Let No Arrogance


1 Samuel 2


1 Samuel 2 is written in poetry genre. I’ve written before about poetry genre. It’s easy to identify in Hebrew, because the punctuation marks are different. But it requires a whole separate skill set to translate Hebrew poetry. 1 Samuel 2 was my first venture.


Verses 1 and 2 went smoothly enough. And I was starting to think I had over-braced for the challenges of translating Hebrew poetry. My pipedreams of brilliance came crashing to the earth in verse 3. Actually, except for one small detail, I had it nailed. It clearly read:


Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let arrogance come out of your mouth.


We weren’t allowed to look verses up in English. But I suspected I had missed something. Though the rule was enforced on the honor system, there was usually a giveaway that alerted the professor that you cheated. I translated the verse again, and I still got let arrogance come out of your mouth. I was fairly sure that the Bible was not encouraging arrogance. I was also fairly sure I had done nothing wrong. I estimate I spent 5 hours over three sittings seeking some nuance to make the verse make sense. And I still had seven verses to go. I was starting to fear coming to class unprepared. I cheated.


The King James I looked it up in read: Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth. I looked at the Hebrew again. Could I possibly have missed the word “not?” After thoroughly reviewing all my assumptions, could the answer have been that easy? But the word “not” was not there. I looked at the English again, and the italicized letters in the English told me that the translators themselves knew it was not there.


Now there are obvious times when I know that a word is strongly implied and the English translator will supply it for sense sake. But “not” is a strange word to leave out of any sentence. Implied words should not change the meaning of the verse.


I looked the verse up in commentary. The consensus seemed happy with comprehending “no more” to govern the whole rest of the verse. I think NIV does an excellent job of conveying that sense: “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance.” By inserting the word “or” they managed to extend the “not” to include the arrogance clause. But inserting “or” was likewise editing the text – as bad as inserting “not.” I refused to accept that as the explanation. However this was resolved, it must allow for the Hebrew mind to capture the meaning on sight.


The key is the Hebrew mind – one who knows the street talk. Hebrew poetry displays parallel thought. It was simple to align “so exceedingly proudly” with “arrogance.” It remained to align “Talk no more” with “come out of your mouth.” To keep the parallel thought, “come out of your mouth” must be negated – whether in the text, or by implication.


I knew there was a reason I had braced for the difficulties of translating poetry.


A Preview


Samuel and Kings


Roughly speaking – with the emphasis on “rough” – the next four books of the Bible can be thought of as:


· 1 Samuel – The reign of King Saul


· 2 Samuel – The reign of King David


· 1 Kings – The reign of King Solomon


· 2 Kings – The reigns of the kings of the divided Israel


Then the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles recapitulate the events of Genesis to 2 Kings. 1 Samuel through 2 Kings provides a straightforward account of facts, while the Chronicles account provides more human commentary. Except for the first nine chapters, Chronicles will probably prove to be more interesting reading.


Saul, David and Solomon each reigned as King of Israel for 40 years: 1050 BC to 930 BC. In 930 BC, the nation split into North (Israel, or Ephraim) and South (Judah). Israel had 20 kings from 930 BC until their defeat by Assyria (Nineveh) in 721 BC. All 20 kings did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Judah had eight kings who did right in the eyes of the Lord. Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar retired Judah as a nation in 587 BC. Starting within this era, the dates I cite will align fairly accurately with historical data.


For added understanding of scripture, start paying special attention to the enemies of Israel. It will help with understanding the time frames of the prophetic books easier.


The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles are fairly easy and very enjoyable reading. The real challenge is to keep the political events in perspective, and to focus on the God who is directing them. To that end, watch for spiritual gems in these books. They sneak up on you when you aren’t prepared:


-                      The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed. – 1 Samuel 24:6


-                      One of my favorites around income tax time: “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing1.” 2 Samuel 24:24


-                      And [King Rehoboam] did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD. – 2 Chronicles 12:14


1Suppose you tithe $100. Further suppose that you are in the 25% tax bracket. Then you really offered $75 to the Lord. For the remaining $25 was returned to you in the form of lower taxes. (But a $75 offering for a $1,000 gain isn’t really a tithe.) You paid $75, and the government paid $25. The final $25 cost you nothing.


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