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A Hebrew Reconstruction of Psalms 152 and 153, edited, vocalized, cantillated, and translated into English by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer

Unlike Psalms 151, 154, and 155, the apocryphal psalms 152 and 153 were not found in the Judean Desert scrolls, but only in the Syriac psalter. It is thus somewhat uncertain if they were actually ever written in Hebrew or in Aramaic. But their language and content is in keeping with other late apocryphal psalms, so it seems very possible that they were of Hebrew origin. These reconstructed Hebrew texts are largely based on the work of Professor Emeritus Herrie (H. F.) van Rooy,[1] Find, Herrie F van Rooy (Potchefstroom University), “The Textual Traditions and Origin of the Syriac Apocryphal Psalm 152” in Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 21/2 (1995), pp. 93-104, and “The origin of the Syriac apocryphal Psalm 153,” in Journal for Semitics, vol. 6/2 (1994), pp. 192-200.  an expert in the Syriac psalter, also factoring in some input from the work of J. A. Sanders.[2] in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Psalms 152 and 153 are included together here because they are framed by the ascriptions as a pair — the former being David’s prayer before going against the wild beasts (see I Samuel 17:34-36), and the latter being David’s thanksgiving afterwards. Interestingly enough, although the passage in I Samuel refers to the animals as “lion and bear,” both of these psalms refer to “lion and wolf.” This is possibly as a result of the Aramaic translation process, since in Aramaic the the words for “bear” (דוֹב) and “wolf” (דֵיב) appear very similar. Psalms 152 shows close linguistic parallels to Psalms 22, while Psalms 153 directly quotes Psalms 117. These psalms were probably not included in the Masoretic psalter for one of the same reasons Psalms 151 wasn’t included — their blatantly autobiographical tone and direct references to David’s own life gives a sense of overcompensating pseudepigraphy about them. But as a taste of a part of ancient Judaism that would otherwise be lost, they are interesting in their own right.

Note: “The CAUSE” is used to translate the Divine Name YHVH, based on the philosophical idea of God as the Prime Mover and on the interpretation of the Name as a causative form of the copula – “causes to be.”

Reconstruction (Hebrew) Translation (English)

Psalms 152

נְא֣וּם לְדָוִ֗ד בְּ֭צֵאתוֹ אַחֲרֵ֣י הָאַרְיֵ֣ה וְהַזְּאֵ֑ב
אֲ֝שֶֽׁר־נָשָׂ֗א שֶׂ֥ה מֵהָעֵֽדֶר׃
An utterance of David when he went out after the lion and the wolf
that took a lamb from the flock.

אֵלִ֣י אֵ֭לִי בֹּ֣א לֶאֱיָלוּתִ֑י
עׇזְרֵ֤נִי וְהוֹשִׁעֵ֨נִי
וְהַצֵּ֣ל נַפְשִׁ֣י מִן־הַהֹרְגִֽים׃
My God, my God, come to my aid;
Help me and save me
And redeem my soul from the killers.

הֲאֵרֵ֣ד לִ֭שְׁאֹל בְּפִ֥י־אַרְיֵ֑ה
א֣וֹ הֲיִבְלַ֣ע הַזְּאֵ֖ב אֹתִּֽי׃
Should I go down to the underworld by lion’s mouth,
or should the wolf swallow me?

הַמְעֵט אׇרְבָּם לְצֹ֬אן אָבִ֗י
וַיִּֽשְׁבְּרוּ־שֶׂ֭ה מֵעֶדְר֑וֹ
כִּי־גַּ֣ם נַפְשִׁ֖י יְבַקְּשׁ֣וּ לְהַכְרִֽית׃
Is it not enough they ambush my father’s sheep,
that they took a lamb from its flock;
that also my life they want to cut off?

ח֨וּס ׀ יְהֹוָ֬ה עַל־בְּחִירֶ֗ךָ
וְהַצֵּל֘ חֲסִידֶ֢ךָ מִ֫שַּׁ֥חַת
וְיֵאָמֵ֣ן בִּ֭תְהִלָּתֶֽךָ כׇּל־עֵתוֹתָ֑יו
וִיפָאֵ֣ר שֵׁ֖ם גְּדֻלָּתֶֽךָ׃
Spare, CAUSE, Your chosen,
And redeem Your faithful from destruction;
that he may continue in Your praise all times,
and glorify Your great Name.

כִּ֬י הוֹשַׁעְתָּ֗הוּ מִיַּ֣ד אֲ֭רִי וּזְאֵ֥ב יִטְרָ֑ף
וְכִי־הִצַּ֣לְתָּ שְׁ֝בִיתִ֗י מִפִּ֥י חַיּֽוֹת׃
As You saved him from the hand of the lion and vicious wolf;
And as You redeemed my captivity from the mouths of beasts.

מַהֵ֤ר ׀ אֲדֹנָ֗י שְׁלַח֘ מִלְּפָנֶ֢יךָ מַ֫צִּ֥יל
וּ֭דְלֵנִי מִן־הַמְּצוּלָ֣ה הַפְּעוּרָֽה
הַחֲפֵצָ֣ה לְ֝הַסְגִּירֵ֗נִי בְּמַעֲמַקֶּֽיהָ׃
Quick, Lord, send from Your presence a redeemer,
and lift me from the gaping void
that desires to enclose me in its depths.

Psalms 153

נְא֗וּם לְ֫דָוִ֥ד בְּקַבָּלָת֨וֹ חֶ֬סֶד אֱלֹהִ֗ים
אֲשֶׁ֣ר הִ֭צִּילוֹ מֵהָאַרְיָ֣ה וְהַזְּאֵ֑ב
וְה֥וּא אֶ֝ת־שְׁנֵיהֶ֗ם הָרַ֥ג עַל־יָדָֽיו׃
An utterance of David when he recieved the grace of God
who redeemed him from the lion and the wolf,
and he killed both of them by his hand.

הַֽלְל֣וּ אֶת־יְ֭הֹוָה כׇּל־גּוֹיִ֑ם
שַׁ֝בְּח֗וּהוּ וּבָרְכ֥וּ שְׁמֽוֹ׃
Praise the CAUSE, all nations;
Laud Him and praise His Name.

כִּ֬י הוֹצִ֗יא נֶ֣פֶשׁ בְּ֭חִירוֹ מִיָּ֣ד־מָוֶ֑ת
וְהִצִּ֣יל חֲ֝סִיד֗וֹ מִשַּֽׁחַת׃
Who brought out His chosen’s soul from the hand of death;
And redeemed His faithful from destruction.

וּמִן־חֶבְלֵ֣י שְׁ֭אֹל פָּדַ֑נִי
וְהוֹצִיאַ֥נִי מִן־הַמְּצוּלָ֖ה אֵ֣ין חֵֽקֶר׃
And from the bonds of the underworld saved me,
And brought me out from the unfathomable void.

כִּ֬י בִמְעַ֗ט
בְּטֶ֘רֶם֘ יָֽצָא־יֶ֢שַׁע מִ֫לְּפָנָ֥יו
לִשְׁתֵּ֣י מְגָי֣וֹת הָיִיתִ֑י
מִשְּׁתֵּ֣י חַיּֽוֹת׃
For almost
Just before rescue came from His Face
Into two parts I would have been
From two beasts.

אַ֡ךְ ׀ שָׁלַ֬ח מַלְאָכ֗וֹ
וְסָגַ֥ר מִ֭מֶּֽנִּי פִּיּ֣וֹת פְּעוּרֽוֹת
וְהִצִּ֥יל חַיַּ֖י מִ֣שַּֽׁחַת׃
But He sent His messenger,
And closed for me the gaping mouths,
And saved my life from destruction.

נַפְשִׁ֨י ׀ תִּבְרָכֵ֗הוּ
וּ֭תְרוֹמְמֵֽהוּ עַ֣ל כׇּל־טוֹבָת֑וֹ
כִּ֨י סָמַ֣ךְ וִיסַמֵּ֣ךְ לִֽי׃
My soul will bless Him
And exult Him over all His good,
For He has supported and will support me.





1 Find, Herrie F van Rooy (Potchefstroom University), “The Textual Traditions and Origin of the Syriac Apocryphal Psalm 152” in Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 21/2 (1995), pp. 93-104, and “The origin of the Syriac apocryphal Psalm 153,” in Journal for Semitics, vol. 6/2 (1994), pp. 192-200.
2 in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

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