July 23, 2007

Psalm 29

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 Psalm.
By David.

Ascribe to Yahweh, sons of mighty ones,
Ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength!
Ascribe to Yahweh the glory of his name!
Bow to Yahweh in the majesty of holiness.

The voice of Yahweh is upon the waters;
The Mighty One of the glory thundered:
Yahweh is upon many waters.
The voice of Yahweh is in power!
The voice of Yahweh is in majesty!
The voice of Yahweh breaks cedars,
And Yahweh shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
And he makes them skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a son of wild oxen.
The voice of Yahweh is striking with flames of fire.
The voice of Yahweh makes the wilderness writhe;
Yahweh makes the wilderness of Kadesh writhe.
The voice of Yahweh makes the deer writhe in labor,
And uncovers honeycombs,
And in his palace, everything says, “Glory!”

Yahweh sat enthroned at the Flood,
And Yahweh sits as king unto eternity.
Yahweh gives strength to his people;
Yahweh blesses his people with peace.

A few comments about this psalm:

(1) In line 4, most versions translate the first word as worship (e.g., “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness”).  The word for worship here, however, is a word that’s used for bowing down deeply before someone.  It’s not used only in relation to God; people bow down before other people in Scripture, too (e.g., 1 Sam. 2:36, where this same word appears).  Nor does it refer to many of the things we think of in connection with worship (e.g., singing and praise); rather, it refers to bodily posture.  For these reasons, I’ve chosen to translate it as bow.

(2) In lines 4 and 9 we hear about majesty. The word can refer to ornamentation or beautiful clothing. So line 4 may refer to the holy garments priests wore and, by extension, to our being clothed in holiness. In line 9, Yahweh’s voice is adorned with majesty. When he speaks, it’s glorious.

(3) There are seven references to Yahweh’s voice. The word for shattered (line 11) is a more intense form of break (line 10). The word for the wilderness writhing is also used for deer writhing in labor.

(4) The word for honeycombs in the next line is unusual. The masculine form of this root means forest, and so a lot of translations have “And strips the forests bare.” It’s possible that what we have in this psalm is a rare feminine form of the word, which appears only here in this psalm, and that “forests” is the correct translation.

But this form of the word is the word used in 1 Sam. 14:27 for the honeycombs from which Jonathan ate honey and was refreshed. It’s possible, then, as James Jordan suggests, that this line means that God’s voice uncovers the honeycombs in the Land of Milk and Honey, so that people can eat and be refreshed like Jonathan. For my translation, I’ve opted to go with the only meaning for this word that we know from Scripture.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:20 pm | Discuss (0)

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