inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Ps. 46:7)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the inclusive form, because “as in most first person plural references in the Psalms, it [is] necessary to translate ‘with us’ using the inclusive pronominal reference, in order to include the psalmist and his fellow worshipers who are addressed in this psalm.”

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Ps. 47:4)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the inclusive form (including the psalmist and all of Israel).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Ps. 77:13)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse (“our God” in English translations), Bratcher / Reyburn recommend the exclusive form.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Ps. 105:7)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the inclusive form. Bratcher / Reyburn recommend the exclusive form, because “the psalmist is speaking of himself and his intended audience, those who shared the experiences alluded to.”

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Ps. 115:3)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse (“our God” in English translations), the Jarai translation selects the exclusive form, because “the psalmist is speaking of himself and his intended audience, those who shared the experiences alluded to.”

The Adamawa Fulfulde translation used the inclusive form.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Ps. 135:2)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse (“our God”), the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the inclusive form.

Translation commentary on Psalm 2:5

From amusement Yahweh’s emotion turns to anger. It seems better to maintain the descriptive present tense, as Good News Translation does: “he warns … and terrifies” (also Moffatt, Bible en français courant, New Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible, New American Bible). Verses 5-6 still deal with the Lord’s reaction to the rebels.

The two nouns wrath and fury describe his attitude. Such human traits are ascribed quite naturally by Old Testament writers to God, in their conviction that he “was actively, vigorously, and personally involved in man’s history” (Toombs). The noun translated fury is used in the Old Testament only with God as subject. It means literally “burning,” that is, an anger that consumes and destroys the enemy (see Exo 15.7).

He will speak to them (or “he warns them,” “he rebukes them,” or “he threatens them”) and terrify them: for this last verb see also 83.15. Moffatt translates “he … scares them.” Many languages will follow more closely the Hebrew form of speaking to them in his wrath. However, in many cases “speaking” does not carry the negative injunction implied. Furthermore, anger involves a strong emotional element which is often stated in physiological terms such as “hot heart” or “hot stomach.” It may be best then to render the warning as a negative command in direct address; for instance, “God is angry and says, ‘Do not act this way.’ ” In some languages the full line will be: “With a hot stomach God says, ‘Do not act like this.’ ”

The parallelism of verse 5 is a typical case of line b representing a dramatic intensification of line a, from the ordinary speak to the intense terrify. It may be possible to represent this movement in the parallelism; for example, “He will be angry and speak to them; he will be so angry their strength will fail,” or “He will warn them because he is angry; so angry is he that their hearts run away,” or “Being angry at them he will speak out; he will scare them to death.”

In many languages the idea terrify, used in both Good News Translation and Revised Standard Version, implies some kind of physical loss and is sometimes expressed figuratively as “the breath departed,” “the heart ran away,” “the strength ran out,” or “the strength melted.”

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Reyburn, William D. A Handbook on the Book of Psalms. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1991. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Psalm 6:2 - 6:3

In these two verses the psalmist describes the terrible effects of his illness: (1) he is languishing (New English Bible “I am weak”; New Jerusalem Bible “I am fading away”); (2) he is also “completely exhausted” (Good News Translation), which translates what is literally “my bones are disturbed” (or “terrified,” which is what the word means in 2.5, “he terrifies them”). Some translations have the idea of fright: New Jerusalem Bible “my bones shake with terror.” The idea of fear, though possible, does not fit the context as well as that of exhaustion brought on by a wasting illness (see Moffatt “my health is broken”; Bible en français courant “I have no more resistance”).

Line b of this verse moves the image of exhaustion to the figurative level, bones are troubled. The translator must ask if the heightening effect is maintained in the language by this kind of movement. The opposite may be true, and if that is the case, the translator should experiment by reversing the order of the lines.

The translator will note that in Revised Standard Version the plea precedes the reason in lines a and b, whereas in Good News Translation the reason comes before the plea in line a and follows it in line b. However, whether or not the translator will maintain the parallelism or modify it depends upon the total effect of the message on the reader. In some languages the idea of being “worn out” is expressed as “my blood is like water” or “my strength does not hold me.” The relation of reason to request may need to be explicit; for example, “Because I am weak, LORD, have pity on me.” Many languages prefer figurative expressions in speaking of physical states, just as Hebrew does in “my bones are troubled.” In English one may say “I am bone tired.”

Bones (verse 2b) and soul (verse 3a) are the psalmist’s way of referring to himself in terms of his physical and his emotional condition. It is possible in some languages to speak of the combined physical and emotional state in figurative terms–for example, “blood and spirit”–while in others it is necessary to say “my body and I,” or, for example, “my body has become loose” or “I swallow trouble.”

So the psalmist pleads with God: (1) Be gracious to me (see 4.1), and (2) heal me. The Hebrew verb for heal in verse 2b is better translated as “restore (me) to health,” “cure (me).” In some languages there are several verbs meaning “heal,” depending on the part of the body which is affected. In such cases one must try to employ a generic term or say, as in Good News Translation, “make me strong” or, since the meaning is to restore one to health, “make me healthy again.”

Since verse 3a goes so closely with the last part of verse 2b, Good News Translation, New English Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, and others join it directly to verse 2 instead of making it a separate sentence, as Revised Standard Version does. That is, line a of verse 3 should be translated as if it were line c of verse 2. Here the image of being exhausted is extended from the bones to the nefesh, the soul, but the psalmist has reversed the word order in the Hebrew to provide still greater extension of the image of exhaustion.

In a burst of anguish the psalmist cries how long, that is, how long will Yahweh wait before answering his prayer for healing? This indicates that often he had asked God to heal him, but his prayers had not been answered. How long should not be translated as a demand for a specific time reply, for the intent of the statement is to complain that the delay has been too long. In some languages this expression is best stated as a negative command, “Do not delay long, LORD” or “Do not wait too long, LORD.”

Good News Translation makes a complete sentence of verse 3b by supplying a verb; but instead of “to help,” it may be better to use the specific verb “to heal.”

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Reyburn, William D. A Handbook on the Book of Psalms. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1991. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .