Psalm Eleven – Translation of the Song

11,1 For the Leader. [A Song] by David.
In ADONAI I sheltered. How could you speak to my soul, “Wander, from your mountain, bird”?
11,2 For, behold, the wicked ones stand on the bow, preparing their arrow on the string, to shoot in the very darkness at the upright of heart.
11,3 For when the pillars are ruined, the righteous one what can he do?
11,4 ADONAI is in His holy sanctuary, ADONAI, in the heavens His throne, His eyes will perceive, His eyelids will discern, the children of Adam.
11,5 ADONAI will discern the righteous one, but the wicked one and the lover of violent acts His soul hates.
11,6  He will rain coals on the wicked ones; fire and sulphur and angry wind the allotted portion of their cup.
11,7 For righteous is ADONAI, righteous acts He loves; the upright will perceive His face.

Notes on Translation, Psalm 11:

11.1: the Hebrew for “sheltered”, חָסִיתִי, has the same root as “to have mercy on”, חָס.


11.1: the English translation, “from your mountain”, could also be, as correctly, “to your mountain”. “From”, however, seems more in accordance with the image of the mountain as the place of shelter the singer finds in God. He is being told to leave his place of shelter.


11.1: in Hebrew, “your mountain” is written as one word, rather than the usual two, as though the mountain is so much the possession of  –the shelter of—the singer that it has become part of him.


11.1: the Hebrew for “wander” is written in the plural, indicating its subject is plural, yet it is spoken in the singular.


11.2: “stand on” is the same word, in Hebrew, as “step”, יִדְרְכוּן. The archer, in order to bend the bow, used his feet to stretch its string, before placing the bow.


11.3: the Hebrew, translated here as “pillars”, could have also be translated as “foundations”. Both indicate supports, that which hold up a building or structure. “Pillars” is the translation used here, simply because “foundations” can be either divine or human creations, whereas “pillars” suggests the human, be it the pillars of faith or of a sanctuary. (See Commentary for elaboration.)


11.3: the verb “are ruined” is, in the Hebrew, יֵהָרֵסוּן, present progressive tense.


11.4: the Hebrew for “discern”, יִבְחֲנוּ, contains two letters within it, “het” followed by “nun”, that denote “favour”. That is, God looks upon the righteous with favour, in contrast to His abhorrence of the violent (see verse 5).


11.4: the English word “heaven” is always written in the plural in Hebrew, שָּׁמַיִם, as though to indicate its location is vast, without end.


11.4: “the children of Adam”, the first man, are all of Adam’s descendants; that is, the whole of humankind.


11.5: the Hebrew for “violence”, חָמָס, implies acts of violence (to destroy violently).


11.5: the Hebrew word for “hate” used here while combined with the soul, שָׂנְאָה נַפְשׁוֹ, implies an intensity; that is, the hatred is total, implacable.


11.6: “coals” is the usual translation of the Hebrew פַּחָמִים. The Hebrew’s meaning, however, is uncertain in that one letter, “mem”, is missing from its spelling here.


11.6: “fire” can be here, in the Hebrew, either a noun or an adjective, אֵשׁ. That is, it could describe the coals (fiery coals), or, as translated here, correspond, as a noun, to the “sulphur”.

11.6: the Hebrew word for “angry” used here, זִלְעָפוֹת, is spelt with an extra “lamed”; moreover, its form is plural, unlike the “wind” which is singular.


11.7: “the upright” can, in the Hebrew, be describing either a person or a deed. That is, an equally valid translation could be, “[Adonai] will perceive his upright acts”. (See Commentary for elaboration on this point.)

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 11”

King James Psalms 11 Translation:

[1] In the LORD put I my trust: How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?
[2] For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.
[3] If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
[4] The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.
[5] The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.
[6] Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.
[7] For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.