Psalm 27:13 ‘I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah.’
This Week’s Focus Passage: Psalm 27:13
‘I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah.’
A Methodist theologian, preacher, and commentator, has left on record his thoughts upon this verse of David, the thirteenth of his twenty-seventh psalm, when he wrote, very interestingly:
‘“I had fainted.” The words in italics are supplied by our translators; but, far from being necessary, they injure the sense. Throw out the words I had fainted, and leave a break after the verse, and the elegant figure of the Psalmist will be preserved: “Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”—what! what, alas! should have become of me!’ Yea, ‘unless I had believed, what! what, alas! should have become of me!’ Surely, we would, each and every one of us, confess that the resultant would be incredibly far more serious and devastating than mere ‘fainting.’
While this instance of the word ‘fainted’ is in italics, evidencing that it has been placed there by the translators to help, or enable, the reader to understand what he is reading. It is not in every case capable of proof that such italicized ‘helps’ actually do help. It is understandable that in the case of transmitting from one language to another language, there will always be words from one that have no corresponding words in the other. But are ‘italics’ an acceptable remedy? Is it not ‘adding to the word of God?
There are several cases of the use of the word, ‘fainted,’ as translated from the Hebrew into English. The context, in the majority of these cases, does not suit our present situation, but there are a few that may prove helpful. The word ‘fainted’ is to be found only twice in the Psalms; here in psalm 27, in italics, and also in psalm 107:5. Consider that particular usage in the context of verses 4 through 6. These refer to those spoken of in verses 1 through 3, which speak of them as ‘the redeemed.’
O give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good; For his lovingkindness endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of Jehovah say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the adversary, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.vs.1-3.
They wandered in the wilderness in a desert way; they found no city of habitation. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto Jehovah in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
In the case of those of whom the psalmist is speaking here in this psalm; the words of Charles Spurgeon upon the 107th psalm, are pertinent to our present consideration, and we simply cannot forbear embracing their inclusion here; C. H. S. wrote:
“This is a choice song for the redeemed of the Lord (verse 2). Although it celebrates providential deliverances, and therefore may be sung by any man whose life has been preserved in time of danger; yet, under cover of this, it mainly magnifies the Lord for spiritual blessings, of which temporal favors are but types and shadows. The theme is thanksgiving, and the motives for it.
The psalmist commences by dedicating his poem to the redeemed who have been gathered from captivity. He then likens their history to that of travelers lost in the desert; to that of prisoners in iron bondage; to that of sick men; and to that of mariners tossed with tempest.” ‘Mariners tossed with tempest causes us to reflect on the plight of Jonah, where we, indeed, discover another of the few uses of ‘fainted.’ In Jonah 2:7, we may read Jonah’s words from the belly of the great fish, as he cried;
When my soul fainted within me, I remembered Jehovah; and my prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple.
Now this citation, from the book of Jonah, has the distinct advantage of its use of the word, fainted, being from the original, and thus not necessitating the use of italics.
It is, sincerely, amazing to discover how many English versions, or translations there are that have not included the use of, I had fainted, or some variant of the same idea. Bible Gateway, that helpful website, lists about fifty-five different English versions, and, surprisingly, more than forty of those listed do not, yes, we said, do not employ that ‘artifice’ of the italicized, I had fainted, or, I would have lost heart (NKJ), or, I would have despaired (NASB1995; whatever that is), More than forty began, in one way or another, coming right out of the gate with, such as; ‘I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.’ (RSV). And one of these versions seems to be, possibly, sympathetic to the Methodist preacher mentioned at the outset. They have rendered the verse in the following manner; [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! The Amplified Version, Classic Edition, making use of brackets rather than italics. But is not, ‘What, what would have become of me’ much more likely to contain the sentiment of the original to a greater degree than the italicized I had fainted? Can we not readily associate our own experiences with such an expression? Was there not a day in which we may well have uttered such a statement as ‘what would have become of me had I not believed?’ We may not be compelled to respond, I would have fainted, or, I would have despaired, or, I would have lost heart; but much more likely, our response would be, I would be entirely lost. If I had never received the gift of faith from God, I would be eternally separated from Him. I would have been cast into the outer darkness, where there is ‘the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.’ We would be worshippers of the beast and his image; we would receive a mark on our forehead; we would be given to drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger. And we would then, instead, be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, the Lamb of God that, if I had believed, if His blood had purchased for me the precious gift of faith, enabling me to believe, I would rather be enfolded in His arms for ever and ever. But if I had not believed; if I had not believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living; in the land of the living with Him for ever and ever. But, lo, I do believe that I will see the goodness of Jehovah; of Jehovah-Jesus, in the land of the living; for He is the Goodness of Jehovah incarnate. What if, what if, He has died for me? Then, assuredly, I will see Him in the land of the living. He, who cannot lie, has told me, Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
What! what, alas! should have become of me? were it not for the gift of faith? Were it not for the Blood of the Lamb of God? Were it not for the love of God from before the foundation of the world? why are we not much more thankful for the gift of repentance; the gift of forgiveness granted to that God-given repentance? Why are we not more thankful for these mercies of our loving God; through the merit of His darling Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; our bleeding Sacrifice; and that regenerating grace applied by the love of God to our hearts by God the Holy Spirit?
David Farmer, elder
Fellowship Bible Church
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