August 24, 2020

A Tale of Two Multitudes

Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild animals; do not forget the life of your poor forever.
▫︎ Ps 74:19
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The Hebrew of Psalm 74:19 is probably beyond my ability to translate it. The word חַיַּת (it sounds sort of like the English word heat, but pronounce the h gutterally) occurs twice in this verse, and is interpreted to mean two very different things. So it's basically an oxymoron:
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Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the חַיַּת, do not forever forget the חַיַּת of your poor.▫︎
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So. There appear to be three meanings to the word חַיַּת: life, multitude, and beast. and the NRSV (above) has ignored the possibility of multitude in both clauses. But here's an instance where I think the Authorized (King James) Version actually gets it right—or at least right-er than my favorite modern translation:  
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O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.
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Notice that it allows the basic meaning of the word to stay the same: a large group. But it's in essence a tale of two multitudes: There's the group that preys on the vulnerable, and there's another group that consists of the vulnerable. The KJV takes liberties by adding "of the wicked" here, but the multitude's wickedness in the Hebrew is only implied. Apparently an unmodified חַיַּת is assumed to be dangerous. And if it's a חַיַּת of God's people, it must be specified ("of thy poor" is indeed found in the Hebrew).And so I am given a choice here of which multitude I want to belong to: the raw multitude, not identifying with God, or the one that is defined as being those whose only portion is God. 

It's not as clear cut as it seems, for throughout the history of religion, there have been those who prey upon the vulnerable in God's Name—and those who in the name of their god attack or lay siege to those whose beliefs differ from theirs. Even now in the United States, there are those who use God's Name for their own ends, causing the suffering of many others. The choice of which multitude I want to belong to, therefore, is just as real for me as it was in David's day, or in Jesus' Jerusalem where competing crowds shouted Hosanna! on the one hand and Crucify! on the other. 
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When the saints go marching in, Lord, O how I'd love to be in that number, and not in the number of those who reviled and opposed them. In Jesus' Name, I pray as he taught me: Our Father...


1 comment:

  1. Our view of the actions of others is influenced by our personal beliefs.

    ReplyDelete