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Psalm 20:8 in the Hebrew reads:

אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים וַאֲנַחְנוּ ׀ בְּשֵׁם־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ נַזְכִּֽיר

for which the ESV (v.7) gives:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
  but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

My question is about the word translated "trust", which is a hifil from zkr ("to remember"), a fairly common form that means, as expected, "cause to remember". BDB and other lexicons describe an understandable extension to "to mention". DCH takes it as "invoke", which I also understand. I don't understand how the ESV gets "trust". I realize that by invoking the name of the LORD this is probably an expression of trust, but the ESV usually doesn't make such leaps for the reader, and there is certainly other available Hebrew vocabulary if the author intended "trust", so I'm wondering if there's something I'm missing.

Perhaps relevant, this verb only appears in the second line, and is understood in most modern translations as applying to the first as well (where "invoke" would be more difficult). The KJV apparently thought the initial verb could be deduced from context without being gapped from the following line. The italics indicate the lack of a corresponding word in the Hebrew:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

My questions, then:

  1. Is it necessary (or likely, according to normative poetic syntax, if such exists) that the same verb be understood in both lines?

  2. Can/should the hifil zkr be understood as "to trust"?

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  • Apologies if that's not actually an appropriate use of the terminology of "gapping". It seems to me like backward gapping, but I don't know if that's possible, but I don't have a better word.
    – Susan
    Apr 3, 2017 at 6:01
  • The introduction to the ESV states that they will sometimes defer to the LXX, Vulgate, etc., but none of these seems to indicate "trust in the name of the Lord". Were they just nostalgic for the KJV, which also translates the verse this way?
    – user33515
    Apr 3, 2017 at 13:53
  • The KJV is doing something different, though, as I'm sure the ESV translators realized. If I understand correctly, they've not translated the work zkr as "trust" but as "remember"; "trust" there is considered to be implied. While the results of the ESV overlap, the decisions behind it are completely different (ESV: zkr> trust + gapped backward vs KJV: .zkr> remember + implicit "trust").
    – Susan
    Apr 3, 2017 at 20:19

3 Answers 3

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Preserving the Greek word order, the Septuagint reads as follows:

These in chariots and these in horses, but we in the name of the Lord our God shall call.

The verb that everything in this verse hangs on is "to call upon" (epikaleó, Strong's 1941). What does this verb actually mean--does it convey the same meaning as trust?

The Hebrew word used, nazkir, can be translated will remember, will boast, will confess, or will make mention based on context and interpretation.

Here's an analogy.

Living in the area of California ravaged by wildfires, I could say, "I trust in the fire department," or when the fires first broke out, I could say, "I called on the fire department." The second choice seems more active to me: I trust and then act on it.

Dieter

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You rightly pointed out that the meaning of the verse hinges on the only verb in the verse, נַזְכִּֽיר, the Hiphil imperfect 1st person plural of זכר, the Qal meaning remember thus the Hiphil cause to remember, remind, but translating it this way doesn't fit well in the verse.

A basic rewording of your question is what were they doing with chariots and horses that we were doing with the name of the LORD?

The issues are some biblical words we translate into English have a much larger meaning than the English words, believe for example. Remember is such a word. "Remember the Sabbath* is a classic example. See the answer to the following question.

How should the phrase "God remembered" be interpreted?

Specifically note the quote:

זָכַר (b. h.; ch. דְּכַר) [to mark,] to remember, mention; to celebrate (by a ceremony &c.) ... -- Jastrow, M. (1903). In A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature and II (Vol. 1, p. 399). Luzac & Co.; G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

The meaning of Hifil in the lexicons:

זכר... hif:... 1. to take to court, with acc. of person ... —2. ... to mention ... —3. to make known ,,, —4. to profess, praise ... —5. ... to be sung at the memorial offering -- Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). In The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 270). E.J. Brill.

זָכַר Hiph. ... —1. cause to remember, remind, c. acc. pers. Is 43:26. 2. cause to be remembered, keep in remembrance, c. acc. rei, a person’s name 2 S 18:18 ψ 45:18; of י׳, causing his name to be remembered, by some token, Ex 20:24 (JE). 3. mention, a. sq. acc. pers. ... 4. record, only pt. ... 5. of sacrifice, make a memorial -- Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). In Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 270-271). Clarendon Press.

Are you starting to see the complexity of translating this verb?

Consider Miriam's Song:

And Miriam sang to them:

              “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; 
              the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” 
                                            (Exodus 15:21, ESV)

Thus, you see elements of the meaning in the translations:

   They [call] on chariots, they [call] on horses, 
     but we call on the name of the LORD our God. 
                              (Psalm 20:8, JPS1985)

   Some boast in chariots, and some in horses;
  But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.
                              (Psalm 20:7, NASB)

        Some trust in chariots and some in horses, 
  but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 
                              (Psalm 20:7, ESV), 

        Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: 
  but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
                              (Psalm 20:7, KJV)
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Young's Literal Translation provides a better understanding of dependence upon God. In Psalm 20:6-8,

6 Now I have known That Jehovah hath saved His anointed, He answereth him from His holy heavens, With the saving might of His right hand. 7 Some of chariots, and some of horses, And we of the name of Jehovah our God Make mention. 8 They -- they have bowed and have fallen, And we have risen and station ourselves upright.

Instead of relying upon the armies of men - chariots and horses - Israel depended upon - made mention of - God and relied upon His right hand.

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