acrostic in Psalm 37

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

1-4 Abrtzlvz nzwztr-krbzme mz Yawe,
X sa nakabzle da kcng tqpq mz nabzm.
Ale da kxmrlz x abrtrpz drtwrm bade,
Murde namnc-zpwxq mz drtc’ kc tqpile kx nakabzle bamu.
Bzkq witibz nelzm nzmnckr kxdrka’-ngrng,
Murde mzli trnaboiu x sc tzbzpeng.
Bzkq kcmnz-ngrbzme nzalengr da kcng tzalelr,
Murde nzlu-krdr sa namrbc nzapulr nabr kxglr mz mzli r nepi.
5-7 Clveti-lzbq, x aenzli-lrpi mz nzabrtr-krbzme drtwrm mz Yawe.
Bzkq nabzm talvzo mz nzrmc-krm leplz kxnzrngiscng nzvz-nqblq-krdr nqmq krdr kxtrka.
Da kx na-aleq, mnc-xgle txpwz Yawe,
X abrtrpz drtwrm bade, murde sa naokatrle nim.
Delc sa na-aelwapx-ngrbzle nzopxkr nztubq-krm,
Mz nzapu-krde nilz r nepi kc tqvz-esz’ngr mzli kc bea.
8-11 Eu, bzkq drtwrm ngya x nabzm talvzo
Murde da lcng li ma tzrkatrpzng bam drtwr kxtrka.
Eu, murde kxnzabrtrpzlr drtwrdr mz Yawe sa nangi nyzdr drtc’ kc tqpile nakabzle badr,
A’ kxdrka’-ngrng sa namaszlrtxpx-ngrng.
Glqpx Yawe kx mzli trnaboipeu x kxdrka’-ngrng sc tzmrbrpeng.
Kxmule-esz’ rtangrtiq nidr a’ trpengr nzmc-krmleng.
Gct rlr-ngrbzle drtc’ nyzde mz kxnzavzo-lzbqng.
X sa na-abrtzng mz nzmnc-zpwx-krdr elr.
12-15 Ili! Kxnztubqng x kxtrnzrngiscung na-aclvetio-lzbqng
Murde kxdrka’-ngrng nzglalzpelr toki r vea x popz’ scdr.
Ili! A’ kxdrka’-ngrng na-aclvetio-lzbq-kzng murde toki r vea scdr sa nanibq-moule nidr,
X Yawe sa naplameitibzle popz’ scdr.
Jzs Yawe krkcng tzryrlqng drtwr kx na-atrkati-ngrdr kxnztubqng
X nzmadqti-zvzbzlr nqngidr badr.
Jzsle nidr mz nzodati-krde nidr,
X yrpalelvz-zvzle nidr murde trpnzngr nzxplr-krdr.
16-22 Kxetu Yawe aclve-zvzle kxnzvz-nqblqlr nide,
X nikeng kabzle badr nangisc-alopedr.
Kabzle badr dakxnzng kxkqlu mz mzli r dzbi,
X okatrle nidr mzli kx prtzngr da.
Lalztqmamu! Murde kxdrka’-ngrng sa nabzng, mz nzapu-krdr nrpq da kc tqplclqom
X enqmi r Yawe lcng sa nangiliang na-apulr zsikapu.
Mclr ncblo kxtubq, kxmule-esz’ kxpipzne,
Myaszpxle da kxkqlu kxngisc ncblo kxdrka’ngr.
Murde Yawe sa nakatxpxbzle zmatq ngrdr kxdrka’-ngrng,
A’ sa naokatrle kxnztubqng.
Ncblo kxdrka’-ngrng nzbi-txpwzlr nzrlxngr, x trnzkrlzlru nzrka-niwzlrngr.
A’ kxnzmrlzng yc mz drtwrdr nzrka-niwzlr-krdr vzmi kxnzamnzo-mzleu.
Ncblo kcng tqamrlzng Yawe sa nangi nyzdr drtc’ kc tqpile nakabzle badr.
A’ leplz kcng tqpilzleng sa nabzng.
23-26 Oblamzngeng, bztipex nzmncngr, x ninge ka tqnginipenge lrtzlvz.
X mcx kx nqmq kr ncblo kxtubq nide sele.
Okatr-zvzle leplz mz nzrlr-nrbalq-krde dztudeng, x doa nedeng ngi da kxmrlz kx kabz Gct bade.
Yawe okatr-zvzle nide x doa nedeng trnzyrnitrpwzung nadr dakxnzng.
Pq mz drtwr Yawe nzaelwa-krbzle mz leplz lrpzki kx nao-zlilr,
X mailz-zvzle krkcng tzabrtz-ngrdr nqmq krde.
Pipxle kx kxmule-esz’ nanycdr miglqpx, a’ trnztaoung,
Murde sc tqlolvz-amqngileng.
27-29 Rtxtiamu nibrmu da kxtrka, x aleamu da kxmrlz,
Murde neidu nemung namnc-along mz drtc’ kc tqpi Yawe nakabzle bamu.
Rpi Yawe kx mrlz bade da kxtubq,
X okatr-zvzle kxnzabrtrpzlr drtwrdr bade.
Sa naokatr-zvzle nidr,
A’ doa ne kxdrka’-ngrng sa nabzng.
Sa nangi nyz leplz kxnzmrlzng drtc’ kc tqpi Yawe nakabzle badr,
X sa namnc-alopeng elr.
30-33 Takitrde kx ncblo kxmrlz dekc tqvzkipxm natq ngr nzyrplapxngr,
X nikeng pitileng tubq.
Takitr-kzde nzkrlz-angidr-krde Lou amrlx sc Gct rde,
X nzlolvz-amqngi-zvz-krdeleng.
Vz zvz kxdrka’-ngrng nzaukzti-krdr leplz kxnzmrlzng,
Murde nanibqlrng.
Vz zvz Yawe nzkapx-krmle ncblo kxmrlz mz mq enqmi rdeng,
X mzli kc natwz-ngrdr nide mz kot, trnzaovxiolru nide.
34-36 Wz zvz mz nzabrtr-krbzmu drtwrmu bade,
Murde sa nangi nyzmu drtc’ kc tqpile nakabzle bamu mz nzamatq-krde nimu.
X sa namcamu nzmaneutipx-krde kxdrka’-ngrng.
Xlrmamu natqnge. Mcx kzdq ncblo kxdrka’ngr kxtrka-esz’ngr, x atrkati-zvzle leplz.
Xplr-esz’ngr x obqszo-ngrde leplz amrlx.
X kxmule-esz’ rtangrtix nide, a’ trmcpewxu, murde mrbrpe.
37-40 Yrlq angidr mz drtwrm ncblo kxmrlz kxtubq, murde mnc mz nrwx,
X doa kxnzmika mz neidu lrde nzkqlu-zlwzng.
Yrpalelvzx kxdrka’-ngrng murde sa nabzting,
X doa lr neidu lrdr sa nayrkrtxong.
Zvz Yawe na-arlapxle kxnztubqng.
Murde nide me nzrlakitrlr mz mzli r nzkxpu-krdr.
Zvz Yawe na-arlapxbzle nidr mz mq kxdrka’-ngrng,
Murde nzbrti drtwrdr nide nzokatr-krde nidr.

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

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 letter P, Q, X, Y, and Z.

1 (Of David.) Art thou impatient, friend, when the wicked thrive; dost thou envy the lot of evil-doers?
2 they will soon fade like the grass, like the green leaf wither away.
3 Be content to trust in the Lord and do good; live on thy land, and take thy ease,
4 all thy longing fixed in the Lord; so he will give thee what thy heart desires.
5 Commit thy life to the Lord, and trust in him; he will prosper thee,
6 making thy honesty clear as the day, the justice of thy cause bright as the sun at noon.
7 Dumb and patient, to the Lord’s mercy look thou, never fretting over the man that has his own way, and thrives by villainy.
8 End thy complaints, forgo displeasure, do not fret thyself into an evil mood;
9 the evil-minded will be dispossessed, and patient souls, that wait for the Lord, succeed them.
10 Forbear yet a little, and the sinner will be seen no more; thou wilt search in vain to find him,
11 while patient souls are the land’s heirs, enjoying great peace.
12 Gnashing his teeth with envy, the wrong-doer plots against the innocent,
13 and cannot see his own turn coming; but the Lord sees it, and laughs at his malice.
14 How they draw the sword, how they bend the bow, these sinners, to bring ruin on helpless poverty, to murder the upright;
15 swords that will pierce their own hearts, bows that will break in pieces!
16 Innocence, ill endowed, has the better of the wicked in their abundance;
17 soon fails the strength of their arms, and still the Lord has the just in his keeping.
18 Jealously the Lord watches over the lives of the guiltless, they will hold their lands for ever,
19 undismayed by adversity, in time of famine well content.
20 Knavery will yet come to an end; like the spring’s finery they will die, the Lord’s enemies, vanish away like smoke.
21 Let the sinner borrow, and never repay, still the good man will be a generous giver;✻
22 win the Lord’s blessing, and the land is thine, his ban is death.
23 Man’s feet stand firm, if the Lord is with him to prosper his journey;
24 he may stumble but never fall, with the Lord’s hand in his.
25 Now youth is past, and I have grown old; yet never did I see the good man forsaken, or his children begging their bread;
26 still he lends without stint, and men call down blessings on his posterity.
27 Offend no more, rather do good, and be at rest continually;
28 the Lord is ever just, and will not abandon his faithful servants. Perish the sinner, forgotten be the name of the evil-doer,
29 but these will hold their land, and live on it always at rest.
30 Right reason is on the good man’s lips, well weighed are all his counsels;
31 his steps never falter, because the law of God rules in his heart.
32 Sinners lie in wait, plotting against the life of the innocent;
33 but the Lord will never leave him in their power, never find him guilty when he is arraigned.
34 Trust the Lord, and follow the path he has chosen; so he will set thee up in possession of thy land, and thou wilt live to see the wicked come to ruin.
35 Until yesterday, I saw the evil-doer throned high as the branching cedars;
36 then, when I passed by, he was there no longer, and I looked in vain to find him.
37 Virtuous men and innocent mark thou well; he that lives peaceably will leave a race behind him,
38 while sinners are rooted out every one, and their graceless names forgotten.
39 When affliction comes, the Lord is the refuge and defence of the innocent;
40 the Lord will aid and deliver them, rescue and preserve them from the power of wickedness, because they put their trust in him. (Source )