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)

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