Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10.
Meaning of Psalm 46:10
Psalm 46 is known as the psalm of protection and confirms that God is all-powerful. The verse Psalm 46:10 means surrendering to God during times of battle to know or believe in God completely and acknowledge that God is capable of protecting them, just like He has authority over everything on earth. Here ‘I will be exalted’ means God is declaring and confirming that He is placed in the highest regard by everyone on the planet.
Interpretations of Psalm 46:10
The verse, Psalm 46: 10, is one of the most quoted Bible verses. However, it is also the most misinterpreted one as well.
Interpretation #1 God asserts authority over all
‘Be still, and know that I am God’ means relax or pause from the certain thought or action that often implies a person’s mental state.
‘I will be exalted among the heathen’ means that God will be praised or understood by the people who do not follow him. In other words, God will be heard by the people who didn’t know about Him.
Lastly, ‘I will be exalted in the earth’ is similar to the previous phrase. Thus, it implies that God has the authority over everything that is created on earth equally, even if the person may or may not follow or accept God as an authoritative figure.
Interpretation #2 Warning to the enemy
In another interpretation, Psalm 46: 10 also means a warning to the group or the listener who want to cause harm to God’s followers or children, fighting or frightening them. Here ‘Be still’ means to stop the persecution. ‘And know that I am God’ means God is declaring that He has authority over everything and does not tolerate disobedience. While the verse here means that God is directly wielding His authority and the listener must stop whatever they are doing, the verse is known and taken most of the time for comfort and strength.
Interpretation #3 To hold back and be humble
In one of the major interpretations, ‘Be still’ is also believed to be a calling to ‘stop striving’ during the battle. It could be a call from God to His people to pause and think of His greatness while avoiding their ‘human’ efforts to win their fights, as their battle strategies are not very helpful. Instead, God is calling them to look to Him and not their enemies, and He promises to fight for them.
Interpretation #4 A hint at punishment
Also, one of the lesser believed interpretations of the verse is that God will give out punishment to the heathens, which is the given title to the people of religions other than Christianity and ‘Judaism’ before Christianity came into existence. This interpretation is usually considered harsh because, here, God sounds severe and angry. He is also commanding his people to stop complaining and calling them to know or realize His sole power over this earth as well as every creation.
Interpretation #5 To declare that everything is under control
The final but the most sensible meaning is simple. It is also the closest to the actual context of the entire chapter from which the verse is taken. Often, the phrase ‘Be still’ is taken as God commanding to stop; it also means to ‘calm down’ and ‘take courage’. To simplify the verse further, it means, ‘Do not fear your circumstances because it doesn’t matter what happens on the earth, including natural disasters, God is under control.
Historical Background of Psalm 46:10
While most of the Psalms are attributed to be written by King David, a few of them are written by ‘The Sons of Korah’. Psalm is also given the following title: To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song for Alamoth. It is also believed that ‘Alamoth’ might have been songs that were written only for the chief musicians in the king’s court. According to Charles Spurgeon, one of the famous Christian authors and preachers, “Trifles may be left to commoner songsters, but the most skilful musician in Israel must be charged with the due performance of this song, with the most harmonious voices and choicest music.” The sons of Korah might have been in service as composers and worshipers in the temple during the reign of King David.
Literary Devices in Psalm 46:10
Psalms are original songs written to be composed by court musicians or the writer himself and sung in temples or synagogues. Hence they use both literary devices and poetic devices. Here are a few literary devices from Psalm 46:10
Point of View – The verse starts with a third-person point of view and shifts to the first-person point of view in the second and third parts of the verse.
Metaphor – The verse ‘Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth’ is an extended metaphor of ‘patience’ and God’s might and power as declared in the entire chapter, which can be read for the context.
Symbolism – Here ‘God’ is symbolism for power, wisdom and justice because ‘know that I am God’ calls for the readers to understand that God is powerful above everyone; He is wise because He wants to guide His listeners with his wisdom instead of ‘human’ battle strategies, and lets them know that He will punish them and the heathens alike.
Repetition – ‘I will be exalted’ is used twice in the same verse, making it a repetition, one of the literary devices used to reinforce an idea or a certain concept. Here the composer has perhaps wanted to put an emphasis on the ‘I’ in both phrases of the verse to declare the authority of God over His creation.
Assonance – There is also the use of assonance in the phrase ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. For example, there is a sound of /i/ and /a/.
Hyperbole – The composer may also have used hyperbole. Here, God is expecting His Children to surrender to Him completely in the middle of the battle, which might be overwhelming to the listener.