Legalism in Translation

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Author: 
Dennis McCallum

Language is very influential in framing subjects. How we describe something often determines people’s impression, and this makes word choice very important. Translation is the first act of interpretation, and this means English readers need a way to check on the translations of passages they study. One of the easiest ways to study this as an English reader is to compare translations. You quickly see that opinion plays a part at many points. Bible software has made word studies easier than ever.

Translator bias can be demonstrated in hundreds of passages. Consider how liberal translations like RSV and NRSV mangle Daniel 9:25-27:

25 Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.”[1]

This translation mangles the chronological sequence of events, in accord liberal theories that Daniel is a forgery written during the Maccabean period. To these liberal translators, discrediting the predictive element of Daniel 9 is essential to their naturalistic approach because its predictions extend beyond the Maccabean period. It has has been effectively refuted by conservative scholars, like Walvoord.

Arminians complain that Calvinistic translators translate Heb. chazaq as “harden” for every use in Exodus (referring to Pharaoh’s heart), but as “strengthen” “heal” “help” or similar everywhere else in the Old Testament.

Legal and Military Terms

Christian thinking may have been massively influenced by the use of English words for God’s leadership, teaching, counsel, or direction that are drawn from military or legal relationships in an unnecessary way. The same words are frequently translated in other ways. The overall result is a legalistic and impersonal spin on the picture of God’s relation to his people.

Consider leaving a note for your teenage kids containing some instructions or reminders for what to do while you are gone on a trip—“Don’t forget to feed the dog. Lock the doors when you go to school, etc.” What would be a good heading for such a note? How about “Commands for while I’m gone,” or, “Household statutes?” How about “Household ordinances?” All of these seem not to fit a communication suitable to the parent-child relationship, let alone for a husband-wife relationship. Imagine a note from your wife saying “Don’t forget my regulation: to pick up the kids from grandma’s house.”

Such legalistic vocabulary as “command,” “statute,” “ordinance,” or “regulation.” would virtually never be appropriate in household relationships or in friendships. In fact, these words would be quite bizarre. These are governmental or military terms that imply a rigid, impersonal set of regulations imposed without and independent of personal relationship.

Military leaders give commands, and soldiers are taught to obey orders. Governments pass laws, ordinances, and regulations. Interestingly, in pagan religion the gods give commands, but the idea of a personal love relationship with the gods is absent from these religions. Isn’t there a major difference when we come to the Bible, which constantly stresses the love God has for his people. Such relational love is absent from these other well known legal relationships.

The Problem

It may not even be that the translation of some words is wrong, but that the English language has changed (although I doubt this). When has ‘giving commands’ ever been associated either with friendship or family relations?

As a rule, instruction, direction, teaching, or commission are well within the semantic range of both Hebrew and Greek words. At times, the decree of a king is in view, and these are more likely to mean command.

Studying Psalms 119, we find that in almost every case, the major translations prefer legalistic terminology to relational or instructive terminology that would fit just as well. In fact, the primary meaning for some key words is discarded in favor of a minority sense—nearly always in the direction of a more legalistic sense.

Torah, for example, refers to God’s teaching in his word, but is often translated in the more narrow sense of law. Dabar really means a statement, or what one speaks. Imrah is usually translated as someone’s word or instruction, but some translators give “command” (Ps. 119:133). Piqud really means oversight, appointment, or provision, but in Ps. 119:4 the translators prefer “commandments.”

Different translations vary on how they translate these and related words, partly from a desire to enhance the poetry by varying terms. But all of them, in my opinion, favor the legalistic, governmental reading over readings that would be more appropriate in describing the author’s love for God’s word. Here is the first stanza in NLT with NASB comparisons where interesting. The definitions are from Hebrew lexicons and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament:

Psalms 119 Aleph

     Joyful are people of integrity,

who follow the instructions [Torah teaching] of the Lord.
[NASB “Who walk in the law of the Lord.”]

     Joyful are those who obey his laws [edah testimonies, NASB: who observe his testimonies]

and search for him with all their hearts.

     They do not compromise with evil,

and they walk only in his paths. [Derek ways or paths]

     You have charged us

to keep your commandments [piqud oversight, appointments] carefully.
[NASB: “You have ordained Your precepts” (very stiff and impersonal!)]

     Oh, that my actions would consistently

reflect your decrees! [ḥōq decree, inscription – used of scripture]

     Then I will not be ashamed

when I compare my life with your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive – this word is usually “commandment”].

     As I learn your righteous regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice],
[NASB: your righteous judgments]

I will thank you by living as I should!

     I will obey your decrees [ḥōq decree, inscription – a word for scripture NASB = “statutes”].

Please don’t give up on me!

Do you see what I see here? The translators have considerable impact on the way this passage reads. Depending on which translation you pick on each verse, the psalm could read quite differently. But both of these, and all others, seem to gravitate toward the legal and governmental end of the semantic range for these words.

Using “command,” “regulation,” “statute,” etc. instead of “teaching,” “instruction,” or “way,” is traditional, going back to the King James Version, and even further, to the teachings of the rabbis. We cannot feel bound by these traditions, especially when it’s clear the translators disagree with each other.

Another problem comes from the related words that add to the legalistic flavor. For instance, Hebrew Strongs in H5341 [nawtsar] is “obey” in NLT 145, but “observe” in NASB. According to Strong, it is translated:

besieged (2), Besiegers (1), cunning (1), guard (2), Guarding (1), guards (2), hidden (1), keep (8), keeper (1), keeps (3), kept (1), Man (1), observe (10), observed (1), observes (1), places (1), preserve (10), preserves (1), reserve (1), secret (1), tends (1), things (1), watch (5), watcher (1), watches (1), watchman (1), watchmen (1)

A scanning of the verses where it is used shows that sometimes it is God who “observes” or “keeps” his covenant – hardly a sense of obeying, but rather of being faithful to and preserving.

So, both the words for command, law, precept, etc, and the verbs to obey, keep, etc. should be examined for semantic range.

In the New Testament

In the New Testament, the picture is similar. Entole [translated ‘commandment’] in Jn. 15:10 is a jarring contradiction to the main point of the passage. Jesus is stressing the love he wants in our relationship with him, and the key to abiding in his love is obeying his commandments. Giving commands is an activity never associated personal love relationships in modern English… except for this one. No wonder it’s confusing! Can you imagine telling your girl or boyfriend, spouse, or even your children, “I have some commands for you….” Why not translate this passage as “This is my new instruction, or commission?” According to Kittel, the first usage for entole is “To give a commission or direction” in general, and not specifically in the religious sense.[2]

Another example of the arbitrary nature of translational choice comes from “The Great Commission” in Mt. 28:20 where our translations have Jesus saying “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” instead of all that I taught or instructed you. Yet entole is a commission or instruction.

Notice that when referring to directives between people, the translators usually change to “instructions” instead of “commandments” for entole: Col. 4:10 “Mark (about whom you received instructions).” At times they can’t agree, such as Acts 17:15. There, entole is “command” NASB “message” NCV “instructions” NIV and NLT. But I, for one, believe it should be translated “instructions” unless the technical idea of the law is intended (e.g. Eph. 2:15 “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments [entole] contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.” or Mk. 10:19).

Bible teachers love to point out that the commands of God are not the suggestions, and I’m not suggesting otherwise. God does have authority, and he is directive. But in modern English, the word “command” is an impersonal term for directives given to strangers. Jesus is actually stressing in John 15 that he is moving his disciples from the status of servants to friends. Yet he is giving them “commands.”

Even in passages referring to the laws of God, the word “directive” or “instruction” would be just as accurate and would lack the distant, impersonal implication. I might leave instructions for a subordinate at work, not commands. This just isn’t a suitable English word.

Conceptually, we see law, commandment, and instruction equated in passages like Ex. 24:2 Now the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.”

The unnatural feel of using entole as command can be seen in Luke 15: 29 “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours….”

In the attached study based on Psalm 119, I have given NLT and NASB side by side, with the Hebrew words and definitions inserted where appropriate. Compare these readings, and consider how differently verses can read depending on translation. The upshot is that David seems like someone obsessed with legalism in a way that sharply contrasts with the loving language surrounding.

Words for law, statutes, instruction, precepts, testimonies, etc.

2006 דֶּרֶךְ (dě∙rěḵ): n.masc.; ≡ Str 1870; TWOT 453a—1. LN 1.99-1.105 way, path, route, road, highway, i.e., a thoroughfare to physically get from one place to another (Ge 16:7), note: context will provide the size of the pathway, ranging from a narrow path to a major thoroughfare; 2. LN 15.18-15.26 journey, i.e., the act. of moving from one place to another, with a destination, and usually planned route (Ge 24:27); 3. LN 41.1-41.24 conduct, way of life, what is done, i.e., behave in a particular way, in the manner one conducts one’s life, including habits, as a figurative extension of a thoroughfare (Pr 6:6; 25:4);[3]

5477 מִשְׁפָּט (miš∙pāṭ): n.masc.; ≡ Str 4941; TWOT 2443c—1. LN 56.20-56.34 judgment, i.e., the act. of deciding a legal dispute or case (Dt 1:17); 2. LN 56.1 court, i.e., a place where a legal case is decided (Dt 25:1; Job 9:32); 3. LN 56.2-56.3 case, lawsuit, i.e., a legal action taken in court (2Sa 15:4); 4. LN 56.20-56.34 decision, sentence, i.e., an official proclamation in a legal verdict (1Ki 20:40); 5. LN 56.20-56.34 justice, i.e., a state or condition of fairness in disputes (Ex 23:6); 6. LN 33.333-33.342 law, regulation, prescription, specification, i.e., a spoken or written command which is to be obeyed, often with penalties for non-compliance (Ex 21:1); 7. LN 33 plan, formally, prescription, i.e., a graphic or verbal description of how to build something (Ex 26:30; 1Ki 6:38), see also domain LN 7.77–7.79; 8. LN 63.13-63.20 share, i.e., what is a just amount of a whole (Dt 18:3; 1Ki 5:8[EB 4:28]); 9. LN 41.25-41.28 custom, practice, i.e., a behavior which is more or less fixed and accepted as a normal practice (1Sa 2:13); also part of a compound name, En Mishpat, see 6535; note: 1Ki 7:7, see 395, 395.5

421 occurrences; AV translates as “judgment” 296 times, “manner” 38 times, “right” 18 times, “cause” 12 times, “ordinance” 11 times,[4]

TWOT pāqad piqud To visit a subordinate. Often clear that the “visitation” produces a beneficial result, e.g. Gen 50:24–25, Ruth 1:6, I Sam 2:21; Ps 8:4 [H 5] Jer 15:15; 29:10.

 The basic meaning is to exercise oversight over a subordinate, either in the form of inspecting or of taking action to cause a considerable change in the circumstances of the subordinate, either for the better or for the worse. Oversight. Could be punishment. Very often ‘to number’ or count. Missing someone or something, b/ under your oversight. I Sam 20:6, 18, 25, 27; 25:7, 15, 21 God’s oversight of his people and finding none missing is contained in Jer 23:4. In Num 31:49 and II Sam 2:30 reference is made to oversight of the survivors of a battle The Hiphil is often used for a king’s appointment of officers; also for committing Jeremiah to prison (Jer 37:21) and for committing one’s spirit into the hand of God (Ps 31:5 [H 6]).  In the plural in Psalms = “a general term for the responsibilities that God places on his people”[5]

614 אִמְרָה (ʾim∙rā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 565; TWOT 118b—1. LN 33.69-33.108 word, saying, i.e., what is communicated (Ge 4:23); 2. LN 33.224-33.250 instruction, i.e., words that teach (Dt 32:2); 3. LN 33.178-33.179 a prayer, what is spoken to the Lord (Ps 17:6); 4. LN 33.286-33.290 a promise (Ps 119:41); 5. LN 33.323-33.332 a command (Ps 119:133), note: see also 615

1821 דָּבָר (dā∙ḇār): n.masc.; ≡ Str 1697; TWOT 399a—1. LN 33.69-33.108 statement, what is said, word, saying, message, communication, i.e., that which has been stated or said (Nu 23:5), note: for MT text in Ps 119:37, see 2006; 2. LN 33.69-33.108 speaking, i.e., the act. of speaking (Da 10:9); 3. LN 33.69-33.108 account, treatise, record, i.e., a formally rendering of an event in a systematic manner (2Sa 11:8);

9368 תֹּורָה (tô∙rā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 8451, 8452; TWOT 910d—1. LN 33.333-33.342 law, regulation, i.e., a legal prescription of something that should or must be done (Ex 12:49; Lev 6:2); 2. LN 33.224-33.250 teaching, instruction, i.e., information that is imparted to a student (Ps 78:1; Pr 1:8); 3. LN 33.35-33.68 Torah, the Law, i.e., a written code (Ne 8:2); 4. LN 33.35-33.68 unit: סֵפֶר הַ־ תֹּורָה (sē∙p̄ěr hǎ- tô∙rā(h)) Book of the Law, i.e., a written code (Dt 28:61); 5. LN 33.35-33.68 unit: תֹּורָה מֹשֶׁה (tô∙rā(h) mō∙šě(h)) Law of Moses, i.e., a written code (Jos 8:31); 6. LN 33.35-33.68 unit: תֹּורָה יהוה (tô∙rā(h) yhwh) Law of the Lord, i.e., a written code (1Ch 16:40); 7. LN 41.25-41.28 manner, custom, i.e., the usual way of doing something (2Sa 7:19)

6338 II. עֵדָה (‘ē∙ḏā(h)): n. fem.; ≡ Str 5713; TWOT 1576c, 1576e—1. LN 29.6-29.12 witness, i.e., an object which is given as a memorial or remembrance of an agreement (Ge 21:30; 31:52; Jos 24:27+), see also domain LN 33.262–33.273; 2. LN 33.262-33.273 witness, i.e., one who is able to give verbal testimony to an event (Jer 6:18+), note: for another interp in Jer 6:18, see 6337

5184 מִצְוָה (miṣ∙wā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 4687; TWOT 1887b—1. LN 33.323-33.332 command, order, commandment, i.e., an authoritative directive, either written or verbal, given as instruction or prescription to a subordinate (1Sa 13:13; 1Ki 2:43); 2. LN 33.35-33.68 terms, formally, commandment, i.e., the written legal conditions which are binding in a contract (Jer 32:11)

728a חֹק (ḥōq) statute. 728b חֻקַּ (ḥūqqa) enactment. primary meaning of cutting in or engraving in stone as hewing a tomb in the rock (Isa 22:16) and as drawing a picture on a brick (Ezk 4:1) or a wall (Ezk 23:14). This root occurs in the Polel stem. ḥāqaq refers to enacting a decree (Isa 10:1; Prov 8:15; cf. Jer 31:35)

[ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction]

[mi∙wā(h) directive]

[ʿē∙ā(h) testimony]

[tô∙rā(h) teaching]

[dā∙ār saying, word]

[piqud oversight, appointments]

[miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

[ōq decree, inscription]

[dě∙rě way, path]

Another problem are the related words that add to the legalistic flavor. For instance, HebrewStrongs in H5341 [nawtsar] is “obey” in NLT 145, but “observe” in NASB. According to Strong, it is translated:

besieged (2), Besiegers (1), cunning (1), guard (2), Guarding (1), guards (2), hidden (1), keep (8), keeper (1), keeps (3), kept (1), Man (1), observe (10), observed (1), observes (1), places (1), preserve (10), preserves (1), reserve (1), secret (1), tends (1), things (1), watch (5), watcher (1), watches (1), watchman (1), watchmen (1)

A scanning of the verses in an Englismen’s concordance shows that God “observes” or “keeps” his covenant – hardly a sense of obeying, but rather of being faithful to and preserving. In several, God is the subject, so obedience would be the wrong translation. Similar findings with Shamar

NLT Psalms 119

NASB Psalms 119

Aleph

1 Joyful are people of integrity,

who follow the instructions [Torah teaching] of the Lord.

2 Joyful are those who obey his laws [edah testimony]

and search for him with all their hearts.

3 They do not compromise with evil,

and they walk only in his paths. [Derek way, direction]

4 You have charged us

to keep your commandments [piqudim oversight, appointments] carefully.

5 Oh, that my actions would consistently

reflect your decrees! [ḥōq decree, inscription]

6 Then I will not be ashamed

when I compare my life with your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive].

7 As I learn your righteous regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice],

I will thank you by living as I should!

8 I will obey your decrees [ḥōq decree, inscription].

Please don’t give up on me!

 

א

Aleph.

1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless,

Who walk in the law of the Lord.

2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,

Who seek Him with all their heart.

3 They also do no unrighteousness;

They walk in His ways.

4 You have ordained Your precepts,

That we should keep them diligently.

5 Oh that my ways may be established

To keep Your statutes!

6 Then I shall not be ashamed

When I look upon all Your commandments.

7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,

When I learn Your righteous judgments.

8 I shall keep Your statutes;

Do not forsake me utterly!


Beth

9 How can a young person stay pure?

By obeying  שָׁמַר [shamar /shaw·mar/ observe, heed, keep]  your word [dā∙ḇār saying, word].

10 I have tried hard to find you—

don’t let me wander from your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive].

11 I have hidden your word [‘im∙rā(h) Instruction] in my heart,

that I might not sin against you.

12 I praise you, O Lord;

teach me your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

13 I have recited aloud

all the regulations [miš∙pāṭ judgment, decision, plan, justice] you have given us.

14 I have rejoiced in your laws [dě∙rěway, path] and [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

as much as in riches.

15 I will study your commandments [piqudim oversight, appointments]

and reflect on your ways.

16 I will delight in your decrees [ḥōq decree, inscription]

and not forget your word. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

 

ב

Beth.

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?

By keeping it according to Your word.

10 With all my heart I have sought You;

Do not let me wander from Your commandments.

11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,

That I may not sin against You.

12 Blessed are You, O Lord;

Teach me Your statutes.

13 With my lips I have told of

All the ordinances of Your mouth.

14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,

As much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate on Your precepts

And regard Your ways.

16 I shall delight in Your statutes;

I shall not forget Your word.


Gimel

17 Be good to your servant,

that I may live and obey your word. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

18 Open my eyes to see

the wonderful truths in your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

19 I am only a foreigner in the land.

Don’t hide your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive] from me!

20 I am always overwhelmed

with a desire for your regulations. [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

21 You rebuke the arrogant;

those who wander from your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive] are cursed.

22 Don’t let them scorn and insult me,

for I have obeyed your laws. [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

23 Even princes sit and speak against me,

but I will meditate on your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

24 Your laws [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony] please me;

they give me wise advice.

 

ג

Gimel.

17 Deal bountifully with Your servant,

That I may live and keep Your word.

18 Open my eyes, that I may behold

Wonderful things from Your law.

19 I am a stranger in the earth;

Do not hide Your commandments from me.

20 My soul is crushed with longing

After Your ordinances at all times.

21 You rebuke the arrogant, the cursed,

Who wander from Your commandments.

22 Take away reproach and contempt from me,

For I observe Your testimonies.

23 Even though princes sit and talk against me,

Your servant meditates on Your statutes.

24 Your testimonies also are my delight;

They are my counselors.


Daleth

25 I lie in the dust;

revive me by your word. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]


26 I told you my plans, and you answered.

Now teach me your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

27 Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, [piqudim oversight, appointments]

and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.

28 I weep with sorrow;

encourage me by your word. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

29 Keep me from lying to myself;

give me the privilege of knowing your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

30 I have chosen to be faithful;

I have determined to live by your regulations. [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

31 I cling to your laws. [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!

32 I will pursue your commands, [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

for you expand my understanding.

 

ד

Daleth.

25 My soul cleaves to the dust;

Revive me according to Your word.

26 I have told of my ways, and You have answered me;

Teach me Your statutes.

27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts,

So I will meditate on Your wonders.

28 My soul weeps because of grief;

Strengthen me according to Your word.

29 Remove the false way from me,

And graciously grant me Your law.

30 I have chosen the faithful way;

I have placed Your ordinances before me.

31 I cling to Your testimonies;

O Lord, do not put me to shame!

32 I shall run the way of Your commandments,

For You will enlarge my heart.


He

33 Teach me your decrees, [ḥōq decree, inscriptions] O Lord;

I will keep them to the end.


34 Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

I will put them into practice with all my heart.

35 Make me walk along the path of your commands, [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

for that is where my happiness is found.

36 Give me an eagerness for your laws [˓ēdût testimony]

rather than a love for money!

37 Turn my eyes from worthless things,

and give me life through your word. [dě∙rěway, path]

38 Reassure me of your promise, [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

made to those who fear you.

39 Help me abandon my shameful ways;

for your regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice] are good.

40 I long to obey your commandments! [piqudim oversight, appointments]

Renew my life with your goodness.

 

ה

He.

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,

And I shall observe it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law

And keep it with all my heart.

35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,

For I delight in it.

36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies

And not to dishonest gain.

37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,

And revive me in Your ways.

38 Establish Your word to Your servant,

As that which produces reverence for You.

39 Turn away my reproach which I dread,

For Your ordinances are good.

40 Behold, I long for Your precepts;

Revive me through Your righteousness.

Waw

41 Lord, give me your unfailing love,

the salvation that you promised [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise] me.

42 Then I can answer those who taunt me,

for I trust in your word. [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

43 Do not snatch your word [dā∙ḇār saying, word] of truth from me,

for your regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice] are my only hope.

44 I will keep on obeying your instructions [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

forever and ever.

45 I will walk in freedom,

for I have devoted myself to your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

46 I will speak to kings about your laws, [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

and I will not be ashamed.

47 How I delight in your commands! [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

How I love them!

48 I honor and love your commands. [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

I meditate on your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscriptions]

 

ו
Vav.

41 May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord,

Your salvation according to Your word;

42 So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me,

For I trust in Your word.

43 And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,

For I wait for Your ordinances.

44 So I will keep Your law continually,

Forever and ever.

45 And I will walk at liberty,

For I seek Your precepts.

46 I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings

And shall not be ashamed.

47 I shall delight in Your commandments,

Which I love.

48 And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments,

Which I love;

And I will meditate on Your statutes.


Zayin

49 Remember your promise [dā∙ḇār saying, word] to me; it is my only hope.

50 Your promise [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise] revives me;

it comforts me in all my troubles.

51 The proud hold me in utter contempt,

but I do not turn away from your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

52 I meditate on your age-old regulations; [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

O Lord, they comfort me.

53 I become furious with the wicked,

because they reject your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

54 Your decrees [ḥōq decree, inscription] have been the theme of my songs

wherever I have lived.

55 I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord;

therefore, I obey your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

56 This is how I spend my life:

obeying your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

ז

Zayin.

49 Remember the word to Your servant,

In which You have made me hope.

50 This is my comfort in my affliction,

That Your word has revived me.

51 The arrogant utterly deride me,

Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.

52 I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O Lord,

And comfort myself.

53 Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked,

Who forsake Your law.

54 Your statutes are my songs

In the house of my pilgrimage.

55 O Lord, I remember Your name in the night,

And keep Your law.

56 This has become mine,

That I observe Your precepts.


Heth

57 Lord, you are mine!

I promise to obey your words! [dā∙ḇār saying, words]

58 With all my heart I want your blessings.

Be merciful as you promised. [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

59 I pondered the direction of my life,

and I turned to follow your laws. [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

60 I will hurry, without delay,

to obey your commands. [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

61 Evil people try to drag me into sin,

but I am firmly anchored to your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

62 I rise at midnight to thank you

for your just regulations. [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

63 I am a friend to anyone who fears you—

anyone who obeys your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

64 O Lord, your unfailing love fills the earth;

teach me your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

 

ח

Heth.

57 The Lord is my portion;

I have promised to keep Your words.

58 I sought Your favor with all my heart;

Be gracious to me according to Your word.

59 I considered my ways

And turned my feet to Your testimonies.

60 I hastened and did not delay

To keep Your commandments.

61 The cords of the wicked have encircled me,

But I have not forgotten Your law.

62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You

Because of Your righteous ordinances.

63 I am a companion of all those who fear You,

And of those who keep Your precepts.

64 The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O Lord;

Teach me Your statutes.


Teth

65 You have done many good things for me, Lord,

just as you promised. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

66 I believe in your commands; [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

now teach me good judgment and knowledge.

67 I used to wander off until you disciplined me;

but now I closely follow your word. [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

68 You are good and do only good;

teach me your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

69 Arrogant people smear me with lies,

but in truth I obey your commandments [piqudim oversight, appointments] with all my heart.

70 Their hearts are dull and stupid,

but I delight in your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

71 My suffering was good for me,

for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

72 Your instructions [tô∙rā(h) teaching] are more valuable to me

than millions in gold and silver.

 

ט

Teth.

65 You have dealt well with Your servant,

O Lord, according to Your word.

66 Teach me good discernment and knowledge,

For I believe in Your commandments.

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,

But now I keep Your word.

68 You are good and do good;

Teach me Your statutes.

69 The arrogant have forged a lie against me;

With all my heart I will observe Your precepts.

70 Their heart is covered with fat,

But I delight in Your law.

71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,

That I may learn Your statutes.

72 The law of Your mouth is better to me

Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.


Yodh

73 You made me; you created me.

Now give me the sense to follow your commands. [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,

for I have put my hope in your word. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

75 I know, O Lord, that your regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, or justice] are fair;

you disciplined me because I needed it.

76 Now let your unfailing love comfort me,

just as you promised [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise] me, your servant.

77 Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live,

for your instructions [tô∙rā(h) teaching] are my delight.

78 Bring disgrace upon the arrogant people who lied about me;

meanwhile, I will concentrate on your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

79 Let me be united with all who fear you,

with those who know your laws. [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

80 May I be blameless in keeping your decrees; [ḥōq decree, inscription]

then I will never be ashamed.

 

י

Yodh.

73 Your hands made me and fashioned me;

Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.

74 May those who fear You see me and be glad,

Because I wait for Your word.

75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,

And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

76 O may Your lovingkindness comfort me,

According to Your word to Your servant.

77 May Your compassion come to me that I may live,

For Your law is my delight.

78 May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie;

But I shall meditate on Your precepts.

79 May those who fear You turn to me,

Even those who know Your testimonies.

80 May my heart be blameless in Your statutes,

So that I will not be ashamed.

 


Kaph

81 I am worn out waiting for your rescue,

but I have put my hope in your word. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

82 My eyes are straining to see your promises [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise] come true.

When will you comfort me?

83 I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke,

but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

84 How long must I wait?

When will you punish those who persecute me?

85 These arrogant people who hate your instructions [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

have dug deep pits to trap me.

86 All your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive] are trustworthy.

Protect me from those who hunt me down without cause.

87 They almost finished me off,

but I refused to abandon your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

88 In your unfailing love, spare my life;

then I can continue to obey your laws. [˓ēdût testimony]

 

ך

Kaph.

81 My soul languishes for Your salvation;

I wait for Your word.

82 My eyes fail with longing for Your word,

While I say, “When will You comfort me?”

83 Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,

I do not forget Your statutes.

84 How many are the days of Your servant?

When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?

85 The arrogant have dug pits for me,

Men who are not in accord with Your law.

86 All Your commandments are faithful;

They have persecuted me with a lie; help me!

87 They almost destroyed me on earth,

But as for me, I did not forsake Your precepts.

88 Revive me according to Your lovingkindness,

So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.


Lamedh


89 Your eternal word, [dā∙ḇār saying, word] O Lord,

stands firm in heaven.

90 Your faithfulness extends to every generation,

as enduring as the earth you created.

91 Your regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, or justice] remain true to this day,

for everything serves your plans.

92 If your instructions [tô∙rā(h) teaching] hadn’t sustained me with joy,

I would have died in my misery.

93 I will never forget your commandments, [piqudim oversight, appointments]

for by them you give me life.

94 I am yours; rescue me!

For I have worked hard at obeying your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

95 Though the wicked hide along the way to kill me,

I will quietly keep my mind on your laws. [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

96 Even perfection has its limits,

but your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive] have no limit.

 

ל

Lamedh.

89 Forever, O Lord,

Your word is settled in heaven.

90 Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations;

You established the earth, and it stands.

91 They stand this day according to Your ordinances,

For all things are Your servants.

92 If Your law had not been my delight,

Then I would have perished in my affliction.

93 I will never forget Your precepts,

For by them You have revived me.

94 I am Yours, save me;

For I have sought Your precepts.

95 The wicked wait for me to destroy me;

I shall diligently consider Your testimonies.

96 I have seen a limit to all perfection;

Your commandment is exceedingly broad.


Mem

97 Oh, how I love your instructions! [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

I think about them all day long.

98 Your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directives] make me wiser than my enemies,

for they are my constant guide.

99 Yes, I have more insight than my teachers,

for I am always thinking of your laws. [˓ēdût testimony]

100 I am even wiser than my elders,

for I have kept your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

101 I have refused to walk on any evil path,

so that I may remain obedient to your word. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

102 I haven’t turned away from your regulations, [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, or justice]

for you have taught me well.

103 How sweet your words [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise] taste to me;

they are sweeter than honey.

104 Your commandments give me understanding;

no wonder I hate every false way of life.

 

ם Mem.

97 O how I love Your law!

It is my meditation all the day.

98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,

For they are ever mine.

99 I have more insight than all my teachers,

For Your testimonies are my meditation.

100 I understand more than the aged,

Because I have observed Your precepts.

101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,

That I may keep Your word.

102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances,

For You Yourself have taught me.

103 How sweet are Your words to my taste!

Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

104 From Your precepts I get understanding;

Therefore I hate every false way.


Nun


105 Your word [dā∙ḇār saying, word] is a lamp to guide my feet

and a light for my path.

106 I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:

I will obey your righteous regulations. [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

107 I have suffered much, O Lord;

restore my life again as you promised. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

108 Lord, accept my offering of praise,

and teach me your regulations. [miš∙pāṭim judgments, decisions, plans, justice]

109 My life constantly hangs in the balance,

but I will not stop obeying [Sakah forget] your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

110 The wicked have set their traps for me,

but I will not turn from your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

111 Your laws [˓ēdût testimony] are my treasure;

they are my heart’s delight.


112 I am determined to keep your decrees [ḥōq decree, inscription]

to the very end.

 

ן

Nun.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet

And a light to my path.

106 I have sworn and I will confirm it,

That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.

107 I am exceedingly afflicted;

Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.

108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,

And teach me Your ordinances.

109 My life is continually in my hand,

Yet I do not forget Your law.

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,

Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.
111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever,

For they are the joy of my heart.

112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes

Forever, even to the end.


Samekh

113 I hate those with divided loyalties,

but I love your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]


114 You are my refuge and my shield;

your word [dā∙ḇār saying, word] is my source of hope.

115 Get out of my life, you evil-minded people,

for I intend to obey the commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive] of my God.

116 Lord, sustain me as you promised, [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise] that I may live!

Do not let my hope be crushed.

117 Sustain me, and I will be rescued;

then I will meditate continually on your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

118 But you have rejected all who stray from your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

They are only fooling themselves.

119 You skim off the wicked of the earth like scum;

no wonder I love to obey your laws! [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

120 I tremble in fear of you;

I stand in awe of your regulations. [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

ס

Samekh.

113 I hate those who are double-minded,

But I love Your law.

114 You are my hiding place and my shield;

I wait for Your word.

115 Depart from me, evildoers,

That I may observe the commandments of my God.

116 Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live;

And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.

117 Uphold me that I may be safe,

That I may have regard for Your statutes continually.

118 You have rejected all those who wander from Your statutes,

For their deceitfulness is useless.

119 You have removed all the wicked of the earth like dross;

Therefore I love Your testimonies.

120 My flesh trembles for fear of You,

And I am afraid of Your judgments.


Ayin

121 Don’t leave me to the mercy of my enemies,

for I have done what is just [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice] and right.

122 Please guarantee a blessing for me.

Don’t let the arrogant oppress me!

123 My eyes strain to see your rescue, [yeshua]

to see the truth of your promise [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise] fulfilled.

124 I am your servant; deal with me in unfailing love,

and teach me your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

125 Give discernment to me, your servant;

then I will understand your laws. [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

126 Lord, it is time for you to act,

for these evil people have violated your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

127 Truly, I love your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

more than gold, even the finest gold.

128 Each of your commandments [piqudim oversight, appointments] is right.

That is why I hate every false way.

ע

Ayin.

121 I have done justice and righteousness;

Do not leave me to my oppressors.

122 Be surety for Your servant for good;

Do not let the arrogant oppress me.

123 My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation

And for Your righteous word.

124 Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness

And teach me Your statutes.

125 I am Your servant; give me understanding,

That I may know Your testimonies.

126 It is time for the Lord to act,

For they have broken Your law.

127 Therefore I love Your commandments

Above gold, yes, above fine gold.

128 Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything,

I hate every false way.


Pe

129 Your laws [˓ēdût testimony] are wonderful.

No wonder I obey them!

130 The teaching of your word [dā∙ḇār saying, word] gives light,

so even the simple can understand.

131 I pant with expectation,

longing for your commands. [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

132 Come and show me your mercy,

as you do [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice] for all who love your name.

133 Guide my steps by your word, [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

so I will not be overcome by evil.

134 Ransom me from the oppression of evil people;

then I can obey your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

135 Look upon me with love;

teach me your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

136 Rivers of tears gush from my eyes

because people disobey your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

פ Pe.

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;

Therefore my soul observes them.

130 The unfolding of Your words gives light;

It gives understanding to the simple.

131 I opened my mouth wide and panted,

For I longed for Your commandments.

132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,

After Your manner with those who love Your name.

133 Establish my footsteps in Your word,

And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.

134 Redeem me from the oppression of man,

That I may keep Your precepts.

135 Make Your face shine upon Your servant,

And teach me Your statutes.

136 My eyes shed streams of water,

Because they do not keep Your law.


Tsadhe


137 O Lord, you are righteous,

and your regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice] are fair.

138 Your laws [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony] are perfect

and completely trustworthy.

139 I am overwhelmed with indignation,

for my enemies have disregarded your words. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

140 Your promises [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise] have been thoroughly tested;

that is why I love them so much.

141 I am insignificant and despised,

but I don’t forget your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

142 Your justice is eternal,

and your instructions [tô∙rā(h) teaching] are perfectly true.

143 As pressure and stress bear down on me,

I find joy in your commands. [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

144 Your laws [˓ēdût testimony] are always right;

help me to understand them so I may live.

 

ץ

Tsadhe.

137 Righteous are You, O Lord,

And upright are Your judgments.

138 You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness

And exceeding faithfulness.

139 My zeal has consumed me,

Because my adversaries have forgotten Your words.

140 Your word is very pure,

Therefore Your servant loves it.

141 I am small and despised,

Yet I do not forget Your precepts.

142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,

And Your law is truth.

143 Trouble and anguish have come upon me,

Yet Your commandments are my delight.

144 Your testimonies are righteous forever;

Give me understanding that I may live.

Qoph


145 I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord!

I will obey your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

146 I cry out to you; rescue me,

that I may obey your laws. [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony]]

147 I rise early, before the sun is up;

I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

148 I stay awake through the night,

thinking about your promise. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

149 In your faithful love, O Lord, hear my cry;

let me be revived by following your regulations. [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

150 Lawless people are coming to attack me;

they live far from your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

151 But you are near, O Lord,

and all your commands [miṣ∙wā(h) directives] are true.

152 I have known from my earliest days

that your laws [ʿē∙ḏā(h) testimony] will last forever.

 

קQoph.

145 I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord!

I will observe Your statutes.

146 I cried to You; save me

And I shall keep Your testimonies.

147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;

I wait for Your words.

148 My eyes anticipate the night watches,

That I may meditate on Your word.

149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;

Revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances.

150 Those who follow after wickedness draw near;

They are far from Your law.

151 You are near, O Lord,

And all Your commandments are truth.

152 Of old I have known from Your testimonies

That You have founded them forever.


Resh

153 Look upon my suffering and rescue me,

for I have not forgotten your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

154 Argue my case; take my side!

Protect my life as you promised. [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

155 The wicked are far from rescue,

for they do not bother with your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

156 Lord, how great is your mercy;

let me be revived by following your regulations. [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice]

157 Many persecute and trouble me,

yet I have not swerved from your laws. [˓ēdût testimony]

158 Seeing these traitors makes me sick at heart,

because they care nothing for your word. [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

159 See how I love your commandments, [piqudim oversight, appointments] Lord.

Give back my life because of your unfailing love.

160 The very essence of your words [dā∙ḇār saying, word] is truth;

all your just regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice] will stand forever.

ר Resh.

153 Look upon my affliction and rescue me,

For I do not forget Your law.

154 Plead my cause and redeem me;

Revive me according to Your word.

155 Salvation is far from the wicked,

For they do not seek Your statutes.

156 Great are Your mercies, O Lord;

Revive me according to Your ordinances.

157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries,

Yet I do not turn aside from Your testimonies.

158 I behold the treacherous and loathe them,

Because they do not keep Your word.

159 Consider how I love Your precepts;

Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.

160 The sum of Your word is truth,

And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.


Shin

161 Powerful people harass me without cause,

but my heart trembles only at your word. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

162 I rejoice in your word [im∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

like one who discovers a great treasure.

163 I hate and abhor all falsehood,

but I love your instructions. [tô∙rā(h) teaching]

164 I will praise you seven times a day

because all your regulations [miš∙pā judgment, decision, plan, justice] are just.

165 Those who love your instructions [tô∙rā(h) teaching] have great peace

and do not stumble.

166 I long for your rescue, Lord,

so I have obeyed [shabar hope, wait] your commands. [miṣ∙wā(h) directive]

167 I have obeyed [shamar keep, observe] your laws, [ē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

for I love them very much.

168 Yes, I obey [shamar keep, observe] your commandments [piqudim oversight, appointments] and laws [ē∙ḏā(h) testimony]

because you know everything I do.

שׁ Shin.

161 Princes persecute me without cause,

But my heart stands in awe of Your words.

162 I rejoice at Your word,

As one who finds great spoil.

163 I hate and despise falsehood,

But I love Your law.

164 Seven times a day I praise You,

Because of Your righteous ordinances.

165 Those who love Your law have great peace,

And nothing causes them to stumble.

166 I hope for Your salvation, O Lord,

And do Your commandments.

167 My soul keeps Your testimonies,

And I love them exceedingly.

168 I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,

For all my ways are before You.

Taw

 

169 O Lord, listen to my cry;

give me the discerning mind you promised. [dā∙ḇār saying, word]

170 Listen to my prayer;

rescue me as you promised. [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

171 Let praise flow from my lips,

for you have taught me your decrees. [ḥōq decree, inscription]

172 Let my tongue sing about your word, [ʾim∙rā(h) Instruction, promise]

for all your commands [mishwah Instruction law] are right.

173 Give me a helping hand,

for I have chosen to follow your commandments. [piqudim oversight, appointments]

174 O Lord, I have longed for your rescue,

and your instructions [torah instruction, teaching] are my delight.

175 Let me live so I can praise you,

and may your regulations [mispat judgments decisions] help me.

176 I have wandered away like a lost sheep;

come and find me,

for I have not forgotten your commands. [mishwah Instruction law]

 

ת Tav.

169 Let my cry come before You, O Lord;

Give me understanding according to Your word.

170 Let my supplication come before You;

Deliver me according to Your word.

171 Let my lips utter praise,

For You teach me Your statutes.

172 Let my tongue sing of Your word,

For all Your commandments are righteousness.

173 Let Your hand be ready to help me,

For I have chosen Your precepts.

174 I long for Your salvation, O Lord,

And Your law is my delight.

175 Let my soul live that it may praise You,

And let Your ordinances help me.

176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant,

For I do not forget Your commandments.

 


[1]The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, Dan 9:25-27 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989).

[2]Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin., ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, electronic ed., 2:545 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976). Kittle on entole in extra biblical GK: The usual sense is a. the command of a king, official or general. The term has also the sense b. of “pedagogic instruction” It is used again c. of various other forms of “commission.” Of the 50 times used in the LXX it is translated five different ways. Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976) 2:546.

[3]James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed., DBLH 2006, #3 (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[4]James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order., electronic ed., H4941 (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996).

[5]R. Laird Harris, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed., 732 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980).