11 thoughts on “How much does God want to help us?

  1. bobmacdonald says:

    Well – here I am in trouble again! None of the above.
    I find this verse tricky (Ps 46:1) (46:2 Hebrew)
    אֱלֹהִים לָנוּ
    מַחֲסֶה וָעֹז
    עֶזְרָה בְצָרוֹת
    נִמְצָא מְאֹד
    God is our
    refuge and strength
    help in trouble
    easily found

    I think there is a little hide and seek going on. ‘very present’ is a clever construction. I tried OED and I think I found a use of it before 1400 but I don’t really know how to use their advanced search!

    A little searching revealed a gloss of ‘present’ in a few places in Samual and Chronicles when ‘find’ is used in the niphal as here.

    Glad to see these exercises in TNK.

  2. Kirsty says:

    I don’t know the Hebrew. But to me the most accurate translation of the English ‘very present help’ would be ‘always there to help’.

  3. Wayne Leman says:

    Some English poetry is natural English. Some that retains classical forms does and some does not. Poetry is characterized by intensity, sometimes unique turns of phrases (which are not natural). English poetry varies widely in how natural it is.

    Hebrew poetry should, if at all possible, have some characteristics of poetry when translated to English so that readers can recognize that it is poetry. Such characteristics might be meter, line breaks, rhyme, rhythm, repetition.

    Other genres of the biblical texts should vary in translation also, according to the biblical text genres.

  4. bobmacdonald says:

    re Poetry and in particular Hebrew poetry, its characteristics are frequent repetition of words, short statements in twos, threes, and fours that contain parallel or contrasting thoughts. I translate to these constraints and also to the games that the poets play in the Psalms (8 acrostics, 4 perfect, 4 broken) and the Lamentations (4 perfect but distorted). This suggests also that the poetry comes out of the experience of exile, something we all know in our own lives. This makes it historical rather than clever, grounded in inner dialogue rather than technique. The short phrases produce a rhythm that is like unrhymed free verse.

    I have a brief on reading technique here

  5. Peter Kirk says:

    Gary, surely the point there is that “very” has changed its meaning. In 1611 it meant more like “truly”. So the translation wasn’t originally logically awkward, but has become so, as well as becoming inaccurate.

  6. Mike Tisdell says:

    Looking at the two winners of the poll (and advantage of coming late), I see that the two phrases that sounded most natural to me were the winners i.e.

    He is always ready to help in times of trouble.(133 votes)

    He always helps in times of trouble (109. votes)

    The former is more natural to our ears because it conveys a thought that we would often communicate about a person we knew to be helpful. I chose the later because it communicates more accurately the idea of God as our helper i.e. that he ALWAYS helps and he is ALWAYS intimately involved in our lives whether we see it or recognize it. We need to remember that even the trouble itself can be God’s way of building us into the person he desires us to become.

    That being said, I voted apart from looking at the text of Ps. 46:1 and with that text in mind I would have voted for none of the above. I think much of the idea of “He always helps in times of trouble” is expressed in that verse but it was expressed with very different words that communicate the nuance of “If you look you will find he has been helping there all along.”


    I think I would change your translation of Ps 46:1

    “God is our
    refuge and strength
    help in trouble
    easily found”

    To become:

    “God is a refuge and a strength,
    a helper in trouble, he is easily found.”

    The reasons for the changes:

    1) The 1st person plural declension is not present in the Hebrew text and so I would not include “our” in the translation.

    2) עזרה can be translated as “help” or “helper,” and in this context it is referring to a person i.e. God, so I believe “helper” communicates that a little better.

    3) נמצא is a 3rd person masculine singular passive construction (נפעל); it communicates an idea of “it is found” or “he is found.” As an alternative to the translation I suggested, one could make a slight modification to your translation as follows “help in trouble is easily found” and still bring out out the construction of the verb but I think an aspect of personhood is lost (i.e. “it” vs. “he”).

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