271 – Psalm 7 – Dig
Most of the time when we encounter the Bible devotionally we aren’t spending the time to look up words in the source language lexicon (dictionary). It’s like we are going for a casual drive through a neighborhood. We notice quite a bit, but because we are driving, there is plenty of detail we just don’t have time to notice before we are past it.
One way to slow down, like we are taking a stroll through the same neighborhood, is to compare our passage in at least one other (hopefully good) translation. I would say the main translation I use is the New King James Version. Let’s look at verse 11.
Psalm 7:11 (NKJV)
11 God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.
Here’s the same verse in the New American Standard Bible.
Psalm 7:11 (NASB)
11 God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day.
The first difference we encounter between the New King James Version and the New American Standard Bible is the NKJV uses just and NASB uses righteous.
Righteous and just could almost be synonymous. However, I like the word righteous in this context better than the word just because it seems like a stronger word to me. So what should I do? Should I switch over and just use the NASB for my main Bible? What happens when there’s a difference in words again? Do I switch back? Maybe that’s a little drastic. Maybe I just get to choose which word I prefer. I could cross out the word I don’t like and write in the one I do.
Actually, if different words are used between translations a good course of action is to look up the source language word (Hebrew in the OT, and Greek in the NT) and get the glosses (range of words the word could be translated as) for comparison.
So let’s do that with the Hebrew word translated as just/righteous. The Hebrew word is צַדִּיק ṣǎd·dîq. Here are the glosses according to Logos Bible Software: just; innocent, in the right; upright, devout. But we aren’t done yet. There are additional dictionaries that provide glosses.
Here are just a few:
Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: just, righteous
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament: just, righteous; one who has a just cause; rightly, truly; just; upright; honest, virtuous, pious; justitia; the powerful warrior
Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament): righteous; innocent
Didn’t we just make it more confusing? I mean now we have a lot more words to consider, right?
Now, what do we do?
A next step would be to eliminate glosses based on context. For example, the word innocent is in our candidate glosses but it doesn’t fit the context. It is wrong to read the verse as God is an innocent judge…
Although saddiq can mean innocent in a different context, it does not mean innocent here in verse 11.
Let me point out that rarely does a given word mean all of the glosses in one verse, as should be obvious as we consider the meaning of saddiq.
We won’t take the time here, but another important step in studying a given word is to compare how it is used elsewhere in the Bible.
Talk about slowing us down! This process is work! Do we need to do it with every word? If the answer was “yes”, it would be better to learn the source languages and just read the Bible in them.
Look at the rest of the verse in both translations. That’s a major difference between the two translations, right? We would want to look up the Hebrew words and see if we can determine why. Again we would want to look at the glosses, how the word is used elsewhere in the Bible, and let context be our guide.
Do you think it would be a correct understanding that God spends all day every day being angry? He’s just mad all the time? Maybe it would be best to study it out and attempt to reach an educated perspective.
I am confident that no human being will ever be able to fully understand all of the Bible on this side of heaven. That said I think we cheat ourselves of the richness of God’s message by refusing to dig a little deeper for its meaning. If we don’t know how to study the Word of God, let’s learn how. To borrow a verse we discussed in Sunday school today:
Proverbs 3:15 (NKJV)
15 She [wisdom] is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Where else would we find the wisdom mentioned here? The word of God of course! How good is our God that He gave us His Holy word?? He and He alone is worthy of all our praise, worship, adoration, obedience, and service.