Behind the Song: I’ve Got Peace Like a River

I’ve Got Peace Like a River is an African-American spiritual. Spirituals began on the fields and the slaves would sing to pass the time of day. It was also a great way to pass messages along and share the gospel.

This song uses water “as a simile” to describe peace, joy and love.

I've Got Peace Like a River in My Soul

I’ve Got Peace Like a River in My Soul

I’ve got peace like a river…

I’ve got joy like a fountain…

I’ve got love like an ocean…

Love, joy and peace are the first three fruits mentioned in the fruits of the spirit {Galatians 5:22}. says “This spiritual compares the peace of God to a placidly flowing river, the joy of Christ to a merrily bubbling fountain,                                                                and the love of God to a deep, wide ocean.”

The earliest appearance in a hymnal appears to be in 1975. This was really a surprise, as I thought it would be much earlier.

William J. Reynolds is credited with arranging this spiritual.




  • Ezra

    The late entry into the hymnal is probably because there is not a lot of depth to the lyrics. The hymnals that include it are likely those that provide songs for children, since even the very young latch onto simple, repetitive verses. The spiritual itself is from Isaiah 66:12 “For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river.…”
    Another familiar hymn that picks up this verse is “When Peace, like a River,” where the lyricist goes into specific reasons why and how God brings peace like a river.

  • Jamie Bain

    These lyrics could also refer to Isaiah 48:18,
    “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”

    That could even pull in the second verse, “I’ve got love like an ocean.”

  • Barry Luedloff

    Just a quick note: An arrangement of the song “I’ve Got Peace Like a River” appears in the (c)1971 printing of WORD Music Inc’s original “Sing ‘n’ Celebrate!” songbook, with a 1973 copyright by them of the arrangement in the book, no credit to who arranged it.

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