The Fathers on Psalm 46

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 46

Streams of the river gladden the city of God,

the holy dwelling of the Most High.

God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken;

God will help it at break of day.

Though nations rage and kingdoms totter,

he utters his voice and the earth melts.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

Come and see the works of the LORD,

who has done fearsome deeds on earth;

Who stops wars to the ends of the earth,

breaks the bow, splinters the spear,

and burns the shields with fire;

“Be still and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations,

exalted on the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us;

our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

Athanasius: “Having run to God for refuge and having been protected from the trouble happening all around you, if you want to thank God and describe the details of his loving care for you, then you have Psalm 46.”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the Most High sanctified his tabernacle.[2] By city of God he refers to Jerusalem, and calls the good things now coming from God river currents. So he means, God’s goodness brings joy to the city, being greater than the troubles besetting us and bearing down on us like a flowing river. The Most High sanctified his tabernacle. Again by God’s tabernacle he refers to Jerusalem for the reason of God’s living and dwelling there. So he says he sanctified the tabernacle¸ that is, he kept it unscathed and free of all harm. God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day. How, in fact, was the city which the Lord personally inhabits going to survive the tumult? God will help it at break of day. By break of day he refers to the speed and rapid support. For this reason, he is saying, he provides rapid help and speedy care. Though nations rage and kingdoms totter: at this point those warring against us were suddenly seized with shaking and alarm, and the kingdoms yielded to us and became subject. He utters his voice and the earth melts: so that like an excellent general he not only struck panic into them but also brought confusion upon the whole earth. The LORD of hosts is with us: it is God who accords us help. Our stronghold is the God of Jacob: the God of our forefather Jacob is the one who grants us support. Come and see the works of the LORD: so assemble together, everyone, and learn what God has done for us. Who has done fearsome deeds on earth: that is, in our land—Jerusalem—he gave evidence of miracles and fearsome deeds, repelling as ineffective such vast numbers of enemies. Who stops wars to the ends of the earth: it is he who routs all the enemy when he wishes and brings peace to the earth to the degree that he wants. He breaks the bow, splinters the spear, and burns the shields with fire: he is the God who does away with the enemy with their own weapons when he wishes. Be still and know that I am God! So consider that God will say to everyone, When you seen an end of the enemy and are at rest, you will have the opportunity to know the kind of God you have. I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth: give heed to learning this from him as well, I am exalted over all nations and the land of Jerusalem, and I arrange events as I wish. The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob: he is the God who is with us, who has authority over hosts, who is the supporter of our forefather and continues his kindness to us also.[3]

Pseudo-Athanasius: For they had as a helper the God of Jacob, who had strengthened him in his contest. Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day. He is continuously in the midst of the church, making it rejoice with the torrents of the river which flows from him and delights in him. Who stops wars to the ends of the earth, breaks the bow, splinters the spear, and burns the shields with fire. He removed wars from the ends of the earth. He even breaks the bow and burns the shield with the fire that consumes wicked deeds, and changes the hills into an abyss (that is, the evil spirits).[4]


[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 114.

[2] LXX reading.

[3] TLG 6. Τοῦ ποταμοῦ τὰ ὁρμήματα εὐφραίνουσι τὴν πόλιν τοῦ θεοῦ. «Πόλιν τοῦ θεοῦ» καλεῖ τὴν Ἱερουσαλήμ· «ὁρμήματα ποταμοῦ» νῦν τὰ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀγαθὰ λέγει. Βούλεται οὖν εἰπεῖν ὅτι τῶν κακῶν τῶν ἐπελθόντων ἡμῖν μείζων οὖσα ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀγαθότης καὶ δίκην ποταμοῦ ῥυζῶντος ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς φερομένη ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ καθίστησι τὴν πόλιν. Ἡγίασε τὸ σκήνωμα αὐτοῦ ὁ ὕψιστος. Πάλιν «σκήνωμα» τοῦ θεοῦ καλεῖ τὴν Ἱερουσαλὴμ ὡς τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκεῖ κατοικοῦντος καὶ κατασκηνοῦντος. «Ἡγίασεν» οὖν, φησίν, αὐτοῦ «τὸ σκήνωμα», τουτέστιν ἀνέπαφον ἐφύλαξε καὶ καθαρὸν πάσης βλάβης. Ὁ θεὸς ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῆς καὶ οὐ σαλευθήσεται. Πῶς γάρ, φησίν, ἔμελλε τάραχον ὑπομένειν πόλις ἣν αὐτὸς ὁ κύριος κατοικεῖ; Βοηθήσει αὐτῇ ὁ θεὸς τὸ πρὸς πρωῒ πρωΐ. «Πρωῒ» τὸ τάχος λέγει καὶ τὴν ὀξυτάτην ἀντίληψιν. Διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ αὐτῇ, φησί, καὶ ταχεῖαν παρέχει τὴν βοήθειαν καὶ ὀξυτάτην τὴν κηδεμονίαν. Ἐταράχθησαν ἔθνη, ἔκλιναν βασιλεῖαι. Ἐντεῦθεν, φησίν, οἱ πολεμοῦντες ἡμῖν ἐξαίφνης ἐν σάλῳ καὶ ταραχῇ κατέστησαν καὶ αἱ βασιλεῖαι ὑπεῖξαν ἡμῖν καὶ ὑπετάγησαν. Ἔδωκε φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ὁ ὕψιστος, ἐσαλεύθη ἡ γῆ. Ὡς γὰρ στρατηγός, φησίν, ἄριστος ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ἐμβοήσας εἰς τὰ ὦτα τῶν πολεμίων οὐ μόνον αὐτοὺς συνετάραξεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν συνεκλόνησεν. Κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων μεθἡμῶν. Οὗτος, φησίν, ὁ θεός ἐστιν ὁ τὴν βοήθειαν ἡμῖν νέμων. Ἀντιλήπτωρ ἡμῶν ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ. Καὶ ὁ θεός, φησί, τοῦ προπάτορος Ἰακώβ, αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ τὴν ἀντίληψιν ἡμῖν χαριζόμενος. Δεῦτε καὶ ἴδετε τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ. Συνάχθητε οὖν, φησίν, ἅπαντες καὶ καταμάθετε οἷα ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εἰργάσατο ὁ θεός. Ἃ ἔθετο τέρατα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. Ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς τῆς ἡμετέρας, φησί, τουτέστι τῆς Ἱερουσαλήμ, ἐπεδείξατο, φησί, θαύματα καὶ τέρατα, τοσοῦτον πλῆθος πολεμίων ἀποστρέψας ἄπρακτον. Ἀνταναιρῶν πολέμους μέχρι τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς. Οὗτός ἐστι, φησίν, ὁ πάντας τοὺς πολεμίους ὅτε βούλεται ἀνατρέπων καὶ ποιῶν εἰρηνεύειν τὴν γῆν ἐφ’ ὅσον ἂν ἐθέλῃ. Τόξον συντρίψει καὶ συνθλάσει ὅπλον καὶ θυρεοὺς κατακαύσει ἐν πυρί.  Οὗτός ἐστι, φησίν, ὁ θεὸς ὁ αὐτοῖς ὅπλοις τοὺς πολεμίους ὅτε βούλεται ἀναιρῶν. Σχολάσατε καὶ γνῶτε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός. Νομίσατε οὖν, φησίν, ἐρεῖν πρὸς ἅπαντας τὸν θεὸν ὅτι ἐπειδή, φησί, σχολάζετε τῶν πολεμίων πεπαυμένοι, εἰς τοῦτο ἀσχολήθητε, εἰς τὸ γνῶναι ποῖον ἔχετε θεόν. Ὑψωθήσομαι ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, ὑψωθήσομαι ἐν τῇ γῇ.  Καὶ ταῦτα, φησί, νομίσατε ἀκούειν παρ’ αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ πάντων ὑψηλότατος τῶν τε ἐθνῶν καὶ τῆς γῆς κατὰ τὴν Ἱερουσαλὴμ καί, ὡς ἂν ἐθέλω, διατίθημι τὰ πράγματα. Κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων μεθ’ ἡμῶν, ἀντιλήπτωρ ἡμῶν ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ. Οὗτος, φησίν, ὁ θεὸς μεθ’ ἡμῶν, ὁ πασῶν τῶν δυνάμεων ἔχων τὴν ἐξουσίαν, ὁ τοῦ προπάτορος ἀντιλήπτωρ καὶ διαβιβάζων τὰς εὐεργεσίας ἄχρι καὶ ἡμῶν.

[4] Syriac CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 29. Cx. PG 27 for Latin and Greek.

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