Psalm 29: Translation and Notes

My Hebrew exam next month will require translation and textual/grammatical/syntactical notes on a number of seen and unseen texts. In preparing for the seen texts, I’m going to post a translation with notes on a different chapter we’ve covered over the last three terms. Today’s chapter will be Psalm 29. I’ll give my translation and then some notes.

Psalm 29

1. A psalm of David:
Ascribe to Yhwh, O sons of El,[1], [2]
Ascribe to Yhwh glory and strength.
2.  Ascribe to Yhwh the glory of his name,
Bow down to Yhwh in holy majesty.[3]
3. The voice of Yhwh is upon the waters,
The God of glory thunders,
Yhwh is upon the great waters.
4. The voice of Yhwh is powerful,[4]
The voice of Yhwh is magisterial.[5]
5. The voice of Yhwh breaks cedars,
Yhwh shatters the cedars of Lebanon.[6]
6. He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
And Siryon like a young ox.
7. The voice of Yhwh rakes flames of fire.[7]
8. The voice of Yhwh shakes the wilderness,
And[8] Yhwh shakes the wilderness of Qadesh.
9. The voice[9] of Yhwh causes oaks[10] to shake,
He strips the forest bare,
And in his temple, all[11] say “Glory!”
10. Yhwh sits enthroned[12] above the flood,[13]
And Yhwh sits enthroned as king forever.[14]
11. May Yhwh give strength to his people,
May Yhwh bless his people with peace![15]

[1] אלים can be understood either as the plural of אל or the singular with the enclitic mem. The former reading could be translated “sons of the gods,” or “divine sons,” indicating a class of being rather than a filial relationship. The phrase is likely analogous to the Ugaritic epithet bn ’ilm, which is used in contexts that indicate a singular reading. “Divine sons” is also more likely with אלהים.

[2] G adds “give to the Lord young rams.” Some Hebrew manuscripts have אילים in agreement.

[3] G has “in his holy court.”

[4] Literally, “in power.”

[5] Literally, “in majesty.” This is very simple and straightforward A-B/A-B parallelism.

[6] The first cola has the qal participle of שבר. The second has a piel imperfect verb in the waw-consecutive. The poetry thus moves from general to specific and creates a more intense verbal idea.

[7] This line only contains one cola, but v. 3 contains 3. BHS suggests the middle cola in v. 3 belongs at the beginning of this verse.

[8] The copula is likely in the Vorlage of G and S.

[9] “The voice of Yhwh” appears seven times in this chapter. The parallels with Syro-Palestinian storm god imagery is striking. Each occurrence is related to weather phenomena, and a famous hymn to Baal mentions his “seven thunders and lightnings.”

[10] The MT vocalizes the word as if it were “deer,” but considering the parallel to יערות, “oaks” is more likely. The vocalization is all that changes. The feminine plural is unexpected, but the same is true of יערות (see Ezek 34:25; 39:10).

[11] There is a third masculine singular pronominal suffix here, but I leave it untranslated.

[12] Given the parallel with מלך and with El’s enthronement over the waters in the Ugaritic literature, ישב here is likely used in the sense of “sit enthroned.”

[13] This is the only occurrence of מבול outside of the Flood narrative. The verse seems to parallel El’s abode at the head of the waters in the Ugaritic texts.

[14] The two colas of this verse pivot on the same verb in an inverse parallelism. It appears once in the perfect and once in the imperfect waw-consecutive.

[15] The final word of this verse, בשלום, is similar in form to the final word of the previous verse (לעולם), although the vowel progression is reversed.


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