September 26, 2007

Psalm 37

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!

By David.

א Do not rage at evildoers;
   Do not be envious of the doers of unrighteousness,
Because like grass they quickly dry out,
   And like a green plant they wither.

ב Trust in Yahweh and do good!
   Inhabit the land and feed on trustworthiness.
And delight in Yahweh
   And he will give you the requests of your heart.

ג Entrust to Yahweh your way,
  And rely on him, and he himself will do it.
  And he will bring out, like the light, your righteousness,
  And your justice like the noontime.

ד Be still before Yahweh
   And wait for him.
   Do not rage at one who prospers in his way,
   At one who does what he plots.

ה Desist from anger and abandon wrath.
   Do not rage only to do evil,
Because evildoers will be cut off,
   But those who wait for Yahweh — they will possess the land.

ו And still a little while and there will be no wicked man,
   And you will look carefully upon his place but he will not be there.
But the humble will possess the land,
   And they will delight in abundance of peace.

ז The wicked man plots against the righteous
   And gnashes at him with his teeth.
   My Lord laughs at him
   Because he sees that his day is coming.

ח A sword the wicked have drawn
   And they have bent their bow
   To make the oppressed and poor fall,
   To slaughter the upright in way.
   Their sword will enter into their heart,
   And their bows will be broken.

ט Better is a little belonging to a righteous man
   Than the wealth of many wicked men,
   Because the arms of the wicked will be broken,
   But Yahweh supports the righteous.

י Yahweh knows the days of the blameless,
   And their inheritance will be forever.
   They will not be shamed in a time of evil,
   And in days of famine they will be satisfied.

כ Indeed, the wicked — they will perish,
   And the enemies of Yahweh;
   Like the precious part of rams they are finished;
   In smoke they are finished.

ל A wicked man borrows and does not repay.
   But a righteous man is gracious and gives,
   Because his blessed ones will possess the land
   But his cursed ones will be cut off.

מ By Yahweh the steps of a young man are established
   And in his way he delights.
   Though he will fall he will not be thrown down
   Because Yahweh supports him by his hand.

נ A youth I have been; now I am old.
   But I have not seen a righteous man abandoned,
   Nor his seed begging bread.
   All the day he is gracious and lending,
And his seed is for blessing.

ס Turn from evil and do good
   And dwell forever,
   Because Yahweh loves justice,
   And he does not abandon his loyal ones.

ע Forever they are guarded,
   But the seed of the wicked will be cut off.
   The righteous will possess the land
   And dwell forever upon it.

פ The mouth of the righteous man proclaims wisdom,
   And his tongue speaks judgment.
   The instruction of his God is in his heart.
   His steps will not waver.

צ The wicked are watching for the righteous
   And are seeking to kill him.
   Yahweh will not abandon him in his hand
   And will not declare him guilty in his judgment.

ק Wait upon Yahweh
   And he will guard your way.
   And he will exalt you to possess the land.
   When the wicked are cut off you will see it.

ר I have seen the wicked man, a terrifying man
   And spreading himself like a native green tree.
   And he disappeared and — look! — he was not there.
   And I looked for him and he was not found.

ש Observe the blameless man and watch the upright,
Because there is a future for the man of peace.
   But the rebels will be destroyed together.
The future of the wicked will be cut off.

ת But the salvation of the righteous is from Yahweh,
Their fortress in a time of trouble.
   And Yahweh helps and delivers them.
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they seek refuge in him.

Some comments on this psalm:

(1) In the first line, I use the term “rage” to translate a word which appears again in stanzas four and five.  There, three different words are used for anger.  I’ve rendered them “rage,” “anger” and “wrath” in order to make the distinction, but it would be possible to use “be angry” for the word in the first line, which literally has to do with burning with anger, and save “rage” for the word I’ve translated “anger.”  Or something like that.

(2) In lines 11-12, “bringing out your righteousness” and “your justice” means vindication, showing that you’re in the right.

(3) In lines 20 and 23, it talks about “possessing” the land, which includes both inheriting the land (from God) and actually taking possession of it, as Israel inherited Canaan.  This is the basis of the Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

(4) In line 36, the word for “wealth” actually refers to turmoil or a tumult, perhaps because it’s not just wealth but the noisy display that goes along with it.

(5) In the eleventh stanza, the enemies are described as being finished (or even perishing) like “the precious part of rams” and “in smoke.”  This may be a reference to sacrificial animals being burned up on an altar and turning to smoke as the sacrifice is completed, as J. A. Alexander suggests.

Some translations have “the splendor of the meadows” (NKJV), while other render the word here “pastures.”  The word does seem to mean “pastures” in some passages, probably because pastures are places for rams and lambs.  But the word appears to be the plural of a word for a ram.  So even if we go with that translation, we ought to keep the rams in view and understand that it isn’t talking about the grass or flowers in the pasture, but instead is referring to the rams in the pasture, which means that even this alternate translation is still probably talking about rams being offered on the altar and turning into smoke which ascends.

(6) At the end of the nineteenth stanza, our translation says, “When the wicked are cut off you will see it.”  Since the word “see” in this sort of context may mean looking on something with delight, it’s possible to translate this line: “At the cutting off of the wicked you will gaze.”

(7) The second line of the twentieth stanza, uses a word has to do with uncovering oneself or making oneself naked, but that doesn‘t seem to fit well with the image of a leafy green tree in native soil.  “Spreading himself” is what several translations have, so I stuck with that.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, especially if they don’t involve emending the text.

[Updated, March 26, 2009.]

Posted by John Barach @ 2:44 pm | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “Psalm 37”

  1. David A Booth Says:

    This is an impressive translation. Just a few thoughts using verses 5 and 6 as examples (hopefully my Hebrew font from BibleWorks will show up correctly on your blog):

    1. It is often wise to leave a “waw” untranslated.
    2. lAGæ is an unusual word for commit. It basically has the idea of rolling. With hw”Ã¥hy>-l[; the idea is to “roll something onto YHWH”. The common translation of “commit” catches this idea, but the connotation that the word “commit” gives to many English speakers is something that we do, while the text is telling the reader to put the issue squarely upon Yahweh and to let Him take care of the outcome. Therefore I have chosen the near synonym of “commit” that carries this connotation – “entrust”.
    3. For euphonic reasons it is very difficult to use both “way” and “Yahweh”. “Way” works with “LORD”. To use Yahweh you will probably want to use a word like “journey” or “path”.
    4. I think it is better to translate as l[; “on” rather than “in”.
    5. ~yIr”)h\C’K; has the definite article. Since there is only one noon, you chose not to translate this, but I believe that there is an intensification of the image here that can be captured with expressions such as “the noonday sun”. Since you seem to be avoiding adding clarifying words like sun, I offer “the high noon”.

    Entrust your journey to Yahweh
    Rely on Him and He will act
    He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
    Your justice like the high noon

  2. John Barach Says:

    David: Thanks for your comments. I just wish the Hebrew font had worked. Alas, it didn’t.

    A couple responses:

    Re. (1): I’ve tried to translate every “waw” simply in rebellion against the translations that leave them out. =)

    Re. (2) Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve taken it.

    Re. (3) I was originally using “path,” but then I came to the middle of the eighth stanza and thought “to slaughter the upright in path” sounded odd. So I changed all of the instance of “path” to “way.”

    Re. (4) You’re probably right. I made the change.

    Re. (5) I missed the definite article. Perhaps “the high noon” is fine, but I keep thinking of a Western movie when I hear that. =)

    I appreciate your comments, which I got just in time to make some adjustments before printing the bulletin! Please comment again!

Leave a Reply