acrostic in Psalm 111

The Hebrew text of Psalms 9/10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, and 145 uses acrostics, a literary form in which each verse is started with one of the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. According to Brenda Boerger (in Open Theology 2016, p. 179ff. ) there are three different reasons for acrostics in the Hebrew text: “for ease of memorization,” the representation “of the full breadth and depth of a topic, all the way from aleph to taw (tav),” and the perception of “the acrostic form as aesthetically attractive.” (p. 191)

While most translations mention the existence of an acrostic in a note or a comment, few implement it in their translation. The Natügu translation is one such exception. Boerger (see above) cites a strong tradition in singing the psalms and the fact that Natügu, like Hebrew, also has 22 possible initial letters as motivating factors to maintain the acrostics in that language.

Click or tap here for the complete psalm in Natügu

1 Awi Yawe! Glqpxku Yawe!
Bilvzx nide mz nabznge atwrnrngr, mz nzyrlwr-lxblr-krgr badr leplz nedeng.
2 Clvele nrlc x da kcng tqwz-ngrde, tqaletileng nzmyalzng.
Delc, leplz amrlx na-aotingr drtwrdr da lcng mz nzabrtzlvz-krdrleng.
3 Eu, da lcng amrlx nzaelwapx-ngrdr zmrlue x zmatq rde.
Glqpxku nztubq-krde kc tqvzpe tqvzpe.
4 Ipqle nigu mz zmrlz ngrde kxmyalz x ycngr drtwrde nigu.
Jzsle nigu x nayc zvz mz drtwrgu rkx ngrdeng.
5 Kabzle dakxnzng mz leplz kcng tzamrluelr nide.
Lolvz-amqngile mz drtwrde da kx esalz-ngrbzle badr.
6 Mz nzaprc-krbzle drtc’ ngr lr mrkzbleng mz doa nedeng,
Nide kc tqaelwapx-ngrbzle zmatq rde badr.
7 Okatrle nidr mz nzaclve-krdeng kxtubq.
Prlxpx-zvzle da angidr x nzrsakrlrngr.
8 Rkapx zvz natq kx rsakrlrngr.
Sa na-atutrleng murde nqmq krde mrlz x tubq.
9-10 Takitrde nzangio-krgu drtqde kxtr mz nzamrluengr murde
Vz-nqblq-zvzle nzesalz-krde x
Witi nelzde nzarlapx-krde leplz nedeng.
X aelwapx-ngrgu nzyrplapx-krgu mz nzamrlue-krgu nide.
Yawe kabzle nzrkrlz-angidrngr mz krkcng tzyrlq-angidrlr natqde.
Zbq kalvz nzrglqpxngr nide navz zvz x tqvzpe, tqvzpe.

© 2008, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Danish Bibelen på Hverdagsdansk (publ. 1985, rev. 2015 et al.) translated Psalm 111 into an acrostic. Iver Larsen who worked in this translation explained (in Roelie Van der Spuy in Old Testament Essays 2008, p. 513ff. ) the choice of letters: “We don’t use c, q, w, x and z. On the other hand we do use the extra Danish vowel symbols æ, ø and å, and the y is a vowel, not a consonant. Since Danish has more than 22 letters, we cannot use all the letters, so among those last ones (æ, ø, å) I chose what fits best.”

Click or tap here for the complete psalm in Danish with its English translation

1. Af hele mit hjerte vil jeg takke Herren,

[From all of my heart I will thank the Lord]

berømme ham midt i de gudfrygtiges forsamling.

[extol him in the midst of the assembly of the God-fearing.[

2. De ting, han gør, er vidunderlige,

[The things he does are wonderful,[

enhver, der oplever dem, må juble og glæde sig.

[all who experience them rejoice and are happy.]

3. Fantastiske er alle hans undere,

[All his wonders are fantastic,]

glem ikke hans uendelig godhed.

[never forget his unending goodness.]

4. Herren er nådig og barmhjertig,

[The Lord is compassionate and merciful]

ingen må glemme hans velgerninger.

[no one should ever forget his good deeds.]

5. Jeg ved, at han altid sørger for sit folk.

[I know that he always provides for his people,]

Kan han nogensinde glemme sin pagt med dem?

[Could he ever forget his covenant with them?]

6. Landet, som tilhørte de fremmede, gav han til sit eget folk,

[The land that belonged to foreigners he gave to his own people,]

med magt drev han de andre væk for øjnene af sine udvalgte.

[he forced them away before the eyes of his chosen ones.]

7. Når han handler, gør han altid det rigtige,

[When he acts, he always does what is right,]

ordene fra ham kan man stole på.

[his words are trustworthy.]

8. Pas på, at I trofast adlyder hans bud,

[Be careful to faithfully obey his commands,]

retsindighed har evighedsværdi.

[uprightness/justice is of eternal value.]

9. Sit folk har han sat i frihed,

[He has given his people their freedom,]

til evig tid varer hans pagt med dem.

[his covenant with them will last forever.]

Underfuld og hellig er Herren.

[Wonderful and holy is the Lord.]

10. Visdom udspringer af ærefrygt for Gud.

[Wisdom results from respectfully honoring God.]

Ypperlig er den indsigt, man får ved at adlyde ham.

[The insight you get from obeying him is superb.]

Æren er hans for evigt!

[He is to be honored forever!]

In the Zürich German dialect (Züritüütsch) of Swiss German, the Psalms were translated while maintaining the acrostic by Josua Boesch (publ. 2009 ).

Click or tap here for the complete psalm in Zürich German

1 Halleluja! ER isch is mee wèrt als ales.
Au iich wil IMM tanke vo ganzem hèrze,
Bi siine friind i siinere gmäind.
2 Chumm lueg, was èr ales ttaa hät für öis.
Die, wo s ggluschtet, psined sich drüber.
3 ER hat ales herrlich und schöön gmacht.
Für eewig bliibt siini grächtigkäit fescht.
4 Gaar nie wil iich sini wunder vergässe.
Häsch ghöört, ER isch barmhèrzig und güetig.
5 I siinere hand isch z ässe fur d fründ.
Käine chunnt z chuurz, èr haltet s verschpräche.
6 Lueg, was er mit chraft fur siis volk tuet,
Mit welere liebi èr ine s land gitt.
7 Nüüt isch nöd zueverlèèssig und rächt vo dèm, won er gmacht hät.
Ooni siis soorge hett ales kä sinn.
8 Probier nöd z flicken a siineren oornihg, suscht hebt si nöd eewig.
Rue hetsch au nümen und ales gieng schieff.
9 Siim volk hät èr emaal d freihäit ggèè.
Tänk doch an bund, won èr mit em gschlosse.
Uurhäilig isch IMM sini nööchi bi öis.
10 Vo aafang aa hämer nur INN als mitti vo öisere wiishäit.
Wèr siich dernaa richtet, hät s imer guet.
Zum schluss wämer inn rüeme imer und eewig, ER isch is mee wèrt als ales.

The English Bible translation by Ronald Knox (publ. 1950) maintains most Hebrew acrostics (even though Knox’s translation itself is based on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew). Due to the higher number of letters in the English alphabet, it skips the letters J, Q, X, and Z.

1 All my heart goes out to the Lord in praise, Before the assembly where the just are gathered.
2 Chant we the Lord’s wondrous doings, delight and study of all who love him.
3 Ever his deeds are high and glorious, faithful he abides to all eternity.
4 Great deeds, that he keeps still in remembrance!
5 He, the Lord, is kind and merciful. In abundance he fed the men who feared him, keeping his covenant for ever.
6 Lordly the power he shewed his people,
7 making the lands of the heathen their possession. No act but shews him just and faithful; of his decrees there is no relenting.
8 Perpetual time shall leave them changeless; right and truth are their foundation.
9 So he has brought our race deliverance; to all eternity stands his covenant. Unutterable is his name and worshipful;
10 vain without his fear is learning. Wise evermore are you who follow it; yours the prize that lasts for ever. (Source )

This blog post mentions several English translation of Psalm 111 with an acrostic that were not published in official Bible translations. The above-quoted Van der Spuy also has his own Afrikaans translation with an acrostic (quoted in Old Testament Essays 2008, p. 513ff. ).