In “The Spirit of Prayer,” Abraham Joshua Heschel warned:
It is not enough to know how to translate Hebrew into English; it is not enough to have met a word in the dictionary and to have experienced unpleasant adventures with it in the study of grammar. A word has soul and we must learn how to attain insight into its life.
— see previous post for citation
Translation alone may not be enough, but it can give us some insight into the life of a word or a phrase.
In the previous look at “kavod” in Psalm 30, we saw the word translated in Jewish versions as “glory,” “depths,” “soul,” “whole being,” and just plain “I.” Here, for additional perspectives, are some Christian translations and notes for verse 13 (or 12 — NOTE: Christian scholars generally do not count superscriptions as verses in psalms, so the numbering differs by one from Jewish sources) of the psalm.
The book of psalms from the original Hebrew with various readings and notes by the late Alexander Geddes, LL. D (1807):
Therefore I will praise thee, my glory!
Never will I be silent in thy praise
[“f” — as in “filent in thy praife” — changed to “s” for readability]
The Greek interpreters read another word, the English of which is honour; as if the psalmist had said, thou hadst so firmly established mine honour; and this reading by some late translators. The other I think more poetical and expressive – Ver. 12. I will praise thee, my glory!
The present Hebrew runs thus: Glory will praise thee, and will not be silent. But the Syriac translator read both verbs in the first person; and I have no doubt of his being the original lection.
— Geddes, p.46 (London: printed for J. Johnson in St. Paul’s Courtyard by Richard Taylor & Co, Shoe-Lane)
Bay Psalm Book being the earliest New England Version (1862):
That sing to thee my glory may
and may not silent be
Lord my God I will give thanks
evermore to thee
The Psalms: A historical and spiritual commentary offers two readings:
- many, with the Septuagint (LXXX), “my glory” for “that my glory should make music to you and not be silent,” taken as a reference to “his soul restored in royal glory.”
- others “change the vowels to give ‘my liver’ and then render ‘my heart,’”
— J.H. Eaton, The Psalms: A historical and spiritual commentary
(T&T Clark, A Continuum Imprint 2003), p.143
NIV Study Bible (1985) gives us, “that my heart may sing to you and not be silent,” with the following footnotes:
[30:12] heart. Lit. “glory (see note on 7:5)
[7:5] me. Lit. “my glory,” a way of referring to the core of one’s being (see 16:9; 30:12; 57:8; 108:1 and notes).
Most of the 50+ translations available through “Bible Gateway” similarly use “heart” or “soul,” a few “glory” or “whole being.” But there are also more interpretive offerings:
- To the end that my tongue and my heart and everything glorious within me may sing praise to You and not be silent.
— Amplified Bible (1965-1987)
- You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs! It’s impossible to keep quiet!
— The VOICE (2012)
- How could I be silent when it’s time to praise you?
Now my heart sings out loud, bursting with joy—
a bliss inside that keeps me singing,
“I can never thank you enough!”
— Passion Translation (2017)
“…There’s glory for you!”
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,'” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you….”
— more on “glory” Through the Looking Glass
Whatever English is chosen to translate “kavod,” or however we relate to the Hebrew directly, one aspect of its life seems to be that it is antithetical to silence. All the tribulations in the psalm — enemy triumph, the underworld or the pit, God’s anger and hiding of God’s face, mourning and sackcloth — cannot keep it from singing.
Rabbi Shefa Gold teaches a practice to help in “finding the glory inside and pouring it out to God.” She asks us to “examine what it is that silences that glory,” and then “look beneath the obstacle” for the “glory that wants to be acknowledged and celebrated.” Here’s her chanting practice for this verse.
In that sense, we’re all part Alice, waiting for Humpty Dumpty to tell us what “kavod” means in the context of the psalm, and part Humpty Dumpty, knowing that it’s up to us to identify whatever obstacles are blocking our own glory in this particular instance.
16 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far)…. apologies to anyone who finds multiple-post days too much.