July 25, 2012

Psalm 72

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!

By Solomon.

God, give your judgments to the king,
And your righteousness to the son of the king.
He will judge your people with righteousness,
And your lowly ones with justice.
The mountains will bear peace to the people,
And the hills, in righteousness.
He will judge the lowly of the people;
He will save the sons of the needy,
And crush the oppressor.
They will fear you while the sun lasts,
And in the presence of the moon, generation after generation.

He will come down, like rain upon mown grass,
Like showers, the watering of the earth.
In his days, the righteous man will sprout,
And abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.
And he will rule from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
Before him shall kneel the wilderness-dwellers,
And his enemies will lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and the coastlands return a gift;
The kings of Sheba and Seba will bring near tribute.

All kings will bow to him;
All nations will serve him,
For he rescues the needy man who pleads,
And the lowly who has no one to help him.
He will have pity on the poor and needy,
And the souls of the needy he will save.
From oppression and violence he will redeem their souls,
And precious is their blood in his eyes.
And he will live,
And he will give to him from the gold of Sheba.
And he will pray for him continually;
All the day he will bless him.

There will be an abundance of grain in the land,
On the heads of the mountains.
Its fruit will rustle like Lebanon,
And they will blossom from the city like the grass of the earth.
His name will be forever,
In the presence of the sun, his name will have descendants.
And they will be blessed in him;
All the nations will call him happy.

Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel,
Who alone does wonders.
And blessed be his glorious name forever,
And filled with his glory be all the earth.
And amen.

The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are finished.


A few comments about this translation:

Line 1: If I could, I’d like to capture the Hebrew structure by putting “give” at the end of the line, but that’s a bit awkward in English (“your judgments to the king give”).

Line 4: “Justice” here is the same word as “judgments” in line 1.  Alexander has “judgment” in both lines, but I’m not sure that “judge … with judgment” is clear.

Line 7: The word for “judge” here (shaphat) is not the same as the word in line 3 (din), but is the root of the words rendered “justice” and “judgments” in lines 1 and 4.

Lines 10-11: Literally, “They will fear you with the sun, / Before the moon, generation of generations.” Cf. Ps. 89:37-38: David’s throne “as the sun before me, as the moon it will be established forever.”

Lines 20-21: Interestingly, the language used here could be sacrificial: “Gift” in “return a gift” (which means, by the way, to give a gift in return for the king’s favors, including his giving them audience) is minchah, which is used for the grain offering (tribute offering), and the verb in “bring tribute near” is the Hiphil of qrb (“cause to draw near”), which is used for the nearbringings (that is, what we usually call “offerings”).

Line 34: “Abundance” is a guess: the word appears only here in Scripture..  Following a rabbinical tradition, the KJV has “handful,” as does Alexander, who sees it as a statement that contrasts with what follows, along these lines: “Though there’s only a handful of grain in the land, nevertheless there’s going to be a rich harvest.”  Hirsch, taking his own path as usual, links this word pisah with the root pss, which he takes to mean “to stop,” so that pisah would mean “the border.”  The point, says he, is that the border of the grainfields will reach up to the tops of the mountains, so abundant will it be.  In any case, everyone takes this to mean that there will be abundance of grain, in one way or another, and that’s what I’ve gone with.

“Land” here is the same word rendered “earth” earlier in the Psalm, which suggests that perhaps it should be rendered “land” throughout.

Line 36: “Rustle” (Alter, Hirsch) seems better to me — read: closer to “shake,” which is the normal meaning of the word — than the guesses that usually substitute for it (e.g,. “thrive”).

Line 39: The verb yanan occurs only here but it’s related to the noun nin, “descendant.”  Alexander renders it “his name will propagate (itself),” which sounds awkward to me.  So does Hirsch’s “be perpetuated in progeny.”  Alter has “bear seed,” but I don’t want to import the idea of seed into the translation, given the importance of seed motifs elsewhere.  Perhaps “procreate” would be a possibility.  But I’ve gone with “have descendants” to make the connection with nin (“descendant”) clear.

Line 40: While many commentators treat the hithpael here as reflexive (“they will bless themselves by him”), as they do with the same form in Genesis 22:18 and 26:4, it seems to me that it is best to render it as a passive (“be blessed in/by/through/with him”).  See O. T. Allis’s “The Blessing of Abraham,” Princeton Theological Review 25 (1927):263-298, where Allis shows that the hithpael can have a passive meaning.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:21 pm | Discuss (0)

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