Psalm 46 is the 46th psalm of the Book of Psalms, beginning in English in the King James Version: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble". In the slightly different numbering system used in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translations of the Bible, this psalm is Psalm 45. In Latin, it is known as "Deus noster refugium et virtus".[1] The song is attributed to the sons of Korah.

Psalm 46
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble"
Print of Luther's paraphrase of Psalm 46 in Klug's Gesangbuch, 1533: Der xlvi. Psalm / Deus noster refugium et virtus
Other name
  • Psalm 46
  • "Deus noster refugium et virtus"
LanguageHebrew (original)

The psalm forms a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and other Protestant liturgies. According to Charles Spurgeon, Psalm 46 is called a "song of holy confidence"; it is also known as "Luther's Psalm", as Martin Luther wrote his popular hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God") using Psalm 46 as a starting point.[2] Luther's hymn has been quoted in many musical works, both religious and secular, including Bach's cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80. Johann Pachelbel composed the psalm in German, while Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jean Philippe Rameau, among numerous other composers, chose to set it in Latin.

Text edit

Hebrew Bible version edit

Following is the Hebrew text of Psalm 46:

Verse Hebrew
1 לַֽמְנַצֵּ֥חַ לִבְנֵי־קֹ֑רַח עַל־עֲלָמ֥וֹת שִֽׁיר
2 אֱלֹהִ֣ים לָ֖נוּ מַֽחֲסֶ֣ה וָעֹ֑ז עֶזְרָ֥ה בְ֜צָר֗וֹת נִמְצָ֥א מְאֹֽד
3 עַל־כֵּ֣ן לֹא־נִ֖ירָא בְּהָמִ֣יר אָ֑רֶץ וּבְמ֥וֹט הָ֜רִ֗ים בְּלֵ֣ב יַמִּֽים
4 יֶֽהֱמ֣וּ יֶחְמְר֣וּ מֵימָ֑יו יִֽרְעֲשׁ֨וּ הָרִ֖ים בְּגַֽאֲוָת֣וֹ סֶֽלָה
5 נָהָ֗ר פְּלָגָ֗יו יְשַׂמְּח֥וּ עִיר־אֱלֹהִ֑ים קְ֜דֹ֗שׁ מִשְׁכְּנֵ֥י עֶלְיֽוֹן
6 אֱלֹהִ֣ים בְּ֖קִרְבָּהּ בַּל־תִּמּ֑וֹט יַעְזְּרֶ֥הָ אֱ֜לֹהִ֗ים לִפְנ֥וֹת בֹּֽקֶר
7 הָמ֣וּ ג֖וֹיִם מָ֣טוּ מַמְלָכ֑וֹת נָתַ֥ן בְּקוֹל֗וֹ תָּמ֥וּג אָֽרֶץ
8 יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֣וֹת עִמָּ֑נוּ מִשְׂגַּב־לָ֜֗נוּ אֱלֹהֵ֖י יַֽעֲקֹ֣ב סֶֽלָה
9 לְכֽוּ־חֲ֖זוּ מִפְעֲל֣וֹת יְהֹוָ֑ה אֲשֶׁר־שָׂ֖ם שַׁמּ֣וֹת בָּאָֽרֶץ
10 מַשְׁבִּ֣ית מִלְחָמוֹת֘ עַד־קְצֵ֪ה הָ֫אָ֥רֶץ קֶ֣שֶׁת יְ֖שַׁבֵּר וְקִצֵּ֣ץ חֲנִ֑ית עֲ֜גָל֗וֹת יִשְׂרֹ֥ף בָּאֵֽשׁ
11 הַרְפּ֣וּ וּ֖דְעוּ כִּי־אָֽנֹכִ֣י אֱלֹהִ֑ים אָר֥וּם בַּ֜גּוֹיִ֗ם אָר֥וּם בָּאָֽרֶץ
12 יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֣וֹת עִמָּ֑נוּ מִשְׂגַּב־לָֹ֜נוּ אֱלֹהֵ֖י יַֽעֲקֹ֣ב סֶֽלָה

King James Version edit

  1. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
  2. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
  3. Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
  4. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
  5. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
  6. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
  7. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
  8. Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
    Illustration from the Stuttgart Psalter for verse 9
    He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
  10. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
  11. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Structure edit

The text is divided into three sections, each ending with a Selah, after verses 4, 8 and 12 according to the Hebrew verse numbering.[3]

Themes edit

According to Matthew Henry, this psalm may have been composed after David defeated the enemies of ancient Israel from surrounding lands.[4] Spurgeon notes that the description in verse 1 in the Hebrew Bible version, calling for the psalm to be played "on alamot", could denote either a high-pitched musical instrument or the soprano voices of young girls who went out to dance in celebration of David's victory over the Philistines.[2] The Jerusalem Bible renders this word as an oboe.[5] The Midrash Tehillim, however, parses the word alamot (Hebrew: עלמות) as referring to the "hidden things" that God does for his people.[6] The psalm praises God for being a source of power and salvation in times of trouble.

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 5101, oldest copy of Psalm 46.

There is a difference of opinion among Christian scholars as to which "river" the psalm is referring to in verse 4 of the KJV, the streams of which make glad the city of God. Among the possibilities are:[7]

It has been proposed that this psalm is prophesying the kingdom of God under Jesus Christ, which He inaugurated at His first coming and will conclude when He returns.

Verse 5 edit

The reference to "morning" or the "break of day" in verse 5 alludes to Abraham, who would rise at daybreak to pray to God.[8]

Verse 10 edit

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth![9]

This verse is further developed in Psalm 47, which opens with the words "Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph![10] It is all the nations of the world who are addressed.[11]

Uses edit

In Judaism edit

Portions of the psalm are used or referenced in several Jewish prayers. Verse 2 in the Hebrew is part of Selichot.[12] Verse 8 is said in the daily morning service during the recitation of the incense offering, in Pesukei Dezimra, and in Uva Letzion; it is said in Uva Letzion in the Shabbat morning service, Yom Tov afternoon service, and Motza'ei Shabbat evening service as well.[12] Verse 12 is part of the Havdalah ceremony.[12] Yemenite Jews include it as part of Yehi kevod.[13]

In the Siddur Avodas Yisroel, Psalm 46 is the psalm of the day for Shabbat Va'eira.[12]

Catholic Church edit

This psalm was traditionally recited or sung at the office of matins on Tuesday[14] after St. Benedict of Nursia established his rule of St. Benedict around 530, mainly in the numerical order of the psalms.[15] Today, Psalm 46 is sung or recited at Vespers on Friday of the first week of the liturgical four weekly cycle.

Book of Common Prayer edit

In the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, this psalm is appointed to be read on the morning of the ninth day of the month.[16]

Politics edit

U.S. President Barack Obama referenced the psalm in several speeches, most notably his Tucson memorial speech[17] and his speech on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York City.[18]

Musical settings edit

Martin Luther wrote and composed a hymn which paraphrases Psalm 46, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott", which was translated as "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God". Luther's hymn was called "the Marseillaise of the Reformation" by Heinrich Heine in his essay Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland. It inspired many musical works, both religious and secular. Johann Sebastian Bach based one of his chorale cantatas, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80, on Luther's hymn.

From Pachelbel's motet

In the 17th century, Johann Pachelbel composed a motet setting of Psalm 46, Gott ist unser Zuversicht und Stärke. Heinrich Schütz wrote a setting of a paraphrase in German, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott", SWV 143, for the Becker Psalter, published first in 1628. In 1699, Michel-Richard Delalande based a grand motet on the psalm. Marc-Antoine Charpentier set in early 1690s a "Deus noster refugium" H.218, for soloists, chorus, 2 treble instruments and continuo. Jean Philippe Rameau set the psalm for the motet Deus noster refugium.

In the eighteenth century, the child Mozart wrote a short motet to the text of the first verse as a gift to the British Museum and an homage to 16th century English composers such as Thomas Tallis.

In contemporary music, the Christian duo Shane & Shane adapted the psalm into the song "Psalm 46 (Lord of Hosts)", which appeared on their 2016 album Psalms II.

Shakespeare's alleged involvement edit

For several decades, some theorists have suggested that William Shakespeare placed his mark on the translated text of Psalm 46 that appears in the King James Bible, although many scholars view this as unlikely, stating that the translations were probably agreed upon by a committee of scholars.[19]

Alleged evidence for this claim is that Shakespeare was in King James' service during the preparation of the King James Bible, and was generally considered to be 46 years old in 1611 when the translation was completed. There are a few extant examples of Shakespeare's actual signature, and on at least one occasion he signed it 'Shakspeare', which divides into four vowels and six consanants, thus '46'. The 46th word from the beginning of Psalm 46 is "shake" and the 46th word from the end (omitting the liturgical mark "Selah") is "spear" ("speare" in the original spelling).[20][21]

References edit

  1. ^ "Psalmus 45 (46)", Parallel Latin/English Psalter, Medievalist, archived from the original on 2017-09-30.
  2. ^ a b "Psalm 46". Bible Commentary. Christianity. 2018. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  3. ^ Mechon Mamre, Psalm 46
  4. ^ Henry, Matthew. "Psalm 46". Complete commentary. Retrieved November 1, 2018. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  5. ^ Jerusalem Bible (1966), Heading to Psalm 46
  6. ^ "Psalm 46" (PDF). Midrash Tehillim. Matsati. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  7. ^ "Psalm 46 Meaning". Explaining the Book. 2018-02-15. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  8. ^ Levy, Rabbi Eric (2018). "46". Psalms. Orthodox Union. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  9. ^ Psalm 46:10: New King James Version
  10. ^ Psalm 47:1
  11. ^ Kirkpatrick, A. (1906), Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Psalm 47, accessed 14 November 2021
  12. ^ a b c d Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF) (2nd ed.). p. 38.
  13. ^ Idelsohn 1932, p. 82.
  14. ^ Psautier latin-français du bréviaire monastique (2003) p. 189.
  15. ^ Prosper Guéranger, Règle de saint Benoît (Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes, 2007). p. 46
  16. ^ Church of England, Book of Common Prayer: The Psalter as printed by John Baskerville in 1762, pp. 196ff
  17. ^ Simmons, Gregory; Miller, Sunlen; Tapper, Jake (January 12, 2011). "President Obama Seeks to Comfort Americans After Tragedy in Tucson". ABC News. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  18. ^ "Psalm 46: Obama's 9/11 Speech References Biblical Passage". HuffPost. September 12, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  19. ^ Gillingham, Susan (2012). Psalms Through The Centuries. John Wiley & Sons. p. 238. ISBN 978-0470674901.
  20. ^ Mabillard, Amanda (20 Aug 2000), "General Q & A", Shakespeare Online, retrieved June 13, 2019. Citing Humes. James C. Citizen Shakespeare: a social and political portrait. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003, p. 164.
  21. ^ Hensley, Dennis E. Was Shakespeare one of the Translators of the King James Bible?. The Christian Broadcasting Network. Accessed June 13, 2019.

Sources edit

External links edit