Translating Psalms (66)

Another highly liturgical psalm, again with more emphasis on the universal human nature than just the people of Israel.  That universality of Israel’s mission is already present in Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, but it’s definitely a minor note that grows stronger as Israel’s history continues to unfold.  If you like playing authorship games, it’s a reason to think of this psalm as a later one.

I however do not care for such games, as they are beside the point.  David sounds an awful lot like a cosmic high priest mediating between God and man.  Almost like a foreshadowing, or even a type of the True Mediator…almost as if the true mediator Himself is speaking these words…hmm…

I’ve played around a bit with the subjunctives to contrast the way David speaks to God and the way he speaks to us.

“Deus misereatur” (Psalm 66)

[1] In finem, in hymnis. Psalmus cantici David.

Unto the end, in hymns.  A psalm of a canticle of David. Continue reading Translating Psalms (66)

Translating Psalms (65)

I really, really hate the punctuation and line-breaking to this psalm.  This one really requires a good page layout which I sadly cannot duplicate here on wordpress.  A heavily liturgical song.  For the first nine verses David commands the earth and directs it towards its Creator.  Then he both personalizes the prayer and speaks on behalf of all Israel.

“Jubilate Deo” (Psalm 65)

[1] In finem. Canticum psalmi resurrectionis. Jubilate Deo, omnis terra;

Unto the end.  A canticle of a psalm of resurrection.  Rejoice in God, all the earth; Continue reading Translating Psalms (65)

Translating Psalms (64)

David was a shepherd.  Easy to forget after getting caught up in countless stories of battles and betrayals.  He was first a musician and a shepherd, and this is what made him a king who could approximate in some small way God’s reign over His people.

“Te decet” (Psalm 64)

[1] In finem. Psalmus David, canticum Jeremiae, et Ezechielis, populo transmigrationis, cum inciperent exire.

Unto the end.  A psalm of David, a canticle of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, to a people of migration, when they were beginning to go out. Continue reading Translating Psalms (64)

Translating Psalms (62)

Here’s a disconnect between psalm and setting!  This is perhaps my favorite psalm to recite in prayer, a prayer of contemplation, a real prayer of the mystics…and yet its setting is David marching out toward the Edomites to crush them in battle.  Or at least, that’s the only time in the narrative David is in the desert of Edom.

Now, re-magine the coming battle as a supernatural one and make the setting, say, 40 days in the wilderness at the start of a certain public ministry, and all of a sudden…

“Deus Deus meus, ad te” (Psalm 62)

[1] Psalmus David, cum esset in deserto Idumaeae.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the desert of Edom. Continue reading Translating Psalms (62)

Translating Psalms (61)

The grammar in this psalm just slays me.  Lots to fiddle with, lots to squint at cross-eyed to try to make it work.  There’s violence ahead; please don’t blame me.

With psalms like this one, which makes no explicit connection to an event in the life of David, I try to imagine when and where in his life it would make sense for it to be composed.  In broadest terms, David is opposed by the multitude and crying for God’s deliverance in the early half of his story (I Samuel 18-31) and so we should tie it to something in there.  I’ll say it’s thematically linked to the wilderness years and being betrayed by the Ziphites to Saul.

“Nonne Deo” (Psalm 61)

[1] In finem, pro Idithun. Psalmus David.

Unto the end, for Idithun.  A psalm of David. Continue reading Translating Psalms (61)

Translating Psalms (59)

The books of Samuel mostly depict David going from triumph to triumph as God gives him rest from all his enemies round about.  This psalm recalls specifically the triumphs of David’s hand in II Samuel 8, immediately after his covenant-scene with God in the previous chapter.  Of course the winning streak is going to get a little bit ugly in a few chapters after David’s epic sin with Uriah and Bathsheba…but we’re not there yet.

So what humiliating defeats does David have in mind when singing this psalm?  When has God repelled him and fought against him?  While David’s track record is pretty impressive, Israel’s is…less so.  God often turns His hand against the Israelites in the books of Samuel.  Even before Saul’s many crimes bring the Israelites repeated defeat, even before Saul even takes the throne, Israel loses the ark in battle against the Philistines.  And don’t get started on the time before that, the time of the judges.

David sees in all these past humiliations of his people not divine indifference or abandonment, but direct divine chastisement.  And if God’s hand can work so heavily against the people who sin against Him, how much more can that hand do on behalf of the people who serve Him with an undivided heart?  So the king of Israel invites the King of Israel to march out, to lead the army, and to bring their trials to nothing.  Pretty smart.

Drawing hope from the failures and punishments of the past…quite a psalm.

“Deus, repulisti nos” (Psalm 59)

[1] In finem. Pro his qui immutabuntur, in tituli inscriptionem ipsi David, in doctrinam,

Unto the end.  For these who will be changed, unto an inscription of a title for David himself, unto teaching, Continue reading Translating Psalms (59)

Translating Psalms (58)

Sauls sours on his servant David quite early on in the story.  I Samuel 18, just one chapter after David slays Goliath and rockets to fame, recounts Saul’s growing bitterness and jealousy.  In his fits of madness he tries to kill David, which David seems to write off as Saul’s typical insanity.  He sends David on increasingly dangerous military assignments and then fumes when David returns more successful each time.  When David seeks his daughter’s hand in marriage, Saul sends David on a suicide mission to slay a hundred Philistines (and bring back an unusual, symbolic proof of each kill).  David seems oblivious to Saul’s efforts to kill him.

All that changes in I Samuel 19, when Saul sends assassins to surround David’s house and kill him.  David escapes in the middle of the night thanks to the help of his wife Michal.  He flees to Samuel at Ramah, and thus begins his epic exile that only ends with the death of Saul at the hand of the Philistines.

This psalm, I imagine, he composed while sitting quietly in his dark house anxiously waiting to see if Saul’s men would attack him or wait for him to fall asleep.

“Eripe me” (Psalm 58)

[1] In finem, ne disperdas. David in tituli inscriptionem, quando misit Saul, et custodivit domum ejus, ut eum interficeret.

Unto the end, lest you destroy. For David in the inscription of a title, when Saul sent and guarded his house that he might slay him. Continue reading Translating Psalms (58)

Translating Psalms (57)

A break from the psalms tied concretely to an event in David’s life.  The opening line is a scorcher that would fit in nicely in a book like Proverbs or Wisdom of Solomon: if you dare even to speak about justice, make darn sure you judge rightly.

“Si vere utique” (Psalm 57)

[1] In finem, ne disperdas. David in tituli inscriptionem.

Unto the end, lest you destroy.  For David in inscription of a title. Continue reading Translating Psalms (57)