5

This problem occurs more than 20 times in the Psalms, but I’ll quote Psalm 1:1, ESV:

Blessed (ʾašrê) is the man
     who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
     nor stands in the way of sinners,
     nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
     and on his law he meditates day and night.

Contrast NRSV:

Happy (ʾašrê) are those....

The NRSV is consistently translates אַשְׁרֵי (ʾašrê) as “happy”, distinguishing it from בָּרוּךְ (bārûk), “blessed”. The ESV is also consistent on bārûk = “blessed” but is evidently deciding about ʾašrê based on context, most often also “blessed” (but see, e.g., Deut 33:29).1

To me, “blessed” connotes a pronouncement of favor from God whereas “happy” is an emotion without any reference to status before God. Lexicons indicate that ʾašrê can mean either;2 to me it seems like a non-trivial distinction.

Did the Psalmist intend to indicate divine favor, or just “happy”?


1. The NRSV/ESV contrast holds up in the NT where ʾašrê → μακάριος and bārûk → εὐλογητός. Next we can ask same question about the beatitudes of Matt 5 // Luke 6.

2. I guess technically “O the happiness(es)|blessedness(es) of...” but it seems to be used pretty much like an adjective.

  • I can't speak for the Hebrew, but I look forward to the Greek question you're going to ask next. I've lost count of the number of Greek words which have an ordinary translation until they appear in the NT, where they suddenly require an extraordinary translation: blessing, glory, righteousness, prayer, grace, gospel... – fumanchu Aug 10 '15 at 14:47
  • Interesting point... though possibly to some extent LXX-isms rather than “in the NT...suddenly”? This particular issue (μακάριος/εὐλογητός) I suspect is secondary to the Hebrew; the equivalences with ʾašrê/bārûk are pretty much 1:1 in the LXX, and much of the μακάριος language in the NT is recorded speech in the gospels, presumably translated, or referential (to various extents) to the OT, also translated. That’s why I went for this first. – Susan Aug 10 '15 at 15:06
  • The TDOT has an excellent section on this word and would be my Answer if I could just paste it outright. But fair use suggests I should whet your appetite instead with: "According to Mowinckel, there is no difference between the words 'ashre and barukh, but according to Kraus the "more secular" 'ashre should be distinguished from the sacral-solemn barukh. (H.-J. Kraus, Bibischer Kommentar, X/1, 3)" – fumanchu Aug 10 '15 at 23:38
  • Interesting that the word following man is identical to the word in question except for the added Masoretic points. In consonant form the two would be the same. I wonder if seeing them as the same is also relevant to the meaning of blessed or happy. – Revelation Lad Aug 11 '15 at 3:57
2

Short Answer: The Psalmist most definitely meant to convey Divine favor. A good, old-fashioned word study bears this out readily. (See below.) So, in light of your understanding of the connotations of the English words, "blessed" would definitely be the better rendering. I think the logic of other translators is simply that "blessed" is not as accessible to a broader audience as "happy" is. If you translate as "blessed" then many would wonder, "what exactly does 'blessed' mean, and is that necessarily a good thing?"


Data

People who are owned, saved, protected, and championed by the Lord are אַשְׁרֵי (Dt. 33:29; Ps. 33:12). People who stand under Solomon are אַשְׁרֵי because they are privileged to hear his wisdom (1 Ki. 10:8; 2 Chr. 9:7), which was a gift from God. God's reproof should never be despised, because it results in you being אַשְׁרֵי. (Job 5:17; Ps. 94:12). Those who avoid the ways of the wicked are אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 1:1). Those who take refuge in (and trust in) the Son are אַשְׁרֵי because He is so good (Ps. 2:12; 34:8; 40:4; 84:12; Pr. 16:20). When the Lord is your hope and your help, you are אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 146:5) The man who has his sin covered and is not judged guilty by the Lord is אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 32:1-2). When you consider the helpless and are gracious to the poor you are אַשְׁרֵי because the Lord will deliver you in the day of trouble (Ps. 41:1; Pr. 14:21). Those who are chosen to dwell with the Lord are אַשְׁרֵי because we will be satisfied with His goodness (Ps. 65:4). This leads to praise (Ps. 84:4). When your strength is in the Lord and His ways are in your heart you are אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 84:5). Those who “know the joyful sound” are אַשְׁרֵי because they walk in the light of God's countenance (Ps. 89:15). Those who keep justice and righteousness are אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 106:3). Those who fear the Lord and delight in His commandments are אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 112:1; 128:1; Pr. 28:14) when they are compensated, because it will be well with them (Ps. 128:2). Those whose way is blameless and walk in the law of the Lord are אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 119:1). Those who seek the Lord with all their heart are אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 119:2). Children are an אַשְׁרֵי because by them a man is vindicated before his enemies' judgments (Ps. 127:5). Carrying out God's just recompense results in being אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 137:8-9). When God is your Lord and your children are strong, your food overflows, and your cattle are fruitful, you are אַשְׁרֵי (Ps. 144:15). When you seek, find, and walk in wisdom and understanding you are אַשְׁרֵי (Pr. 3:13; 8:32, 34). A son is אַשְׁרֵי to have a righteous man as a father (Pr. 20:7). A well-ruled land is אַשְׁרֵי (Ecc. 10:17). Those who long for the Lord are אַשְׁרֵי (Isa. 30:18). One day people would do their farming freely in the land – then they would be truly אַשְׁרֵי (Isa. 32:20). Those who walked in the Lord's way would be אַשְׁרֵי when Christ came (Isa. 56:2). Those who persevere through extreme tribulation are אַשְׁרֵי (Dan. 12:12).

Synthesis

אַשְׁרֵי can be defined as:

  1. The goodness and abundance experienced when God rewards you for walking in His ways. It includes His forgiveness and salvation, His protection and victory, His presence, and prosperity by His hand. It is attained by seeking the Lord and walking in His ways and comes through His discipline and correction. It results in praise.
  2. The benefit derived from: a) hearing God's wisdom through Solomon b) having a strong testimony in your children when you are scrutinized by your enemies c) having a father who is righteous and walks in integrity d) having rulers who rule well

Note that the sources of the benefits listed under definition 2 are seen by the biblical authors as recipients of definition 1. In other words, the two definitions are tightly linked.

  • 2
    I believe this common methodology is flawed. Every verse you quote reads just fine with "happy". If I said "Estoy feliz porque Dios me salvó" and a translator decided that because I included "Dios" I meant to convey Divine favor, and they repeatedly translated it as "I am blessed because God saved me" instead of "I am happy because God saved me", I would quickly be frustrated. The fault is not that the more technical term is less accessible but that there is a word much closer to my original non-technical term. 1 Kings 10:8 should disprove the "blessed" hypothesis, not be stretched to fit it. – fumanchu Aug 13 '15 at 23:05
  • 1
    @fumanchu Perhaps you should write up a full answer. :) – ThaddeusB Aug 14 '15 at 22:06
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אַשְׁרֵי in hebrew grammar is interjection. It's origin root is from אֹשֶׁר noun, means: "bliss, happiness". So אַשְׁרֵי means: "happy, overjoyed". This word uses only liturgical contexts.

-3

אשר

IF you study the use of the word [אשר] in the Bible, it has been used to mean

  • regarding, concerning, considering, according
  • which then enable the word to be usable as a relative conjunction.

Look at Gen 1:12
... ועץ עשה פרי אשר זרעו בו למינהו ...
and fruit-producing tree according-to its seed in itself to its own kind

In Jewish traditions, even in the Christian gospels, a person being given a voice, a consideration or a regard is a position of honour. A person asked to read a scriptural portion is being given regards and whose opinion is given consideration.

There are inflections of [אשר]

  • אשרים plural masc
  • אשרה plural fem
  • אשרי plural masc possessive-connective (aka construct form)

I find that [אשרי] has so far used in the masc plural connective form.

Therefore, the word [אשרי] should be translated as being honoured / being respected / being regarded / given-consideration / being accorded.

Ps 1:1-3
אשרי-האיש
Being honoured/regarded the man

אשר לא הלך בעצת רשאים
who does not go in counsel of wicked ones,

ובדרך חטאים לא עמד
and in the way of sinful ones he stands not

ובמושב לצים לא ישב
and in the seat of scorning he will not sit

כי אם בתורת יי חפצו
that if-rather(=subjunctive would-rather) in torah/laws of the LORD he obsesses

ובתורתו יהגה יומם ולילה
and in His laws he will steer day and night

והיה כעץ שתול על פלדי מים
and is like a tree planted on a water brook

etc, etc.

That is ...

Honourable person is, who does not discuss with the wicked, or stands at the ways of the sinful, or be seated with those who take life as a joke, that would rather immerse in instructions of the LORD and steers one's life in His instructions day and night ...

ברוך

  • [ברוך]BaRUKh is from [ברך]BRK = knee.
  • [xוxx] passive participle.
  • [xxוx] simple active verb.
  • [בורך] = active to kneel = passive to be blessed
  • [ברוך] = passive being kneeled to = active to bless.

A well-known conundrum: If G'd blesses us, we kneel to him. Therefore, if we bless G'd, does He kneel to us?

If you read the Bible in Hebrew from Genesis to Malakhi, there is not a single verse that commands us to "worship" G'd. There are 4 or 5 verses forbidding us from prostrating/worshiping other gods, but not a single verse that commands us to prostrate/worship G'd.

Therefore, since we are allowed to worship G'd, G'd is possible to worship us.

BTW, what is "worship" anyway? Why is there not a single commandment telling us to "worship/prostrate" to G'd. (Pls use the original Hebrew not the inaccurate English translations, when disputing this).

A husband and wife who love each other, worships each other. Since the ultimate reason for human existence and suffering is to mature to be the bride of G'd (perhaps in 10 billion years'), it is possible that G'd and the human collective will worship each other.

Hosea 2:16 (2:18 Jewish enum):
והיה ביום ההוא נאם יי
תקראי אישי
ולא תקראי לי עוד בעלי
And comes the day declares the LORD
you will call me my man-peer-husband
and not call me anymore my lord-master-husband.

Psalm 8:4,5 or 6 (Jewish vs Christian numbering):
מה אנושים כי תזכרנו
ובן אדם כי תפחדנו
ותחסרהו מעט מאלהים
וכבוד והדר תעטרהו
Who is humankind whom you will have in mind
or the son of man whom you will empower
you will lessen him a little from G'd
and glory and honour you will decorate him.

Also, again I request ya'll not to downvote me due to theological ideologies, unless you are able to say that I am grammatically or scripturally wrong. Please dispute me academically. Also, my Bible ends at the book of Malakhi.

  • "Why is there not a single commandment telling us to "worship/prostrate" to G'd" – what about Deut 6:13 "וְאֹת֣וֹ תַעֲבֹ֑ד" ("and Him you shall worship")? – Inkbug Aug 11 '15 at 9:45
  • עבד is "serve". Do the servants of king Solomon "worship" him ? As I had requested - pls don't present arguments based on the "original english". – Cynthia Avishegnath Aug 11 '15 at 10:00
  • The question was about Ashrey, not Asher. Similar consonants does not make them identical words! Also, masculine plural construct =/= participle! – Jas 3.1 Aug 12 '15 at 4:24
  • Yeah, I was also assuming the relative particle אשר was from an unrelated homonymous root, but I guess I don’t really know. Still, it’s an odd word to try to derive semantic value from like this. – Susan Aug 12 '15 at 5:18
  • 2
    Erm....a relative pronoun, with head פרי, governing a noun clause - אשר זרעו בו – 'which its seed [is] in it' → 'in which is its seed'.... not sure that’s related to the word in question though. – Susan Aug 12 '15 at 8:01

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