July 17, 2012

Psalm 71

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!

In you, Yahweh, I have taken refuge;
Let me not be shamed forever.
In your righteousness rescue me and deliver me.
Incline to me your ear and save me.
Be for me a rock of refuge,
To come to continually.
You commanded to save me,
For my rock and my stronghold you are.

My God, deliver me from the hand of the wicked,
From the palm of the unjust and the corrupt,
For you are my hope, my Master;
Yahweh, my confidence from my youth.
Upon you I leaned from the womb;
From the belly of my mother you separated me;
In you is my praise continually.
As a wonder I was to the many;
And you are my strong refuge.

May my mouth be filled with your praise;
All the day, with your beauty.
Do not cast me off at the time of old age;
When my strength fails do not forsake me,
For my enemies speak to me,
And those who watch my soul counsel together,
Saying, “God has forsaken him.
Pursue and catch him because there is no one to rescue.”

God, do not be far from me;
My God, to help me hasten.
Let them be shamed, let them perish,
The accusers of my soul.
Let them be clothed with reproach and be disgraced,
The ones who seek my harm.

And I myself, continually I will hope;
And I will add to all your praise.
My mouth will recount your righteousness;
All the day your salvation,
For I do not know the numbers.
I will come in the powers of my Master, Yahweh.
I will memorialize your righteousness, yours only.

God, you have taught me from my youth;
And until now I declared your wonders.
And also unto old age and gray-headedness,
God do not forsake me,
Until I declare your right arm to the generation,
To all who will come, your power.

And your righteousness, God, is unto the heights,
You who have done great things —
God, who is like you?
You who have shown us oppressions, many and evil,
You will return; you will make us live,
And from the depths of the earth,
You will return, you will bring me up.
You will multiply my greatness
And you will turn around; you will comfort me.

As for me also, I will thank you with the voice of the lute —
Your trustworthiness, God.
I will psalm to you with the lyre,
The holy one of Israel.
My lips will sing when I psalm to you,
And my soul which you have redeemed.
My tongue also, all the day,
Will tell your righteousnesses,
For they are shamed, for they are disgraced,
Those who sought my harm.

A few comments about the translation of this psalm:

Line 10: The last word here is hard to translate.  It appears to be the long form of a Qal participle of a word, which in the Qal means “to be (thoroughly) leavened, to be sour(ed).”  Note that leaven in the  Bible is not yeast but sourdough starter.  In the Hiphil, it can mean “turn sharp, bitter” (Ps 73:21), though “sour” works there, too.  The related noun means “vinegar” (Ps 69:22).

Lexicons suggest that it means “to be ruthless,” either because they think that meaning comes by extension from “to be sour/sharp” or because they think the word is an alternate spelling of hms, “to be violent.”  Maybe.

Hirsch says that the word refers “to one who pours a drop of vinegar into the cup of peace and happiness of another and thus causes the other’s peace and prosperity to curdle and ferment.”  This man is, then, the “vinegarer,” the “sourer” or life.  Alexander, similarly, suggests that the word has to do with becoming sour, fermented, putrified, and translates it “corrupt doer.”  Perhaps one could opt for “corrupter” to convey the idea that this man does not just do corrupt things but actually corrupts or sours things.  On the other hand, the root verb in Qal does seem to refer to something true of the subject (“to be leavened/sour”), not to something the subject does to something else (“make leavened/sour”).  That said, I’ve gone for “corrupt.”  For now.

Line 14: The verb here is puzzling.  It appears to be from a root that means “to cut off,” but as Hirsch points out, the idea has to do with separation in Numbers 11:31, not necessarily with cutting.  Hirsch himself opts for “you set me apart,” with connotations of being isolated.  That may go too far.

Line 36: “The numbers” refers to the number of God’s acts of salvation and righteousness.  More literally, it’s “I do not know numbers.”  Note that the root of the word for “numbers” here is the same as the root of the verb “recount” earlier.  In fact, the Psalmist might even be saying that he would count or number God’s acts of salvation.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:28 pm | Discuss (0)

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