December 12, 2007

Psalm 48

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 song.
A psalm
By the sons of Korah.

Great is Yahweh and exceedingly praiseworthy,
In the city of our God,
His holy mountain —
Beautiful in height,
The joy of all the earth —
Mount Zion, the sides of the north,
The city of the great king.
God is in her palaces;
He is known as a high place.

Indeed, look!  The kings gathered.
They passed through together.
They themselves saw.  So they were astounded.
They were terrified.  They hurried away.
Trembling seized them there,
Writhing like a woman giving birth.
With an east wind
You will break ships of Tarshish.

Just as we have heard, so we have seen,
In the city of Yahweh of hosts,
In the city of our God.
God will establish her unto eternity.  Selah.

We have pondered, O God, your loyalty
In the midst of your palace.
As your name, O God, so is your praise to the ends of the earth.
Full of righteousness is your right hand.
Mount Zion will rejoice, the daughters of Judah will shout for joy,
On account of your judgments.

Go around Zion and encircle it!
Count her towers!
Set your heart on her bulwark, examine her palaces
So that you can recount it to a generation following,
For this is God, Our God forever and ever.
He will guide us unto death.

Some comments about the translation of this psalm:

(1) In line 6, the word translated “sides” may refer to the farthest part.  It’s not clear to me what this verse means.  Some take it to mean that Zion is being compared to Zaphon, a Canaanite mountain, but that seems pretty unlikely to me.  Others take it to say that Zion it in the far north.  That isn’t literally true, but Eden was a mountain in the north from which the rivers flowed south to the rest of the world, and so this psalm may be identifying Zion as symbolically a new Eden.  That’s possible.

(2) In line 9, when it says that God is “known as a high place,” it means that he is known to be a refuge for his people, an elevated place out of the reach of the enemy.  As in connection with Psalm 46, “high place” isn’t the best translation and I’m still hoping for a good suggestion that captures both the sense of protection (“fortress, refuge”) and height (“high place, elevation”).

(3) In line 30, the word “examine” is a guess, given the context, since this Hebrew word doesn’t appear anywhere else and no one knows for sure what it means.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:51 pm | Discuss (0)

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