Thursday, March 26, 2009

Psalm 35

Psalm 35 (NET) reads:

By David.

O LORD, fight those who fight with me!
Attack those who attack me!

2 Grab your small shield and large shield,
and rise up to help me!

3 Use your spear and lance against those who chase me!
Assure me with these words: "I am your deliverer!"

4 May those who seek my life be embarrassed and humiliated!
May those who plan to harm me be turned back and ashamed!

5 May they be like wind-driven chaff,
as the LORD's angel attacks them!

6 May their path be dark and slippery,
as the LORD's angel chases them!

7 I did not harm them, but they hid a net to catch me
and dug a pit to trap me.

8 Let destruction take them by surprise!
Let the net they hid catch them!
Let them fall into destruction!

9 Then I will rejoice in the LORD
and be happy because of his deliverance.

10 With all my strength I will say,
"O LORD, who can compare to you?
You rescue the oppressed from those who try to overpower them;
the oppressed and needy from those who try to rob them."

11 Violent men perjure themselves,
and falsely accuse me.

12 They repay me evil for the good I have done;
I am overwhelmed with sorrow.

13 When they were sick, I wore sackcloth,
and refrained from eating food.
(If I am lying, may my prayers go unanswered!)

14 I mourned for them as I would for a friend or my brother.
I bowed down in sorrow as if I were mourning for my mother.

15 But when I stumbled, they rejoiced and gathered together;
they gathered together to ambush me.
They tore at me without stopping to rest.

16 When I tripped, they taunted me relentlessly,
and tried to bite me.

17 O sovereign Master, how long are you going to just stand there and watch this?
Rescue me from their destructive attacks;
guard my life from the young lions!

18 Then I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
I will praise you before a large crowd of people!

19 Do not let those who are my enemies for no reason gloat over me!
Do not let those who hate me without cause carry out their wicked schemes!

20 For they do not try to make peace with others,
but plan ways to deceive those who are unsuspecting.

21 They are ready to devour me;
they say, "Aha! Aha! We've got you!"

22 But you take notice, LORD!
O sovereign Master, do not remain far away from me!

23 Rouse yourself, wake up and vindicate me!
My God and Lord, defend my just cause!

24 Vindicate me by your justice, O LORD my God!
Do not let them gloat over me!

25 Do not let them say to themselves, "Aha! We have what we wanted!"
Do not let them say, "We have devoured him!"

26 May those who want to harm me be totally embarrassed and ashamed!
May those who arrogantly taunt me be covered with shame and humiliation!

27 May those who desire my vindication shout for joy and rejoice!
May they continually say, "May the LORD be praised, for he wants his servant to be secure."

28 Then I will tell others about your justice,
and praise you all day long.

I had to smile as I read this psalm. It's not that there is anything funny about the psalm, I just smile at NET's translation approach sometimes. I love it. It's real. I love v. 16, "When I tripped, they taunted me relentlessly, and tried to bite me." That is so much better than ESV's "Like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth" and NIV's "Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me." Granted, it's not as poetic. But you get a better feel for what is going on with the language. I also love the taunts in v. 21, "Aha! Aha! We've got you!" and v. 25 "Aha! We have what we wanted!" (ESV translates v. 21 "Aha, Aha! our eyes have seen it!" and NIV translates it "Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.") Plus, the NET puts the Hebrew in the footnotes and tells you how they came up with their translation. (Plus they let you reproduce their translation for free as long as you give your work away for free.)

I am on a bit of a "loyalty" kick right now, and I notice the theme in this psalm, too. Notice in vv. 13–16 that the psalmist says, "When they were sick, I prayed for them like they were my brothers. But when I fell into trouble, they didn't return the favor. Instead they kicked me while I was down."

Another interesting thing that I noticed was the psalmist's accusation against his enemies in v. 20. He says that they do not seek "peace" (Hebrew shalom), but instead they use words of treachery (Hebrew mirmah). These are the opposites of what Psalm 34 said about fearing the Lord. Psalm 34:13–14 says that to fear the Lord you should avoid words of mirmah and instead seek shalom.

Perhaps this was a significant part of the OT ethic. The temptation was to take advantage of others—to deceive them and kick them when they were down. Fearing the Lord meant that you would treat your neighbor as a brother by pursuing peace instead.

"Father, I pray for eyes that see deceit and treachery and don't ignore them. I pray that I would promote peace in my church and in my community. You are a God of righteousness and of peace. You are a Father to the fatherless and a defender of the oppressed. Amen."


Rob Dilfer said...

What is the translation philosophy of the Net Bible?

P.S. I like how you already have 26 posts for March. I'm impressed.

Matt said...

You can read about their philosophy on

The introduction to the Bible says that they want to be "accurate, readable, and elegant." In my opinion, it does a great job on the first two of that group, but other Bibles do better in the "elegance" category. The examples in the post illustrate. "They gnashed their teeth at me" is the literal Hebrew and it is an elegant word picture, but the meaning isn't clear. "They tried to bite me" isn't very elegant, but it communicates the idea of the verse.

The two best things about the NET are:

1) It's free. The guys at are top-notch scholars, but they want their work to be available for The Great Commission. They feel that the church needs a free version of the Bible in contemporary English. (Now they won't let you use their translation in a commentary for sale, but if you are giving away your writing, they will let you use their translation.)

(2) It has 60,237 translator footnotes. In the "try tried to bite me" example, the translation note says "Heb 'gnashing at me with their teeth.' The infinitive absolute adds a contemporary action--they gnashed with their teeth as they taunted."

Another example (that they later changed) is Isaiah 6:3, in which the angels say "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts." In Hebrew, if you repeat an adjective it has a intensifying effect. Thus, in Genesis 1:18, God looks at the lights in the sky and sees that they are tov, "good." In Genesis 1:31, God looks at everything that He made and He sees that it is tov tov, "very good."

You never see an adjective repeated three times except in Isaiah 6:3. The Hebrew word for Holy is qadosh. Isaiah 6:3 says that God isn't just qadosh, holy. He isn't just qadosh qadosh, very holy. He is qadosh qadosh qadosh, extremely holy. The NET originally said "The Lord who leads armies is extremely holy" (note also the interpretation of what YHWH Sabbaoth, "The Lord of hosts," means). People complained because they liked the poetry of "holy, holy, holy," so NET changed it back. But that's an illustration of what they try to do--make things clear.