Psalm 151: A New Translation

A few years ago, when I taught a youth Sunday School class, I asked them to read Psalm 151 in their bibles for next Sunday. Surprisingly, over half of them did. Of course, Psalm 151 is not printed in the King James Version….

Psalm 151 is found in the Eastern Orthodox bibles because of it’s inclusion in the Septuagint. It is also found in some texts of the Peshitta. After the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a Hebrew text of the Psalm was found in 11QPs(a) (named also 11Q5).

In an effort to politely suggest (I figure this is the first step before I lead a massive protest at Carol Stream, Illinois) to Tyndale an ecumenical version, I would include my translation of Psalm 151 in the dynamic equivalence style of the NLT.

Rahlf’s LXXNew Eng. Trans. LXX (NETS)NRSV
1 οὗτος ὁ ψαλμὸς ἰδιόγραφος εἰς Δαυιδ καὶ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ ὅτε ἐμονομάχησεν τῷ Γολιαδ μικρὸς ἤμην ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου καὶ νεώτερος ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ πατρός μου ἐποίμαινον τὰ πρόβατα τοῦ πατρός μου

2 αἱ χεῖρές μου ἐποίησαν ὄργανον οἱ δάκτυλοί μου ἥρμοσαν ψαλτήριον

3 καὶ τίς ἀναγγελεῖ τῷ κυρίῳ μου αὐτὸς κύριος αὐτὸς εἰσακούει

4 αὐτὸς ἐξαπέστειλεν τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἦρέν με ἐκ τῶν προβάτων τοῦ πατρός μου καὶ ἔχρισέν με ἐν τῷ ἐλαίῳ τῆς χρίσεως αὐτοῦ

5 οἱ ἀδελφοί μου καλοὶ καὶ μεγάλοι καὶ οὐκ εὐδόκησεν ἐν αὐτοῖς κύριος

6 ἐξῆλθον εἰς συνάντησιν τῷ ἀλλοφύλῳ καὶ ἐπικατηράσατό με ἐν τοῖς εἰδώλοις αὐτοῦ

7 ἐγὼ δὲ σπασάμενος τὴν παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ μάχαιραν ἀπεκεφάλισα αὐτὸν καὶ ἦρα ὄνειδος ἐξ υἱῶν Ισραηλ

1 This Psalm is autographical.
Regarding Dauid and outside the number.

I was small among my brothers and the youngest in the house of my father; I would shepherd the sheep of my father.

2 My hands made an instrument;
my fingers tuned a harp.

3 And who will report to my lord?
The Lord himself, it is he who listens.

4 It was he who sent his messenger and took me from the sheep of my father and anointed me with the oil of his anointing.

5 My brothers were handsome and tall, and the Lord did not take delight in them.

6 I went out to meet the allophyle,
and he cursed me by his idols.

7 But I, having drawn the dagger from him, I beheaded him and removed reproach from Israel’s sons.

1 I was small among my brothers, and the youngest in my father’s house; I tended my father’s sheep.

2 My hands made a harp; my fingers fashioned a lyre.

3 And who will tell my Lord? The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

4 It was he who sent his messenger and took me from my father’s sheep, and anointed me with his anointing oil.

5 My brothers were handsome and tall, but the Lord was not pleased with them.

6 I went out to meet the Philistine, and he cursed me by his idols.

7 But I drew his own sword; I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

Here, then, is mine:

1 I was a runt, the youngest brother in my father’s house, but I would guard his sheep.
2 My hands made music, and my fingers tuned a harp
3 Who will tell the Lord? The Lord Himself hears
4 It was he who sent his messenger and took me from my father’s sheep, anointing me with his oil.
5 My brothers where great men, tall and handsome, but they did not please the Lord.
6 So I went out to meet the foreigner, and he cursed me by his gods
7 But I had a dagger in hand, drew it and beheaded him, removing the reproach from the children of Israel.

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15 Replies to “Psalm 151: A New Translation”

  1. I always thought because I was taught David had only a sling and stone as a physical weapon. Now you’re saying “but I had a dagger in hand,… (This is in past tense). If David took Goliath’s weapon, your version does not convey this information.

    1. Martin, Psalm 151 is not merely my version.

      I will, however, look at the translation again. I was trying to be rhythmic and past tense was not implied.

  2. David did not have a dagger with him. He took the Philistine’s own sword (after knocking him unconscious with the slingshot), and then he cut off his head with it. The wicked loses his head through his own sword. You kill by the sword, you die by the sword, by your own sword — you reap what you sow. David just enacted that principle, and he explains it, in this beautiful Psalm. I would ask of you not to twist his meaning. All the best and God bless.

  3. «7 But I had a dagger in hand». This is your translation, yet David did not have any dagger with him. He used the Philistine’s own sword. So, it is an erroneous translations. Yet, there is also a deeper meaning to this, that which I explained in my earlier comment. David is enacting the general principle, the Law defined by God, that the sinner reaps what he sows; he perishes by the evil devices perpetrates on others; he loses his head by his own sword. The verse should be something in the line of «I took the Philistine’s own sword, and with it, I cut off his head». God bless.

      1. There is no “NT thought”. There is the purity and integrity in intellectual truth that accompanies the Spirit of God. You can not pigeonhole the Spirit in a series of books. There is no general principle of the Law that is enunciated in the Gospels and Letters that is not also declared in the Torah and the Prophets. That is why that particular general principle of reality is enunciated time and again in those books, e.g. in David’s Psalms.

        For instance, Psalm 7, «16 He hath digged a pit, and hollowed it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. 17 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violence shall come down upon his own pate. 18 I will give thanks unto the LORD according to His righteousness; and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High»

        For constant, explicit enunciations of the principle, try reading Proverbs, the Book of Enoch, or the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.

        On the translation, do the original words talk about a dagger belonging to David? I admit I have not read them, nor am I understood in ancient languages, but I would find it odd if they did. First, because it would be in contradiction with the principle that God is demonstrating through this event. Second, because a mention to “a dagger of David” would be in direct contradiction with I Samuel, where it states David does unsheat Goliath’s own sword to cut his head off. Third, because all other translations I read do agree with I Samuel, i.e. David talks of using the Philistine’s own sword to behead him.
        God bless.

  4. “But after I uncovered his own sword,
    I cut off his head.” – from the Syriac

    “But I took his own sword out of its sheath
    and cut off his head.” – from the Greek (from

    Joel – there are things I enjoy about your translation (“I was a runt”) – but you positively mistranslate / misrepresent the beginning of verse 7, as Miguel Jesus has pointed out. Your rendering has it that David uses his own dagger – “I had a dagger in hand” – rather than the one taken from his opponent. BTW, the word could translate as dagger or sword, the historical context verifies it was a sword.

    On another topic – your Sunday School assignment was brilliant – and revealing. I had a Sunday School teacher once who asked us to read and be prepared to discuss the second chapter of Philemon. Next Sunday, he asked how many had read Philemon chapter 2, and over half the class raised their hands. I said, “I could only find one chapter in the letter.” He rewarded me with a Hershey’s chocolate bar.

    -Kim McCoy

  5. 7 But I had a dagger in hand, drew it and beheaded him, removing the reproach from the children of Israel.

    i read over the comments and would like to add my own, i do not read either Greek nor Hebrew so i must take any translation of these languages at face value. Joels translation neither states nor implies who the dagger belongs to. After David strikes down Goliath with the sling shot, he does indeed have a dagger [or sword] in hand and beheads Goliath. We know the implement belongs to Goliath. However if you were reading it for the first time, you could well ask, whose dagger was in Davids hand? It is not Joels writing that has confused you, it is that you have added to his translation your erroneous opinion the dagger is Davids, which Joel has not stated. As in many cases a sentence can be read in more than one way depending on how you interpret the words, if you add ideas that are not there, as well as where you place the emphasis can change the meaning of the sentence.
    1 Goliaths dagger
    7 But I had Goliaths dagger in hand, drew it and beheaded him, removing the reproach from the children of Israel.
    2 Davids dagger
    7 But I had my dagger in hand, drew it and beheaded him, removing the reproach from the children of Israel.
    3 Unknown ownership
    7 But I had a dagger in hand, drew it and beheaded him, removing the reproach from the children of Israel.
    It is very late and i am tired so i hope i have expressed myself clearly, otherwise i may become the target of some back lash. Even so, Joel i do like your translation

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