Here is Psalm 68:4 in total. I will follow it with the KJV, which I have chosen arbitrarily for this study.
Sing unto God,
sing praises to his name:
extol him that rideth upon the heavens
by his name JAH,
and rejoice before him.
And here is what it sounds like.
- shiru, lelohim–
sollu, larochev ba’aravot–
It is going to take a bit of trial and error before I get this right, I am just learning the ropes of posting in Hebrew. I would appreciate any comment on how I have broken up the lines. The text I am using as a source has commas rather more frequently than I would expect.
One of the really puzzling things for translators of this verse is how to render two different Hebrew words שִׁירוּ and זַמְּרוּ with two different words in English.
1. play an instrument
Here are how the two words are translated in three different Latin versions which served as models for the English translations.
- Cantate – psalmum dicite – Vulgate from LXX
Cantate – canite – Jerome’s Hebrew
cantate – psallite – Pagnini
Latin conveniently has two almost identical words which can be used here, canto and cano. However, Pagnini used psallo a transliteration of the the Greek ψαλλω “to sing or play music.” The real problem was how to poetically render the Hebrew זמּר and the Greek ψαλλω, first into Latin and for us, into English.
While some of the early translations, for example, the Bishops’ Bible, preserve the word “psalm”, “sing a psalm unto his name,” almost every other version uses some form of “sing praise”. But once again, I have found a thoughtful alternative in Rotherham’s Bible.
- Sing ye to God,
Make music of his Name, –
Lift up (a song),
to him that rideth through the waste plains, –
Since Yah is his name,
exult ye before him.
The tension here is that English really lacks the full complement of verbs for making music. As an aside, it is worth noting that for this verse “sing praises” seems to come from lobsingen in German. However, in line 2, the English and German diverge. Luther has used “the desert” from Jerome’s Hebrew Psalter and the KJV has used “heavens” from Pagnini. I am sure that each decision was made with reference to the Hebrew original and required much discussion.
There are many roadblocks in the way of a translator. What should one do when there are two different words in the source language and only one in the target language? What if you have to use two words in English to translate one in Hebrew? How does that affect the rhythm of the translation?