psalms 9:10; Psalms 37:28; Psalms 94:14; Hebrews 13:5 [from Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5]). We need God!

Verses 8-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 46:8-11 8Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. 9He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. 10”Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Psalms 46:8-11 This strophe reveals the purpose of God. Notice the two imperatives of Psalms 46:8 and the parallel ones of Psalms 46:10.

1. come BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative, Psalms 46:8

2. behold (lit. “see”) BDB 302, KB 301, Qal imperative, Psalms 46:8, cf. Job 23:9; Psalms 63:2; Isaiah 26:11; Isaiah 33:17, Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 48:6

3. cease (YHWH speaks in Psalms 46:10) BDB 951, KB 1276, Hiphil imperative, Psalms 46:10 (i.e., in context a call to the world to stop fighting)

4. know BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperative, Psalms 46:10 (i.e., YHWH's power and deliverance; this is theologically parallel to #2)

YHWH causes all wars to cease to the ends of the earth! A new day is coming (i.e., the Prince of Peace, cf. Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 66:12; John 14:27; John 16:33; John 20:19). A day of exaltation for the merciful God of creation. All nations will acknowledge Him (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 25:6-9; Isaiah 56:6-8; Ephesians 2:11-13). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Psalms 46:8 “desolations” The TEV has “come and see what the Lord has done. See what amazing things he has done on earth.” The word “desolations” (BDB 103 II) is used only twice in this Psalms (here and Psalms 73:19), where it denotes destruction. The events of the exodus are called “amazing things” (see TOPIC: WONDERFUL THINGS), so military destruction could be so characterized. The word appears most often in Jeremiah (24 times) and all of them denote destruction, ruin, horror, desolation. Apparently YHWH stops war by defeating the nations' military (cf. Psalms 46:9; Psalms 2:0).

Psalms 46:9

NASB, NKJV“chariots” NRSV, TEV, NJB, REB, LXX“shields” JPSOA“wagons”

It is uncertain if the Hebrew root is

1. “round” BDB 222, עגל עגול (DSS, “round shield,” Psalms 46:1QM6:15)

2. “wheeled cart” BDB 722, עגלה (never in MT as war chariot)

In this context a “round shield” fits best.

Psalms 46:11 The parallelism demands a global emphasis! The wonderful city is for all (i.e., new Jerusalem, cf. Revelation 21-22!)

For “earth” (Psalms 46:2, Psalms 46:6, Psalms 46:8, Psalms 46:9, Psalms 46:10) see SPECIAL TOPIC: LAND, COUNTRY, EARTH.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is the imagery of Psalms 46:2-3 from end-time events or Canaanite mythology?

2. Explain the significance of a river flowing from God's city.

3. How is Psalms 46:6 like Psalms 2:0?

4. To whom is YHWH speaking in Psalms 46:10?

5. Is Psalms 46:10 about the nations' defeat or the nations' inclusion into the people of God?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 46". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-46.html. 2021.
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