Translation, again.

2 Samuel 23:2-5, the last words of King David.  Spot the difference:

New King James

English Standard

The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me:
The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
His word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
The Rock of Israel said to me:
“He who rules over men must be just,
Ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises,
A morning without clouds,
Like the tender grass springing out of the earth,
By clear shining after rain.”
When one rules justly over men,
Ruling in the fear of God,
He dawns on them like the morning light
Like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
Like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.
Although my house is not so with God,
Yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant,
Ordered in all things and secure.
For this is all my salvation and all my desire;
Will He not make it increase?
For does not my house stand so with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
Ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
All my help and desire?

I made it bold, so hopefully you caught that these translations say the exact opposite thing about David’s life. I mean, come on, guys!

Now, without digging deep into the Hebrew, I can make a guess:  The original text says something like this: “Not so my house with God”, and the issue at hand is whether that is supposed to be a statement: “My house is not so” or a question: “Is my house not so?”  So it’s probably not a textual criticism thing.  The actual wording of the original text, I’d guess, is not in question at all.

And yet, two translation teams came up with the exact opposite meaning, based on what?  New scholarship?  Shouldn’t we favor the more traditional understanding of the text, unless there is some clear, overriding reason to change it?

So.  For bonus points, go to Bible Gateway, or your favorite resource for comparing translations, and see how they fall.  How many different takes on 2 Samuel 23:5.  I’m guessing at least 3-4.

Author: KB French

Formerly many things, including theology student, mime, jr. high Latin teacher, and Army logistics officer. Currently in the National Guard, and employed as a civilian... somewhere

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