Psalm 46 is the 46th psalm of the Book of Psalms, known in English by its beginning, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" in the King James Version. In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in its Latin translation Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 45 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Deus noster refugium et virtus". The song is credited to the sons of Korah.
The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies. According to 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") as a paraphrase of Psalm 46. 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 set the psalm in German and Jean Philippe Rameau in Latin, among many others.
According to Henry, this psalm may have been composed after David defeated the enemies of ancient Israel from surrounding lands. 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. The Midrash Tehillim, however, parses the word alamot (Hebrew: עלמות) as referring to the "hidden things" that God does for his people. The psalm praises God for being a source of power and salvation in times of trouble. The reference to "morning" in verse 5 alludes to Abraham, who would rise at daybreak to pray to God.
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:
- The Jordan River. However, the Jordan River is a distance of 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Jerusalem (assuming that the "city of God" is a reference to Jerusalem). For this reason, some have found this possibility unlikely.
- A river in Jerusalem during the millennial reign of Christ. This river will run from beneath the Temple in Jerusalem eastward to the Dead Sea, as described in the forty-seventh chapter of the Book of Ezekiel.
- A river in Jerusalem after the millennial reign of Christ. This is the river that flows from the New Jerusalem, as described in the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament Book of Revelation.
Hebrew Bible version
Following is the Hebrew text and an English translation of Psalm 46:
|1||לַֽמְנַצֵּ֥חַ לִבְנֵי־קֹ֑רַח עַל־עֲלָמ֥וֹת שִֽׁיר||For the conductor, a song of the sons of Korah, on alamoth.|
|2||אֱלֹהִ֣ים לָ֖נוּ מַֽחֲסֶ֣ה וָעֹ֑ז עֶזְרָ֥ה בְ֜צָר֗וֹת נִמְצָ֥א מְאֹֽד||God is for us a shelter and a strength, a help in troubles; He is very accessible.|
|3||עַל־כֵּ֣ן לֹא־נִ֖ירָא בְּהָמִ֣יר אָ֑רֶץ וּבְמ֥וֹט הָ֜רִ֗ים בְּלֵ֣ב יַמִּֽים||Therefore we will not fear when the earth changes and when mountains totter into the heart of seas.|
|4||יֶֽהֱמ֣וּ יֶחְמְר֣וּ מֵימָ֑יו יִֽרְעֲשׁ֨וּ הָרִ֖ים בְּגַֽאֲוָת֣וֹ סֶֽלָה||His waters shall stir and be muddied; mountains shall quake from His pride forever.|
|5||נָהָ֗ר פְּלָגָ֗יו יְשַׂמְּח֥וּ עִיר־אֱלֹהִ֑ים קְ֜דֹ֗שׁ מִשְׁכְּנֵ֥י עֶלְיֽוֹן||But as for the river-its rivulets shall cause the city of God, the holy place of the dwellings of the Most High, to rejoice.|
|6||אֱלֹהִ֣ים בְּ֖קִרְבָּהּ בַּל־תִּמּ֑וֹט יַעְזְּרֶ֥הָ אֱ֜לֹהִ֗ים לִפְנ֥וֹת בֹּֽקֶר||God is in its midst that it should not totter; God shall help it as morning approaches.|
|7||הָמ֣וּ ג֖וֹיִם מָ֣טוּ מַמְלָכ֑וֹת נָתַ֥ן בְּקוֹל֗וֹ תָּמ֥וּג אָֽרֶץ||Nations have stirred, kingdoms have tottered; He let out His voice, the earth shall melt.|
|8||יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֣וֹת עִמָּ֑נוּ מִשְׂגַּב־לָ֜֗נוּ אֱלֹהֵ֖י יַֽעֲקֹ֣ב סֶֽלָה||The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress forever.|
|9||לְכֽוּ־חֲ֖זוּ מִפְעֲל֣וֹת יְהֹוָ֑ה אֲשֶׁר־שָׂ֖ם שַׁמּ֣וֹת בָּאָֽרֶץ||Go and see the works of the Lord, that He has wrought devastation in the earth.|
|10||מַשְׁבִּ֣ית מִלְחָמוֹת֘ עַד־קְצֵ֪ה הָ֫אָ֥רֶץ קֶ֣שֶׁת יְ֖שַׁבֵּר וְקִצֵּ֣ץ חֲנִ֑ית עֲ֜גָל֗וֹת יִשְׂרֹ֥ף בָּאֵֽשׁ||He puts a stop to wars until the end of the earth; He will break the bow and cut the spear [to pieces]; wagons He will burn with fire.|
|11||הַרְפּ֣וּ וּ֖דְעוּ כִּי־אָֽנֹכִ֣י אֱלֹהִ֑ים אָר֥וּם בַּ֜גּוֹיִ֗ם אָר֥וּם בָּאָֽרֶץ||Desist, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted upon the earth.|
|12||יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֣וֹת עִמָּ֑נוּ מִשְׂגַּב־לָֹ֜נוּ אֱלֹהֵ֖י יַֽעֲקֹ֣ב סֶֽלָה||The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress forever.|
King James Version
- God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
- Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
- Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
- There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
- God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
- The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
- The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
- Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
- 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.
- Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
- The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Portions of the psalm are used or referenced in several Jewish prayers. Verse 2 is part of Selichot. 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. Verse 12 is part of the Havdalah ceremony. Yemenite Jews include it as part of Yehi kevod.
The psalm is recited as a prayer for the end of all wars.
This psalm was traditionally recited or sung at the office of matins on Tuesday after St. Benedict of Nursia established his rule of St. Benedict around 530, mainly in the numerical order of the psalms. Today, Psalm 46 is sung or recited at Vespers on Friday of the first week.
U.S. President Barack Obama referenced the psalm in several speeches, most notably the Tucson memorial speech and his speech on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York City.
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 his chorale cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80, on Luther's hymn.
In the 17th century, Johann Pachelbel composed a motet setting of Psalm 46, Gott ist unser Zuversicht und Stärke. In 1699, Michel-Richard Delalande based a grand motet on the psalm. Jean Philippe Rameau set the psalm for the motet Deus noster refugium.
Shakespeare's alleged involvement
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.
On the other hand, 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 as was customary at the time, with spelling being somewhat lax in those pre-standardized days, on at least one occasion he signed it 'Shakspeare', which divides into four and six letters, 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).
- Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 45 (46) Archived 2017-09-30 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Psalm 46 Bible Commentary". Christianity.com. 2018. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
- "Psalms 46". Bible Study Tools. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
- "Midrash Tehillim / Psalms 46" (PDF). matsati.com. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
- Levy, Rabbi Eric (2018). "Psalms – Chapter 46". Orthodox Union. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
- "Psalm 46 Meaning". Explaining the Book. 2018-02-15. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
- "Tehillim - Psalms - Chapter 46". Chabad.org. 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
- Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF) (2nd ed.). p. 38.
- Idelsohn 1932, p. 82.
- "Protection". Daily Tehillim. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
- Psautier latin-français du bréviaire monastique, (2003) p. 189.
- Prosper Guéranger, Règle de saint Benoît, (Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes, 2007). p. 46
- The principal cycle of liturgical prayers extends over four weeks.
- 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.
- "Psalm 46: Obama's 9/11 Speech References Biblical Passage". HuffPost. September 12, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
- Susan Gillingham (2012). Psalms Through The Centuries. John Wiley & Sons. p. 238. ISBN 978-0470674901.
- Idelsohn, Abraham Zebi (1932). Jewish Liturgy and its Development. H. Holt and Company.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Psalm 46.|
- Pieces with text from Psalm 46: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Psalm 46: Free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Text of Psalm 46 according to the 1928 Psalter
- Psalms Chapter 46 text in Hebrew and English, mechon-mamre.org
- For the leader. A song of the Korahites. According to alamoth. / God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress text and footnotes, usccb.org Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Psalm 46:1 introduction and text, biblestudytools.com
- Psalm 46 Confident in God’s Protection and Power enduringword.com
- Psalm 46 / God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble Church of England
- Psalm 46 at biblegateway.com
- Hymns for Psalm 46 hymnary.org