March 27, 2007

Psalm 14

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!

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)

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