"Be Still and Know That I am God" Psalms 46:10 Explained

“Be still and know that I am God,” the first half of Psalms 46:10, is a popular verse used to encourage believers to be still and silent before the Lord. This interpretation promotes a healthy rest in the presence of the Lord.

Contributing Writer
Updated Apr 22, 2024
 "Be Still and Know That I am God" Psalms 46:10 Explained

In the 46th Psalm, God commands us to "be still, and know" that He is God. Discover the meaning of, context behind, and interpretations of this powerful instruction from the Lord.

'Be Still and Know That I am God' Bible Verse

"Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with 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 fortress. Selah ~ Psalm 46:8-11

Psalm 46:10 Meaning and Interpretations

As God addresses Israel, He is not just telling them to “be still” or “rest.” If this is written during a time of war, which it most likely is, God commands them to “stop fighting” and open their eyes to who He is. In some translations, it is phrased as “cease striving.” 

It’s easy to be fearful when things aren’t going well or when we are faced with challenges and conflicts in our lives. In the midst of their struggle, however, God tells His people to wake up and recognize who’s on their side. 

In that light, the tone of this verse can be read: stop striving, stop fighting, and stop trying to do things on your own. Stop stressing about the battle ahead, and trust me. Wake up! I am the Lord. I am your refuge and your strength. You have nothing to fear or worry about when I am with you. I will fight your battles and deal with your enemies. So get out of my way. Step back, open your eyes, and acknowledge who I am and what I can do. Let me be God. Don’t try and do my job for me. Be patient, be still, and let me go to work.

This verse encouraged the children of Israel in a time of war and can be just as comforting to believers today in their struggle and strife. In the midst of conflict and life turmoil, sometimes we need to open our eyes, step back, stop what we’re doing, and acknowledge who God is and what He can do. Doing so provides comfort in the chaos and peace amid struggle.

However, there are several interpretations and theories regarding the subject of God’s address in Psalms 46:10. Both are meaningful, and it is quite possible that God addresses both subjects.

Another interpretation suggests that God is directly speaking to Israel’s enemies. It’s important to note that this is unlikely since the rest of the Psalm is focused on encouraging and strengthening the children of Israel. To shift into the second person is one thing, but to conclude that God is a shift to an entirely different audience for only one verse might be a bit of a stretch. An indirect audience? Absolutely. But the Psalms are primarily written for the people of God, and this seems to be the case here as well.  

If we accept, however, that the Lord does address Israel’s enemies, He would essentially be telling them to “cease striving” or, in this case, “stop fighting” His chosen people. In communicating to Israel’s enemies, He would also make His presence known across the earth as true to prophesy. One day, every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Romans 14:11). 

Either interpretation points to God's desire for both His people and their enemies to cease engaging in conflict and turn to Him.

Context of Psalms 46

Psalms 46 opens with instructions for how this Psalm (or song) is to be performed in worship. We see before the Psalm begins that it is written to the “sons of Korah.” As Charles Spurgeon writes in his Treasury of David, “Trifles may be left to commoner songsters, but the most skillful musician in Israel must be charged with the due performance of this song, with the most harmonious voices and choicest music.” Therefore, these instructions suggest that this particular Psalm carried enormous meaning and held a place of extreme significance at the time it was written that should only be performed by chosen musicians and skilled singers. 

Psalms 46 then continues in the third person as the songwriter describes the attributes of the Lord. It’s apparent from the language described in the early verses of Psalms 46 that the writer is probably living through a time of war, conflict or, at the very least, personal strife. It is also possible that Israel itself was facing war or international conflict when this was written and that the songwriter wrote to encourage the children of Israel to stand in the strength of the Lord. 

Knowing this provides incredible insight into the interpretation of Psalms 46:10. In every situation described in this chapter, the writer emphasizes that the Lord is a “refuge and strength” and their “stronghold.” More importantly, “The Lord of hosts is with us.” This is actually repeated twice in this Bible chapter. 

The entirety of Psalms 46 is written in the third person to remind the reader (or listener) that God is their strength and at work in the midst of their struggle. When we reach verse 10, however, something happens. The point of view shifts from the third person to the second person. Instead of writing about the Lord, here, the Lord Himself addresses the reader/listener directly. 

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalms 46:10). 

Like all great poetry, when form or pattern is broken, it forces the reader to pay attention. Something important is about to be communicated. The change in point of view cues us to pay attention.

Translations of 'Be Still and Know'

  • New International Version (NIV): "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'"

  • King James Version (KJV): "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."

  • English Standard Version (ESV): "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

  • New American Standard Bible (NASB): "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

  • New Living Translation (NLT): "Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world."

  • The Message (MSG): "Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything."

  • New English Translation (NET): "Stop your striving and recognize that I am God! I will be exalted over the nations; I will be exalted over the earth."

Bible Verses about Stillness

"The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” ~ Exodus 14:14

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! ~ Psalm 37:7

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. ~ Mark 4:39

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. ~ Psalm 62:5

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ~ Philippians 4:6

Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s and young adult author who teaches writing and communications at Life Pacific University. As a former youth pastor, he has a heart for children and young adults and is passionate about engaging youth through writing and storytelling. His blog, Perspectives Off the Page, discusses the creative and spiritual life through story and art.


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