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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Did David come back to life?

In Jer. 30:9 God told Jeremiah that the time will come when the exiled people of Judah
will serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them (NIV/TNIV)

shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them (ESV)

will serve the Lord their God and I will raise up David their king for them (HCSB)
But David had been dead for a long time when Jeremiah was a prophet. How could David be raised up for the people to serve him as king? Would David come back to life?

No. When the Hebrew text and these literal translations refer to David being raised up, "David" is serving as a kind of figure of speech. The name "David" in Jer. 30:9 represents something larger than the man David himself. This figure of speech is called a synecdoche, where the part (David) represents the whole (the Davidic throne or dynasty).

How many English Bible readers will take these literal translations literally and understand from them that God will raise up David himself? I don't know, but I would guess that at least some, perhaps many, would, unless they are taught that "David" doesn't really mean 'David' here. So teaching is one solution to the translation problem.

Another solution is found in versions which translate the non-literal meaning of the word "David":
But they will be subject to the LORD their God and to the Davidic ruler whom I will raise up as king over them. (NET)

Instead, they will serve me, the LORD their God, and a descendant of David, whom I will enthrone as king. (GNT)

For my people will serve the LORD their God and their king descended from David—the king I will raise up for them. (NLT)
In Jer. 30:9, which translation approach do you consider more "accurate"?

As you answer, take into consideration faithfulness to what the Hebrew text said, what it meant, and readers' understandings of a translation wording. And by all means, let's avoid put downs of any answers which people give. Rather, let's try to understand what each person means by their answer. We can learn from each other. There is no single right answer or solution here, so there is no need to act like there is.


At Thu May 31, 12:51:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Thu May 31, 01:13:00 PM, Blogger ElShaddai Edwards said...

How about something along these lines?

"they will serve the LORD their God and I will raise up their king on the throne of David"

I'm assuming that "raise up" in the correct verb from the Hebrew. Otherwise "I will place their king on the throne of David" could be used or "I will annoint their king to the throne of David".

At Thu May 31, 01:22:00 PM, Blogger sundoulos said...

A couple thoughts come quickly to mind. First, if the Bible is God's word then we must be careful not to "put words in his mouth" when we translate it. Second, I don't believe God intended his word to be communicated in a vacuum. Case in point - Nehemiah 8, especially verse 8: "They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." It would seem that God does not expect every reader to read or hear his word and reach full understanding without guidance.
What does that mean for translation? Let's be as careful as possible to keep the text faithful to what God said and provide necessary explanations in the notes.

At Thu May 31, 01:37:00 PM, Blogger Andrew McNeill said...

It's interesting that because for a long time I assumed that it would be the Davidic heir who would reign (having taken that idea from my reading of the NET Bible) but after reading various writers, it seems that some notable writers and indeed scholars such as John F Walvoord have opined that David will be raised to life in order to rule.

I guess the question for me is, "How do you know when the Bible is simply using a figure of speech and not declaring something that is meant to be taken very literally?" Does Hebrew have any way of referring to a Davidic ruler apart from the way it already is in the various passages?

At Thu May 31, 06:48:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

At least one (albeit minority) view in normative Judaism is that David (who is already anointed -- a "messiah") will return as the prophesied Messiah:

Rav [Rabbi Abba Arika] said the World was created in David's merit. . . . R. Yehudah said in Rav's name: The Holy One, blessed be He, will raise up David for them as it is written "But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them." (Sanhedrin 98b)

At Fri Jun 01, 06:19:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

I understand your complaint that this expression is best captured in English more idiomatically, since it's pretty much an idiom in the original, one that doesn't transfer as well to English (except among the biblically literate).

However, I don't think the most natural way to take "raise up" is anything to do with resurrection. It's only those steeped in church language who will see "raise up" as having anything to do with resurrection. Biblically illiterate people will be more inclined simply to think that David is either being held up in the air the way a football team might do to the MVP after a game or being nurtured and taught the way a child is raised up by parents. Perhaps the latter is more likely given that it's God doing the raising up.


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