Psalm Six – Translation of the Song

6,1 For the Leader; with string-music; on the Sheminit. A Song by David.
6,2 ADONAI, do not rebuke me in Your indignation, do not chastise me in Your wrath.
6,3 Favour me, ADONAI, for I am wretched; heal me, ADONAI, for my bones shudder with terror.
6,4 And my soul shudders with utter terror; and You, ADONAI, until when?
6,5 Return, ADONAI, release my soul; deliver me for the sake of Your compassion.
6,6 For in death there is no mention of You; in Sheol who will praise You?
6,7 I weary in my groaning; every night I cause my bed to swim; I melt away my cradle with my tears.
6,8 My eye is shaded by anger; it is worn out by each of my tormentors.
6,9 Turn away from me, all you workers of wickedness; for ADONAI has heard the voice of my weeping.
6,10 ADONAI has heard my plea; ADONAI will take my prayer.
6,11 All my enemies will be shamed and shudder with terror; they will turn back, they will be shamed, in an instant.

Notes on translation, Psalm 6:

  1. 2: the literal translation of the Hebrew for God’s “indignation”, [אַפְּךָ], is of a nose, snorting. Impossible to translate this as such into English without arousing ridicule in the listener or reader or implying a blasphemy contrary to the Psalm’s point of view. The image of God’s breath, exhaled with such energy that it emits an aggressive sound, contrasts dramatically with the breath of God that Genesis describes as the force that created the first humans, Adam and Eve. Here the image is of aggression alone, but its contrast is indicated simply because the very first mention of God’s breath in the Tanach depicts creativity and beneficence. The contrast, implicit though it is, disallows the Hebrew word, [אַפְּךָ ], any suggestion of animality or irrationality in its description of God.


  1. 2: the image inherent in the Hebrew for God’s “wrath”, [בַּחֲמָתְךָ], is of extreme heat; the word shares a common root with the Hebrew for “sun”, [חַמָּה].


  1. 3: the Hebrew word for “bones”, [עֲצָמָי], can also be translated as “essence”. Bones are commonly described in English as shuddering; essence, an intangible, cannot shudder. Both words, however, denote the singer’s innermost self.


  1. 3: the Hebrew word for “shudder”, [נִבְהֲלָה], can also be translated as “panic” or “tremble with fear”; the connotation of the English verb is similar. The Hebrew can mean, as well, “hasten”, and, accordingly, transitions into the question, “You, Adonai, until when”; in the English, the singer’s yearning for God’s deliverance is revealed only when it is voiced explicitly in the question.


  1. 5: “deliver”, in Hebrew, [חַלְּצָה], denotes extraction, or releasing with effort, as though the singer is asking God to take his soul out of his body.


  1. 5: the Hebrew word for “compassion”, [חַסְדֶּךָ], implies action; in the Tanach it sometimes used as a synonym for or indicator of “covenant”.


  1. 6: the Hebrew word for “mention”, [זִכְרֶךָ], has the same root as the word for “memory”, [זִכָּרוֹן].


  1. 6: the Hebrew word for “praise”, [יוֹדֶה], can also be translated as “admit” or “thank”.


  1. 7: in the Tanach, the Hebrew word translated here as “bed”, [מִטָּתִי], is often a metaphor for “death”.


  1. 7: in the Tanach, the Hebrew word translated here as “swim”, [אַשְׂחֶה], also means “to pray” or “to bend” or “hunch over” in prayer.


  1. 8: in Hebrew, the word for “shaded”, [עָשְׁשָׁה], connotes the dimming of an oil lamp; indeed, it shares a common root with the word for “moth”, [עָשׁ].


  1. 8: the Hebrew for “anger” here, [כַּעַס], is a different word from “indignation” in v. 2.


  1. 8: the Hebrew word for “worn out” [עָתְקָה], has the same root as both the words “aged” and “detached”.


  1. 8: the Hebrew word for “tormentors”, [צוֹרְרָי], shares a common root with “narrow” (for a path) or “strait”(for water). That is, a description of, as well as a condemnation of, their lack of generosity of thought or breadth of feeling is inherent in the word itself.


  1. 11: the Hebrew for “turn back”, [יָשֻׁבוּ], is different from that for “turn away” in v. 9 [סוּרוּ]. The latter has the sense of “returning” that the former does not; the implication is that the singer’s enemies will return to their place of origin or to their original inefficacy.

These translations are by Rabbi Maccabi and Dr. Rosenberg. The translations are as close to the literal Hebrew as possible.
Click here to study “Literary analysis of Psalm 6”

King James Psalms 6 Translation:

[1] O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
[2] Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
[3] My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?
[4] Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.
[5] For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
[6] I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
[7] Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
[8] Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
[9] The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.
[10] Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.