Sunday, July 20, 2008

This morning's psalm

Brilliantly sung by the Cathedral Choir, I assume to a chant for four part men by Matthew Larkin, a subset of Psalm 139 (1-11, 22-23) was the lectionary portion today.

I couldn't leave out the nastier bits - slay the wicked etc - so here is my worked over translation:

Note: for the leader (lamnatsa)- how did the LXX get its idea about the end (eis to telos) translated by NETS as regarding fulfillment?

For the leader or concerning fulfillment (LXX) / of David / A Psalm
יְהוָה you have searched me and you know
You know my sitting and my rising
you understand my thought from afar
my path and my lying down you sift
and all my ways you know intimately

For there is not a word on my tongue
but יְהוָה knows all of it
behind and before you secure me
and you lay on me your palm
Wonderful - knowledge about me
high - I cannot accomplish it

where will I go from your spirit
and where from your presence flee
if I ascend into heaven, there you are
and spread out in Sheol, there you are again

I take the wings of the morning
I live in the farthest part of the sea
also there your hand leads me
and holds me
your right hand

and I say surely darkness will crush me
and the night be light about me
even darkness is not darkness with you
and night like day shines
as darkness as light

for you have captured my insides
you overshadowed me in the womb of my mother
I will thank you for fearfully I am separated
wonderful your doings as my life knows well

not hid are my bones from you
that were when I was made in secret
embroidered in the lowest parts of earth
your eyes saw my embryo
and in your book all of them were written
days were fashioned when not one was of them

to me how precious your thoughts, O God
how numerous their source
I count them more in number than sand
I awake and still I am with you

If you slay O God the wicked
so, mortals of blood, depart from me
who speak of you against discretion
and take to vanity your cities

these hating you יְהוָה I will hate
and those rising against you - I am grieved
a consummation of hatred - I hate them
enemies they are to me

Search me O God and know my heart
try me and know my ambivalence
and see if a way of trouble is in me
and lead me in the way that is everlasting

What actions does יְהוָה take that convinces the Psalmist of God’s knowledge?
How would you relate this knowledge of יְהוָה to the New Covenant?
What then would you say about the experience of the individual in the Old Covenant?
Who can you put in the role of the speaker in this Psalm?
Who is the wicked (Hebrew is singular, LXX is plural)?
Who is the enemy (Hebrew is plural) and to whom?

ambivalence, ‘troubled thoughts’, used only twice in the Old Testament, here and in Psalm 94:19 In the many divisions within me, your consolations delight my being

Re the sudden shift from singular to plural: ‘all of them were written’: the word for the plural ‘them’ has no antecedent. (Perhaps it is the bones / skeleton / substance / embryo combo - nonetheless, it is worth the pause for reflection) – is the antecedent ‘days’? – i.e. the pronoun occurring before its noun? The LXX has ‘In your book all [people] shall be written, in a day they shall be formed and no one is among them.’

Re thoughts: the LXX has friends ‘But your friends are very precious to me’ and this reading is followed by many early translations. The shift from singular to plural has caused many variations in interpretation for this part of the psalm. If we remove the second use of thoughts, the only use of this word in the whole Hebrew Bible remains in verse 2.

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