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Psalms 73:3-14

Context

73:3 For I envied those who are proud,

as I observed 1  the prosperity 2  of the wicked.

73:4 For they suffer no pain; 3 

their bodies 4  are strong and well-fed. 5 

73:5 They are immune to the trouble common to men;

they do not suffer as other men do. 6 

73:6 Arrogance is their necklace, 7 

and violence their clothing. 8 

73:7 Their prosperity causes them to do wrong; 9 

their thoughts are sinful. 10 

73:8 They mock 11  and say evil things; 12 

they proudly threaten violence. 13 

73:9 They speak as if they rule in heaven,

and lay claim to the earth. 14 

73:10 Therefore they have more than enough food to eat,

and even suck up the water of the sea. 15 

73:11 They say, “How does God know what we do?

Is the sovereign one aware of what goes on?” 16 

73:12 Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like, 17 

those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer. 18 

73:13 I concluded, 19  “Surely in vain I have kept my motives 20  pure

and maintained a pure lifestyle. 21 

73:14 I suffer all day long,

and am punished every morning.”

1 tn The imperfect verbal form here depicts the action as continuing in a past time frame.

2 tn Heb “peace” (שָׁלוֹם, shalom).

3 tn In Isa 58:6, the only other occurrence of this word in the OT, the term refers to “bonds” or “ropes.” In Ps 73:4 it is used metaphorically of pain and suffering that restricts one’s enjoyment of life.

4 tn Or “bellies.”

5 tc Or “fat.” The MT of v. 4 reads as follows: “for there are no pains at their death, and fat [is] their body.” Since a reference to the death of the wicked seems incongruous in the immediate context (note v. 5) and premature in the argument of the psalm (see vv. 18-20, 27), some prefer to emend the text by redividing it. The term לְמוֹתָם (lÿmotam,“at their death”) is changed to לָמוֹ תָּם (lamo tam, “[there are no pains] to them, strong [and fat are their bodies]”). The term תָּם (tam, “complete; sound”) is used of physical beauty in Song 5:2; 6:9. This emendation is the basis for the present translation. However, in defense of the MT (the traditional Hebrew text), one may point to an Aramaic inscription from Nerab which views a painful death as a curse and a nonpainful death in one’s old age as a sign of divine favor. See ANET 661.

6 tn Heb “in the trouble of man they are not, and with mankind they are not afflicted.”

7 sn Arrogance is their necklace. The metaphor suggests that their arrogance is something the wicked “wear” proudly. It draws attention to them, just as a beautiful necklace does to its owner.

8 tn Heb “a garment of violence covers them.” The metaphor suggests that violence is habitual for the wicked. They “wear” it like clothing; when one looks at them, violence is what one sees.

9 tc The MT reads “it goes out from fatness their eye,” which might be paraphrased, “their eye protrudes [or “bulges”] because of fatness.” This in turn might refer to their greed; their eyes “bug out” when they see rich food or produce (the noun חֵלֶב [khelev, “fatness”] sometimes refers to such food or produce). However, when used with the verb יָצָא (yatsa’, “go out”) the preposition מִן (“from”) more naturally indicates source. For this reason it is preferable to emend עֵינֵמוֹ (’enemo, “their eye”) to עֲוֹנָמוֹ, (’avonamo, “their sin”) and read, “and their sin proceeds forth from fatness,” that is, their prosperity gives rise to their sinful attitudes. If one follows this textual reading, another interpretive option is to take חֵלֶב (“fatness”) in the sense of “unreceptive, insensitive” (see its use in Ps 17:10). In this case, the sin of the wicked proceeds forth from their spiritual insensitivity.

10 tn Heb “the thoughts of [their] heart [i.e., mind] cross over” (i.e., violate God’s moral boundary, see Ps 17:3).

11 tn The verb מוּק (muq, “mock”) occurs only here in the OT.

12 tn Heb “and speak with evil.”

13 tn Heb “oppression from an elevated place they speak.” The traditional accentuation of the MT places “oppression” with the preceding line. In this case, one might translate, “they mock and speak with evil [of] oppression, from an elevated place [i.e., “proudly”] they speak.” By placing “oppression” with what follows, one achieves better poetic balance in the parallelism.

14 tn Heb “they set in heaven their mouth, and their tongue walks through the earth.” The meaning of the text is uncertain. Perhaps the idea is that they lay claim to heaven (i.e., speak as if they were ruling in heaven) and move through the earth declaring their superiority and exerting their influence. Some take the preposition -בְּ (bet) the first line as adversative and translate, “they set their mouth against heaven,” that is, they defy God.

15 tc Heb “therefore his people return [so Qere (marginal reading); Kethib (consonantal text) has “he brings back”] to here, and waters of abundance are sucked up by them.” The traditional Hebrew text (MT) defies explanation. The present translation reflects M. Dahood’s proposed emendations (Psalms [AB], 2:190) and reads the Hebrew text as follows: לָכֵן יִשְׂבְעוּם לֶחֶם וּמֵי מָלֵא יָמֹצּוּ לָמוֹ (“therefore they are filled with food, and waters of abundance they suck up for themselves”). The reading יִשְׂבְעוּם לֶחֶם (yisvÿum lekhem, “they are filled with food”) assumes (1) an emendation of יָשׁיּב עַמּוֹ (yashyyv, “he will bring back his people”) to יִשְׂבְעוּם (yisvÿum, “they will be filled”; a Qal imperfect third masculine plural form from שָׂבַע [sava’] with enclitic mem [ם]), and (2) an emendation of הֲלֹם (halom, “to here”) to לֶחֶם (“food”). The expression “be filled/fill with food” appears elsewhere at least ten times (see Ps 132:15, for example). In the second line the Niphal form יִמָּצוּ (yimmatsu, derived from מָצָה, matsah, “drain”) is emended to a Qal form יָמֹצּוּ (yamotsu), derived from מָצַץ (matsats, “to suck”). In Isa 66:11 the verbs שָׂבַע (sava’; proposed in Ps 73:10a) and מָצַץ (proposed in Ps 73:10b) are parallel. The point of the emended text is this: Because they are seemingly sovereign (v. 9), they become greedy and grab up everything they need and more.

16 tn Heb “How does God know? Is there knowledge with the Most High?” They appear to be practical atheists, who acknowledge God’s existence and sovereignty in theory, but deny his involvement in the world (see Pss 10:4, 11; 14:1).

17 tn Heb “Look, these [are] the wicked.”

18 tn Heb “the ones who are always at ease [who] increase wealth.”

19 tn The words “I concluded” are supplied in the translation. It is apparent that vv. 13-14 reflect the psalmist’s thoughts at an earlier time (see vv. 2-3), prior to the spiritual awakening he describes in vv. 17-28.

20 tn Heb “heart,” viewed here as the seat of one’s thoughts and motives.

21 tn Heb “and washed my hands in innocence.” The psalmist uses an image from cultic ritual to picture his moral lifestyle. The reference to “hands” suggests actions.



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