Monday, September 26, 2005

Psalm 37: A Comparative Study, Part One

Once the study is completed I will have the entire thing available in PDF format for download at my website.

Psalm 37: A Comparative Study, Part One

I was studying Psalm 37 (KJV) and found it to be deeply powerful and encouraging. Then I wondered if it came across as well, as powerful and moving, in other translations. I thought it would be interesting to do a comparative study between some of the more widely used translations seeing is how the anti-KJV people tend to say that the more “modern” translations are easier to understand and display the intent of the Scriptures in just as relevant a way. So, we’ll take the first five verses to begin with.

Once we have analyzed them we will move on to the next five verses, and will continue on until we have reached the end of the Psalm.

1Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

1 [a] Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
1 Don't worry about the wicked.
Don't envy those who do wrong.
2 For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like springtime flowers, they soon wither.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart's desires.
5 Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Trust him, and he will help you.

The Message
1Don't bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked.
2In no time they'll shrivel like grass clippings
and wilt like cut flowers in the sun.
3Get insurance with GOD and do a good deed,
settle down and stick to your last.
4Keep company with GOD,
get in on the best.
5Open up before GOD, keep nothing back;
he'll do whatever needs to be done:

If you will take notice, the King James Version says that evildoers will be “cut down,” where as the NIV says they will “wither,” the NLT says they will “fade away,” and The Message says they will “shrivel.” The three more “modern” translations take a much more passive stance of the evildoers’ disappearance. The KJV translation takes a more assertive view. To be cut down implies that there is someone who is doing the cutting.

This is a striking contrast to the other translations that make it seem as if the evildoers will simply fade away. Things fade on their own, you don’t have to do anything to make them other than to simply give them time. This stance makes it seem as if God will simply sit by and let evil burn itself out, rather than Him eventually ridding the world of it and bringing justice to the land. This is in direct conflict with what we know to be true of God’s character. He is patient, giving us plenty of opportunities to turn from our sins, yet he is righteous and brings justice completely.

In verses four and five (of the KJV) we are told to “delight” in the LORD, and to trust Him. We are told to “commit” our ways to Him, that He will give us the desires of our hearts. In these verses the NIV and NLT both stay pretty close to the wording of the KJV, clearly displaying that we are to seek God’s will, to do His work joyfully, and it is in this that our desire shall be for His will to be done. And this He will grant unto us.

Some use these verses to show how God will bless whatever your heart desires, but taken in context we see this is not true. God will not bless our sinful desires, but if we desire for His will to be done then we will see our desires fulfilled.

The Message does not convey this idea. In The Message we are to “keep company” with our Lord, this does not tell us to do His work or submit to His will but gives the impression of just “hanging out” with God is good enough. The Message tells us to “keep nothing back,” this (again) does not convey the necessity of submitting to God’s plan.

Verses of interest:

Psalm 89:14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

Isaiah 56:1 Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.

Isaiah 58:2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.

Jer 23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

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