Psalm 5:3 I Present, what exactly?

We know Psalm 5 from the KJV based song, which we will enjoy singing this Sunday.  However there is an interesting case of how to translate.

Scripture song:  “O Lord, in the morning, will I lift up my prayer unto Thee and will look up.”

ESV:  “…in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch”

NIV: “…in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation”

NRSV:”…in the morning i plead my case to you, and watch”

NASV: “in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch”

The Hebrew says something like “ the morning I place my  (________) before You…”

In other words there is a verb, a posessive pronoun, a prepositon and an object pronoun, but no noun.  It does not say what it is that the Psalmist sets before God.  The Verb (ydk) can refer to preparing a sacrifice, sticks to make a fire, a legal case, setting a table, aligning for battle and arranging words.  (That is a summary of the Hebrew Lectionary.)  Thus the interpreter and the translators have to decide what is being laid before the Lord.  It seems several of these make good sense.  To lay a case before the Lord is a kind of prayer, arranging words is a prayer, offering a sacrifice (there were morning sacrifices at the temple each day) is also plausible.

One wise seminary professor told us that “bible translations are a form of commentary, therefore look at the better translations.”  This is a verse where that plays out well.

What is one to do?  Can you say, “In the morning i will lay it before the Lord”?  That seems too vague.  Maybe you can rotate the options with each reading?  No, that is only funny for seminarians.

It seems to us that Psalm 5 is about praying (in context), so whether his prayer is in the form of a sacrifice (which would not be the literal case for David, who was not a priest, but it could be a metaphor), or a legal case or a prayer, it amounts to about the same thing.   He is clearly in the psalm dealing with disreputable enemies and he is seeking God’s assistance and assurance.  That boils down to prayer.

One other thought, having a suggestive lack of a noun enriches the options.  Perhaps the point is that we think on the word-gap from different perspectives.  Leaving a gap adds to our meditation.

Readers should note that in High School, Fresh Read received a high score for “tolerance for ambiguity.”  Some careers do not work for “tolerance for ambiguity” such as bridge builders or rocket engineers.  However, reflective spirituality is sometimes served with a little “tolerance for ambiguity.”


2 thoughts on “Psalm 5:3 I Present, what exactly?

  1. I am reading Alter on biblcial poetry. He says that in paralellism in biblical poetry, the second line usually modifies, intensifies, specifies or some how pushes forward the content of the first line. It is not a repetion, nor is it unrelated. That would seem to argue for me that the translation of “presenting my prayer to you” fits. the first half says, “you will hear my voice”, so would not prayer fit better than sacrifice? One prays with the voice, that is more specific and it moves the thought ahead. presenting a sacrifice moves from voice to action. Though it is rightly said that there were words that accompanied the sacrifice.

  2. Pingback: Blog Day 2008 — Reading, Learning, Hoping, Blogging, Being

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