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Psalms 66:3 reads:

Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you." (NIV)

but the translation of my language(Amharic) reads:

"እግዚአብሔርን እንዲህ በሉት፦ ሥራህ ግሩም ነው፤ ኃይልህ ብዙ ሲሆን ጠላቶች ዋሹብህ።"

which translates to:

Tell God -- Your works are wonderful, When your power was too much, your enemies told lies on you."

That last bit is very different...too different. When I looked at the Hebrew, the word kachash translates to lying, which supports the Amharic version. Which one is correct?

  • Are you seeing the same discrepancy in 18:44 (Hebrew v. 45)? Just recently noticed the odd English there myself, and it appears to be the same issue. – Susan Apr 3 '17 at 11:03
  • @Susan It also has an issue. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. and በጆሮ ሰምተው ተገዙልኝ፤ የባዕድ ልጆች ደለሉኝ። translating to "They heard by their ears and they "accepted my rule over them (or embondaged themselves to me with less of a negative connotation), The foreigners bribed me" – Kidus Amare Apr 3 '17 at 13:17
  • 2
    Hint to someone who has the time to write up an answer: כחש has two meanings, to lie, and to be thin or waste away. It is like כזב that also has two meanings, to lie, and to fail to fulfill. In some verses the context does not provide certainty as to which meaning was intended and the translator must make a judgment call. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Apr 3 '17 at 13:18
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The support in the Septuagint is for "lying":

εἴπατε τῷ θεῷ Ὡς φοβερὰ τὰ ἔργα σου, ἐν τῷ πλήθει τῆς δυνάμεώς σου ψεύσονταί σε οἱ ἐχθροί σου

which is translated (in the English Orthodox Study Bible):

Say to God, "How fearful are Your works; In the greatness of your power Your enemies will lie to You.

(You didn't say whether your Amharic Bible was Orthodox or not, so I thought this might be relevant).

In the King James Version, the verse reads:

Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! Through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.

but there is a note on the word "submit" that reads "Or yielded feigned obedience" - meaning they appeared to submit, but were doing so falsely.

The Jewish Publication Society Tanakh has a similar translation to what you found in the NIV:

Say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds, Your enemies cower before Your great strength

The Hebrew seems to be used ambiguously. The underlying word כחשׁ is seems to convey the meanings of "lie" or "deny" (Genesis 18:15) as well as "submit" (2 Samuel 22:45). Perhaps there is a way to disambiguate the Hebrew on its own, but it seems the Septuagint is the best witness for "lie" in this particular verse.

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See Gesenius' entry 4 under Piel כִּחֵשׁ:

כׇּחַשׁ

[...]

Piel כִּחֵשׁ

  1. to deny
  2. to lie
  3. to deceive (one's expectation)
  4. to feign, to flatter, most commonly used of the vanquished pretending subjection and love towards a victor

Someone who is feigning obedience would submit himself to the ruler, though only because he has no other choice. Adam Clarke compares this to Pharaoh's feigned submission to the God of Israel:

Thine enemies submit themselves - Literally, lie unto thee. This was remarkably the case with Pharaoh and the Egyptians. They promised again and again to let the people go, when the hand of the Lord was upon them: and they as frequently falsified their word.

Pharaoh was initially defiant at the command to let the Israelites go:

1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’”

2 And Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.” -Exodus 5:1-2 (NKJV)

However after the second plague, he feigned obedience and lied by saying he would let them go:

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.” -Exodus 8:8 (NKJV)

But as soon as Pharaoh saw that there was relief from the plague of frogs, he changed his mind and did not let the Israelites go (v15).

This happened several more times during the different plagues. The power of the one true God was so great that Pharaoh resorted to feigning obedience and lying in order to have the plagues removed (see Exodus 7-12 for the account of all ten plagues).

Feigning obedience is itself lying. And Pharaoh no doubt cringed, if only to himself, when he gave permission for the Israelites to leave, as any enemy would when he is forced to acknowledge a power that he can't overcome.

So the NIV is not actually incorrect here. Using "cringe" just portrays the initial stage of someone who just realized he now has to feign obedience to a ruler that he doesn't like and doesn't actually want to submit to.

Definition of cringe:

verb (used without object), cringed, cringing.

  1. to shrink, bend, or crouch, especially in fear or servility; cower.
  2. to fawn.

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