Ps. 68: Part 6: The heavens dripped
- Again in Psalm 68 we ran quite a risk, relinquishing the words and rendering the sense. For this many know-it-alls will criticize us, to be sure, and even some pious souls may take offense. But what is the point of needlessly adhering so scrupulously and stubbornly to words which one cannot understand anyway?
John has added several posts which reflect on mine here and here. And, once again, since I translated these verses several days ago, Iyov has posted Alter's version. Several words that I had already chosen occur in Alter's version, such as "strode" and "shed". So far, I have been very good, and have not yet "squirrelled down" the page to read the rest of Alter's version, which I will look at after I tackle each section of the psalm. I know I well be very influenced by Alter! Iyov first introduced me to Alter's Five Books of Moses last year, and encouraged me at the time to resume my study of Hebrew.
Here are verses 8-11.
בְּצַעְדְּךָ בִישִׁימוֹן סֶלָה.
זֶה סִינַי-- מִפְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים
גֶּשֶׁם נְדָבוֹת תָּנִיף אֱלֹהִים
וְנִלְאָה אַתָּה כוֹנַנְתָּהּ.
תָּכִין בְּטוֹבָתְךָ לֶעָנִי אֱלֹהִים.
- O God! When you came
before your people,
When you strode
through the wilderness, Selah.
The very heavens dripped
at the face of God, -
This Sinai - at the face of God,
the God of Israel.
Abundant rain you shed, God,
on your inheritance,
And its fatigue you yourself replenished.
Your herds live there,
out of your goodness
the impoverished - O God!
While John has written of the role of this Psalm in war time, and there is a very interesting article on its use in the English Civil War; I have focused on another theme to provide a slightly different approach from John. These should be seen as complementary, theme and sub-theme. John writes of religious processions which he has witnessed, and I think of the domestic and pastoral, the importance of children and rain. The difference between our two approaches is not theological but rather one of literary and thematic focus.
She heard the wind blowing down the slope and went to the door of the tent. As she looked upwind, clouds billowed on the horizon. She squatted down and took a small rock in her hands which were slick from rubbing sheep fat into the baby's bottom. She tapped on the tent peg, driving it further into the ground. Methodically, she went around to each peg, testing to see that it was secure, giving it an extra whack for good measure.
When she was done she straightened up and undid the ropes that held back the door flaps. Then she squatted down outside and waited and watched, taking deep breaths of cool air. Thunder split the sky and the rain came, a few drops at first. She let it fall on her face and outstretched arms and licked the first sweet drops from her forearms.
Eventually she withdrew into the doorway and remained squatting, humming a lullaby to the baby about a God who provided a father for the fatherless, justice for the widow and family for the single man. She sang about rain for the thirsty ground and grass for the herds. By now the drops were pounding on the sides of the tent and because the rhythm was faster than the familiar beat of her mother's heart, it woke up the child.
While preparing my translation I have become increasingly aware of the giants of Bible translation. Those that are becoming familiar to me, and that I am growing to appreciate more and more, are Jerome, Pagnini, Luther, Rotherham and Alter.
I will eventually be drawing this theme of God's bounty into a discussion of the names of God.
Labels: Psalm 68