The psalm for the day in our worship service this morning was Psalm 80. The version we read from in our church bulletin seems to be an earlier edition of the NRSV, one with capitalized letters beginning names, pronouns, and relative pronouns referring to deity. As we read the psalm this morning I noted several wordings in the translation which struck my ears (yours may not be so struck) as odd, different from what I think is normally considered contemporary English, which is read and spoken by a majority of native English speakers today. In the text which follows I italicize the wordings which seemed odd to my ears. I insert my reactions to the italicized wordings between verses. I boldface the text of the psalm so it contrasts with my own comments:
1. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
I only know what “give ear” means because I grew up on the KJV. I doubt that our children (all college graduates who read well), who did not grow up on any version in KJV tradition, would know what “give ear” means. I don’t think any native speaker of English today would say “give ear” when they intend to express the meaning of “listen.”
2. before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!
I don’t know what “stir up your might” means.
3. Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
I know what it means when we say that someone’s face is shining. But I don’t know if that is what the psalmist is asking God to do with his face. And I surely don’t know what connection a shining face would have with salvation.
4. O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
5. You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.
I’m sure the “the bread of tears” was a vivid metaphor in Hebrew, but it conveys little meaning to me, as an English speaker, other than that it has something to do with crying.
6. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.
7. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
8. You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
9. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.
10. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches;
11. it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.
12. Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13. The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.
14. Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine
15. the stock that your right hand planted.
16. They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
I think that someone’s countenance has to do with what their face looks like. I don’t understand how someone’s facial appearance can be a rebuke to anyone.
17. But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
18. Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
19. Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.