Rivers and hills

Ps 46.4. "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God".

For starters, I'm not sure why a river gets mentioned in this Psalm at all. Secondly, the city of God is Jerusalem, aka Mount Zion. I don't know much about the geography of this specific place, but rivers and hills don't mix. One is a high spot, the other a low. So what is going on here?

(This reminds me of the popular, but silly, song from a few years back: Over the mountains and the sea, Your river flows with love for me. Err, no it doesn't!)

Comments

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    There is a well-known spring which can be accessed within the city of Jerusalem - the Gihon Spring
  • Ps 46.4. "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God".

    For starters, I'm not sure why a river gets mentioned in this Psalm at all. Secondly, the city of God is Jerusalem, aka Mount Zion. I don't know much about the geography of this specific place, but rivers and hills don't mix. One is a high spot, the other a low. So what is going on here?

    (This reminds me of the popular, but silly, song from a few years back: Over the mountains and the sea, Your river flows with love for me. Err, no it doesn't!)

    Jerusalem is built upon a freaking LOT of hills/mountains/whatever you call 'ems, and so you get rivers, brooks, etc. like Kidron in between them. So it kinda works. Though I think the primary reference is eschatological. (See Rev. 22 and Ezekiel 47; note that the clean, life-giving river in these cases flows exactly where the ancient sewer of Jerusalem was!)

    As for what the river is doing in this psalm...

    In terms of content it recalls the living water (in both senses) that was so important to a nation living on the edge of drought all the time. In terms of immediate context the beneficient, life-giving river is set against the raging seas of the opening verses.

    As I see it, the psalm is built around a pair of contrasts--the observed, unstable world where dreadful things are happening (much of them at the hand of God!), and the divinely stabilized city of God, which is protected by God's presence.

  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    As usual, I find the footnotes of the NET Bible instructive. Here is the Psalm using both NIV and NET. Footnote L of NET gives a fairly long discussion, including noting that some consider it as referencing the Gihon Spring as @BroJames mentioned.

    As you will see, NET preferred to translate the verse as "The river’s channels bring joy to the city of God" rather than the river's "streams"--and the reason is that it is probably referring to the irrigation ditches (channels) that bring the river water to irrigate the farmland--which would bring joy (not to mention, ultimately, food) to Jerusalem.

    Even so, NET agrees that the imagery is idealized, which, under the circumstances, is understandable. It isn't a travelogue. The calm river and its waters serving Jerusalem is quiet imagery in contrast to the "roar and foam" of other waters (i.e., other nations) discussed in verse 3. As @Lamb Chopped observed,
    the psalm is built around a pair of contrasts--the observed, unstable world where dreadful things are happening (much of them at the hand of God!), and the divinely stabilized city of God, which is protected by God's presence.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Though I think the primary reference is eschatological. (See Rev. 22 and Ezekiel 47; note that the clean, life-giving river in these cases flows exactly where the ancient sewer of Jerusalem was!)
    Yes. And maybe it’s just me, but I’ve often seen possible reflections of Simchat Beit HaShoeivah, which was also the context for Jesus’s call for the thirsty to come to him. But that my particular way of looking for connections.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    But that my particular way of looking for connections.
    Oops. That should read “But that may just be my particular way of looking for connections.”

  • Yes, that's lovely. You could have a field day tracing all the water/river/life connections through both Testaments!
  • Totally agree that the symbolism of rivers and water is particularly rich. But with the Psalms we're very much at the head of the river (as it were) so I'm not convinced about eschatological overtones here.
  • Um, try Eden? Lots of rivers there...
  • But Eden is the beginning of everything, not the end. What's the opposite of eschatalogical?
  • Cosmogonical? Though I suspect that is reserved for something in astronomy...

    Seriously, one could argue that we're dealing with a toroid and that the End and the Beginning touch. In which case both would be eschatological.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Seriously, one could argue that we're dealing with a toroid and that the End and the Beginning touch. In which case both would be eschatological.
    That was son’s conclusion when, at age 10 or 11, he read Revelation (without us knowing) and it freaked him out enough the minister came over one afternoon and spent at least an hour talking with him. Among the things they talked about were the final chapters of Revelation—the New Heaven and New Earth, with the tree in the middle. This prompted son to remark, “So basically, it ends up right back where it started.”

  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    In a lot of ways, yes! (In others, no--there's a city instead of a garden, and countless multitudes where there used to be two)
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    In a lot of ways, yes! (In others, no--there's a city instead of a garden, and countless multitudes where there used to be two)

    Or a garden city, populated by the results of the two being fruitful and multiplying.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Ps 46.4. "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God".

    For starters, I'm not sure why a river gets mentioned in this Psalm at all. Secondly, the city of God is Jerusalem, aka Mount Zion. I don't know much about the geography of this specific place, but rivers and hills don't mix. One is a high spot, the other a low. So what is going on here?

    (This reminds me of the popular, but silly, song from a few years back: Over the mountains and the sea, Your river flows with love for me. Err, no it doesn't!)

    Perhaps the river makes Zion glad by being somewhere else. Like some people I know make me glad when they aren't in my vicinity.
  • Rev per MinuteRev per Minute Shipmate Posts: 46
    I don't think that the geography or gravity of south Wales are particularly unusual, but we quite often have streams or rivers running down our mountains...
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    I've always wondered how that happened (karst landscape, maybe?) and mean to investigate one of these days. There's got to be something online.
  • Robert ArminRobert Armin Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Ps 46.4. "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God".

    For starters, I'm not sure why a river gets mentioned in this Psalm at all. Secondly, the city of God is Jerusalem, aka Mount Zion. I don't know much about the geography of this specific place, but rivers and hills don't mix. One is a high spot, the other a low. So what is going on here?

    (This reminds me of the popular, but silly, song from a few years back: Over the mountains and the sea, Your river flows with love for me. Err, no it doesn't!)

    Perhaps the river makes Zion glad by being somewhere else. Like some people I know make me glad when they aren't in my vicinity.

    Oh, I have a little list....
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    . . . And they’d none of them be missed. :wink:
  • Robert ArminRobert Armin Shipmate
    Coming back to the theme of rivers, today I read Ps 65. Vs 9 talks about the river of God, which waters the whole earth. Could this be a reference to the Milky Way, I wonder. Or am I straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel?
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    I don’t know if you’re staring at gnats, but I’m intrigued by that imagery.

  • Robert ArminRobert Armin Shipmate
    I'd never thought of it before, but I was wondering about a river that affected the whole world. @Lamb Chopped normally knows these things; is she around?
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    (rubs eyes, yawns) Yep, just rolled out of bed. I like the idea of the Milky Way, because I can totally see that working on a poetic level. On a biblical context level, I'm pretty sure it's a reference to the river of Eden which divided into four and "watered the whole land" (since "land" in Hebrew can also be translated "earth", and that would be plenty for a psalm writer to hang his/her hat on!). On a spiritual level, I take it to be a reference to the Holy Spirit, as it seems to be in Ezekiel with the life-giving water pouring out from the temple, and again in Revelation where it's originating from the throne of God.
  • Robert ArminRobert Armin Shipmate
    I can go with that. I knew she'd have the answer!
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    Heh. Rolling BACK into bed (why am I so tired?)
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    ... "watered the whole land" (since "land" in Hebrew can also be translated "earth", and that would be plenty for a psalm writer to hang his/her hat on!).
    tangent
    I am far from fluent in Hebrew, so I could well be mistaken. However, my understanding is that the words that can be translated as either "land" or "earth" all mean "earth" in the sense of "dirt." If you want to mean "Earth" in the sense of "our planet," you would have to use "olam," which does not mean small-e earth.
    /tangent
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    ... "watered the whole land" (since "land" in Hebrew can also be translated "earth", and that would be plenty for a psalm writer to hang his/her hat on!).
    tangent
    I am far from fluent in Hebrew, so I could well be mistaken. However, my understanding is that the words that can be translated as either "land" or "earth" all mean "earth" in the sense of "dirt." If you want to mean "Earth" in the sense of "our planet," you would have to use "olam," which does not mean small-e earth.
    /tangent

    I should have checked scripture before posting this, I guess. "Eretz" is routinely used as the word that gets translated as "earth" in the sense of "our planet", in both Psalms and Job. Sorry for the misdirection.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    I don't think that the geography or gravity of south Wales are particularly unusual, but we quite often have streams or rivers running down our mountains...

    I think that's normal in many other places, too. ;) I'm not sure why it's even an issue. Water flowing from a high place to a lower place.

    Now, if the water flowed *uphill* ;) ...which water sometimes really does! (Duck Duck Go results.)
  • Robert ArminRobert Armin Shipmate
    Which is why the idea of a river flowing OVER a mountain makes no sense!
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    LC--
    Cosmogonical? Though I suspect that is reserved for something in astronomy...

    Not meant as a correction, but maybe "cosmogenitive"? Or "Once upon a time..."
    Seriously, one could argue that we're dealing with a toroid and that the End and the Beginning touch. In which case both would be eschatological.

    Actually, I sometimes play with the idea that it's a Moebius strip, or maybe one of the versions with more dimensions:

    --Klein's bottle (Wikipedia).
    Especially note the GIF next to the "Properties" section! :)

    Klein's bottle
    Be sure to check out the "Ok, So What's A Klein Bottle?" link in the left-hand nav bar. This is someone who makes and sells (representations of) them! :)

    --Purse of Fortunatus--a fabric representation, with pattern/diagram (SMCM.edu).
    About half-way down the page. Click on the title above the pic.
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