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A quick survey of English translations of Psalm 4:4 shows that there is little agreement about how ragaz should be rendered:

NIV In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah
NASB Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
BBE Let there be fear in your hearts, and do no sin; have bitter feelings on your bed, but make no sound. (Selah.)
NRSV When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
NKJV Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah

The definition given by Strong's seems to support all of these senses. Perhaps the ambiguity was intentional on the part of the Psalmist. But it seems odd that some translations treat the word as a command ("Be angry") and others as a condition ("In your anger"). How does the Hebrew grammar work here?

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The verb is not the "hot head" version of anger but the reactionary version, which is normal and typical of someone with a value system. Please see the commentary for the nuance of this Hebrew verb here. So essentially the various translations are appropriate, if you understand the nuance of this verb. –  Joseph Mar 26 '13 at 22:19
    
@Joseph: Thanks for the reminder. It was actually your answer that got me looking at this Psalm. ;) It sounds like, at the very least, if the command was to "be a hothead" the Psalmist could have used another word. –  Jon Ericson Mar 26 '13 at 22:27

2 Answers 2

רִגְזוּ is an imperative plural verb in the pa'al (simple, aka qal) binyan. I don't have a good source to choose among the nuanced meanings in the question; there are other Hebrew words for both "fear" and "tremble", but there can be more than one word for the same concept so that doesn't help. "Be angry" or "be disturbed" seems like it wouldn't be pa'al but, perhaps, reflexive.

Formations like "in your anger" or "when you are disturbed" do not seem to be consistent with the Hebrew. In the first case there would be a bet prefix (for "in") and a possessive ending; in the second I would expect to see the word כִּי .

I'm basing this answer on the Masoretic text, where this is Ps. 4:5. Perhaps the other translations derive from other sources?


Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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The apostle Paulos cites the first portion of Psalms 4:4 vebratim in Ephesians 4:26:

Ephesians 4:26

ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε

Psalms 4:4 LXX

ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε

The lexical form of the verb in question in Psalms 4:4 is רָגַז (ragaz). רִגְזוּ (rigzu) is certainly conjugated in binyan Pa'al (Kal), 2nd person, plural number, and imperative mood. The verb itself has the sense of extreme anger, to the point of causing one to tremble.

Personally, I don't understand the A.V.'s translation, "Stand in awe." Eevn if that is antiquated English, I still don't think it rightly captures the sense of the verb. In addition, the LXX translated it as ὀργίζεσθε (orgizesthe), which means "Be angry!" And, that's another thing, why would the translators of the A.V. translate Psa. 4:4 as "Stand in awe!" and Eph. 4:26 as "Be ye angry!" when they're the same in Greek (LXX v. Textus Receptus)? Did they not realize the apostle Paulos was quoting Psa. 4:4?

Anyway, "be angry!" would be the proper translation.

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