As I’ve mentioned here before, the NET Bible has been a helpful resource in my Bible studies. Even though I might not agree with every single translation choice or footnote wording, the NET Bible is one that I use daily. I especially like the translators’ notes which explain why they chose the translation they did. The notes also explain legitimate alternate translations. For one example, as I was studying Psalm 127 this morning, I noticed that the Hebrew in verse 2b is not overly simple. The last phrase of the verse is something like this: “for/thus he gives to his beloved sleep” (כֵּ֤ן יִתֵּ֖ן לִֽידִידֹ֣ו שֵׁנָֽא). Different translations use different words for this phrase.
The NET Bible translates it like this: “Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep.” Here’s the helpful footnote the NET Bible gives for this phrase in Psalm 127:2b:
Heb “he gives to his beloved, sleep.” The translation assumes that the Hebrew term שֵׁנָא (shena’, “sleep,” an alternate form of שֵׁנָה, shenah) is an adverbial accusative. The point seems to be this: Hard work by itself is not what counts, but one’s relationship to God, for God is able to bless an individual even while he sleeps. (There may even be a subtle allusion to the miracle of conception following sexual intercourse; see the reference to the gift of sons in the following verse.) The statement is not advocating laziness, but utilizing hyperbole to give perspective and to remind the addressees that God must be one’s first priority. Another option is to take “sleep” as the direct object: “yes, he gives sleep to his beloved” (cf. NIV, NRSV). In this case the point is this: Hard work by itself is futile, for only God is able to bless one with sleep, which metonymically refers to having one’s needs met. He blesses on the basis of one’s relationship to him, not on the basis of physical energy expended.
Again, I like the detail and explanation given. It helps me work through the text and learn more about what the Psalmist is teaching about work, rest, and God’s gracious provision. Without God, we toil in vain. But with him, our work is not meaningless. Or, like Paul said, “in the Lord our labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015