Difference in KJV NKJV Psalm 17:13 which is right?

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NaphtaliPress

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We're redoing some of our Psalter settings for a revision and came in redoing one from scratch we hit an interpretation issue. Should we go with the KJV or NKJV. Advice we are getting suggests NKJV. The advice we got was the below and I was asked to ask around for second or collaborating opinions:
"As you can tell, it is a difficult passage. The KJV and the NKJV both can be defended, but I think, for example, that the KJV rendering (“which is thy sword” “which are thy hand”) to be much less likely. I also think by ignoring the fact that “hidden one” occurs at the front of the clause, both the KJV and the NKJV miss the shift of subject from the wicked to the righteous. Keil & Delitzsch argue for the translation the NKJV has."
Below are the different versions; the decision will affect how the setting is translated obviously. We may drop a note or apparatus pointing to the note to explain.

New International Version
Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked.

New Living Translation
Arise, O LORD! Stand against them, and bring them to their knees! Rescue me from the wicked with your sword!

English Standard Version
Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,

Berean Study Bible
Arise, O LORD, confront them! Bring them to their knees; deliver me from the wicked by Your sword,

King James Bible
Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:

New King James Version
Arise, O LORD, Confront him, cast him down; Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,

New American Standard Bible
Arise, LORD, confront him, make him bow down; Save my soul from the wicked with Your sword,
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Sophomore
I actually really enjoy the KJV translation here. It brings memories of Shimei cursing David. He recognizes that this is from the hand of the Lord. Also, of the Chaldeans bringing the sword of God unto His rebellious people. May the Lord cast down those whom have been sent to destroy His people.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
It appears to me the noun for "sword" is in construct, functioning as some kind of genitive (NKJV), rather than an appositive (KJV). Looking at the various uses of the adverbial genitive in Waltke & O'Connor, I found this:

"The relationship of the genitive and implicit verb may be of the sort usually mediated by a preposition; the genitive of a mediated object involves the relation C does to/by/with G."​
—Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 146.​

Since most major translations take this route, I would go with this. Note also that this rendering is noted in the KJV's footnotes.
 
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Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Setting aside those modern translations, the reformed translation appears to read:

"13 Up Lord, disappoint him: cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked with thy sword,
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
The KJV version makes no logical sense. Also, in the first part of the verse, "disappoint" is pretty mild compared to "confront."
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
You weren't bullied by some KJV-Onlyists in the past were you? Lol.

I was, but I generally like the KJV. I think it holds up much better than its critics suppose. Of course, I still value textual criticism and mss discoveries, but the KJV is still good.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Here is advice for the KJV reading which I received from a former board member who saw this thread.
I am not a Hebrew scholar but I have spent alot of time in the Hebrew of the Psalms. For what it might be worth, it appears to me that the literal Hebrew requires the text to be translated in apposition, as it appears in the AV. The revision requires the addition of a preposition which must be read into the Hebrew text. At that point you will be dependent on a degree of sophistication which only a Hebrew scholar can argue, and which is debatable even among themselves.​
The Scottish Psalter aimed to adhere as closely to the Hebrew text as possible, which was a noble aim, and in this instance it was successful. It seems to me to require a different aim to arrive at the reading of the revision.​
Whoever raised the issue with you appears to insist on only one possibility, which is not accurate. A good commentator will give both possibilities. In the end the choice will probably depend on translation aims and philosophy.​
Also, it might be worth pointing out that the same phrase is virtually repeated in Ps. 22 with the sense that the Psalmist desires to be delivered from the sword of the wicked:​
Ps 17:13, "deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword."​
Ps. 22:20, "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power​
of the dog."​
I would be wary of any argument which claims the Hebrew demands the sense provided by revision. The Hebrew allows for both. Literal word for word translation favours the AV. Literal Hebrew interpreters like Abraham Ibn Ezra and Rashi both understood it in the sense given in the AV.​

I think either way we'll need to make notes on this so folks who have different bibles paired with the use of the revised psalter, if it gets produced some day, will know the reason. Maybe some apparatus like a dagger or symbol so folks know to look under that verse in a provided appendix.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Here is advice for the KJV reading which I received from a former board member who saw this thread.
I am not a Hebrew scholar but I have spent alot of time in the Hebrew of the Psalms. For what it might be worth, it appears to me that the literal Hebrew requires the text to be translated in apposition, as it appears in the AV. The revision requires the addition of a preposition which must be read into the Hebrew text. At that point you will be dependent on a degree of sophistication which only a Hebrew scholar can argue, and which is debatable even among themselves.​
The Scottish Psalter aimed to adhere as closely to the Hebrew text as possible, which was a noble aim, and in this instance it was successful. It seems to me to require a different aim to arrive at the reading of the revision.​
Whoever raised the issue with you appears to insist on only one possibility, which is not accurate. A good commentator will give both possibilities. In the end the choice will probably depend on translation aims and philosophy.​
Also, it might be worth pointing out that the same phrase is virtually repeated in Ps. 22 with the sense that the Psalmist desires to be delivered from the sword of the wicked:​
Ps 17:13, "deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword."​
Ps. 22:20, "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power​
of the dog."​
I would be wary of any argument which claims the Hebrew demands the sense provided by revision. The Hebrew allows for both. Literal word for word translation favours the AV. Literal Hebrew interpreters like Abraham Ibn Ezra and Rashi both understood it in the sense given in the AV.​

I think either way we'll need to make notes on this so folks who have different bibles paired with the use of the revised psalter, if it gets produced some day, will know the reason. Maybe some apparatus like a dagger or symbol so folks know to look under that verse in a provided appendix.
This strikes me as question begging. This post merely asserts that providing the preposition is “revision.” But that’s not how language works. There are many languages, Hebrew and Greek included, that do not supply every word that is there. The most common example is the copulative. It simply not true that a preposition needs to be supplied in every case in order to be actually present. The most we should say is that the verse could be rendered either way quite legitimately. Even the KJV translators agree with this as per their own footnote.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
We should add the beginning of verse 14 to the discussion, which has an identical construction: "from men, who are/by your hand..

Both readings are possible. The KJV assumes that the nouns are in apposition, with the second term more narrowly defining the first. This interpretation has good support, for example, the Septuagint and Ibn Ezra. The meaning would be that since the Psalmist's enemies are the Lord's instrument of judgment (his sword/arm), it would be easy for him to call them off, rescuing the psalmist. That makes good sense.

On the other hand, it is true that in poetry prepositions sometimes get omitted (so this isn't really a "revision" of the text); the alternative interpretation also makes sense, asking God to intervene with power to protect the psalmist against his enemies. Hence more recent translations.

I suspect your conclusions might well rest on your interpretation of the rest of the psalm: is the psalmist's difficulty presented earlier as a judgment from the Lord or an unprovoked assault by evildoers? That too could probably be argued both ways. Hence the decision of the KJV to put the alternative in the footnote.

In this case, I think the KJV is better in including both alternatives; I wish modern translations had done likewise.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
The Hebrew is ambiguous. Young's Literal Translation makes the ambiguity clear...

"Arise, O Jehovah, go before his face, Cause him to bend. Deliver my soul from the wicked, Thy sword"​

Words must be supplied by any translation intent on removing the ambiguity. It's better, I think, to accept it and consider the verse from both perspectives. There is of course nothing wrong having an opinion on how it should be interpreted, but that is interpretation and not strictly translation that accounts for the difference.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
Spurgeon comments on the KJV reading by saying that even the wicked can be used as God's sword, but then adds "Most translators are, however, agreed that this s not the correct reading, but that it should be as Calvin puts it, 'Deliver my soul from the ungodly man by thy sword.'"

Poole and Trapp comment on both readings.
 

alexmacarie

Puritan Board Freshman
Two humble suggestions if I may,

1st suggestion, stick to the 1650 as it is, save you the hassle of this revision.
2nd suggestion, the 1650 renders it,
“My soul save from the wicked man,
the man which is thy sword.”
So for that reason alone it seems a very safe rendering.

You’ve probably seen the late Rev D. Silversides’ paper on the history and accuracy of the Scottish Psalter, and I’m just mentioning for any who haven’t come across it, but I think he makes some really compelling points about why English speaking churches, and argues also from particular circumstances peculiar to the present day, should keep to the 1650 Psalter.
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Two humble suggestions if I may,

1st suggestion, stick to the 1650 as it is, save you the hassle of this revision.
2nd suggestion, the 1650 renders it,
“My soul save from the wicked man,
the man which is thy sword.”
So for that reason alone it seems a very safe rendering.

You’ve probably seen the late Rev D. Silversides’ paper on the history and accuracy of the Scottish Psalter, and I’m just mentioning for any who haven’t come across it, but I think he makes some really compelling points about why English speaking churches, and argues also from particular circumstances peculiar to the present day, should keep to the 1650 Psalter.
I've helped with a version of the 1650 before for my old church and that would have been my go to if I had been calling the shots. But I'm not in this collection though I've got input. I will say, in doing the first edition of my present church's psalter, I found that even the 1650 occasionally pads out more words than should be; so it isn't perfect.
 

alexmacarie

Puritan Board Freshman
I've helped with a version of the 1650 before for my old church and that would have been my go to if I had been calling the shots. But I'm not in this collection though I've got input. I will say, in doing the first edition of my present church's psalter, I found that even the 1650 occasionally pads out more words than should be; so it isn't perfect.
Right I see what you mean.

It’s certainly not perfect but it’s very interesting how the “padding” is most often bringing out more of what’s in the Hebrew.

I’ll just drop down below the link to Silversides’ demonstration of this, just for interest, it’s quite fascinating. And here’s one of the quotes he has in there that’s relevant but also in a way amusing as well considering that the word “perfect” has come up in our discussion:

“The Scottish Version of the Psalms is not perfect, nor is the English version of the Bible; but both are so near perfection, and so interwoven with Christian faith and feeling, that it is a question of the gravest character whether either of them should be changed.”

(Dr. John Edgar, 1798-1866, Professor of Theology, Presbyterian Church of Ireland)

Source: https://www.loughbrickland.org/articles/pdf/ScottishPsalter.pdf
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
There is of course nothing wrong having an opinion on how it should be interpreted, but that is interpretation and not strictly translation that accounts for the difference.
Of course, the issue is that either rendering in this case is "strictly translation." While the counsel to consider the verse from both perspectives is good and right, the YLT rendering you provided cannot grammatically be interpreted as a genitive of instrument, and therefore, far from being ambiguous, it actually necessarily chooses one of the two options in question. This is because of the fact that in order for English to convey instrumentality, it requires a preposition, or some other lexeme that indicates such; Hebrew does not. Conversely, when the English lacks such a marker, the meaning cannot be instrumental. In the case of instrumentality versus apposition, Hebrew can therefore be ambiguous, but English cannot. So, the YLT does in fact not help with the ambiguity here. It is actually, in English, unambiguously appositional.

This is why saying that most translations here "supply a word" is actually not technically correct. Just because there is no lexeme literally present in the Hebrew for a certain lexeme present in the English does not mean that the "word" is not actually there in the Hebrew. This applies to Greek, as well. And this is one of the problems with translations that put "supplied words" in italics: a lot of the "supplied words" are not “supplied” at all, but are actually just translating what is actually there. For example, the KJV at Psalm 23:1 says, "The Lord is my shepherd." Technically, there is no lexeme literally present for the verb "is" in the Hebrew. Yet, at the same time, it is actually there, because that's how Hebrew works. So, it is not that some translations here are "strict," while others "supply a word for clarity," and still others leave the passage "ambiguous." Each rendering being discussed here is strict in its translation, and each is valid. Unfortunately, because of the nature of English, one understanding simply has to be chosen. The Hebrew ambiguity is not really possible in English.

All that to say: Because of the necessary limitations of translations, and particularly the limitations of the English language, it would seem to me that this is one of those instances where one rendering must be chosen over another in the text, with a footnote given to supply the alternate rendering. As it so happens, this is exactly what the KJV does. This doesn't help with the Psalter question, though.
 
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greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
GKC 144 l has this description of the phenomenon (and lists Psalm 17:13 as an example): "A peculiar idiom, and one always confined to poetic language, is the not infrequent occurrence of two subjects in a verbal sentence, one of the person and the other of the thing. The latter then serves-whether it precedes or follows-to state the instrument, organ, or member by which the action in question is performed, and may be most often rendered in English by an adverb, as a nearer definition of the manner of the action." Plumer has an extensive discussion favoring the KJV rendering, but it strikes me that the GKC data favors the NKJV rendering. An adverbial rendering would lie somewhere in between (in my way of thinking) the appositional and the prepositional, though closer to the latter. If one could adverbialize the noun "sword," the discussion could be finished. The rendering would then be: "Deliver my soul from the wicked in a swordly way." Plumer, however, draws lines of parallel between the sword of 13 and the wicked of 13, and then the "hand" and "men" of 14 to be in apposition, meaning the same thing as the sword and wicked of 13. It seems to me that the parallelism Plumer advocates, however, need not decide the matter for the KJV rendering. "From the wicked" is parallel to "from men". "With your hand" is parallel to "with the sword." The parallelism still fits on the NKJV rendering. The thing that tilts me away from the KJV rendering is that it is difficult to imagine David asking God to deliver him from the very person/people God will use as instruments (on the KJV understanding) of that deliverance. Does it make loads of sense to say that God would deliver David from Shimei (just taking one of the many adversaries of David as an example) by using Shimei? While it is not impossible, it seems to me unlikely.
 
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