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Analytical-Literal Translation:

Poetic Books: Excerpts and Comments

By Gary F. Zeolla

I just published the Analytical-Literal Translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint) - Volume Three - The Poetic Books. In this article I will present some excerpts from the Poetic Books, preceded by comments about the passages. But first, I will present the "Translator's Note" that is included at the beginning of this new volume. 

Translator's Note

             Occasionally, the Septuagint (LXX) includes "extra" words, phrases, and even entire paragraphs that are not found in the Hebrew text. Starting with this third volume of the ALT: OT, all of these extra passages are included, but the longer and more important passages are enclosed by brace brackets, i.e., {…} (e.g., Job 2:9). However, no attempt is made to bracket every single "extra" word. It is a matter of debate whether these extra passages are inspired or not, that is why longer and more important ones are being enclosed by brace brackets. But they are being included as they are part of the LXX and make for interesting reading.

      Unfortunately, given the debate over inspiration, I wasn't sure how to handle these extra passages, especially the longer ones, in Volumes One and Two, and I didn't think of enclosing them in brace brackets until after Volume Two was published. There were only a few such passages in Volume One (e.g., Gen 46:20). But in Volume Two, there were several such passages, especially in 1Kings and Esther. I did not include the extra passages in 1Kings as they were mostly just repetitious of material found elsewhere in 1Kings. But I did include the passages in Esther. I did so as they included mainly "new" material.

      This extra material can be identified in Volumes One and Two as they are generally included at the end of numbered verses, making those verses rather long, sometimes up to several paragraphs. In Esther, the passages are found in 1:1; 3:13; 4:17; 5:1; 8:12; 10:3.

      Similarly, the LXX includes books that are not found in the Hebrew text. These are called apocryphal books. There again is debate whether these "extra" books are inspired or not. None of them are included in Jewish or Protestant Bibles, but many are included in Catholic Bibles.

      As such, I am debating if there will be a Volume VI to this ALT: OT containing these apocryphal books. If I do, I will include not just the ones found in Catholic Bibles, but all that are found in the LXX text that I am translating. I will decide after Volume V is finished if I will do this sixth volume or not.

 The example referenced in the Note is Job 2:9. This verse occurs after Job's life falls apart, with him losing all of his possession, his ten children being killed, and his health being ruined. His wife speaks once about his situation, in this verse. Below is this passage. As can be seen, I include both the longer LXX reading in brace brackets, followed by the shorter Hebrew reading in brackets.

       9{Now much time having advanced [fig., passed], his wife said to him, "How long [lit., Until when, and throughout book] will you persevere, saying, ‘Behold, I wait yet a little time, expecting the hope of my deliverance?' For, behold, your memorial has perished from the earth, [your] sons and daughters, [the] birth pains of my womb and which labor to no purpose I labored with hardships. And you yourself sit down with rottenness of worms, spending the nights in open air. And I [am] a wanderer and a hired servant place from place, traveling about, and house from house, waiting for when the sun will set, that I should rest from the labors and pains which now surround me. But say some word against the Lord, and die!"} [Heb., 9Then [his] wife said to [him], "Do you still hold firm to your integrity? Bless [fig., Curse] God and die!"] (Job 2:9).

The Book of Job

 Many find reading the book of Job to be somewhat tedious. It seems to be long-winded speeches with little purpose, but I found it to be rather interesting and relevant to my personal situation. It expresses an honest struggle over the question of personal suffering. Job bemoans all of the suffering he is going through. But instead of comforting him, Job's friends accuse him, telling him that righteous people prosper while only wicked people suffer. And since Job is suffering, he must have done something sinful. 

Job objects saying that he has not sinned. But as the dialog goes on, he goes beyond just defending his integrity to sounding overly self-righteous and saying God is wrong to punish Him. Moreover, He disagrees with their thesis. He says that he has seen righteous people suffer and wicked people prosper. 

After this lengthy debate, the LORD speaks. And he shuts up Job and Job's friends by asserting His creation of and sovereignty over all things. The point is, God is in control. So questioning Him about suffering and saying He is wrong for allowing it is not appropriate. Instead, those of who are suffering need to look to the LORD to uphold us in our struggles, recognizing that He has a purpose behind it all. 

It is in Job 38 that the LORD first speaks, and He does so with strong language that I've always thought really puts those who question Him into their place: 

Now after Elihu ceased from speaking, the LORD spoke to Job through [the] storm and clouds, [saying], 2"Who [is] this, the one hiding counsel [from] Me, and confining words in [his] heart, and thinks to be concealing [them from] Me? 3Fasten a belt [around] your waist like a man; and I will ask you, and you answer Me! 4Where were you in the laying of the foundation [of] the earth [by] Me? So tell Me, if you know understanding. 5Who set the measures of it, if you know? Or who [is] the One having brought a cord upon it? 6On what have its rings been fastened? And who is One having laid [the] cornerstone upon it? (Job 38:1-5).

 As a result of the LORD's speech, Job realizes he was wrong in questioning and accusing God.

       3And having taken up [the word] [fig., replying], Job says to the LORD, 4"Why am I still judging? Being admonished and reproving the Lord; hearing such [things], I being nothing; and what answer shall I give to these [things]? I will lay [my] hand upon my mouth. 5I have spoken once; but I will not add to the second time" (Job 42:2-5).

 Then the LORD rebukes Jobs friends. So we know that their thesis about why some prosper and others suffer is wrong, as is their assertion that Job is suffering because he has sinned. So those us who are suffering can take comfort knowing we are not doing so because we have sinned.

       7Now it happened after the LORD spoke all these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "You sinned, and your two friends, for you* did not speak anything true before Me, as my servant Job [did]. 8Now then take seven calves, and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and he will do [fig., offer] a burnt-offering for you*. And my servant Job will pray for you*, for if not I will receive his face, for if not because of him, I [would have] destroyed you*, for you* did not speak truth against my servant Job." 9So Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, went and did as the LORD commanded them; and He loosed [fig., pardoned] the sin to them because of Job (Job 42:7-9).

The Book of Psalms

Although it is wrong to question God about why people suffer, it is not wrong to cry out to Him in our suffering. This is clear in the Book of Psalms where many times David cries out to God in difficult times. This can especially be seen in Psalm 6. When I translated it, it really struck home. It reflects how I am feeling right now, as my health continues to decline, causing problems to mount, such as forcing me to miss several recent family get-togethers. But in my case, "my enemies" are my health problems.

 For the end, a Psalm by David among [the] hymns for the eighth [fig., eight-stringed instrument]. 

O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your wrath, nor discipline me in Your anger. 2Pity me, O LORD; for I am weak; heal me, O LORD; for my bones are troubled. 3My soul also is greatly troubled; but You, O LORD, how long? 4Return, O LORD, deliver my soul; save me for Your mercy's sake. 5For in death there is not the one remembering You. And in the realm of the dead [Gr, hades], who will give thanks to You? 

6I grow weary in my groaning; I will wash my bed every night; I will water my couch with my tears. 7My eye is troubled because of anger [fig., grief]; I am worn out by all my enemies. 8Depart from me, all the ones working the iniquity; for the LORD heard the voice of my weeping. 9The LORD listened to my petition; the LORD received my prayer. 10May all my enemies be put to shame and greatly troubled; may they be turned back and greatly humiliated through speed [fig., suddenly] (Psalm 6:1-9; ALT). 

In Romans 3:10-18, Paul demonstrates the universal sinfulness of people by quoting from several different Psalms and the Book of Isaiah. At least, that is what the notes in most Bible version indicate, including my own ALT: NT. But when translating Psalm 14, I discovered that this is not really the case. This is where the "extra" passages found in the LXX become important. Paul is not putting together quotes from several different places. He is quoting from just one Psalm, Psalm 14 as it appears in the LXX. All of what Paul quotes is taken from just this Psalm. And the Greek of the LXX is identical to the Greek of Romans. This is important as some try to claim that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic, which would mean Old Testament quotes would have originally been taken from the Hebrew text. But Paul's quoting word-for-word from the LXX version of Psalm 14, including the extra parts not found in the Hebrew text, proves that Paul was writing in Greek and using the LXX to quote from. For more on this subject, see my two-part article The Original Language of the New Testament.

 For the end, Psalm by David.

[The] fool said in his heart, "There is no God." They corrupted, and became abominable in [their] pursuits; there is none doing goodness, there is not so much as one. 2The LORD looked down from heaven upon the sons [and daughters] of people, to see if there is one understanding, or diligently seeking after God. 3They all turned aside; together they became unprofitable; there is none doing goodness; there is not so much as one. [Rom 3:10-12] {Their throat [is] a grave having been opened; with their tongues they were deceiving; [the] venom of poisonous snakes [is] under their lips; whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness; their feet [are] swift to shed blood; ruin and misery [are] in their ways; and [the] way of peace they did not know; there is no fear of God before their eyes. [Rom 3:13-18]} (Ps 14:1-3).

 A prayer for all the subscribers to this newsletter:

 May the LORD hear you in a day of affliction; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. 2May He send forth help to you from [the] sanctuary, and may He assist you from Zion. 3May He be reminded of all your sacrifice, and let Him enrich Your whole-burnt-offering. Pause. 4May He grant you according to your heart, and may He fulfill all your purpose. 5We will rejoice in your salvation, and in [the] name of our God we will be magnified. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions (Psalm 20:1-5; ALT).

Psalm 23 is probably the most famous Psalm in the Bible. Many Christians have it memorized. But it reads a little differently in the Greek Septuagint that I am translating than in the Hebrew text that most Bible versions are translated from. But is should be noted that the difference in the first and last phrases between my translation and others is not due to my using the LXX. They are due to my translation being a literal translation. Specifically, the word "shepherd" in verse one is a verb in both the Hebrew and the Greek texts, but every other translation turns it into a noun and thus adds the word "is" in order to have a verb in the verse. And in the last phrase, both the Hebrew and the Greek have "for a length of days." But every translation interprets this to mean "forever." I include this possibility, but in brackets, after giving the literal translation.

 A Psalm of David.

The LORD shepherds me, and nothing will lack [to] me. 2In a place of green grass, there He caused me to dwell; He nourished me by [the] water of rest. 3He turned back my soul; He guided me upon paths of righteousness, for His name's sake. 4For even if I should walk in the midst of [the] shadow of death, I will not be afraid of evils, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, these comforted me. 5You prepared a table before me from opposite of the ones afflicting me; You anointed my head with oil; and Your cup [is] giving [me] to drink like good [drink]. 6And Your mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; and I [will] be dwelling in [the] house of the LORD for a length of days [fig., forever]! (Psalm 23).

 A short but powerful Psalm:

 A Psalm for Thanksgiving.

Shout loudly to the LORD, all the earth! 2Serve the LORD with gladness; come before Him with exultation. 3Know that the LORD, He is God; He made us, and not we [ourselves]. [We are] His people, and [the] sheep of His pasture. 4Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, into His courts with hymns; be giving thanks to Him, be praising His name. 5For the LORD [is] good, His mercy [endures] into the age [fig., forever], and His truth as far as generation and generation [fig., to all generations]!  (Psalm 100).

 Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, but it's a powerful one:

Alleluia! Be praising the LORD, all the nations; praise Him, all the peoples! 2For His mercy was strengthened toward us, and the truth of the LORD endures into the age [fig., forever]. [Heb., +Praise the LORD!] (Psalm 117).

After the easy job of translating Psalm 117, then after Psalm 118, I then had the longest chapter in the Bible to translate, Psalm 119. It contains 176 verses! The reason it has that number of verses is because 8 x 22 = 176. I explain this in a note I include at the beginning of the Psalm.

{Alleluia!}

[Note: In the Hebrew text of this Psalm, each verse in each eight-verse paragraph begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. At the beginning of each paragraph, the LXX numbers and spells out the name of each of these 22 letters.]

      {1, Aleph [or, Alef]} Blessed [are] the blameless in [their] way, the ones walking in [the] Law of the LORD! 2Blessed [are] the ones searching out His testimonies; they will diligently seek Him with [the] whole heart. 3For the ones working the iniquity were not walked in His ways. 4You commanded [us] to diligently keep Your commandments. 5O that my ways may be directed to keep Your ordinances. 6Then by no means shall I be ashamed, when I am looking upon all Your commandments. 7I will give thanks to You, O Lord, with uprightness of heart, when I have learned the judgments of Your righteousness [or, Your righteous judgments]. 8I will keep Your ordinances; do not utterly forsake me!

      9{2, Beth [or, Bet]} By what [fig., How] will the young [person] keep his way straight? By the keeping of Your words. 10With my whole heart I diligently sought You; do not push me aside [Heb., let me wander] from Your commandments. 11I hid Your oracles in my heart, in order that I shall not sin against You. 12Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your ordinances. 13With my lips I declared all the judgments of Your mouth. 14I was delighted in the way of Your testimonies, as over all wealth. 15I will meditate on Your commandments, and consider Your ways. 16I will ponder on [Heb., delight myself in] Your ordinances; I will not forget Your words.

 The Book of Proverbs

The Book of Proverbs begins by saying it will give very helpful wisdom sayings. And as you read the book, you'll see that this is in fact the case.

Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, who reigned in Israel; 2to know wisdom and instruction, and to understand words of insight, 3and to receive [the] turnings [fig., subtleties] of words, and to understand true righteousness, and [how] to be directing judgment; 4that he should give cleverness to innocent [people], and to a young [person] perception and purpose. 5For having heard of these, a wise [person] will be wiser, and the thoughtful [person] will acquire direction [or, [the] ability to lead]; 6and will understand a parable, and a dark word, and sayings of wise [people], and riddles.

        7[The] fear of GOD [is the] beginning of wisdom, {and [there is] good understanding to all the ones practicing it, and piety towards God [is the] beginning of insight,} but ungodly [people] will despise wisdom and instruction. 8Be hearing, O son, [the] instruction of your father, and do not reject [the] rules of your mother. 9For you will receive a wreath [or, crown] of graces for your head, and a gold chain around your neck (Prov 1:1-9).

The Book of Ecclesiastes

 The first thing I discovered in translating the Book of Ecclesiastes is where the rather strange title comes from. The title is taken from a word in the first verse of the Greek text of the LXX.

 [The] words of [the] Preacher [Gr., Ecclesiastes], son of David, king of Israel in Jerusalem (Eccl 1:1).

 Then I struggled with how to translate a word that often appears in Ecclesiastes. Most versions render it as "vanity." And this word can mean what the Hebrew and Greek word means, "something that is considered futile, worthless, or empty of significance." However, when I hear "vanity" I think of its more common meaning of "excessive pride, especially in personal appearance" (Encarta Dictionary). So instead, I used "futility" which has just the one obvious meaning: "lack of purpose or meaning" (Dictionary.com).

 "Futility of futilities!" said the Preacher, "Futility of futilities; all [things are] futility!" (Eccl 1:2).

With this thesis, many find the Book of Ecclesiastes to be rather confusing. It seems to present a worldview that is counter to the rest of the Bible, that of there being no purpose or meaning in life. But what Solomon is doing is presenting what life would be like if there were no God, if all we had to look to for meaning in life is what this physical life offers. Solomon demonstrates this by trying to find meaning in worldly things, like the following:

I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with merriment, and you see in [it] a good [thing]," and, behold, even indeed this [is] futility (Eccl 2:1).

 After many such experiments, Solomon realizes that meaning in life is only found in the LORD, because He will judge what we do with our lives. 

 13Be hearing [the] end of the whole matter: Be fearing God, and be keeping His commandments; for this [is] the whole person. 14For God will bring every work into judgment, with every[thing] having been overlooked, whether a good [thing], or whether an evil [thing] (Eccl 12:13-14).

The Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon is a romantic story. It includes dialog from several different people or groups of people. To help keep things straight, in brackets I indicate who is speaking. This can be seen in the first chapter.

 [The] Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.

2[The Shulamite:] "Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth; for your breasts [are] [Heb., love [is]] better [lit., good, and throughout book] than wine. 3And [the] fragrance of your ointments [is better] than all the spices; your name [is] ointment having been poured out; therefore young women loved you."

        4[Daughters of Jerusalem:] "They drew you; we will run after you, for [the] fragrance of your ointments."

      [The Shulamite:] "The king brought me into his secret room."

      [Daughters of Jerusalem:] "Let us rejoice and be glad in you; we will love your breasts [Heb., remember your love] more than wine; righteousness loved you."

        5[The Shulamite:] "I am dark, but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, as [the] tents of Kedar, as [the] curtains of Solomon. 6Do not look upon me, because I am having been darkened, because the sun looked upon me; my mother's sons quarreled with me; they made me keeper in [the] vineyards; I did not keep my [own] vineyard."

      7[To her beloved:] "Tell me, whom my soul loved, where you shepherd, where you rest [them] at noon, lest I become as one clothing [or, veiling] herself by [the] herds of your companions."

      8[The beloved:] "If you do not know yourself, the beautiful [one] among women; you go forth by [the] heels [or, footsteps] of the flocks, and be shepherding your goats by [the] tents of the shepherds. 9I compared you, my companion [lit., neighbor, and throughout book], to my horse in [the] chariots of Pharaoh. 10How are your cheeks beautified as [those] of doves, your neck as necklaces!"

      11[Daughters of Jerusalem:] "We will make for you likenesses of gold with marks [fig., studs] of silver."

      12[The Shulamite:] "Until which [time] the king [was] in his leaning back [fig., at his table], my spikenard gave its fragrance. 13My beloved [is] to me a bundle of myrrh; it will be laid between my breasts. 14My beloved [is] to me a bunch of grapes of a shrub in [the] vineyards of Engaddi."

      15[The beloved:] "Behold, you are beautiful, my companion; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes [are] doves."

      16[The Shulamite:] "Behold, you are handsome, my beloved, and indeed, beautiful; our bed [is] shaded. 17[The] beams of our house [are] cedars; our ceilings [are] cypress" (Song 1:1-16).

 Conclusion

Translating the Poetic Books was a very personal experience. So much of them deal with personal suffering and finding meaning in life, and that is something I struggle much with given my many health problems and thus the limited nature of my life. But these books manage to uplift your spirit with their praises of and focus on the LORD. It is by focusing on Him that we can endure through personal struggles and find meaning in life. And I hope those reading my translation of the Poetic Books will have this experience as well.

 


Poetic Books: Excerpts and Comments. Copyright 2013 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above article was posted on this Web site August 31, 2013.

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