I am continuing to work on Psalm 51, and the vocabulary in verses 5 and 6 pose some interesting problems. (I have numbered these verses according to the usual English editions.)
וּבְחֵטְא יֶחֱמַתְנִי אִמִּי
8הֵן־אֱמֶת חָפַצְתָּ בַטֻּחוֹת
וּבְסָתֻם חָכְמָה תוֹדִיעֵנִי
5 ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἐν ἀνομίαις συνελήμφθην καὶ ἐν ἁμαρτίαις ἐκίσσησέν με ἡ μήτηρ μου
6 ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀλήθειαν ἠγάπησας τὰ ἄδηλα καὶ τὰ κρύφια τῆς σοφίας σου ἐδήλωσάς μοι LXX
5 ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum et in peccatis concepit me mater mea
6 ecce enim veritatem dilexisti incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi Vulgate
5 For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.
6 For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me. DR
5 Ecce in inquitate conceptus sum,
et in peccato peperit me mater mea.
6 Ecce enim veritatem diligis
absconditum et arcanum sapientiae manifesti mihi Jerome’s Iuxta Hebraeos
5 Ecce in inquitate genitus sum,
et in peccato calefacta est de me mater mea.
6 Ecce veritatem voluisti in renibus
et in occulto sapientiam scire fecisti me. Pagnini
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. KJV
My mother, lo! when I began to be,
Conceiving me, with me did sin conceive;
And, as with living heat she cherish’d me,
Corruption did like cherishing receive;
But lo, thy love to purest good doth cleave,
And inward truth, which, hardly else discerned,
My truant soul in thy hid school hath learned. Mary Sidney Herbert 1599
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. RSV
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place. TNIV
5 Truth be told, I was born into sin,
into wrongdoing my mother expelled me.
6 Truth be told, you desire truth in the inward parts,
in secret you would teach me wisdom. John Hobbins
John Hobbins comments that the verbs in verse 5 a and b mean “writhe out” as in “give birth,” and “heated out” as in “give birth.” Therefore, looking back, any association with coitus, the act of conceiving a child, is not necessarily present in the Hebrew. Rashi’s notes indicate that the notion of conception may be considered, but continues that the creation of the child is in view, and not the conception.
In verse 6 the words at the end of each line are particularly obscure. For the end of line a the three Latin versions went from incerta (uncertain) to absconditum (hidden) to renibus (inner organs). The translation renibus in the Pagnini Latin version derives from Rashi’s notes, as do changes in other translation. About verse 6 Rashi wrote,
- in the hidden places Heb. בטחות. These are the reins, which are smooth
“Reins” are any inner organ and surely the “womb” is an inner organ, so we can attribute both the addition of “womb” and “heart” to Rashi’s notes. Every translator has struggled with these lines composed of unusual and obscure Hebrew words. Somehow, the TNIV translation creates the best match between verse 5 and verse 6. Most translations do not connect these two verses well at all, and yet they each begin with the same interjection “behold.”