Psalms 76

 

לַמְנַצֵּחַ בִּנְגִינֹת מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף שִׁיר׃   76:1

Psal. 76:1   A psalm of Asaph’s, a song for the leader with stringed music:

נוֹדָע בִּיהוּדָה אֱלֹהִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל גָּדוֹל שְׁמוֹ׃   76:2

Psal. 76:2   God is known in Judah,

                              His name is great in Israel.

וַיְהִי בְשָׁלֵם סֻכּוֹ וּמְעוֹנָתוֹ בְצִיּוֹן׃   76:3

Psal. 76:3   And His tabernacle is in Salem,

                               and His dwelling place in Zion.

The name Salem is an old name for Jerusalem, the latter meaning city of Salem.  This verse also implies that the psalm was composed at a time later than that of David’s, but before the Temple’s destruction.

שָׁמָּה שִׁבַּר רִשְׁפֵי־קָשֶׁת מָגֵן וְחֶרֶב וּמִלְחָמָה סֶלָה׃   76:4

Psal. 76:4   There He breaks fire bolts of bow,

                               shield, and sword, and battle.            Selah.

נָאוֹר אַתָּה אַדִּיר מֵהַרְרֵי־טָרֶף׃   76:5

Psal. 76:5   You are brilliant, majestic, from the mountains of prey.

This verse, containing the words, from the mountains of prey, sounds as if it is referring to the aftermath of God’s judgment.

אֶשְׁתּוֹלְלוּ אַבִּירֵי לֵב נָמוּ שְׁנָתָם וְלֹא־מָצְאוּ כָל־אַנְשֵׁי־חַיִל יְדֵיהֶם׃   76:6

Psal. 76:6   The valiant of heart are plundered,

                                they sleep their sleep,

                      that all of the men of might do not find their hands.

Two remarks about this verse:  For one, the first word in the verse is rather strange.  What’s more, it appears no where else in the bible.  I believe for the word to be more accurately spelled, it should be prefixed with a heh in place of the aleph.  Spelled with the aleph, it could be translated as first-person imperfect, I will make it to be plundered, the valiant of heart,....  The only problems with this translation, which would then be a quote from God, are that there is no appropriate antecedent for the pronoun it, and it doesn’t match the perfect tense of the verb do ... find later in the verse.  But it wouldn’t be the first time tenses are mixed in bible poetry.  The second remark about this verse pertains to its last part, that of not finding their hands.  Apparently, this relates to their not being able to fight (with their hands).

מִגַּעֲרָתְךָ אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב נִרְדָּם וְרֶכֶב וָסוּס׃   76:7

Psal. 76:7   Due to Your rebuke O God of Jacob,

                                their sleep is deep, with rider and horse.

אַתָּה נוֹרָא אַתָּה וּמִי־יַעֲמֹד לְפָנֶיךָ מֵאָז אַפֶּךָ׃   76:8

Psal. 76:8   You are awesome, You!

                               So who can stand before You

                      after the time of Your “anger?”

מִשָּׁמַיִם הִשְׁמַעְתָּ דִּין אֶרֶץ יָרְאָה וְשָׁקָטָה׃   76:9

Psal. 76:9   From heaven You proclaim judgment.

                                The earth fears but remains quiet

בְּקוּם־לַמִּשְׁפָּט אֱלֹהִים לְהוֹשִׁיעַ כָּל־עַנְוֵי־אֶרֶץ סֶלָה׃   76:10

Psal. 76:10   on the rise to judgment of God

                                 to save all the humble of the earth.            Selah.

כִּי־חֲמַת אָדָם תּוֹדֶךָּ שְׁאֵרִית חֵמֹת תַּחְגֹּר׃   76:11

Psal. 76:11   If the wrath of humankind could praise You,

                                 You would gird the residue of wrath.

This verse doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  What does it mean?  Neither the first clause nor the second seems to be informative.  How would the wrath of humankind praise God?  And why would God gird its residue?  According to some bible scholars, it can be interpreted to mean whatever is left over after God’s judgment, He would gird Himself with it, perhaps as an ornament of the final struggle of wrathful humans.  Other commentators offer different interpretations, none of which is satisfying.  I can see some wisdom in the first interpretation, but the trouble for me is that it doesn’t address the first clause, thereby bypassing the explanation of how the wrath of humankind could praise God.  I suppose the whole verse could be transformed into something like the following:  If the destruction of the wrath of humankind could be seen as being praise to God, then God could carry anything left over as His “burden.”  This or something like it may be its meaning, but it still leaves me with little to chew on or learn from.  So I’m still dissatisfied with it.  Now here’s what I’m guessing.  First we have the anger of the peoples.  Would it be directed towards God?  Most likely.  Well, if that anger could instead of causing displeasure with God, cause praise of God. then maybe God would be willing to wear the residue of it on His “belt.”  How’s that for purely wild thinking?  Well, sometimes we have to think wildly when trying to interpret the bible.  And this interpretation makes some vague sense.

נִדֲרוּ וְשַׁלְּמוּ לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם כָּל־סְבִיבָיו יוֹבִילוּ שַׁי לַמּוֹרָא׃   76:12

Psal. 76:12   Vow, and make good to the Lord, your God;

                                  let all surrounding He Who is to be feared bring gift.

The last Hebrew word, ar'AMl, which I translate as He Who is to be feared, can also be translated as He Who is to be revered.  However, while the root word can also mean reverence, it is used more to indicate real fear, terror.  So I didn’t use my usual substitute for the word fear.  It could be that the psalmist was keeping to the general theme of this psalm, which is the unimaginable awesomeness and power of God, and used this term instead of the usual term for fear or reverence, whose root is arey.

יִבְצֹר רוּחַ נְגִידִים נוֹרָא לְמַלְכֵי־אָרֶץ׃   76:13

Psal. 76:13   He can restrain the spirit of princes,

                                  be fearsome to the kings of the earth.

 

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