I have just finished my homily on the Fourth Words of Jesus (Matt. 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) and in reading it with Psalm 22, I realized that there are very different renderings of verse 29 in the English, 30 in the Hebrew.
אכלו וישתחוו כל דשני ארץ לפניו יכרעו כל יורדי עפר ונפשו לא חיה׃
NRSV: Psa. 22.29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
NIV: 29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive.
JPS: 30 All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves; all those at death’s door, whose spirits flag, shall bend the knee before Him.
I do not have my BHS to check the apparatus (and I am about to be late for the service) but I thought I would put this up and see what response better Hebraists than I can offer.
Bob suggested in a comment below that the LXX is quite different that the MT, but if I am reading the Greek correctly (no guarantee of that) does follow the MT fairly closely (it is v. 30 in LXX, just as in MT):
ἔφαγον καὶ προσεκύνησαν πάντες οἱ πίονες τῆς γῆς ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ προπεσοῦνται πάντες οἱ καταβαίνοντες εἰς τὴν γῆν καὶ ἡ ψυχή μου αὐτῷ ζῇ
The key phrase for the different renderings is the first: אכלו …כל דשני ארץ. This is understood by NIV and JPS as “all those who eat of the fat of the land” (the obvious, literal translation). The NIV chooses the more prosaic non-literal rendering “the rich” while JPS understands the phrase כל דשני ארץ, “all those in full vigor,” as being governed by the verb אכלו rather than the entire element as a unit.
So how does NRSV get “all who sleep in the earth”? Again, my apologies, but I do not have my references with me (other than Accordance) so I am not sure what might be in the MSS. Even the latter clause ונפשו לא חיה in opposite terms. Rather than being something like “those that cannot live” the NRSV renders “and I shall live for him.”
The NRSV is not known for placing Christian interpretations into their translation of the Hebrew Bible so this insistence of reading this verse as a reference to resurrection is surprising to me.
I am eager for others to chime in with their insight.
4 thoughts on “Ps. 22.29 – Who shall bow down?”
What – no responses yet! The LXX and the MT are sure different. NRSV is following the LXX, NIV has added the ‘those who’ (‘he who’ may be in an apparatus but I don’t know how to read mine yet); a minimal Hebrew is what you have above: and his life he cannot keep alive (piel). I hope someone else answers since I am a real neophyte here.
Not “eat of the fat” but the fat of the land shall eat and bow down. They are the subject of the two verbs at the beginning of the verse. This drives some interpreters crazy and they think this is a mess. But if this is a kind of victory feast in which rich and poor (the afflicted whose affliction Y does not despise) and – this part is less clear – living and dead (or at least dying) – participate then the weird and messy section makes a great deal of sense. It also casts special light on the last meal Jesus shares with his graduate students. The Eucharistic meal resembles the victory feast of the one who cried out and trusted himself to the Gd who seemed far away and absent? I think in many ways Psalm 22 is central to the basic Kingdom of God kerygma of Jesus. Gd does not despise the affliction of the afflicted?!?
Jesus’ “graduate students.” I like that! Thank you Rick. This is very helpful. I do see Jesus’ invoking Ps. 22 as a key to understanding or interpreting Jesus’ last day(s) and his experience and how we enter into that ourselves. I am still not sure of the whole “we suffer with Christ and he suffers with us.”
I just read CS Lewis citing this:
“The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” George MacDonald in Unspoken Sermons.
Not sure what I make of it…
Just looking at Robert Alter’s new translation and notes. He has the best quote at the end of his notes to this verse.