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Psalm 7:10(11)1a:

‏מָֽגִנִּ֥י עַל־אֱלֹהִ֑ים (BHS)
My shield is with God (ESV)

Elsewhere God is described as being one’s shield (2 Sam 22:3 // Ps 18:3; Ps 28:7) but with feels odd. It’s also an unusual translation of the preposition ʿal (on? over? to? - cf. NASB: "upon"). The NET translates

The Exalted God is my shield

and explains in the notes

As in v. 8, עַל (ʿal) should be understood as a divine title, here compounded with "God"....

Psalm 7:8(9):

וּכְתֻמִּ֣י עָלָֽי
?and according to my integrity on (ʿal) me

NET notes call this "syntactically awkward and meaningless", noting that ʿal is used "in Ugaritic as an epithet for Baal" and instead opting for

because I am blameless, O Exalted One!

How should we understand ʿal in these two verses? Is the Ugaritic epithet relevant?


1. Numbering is according to ESV (and other English versions) with BHS numbers in parenthesis.

  • My banner is toward/upon G'd. My allegiance is to G'd. – Cynthia Avishegnath Oct 20 '15 at 15:01
  • I re-wrote my answer after you marked it as accepted. You might want to reconsider. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Mar 18 '17 at 20:37
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim Haha, no, and your point about Dahood is well taken. If one doesn't realize where he was coming from (as is I imagine the case for 99% of NET readers), it can be misleading. I probably assumed when I wrote this that if the NET cited it it was a bit more mainstream than some of his ideas (or maybe I had never heard of him when I wrote this, not sure), but I appreciate you fleshing that out a bit. – Susan Mar 18 '17 at 20:44
2

Regarding the על in Verse 10 (MT 11)

This is a unique usage of מגן (with על) in the MT, but does not raise any serious questions about the text of this verse.1 There is a similar usage of על following a possessive noun and preceding a holy name in Psalm 146:52

אַשְׁרֵ֗י שֶׁ֤אֵ֣ל יַעֲקֹ֣ב בְּעֶזְר֑וֹ שִׂ֝בְר֗וֹ עַל-יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהָֽיו

In Psalm 7:10 (MT 11) Read מָֽגִנִּ֥י not as "my shield" but as "my defense" or as "my trust" as in Psalms 3:4 where מָגֵ֣ן means "defend" or "protect".

וְאַתָּ֣ה יְ֭הוָה מָגֵ֣ן בַּעֲדִ֑י כְּ֝בוֹדִ֗י וּמֵרִ֥ים רֹאשִֽׁי

Of the 63 occurrences (according to the Even Shoshan concordance3) of מגן in the MT, the majority are metaphorical and therefore it is misleading to translate them as "shield". They most commonly mean "defender" or "protector".

The word בטח, "trust", is semantically close to מגן.4 They are used in parallel format in Psalms 28:7.

יְהוָ֤ה | עֻזִּ֥י וּמָגִנִּי֮ בּ֤וֹ בָטַ֥ח לִבִּ֗י וְֽנֶ֫עֱזָ֥רְתִּי וַיַּעֲלֹ֥ז לִבִּ֑י וּֽמִשִּׁירִ֥י אֲהוֹדֶֽנּוּ

In II Kings 18:20, in Ravsheka's speech on the upper aquaduct, Ravsheka says:

אָמַ֨רְתָּ֙ אַךְ־דְּבַר־שְׂפָתַ֔יִם עֵצָ֥ה וּגְבוּרָ֖ה לַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה עַתָּה֙ עַל־מִ֣י בָטַ֔חְתָּ כִּ֥י מָרַ֖דְתָּ בִּֽי

Here we see an instance of על used as the preposition with בטח. So the translation of Psalms 7:10 (MT 11) should be something like

"My trust is with God, the savior of the righteous"

or more figuratively,

"I place my defense in God's hands, the savior of the righteous".

The Even Shoshan concordance lists seven distinct meanings of על (including אל BTW).5 It lists the על in Psalm 7:10 (MT 11) as one of 988 examples in the third category of meanings, which is one of ב "in", את direct object, באמצעות "by means of", למען "for the sake of", and others.

The NET note regarding על as a divine title cites Mitchell Dahood. Dahood's premise is that the MT Psalms are a somewhat garbled redaction of an Ugaritic urtext. This is a very interesting premise and it could be true, in the same way that portions of the creation story in Genesis are clearly borrowed from the Enuma Elish. However, it is beside the point in interpreting the MT texts that we have in our possession today, as the borrowed content in both instances was long ago Judaized to give it a completely different meaning. This citation by the NET does not serve the English reader well.

Regarding the על in Verse 8 (MT 9)

There are two common understandings of the עלי in verse 8 (MT 9). The readers marks indicate that the linear translation is "Oh God, judge of nations, judge me God, according to the (my) righteousness and (my) honesty in me".

The second understanding is that עלי is a preposition to שפטני, "judge"' and the (almost) linear translation is "Oh God, judge of nations, may your judgment on me be as my righteousness and my honesty.

The NET note on this verse is beside the point. I wonder if the writer ever sings the MT of this Psalm. They could say the same regarding the "selah" at the end of verse 6. The עלי in verse 8 (MT 9) serves three purposes:

  1. Thematic - indicates the supplicant's acceptance of God's judgment (same way עלי "on me!" is used in modern Hebrew)
  2. Emphatic - adds emphasis
  3. Poetic meter - fills out the line so that it matches the previous verses of the same format

Footnotes

  1. Rashi passes over this verse without comment. The Metsudat David comments only on מושיע ישרי לב, not on על. The Metsudat Tsion comments on מגני but not on על directly, only noting that מגן here is like חסה like "כגיבור על המגן" thus giving an indirect explanation of the על. The Ibn Ezra also comments only indirectly on על, saying "like a shield, על השם הוא השען", he leans on [trusts in] God. The Jonathan Ben-Uziel targum says תריסי על אלהא, פריק תריצי בא, which might hint that there is an Aramaic influence in the MT of this verse. So, in general, no one thought that there was anything necessitating comment about this על, at least not until the NET cited Mitchell Dahood.
  2. Note that the NET does not comment on this verse, despite the על before the holy name.
  3. A New Concordance of the Bible, Abraham Even Shoshan, Kiryat Sefer Publishing House, Jerusalem, 1988, Hebrew Edition
  4. This illustration is from my former Efrat neighbor of blessed memory Amos Hakham as published in the Da'at Miqra.
  5. A New Concordance of the Bible, Abraham Even Shoshan, Kiryat Sefer Publishing House, Jerusalem, 1988, Hebrew Edition, page 865.
-1

Good question. Now this is a case where a thoughtful question has a simple answer. 'My shield is God' and 'My shield is with God' are identical. There is no variant meaning between either phrase.

'My allegiance is with Rome' well is it with Rome or to Rome? It just a declaration of allegiance.

'My shield is with God' meaning with God I shield myself. It's just a declaration of a protective source.

Hebrew אל al; to, toward, unto, by. Greek va na; to.

NASB Hebrew Psalm 7:10
מָֽגִנִּ֥י עַל־ אֱלֹהִ֑ים מֹ֝ושִׁ֗יעַ יִשְׁרֵי־ לֵֽב Which would read 'My shield by God to deliver right inner man'. So the preposition על is by.

  • 2
    Thank you for your thoughts. The question is whether the Hebrew על (not אל) should be understood as a divine title or (if not) how to translate the preposition. These reflections about the English preposition "with" don't seem to address this. (The more common translation of על is "on", and I don't know of a precedent for using it to designate a "protective source" as you say, but that would be interesting if it works in Hebrew.) – Susan Mar 16 '17 at 20:58
  • Neither speak to deity nor intend to. מָֽגִנִּ֥י אֱלֹהִ֑ים מֹ֝ושִׁ֗יעַ יִשְׁרֵי־ לֵֽב׃ 'My shield is with God who saves the upright heart' Psalm 7:10 NASB Lexicon. With the preposition עַל־ it could be; on, about, to, onto, upon, above, by, towards, toward, unto. Psalm 7:10 Hebrew מָֽגִנִּ֥י עַל־ אֱלֹהִ֑ים מֹ֝ושִׁ֗יעַ יִשְׁרֵי־ לֵֽב which then is 'My shield by God to deliver right inner man". – N.Ish Mar 16 '17 at 21:30

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