Category Archive: Bible – OT – Psalms

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May 14, 2007

Psalm 21

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A reminder: I’ve 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.

Yahweh, in your strength the king rejoices;
And in your salvation how greatly he is glad!
The desire of his heart you granted him
And the request of his lips you did not withhold. Selah.

Indeed you welcomed him with blessings of goodness;
You set on his head a crown of fine gold.
Life he asked of you;
You gave it to him,
Length of days everlastingly and forever.

Great is his glory through your salvation;
Majesty and splendor you put upon him.
Indeed, you make him blessings forever;
You gladden him with joy by your face.

For the king trusts in Yahweh,
And in the loyalty of the Highest he will not be shaken.

Your hand will find all your enemies;
Your right hand will find those who hate you.
You will make them like a fiery furnace
In the time of your face, Yahweh.
In anger he will swallow them
And fire will devour them.
Their fruit you will destroy from the earth
And their seed from the sons of Adam,
Because they intend evil against you;
They devise a plot.
They lack ability,

Because you will make them turn their back;
When you ready your bowstrings at their faces.

Be exalted, Yahweh, in your strength;
We will sing and psalm your power.

A few comments about the translation of this psalm:

(1) In line 12, “you make him blessings forever” doesn’t seem to mean that Yahweh makes the king blessed, but rather that he makes him blessed in order to be a blessing to others. He becomes a blessing to the people and a source of blessings.

(2) The word “intend” in line 24 (“they intend evil against you”) is often used for stretching something out (e.g., stretching out a hand), but this phrase (“to stretch out against”) “expresses the intention to cause a certain fate to overtake another person” (Hirsch).

(3) In line 27, the word translated “back” is really something of a guess, though it’s a guess shared by many commentators. Got any better suggestions?

Posted by John Barach @ 3:50 pm | Discuss (0)
May 7, 2007

Psalm 20

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A reminder: I’ve 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.

May Yahweh answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob set you on high.
May he send you help from the holy place
And from Zion may he support you.
May he remember all your Tributes
And your Ascension may he count as fat. Selah.
May he give to you according to your heart
And all your counsel may he fulfill.

We will shout for joy in your salvation
And in the name of our God we will raise a banner!
May Yahweh fulfill all your requests!

Now I know that Yahweh saves his anointed one!
He answers him from his holy heavens with the saving strengths of his right hand!

These ones trust in chariots and these ones in horses,
But we will memorialize the name “Yahweh our God.”

They have knelt down and fallen,
But we rise up and remain upright.

Yahweh save!
May the king answer us in the day we call.

A few comments about Psalm 20:

1.  Notice how much of the psalm has to do with up and down.  (No, I didn’t notice this on my own.  Jim Jordan points it out in his essay on this psalm.)  The Psalmist talks about being “set on high.”  He mentions Ascensions (see below).  The righteous “rise up.”  But the wicked are driven to their knees and fall down.

2.  In line 5, “Tributes” refers to the grain presented as a gift to God, sometimes in the form of bread, as a a tribute.  It’s part of the results of man’s labor.  The word is often translated “grain offering,” which is indeed what this offering consists of, but the word itself doesn’t mean “grain.”  It’s the word for the tribute you present to a king.  And here the anointed king of Israel is said to have presented his tribute to Israel’s King.  The fact that God accepts this tribute is important: God accepts and delights in the king’s works.  And that’s true of our good works also, which is why the offering is an important aspect of our worship.

3.  “Ascension” (line 6) is the name of one of Israel’s three basic offerings.  Most translations of the Bible get this one wrong.  They translate it “burnt offering” or “whole burnt offering,” and certainly that describes part of what happens to the offering: the whole thing is burned up in the fire.  But the word itself doesn’t have anything to do with burning or with wholeness.  Rather, the word has to do with ascension, with going up.

In this offering, the worshiper killed an animal and then presented the whole animal to God so that all of the meat is consumed in the fire and turned into smoke which ascends up into God’s presence, mingling with the Glory-Cloud that fills the tabernacle or temple.  The offering represents the worshiper (in this case, the anointed king) being drawn near to God, ascending into God’s presence.  By accepting the offering, God has brought the worshiper on high.  If God remembers the king’s Ascension, he will respond by saving the king and setting him on high over his enemies.

4.  In lines 15 and 16, the term “memorializing” is related to a verb meaning “to remember.”  It’s making God’s name (“Yahweh our God”) be remembered.  God appointed that name “Yahweh” as his memorial name (Ex. 3:15), so that when his people call on him by that name he remembers them.  And when God remembers, he acts.  That’s the memorial theology that runs all the way through Scripture.  God remembers those who call on his name and he acts on their behalf.  Similarly, we pray in Jesus‘ name, and God remembers us and acts.

The contrast here is with those who rely on chariots and horses.  There’s no verb in line 15; rather, the verb comes from line 16 (“to memorialize”).  You could render the whole thing this way: “These [memorialize] chariots and these [memorialize] horses….”  I’ve supplied the word “trust” to get the sense of this line across, but it seems to be saying that these people memorialize their chariots and horses, calling on them to help instead of on Yahweh.

5.  The last couple of lines are a bit tricky.  The accents in the Hebrew text lead me to render it the way I have: a cry for Yahweh to save and then a cry for “the King” (who would be Yahweh Himself, probably) to answer the prayer.  But there’s also a space after the word for “the king,” so that it could be “Yahweh save the king!  May he answer us when we call.”  If that’s the case, then the prayer is for Yahweh to give the king victory in battle (which is what “save” means here) and then for the king, or perhaps for Yahweh (now in the third person for some reason) to answer the prayer.  I’m not sure, so I’ll let you wrestle with it to figure it out.  If you have a preference, let me know.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:42 pm | Discuss (0)
May 3, 2007

Imprecatory Psalms

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As his tribute to James Philip in Serving the Word of God, David Searle presents an article entitled “The Imprecatory Psalms Today,” as a reminder to “those who minister the Word of God that we may not select what we think will please our congregations, but must, like James Philip, be preachers of the whole Word, however unpalatable its message might seem to modern ears.”

I appreciate that reminder.  Many books about church planting give me the impression that their authors think we should do nothing in our services that would disturb unbelievers who might happen to attend.  Few things in the Bible are as disturbing as the imprecatory psalms.  And yet God wants His people familiar with these psalms.  In fact, the psalms are songs and so we can say that God doesn’t just want His people to hear these psalms read or preached; He wants His people to sing them.

Searle points out something I had never heard before.  People often say that these psalms don’t reflect the fulness of the grace and love of Christ.  They are sub-Christian, and their authors weren’t fully “Christian” as we ought to be today.  But Searle objects:

If we argue that the believers of the Old Testament dispensation were not Christians as we understand the term, then we should expect their attitude to be much the same as that of other “non-Christians.”  We would expect them to have the same attitude toward their enemies as any other writers who had not come into the sunshine of Christ’s smile and grace.However, in pagan literature there is a complete absence of the sort of cursings which are so manifestly present here.  Non-Christian literature certainly contains plenty of violence and brutal material; it also contains plenty of explicitly sexual sensuality and even sadism and other very unsavoury excessess.  But we also find to our astonishment it does not contain the kind of imprecatory statements which are in Psalm 109.

Is that not both significant and remarkable?  In Holy Scripture alone are such curses uttered — uttered by members of a nation specially chosen by God to be the cradle for the incarnation of his own Son (pp. 172-173, emphasis and paragraph breaks mine).

Searle goes on to talk about how these psalms reflect the psalmist’s deep sense of evil, his commitment to God and not to his own vengeance, and his confidence in God as the just judge in spite of all appearances.  Some older commentators, he says, “called these psalms not psalms of malediction or imprecatory psalms but judicial psalms” (p. 175, emphasis mine).  In the midst of sin and evil in our world, we need justice: “Ultimate justice matters enormously, and this Psalm is about that ultimate justice” (p. 178).Searle does raise an interesting question about hyperbole in these psalms.  He points to Jeremiah 20:16-17, where Jeremiah curses the man who told his father that his son had been born:

May that man be like the towns which Yahweh overthrew without pity.  May he hear wailing at morning, a battle cry at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever.

Searle asks:

Did he really want the midwife’s husband to be cursed like that?  Surely this is hyperbole.  Jeremiah demands that we listen to him.  He is deliberately shocking us and riveting us into attention.  We have to listen.  His words shake us out of any complacency (p. 176).

Reading this, it strikes me both that Searle is probably right and that hyperbole is one of the hardest figures of speech to reckon with in the Bible, perhaps because it seems strange to us to say that part of God’s Word is exaggerating for effect.  (I suppose another option is to say that Jeremiah was sinning when he uttered this curse, but that option doesn’t satisfy me either.)

The very violence of these psalms, even if they do contain some hyperbole, ought to be instructive to us, Searle says.

The imprecatory psalms say this to us: there is really no place in the Christian church for armchair discussions about morality.  Christians are not arm-chair theologians.  They have their say in the common rooms of fellows and students in many of our theological faculties.  We are called to be soldiers of Jesus Christ, servants, bond-slaves of our wonderful Master.  Our commission is to get out there, with jackets off and sleeves rolled up, to engage in the real world.  I have yet to find an armchair theologian in Scripture.  But I find plenty of men and women of God at the coal-face, toiling for their Lord, spending themselves and being spent in his royal service (pp. 177-178).

Perhaps the rise of armchair theologians, Searle seems to be suggesting, is due to our unfamiliarity and our discomfort with these judicial psalms.  If we sang them regularly, they might jar us out of our armchairs and back to the front lines:

While it [Psalm 109] may make our hair curl, and our hearts miss a beat, this man knows no apathy….  God preserve us then from being lukewarm, eitiher towards sin, or towards God (p. 178).

Posted by John Barach @ 1:33 pm | Discuss (0)
April 30, 2007

Psalm 19

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A reminder: I’ve 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.

The heavens are declaring the glory of God
And the work of his hands the firmament is proclaiming.
Day after day it pours forth speech,
And night after night it declares knowledge.
There is no speech and there are no words;
Unheard is their voice.
Into all the earth goes their line
And to the end of the world their utterances.

For the sun he has placed a tent in them.
And he is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
He rejoices like a mighty man to run his course.
At the end of the heavens is his starting-point
And his circuit is to their ends.
And nothing is hidden from his heat.

The instruction of Yahweh is blameless,
Restoring the soul.
The testimony of Yahweh is certain,
Making wise the naive.
The precepts of Yahweh are right,
Gladdening the heart.
The command of Yahweh is pure,
Enlightening the eyes.
The fear of Yahweh is clean,
Standing forever.
The judgments of Yahweh are trustworthy,
Altogether righteous,

Desirable more than gold
And more than much fine gold,
And sweeter than honey,
Even drippings from honeycombs.
Moreover your servant is illumined by them;
In guarding them there is great reward.

Errors who can discern?
From hidden ones acquit me!
Also from presumptuous acts keep back your servant.
Let them not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless
And I will be innocent of great transgression.
May they be acceptable — the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart — before you, Yahweh,
My rock and my kinsman.

A few comments about this Psalm:

1. For some reason, several translations add the word “where” into the first stanza: “There is no speech and there are no words where their voice is not heard.”  I suppose that’s because the next lines say that their utterances go to the end of the world. But I prefer not to add “where.”  Instead, I take this Psalm to be saying that the firmament-heavens don’t use speech or words and no one hears their voice, and yet they do declare God’s glory everywhere.

2.  I really don’t understand why, but the NKJV has for the last line “My strength and my redeemer.”  The word in Hebrew refers to a rock.  It’s a word that’s translated “rock” elsewhere in the NKJV (e.g., Deut 32:4).  But here, they rendered it strength, thereby obscuring both the symbolism of God as a rock and the connection to other passages which refer to God that way.  I wonder why.

3.  The last word of the psalm is often rendered “redeemer” (as in the NKJV example above).  It’s broader than that, though.  It’s the word for a close relative, a kinsman.  Now it’s true that kinsmen were given the task of redeeming their relatives and avenging them and so on, but translating this word as “redeemer” may obscure the force of the word, namely, that Yahweh Himself is described as our kinsman, our close relative.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:28 pm | Discuss (0)
April 24, 2007

Psalm 18

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A reminder: I’ve 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 the servant of Yahweh.
By David, who spoke to Yahweh the words of this song
On the day Yahweh snatched him from the palm of all his enemies
And from the hand of Saul.
And he said:

I love you, Yahweh, my strength.
Yahweh is my cliff and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God is my rock; I will take refuge in him,
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my high place.
To the praiseworthy one I call: “Yahweh!”
And from my enemies I am saved.

Encircling me were cords of death
And torrents of Belial terrified me.
Cords of Sheol surrounded me;
Confronting me were snares of death.

In my oppression I called “Yahweh!”
And to my God I cried out.
He heard my voice from his temple,
And my cry came before him, into his ears.

And the earth shook and quaked,
And the foundations of the mountains trembled;
And they were shaken because he was angry.

Smoke ascended from within his nose
And fire from his mouth devoured;

Coals blazed forth from him.
And he bowed the heavens and came down,
And gloom was under his feet.
And he rode on a cherub and flew,
And he soared on the wings of the wind,
He made darkness his hiding place, his booth around him:
Darkness of waters and clouds of vapors.
From the brightness before him his clouds passed —

Hail and coals of fire.
And Yahweh thundered in the heavens
And the Most High gave his voice —
Hail and coals of fire!

And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
And great lightning bolts, and he routed them.

And the channels of the waters were seen,
And uncovered were the foundations of the world,
At your rebuke, Yahweh,
At the blast of the breath of your nose.

He reached from above. He took me.
He drew me from mighty waters.
He snatched me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hate me for they were too strong for me.

They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But Yahweh was my support.
And he brought me out into a broad place;
He rescued me because he delights in me.

Yahweh rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands he repaid me,
Because I have guarded the ways of Yahweh
And have not wickedly departed from my God,
Because all his judgments were before me
And his statutes I did not put away from me.
And I was also blameless before him
And I guarded myself from my sin.
And Yahweh has repaid me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

With the loyal one you show yourself loyal.
With the blameless strong-man you show yourself blameless.
With the pure one you show yourself pure.
With the devious one you show yourself shrewd,
Because you save humble people,
But haughty eyes you bring low;
Because you light my lamp.
Yahweh, my God, illuminates my darkness.

Indeed, by you I run against a troop,
And by my God I leap a wall.
The Mighty One — blameless is his way;
The word of Yahweh is proven;
A shield is he to all who take refuge in him,
Because who is God except Yahweh?
And who is a rock except our God?
It is the Mighty One who clothes me with strength
And makes my way blameless,
Making my feet like a deer’s,
And on my high places he makes me stand.

He trained my hands for the battle
And a bow of bronze was bent by my arms.
And you gave me the shield of your salvation,
And your right hand supported me;
Your bending down has made me great.
You broadened my steps under me
And my ankles did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them
And I did not return until I destroyed them.
I shattered them and they could not rise;
They fell beneath my feet,
And you armed me with strength for the battle;
You make those who rise up bow down under me.
As for my enemies, you gave me their neck;
And as for those who hated me, I destroyed them.
They cried out, but there was no one to save;
To Yahweh — but he did not answer them.
And I beat them like dust upon the face of the wind;
Like mud in the streets I poured them out.
You delivered me from the contentions of people;
You made me the head of the nations:
A people I did not know serves me.
When their ear hears, they obey me.
The sons of foreign regions cringe before me.
The sons of foreign regions wither
And they come trembling from their hideouts.

Yahweh lives! And blessed be my rock!
And exalted be the God of my salvation,
The Mighty One who gives me vengeance
And subdues peoples under me,
Delivering me from my enemies;
Yes, from those who rise up you will raise me high;
From the violent man you snatch me.
Therefore I will thank you among the nations, Yahweh,
And to your name I will psalm —
The one who makes great the salvations of his king
And shows loyalty to his anointed one,
To David and to his seed forevermore.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:24 pm | Discuss (2)
April 17, 2007

Psalm 17

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

A reminder: I’ve 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 prayer.
By David.

Hear, Yahweh, a just cause!
Listen to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer
Which is not from deceitful lips.
From your face let my judgment come forth;
Let your eyes look with equity.
You probe my heart;
You visit me at night;
You test me; you do not find anything.
I have resolved that my mouth will not transgress.

As for the deeds of man,
By the word of your lips I have guarded myself from the paths of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your tracks;
My feet have not slipped.
I myself have called upon you
Because you will hear me, O God!

Incline your ear to me;
Hear my speech.
Set apart your loyalties,
You who save by your right hand those who take refuge from those who rise up.
Guard me like a pupil, an eye’s daughter;
In the shadow of your wings hide me
From the face of the wicked who devastate me,
The enemies who, for my soul, surround me.

Their fat hearts they close up;
With their mouth they speak proudly.
In our steps they have now surrounded us.
Their eyes they set to cast us down to the ground.
His likeness is like a lion who longs to tear,
And like a young lion sitting in secret places.

Arise, Yahweh! Come before his face! Make him bow!
Rescue my soul from the wicked with your sword,
From men with your hand, Yahweh,
From men of the world whose portion is in life.
But as for your treasure, you fill their belly.
Their sons are satisfied
and they leave their surplus to their children.
And I — in righteousness I shall see your face;
I shall be satisfied with your form when I awake.

The last line of the third stanza may mean that these enemies want to kill him. But it may refer to the enemies’ desire (which is what “soul” often means):  “My enemies, in greed, surround me.”

“Their fat heart they close up” is literally just “their fat they close.” It may indicate that they’ve closed up their hearts from God and from other people, but it may also simply mean that they are enclosed in fat, no longer sensitive to God or people.

In the last stanza, some think the psalm is saying that God stuffs the wicked with His treasure until His judgment eventually comes . But it fits better, I think, to take “your treasure” as God’s people, whose belly God fills and whom God blesses with children and a heritage.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:06 pm | Discuss (0)
April 10, 2007

Psalm 16

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

A reminder: I’ve 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 mikhtam.
By David.

Guard me, God,
Because I take refuge in you!

You have said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord.
There is nothing good for me apart from you.”
As for the holy ones who are in the land,
“They are also majestic. All my delight is in them.”

Multiplied are their troubles who set a bride-price with another.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
And will not take their names upon my lips.

Yahweh is my allotted portion and my cup;
You yourself will hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, my inheritance is pleasing to me.

I will bless Yahweh who has counseled me;
Yes, by night my kidneys instruct me.
I have set Yahweh before me continually;
Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
Yes, my flesh will dwell in security,
Because you will not abandon my soul to Sheol
Nor will you make your holy one to see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
Fullness of joys are with your face;
Pleasures are in your right hand forever.

In the second stanza, there’s a phrase that’s hard to translate. “Set a bride price” is my best shot. The word mohar likely refers to a bride-price, money negotiated with a woman’s father but given to the woman. So the idea here may be, as James Jordan suggests, that the wicked are making negotiations with a false god (a false father) to bribe Israel to follow them (as a bride).

Posted by John Barach @ 4:14 pm | Discuss (0)
April 6, 2007

Psalm 8

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

A reminder: I’ve 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.
On the gittith.
A Psalm.
By David.

Yahweh our Lord, how supreme is your name in all the earth,
Who have set your splendor upon the heavens!
From the mouth of children and infants you have established strength, because of your oppressors,
To silence enemy and avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
Moon and stars, which you have set firm,
What is needy-man that you remember him,
And the son of Adam that you visit him?
And you made him lower a little while than the gods,
And with glory and honor you will crown him.
You will make him ruler over the works of your hands.

All things you have put under his feet:
Sheep and oxen — all of them,
And also beasts of the field,
Bird of heaven and fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

Yahweh, our Lord,
How supreme is your name in all the earth!

Somehow I forgot to post this psalm earlier, so here it is now. A few comments about the translation of this psalm:

(1) The word gittith in the title of the psalm may have something to do with the theme of the psalm or it may be a musical notation, but we don’t know exactly what it means. It may be the feminine of gitti, which refers to someone from Gath, and thus has to do with an instrument from Gath. Or it may be related to gath, a Hebrew word meaning “wine press,” and have something to do with treading out the grapes. Psalms with this heading seem to be joyful.

(2) The word translated “supreme” in the first and last lines of this Psalm is often rendered “majestic.”  But it occurs often in settings that emphasize Yahweh’s ability to overpower his enemies in battle (e.g.,

(3) In line 3, “oppressors” translates a word that is often rendered “enemies,” but which has to do with pressing hard. It’s not that Yahweh suffers oppression but that these people set themselves against Him, seeking to push Him away, and do so often by oppressing Yahweh’s people.

(4) In line 6, “set firm” renders a word that has to do with establishing something firmly. I would use “establish,” except that I’ve used it to translate another word earlier in the psalm. James Jordan has “fixed,” as in “fixed in place,” but I wonder if people wouldn’t hear it as “fixed” in the sense of “repaired.” So, though I’d prefer one word to two, I’ve gone with “set firm” for now.

(5) The word for “man” in line 7 usually refers to man as mortal and weak. Hence “needy man” in the translation.

(6) Line 9 says that Yahweh made man “lower than the elohim.” Elohim is the usual word for God, and so this verse may mean that man was created a little lower than God. But Hebrews 2:7 quotes the verse this way “You have made him a little lower than the angels.” I suspect, then, that the verse is saying that man is lower than the angels, who are sometimes referred to as “gods” because they reflect and represent God’s power at work in the world.

(7) As for “a little,” Hebrews takes it to mean “a little while.” If I had rendered it “a little lower,” it would seem as if it was indicating how much lower man is than the gods. By putting it where it is (“lower a little”), though it’s more awkward, I have hoped to preserve the ambiguity: Is it “a little bit” or is it “a little while”?  [Update: I’ve decided to go with “a little while,” for clarity. — JB]

For more on this Psalm, may I point you to my essay “The Glory of the Son of Man: An Exposition of Psalm 8,” in Peter J. Leithart & John Barach, eds., The Glory of Kings: A Festschrift for James B. Jordan (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, forthcoming 2010 … I hope).

[Revised, May 18, 2009 and Sept. 8, 2010.]

Posted by John Barach @ 2:05 pm | Discuss (2)
April 2, 2007

Psalm 15

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

A reminder: I’ve 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 David.

Yahweh, who may sojourn in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy mountain?
He who walks blamelessly
And who works righteousness
And who speaks truth with his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue;
He does not do evil to his companion;
And a reproach he does not take up against his neighbor.
Despised in his eyes is a reprobate,
But the ones who fear Yahweh he honors.
He swears to his hurt
And does not change.
His silver he does not give with interest,
And a bribe against an innocent man he does not take.
He who does these things
Will not be shaken forever.

In line 3, the word “blamelessly” has to do with integrity, wholeness, maturity, completeness. God told Abraham to walk before him and be blameless. Animals presented for sacrifice are to be blameless, that is, they are not to have a flaw.

The word “truth” in line 4 is broader than just the opposite of a lie. It’s trustworthiness: this man’s words are reliable, faithful. In line 5, the word for “slander” is related to the word for “foot.” It may imply going around to spread slander or perhaps, as James Jordan suggests, it means “to trip someone up.”

The background to line 12 (“He swears to his hurt and does not change”) is Leviticus 27, which discusses oaths and the possibility of exchanging one item vowed to Yahweh for another. The righteous man doesn’t try to make a switch to benefit himself.

The righteous man also cares for the poor. He doesn’t loan the poor money at interest, which the Law prohibited, and he also doesn’t accept bribes.  (This verse is not prohibiting all loans at interest.)

In line 8, a “reprobate” is literally a “rejected one,” that is, someone who has been rejected because of his open wickedness. The righteous man, however, will not be rejected and won’t be shaken out of Yahweh’s tent. Jesus is the man of Psalm 15, but in Him we also are the righteous ones who will walk in righteousness and sojourn everlastingly in Yahweh’s tent.

Posted by John Barach @ 6:15 pm | Discuss (0)
March 27, 2007

Psalm 14

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

A reminder: I’ve 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 fool said in his heart, “No God.”
They act destructively; they do abominable deeds;
There is no doer of good.

Yahweh looks down from heaven upon the sons of Adam
To see if there is one who acts wisely,
Who seeks God.
The whole has turned aside;
Together they have become corrupt.
There is none who does good,
Not even one.

Do they not understand, all the workers of wickedness,
Who eat up my people?
They eat bread;
On Yahweh they do not call.

There they fear a fear,
For God is with the righteous generation.
The counsel of the oppressed you would put to shame,
But Yahweh is his refuge.

Oh that from Zion would come the salvation of Israel!
When Yahweh returns the captivity of his people,
Let Jacob rejoice!
Let Israel be glad!

The first line of this psalm is often rendered, “There is no God,” which is probably a fine translation.  But the quotation is not just a denial of God’s existence; it’s a denial of God’s relevance, a denial that God matters (“No God over me!”) or that God will act (“No God who will judge!”).  God’s response, and that of David, is an echo of these words: “No one doing good.”

Later, “They eat bread; on Yahweh they do not call” may mean (as most translations have it) that they eat David’s people as they eat bread: David’s people are like bread that the wicked are gobbling down.  But it’s also possible that it means (as James Jordan suggests) that they eat their daily bread but don’t call on the Breadgiver, the way Israel ate manna in the wilderness without thanking the Giver.

“Fear a fear” is a typical Hebrew expression, where the same root word appears as both the verb and the noun for emphasis.

The phrase at the end, “returns the captivity,” is used when God restores Job’s fortunes.  It may refer to a return of captive people, but it may also refer to the restoration of anything that was lost.  “Restores the fortunes” may be a good translation. Again, the verb and the noun have the same basic sound: “returns the returning” or “restores the restoration” might work, except that the second word is used, not for “restoration” but for that which has been lost and which one wants to have returned.  I don’t know if there’s any good way to capture this in English.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:37 pm | Discuss (0)
March 20, 2007

Psalm 13

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

A reminder: I’ve 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.

How long, Yahweh? Will you forget me continually?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I make plans in my soul,
With grief in my heart all day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Look! Answer me, Yahweh, my God!
Enlighten my eyes lest I sleep in death,
Lest my enemy say, “I have overcome him.”
Lest my oppressors rejoice when I am shaken.

But as for me, in your loyalty I trust;
My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to Yahweh, because he has rewarded me.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:26 pm | Discuss (0)
March 19, 2007

Psalm 12

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

A reminder: I’ve 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.
On the Eight-String.
A Psalm.
By David.

Save, Yahweh, for the loyal man has ceased to be,
For the faithful disappear from the sons of Adam!

Emptiness they speak a man with his neighbor;
Flattering lips: with a heart and a heart they speak.

May Yahweh cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things,
That say, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are with us; who is our lord?”

“Because of the devastation of the oppressed,
Because of the groans of the needy,
Now I will arise,” says Yahweh.
I will place him in the deliverance he pants for.”

Yahweh’s sayings are pure sayings,
Silver purified in an earthen furnace, refined sevenfold.

You, Yahweh, will guard them;
You will preserve him from this generation forever.
All around the wicked walk,
When vileness is exalted among the sons of Adam.

In the fourth line, “with a heart and a heart” means that they have a double heart, perhaps one they show and one they hide, or one they show to some people and one they show to others.

The boast of the wicked, “Our lips are with us,” probably means “We own our lips; they’re ours.”  It fits with the claim in the next line, namely, that they have no master (“lord”) to tell them what to do or say.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:35 pm | Discuss (0)

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