January 15, 2008

Psalm 50

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 Asaph.

The Mighty One, God, Yahweh speaks and calls the earth
From the going forth of the sun to its coming in.
From Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine.
Our God will come and he will not keep silent.
Fire before him will devour,
And around him it will be exceedingly stormy.
He will call to the heavens above
And to the earth, in order to judge his people:
“Gather to me my loyal ones,
Who have cut a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens declare his righteousness,
Because God, He is Judge.  Selah.

“Hear, my people, and I will speak,
Israel, and I will testify against you.
God, your God am I!
Not for your sacrifices will I reprove you,
And your Ascension Offerings are before me continually.
I will not take from your house a bull,
From your folds a ram,
Because to me belongs every beast of the forest,
The cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird of the hills,
And the moving thing of the field is with me.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
Because to me belongs the world and its fullness.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
And the blood of goats do I drink?
Sacrifice to God a Thanksgiving,
And pay to the Most High your vows.
And call upon me in the day of trouble.
I will deliver you and you will glorify me.”

And to the wicked man God says,
“What right have you to recount my statutes,
And to lift up my covenant on your mouth?
And you have hated instruction
And you have cast my words behind you.
If you saw a thief, you made friends with him;
And with adulterers is your portion.
Your mouth you have sent out with evil,
And your tongue attaches to evil.
You sit; against your brother you speak;
The son of your mother you slander.
These things you do and I kept silent;
You thought I was exactly like you.
I will reprove you and lay things out before you.
Consider this, please, forgetters of God,
Lest I rend and there be no deliverer.
The one sacrificing a Thanksgiving, he glorifies me;
And to one who sets his way, I will show the salvation of God.”

A few comments about the translation of this psalm:

(1) In line 2, the “going forth” (or “shining forth”) of the sun is sunrise or east; the “coming in” (or “going down”) is sunset or west.  The whole earth is included here.

(2) In line 3, there’s no way in English to capture the play on words between the word for beauty and the word for shining.  They’re related words, but there’s no way to show that in a translation.  Or is there?  You tell me.

(3) In line 4, the word translated “keep silent” is used of God staying silent when people cry out to him.  God is not going to turn a deaf ear and say nothing; he’s going to speak up in response to our cries.  This verb here appears later in the psalm, though in a different form.  I’ve translated them both “keep silent,” but I wish I could show the difference somehow.

(4) Line 42 is literally closer to “Against the son of your mother you give a fault” or “stain.” It probably has to do with finding fault, staining the man’s reputation.  I’ve paraphrased a bit (“slander”), simply because I don’t know how to make a smooth translation.  Suggestions?

(5) The last two lines may be “he glorifies me and sets a way.  I will show [him] the salvation of God.”  In either case, “sets a way” refers here not just to taking a journey, but to taking the right course.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:47 pm | Discuss (1)

One Response to “Psalm 50”

  1. Angie Says:

    Would “accuse” work for slander? I think of the parallel between the evil man trying to sully the reputation of another and Satan as accuser of God’s people.

    For the shining/beauty play on words, could you use radiance? (From Zion, radiant with beauty, God will shine). But perhaps “radiant” and “perfection” aren’t close enough in meaning.

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