Category Archive: Bible – OT – Psalms

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July 30, 2013

The Stone-Rejecting Builders (1 Pet 2)

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In 1 Peter 2, Peter quotes Psalm 118 about the Stone the builders rejected becoming the cornerstone.  He contrasts these builders with his own audience: “They stumble, being disobedient to the word … but you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people….”

Who are these builders?  Commentary after commentary tells me something like this:

One can see in the NT use of the stone passage a broadening in the identification of the rejecters.  In the Gospels and Acts (Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11), the rejecters are the leaders of first-century Jerusalem, and the stone is identified as Jesus.  In Rom. 9:32-33, where Paul conflates Isa. 8:14 and 28:16, those who reject Christ the cornerstone are the people of Israel as a nation.  Here in 1 Pet. 2:8, the rejecters are any and all people, whether Jew or Gentile, who reject Christ” (Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, 154).

In Beare’s words, Peter is speaking now of “all human destiny and … all endeavour,” and “‘The builders’ now is taken to mean all who attempt to build human society or their own lives” (cited in Jobes 154).  Goppelt speaks of building “a future”  (cited in Jobes 155).

But what was the building project in Psalm 118 and in the citations in the Gospels?  What building project is in view in 1 Peter 2, for that matter?  Surely it’s the building of the Temple, not of “a future” or of “human society” or of people’s “own lives.”  Peter speaks of his audience as being “built” into a “spiritual house,” and then immediately talks about them as priests offering spiritual sacrifices.

In the Gospels, Jesus cites this Psalm in his confrontation of the Jewish leaders in the Temple on the great day of controversy that ends with Jesus leaving the Temple and declaring that it will be leveled to the ground, with not one stone standing upon another.  The temple’s leaders — the builders (who were at that time literally engaged in a building project) — had rejected the Cornerstone and therefore their building would not remain standing.

The builders, then, are not “any and all people, whether Jew or Gentile, who reject Christ.”  What Peter says about them and their stumbling and destruction may apply more broadly to other unbelievers, including pagan ones, but Peter is not speaking about unbelievers in general.

Rather, the builders are specifically those who are endeavoring to build the Temple, to build God’s house, without Christ the Cornerstone.  In 1 Peter 2, it seems to me, we should take the builders to be unbelieving Israel, rejecting Jesus and persecuting the church (or stirring up such persecution, as we see throughout Acts).  But Peter’s readers, scattered as they are (1:1) due to the attacks of “Babylon” (5:13), are the heirs of all the titles and privileges of Old Covenant Israel (2:9-10).  They are the temple, being built by God with Jesus as the Cornerstone.

The builders may continue with their Temple project, but they stumble and will, together with their temple, be destroyed.  But the “spiritual house” made of “living stones,” built on and united to Jesus the “Living Stone,” will stand.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:14 pm | Discuss (0)
July 29, 2013

Psalm 34 & 1 Peter

Category: Bible - NT - 1 Peter,Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

In her essay on “The Psalms in 1 Peter” (in The Psalms in the New Testament, ed. Steve Moyise & Maarten J. J. Menken [London: T&T Clark, 2004): 213-229), Sue Woan draws attention to the frequent allusions to Psalm 34 throughout this epistle.  The quotation in 3:10-12 is obvious, but the references to “evil” (kakou) and “deceit” (dolon) in 2:1 likely come from Ps 34:12 (“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit”), and 2:3′s “you tasted that the Lord is good” derives from Ps 34:9 (“Taste and see that the LORD is good”).

What is particularly interesting is that the words and themes that appear in the quotation from Psalm 34 in 1 Peter 3:10-12 show up earlier in the letter in the same order:

1:3 – living hope (elpida zosan) & 3:10 – life (zoen)
1:8 – have seen (idontes) & 3:10 – to see (idein).
2:1 – evil (kakian) and deceit (dolon) & 3:10 – evil (kakou) and deceit (dolon).
2:12,14 – evildoers (kakopoion) & 3:11 – evil (kakou).
2:20 – doing good (agathopoiountes) & 3:11 – do good (poiesato agathon).
2:22 – righteously(dikaios) & 3:12 – righteous (dikaious).
3:9 – evil for evil (kakon auti kakou) & 3:12 – evil (kaka) (223-224).

What’s missing in this parallel?  The quotation of Psalm 34 in 1 Peter 3:10-12 includes “Let them seek peace and pursue it,” and there’s no verbal parallel in 1 Peter.  But, says Woan, what we do find as we follow these parallels in sequence is that the section that we’d expect to parallel this part of the Psalm 34 quotation is 2:11-20, “about pursuing a deliberate lifestyle of turning away from evil and from any activities not commensurate with their new status in Christ.”

We seek peace and pursue it, then, by abstaining from fleshly lusts that war against our soul.  As we put off these lusts and abstain from them, they are not able to war against us, and the result is peace.  Woan herself makes this point: “Such activities are described in 2:1 as ‘waging war’; the implication being that renouncing them is equivalent to ‘seeking peace’” (224).

But we can go further.  Peter urges us to abstain from these lusts and to do good with a goal in mind.  Woan’s parallels help us see that we are to seek and pursue peace in society as well, by doing good works so that even (perhaps once hostile) Gentiles may observe them and be drawn to join the church in glorifying God.

Woan also shows how the Psalm 34 quotation in 3:10-12 looks forward to what Peter says in 3:13-17, again with common words in order, but this time in reverse (chiastic) order:

A 3:11 – evil (kakou).
B 3:11 – doing good (poiesato agathon).
C 3:12 – righteous (dikaious).
D 3:12 – evil (kaka).
D’ 3:13 – evil (kakoson).
C’ 3:14 – righteousness (dikaiosunen).
B’ 3:17 – doing good (agathopoiountas).
A’ 3:17- doing evil (kakopoiountas).

Once again, there’s something in the Psalm quotation that doesn’t have an explicit verbal parallel in 1 Peter 3:13-17, namely the opening of the quotation: “He who wants to love life and to see good days…” (3:10).  But, Woan says, there is a thematic parallel in 4:7 (“the end of all things is as hand”) and especially in 4:13 (“referring,” says Woan, “to the time when followers will be glad and shout for joy when Christ’s glory is revealed”) and 5:1, 4, 6, which “each focus on the ‘good days’ which are to come for those who are faithful” (225).

Certainly there isn’t a section of the text that one could say is clearly chiastically parallel to 3:10.  Nevertheless, Woan is correct to see general parallels between the “good days” and the “life” of which Psalm 34 speaks and the glory Peter says is going to be revealed, the exaltation that is coming in due time for those who humble themselves under God’s hand.

In fact, we can go beyond what Woan herself says.  Immediately after 3:14-17 (which Woan says is verbally chiastically parallel to 3:11-12), we have a passage about Jesus’ suffering and death, followed by new life (3:18: “made alive by the Spirit”), which leads into Peter’s application to his audience (e.g., 4:1-2: suffering in the flesh, like Christ, leads one to “live the rest of his time in the flesh” in a new way; 4:6: “those who are dead” may “live according to God in the Spirit”).  So, as in 3:10, there is an emphasis here on life, the new life that Jesus has and in which his people share.

If you love life, then, you adopt the pattern of Psalm 34 (1 Pet 3:10-12), which is also the pattern of Christ (as the parallels between 3:10-12 and the first half of the epistle indicate).  You abstain from evil and deceit; instead you do good.  And the result is that, like Christ and in union with him, you also suffer in the flesh — but the result is life, a life which is “good days,” exaltation, glory, and rejoicing.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:35 pm | Discuss (0)
July 31, 2012

Psalm 73

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

A psalm.
By Asaph.

Surely good to Israel is God,
To the pure of heart.
And as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps nearly slipped,
Because I envied the arrogant;
The peace of the wicked I see,

Because there are no bonds of death,
And robust is their strength.
In the toil of men they are not,
And with mankind they are not afflicted.
Therefore haughtiness necklaces them;
A garment of violence wraps them.
Their eye bulges from fatness;
The imaginings of the heart overflow.
They mock and speak with evil;
Oppression from on high they speak.
They set their mouth in the heavens,
And their tongue walks on the earth.
Therefore he turns his people here,
And waters of abundance are poured out for them.
And they say, “How can the Mighty One know?
And is there knowledge with the Most High?”
Look, these are the wicked,
And carefree forever they increase wealth.

Surely in vain I cleansed my heart,
And washed my palms in innocence,
And was afflicted all the day,
And my chastisement came in the mornings.

If I said, “I will recount like this,”
Look, the generation of your sons I would have betrayed.
And I pondered to know this;
A trouble it was to my eyes,
Until I came to the holy places of my Mighty One;
I understood their end.

Surely in slippery places you set them;
You make them fall down to ruins.
How they are brought to desolation in a moment!
They come to an end; they are finished because of terrors.
Like a dream upon waking, my Master;
When you rouse yourself, their image you will despise.

When my heart was embittered,
And as for my kidneys, I was pierced,
As for me, I was brutish and did not know;
Like cattle I was with you.

But as for me, I am continually with you;
You grasp my right hand.
By your counsel you guide me;
And toward glory you take me.
Who do I have in heaven?
And beside you, I desire no one on earth.

Wasted away are my flesh and my heart;
The rock of my heart and my portion is God forever,
For look! Those far from you will perish;
You destroy all who go whoring from you.
And as for me, the nearness of God is good to me;
I make my Master, Yahweh, my refuge,
To recount all your works.

A few comments about the translation of this difficult psalm:

Line 3: “Stumbled” here (as in NKJV; cf. Hengstenberg, Tate) is an attempt to capture the sense of this verb, which is found also in Psalm 62:3, where it has to do with a wall that is leaning and about to fall.  There, I translated it “leaning,” but that doesn’t work so well here.

Lines 3-4: “Almost” is literally “like a little” and “nearly” is literally “like nothing,” that is, it was so close to happening that it was as if nothing was keeping it from happening.

Line 4: “Slipped” may be the sense of the word here, but it’s literally “poured out” or “spilt” (like water).

Line 5: “Arrogant” translates a word that comes from a root that has to do with shining (halal).  Hirsch renders it “those that seemed resplendent.”  See its use also in Psalm 5:5.

Line 7: For “bonds,” compare the use of the word in Isaiah 58:6, and for similar language to “bonds of death” see Job 11:17; Psalm 18:6.

Line 8: For “strength,” compare the use of the word in 2 Kings 24:15 and Job 21:7.  The word rendered “robust” here means “fat,” but not here in the sense of corpulent, overweight.  Perhaps you’d prefer “stout is their strength”?

Line 10: The word translated “afflicted” here is used also for “touch,” and in particular is used in the Bible for the “touch” or “affliction” that we (wrongly) call “leprosy” in, e.g., Leviticus.

Line 13: Hirsch, interestingly, takes the subject to be “violence” (from the previous line) and renders it: “It stands out from the fat of their eye” (which means that he takes “fat” with “their eye” as a construct chain).  The parallel would be interesting: Their haughtiness or violence goes forth from the fat of their eye (line 13) and “The imaginings of their heart overflow” (line 14).  I’m tempted….

Line 17: “In the heavens” could be “against the heavens” (NKJV; Hirsch), but it seems to me that the parallel with “on the earth” in the next stich argues for “in the heavens” here.

Line 19 is extremely tough to translate.  First, you have to decide if you’re going to go with the Qere: Is the verb qal or hiphil?  If it’s the latter (which is how I’ve translated it), then who is the subject?  God?  He hasn’t been the subject yet in this psalm.  The clearest antecedent is the proud person, and so perhaps, if we go with this reading, taking the verb as causative (as usual with hiphil), we get the proud person turning his people hither.  Or thither.  Or whatever word you choose.  For this approach, see Hengstenberg.  Or, if you take the verb as qal, then you have the people themselves turning (back) thither.  In any case, this isn’t a good thing, it appears.

Line 20 is also hard to translate.  What are “waters of fullness” or “waters of abundance” or “waters of satisfaction/satiation”?  It’s possible, as Hirsch points out, that the noun here should be taken as an adjective: “The waters of the satisfied one.”  That is, the people want to drink the water of the one described earlier in the psalm who is full, satisfied, wealthy and lacking nothing.  “They, too,” says Hirsch, “desire to have some portion of his happy lot.”

The verb, here rendered “poured out,” is used for the draining out of the blood of a nearbringing in Lev 1:15; 5:9; in the qal, it is also used for Gideon squeezing out the fleece (Judges 6:38) and for draining a cup dry (Isa 51:17; Ezek 23:34; Ps 75:9).  So the idea, it seems to me, is that the waters are given to them in order for them to drink.

Line 36: “Ruins” seems to work with Psalm 74:3; I’m not sure that “deceits” (Hirsch; cf. Tate) works there.

Line 40: It’s possible that the word translated here “When you rouse yourself” should actually be “in the city” (cf. Hengstenberg, Hirsch; Alexander mentions it as a strong possibility, though he doesn’t use it in his translation).  That’s how this word is always translated elsewhere.  For it to be “when you awake,” it would have to be an infinitive of ‘ur, but it would also have to be intransitive, whereas ‘ur is always transitive everywhere else (with the possible exception, says Alexander, of Job 8:6; Ps. 35:23).  Still, while “in the city” is possible, “in awakening” or “when you rouse yourself” seems to fit the context better.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:09 pm | Discuss (0)
July 25, 2012

Psalm 72

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

By Solomon.

God, give your judgments to the king,
And your righteousness to the son of the king.
He will judge your people with righteousness,
And your lowly ones with justice.
The mountains will bear peace to the people,
And the hills, in righteousness.
He will judge the lowly of the people;
He will save the sons of the needy,
And crush the oppressor.
They will fear you while the sun lasts,
And in the presence of the moon, generation after generation.

He will come down, like rain upon mown grass,
Like showers, the watering of the earth.
In his days, the righteous man will sprout,
And abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.
And he will rule from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
Before him shall kneel the wilderness-dwellers,
And his enemies will lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and the coastlands return a gift;
The kings of Sheba and Seba will bring near tribute.

All kings will bow to him;
All nations will serve him,
For he rescues the needy man who pleads,
And the lowly who has no one to help him.
He will have pity on the poor and needy,
And the souls of the needy he will save.
From oppression and violence he will redeem their souls,
And precious is their blood in his eyes.
And he will live,
And he will give to him from the gold of Sheba.
And he will pray for him continually;
All the day he will bless him.

There will be an abundance of grain in the land,
On the heads of the mountains.
Its fruit will rustle like Lebanon,
And they will blossom from the city like the grass of the earth.
His name will be forever,
In the presence of the sun, his name will have descendants.
And they will be blessed in him;
All the nations will call him happy.

Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel,
Who alone does wonders.
And blessed be his glorious name forever,
And filled with his glory be all the earth.
Amen
And amen.

The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are finished.

 

A few comments about this translation:

Line 1: If I could, I’d like to capture the Hebrew structure by putting “give” at the end of the line, but that’s a bit awkward in English (“your judgments to the king give”).

Line 4: “Justice” here is the same word as “judgments” in line 1.  Alexander has “judgment” in both lines, but I’m not sure that “judge … with judgment” is clear.

Line 7: The word for “judge” here (shaphat) is not the same as the word in line 3 (din), but is the root of the words rendered “justice” and “judgments” in lines 1 and 4.

Lines 10-11: Literally, “They will fear you with the sun, / Before the moon, generation of generations.” Cf. Ps. 89:37-38: David’s throne “as the sun before me, as the moon it will be established forever.”

Lines 20-21: Interestingly, the language used here could be sacrificial: “Gift” in “return a gift” (which means, by the way, to give a gift in return for the king’s favors, including his giving them audience) is minchah, which is used for the grain offering (tribute offering), and the verb in “bring tribute near” is the Hiphil of qrb (“cause to draw near”), which is used for the nearbringings (that is, what we usually call “offerings”).

Line 34: “Abundance” is a guess: the word appears only here in Scripture..  Following a rabbinical tradition, the KJV has “handful,” as does Alexander, who sees it as a statement that contrasts with what follows, along these lines: “Though there’s only a handful of grain in the land, nevertheless there’s going to be a rich harvest.”  Hirsch, taking his own path as usual, links this word pisah with the root pss, which he takes to mean “to stop,” so that pisah would mean “the border.”  The point, says he, is that the border of the grainfields will reach up to the tops of the mountains, so abundant will it be.  In any case, everyone takes this to mean that there will be abundance of grain, in one way or another, and that’s what I’ve gone with.

“Land” here is the same word rendered “earth” earlier in the Psalm, which suggests that perhaps it should be rendered “land” throughout.

Line 36: “Rustle” (Alter, Hirsch) seems better to me — read: closer to “shake,” which is the normal meaning of the word — than the guesses that usually substitute for it (e.g,. “thrive”).

Line 39: The verb yanan occurs only here but it’s related to the noun nin, “descendant.”  Alexander renders it “his name will propagate (itself),” which sounds awkward to me.  So does Hirsch’s “be perpetuated in progeny.”  Alter has “bear seed,” but I don’t want to import the idea of seed into the translation, given the importance of seed motifs elsewhere.  Perhaps “procreate” would be a possibility.  But I’ve gone with “have descendants” to make the connection with nin (“descendant”) clear.

Line 40: While many commentators treat the hithpael here as reflexive (“they will bless themselves by him”), as they do with the same form in Genesis 22:18 and 26:4, it seems to me that it is best to render it as a passive (“be blessed in/by/through/with him”).  See O. T. Allis’s “The Blessing of Abraham,” Princeton Theological Review 25 (1927):263-298, where Allis shows that the hithpael can have a passive meaning.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:21 pm | Discuss (0)
July 17, 2012

Psalm 71

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

In you, Yahweh, I have taken refuge;
Let me not be shamed forever.
In your righteousness rescue me and deliver me.
Incline to me your ear and save me.
Be for me a rock of refuge,
To come to continually.
You commanded to save me,
For my rock and my stronghold you are.

My God, deliver me from the hand of the wicked,
From the palm of the unjust and the corrupt,
For you are my hope, my Master;
Yahweh, my confidence from my youth.
Upon you I leaned from the womb;
From the belly of my mother you separated me;
In you is my praise continually.
As a wonder I was to the many;
And you are my strong refuge.

May my mouth be filled with your praise;
All the day, with your beauty.
Do not cast me off at the time of old age;
When my strength fails do not forsake me,
For my enemies speak to me,
And those who watch my soul counsel together,
Saying, “God has forsaken him.
Pursue and catch him because there is no one to rescue.”

God, do not be far from me;
My God, to help me hasten.
Let them be shamed, let them perish,
The accusers of my soul.
Let them be clothed with reproach and be disgraced,
The ones who seek my harm.

And I myself, continually I will hope;
And I will add to all your praise.
My mouth will recount your righteousness;
All the day your salvation,
For I do not know the numbers.
I will come in the powers of my Master, Yahweh.
I will memorialize your righteousness, yours only.

God, you have taught me from my youth;
And until now I declared your wonders.
And also unto old age and gray-headedness,
God do not forsake me,
Until I declare your right arm to the generation,
To all who will come, your power.

And your righteousness, God, is unto the heights,
You who have done great things –
God, who is like you?
You who have shown us oppressions, many and evil,
You will return; you will make us live,
And from the depths of the earth,
You will return, you will bring me up.
You will multiply my greatness
And you will turn around; you will comfort me.

As for me also, I will thank you with the voice of the lute –
Your trustworthiness, God.
I will psalm to you with the lyre,
The holy one of Israel.
My lips will sing when I psalm to you,
And my soul which you have redeemed.
My tongue also, all the day,
Will tell your righteousnesses,
For they are shamed, for they are disgraced,
Those who sought my harm.

A few comments about the translation of this psalm:

Line 10: The last word here is hard to translate.  It appears to be the long form of a Qal participle of a word, which in the Qal means “to be (thoroughly) leavened, to be sour(ed).”  Note that leaven in the  Bible is not yeast but sourdough starter.  In the Hiphil, it can mean “turn sharp, bitter” (Ps 73:21), though “sour” works there, too.  The related noun means “vinegar” (Ps 69:22).

Lexicons suggest that it means “to be ruthless,” either because they think that meaning comes by extension from “to be sour/sharp” or because they think the word is an alternate spelling of hms, “to be violent.”  Maybe.

Hirsch says that the word refers “to one who pours a drop of vinegar into the cup of peace and happiness of another and thus causes the other’s peace and prosperity to curdle and ferment.”  This man is, then, the “vinegarer,” the “sourer” or life.  Alexander, similarly, suggests that the word has to do with becoming sour, fermented, putrified, and translates it “corrupt doer.”  Perhaps one could opt for “corrupter” to convey the idea that this man does not just do corrupt things but actually corrupts or sours things.  On the other hand, the root verb in Qal does seem to refer to something true of the subject (“to be leavened/sour”), not to something the subject does to something else (“make leavened/sour”).  That said, I’ve gone for “corrupt.”  For now.

Line 14: The verb here is puzzling.  It appears to be from a root that means “to cut off,” but as Hirsch points out, the idea has to do with separation in Numbers 11:31, not necessarily with cutting.  Hirsch himself opts for “you set me apart,” with connotations of being isolated.  That may go too far.

Line 36: “The numbers” refers to the number of God’s acts of salvation and righteousness.  More literally, it’s “I do not know numbers.”  Note that the root of the word for “numbers” here is the same as the root of the verb “recount” earlier.  In fact, the Psalmist might even be saying that he would count or number God’s acts of salvation.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:28 pm | Discuss (0)
July 11, 2012

Psalm 70

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
By David.
For the memorial.

God, to rescue me,
Yahweh, to help me, hasten!
May they be shamed and confounded,
The ones who seek my soul.
May they shrink back and be disgraced,
The ones who wish me evil.
May they turn because of their shame,
The ones who say, “Aha! Aha!”

Let them be glad and rejoice in you,
All who seek you.
Let them say continually, “Great is God!,”
Those who love your salvation.

And I am oppressed and needy;
God, hasten to me!
My help and my deliverer you are;
Yahweh, do not delay.

A comment on the translation (which also, by the way, applies to Psalm 40, part of which is almost word-for-word what we have in Psalm 70):

Line 7: The expression seems to be “turn back on the heel(s) of their shame” (cf. Alter), but it is probably used, as most commentators think, to mean “because of, on account of their shame.”

Posted by John Barach @ 2:12 pm | Discuss (0)
July 3, 2012

Psalm 69

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
Upon lilies.
By David.

Save me, God,
For the waters have come, up to my soul.
I have sunk in the mire of the deep,
And there is no place to stand.
I have come into depths of water,
And a torrent has washed me away.
I am weary with my calling;
My throat is parched.
My eyes fail
From waiting for my God.
More than the hairs of my head
Are those who hate me undeservedly.
Mighty are my destroyers,
My lying enemies.
What I did not steal,
I must then return.

God, you yourself know my foolishness,
And my guilts from you are not hidden.
Let them not be shamed in me, the ones who wait for you,
My Master, Yahweh of hosts.
Let them not be disgraced in me, the ones who seek you,
God of Israel,
Because for you I have borne reproach;
Disgrace has covered my face.
Estranged have I been from my brothers,
And a foreigner to my mother’s sons,
Because the zeal of your house has consumed me,
And the reproach of your reproachers has fallen upon me.
And I wept in fasting for my soul;
And it became a reproach to me.
And I made my clothing sackcloth,
And I was to them a byword.
They talk about me, those who sit in the gate:
The songs of those who drink beer.

But as for me, my prayer is to you:
Yahweh, a time of favor!
God, in the abundance of your loyalty,
Answer me in the trustworthiness of your salvation.
Rescue me from the mire and do not let me sink;
Let me be rescued from my haters and from depths of water.
Let not the torrent of water wash me away;
And let not the deep swallow me;
And let not the pit shut upon me its mouth.

Answer me, Yahweh, for good is your loyalty;
According to the abundance of your compassions, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
For I am distressed.  Hurry, answer me!
Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
Because of my enemies, ransom me.
You yourself know my reproach,
And my shame and my disgrace;
Before you are all my oppressors.
Reproach breaks my heart, and I am sick;
I wait for sympathy and there is none,
And for comforters and I do not find them.
They give for my food gall,
And for my thirst they make me drink vinegar.

Let their table before them become a snare,
And for the ones at peace a trap.
Let their eyes be too dark to see;
And let their loins shake continually.
Pour out upon them your wrath,
And let your burning anger overtake them.
Let their encampment be desolate;
In their tents let there be no one dwelling,
Because as for you — whom you have struck, they persecute,
And the suffering of your wounded they recount.
Give liability upon their liability,
And let them not come into your righteousness.
Let them be blotted from the book of the living,
And with the righteous let them not be written.

But I am lowly and suffering;
Let your salvation, God, set me on high.
I will praise the name of God in song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
And it will be better to Yahweh than an ox,
A bull horned and hooved.
The lowly have seen and rejoiced;
Those who seek God, may your hearts live,
For Yahweh is listening to the needy,
And his captives he does not despise.

Let heaven and earth praise him;
Seas and everything swarming in them,
For God will save Zion,
And build the cities of Judah,
And they will dwell there and possess it,
And the seed of his servants will inherit it,
And the lovers of his name will live in it.

A few comments about the translation of this psalm:

Line 2: “Up to my soul” could, according to many commentaries, be “up to my neck,” which fits this context.  The association between nephesh and breath may justify taking the word as neck or throat here, but for now I’m sticking with the way it’s usually translated elsewhere.  The point is that the waters are going to cut off his breath, I think.

Line 4: “Place to stand” (Alexander, Alter) is at attempt to translate m’md.  Holladay has “firm ground,” which is certainly what is in view. Tate’s “foothold” is good, too. But the root has to do specifically with standing, and I wanted to capture that in the translation.

Line 14: More literally, “my enemies of a lie.”  I take this as a construct chain in which the second noun (“a lie”) functions to describe the first (“my enemies”).

Line 29: What “my soul” is doing in this verse is unclear.  It could be the indirect object of the verb “weep” (which can take an object in this sense: “weep for X”).  But it’s also possible that it is a second subject: “I weep, namely, my soul” (Delitzsch).  Or, I suppose, it could be a direct object: Alexander thinks that it’s “I weep away my soul/life” (cf. Hirsch: “I wept out my soul on the fast day”).

Line 33: “Talk” is really too weak here.  The word implies deliberation, debate, discussion, something resulting from intense meditation (which makes me wonder if the word translated “byword” in the previous line could better be rendered “parable” or “riddle”).  Sometimes, the word is even rendered “complaint,” though that depends on the context.

Line 34: “Beer” is the correct translation of shekar.  There are only two things that an Israelite could make into a fermented drink.  One was fruit, and the product would be wine (yayin).  The other was grain, and the product would be beer (shekar).

Line 38: “The trustworthiness of your salvation” might be an adjectival construct chain, so that it could be rendered “Your saving trustworthiness.”  I opt for “trustworthiness” instead of “truth” (which is often what other translations have) because the idea here is not simply conformity to the facts.  Tate reverses the adjectival order: “Your sure salvation” (cf. Alter: “Your steadfast rescue”).

Line 59: The word here is the plural of shalom, which means “peace, well-being, prosperity.”  So KJV, Calvin, and Hirsch take it to be saying that the enemies’ prosperity (Hirsch: “abundance of good fortune”) would be a trap for them. I’m not sure, in that case, why the word has a l- prefix, though that’s not determinative.  The Targum takes it as the plural of shelem, “Peace offering,” which is pretty attractive, given the context … but that would be a significantly different form of the word. Alexander and Hengstenberg think it refers to those who are secure, but following Alter and Tate, it may be best to take it as the friends of the enemies’, those who are at peace with them, which is how the word shalom is used in Psalm 55:20.

Line 77: More literally, “A bull of horns, hooves.”

Posted by John Barach @ 3:00 pm | Discuss (0)
June 28, 2012

Psalm 68

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
By David.
A psalm.
A song.

Let God arise; let his enemies scatter;
And let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is blown away,
May you blow them away.
As wax melts before fire,
May the wicked perish before God.
And the righteous — may they rejoice;
May they exult before God;
And may they be glad with rejoicing.

Sing to God; psalm his name;
Prepare a way for the Rider in the Deserts
By Yah, his name —
And exult before him.
Father of orphans and judge of widows
Is God in his holy abode.
God makes the solitary dwell in a house;
He brings forth the prisoners into prosperity;
But the rebellious inhabit a parched land.

God, when you went forth before your people,
When you marched through the wilderness (Selah),
The earth shook;
The heavens too dripped before God,
This Sinai
Before God, the God of Israel.
A rain of gifts you showered, God;
Your inheritance — and it is weary — you yourself establish.
Your host dwelled in it;
You prepared it in your goodness for the lowly, God.

My Master gives the word;
The messengers are a great army.
The kings of armies flee; they flee;
And she who abides in the house divides the spoil.
If you lie down between the sheepfolds,
The wings of a dove are covered with silver,
And her pinions with the yellow of gold.
When the Almighty scattered the kings there,
It snowed in Zalmon.

Mountain of God, Mount Bashan,
Mountain of ridges, Mount Bashan,
Why do you look with hostility, mountains of ridges?
The mountain God desired for his dwelling,
Yes, Yahweh will settle there lastingly.

The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
Thousands repeatedly;
My Master among them;
Sinai, in the holy place!
You ascended on high;
You captured a captivity;
You took gifts among men —
And even rebels —
In order that Yah, God, would abide.

Blessed be my Master, day after day!
He bears burdens for us — the Mighty One of our salvation. Selah.
The Mighty One is for us a Mighty One of salvations,
And to Yahweh belong escapes from death.
Yes, God will crush the head of his enemies,
The hairy crown of the one who walk in his guilt.

My Master said, “From Bashan I will bring back,
I will bring back from the depths of the sea,
That you may crush, with your foot in blood,
That the tongue of your dogs from your enemies may have its portion.

They saw your processions, God,
My Mighty One’s processions, my King into the holy place.
The singers went first; the string-players after;
In the midst, maidens playing timbrels.
In assemblies, bless God,
Yahweh, from the fountain of Israel.
There is Benjamin, the little one, who dominates them;
The princes of Judah, who stoned them;
The princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.

Your God has ordained your strength;
Be strong, God, who works for us.
Because of your temple, over Jerusalem,
To you the kings will bring tribute.

Rebuke the beast of the reeds,
The congregation of strong ones among the calves, the peoples,
Prostrating himself with pieces of silver;
He dispersed peoples that delighted in wars.
Envoys will come from Egypt;
Cush will make its hands hasten to God.

Kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
Psalm to my Master, (Selah)
To the rider in the heavens of heavens of old;
Look! He utters with his voice, a voice of strength.
Ascribe strength to God;
Over Israel is his loftiness,
And his strength in the clouds.
Fearful are you, God, from your holy places!
The Mighty One of Israel — He gives strength and powers to a people.
Blessed be God.

Many, many, many comments about this psalm, and I could multiply them. Of this psalm, Spurgeon says, “The Psalm is at once surpassingly excellent and difficult. Its darkness in some stanzas is utterly impenetrable.” Adam Clarke writes:

I know not how to undertake a comment on this Psalm: it is the most difficult in the whole Psalter; and I cannot help adopting the opinion of Simon De Muis: “In this Psalm there are as many precipices and labyrinths as there are verses or words. It may not be improperly termed, the torture of critics, and the reproach of commentators.” To attempt any thing new on it would be dangerous; and to say what has been so often said would be unsatisfactory. I am truly afraid to fall over one of those precipices, or be endlessly entangled and lost in one of these labyrinths. There are customs here referred to which I do not fully understand; there are words whose meaning I cannot, to my own satisfaction, ascertain; and allusions which are to me inexplicable. Yet of the composition itself I have the highest opinion: it is sublime beyond all comparison; it is constructed with an art truly admirable; it possesses all the dignity of the sacred language; none but David could have composed it; and, at this lapse of time, it would require no small influence of the Spirit that was upon him, to give its true interpretation.

So here are a few comments:

Line 11: The verb here is often rendered “extol,” but there is little support for that interpretation.  It is used in exactly this form in Isaiah 57:14 and 62:10 to refer to the preparation of a highway (cf. Alter: “Pave the way”).  Granted, in both of these passages in Isaiah, the word for a path or way appears in the context, so the verb itself may refer only to heaping or lifting something up (a highway in the desert being higher than the rest of the land around it).  In Prov 4:9, a different form of the verb seems to mean “exalt,” and elsewhere the verb simply refers to raising something up (e.g., Job 19:12; 30:12).  But that still doesn’t justify taking it to mean “extol.”  “Exalt” might be sufficient, but it doesn’t take into account the l- prefix on what follows: This is not exalting God but exalting/lifting up for God.   Preparing a way in connection with the deserts seems most fitting here.

Line 11: The word translated “deserts” here is the normal word for a desert or a wilderness (arabah), and later on in the psalm we hear about God leading Israel through the wilderness and providing for her there.  Several commentaries, however, suggest that this phrase might be parallel to the Ugaritic rkb ‘rpt, “Rider of Clouds,” an epithet applied to Baal.  On this suggestion, arab(h)ot(h) would be a variant form of arap(h)ot(h), with the substitution of b for p, which is possible, and arap(h)ot(h) would be an otherwise unattested Hebrew word cognate with the Ugaritic ‘rpt, “clouds.”  Well, maybe.  But that seems pretty tenuous to me, and given the desert context in this psalm I’m going to stick with what it looks like.

Line 12: I am not sure what to do with the b- prefix here, which makes it look as if it should read “In Yah” or perhaps “By Yah.”  Hengstenberg, following Ewald, seems to think that this could just be “Yah is his name.”

Line 17: The last word, here translated “into prosperity,” appears only here in Hebrew.  The usual suggestion is that it is a form of ks(h)r, which has to do with pleasure or success or prosperity.   “He brings forth the prisoners in(to) prosperity” also maintains a parallel with the preceding line: From a bad situation to a good situation.  Tate, drawing on what he thinks is a parallel in Ugaritic, suggests “with music.”

Hirsch, on the other hand, draws on the parallel between ks(h)r and qs(h)r, the latter of which means “bonds.”  (See also Hirsch’s commentary on Gen 2:7 for a fascinating discussion of gs(h)r, ys(h)r, ks(h)r, and qs(h)r).  The idea, he says, is that at the time the prisoners were brought out, they were still “in bonds; they hadn’t freed themselves, but owed their freedom entirely to God.

Line 25: A rain of gifts: The word translated “gifts” here normally refers to freewill offerings or to one’s free inclination (e.g., Ps 54:8).  This phrase is often rendered “a bountiful rain” (Alter) or “a good rain” (Tate) or something like that, but here I’m following Hirsch, Delitzsch, Hengstenberg, and Alexander in taking it more metaphorically, as a rain consisting of generous, gracious gifts.  After all, what “rained” from heaven on Israel in the wilderness was manna and quail, not water.  Perhaps, retaining the sense of freedom here and noting that the word translated “rain” is not in construct with the word for freewill offerings, we ought to render the latter adverbially: “Rain you freely showered….”

Line 27: Literally “your creature(s),” but this term is used for a troop or army in 2 Sam 23:11, 13 (cf. Hengstenberg).

Line 33: Like line 32, this is perhaps an allusion to Judges 5 (as Alter and others suggest).  “Sheepfolds” is a guess.  Its appearance in a similar phrase — lying between these things — in Gen 49:14 and Judges 5:16 doesn’t make things much clearer, nor does its appearance in Ezek 40:43.  Holliday suggests “saddlebags” — but why? — and Tate thinks that, since Genesis presents Issachar as a donkey “lying down between the whatnots,” the phrase refers to being lazy.  When Reuben “lies down between the thingamagigs” in Judges 5:16, then, he is being lazy and not going out to battle as he should.  And so, Tate says, this verse refers to the men of Israel who were too lazy to go to battle.  I’m not persuaded.  It seems to me that it could be an image of peace.  Why take Genesis 49:14 as a negative image? Why not take Judges 5:16 as saying that Reuben preferred peace to (necessary) war?  Why not take Psalm 68 as referring to the peace Israel has after battle, lying down between the whatnots again to divide the spoil?

Line 35: The last two words are particularly obscure.  The word rendered “yellow” is used for the greenish/yellowish spots associated with the skin affliction we often (wrongly) call “leprosy” in Leviticus, and here probably refers to a greenish or yellowish tint of the gold.  Tate has “green-gold” which may be okay, but sounds odd.  The last word has to do with sharpness (cf. Hirsch) but is also used for gold (Zech 9:3).  BDB thinks the root has to do with being yellow.

Line 40: The word rendered “look with hostility” occurs only here, and no analogous form appears elsewhere in the Bible. Alexander and Delitzsch point out that the cognate word in Arabic refers to a beast lying in wait and to watching someone with hostile intent.  It is often translated “look with envy” and perhaps that’s the sense here, but I wonder whether the Arabic parallel really justifies importing the idea of envy: the beast lying in wait is hostile toward his prey but not envious.

Line 43: “thousands repeatedly” is clunky.  The word does seem to have to with repetition (from s(h)nh, “to do again, repeat”: Alexander, Delitzsch; cf. s(h)nn, “repeat, say again and again” [Deut 6:7); cf. also s(h)ny: "second," i.e., something repeated). But Holliday suggests "archers" (see Tate for grounds, though Tate goes with "warriors").  Hirsch thinks that s(h)n'n is "probably tantamount" to s(h)'nn and also compares it to ts(h)'n, concluding that it has to do with splendor and "blessed exaltation."

Line 45: "Sinai, in the holy place" is pretty obscure.  It could be "in holiness," but that isn't clearer.  Alter takes it as an address to Sinai ("O Sinai in holiness!").  It's possible that "Sinai" is short for "The God of Sinai" (cf. earlier in the psalm), who is now in the Holy Place.  But it's also possible that it should be a declaration that Mount Sinai is now in some sense in the Holy Place (cf. Hirsch, who notes that Ezek 43:15 calls the upper part of the altar "the Mountain of God").  Dunno.

Line 52: The verb here can be used for imposing a burden or for carrying one.  In the former case, the preposition is 'al ("upon"), but here it's l- ("to, for, with reference to") and probably refers to carrying a burden.   The word for a burden isn't in the original, but I supplied it because it's implied and "He carries/bears for us" doesn't communicate well.  Sometimes it's taken as meaning that God loads us (with blessings, but that's not in the text) or that other people burden us but God is still our salvation.

Line 60: Very obscure.  "The tongue of your dogs" is clear enough, as is "from your enemies."  But there's no verb, and the last word is especially hard to reckon with.  It could be "from him," and that's certainly what it looks like.  So Alexander renders it is "from your enemies, [especially] from him [i.e., the wicked man referred to earlier in the psalm].” But usually people guess that the word comes from mn, “portion,” and that’s what I’ve gone with for now.  Perhaps, more or less following Hengstenberg and retaining the sense of “from him/it,” we could understand it this way: “The tongue of your dogs [drinks] from you enemies, from it [= the blood].”

Line 67: The verb here is obscure. It looks like a Qal participle from rdm, except rdm appears only in the Niphal and means “enter deep-sleep” (cf. tardema, “deep sleep,” in Gen 2, 15, etc., where it refers to a coma state close to — and in some passages identical with — death). Maybe, just maybe, it could refer to putting others into deep-sleep (= death), but that’s unattested elsewhere and no one but me has ever suggested it.

Usually, it’s taken as rdh + 3p suffix: “To tread/rule/subdue/govern/have dominion over them.”  Then there are two questions: What is the nature of this rule? And who is them? The answers range from “Benjamin is keeping the people in the procession in order” (which requires us to believe that, for some reason, Benjamin is leading this procession) to “Benjamin is subduing the enemies” (Alexander).  I’m inclined toward the latter, given that rdh is often used for suppressing and ruling over enemies and hostile forces; see the discussion below.

Line 68: The noun rigmatam here appears to be a feminine noun, rigmah, with a 3p suffix of possession (“their”), derived from rgm, which means … “to stone.”  Most commentators immediately reject that reading and either emend the text (so that some end up with a reference to clothing: “The princes of Judah in their raiment,” Alter) or  suggest that the noun here refers to a heap of stones and then, by extension, to a crowd of people, yielding the translation “The princes of Judah and their throngs.”  There is, however, no evidence of this usage elsewhere.  The LXX, by the way, thinks this word has something to do with leaders: “The princes of Judah with their leaders.” Tate jumps to the Ugaritic rgm, which means “to speak,” and the Akkadian ragamu, which means “to shout,” and suggests that the phrase identifies Judah’s princes as “their noisy leaders.”

But why not “to stone”? It is true that this verb is always used in the context of judgment and punishment (i.e., stoning the criminal) and not in the context of slingers in battle, but I don’t know that that’s a strong objection. My translation follows Alexander and Hengstenberg, who alone (it seems) maintain that rdm refers to dominion in line 67 and rgm to stoning in line 68. (Note that Hirsch takes rdm in line 67 to mean “to overcome,” which may be a stretch, and then thinks that verb is implied in line 69, too, so that it should be understood as follows: “Little Benjamin overcomes them; the princes of Judah [overcome] their stonings” — that is, the stones thrown at them by the enemy.  That’s possible, I guess, but it seems more likely to me to see Israel as the one stoning the wicked and not the other way around.)

Benjamin’s dominion, it seems to me, is not a reference to him being the leader of the procession.  Why would he be?  In fact, what procession is this?  It seems most likely that it is the ascension of the Ark to Mount Zion.  After all, it opens with the words Moses said when the Ark set forth in Numbers, it has to do with one mountain being chosen and not others, and it culminates in this procession into that place.  In that procession, Benjamin certainly wasn’t having dominion over all the other tribes.  Rather, it seems to me, the reference is to Saul (from Benjamin) leading Israel to defeat the enemies.  And it’s Saul, after all, who points out to Samuel how little Benjamin is.

Then comes David (Judah) who defeats the Philistines, thereby bringing about the peace which makes possible the moving of the Ark to its resting place on Zion.  And how did David initiate that conquest which led to peace?  By killing Goliath.  Specifically, by stoning him (and it does seem to me that we ought to connect the judicial stoning prescribed in the law to the stoning of Goliath).

Perhaps the references to the princes of Zebulun and Naphtali here are related to the story of Deborah and Barak, which is alluded to so often in this psalm. But if so, that would suggest that the idea here is not dominion in a procession or fine garments worn in the procession but victory in battle. The ones in the procession are the victors.

Line 75: “the calves, the peoples”: these two terms are probably in apposition and epexegetical.  It is not “the calves of the peoples” — that is, belonging to the peoples — but “the calves, [namely] the peoples.”

Line 78: “Envoys” is a guess.  This is a hapax legomenon.  One more in a psalm filled with them.

Line 79: “Make its hands hasten” is an awkward expression. But it is not “lift up hands” (in prayer), nor is it “stretch out hands” (toward God, asking for assistance) or something like that.  Rather, it refers to hurrying to God with hands full of gifts (Hengstenberg).

Posted by John Barach @ 1:31 pm | Discuss (1)
June 18, 2012

Psalm 67

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
With stringed instruments.
A psalm.
A song.

God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause his face to shine upon us (Selah),
To make known on earth your way,
Among all nations your salvation.

Let the peoples praise you, God;
Let the peoples — all of them — praise you.

Let the peoples rejoice and shout joyfully,
Because you judge peoples with uprightness,
And peoples on the earth you guide. Selah.

Let the peoples praise you, God;
Let the peoples — all of them — praise you.

Earth has given her produce;
God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
And they will fear him — all the ends of earth.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:23 pm | Discuss (0)
June 13, 2012

Psalm 66

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
A song.
A psalm.

Shout to God, all the earth;
Psalm the glory of his name;
Make glorious his praise.
Say to God, “How fearful are your deeds.
Because of the greatness of your strength, your enemies cringe before you.”
All the earth bows to you
And psalms to you;
They psalm to your name.  Selah.

Come, see the works of God,
Fearful acts unto the sons of Adam.
He turned the sea into dry land;
Through the river they passed on foot.
There let us rejoice in him,
Ruling in his might forever.
His eyes over the nations keep watch;
Let not the rebellious exalt themselves.  Selah.

Bless, O peoples, our God!
Make heard the sound of his praise,
Who places our soul among the living,
And does not give our feet to stumbling.

Indeed, you tested us, God;
You refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You put an oppressive burden on our hips.
You made a man ride over our head;
We came through fire and through water,
And you brought us forth to abundance.

I will come to your house with Ascensions;
I will pay to you my vows,
Which my lips uttered,
And my mouth spoke in my oppression.
Ascensions of fatlings I will ascend to you with the smoke of rams;
I will offer cattle with male goats.  Selah.

Come, hear, and I will proclaim — all who fear God –
What he has done for my soul.
To him with my mouth I called,
And extolling was under my tongue.
Iniquity — if I had seen it in my heart,
My Master would not have heard.
But truly God has heard;
He has been attentive to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor his loyalty from me.

Some comments on the translation:

Line 3: More literally, perhaps, “Make glory his praise,” where “his praise” is the thing being made into “glory.”  But to get the point across and maintain the word order as much as possible, I’ve rendered “glory” as an adjective.

Line 4: The word I’ve rendered “fearful” (following Alexander) is often translated “awesome,” and that translation does capture the meaning.  But I’ve retained “fearful” to keep the link with the root word, which has to do with fear.  Hirsch suggests that the line should be rendered “What a tremendous thing are your acts.”  Cf. also line 10.

Line 5: I’ve translated a word as “cringe” which has, as one of its basic meanings, “lie, speak falsely.”  It’s possible that it means “feign submission,” as some translations render it (and as Holladay’s lexicon suggests for Deut 33:29; Ps 18:45; 2 Sam 22:45).  The idea is not that these enemies are now true and genuine servants of the king, but that they are making a show of obedience (cf. BDB); the point is not to deceive or trick the ruler — as “feign submission” — might suggest, but rather to escape from punishment as rebels.

Line 24: The word translated “oppressive burden” here comes from a root that has to do with pressure.  This form of the word seems to refer to something that causes pressure, in this case pressure upon the hips and small of the back (“loins”).  Perhaps we could use the word “weight,” but I’m afraid that “weight on our hips” makes us think of someone who is putting on the pounds, getting overweight, which isn’t the idea at all.

Line 25 is hard to understand.  The word for “man” (enosh) is often used for frail man, mortal man, mere man in contrast to God.  The phrase “over our heads” is possible, since the prefix l- can be used for on or over.  Tate thinks the verse is referring to Moses: In spite of what is mentioned in the previous line, God made Moses ride out of Egypt at the head of Israel’s host. That seems like a stretch to me.  It may suggest that God made a weak man lead Israel, but I’m not sure that “at our head” is attested in this sense anywhere else.

Line 33 uses a word that could be rendered “make.”  I’ve translated it as “offer.”  It appears to be a technical term for offerings (cf. Ex 29:36; Lev 9:7; also Judg 6:19; 1 Kgs 18:23, 26).

Posted by John Barach @ 3:17 pm | Discuss (2)
June 5, 2012

Psalm 65

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

I have prepared these psalms for our liturgy, trying to be as accurate in my translation as possible. The alternation between plain text and bold is for responsive reading. I invite feedback on the translation!

For the director.
A psalm.
By David.
A song.

To you silence is praise, God in Zion,
And to you will be performed a vow.
Hearer of prayer,
Unto you all flesh will come.
Deeds of liability prevail over me;
Our rebellions — you yourself will cover them.
Most happy is the one you choose and bring near:
He lives in your courts.
We are filled with the goodness of your house,
Your holy temple.

Awesomely, in righteousness you will answer us,
God of our salvation –
The trust of all the ends of the earth
And of the farthest sea –
Establishing the mountains by his power,
Girded with strength,
Quieting the uproar of the seas,
The uproar of their waves,
Even the tumult of the peoples.
Those who dwell at the ends fear your signs;
The outgoings of the morning and the evening you make shout for joy.

You visit the earth
And make it overflow;
You make it very rich.
God’s river is full of water.
You prepare their grain.
Indeed, in this way you prepare it:
Its furrows you drench;
You level its ridges.
With showers you soften it;
Its growth you bless.
You crown the year with your goodness,
And your cart tracks drip fat.
The grasslands of the wilderness drip,
And with joy the hills gird themselves.
The meadows are clothed with the flocks,
And the valleys are dressed with grain.
They shout for joy;
Yes, they sing!

Some comments on the translation:

Line 1: The word translated silence here is often emended, resulting in the translation “praise waits for you.”  But the word is the word for silence (cf., e.g., Alexander, Alter, Delitzsch, Jordan, Kidner).  What this phrase means, I’m not entirely certain.

Lines 2ff.: The Hebrew is broken up here, so that it appears as if the first part of verse 3 (Hebrew) is actually the second stich of the line that ends verse 2, so that it should be

To you silence is praise,
God in Zion.
And to you will be paid a vow,
Hearer of prayer.
Unto you all flesh will come.
Words/Things/Deeds of iniquity….

Line 5: The word translated “deeds” often means “words” but can also mean “things, matters.”  I’ve rendered this “deeds/works” (e.g., Alter, Jordan, Tate), but there are more obvious Hebrew words that could have been chosen for deeds or actions.  Hirsch thinks these are the “products of iniquity,” but because the word I’ve rendered “liability” has to do with guilt, I suspect that these are deeds/words   Still, Alexander may be right in thinking that these are the words associated with liability/guilt, that is, that they are charges and accusations which are overwhelming to David.   Such charges are a major theme of many psalms.

In line 20 (“Those who dwell at the ends…”), “ends” refers to the farthest reaches of the earth, it seems.

 

Posted by John Barach @ 1:50 pm | Discuss (0)
May 30, 2012

Lift Your Eyes to the Hills

Category: Bible - NT - Matthew,Bible - OT - Psalms :: Link :: Print

Is there an allusion to Psalm 121 in Matthew 17?

Matthew has just told us about Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. Up on the mountain, Jesus is shining “as white as light” and a “bright cloud” overshadows them, which ought to make us wonder if that light was visible to those down below. But when Jesus and his three mighty men come down the mountain into the dark world below, they find a demon-possessed boy. That’s what Mark tells us. But Matthew tells us that the boy was moonstruck. I’m not entirely sure what that means and I’m not persuaded that it can simply be identified with epilepsy, though it seems similar. But what’s important here is that the word implies a striking by the moon.

Now consider Psalm 121, which begins:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
  From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
  Who made heaven and earth.

In Matthew’s Gospel, who is on the hills? Jesus is, where he shines with glory. He is the one from whom help comes for those down below, and they ought to be expecting it, though as the story shows they are not. Interestingly, the man who comes to Jesus for help calls him “Lord.”

The psalm goes on:

The sun shall not strike you by day,
  Nor the moon by night.

Here we have, it seems, exactly what the boy was suffering from: he was struck by the moon. But his father calls upon the Lord, who was on the hills, and his son is rescued.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:11 pm | Discuss (0)

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