September 29, 2006

Psalm 2

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

Another psalm.  Again, as I mentioned in my previous entry on the psalms, I welcome feedback on these translations.  (The alternation between plain text and bold is designed for responsive reading in the liturgy.)


Why are nations turbulent,
And peoples murmuring a vain thing?
The kings of earth set themselves,
And rulers consult together,
Against Yahweh
And against his anointed:
“Let us break their bonds
And throw off of us their ropes!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
My Lord scoffs at them!
Then he speaks to them in his wrath
And in his burning anger he terrifies them:
“I myself have installed my king
On Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will declare the statute:
Yahweh said to me,
“My son you are;
I myself, today, have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will make nations your inheritance
And your possession the ends of earth.
You will rule them with an iron scepter;
Like a potter’s vessel you will smash them.”

And now, kings, be wise;
Be warned, judges of earth.
Serve Yahweh with fear
And exult with trembling.
Kiss the son, lest he be angry
And you perish in the way,
For his wrath will quickly burn.
Blessed are all those who take refuge in him.

A few comments about the translation of this psalm:Â

(1) Someday I hope to go back through all of these psalms and fine-tune them.  In particular, I want to work through Samson Raphael Hirsch’s commentary, The Hirsch Psalms, which is back in print in a fine edition, as well as some other commentaries.

With regard to line 13, Hirsch says that the word I’ve translated “installed” refers in particular to anointing.  The word nasak, he says, means “to cover” or “to pour out,” that is to pour “a liquid over something” and therefore refers to anointing.  In this particular form, it seems always to refer to a drink offering, and so Holladay’s lexicon suggests that it may refer to an installation ritual that involves the pouring out of a drink offering.  But Hirsch says that nasak is related to suk, which is a fairly common word for anointing, just as namal is related to mul, naqash to qush, natsar to tsur and so forth.  It seems to me that Hirsch makes a fairly strong case for a relation between these words, and so I’m inclined toward seeing this line as referring to an installation by anointing, and I’m tempted to translate it “I have anointed my king….”

(2) The New King James Version has a very odd mistake here.  In line 10, it has “The LORD,” which is its usual translation of God’s memorial name, Yahweh.  But the Hebrew text has Adonai, “My Lord.”

(3) Revelation cites line 21 several times (2:27; 12:5; 19:15) and takes it as “He will rule them with an iron rod.”  Some commentators (e.g., Kidner) think that Revelation is simply following the Septuagint which also says “He will rule them.”  The Hebrew word, however, means “break.”  I wonder, though.  The word is very, very close to the word which means “to shepherd, rule.”  Following Revelation, I’ve gone with “rule” here.  Thoughts?

(4) Kiss the son has two major difficulties.

First, only in Aramaic does bar mean “son,” and why would the psalmist suddenly switch to Aramaic here?  Craigie’s suggestion, namely that the Aramaic is used because the nations are addressed, seems weak to me.  Why would just this one word be in Aramaic, instead of the whole section addressed to the kings and rulers of the nations?  Besides, when the word “son” appears earlier in the psalm, bar isn’t used.Â

In Hebrew, though, bar means “pure.”  Kidner suggests taking it adverbially, so that the phrase means “Kiss sincerely.”

But there’s a second problem.  While the word here (nasseq) may mean kiss, that use for submission is rare in the Bible, if present at all.  The only places Van Gemeren cites are 1 Kings 19:18 and Hosea 13:2, both of which refer to kissing images or idols, and those passages aren’t close parallels.  Alexander cites 1 Samuel 10:1, where Samuel kisses Saul.  That may be closer.

Hirsch says that the word here doesn’t mean kiss but rather gird, and so he takes the phrase to be “gird yourselves with purity” or with that which is pure.  He cites Genesis 41:40, where the word seems to refer to making preparations or equipping oneself (“And according to your word will all my people prepare themselves“).  Certainly kiss doesn’t make much sense in Genesis 41.  Hirsch says that the idea is that all of Pharaoh’s people would equip themselves and prepare for the coming famine according to what Joseph had said.

Holladay’s lexicon, too, says that nasaq can refer to putting oneself in order.  The term can be used for arming oneself (1 Chron. 12:2; 2 Chron. 17:17; Ps. 78:9) and the noun form of the word, neseq, refers to armor or weapons (2 Kings 10:2; Isa. 22:8) or an army in battle array (Ps. 140:8).

Taken this way, the phrase isn’t a command to “kiss the son,” which would imply (somehow) submission to the son and love for the son.  Nor, as Kidner suggests, is is a command to “kiss purely,” though it could be.  Rather, it’s a command for the kings and judges to gird on and arm themselves and prepare themselves with what is pure. Submission to the son is still is the context, as is clear from what follows (“lest he be angry”), though now the “he” refers back to Yahweh in the previous lines, not directly to the son.  But the idea is that, if they do not want Yahweh to be angry, they must put on purity.

On the other hand, as Delitzsch argues, the word nasseq (nasaq in the Piel) is used in the Bible only for kissing.  As well, bar means “pure,” and nowhere else means “purely” (though that doesn’t address Hirsch’s translation: “what is pure, the pure thing”).  So perhaps the traditional interpretation is correct and the phrase does mean “Kiss the son.”

I don’t know. Thoughts?

Posted by John Barach @ 6:32 am | Discuss (0)
September 20, 2006

It’s Good To Be A Fat-Head

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

As I’ve been working on preparing versions of the Psalms for use in our church’s liturgy, I’ve not only looked at the Hebrew but have also compared various translations, including the ones Jim Jordan has been producing in his monthly newsletters for donors. It’s often interesting to see how various translations put things.

For instance, the New King James Version is intended to be a very literal translation.  And yet from time to time in the Psalms, I notice that it renders the word “Rock” as “strength.”  It doesn’t do it consistently and I can’t figure out why it does it at all.  (Possibly different translators worked on those different psalms?)

So, for instance, at the end of Psalm 19, the New King James has “O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”  Why do they capitalize “Redeemer” and not “Strength”?  I dunno.  But the word for “strength” here is simply the word for “rock.” 

More surprising perhaps is this: The word for “redeemer” here is actually the word for a kinsman.  Now it’s true that a kinsman would redeem.  But that isn’t all a kinsman would do.  Kinsmen would also avenge.  They would marry childless widows.  Besides, we’re used to hearing about God as a redeemer.  What’s surprising here is that the psalmist proclaims that Yahweh is his kinsman, his relative.

There’s usually at least one “revelation” like that in each psalm I work on.  This week, I was working on Psalm 23 and once again discovered something “new.”

The word usually translated “anoint” in verse 5 is not the word that’s ordinarily used for anointing (e.g., in connection with anointing a king or a priest).  Rather, it’s a word that elsewhere has to do with fatness.

Often a form of the word has to do with (fatty) ashes associated with sacrifices (e.g., Ex. 27:3; Lev. 1:16; 4:12; 6:10; 11:4; Num. 4:13; 1 Kings 13:3, 5; Jer. 31:40).

In several passages (Prov. 11:25; 13:4; 15:30; 28:27; Isa 34:6), it has to do with making fat.  The resulting adjective (“fat”) appears frequently (Ps. 22:29[30]; 92:14[15]; Isa. 30:23) as does the noun (“fat”: Jud. 9:9; Job 36:16; Ps. 36:8[9]; 63:5[6]; 65:11[12]; Isa. 55:2; Jer. 31:14).

In Ps. 20:3 (or 4 in Hebrew), the verb is often rendered “accept,” but it refers to “making fat.”  How do we get from there to acceptance?  Well, the point is that Yahweh will regard the king’s Ascension offering as fat, fat being Yahweh’s own portion.

Here in Psalm 23, then, we aren’t speaking about anointing kings.  It’s the kind of anointing you’d have at a banquet, where oil is poured on one’s head as a form of refreshment.  But again, this word doesn’t simply mean “refresh.”  It appears that oil is added to one’s head to, um, make one’s head fat with it.  Perhaps, as in Psalm 20, the idea has something to do with dedication to Yahweh and acceptance by him.  I don’t know and I’d appreciate your suggestions.

But for now, it seems to me that we could render this line like so:

You fatten my head with oil.

And this would be one time when it’s good to be a fat-head.

Posted by John Barach @ 8:35 am | Discuss (4)
September 19, 2006

Psalm 1

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

Thanks to my mother-in-law, I now have the bulletins I had deleted from my computer, including the versions of the psalms they contained.  I started posting these a few entries back with Psalm 5, but now I can go back to Psalm 1.  Thanks, Mom!

Again, as I mentioned in my previous entry on the psalms, I welcome feedback on these translations.  (The alternation between plain text and bold is designed for responsive reading in the liturgy.)


Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
And in the way of sinners does not stand,
And in the seat of mockers does not sit,

But in Yahweh’s Teaching is his delight,
And on his Teaching he meditates day and night.

And he is like a tree planted by streams of waters,
Who yields his fruit in his season,
And his leaf does not wither,
And whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked!
But they are like the chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous,
For Yahweh knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:23 am | Discuss (0)
September 11, 2006

Erotic Imagination

Category: Ethics,Theology :: Permalink

Rich Bledsoe writes about the need to develop a biblical erotic imagination.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:12 am | Discuss (2)
September 9, 2006

The Latest from U2?

Category: Music :: Permalink

Here is … well, it’s the latest, um, U2 video … with some surprising guests.  This is U2 as you’ve never seen them before.  Enjoy! [HT: Jeffrey Overstreet]

Posted by John Barach @ 4:00 am | Discuss (2)

Six-Day Creation

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Permalink

I read Gary North’s “Basic Implications of Six-Day Creation” (The Dominion Covenant: Genesis, pp. 425-454) in the hope that he’d say something about … well, about the basic implications of six-day creation.  Oddly enough, he doesn’t.

He does talk a lot about God as the creator and the implications of God’s creation of the world.  North has a great gift for summarizing complex positions in easier terms (though I have to admit that this essay doesn’t seem to be his best work: several times I couldn’t follow the flow of his arguments).

For instance, talking about the pagan view of “creation” in which there is no Creator-creature distinction and God, though higher on the chain of being than man, is still just part of “being in general,” he says, “At best, the pagan god is Dr. God, while we humans are only Mr.” (p. 429).

His brief discussion of the pagan chaos festivals (e.g., Saturnalia, Carnival, and Mardi Gras) as ritual returns to (what pagans see as) the primordial chaos in an effort to escape from law, order, and the “burden” of time and begin a new creation was suggestive, though more detail would have been helpful.

I also appreciate his emphasis on the connection between meekness and dominion: “It is meekness before God which gives man dominion over nature” (p. 437).  It would have been nice if North had added something about meekness before men, too.

All of that is good stuff.

But the title of his essay wasn’t “Basic Implications of Creation.”  It was “Basic Implications of Six-Day Creation,” and about that North said nothing.  All the implications he pointed out would still have been there if God had created the world in a moment instead of in six days.

So what are the implications of six-day creation?  Why didn’t God do it all at once?

Here are some of my thoughts:

First, Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created the heavens and the earth.  Those “heavens” are not the sky and outer space, which are the firmament heavens created on the second day (and probably expanded into “outer space” on the fourth day).  The heavens of Genesis 1:1 are the place where God’s throne is, where God is surrounded by the angels, who were also created at that time.  In fact, the creation of the angels appears to have been in Genesis 1:1a, before “and the earth,” because the angels (“sons of God”) sang when the foundation of the earth was laid (Job 38:7).

Heaven was created brightly lit, structured, and populated (by a host of angels).  Earth, in contrast, was dark, unstructured (tohu: without form), and unpopulated (bohu: without inhabitant) (Gen. 1:2).  The six days of creation, then, show God working with His creation, with what He formed in Genesis 1:1 at the beginning of the first day, to provide light, to structure the world (light and dark, evening and morning; waters above and waters below with a firmament in between; seas and dry land), and then to populate it (fish, birds, land animals, and finally man).

The six days of creation, then, set the course of history: God could have created the earth like heaven, lit, structured, and populated.  But instead he created it unlike heaven and gradually worked to make it more like heaven.  That’s what God is also going to be doing throughout history, moving the world from glory to glory, and culminating in bringing His people into His rest at the end (Heb. 3-4).

Even the progress from dark to light is significant, then.  God starts with darkness and moves to light, and so does the course of history.  There is increasing light: the increasing revelation from God throughout the history of God’s people in Scripture from the patriarchs through Moses to Jesus and the apostles, the increasing maturity and glory of God’s people, the increasing spread of God’s kingdom in the world in our history until the day when all will be light.  The movement from dark to light is eschatological and the six days thus point us to God’s increasing glory in history.

More than that, the six days then also set a pattern for man’s work.  As God takes hold of His creation, divides and forms and (re)structures it, beautifies it (e.g., plants on the dry ground), distributes it to others to enjoy and to rule for Him, and so forth, so man will also work with creation — with the addition that man, when he takes hold of God’s creation, is to give thanks.  And as God built a house for man to live in, man will now image and imitate God by using God’s creation — and multiplying — in order to build the word (and people in particular) into a house for God.

Looking at what I’ve written, I can see that I’ve gleaned a lot of this from James Jordan who, it seems to me, is one of the few guys who has devoted much thought to the implications of God’s six-day creation.  I think there are probably many more implications to glean from Genesis 1.

And that’s where you come in.  Why six days?  What are the implications, not just of creation (as in North’s essay), but of six-day creation?

Posted by John Barach @ 3:28 am | Discuss (4)
September 7, 2006

The Rich Man’s Return

Category: Bible - NT - Luke :: Permalink

… the evil man Dives asked to be allowed to return from hell to warn his lost brothers — not because he had a trace of goodness or compassion for the lost, but because if he could get God to admit that His revelation to the brothers was not sufficient to warn them, then God would have no cause to judge any man, including Dives.  God,  understandably, turned the request down flatly: though one rose from the dead (Jesus Christ), they would not be persuaded (Luke 16:27-31).  Men’s problem is not their lack of revelation; it is their willful rebellion against that revelation (Gary North, “Basic Implications of Six-Day Creation,” The Dominion Covenant: Genesis, pp. 434-435).

I don’t think I’d heard this explanation of the rich man’s request before.  Thoughts?

Posted by John Barach @ 7:51 am | Discuss (5)