Be Still and Know…?

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

Psalm 46:10 NKJV

Is this verse a call to quiet meditation, contemplative prayer, quieting the mind to listen and know and experience God? That is a popular interpretation in the Church at large today, but is it accurate?

The first thing I want to look at as we seek to determine what Yehovah is saying to us in this verse is the context. There is a common saying that the most important thing in real estate is—location, location, location! In interpreting scripture, the most important thing is context, context, context!! I have heard it said that a text without context becomes a pretext. It is a common practice to take a single verse of scripture and apply it to a particular situation, etc., but ignore the context in which it was written. Taking a verse out of context can lead to misunderstanding its intended meaning. When considering any verse it is a good idea to look at the verses before and after it, and the chapter, or even book as a whole in order to really understand what the verse or passage means and how we can rightly apply it to our lives.

What is the context of the verse we are looking at today? Let’s read the entire chapter to find out.


“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations 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, Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!’
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah”
Psalm 46 NKJV

This chapter is about the strength and mightiness of Yehovah of hosts! It recounts several times that Yehovah is with them and He is the refuge of the Israelites. So no matter what catastrophes or wars take place around them, or if the earth itself is falling apart, God is their safe haven. He is the one who makes wars cease, breaks the weapons of war and burns the chariots. It is Yehovah Himself who utters the emphatic command ”Be still! And know that I am God. I will be exalted in the earth!”

Does that sound like a command to go into your safe space and sit quietly and wait for God to speak to you? It sounds like a command to stop pretending that we have any control over the earth or the raging of the nations and acknowledge that it is God who protects us. Stop doing things in our own strength and trying to take credit for what belongs to God alone.


Let’s take a quick look at the Hebrew words in this verse and see what we learn from the original language. (Warning! This section may only appeal to grammar nerds, like me!)

The Hebrew for ”be still”: Strong’s #H7503 – רָפָה, rapha, raw-faw’.

Meanings of Hebrew words are often dictated by the stem and other variations in the construction of the verb form. The form of the verb rapha in Psalm 46:10 is Hiphil, imperative, 2nd person, masculine, plural. For this form, Strong’s biblical usage (KJV) is: Hiphil—1) to let drop, abandon, relax, refrain, forsake; 2) to let go; 3) to refrain, let alone; 4) to be quiet. Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon assigns the meaning: refrain, let alone, i.e. do nothing, be quiet.

Various English versions translate ”be still” as: desist, stop fighting, cease striving, that’s enough!

Now on to the word ”know”—

The Hebrew word translated ”know” is: Strong’s #H3045– יָדַע, yada, yaw-dah’.

The form of the verb yada here is Qal, imperative, 2nd person, masculine, plural.

For this form, Strong’s biblical usage (KJV) is: Qal—1) to know: a) to know, learn to know, b) to perceive, c) to perceive and see, find out and discern, d) to discriminate, distinguish, e) to know by experience, f) to recognise, admit, acknowledge, confess, g) to consider; 2) to know, be acquainted with; 3) to know (a person carnally); 4) to know how, be skilful in; 5) to have knowledge, be wise.

Various translations of ”know” in this verse are: learn, recognize, realize.

In my opinion, the translations below capture the meaning more precisely—


Desist! Realize that I am God! I dominate the nations; I dominate the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 JPS (Jewish Publication Society)

“Desist, and learn that I am God, supreme over the nations, supreme over the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 CJB (Complete Jewish Bible)


I hope this look at Psalm 46 has been encouraging to you. It is freeing to come to the realization that Yehovah is the One in charge of all creation and He will deal with the nations in His own way in His own time. Should He choose to use us in the accomplishment of His will, He is the one providing the power and might, and the victory. So, let’s cease striving and acknowledge that He is King of kings and Lord of lords!

Shalom!


If this post has touched you or resonated with you, please consider liking, commenting, and sharing it with a friend.


Featured image photography by Gina Cash

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