Now Thank We All Our God
"Now thank we all our God" is a popular Christian hymn. It is a translation from the German "Nun danket alle Gott", written circa 1636 by Martin Rinkart (1586–1649), which in turn was inspired by Sirach, chapter 50 verses 22–24, from the praises of Simon the high priest. It was translated into English in the 19th Century by Catherine Winkworth.
Martin Rinkart was a Lutheran minister who came to Eilenburg, Saxony at the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. The walled city of Eilenburg became the refuge for political and military fugitives, but the result was overcrowding, and deadly pestilence and famine. Armies overran it three times. The Rinkart home was a refuge for the victims, even though he was often hard-pressed to provide for his own family. During the height of a severe plague in 1637, Rinkart was the only surviving pastor in Eilenburg, conducting as many as 50 funerals in a day. He performed more than 4000 funerals in that year, including that of his wife.
During this time, Rinkart was a prolific hymn writer. In Rinkart's "Jesu Hertz-Buchlein" (Leipzig, Germany: 1636), the hymn appears under the title "Tisch-Gebetlein," or a short prayer before meals. The exact date of "Nun danket alle Gott" is debated, but it is known that it was widely sung by the time the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648.
The tune is the Leuthen Chorale and is attributed to Johann Crüger and written circa 1647. It is used in J.S. Bach's cantatas, such as BWV 79, 192, and in his BWV 252, 386 and 657. The now-standard harmonisation was devised by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840 when he adopted the hymn, sung in the now-standard key of F major and with its original German lyrics, as the chorale to his second symphony, known as the Lobgesang or Hymn of Praise. The Late-Romantic German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert was one of the more recent composers to use this hymn, composing a 'Marche Triomphale' which is a famous piece in the classical pipe organ repertoire. After the Battle of Leuthen in the Seven Years' War, a soldier of the victorious Prussian army started to sing it, and soon all 25,000 joined in the hymn.
It is often used in Christian weddings and other joyous religious ceremonies, and in Germany it is sung on occasions of national thanksgiving.
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
- Danish: Nu takker alle Gud
- Dutch: Dankt, dankt nu allen God
- Finnish: Nyt kiitos me kaikki meidän Jumalamme
- German: Nun danket alle Gott
- Norwegian: Nå takker alle Gud
- Swedish: Nu tacka Gud, allt folk
- Now thank we all our God on YouTube
- "Nun danket alle Gott / Text and Translation of Chorale". bach-cantatas.com. 2007.
- Hymns Without Words