Saturday, October 27, 2012

Psalm 100

For my weekly quiet time this week, I will blog about Psalm 100, focusing primarily on v 3.

The King James Version for Psalm 100:3 states: "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."

The New Revised Standard Version, however, understands the verse differently: "Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."

The KJV says that the LORD made us and not we ourselves (which means that we did not make ourselves but were created by God).  The NRSV, by contrast, says that the LORD made us and we are his.

Why the difference?  In the Masoretic Text, the meaning that the KJV prefers is the ketiv, which means what is written in the text.  The meaning that the NRSV goes with, however, is the qere, which is what is read aloud (presumably in a synagogue).

Here's my literal, overly wooden rendition of these verses, in the ketiv and the qere.  I'll embolden where the words are different in the two versions.

KETIV: Know that the LORD, he [is] God.  He made us and not we.  His people and the sheep of his pasture.

QERE:  Know that the LORD, he [is] God.  He made us and to him we.  His people and the sheep of his pasture.

The words in both versions are ve-lo, only they are spelled differently.  The ketiv spells lo as lamed-aleph, which means "not" with the long-o vowelization.  The qere has lamed-vav, which means "to him" with the long-o vowelization.

Marvin Tate argues that lamed-vav or lamed-aleph could be understood as emphatic, as Tate interacts with an article by C.F. Whitley: "Some Remarks on lu and lo", which appeared in ZAW 87 (1975) 202-204.  Tate translates the verse (and I embolden the relevant words): "Acknowledge that Yahweh, he is God.  He made us, and we are indeed his people, and the flock he shepherds."  Here are some ways that the word can be emphatic, according to Tate:

1.  If the word is lamed-vav, then it could be vowelized as "lu", which, according to Tate, can mean "indeed/verily".  Tate cites some verses, and I will post them in the KJV, while emboldening the relevant words.

Genesis 23:13 (KJV): "And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there."

Genesis 30:34 (KJV):  "And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word."

2.  If the word is lamed-aleph, then it could be vocalized as "lu".  Here are some passages that Tate cites, with the relevant words emboldened:

II Samuel 18:12 (KJV): "And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king's son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom."

II Samuel 19:7 (KJV): "In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well."

For two other verses that Tate cites, I'll post C.L. Brenton's translation of the Septuagint, for, in its translation of these verses, the Septuagint understands as "lu" what the MT has as "lo" ("not").

Job 9:33 (Brenton's LXX): "Would that he our mediator were present, and a reprover, and one who should hear the cause between both."  (The KJV has: "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.")

I Samuel 20:14 (Brenton's LXX): "And if indeed I continue to live, then shalt thou deal mercifully with me; and if I indeed die..."  (The KJV has: "And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not...")

3.  Even if the word is lamed-aleph and is pronounced as "lo", Whitley believes that it can be emphatic.  Here are some verses.  I will cite the KJV and other versions, when appropriate.

II Kings 5:26 (KJV): "And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?"

Hosea 2:4 (KJV):  "And I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms."

Job 13:15 is another example of the ketiv being different from the qere.  The ketiv is lo as in "not", and the qere is lo as in "to him".  The KJV appears to go with the qere: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him."  The NRSV goes with the ketiv: "See, he will kill me; I have no hope; but I will defend my ways to his face."  The LXX, however, appears to go see the word as conditional.  Here's Brenton: "Though the Mighty One should lay hand upon me, forasmuch as he has begun, verily I will speak, and plead before him."

Isaiah 9:3 is yet another example of the ketiv differing from the qere.  The KJV goes with the ketiv: "Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil."  The NRSV goes with the qere: "You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy [(lit. joy to it); they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder."  The KJV doesn't make much sense, for the point of the verse appears to be that the people are joyful, not that they're not joyful.  Perhaps the qere is the right reading, or Tate is correct that lo is emphatic rather than negative in that verse.

4.  Whitley cites examples of what Tate calls the "interrogative-affirmative meanings" of lo (lamed-aleph).
Obadiah 5 (KJV): " If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?"

Jeremiah 49:9 (KJV): "If grapegatherers come to thee, would they not leave some gleaning grapes? if thieves by night, they will destroy till they have enough."

Job 2:10 (KJV): " But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips."

Ezekiel 16:43.  The KJV has: "Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord GOD: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations."  But Brenton's Septuagint has: "Because thou didst not remember thine infancy, and thou didst grieve me in all these things; therefore, behold, I have recompensed thy ways upon thine head, saith the Lord: for thus hast thou wrought ungodliness above all thine other iniquities."  The LXX obviously doesn't regard the lo as "not" in that verse, but rather as consequential, or perhaps even as emphatic.

So what is my assessment when it comes to Psalm 100:3?  Do I think that the word in question is emphatic?  In many of the examples above, the word we're discussing appears in requests, conditions, wishes, or questions.  I do not think that Psalm 100:3 is any of those things.  At the same time, regarding Ezekiel 16:43, the LXX may be treating lo as consequential or as emphatic.  A consequential meaning of lo might work in Psalm 100:3: "He made us and thus we [are] his people and the sheep of his pasture."

Tate brings up other considerations as well.  First of all, he notes that the phrase in Psalm 100:3 is similar to what appears in Psalm 79:13 and 95:7, only the latter two verses lack the lo (or, if you wish, the lu).  Here they are, and I'll embolden the part that is similar:

Psalm 79:13 (KJV): "So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations."

Psalm 95:7 (KJV):  "For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice..."

It's interesting that, in these two passages, the word for "we" (Hebrew anachnu) goes with the clause about being God's people and the sheep of his pasture.  Perhaps that is the case in Psalm 100:3 itself.  After all, when anachnu is associated with the previous clause----as either "and not we ourselves" or "we to him"----the last clause is basically left hanging: "his people and the sheep of his pasture."  It would make more sense if the anachnu went with "his people and the sheep of his pasture" (making it, in this case, "we [are] his people and the sheep of his pasture"), as occurs in Psalm 79:13 and 95:7.  Then what would we do with the lo?  If we detach the anachnu from the lo, is the lo left hanging?  Yes, if the lo means "to him" or "not", for we're then left wondering who or what is "to him" or who or what is "not".  But this is not a problem if the lo is emphatic (as in "indeed"), or even consequential (as in "thus").

Second, Tate has problems with the ketiv and the qere for Psalm 100:3.  While Tate acknowledges that there is an example in the Hebrew Bible in which someone arrogantly claims to have created himself----Ezekiel 29:3, where the Pharaoh makes this assertion----Tate does not believe that self-creation really fits into Psalm 100:3, for it is not a theme elsewhere in Psalm 100.  Regarding the qere, Tate states: "The reading of the qere 'and we are his' is acceptable, of course, but it is somewhat tautological in view of the following clause ('his people, his flock, his shepherding')..."  By "tautological", Tate may mean its rhetorical meaning----"using different words to say the same thing" (see here).  His point may be that Psalm 100:3 would not be so redundant as to say over and over that we belong to God.  My question is: Why not?  Perhaps it would say that we are his, before clarifying how we are his----we are his people and his flock.

I should note something else before I close.  The Septuagint and Jerome (at least when I put his rendition of the verse into a Latin to English translator) understand Psalm 100:3 to mean that God made us and not we ourselves.  Augustine goes with this as well, saying that it's arrogant for people to act as if they made themselves and were not created by another, namely, God.  The Targum of the Psalms, however, understands the verse to be saying that God made us and we are his.  I do not know when the latter understanding came to be: it's interesting that Jerome went with what the ketiv has, and he had a rather Hebrew-centric approach to the Hebrew Bible.  Did Judaism initially understand the verse to mean that God made us and not we ourselves, and only later went with the view that it's about God making us and we belong to him?  Whatever happened there, it may even be the case that, originally, the lo was emphatic in Psalm 100:3, but it was later understood as "not" or "to him".


  1. Now that's some quiet time! Worthy of an argumentative commentary. The reading is far more simple than that, IMO. It reflects the Song of Songs.

    The result is personal. I think we do not need to be told here that we do not make ourselves. As I wrote somewhat impetuously, "Indeed, we do not need to be told anything, we need to be held and known." The command "Know" is not intellectual.

    The music can support both readings: "He - he made us and his we are" fits the Hebrew music and pulse. Some day I will get around to transcribing this psalm.

  2. Yeah, it was one of those posts that ballooned out of control! I wasn't expecting it to be that long----I was just stuck in it, and so I felt I had to see it to completion!

    Your point is cool, though----about being held and known! I haven't been able to read your book lately, for web reasons, but I'll have to e-mail you about that. I think I got as far as Psalm 90, and then I couldn't open the PDF without problems.

  3. You got as far as Psalm 90 - great. The copy is still available. You may have had problems because the site was down or because the copy was being refreshed (PDF failed to load). If you get that message, then just reload it.

    The book was delivered to the publisher at the end of August. I am up to delivery 11 - but mostly my changes. And several more to come I expect as the real critical editing begins.

    I still welcome feedback from readers. I have had feedback from poets and Hebrew experts and from my wife who edited all the text and critiqued the translation. Thanks for reading. Your name is in my acknowledgments.

  4. I appreciate that! I'll send you my notes on the Psalms I did get to.


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