Friday, June 24, 2016

A Tour through Ps. 119: Mem

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
This week's selection,  verses 97 - 104, from the NIV 84:

Oh, how I love your law!  I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.
I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

In the Hebrew, these verses each start with the letter mem, kind of a boxy pointy thing.  Which  actually has an 'm' starts the word 'mitsvah', which I've encountered several times.  So it's interesting that so many of those verses start with 'I'.

But, that whole English-uses-a-different-word-order thing is quite possibly to blame.  We'll see if I can manage to keep the original word order when doing the word-by-word look at the dictionary...

...and, wow, word order is definitely an issue.

Every time I plow through one of these sections I learn something new.  Today I observed that in many of the verses, there is a noun and a modifier (which is either a word or a phrase) that are put on either end of the sentence.  Sometimes the noun is first, sometimes the modifier is first, but for the sentence to make sense I've got to pull them together and rearrange things...otherwise I end up with a sentence that reads something like  Your word has restrained from the road evil my two feet for the sake of keeping guard.  Um.  Leaning on the original translators for their wisdom in the subject of the sentence, and putting the phrases that go together next to each other, I get  [I] have restrained my two feet from the evil road  for the sake of keeping  your word.

I also realized that it appears that a modifying word is sometimes split and the word it modifies is inserted into it.   At least, that was the only way I could find one particular preposition word anywhere in the text...split around the word it referenced.

Gives me a whole new appreciation for those scholars that really dig into the original language for the best and most accurate translation.

I don't pretend that this is either good or accurate, but it is interesting.

Indeed [I] love your instruction;  all the day it [is] my meditation.
More than my enemies, I am made wise, because your commandments are forever with me.
To me, more than all those who teach me, [comes] comprehension because your testimonies are my meditation.
More than [the] old,  I show myself discerning, because your precepts I keep.
[I] have restrained my two feet from the evil road for the sake of keeping your word.
From your judgements I have not turned aside, for you have taught me.
How pleasant [are] your words; better than honey to my mouth.
By [and] through your precepts I show myself discerning; therefore I hate every path of falsehood.

Obviously, the NIV is far more poetic in English than what I came up with, but I really wanted to try and keep it as word-for-word as I could, mostly because I don't think I'm skillful enough at this to really discern a better translation.

But there are some interesting points to be made here.  The whole theme of this bit is how much better at life one is when attention and care is paid to the commandments of God.  Which dovetails nicely with the post I did  a couple of weeks ago about the benefits of studying the Word an average of four times a week. 

The other thing that struck me is that it does almost sound arrogant...'I'm smarter than my teachers and more discerning than my elders'...but  I think it is more  that 'I get more comprehension from meditating on your testimonies than from all my teachers' and 'I have more discernment than those folks who messed up back in the day ('ancients' is one possible translation) because I  keep your precepts'.

Because it's true that David's ancestors messed up...a lot...and it's also true that genuine personal attention to God's word is  superior to only listening to the insight others share. 

Sorta like  a  freshly cooked dinner is superior to a microwaved entree from the freezer section of the store.


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