February 8, 2007

Psalm 7

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

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 shiggaion.
By David,
Which he sang to Yahweh
Concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite.

Yahweh, my God, in you I take refuge;
Save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
Lest he tear my soul like a lion,
Snatching away — and there is no one to deliver.

Yahweh, my God, if I did this:
If there is injustice in my hands,
If I did evil to someone at peace with me,
Or plundered my adversary without cause,
Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake,
And let him trample to the earth my life,
And cause my glory to dwell in the dust. Selah.

Arise, Yahweh, in your anger!
Rise up against the ragings of my adversaries!
And awake for me since you commanded judgment.
And let the assembly of the peoples surround you,
And over it to the high place return.
Yahweh will judge the peoples.

Judge me, Yahweh, according to my righteousness
And according to my integrity within me.
Let the evil of the wicked come to an end, I pray,
But establish the righteous.
And a tester of hearts and kidneys is the righteous God.
My shield is with God,
The savior of the upright in heart.

God is a righteous judge,
And a God who expresses wrath every day.
If he does not turn, his sword he sharpens;
His bow he bends and makes it ready.
And for him he prepares deadly weapons;
He makes his arrows flame.

Look, he is in labor with trouble;
And he conceives mischief and bears falsehood.
A pit he dug and he scooped it out,
And he fell into the hole he made.
His mischief returns upon his own head
And on his skull his violence comes down.

I will give thanks to Yahweh according to his righteousness,
And I will psalm to the name of Yahweh Most High.

A few comments about the translation of this psalm:

(1) The word in the title, shiggaion, appears also in Habakkuk 3:1. The exact meaning is unknown.

(2) Line 22 says “And a tester of hearts and kidneys is the righteous God.”  The kidneys here have to do with the inward parts, the source of our desires and passions and so forth.  The point is that Yahweh, the righteous God, examines us through and through and sees all our thoughts and motives and plans and desires.

(3) In lines 27 following, it’s not always clear who “he” is.  It’s possible that it’s the wicked man: He doesn’t turn but sharpens his sword, bends his bow, prepares his weapons, and so forth only to have them turn on himself.  He digs a pit and falls into it.

But it’s also possible that it’s only the first line that refers to the wicked: “If he [the wicked] does not turn, then he [God] will sharpen his sword.” Then, later, “he” refers to the wicked again: “He is in labor with trouble,” and so forth.

A third possibility: “He” in lines 27 following refers to God throughout.  If God doesn’t turn from His wrath, He will then prepare deadly weapons to attack the wicked.  In this case, “he” refers to God in lines 30 and then switches to refer to the wicked in line 31: “He is in labor with trouble.”

[Revised, February 27, 2009.]

Posted by John Barach @ 6:48 pm | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “Psalm 7”

  1. Sean Brandt Says:

    Nice work.

    I like how you handled v. 12. I was working through this Psalm a while back and found that some of the English translations wanted to produce a new subject for “shuv”, although to be fair the Psalm is not always explicit.

    Any thoughts as to why the translators would want to make “a man” the subject of the verb in v. 12?

  2. John Says:

    I suspect they think that it must refer to man’s repentance (which is one possibility) and don’t even consider that it might refer to God’s repentance.

    I tried to leave it ambiguous. But I suspect the context would imply that God is the subject throughout this section … though clearly He isn’t the subject of “He is in labor with trouble … A pit he dug …” and so forth later on.

    But mainly I was following Jim Jordan’s version of the Psalm at this point. =)

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