April 24, 2008

Psalm 60

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.
On the lily of the testimony.
A michtam.
By David.
For teaching.
When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah and Joab turned and struck Edom in the Valley of Salt,
Twelve thousand men.

God, you have rejected us.
You have breached us.
You were angry.
Restore to us!

You made the earth shake.
You split it.
Heal its cracks, because it totters!
You made your people see a hard thing;
You made us drink wine of staggering.

And you gave to your fearers a banner for lifting
Because of truth.  Selah.

In order that your beloved ones may be delivered,
Save with your right hand and answer us!

God has spoken in his holiness.
I will exult.
I will divide Shechem,
And the Valley of Succoth I will measure.
To me belongs Gilead
And to me belongs Manasseh.
And Ephraim is the strength of my head,
Judah my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin;
At Edom I will throw my shoe.
Over me, Philistia, shout aloud!

Who will bring me into the fortified city?
Who led me as far as Edom?
Is it not you, God, who rejected us,
And who, God, did not go forth with our hosts?

Give us help from oppression;
And vain is the salvation of man.
In God we will gain power;
And he himself will trample our oppressors.

Some comments about the translation of this psalm:

(1) In line 2, “breached us” has to do breaking down a wall, making a breach in a wall, so that the enemy can attack.  David is likely saying that God has broken down Israel’s defenses.  This expression may mean “You broke out upon us.”

(2) Line 4 (“Restore to us!”) sounds a bit strange.  It’s not “Restore us!” as if we were the ones who needed to be restored.  The phrase is “to us” or “for us,” and probably refers to the things that God took away from Israel (e.g., safety, peace, victory in battle, and especially his presence, protection, and help).

(3) Hirsch suggests that line 9 should be translated “You have made us drink bewilderment like wine.” He points out that the word for wine is not in the construct state, and therefore it is not “wine of staggering.”  The staggering indicates confusion or bewilderment.  It would then be “You made us drink wine, namely, staggering/bewilderment/confusion.”

(4) In line 10, the word translated “raising” here is related to the word for a banner.  This phrase could be rendered “banner for bannering,” that is, for doing what you do with a banner, raising it up so people can see it and soldiers can rally to it.  Any suggestions for a better translation that gets this play on words across?

(5) In line 17, “measure” refers to measuring out a land prior to dividing it up.  Hirsch gets the point across by using the word “apportion.”

(6) In line 21, the word for “scepter”is the same one used in Genesis 49:10.  The term can also refer to a ruler or leader.  Because it is related to the word for statutes, some translate it “lawgiver.”  But because all the other imagery in this passage is thing imagery, I’ve opted for “scepter.”

(7) Line 24 is a bit puzzling.  It may be ironic (“I have conquered these others; now, Philistia, let’s see you manage to shout in triumph over me”) or it may be a summons to Philistia to rejoice and acclaim David’s sovereignty, to rejoice over having David as king.

(8) In line 25, the word translated “fortified” may mean “besieged.”  Both are true here: David is besieging the city, which in turn is fortified.

(9) In line 31, the phrase translated “gain power” is used in the Bible for getting the upper hand and winning a military victory (Num. 24:18; 1 Sam. 14:48).  The phrase could mean “gain wealth” or even “do valiantly” (since the word translated “power” here is the same as the word translated “valor” in the phrase “a mighty man of valor”), but I’ve opted for “gain power” to get the idea of winning the battle across.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:57 pm | Discuss (0)

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