1 tn The logical connection between vv. 3-4 seems to be this: God is the protector of Zion and reveals himself as the city’s defender – this is necessary because hostile armies threaten the city.
2 tn The perfect verbal forms in vv. 4-6 are understood as descriptive. In dramatic style (note הִנֵּה, hinneh, “look”) the psalm describes an enemy attack against the city as if it were occurring at this very moment. Another option is to take the perfects as narrational (“the kings assembled, they advanced”), referring to a particular historical event, such as Sennacherib’s siege of the city in 701 b.c. (cf. NIV, NRSV). Even if one translates the verses in a dramatic-descriptive manner (as the present translation does), the Lord’s victory over the Assyrians was probably what served as the inspiration of the description (see v. 8).
3 tn The object of “see” is omitted, but v. 3b suggests that the Lord’s self-revelation as the city’s defender is what they see.
4 tn Heb “they look, so they are shocked.” Here כֵּן (ken, “so”) has the force of “in the same measure.”
5 tn The translation attempts to reflect the staccato style of the Hebrew text, where the main clauses of vv. 4-6 are simply juxtaposed without connectives.
6 tn Heb “trembling seizes them there.” The adverb שָׁם (sham, “there”) is used here, as often in poetic texts, to point “to a spot in which a scene is localized vividly in the imagination” (BDB 1027 s.v.).
7 tn Heb “[with] writhing like one giving birth.”
sn The language of vv. 5-6 is reminiscent of Exod 15:15.
8 tn The switch to the imperfect, as well as the introduction of the ship metaphor, perhaps signals a change to a generalizing tone; the Lord typically shatters these large ships, symbolic of the human strength of hostile armies (see the following note on “large ships”). The verb שָׁבַר (shavar, “break”) appears in the Piel here (see Pss 29:5; 46:9). In the OT it occurs thirty-six times in the Piel, always with multiple objects (the object is either a collective singular or grammatically plural or dual form). The Piel may highlight the repetition of the pluralative action, or it may suggest an intensification of action, indicating repeated action comprising a whole, perhaps with the nuance “break again and again, break in pieces.” Another option is to understand the form as resultative: “make broken” (see IBHS 404-7 §24.3).
9 tn Heb “the ships of Tarshish.” This probably refers to large ships either made in or capable of traveling to and from the distant western port of Tarshish. These ships, which were the best of their class, here symbolize the mere human strength of hostile armies, which are incapable of withstanding the Lord’s divine power (see Isa 2:16).