April 30, 2007

Psalm 19

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.
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)

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