Psalm Fifteen – Translation of the Song

15,1 A Song by David.
ADONAI, who will reside in Your tent? Who will be present on Your holy mountain?
15,2 He who walks in perfect discipline, and does what is righteous, and speaks truth with his heart;
15,3 No slander on his tongue, no act of evil toward his companion, no insult with which to burden his close one.
15,4 The despicable in his eyes is abhorrent, but those who are in awe of ADONAI he will respect;
should his vow cause himself hardship, he does not recant.
15,5 His money he lends with no interest, and no bribe against the innocent takes.
He who acts according to these will not stumble for all time.  

Notes on Translation, Psalm Fifteen:

15.1: the question, “who will reside”, is a rhetorical one. It is posed simply to delineate the qualities that determine one’s worthiness to dwell with God.


15.1: the Hebrew for “reside”, יָגוּר, shares a common root with “stranger”. The implication is that the human cannot take possession of, cannot claim any right over, God’s presence but can merely encounter God as if he were a guest, a welcomed stranger, in God’s domain. That the root is also that of the Hebrew for “fear”, גּוּר, emphasizes the distance that exists even as the human is, spiritually, in proximity of the divine.


15.1: the Hebrew for “be present in”, יִשְׁכֹּן, has the same root as “Shechinah”, שְׁכִינָה, the divine presence.


15.2: the Hebrew letters that form the word for “truth”, אֱמֶת, are pictorially stable: the first and third letters have a leg-like structure; the second, a triangular base. Thus the very letters spell out the quality of truthfulness – its unwaveringness.


15.2: the Hebrew for ‘heart”, לֵב, is here given an extra letter “bet”, לְבָבוֹ, rather than the usual singular, in its spelling. Within the song itself, no explanation is given for this variance. (See Commentary based on the metaphorical implication.)


15.3: the Hebrew word for “slander” used in this verse, רָגַל, is unique; it is used nowhere else in the Psalms, nor in the Tanach. It shares a root with the Hebrew word for “usual”, רָגִיל. The implication, then, is that the one worthy enough to enter God’s presence must have qualities that are not usual, that, indeed, merit such distinction.


15.3: the two words, “companion” and “evil”, used in this verse –רֵעֵהוּ and רָעָה —are formed, in Hebrew, of exactly the same letters. Each is thereby both the mirror opposite of and inversion of the other: evil allows no relation of companionship.


15.3: the idea of burdening another by insulting him connotes, in its Hebrew form, נָשָׂא, the suggestion of “carrying” or ‘bearing”. That is, “the close one” would be injured by the fact that the malice about him could spread, could be carried beyond the initial insult, were it not for the worthy one’s righteousness.


15.4: the Hebrew for “hardship” –לְהָרַע —is similar to that for “evil” in verse 3 – רָעָה, the similar letters suggesting a connection between the two.


15.5: “interest”, in Hebrew – נֶשֶׁךְ—is also the word for “bite”; specifically the bite of a snake whose venom poisons as it spreads throughout its victim. Thus, in Hebrew, the word “interest” announces its own moral culpability.

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 15

King James Psalms 15 Translation:

[1] LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
[2] He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
[3] He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
[4] In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
[5] He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.