The Wartburg Project

November 27th, 2019

53. The Translation of Psalm 145:16 (How do we handle updates to the text?)

In Psalm 145:16, in the printed EHV Bible it says “he opens his hand.” In the electronic study Bible it says “you open your hand.” One of these must be a typo. Which one?

Let’s look at the whole sequence in the study Bible.

Proclamation of His Kingdom
13Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is faithful to all his words
and merciful toward all he has made.[]
14The Lord lifts up all who fall,
and he supports all who are bowed down.
15The eyes of all look eagerly to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16You open your hand,
and you satisfy the desire of every living thing.[]
17The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and merciful toward all that he has made.

Here the psalmist jumps back and forth between second and third person pronouns (you/your, he/him) in a way which is uncomfortable in English, which prefers a clear sequence of antecedents and pronouns, and clear markers of changes in the person being addressed. The EHV tries to address this issue of rapid changes in pronouns by a footnote on verses 13-16 which calls attention to the jumping back and forth between persons. (There is a discussion of the pronoun issue in our Wartburg Project grammar book.)

“You open your hand” is a more literal rendering of the Hebrew. The reading “he” in the print Bible very likely did not originate as a typo but as an attempt to smooth out the sequence of pronouns. However, this rendering was probably a bad idea, since although it does integrate verse 16 into the main line of the narrative, it makes the pronoun he come before its antecedent Lord, so it is not very successful as an attempt to smooth the English sequence.

When we receive suggestions for “improvements” to the EHV, we hold them for the revision that will be made in two or three years, because we want to have a stable text. When we receive “corrections,” we enter them into the text immediately. The switch from he to you seems to be enough of an improvement to be called a correction so we entered it in the text right away.