June 13, 2012

Psalm 66

Category: Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

I have 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.
A song.
A psalm.

Shout to God, all the earth;
Psalm the glory of his name;
Make glorious his praise.
Say to God, “How fearful are your deeds.
Because of the greatness of your strength, your enemies cringe before you.”
All the earth bows to you
And psalms to you;
They psalm to your name.  Selah.

Come, see the works of God,
Fearful acts unto the sons of Adam.
He turned the sea into dry land;
Through the river they passed on foot.
There let us rejoice in him,
Ruling in his might forever.
His eyes over the nations keep watch;
Let not the rebellious exalt themselves.  Selah.

Bless, O peoples, our God!
Make heard the sound of his praise,
Who places our soul among the living,
And does not give our feet to stumbling.

Indeed, you tested us, God;
You refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You put an oppressive burden on our hips.
You made a man ride over our head;
We came through fire and through water,
And you brought us forth to abundance.

I will come to your house with Ascensions;
I will pay to you my vows,
Which my lips uttered,
And my mouth spoke in my oppression.
Ascensions of fatlings I will ascend to you with the smoke of rams;
I will offer cattle with male goats.  Selah.

Come, hear, and I will proclaim — all who fear God —
What he has done for my soul.
To him with my mouth I called,
And extolling was under my tongue.
Iniquity — if I had seen it in my heart,
My Master would not have heard.
But truly God has heard;
He has been attentive to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor his loyalty from me.

Some comments on the translation:

Line 3: More literally, perhaps, “Make glory his praise,” where “his praise” is the thing being made into “glory.”  But to get the point across and maintain the word order as much as possible, I’ve rendered “glory” as an adjective.

Line 4: The word I’ve rendered “fearful” (following Alexander) is often translated “awesome,” and that translation does capture the meaning.  But I’ve retained “fearful” to keep the link with the root word, which has to do with fear.  Hirsch suggests that the line should be rendered “What a tremendous thing are your acts.”  Cf. also line 10.

Line 5: I’ve translated a word as “cringe” which has, as one of its basic meanings, “lie, speak falsely.”  It’s possible that it means “feign submission,” as some translations render it (and as Holladay’s lexicon suggests for Deut 33:29; Ps 18:45; 2 Sam 22:45).  The idea is not that these enemies are now true and genuine servants of the king, but that they are making a show of obedience (cf. BDB); the point is not to deceive or trick the ruler — as “feign submission” — might suggest, but rather to escape from punishment as rebels.

Line 24: The word translated “oppressive burden” here comes from a root that has to do with pressure.  This form of the word seems to refer to something that causes pressure, in this case pressure upon the hips and small of the back (“loins”).  Perhaps we could use the word “weight,” but I’m afraid that “weight on our hips” makes us think of someone who is putting on the pounds, getting overweight, which isn’t the idea at all.

Line 25 is hard to understand.  The word for “man” (enosh) is often used for frail man, mortal man, mere man in contrast to God.  The phrase “over our heads” is possible, since the prefix l- can be used for on or over.  Tate thinks the verse is referring to Moses: In spite of what is mentioned in the previous line, God made Moses ride out of Egypt at the head of Israel’s host. That seems like a stretch to me.  It may suggest that God made a weak man lead Israel, but I’m not sure that “at our head” is attested in this sense anywhere else.

Line 33 uses a word that could be rendered “make.”  I’ve translated it as “offer.”  It appears to be a technical term for offerings (cf. Ex 29:36; Lev 9:7; also Judg 6:19; 1 Kgs 18:23, 26).

Posted by John Barach @ 3:17 pm | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “Psalm 66”

  1. Dad Says:

    Regarding the responsive reading, I think that the leader or congregation should read in complete clauses rather than partial. For example the following two lines are divided between the speaker and congregation, but the thought is one clause. Thus, I think that the speaker (or congregation) should say the whole thing.
    I will pay to you my vows,
    Which my lips uttered,
    There are several other instances in which the clause is broken up.
    It is just my 25 cents worth.

  2. John Says:

    The line breaks in the translation match the line breaks in the Hebrew. In the example you cite,

    I will come to your house with Ascensions;
    I will pay to you my vows,
    Which my lips uttered,
    And my mouth spoke in my oppression.

    The first two lines are one verse and the second two lines are another verse. In each case, the first of the two is parallel to the second of the two in some way. So “which my lips uttered” is parallel to “and [which] my mouth spoke…”

    There’s a back-and-forth thing going on which I’ve tried to capture in the responsive reading, so that the one reader or group says the first line and the second reader/group says the corresponding second line.

    Thanks for the input, Dad!

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