English Basic Explanation - Chapter 46
Psalm 46 describes the special protection God affords the Jewish nation and the city of Jerusalem during periods of destruction. Even when the "earth is overturned" and "mountains collapse in the heart of the seas" (verse 3), Zion is guaranteed joy and sustenance (verses 5-6). And if other nations and kingdoms collapse, the Almighty will provide Am Yisrael with refuge and protection (verses 7-8). The Psalm concludes by foreseeing the time when the Almighty will bring peace to the earth (verse 10) and the entire world will recognize Him as the one, true God (verse 11).
Befitting the apocalyptic tenor of this Psalm, the commentators explain it in reference to the calamitous events that will precede the arrival of Mashiah and the final redemption, specifically, perhaps, to the fierce battle of "Gog U'Maggog" prophesied by Yehezkel (chapters 38-39). The Sages often speak of "Hevlei Mashiah," or "the labor pains of the Messiah," the turmoil and devastation that will overtake the world before the onset of the final redemption. Just as the joy and jubilation of a new infant's arrival is preceded by the pain and anxiety of labor, so will the world experience a period of immense hardship prior to the exuberance of the Messianic era. This Psalm prophetically assures the Jewish nation of the special protection and assistance it will receive to withstand the travails of this period, and that the pain and hardship will usher in the long-awaited joy of a redeemed world.
The chapter's opening verse attributes this prophecy to "the sons of Korah." As discussed in our introduction to chapter 42, some commentators interpret this phrase as a reference to Korah's descendants who served in the Mikdash, while Rashi understands it literally, as referring to Korah's sons. They were devoured by the ground along with their father during his revolt against Moshe (Bamidbar 16:32), but in response to their repentance, God designated an area of refuge for them underground, where they composed this series of Tehillim. Accordingly, Rashi (46:3) notes that Korah's sons were uniquely suited for delivering this prophecy of the Jewish people's protection from the ravages of the "Hevlei Mashiah." They had personally experienced salvation during a time of doom and destruction, and hence they, more than anyone else, recognized God's ability to provide refuge even during the most cataclysmic events.
Psalm 46 can thus serve as a meaningful source of comfort and reassurance to those experiencing difficulties and seemingly insurmountable hardships. The sons of Korah remind us that regardless of the situation, and even if one has already begun to fall "underground," the Almighty is still capable and willing to provide a place of refuge and save the individual from total collapse.