Friday, November 21, 2008

Psalm 17

This prayer is very difficult to translate and to understand. It is the word of one who is the daughter of God's eye (the literal translation of the apple of your eye). Is daughter to be contrasted with children (lit. sons) in the last lines as I have done by rendering them with the same English word? Is this only a prayer for those 'doomed to death' (מִמְתִים) of one who is like them but without direct descendants? Is it a prayer for their good - a kind of oblivious receipt of God's hidden treasure? Does the prayer that they 'bow down' include the idea of worship?

Note the verbal structures, particularly the repeated use of the verb to be satisfied. What is our satisfaction? Is it a sufficient desire? Perhaps the honesty of ambivalence is to be preferred over the insistence of resolving this to a single 'meaning'.

The 17th psalm in sequence is still introducing new conceptual content into the structure.

A prayer of David
Hear יְהוָה righteousness
Listen to my cry
Hearken to my prayer
not from lips of deceit

From your presence comes my judgment
Your eyes look on uprightness
You have tried my heart
You have visited me in the night
You have tested me till nothing is found
I intend that my mouth will not wander

About the works of humanity,
in the word of your lips I am kept
from the paths of destruction
Complete my steps in your tracks
my foot-fall does not slip
I have called you because you respond
God incline your ear to me
hear my speech

Make wonderful your loving kindness
you who save those taking refuge
from those rising up
by your right hand
keep me
as an eye's child, an eye's pupil
under the shadow of your wing
secret me
from the faces of the wicked
that deal violently with me
hostile in life striking me
their fat heart encloses them
their mouth speaks with pride

They surround our steps now
they have their eyes set
cast down to the earth
like a lion that desires to tear
and like a young lion living in secret places
Arise יְהוָה
confront them to their face
let them bow down

Deliver me from the wicked, your sword
from mortals, your hand, יְהוָה
from mortals, from time, their lot in their lives
and your hidden treasure filling their belly
Let them be satisfied with children
and leave their goods to their little ones

I in righteousness will see your face
I will be satisfied to awaken in your likeness

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