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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ps. 68: Part 6: The heavens dripped

There are new posts on Psalm 68 by Lingamish, along with a fleet of comments, Bob offers commentary insight, some critical text analysis and alternative readings of verse 5, John brings in more musical background and J. K. joins the fray with a comparison of how Aristotle and Luther would read the psalm. J. K. quotes Luther writing,
    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?
I frequently find in both Luther's translation and the King James Version, as well as Rotherham's a certain extravagant warmth of vocabulary. One does not get the sense of a clinical exercise in translation, but the addition of a loving turn of phrase. I was happy yesterday to see Luther's expression, "a house full of children." Not a feminist concern, but a human concern.

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.


לִפְנֵי עַמֶּךָ

בְּצַעְדְּךָ בִישִׁימוֹן סֶלָה.

אֶרֶץ רָעָשָׁה

אַף-שָׁמַיִם נָטְפוּ--

מִפְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים

זֶה סִינַי-- מִפְּנֵי אֱלֹהִי

אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.

גֶּשֶׁם נְדָבוֹת תָּנִיף אֱלֹהִים


וְנִלְאָה אַתָּה כוֹנַנְתָּהּ.

חַיָּתְךָ יָשְׁבוּ-בָהּ

תָּכִין בְּטוֹבָתְךָ לֶעָנִי אֱלֹהִים.

    O God! When you came

    before your people,

    When you strode

    through the wilderness, Selah.

    Earth shook,

    The very heavens dripped

    at the face of God, -

    This Sinai - at the face of God,

    the God of Israel.

    rain you shed, God,

    on your inheritance,

    And its fatigue you yourself replenished.

    Your herds live there,

    You establish

    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.



At Fri Sep 07, 10:17:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Anyone looking to appreciate Luther as a translator and interpreter of scripture will want to read his prefaces to the various books of the Bible. Like those of Jerome, they repay careful reading.

John Hobbins

At Sat Sep 08, 08:00:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The Hebrew in your post is barely readable because the line spacing is inadequate, so points and the top of lamed overlap. Unfortunately in HTML you can't just increase "font-size" without increasing line spacing to match. There is a simpler way to do this, but I don't remember off hand.

I'm enjoying this series, and the various contributions on this psalm.

At Sat Sep 08, 09:14:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Right, I'll fix that. I see that I added spaces in my last post with Hebrew.


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