July 3, 2012

Psalm 69

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.
Upon lilies.
By David.

Save me, God,
For the waters have come, up to my soul.
I have sunk in the mire of the deep,
And there is no place to stand.
I have come into depths of water,
And a torrent has washed me away.
I am weary with my calling;
My throat is parched.
My eyes fail
From waiting for my God.
More than the hairs of my head
Are those who hate me undeservedly.
Mighty are my destroyers,
My lying enemies.
What I did not steal,
I must then return.

God, you yourself know my foolishness,
And my guilts from you are not hidden.
Let them not be shamed in me, the ones who wait for you,
My Master, Yahweh of hosts.
Let them not be disgraced in me, the ones who seek you,
God of Israel,
Because for you I have borne reproach;
Disgrace has covered my face.
Estranged have I been from my brothers,
And a foreigner to my mother’s sons,
Because the zeal of your house has consumed me,
And the reproach of your reproachers has fallen upon me.
And I wept in fasting for my soul;
And it became a reproach to me.
And I made my clothing sackcloth,
And I was to them a byword.
They talk about me, those who sit in the gate:
The songs of those who drink beer.

But as for me, my prayer is to you:
Yahweh, a time of favor!
God, in the abundance of your loyalty,
Answer me in the trustworthiness of your salvation.
Rescue me from the mire and do not let me sink;
Let me be rescued from my haters and from depths of water.
Let not the torrent of water wash me away;
And let not the deep swallow me;
And let not the pit shut upon me its mouth.

Answer me, Yahweh, for good is your loyalty;
According to the abundance of your compassions, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
For I am distressed.  Hurry, answer me!
Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
Because of my enemies, ransom me.
You yourself know my reproach,
And my shame and my disgrace;
Before you are all my oppressors.
Reproach breaks my heart, and I am sick;
I wait for sympathy and there is none,
And for comforters and I do not find them.
They give for my food gall,
And for my thirst they make me drink vinegar.

Let their table before them become a snare,
And for the ones at peace a trap.
Let their eyes be too dark to see;
And let their loins shake continually.
Pour out upon them your wrath,
And let your burning anger overtake them.
Let their encampment be desolate;
In their tents let there be no one dwelling,
Because as for you — whom you have struck, they persecute,
And the suffering of your wounded they recount.
Give liability upon their liability,
And let them not come into your righteousness.
Let them be blotted from the book of the living,
And with the righteous let them not be written.

But I am lowly and suffering;
Let your salvation, God, set me on high.
I will praise the name of God in song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
And it will be better to Yahweh than an ox,
A bull horned and hooved.
The lowly have seen and rejoiced;
Those who seek God, may your hearts live,
For Yahweh is listening to the needy,
And his captives he does not despise.

Let heaven and earth praise him;
Seas and everything swarming in them,
For God will save Zion,
And build the cities of Judah,
And they will dwell there and possess it,
And the seed of his servants will inherit it,
And the lovers of his name will live in it.

A few comments about the translation of this psalm:

Line 2: “Up to my soul” could, according to many commentaries, be “up to my neck,” which fits this context.  The association between nephesh and breath may justify taking the word as neck or throat here, but for now I’m sticking with the way it’s usually translated elsewhere.  The point is that the waters are going to cut off his breath, I think.

Line 4: “Place to stand” (Alexander, Alter) is at attempt to translate m’md.  Holladay has “firm ground,” which is certainly what is in view. Tate’s “foothold” is good, too. But the root has to do specifically with standing, and I wanted to capture that in the translation.

Line 14: More literally, “my enemies of a lie.”  I take this as a construct chain in which the second noun (“a lie”) functions to describe the first (“my enemies”).

Line 29: What “my soul” is doing in this verse is unclear.  It could be the indirect object of the verb “weep” (which can take an object in this sense: “weep for X”).  But it’s also possible that it is a second subject: “I weep, namely, my soul” (Delitzsch).  Or, I suppose, it could be a direct object: Alexander thinks that it’s “I weep away my soul/life” (cf. Hirsch: “I wept out my soul on the fast day”).

Line 33: “Talk” is really too weak here.  The word implies deliberation, debate, discussion, something resulting from intense meditation (which makes me wonder if the word translated “byword” in the previous line could better be rendered “parable” or “riddle”).  Sometimes, the word is even rendered “complaint,” though that depends on the context.

Line 34: “Beer” is the correct translation of shekar.  There are only two things that an Israelite could make into a fermented drink.  One was fruit, and the product would be wine (yayin).  The other was grain, and the product would be beer (shekar).

Line 38: “The trustworthiness of your salvation” might be an adjectival construct chain, so that it could be rendered “Your saving trustworthiness.”  I opt for “trustworthiness” instead of “truth” (which is often what other translations have) because the idea here is not simply conformity to the facts.  Tate reverses the adjectival order: “Your sure salvation” (cf. Alter: “Your steadfast rescue”).

Line 59: The word here is the plural of shalom, which means “peace, well-being, prosperity.”  So KJV, Calvin, and Hirsch take it to be saying that the enemies’ prosperity (Hirsch: “abundance of good fortune”) would be a trap for them. I’m not sure, in that case, why the word has a l- prefix, though that’s not determinative.  The Targum takes it as the plural of shelem, “Peace offering,” which is pretty attractive, given the context … but that would be a significantly different form of the word. Alexander and Hengstenberg think it refers to those who are secure, but following Alter and Tate, it may be best to take it as the friends of the enemies’, those who are at peace with them, which is how the word shalom is used in Psalm 55:20.

Line 77: More literally, “A bull of horns, hooves.”

Posted by John Barach @ 3:00 pm | Discuss (0)

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