(Psalm 37:20) (NASB)
But the wicked will perish; And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures, They vanish-- like smoke they vanish away.

(Psalm 37:20) (KJV)
But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

It's strange that NASB and KJV have differ when it comes to the Psalm 37:20 verse because the NASB uses the term "the glory of the pastures" while the KJV uses "the fat of lambs"

However, based on my experience while reading Leviticus, I'm assuming that the author of the Psalm 37 basically wanted to emphasize that the Lord's enemies will vanish/perish like sacrifice offering at the temple altar(regardless of whether they are meat sacrifices offerings or wheat/vegetable sacrifice offerings)

Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC) כִּ֤י רְשָׁעִ֨ים ׀ יֹאבֵ֗דוּ וְאֹיְבֵ֣י יְ֭הוָה כִּיקַ֣ר כָּרִ֑ים כָּל֖וּ בֶעָשָׁ֣ן כָּֽלוּ׃

Aleppo Codex כ כי רשעים יאבדו ואיבי יהוה כיקר כרים כלו בעשן כלו

I do Not Know much Hebrew, but could someone please analyze and determine what phrase/word/term is used for "the glory of the pastures" Or "the fat of lambs" ?

  • 1
    the preciousness of lambs [Young's Literal] the beauty of pastures [Greens Literal]
    – Nigel J
    Jun 10, 2020 at 16:12

2 Answers 2


The phrase in question is כִּיקַר כָּרִים (kiqar karim). As it stands it means either "like the preciousness of young rams" or "like the preciousness of pastures". (See the standard lexicons such as BDB, HALOT, and the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew for this double meaning of the homonym כַּר, kar). If the former, then it may refer to the fat of male lambs that are burned in sacrifice. If the latter, then it may refer to the withering of the vegetation as a whole or of the flowers that blossom in the pastures (cf. v. 2).

Some scholars have conjectured that the original reading might have been כִּיקֹד כֻּרִים (kiqod kurim) meaning "like the burning of furnaces" and was mistakenly read as כִּיקַר כָּרִים (kiqar karim) due to the confusion of the letters dalet (d) and resh (r) in the first word and the confusion of the words כָּרִים (karim) and כֻּרִים/כּוּרִים (kurim). This conjectural reading would fit the next line בֶעָשָׁן כָּלוּ "in smoke they are consumed".

HALOT says that 4QpPs 37 has כיקוד כורם “like the burning of an oven”. (Also see the NET Bible translation "the LORD’s enemies will be incinerated" and its translation note.) I checked this text (also called 4Q171 and 4QpPsaa) and this is not what is written as far as I can tell. (A photo of text can be seen here: https://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive/image/B-513046.) Instead the text has ‏כיקר כורים. The letter appears to be a resh not a dalet and the spelling is a bit different from what is written in the lexicon. I am not sure why there is this discrepancy. Perhaps it appears elsewhere, though I cannot find it in a computer search if it does occur. Further, the interpretation in the pesher describes the referent as צון בתוך עדריהם, meaning "a flock among their droves" in line 6. (צון misspells צֹאן due to the quiescent aleph). It appears that the interpreter read the text as in the MT כִּיקַר כָּרִים (kiqar karim) and understood it to mean "like the preciousness of rams", but pronounced כָּרִים (karim) as כוֹרים (korim) as in some Hebrew dialects. Thus I do not currently see a textual basis for the conjectural reading. However, this conjectural reading could be correct. It would fit the context and the MT text can be explained as a simple misreading.

In sum, I think there is reason to understand the text in any one of these three ways.


Without a doubt, these words are pregnant with meaning, and I will not be able to capture all that is going on here succinctly—but I will give a basic treatment. The words in question is/are: יָקָר. Yaqar (lambs) and כַּר kar (fat); (or כַּרר kar) can also mean pasture where lambs feed (see Davidson 394); and כָּרִים (karym) which can be rendered as “’vine dresser’; well-cultivated plain, garden, orchard, field” (Davidson 393); or vineyard (see Botterweck 8: 319). In Hebrew, like English, some words can carry a variety nuances or meanings.

Also, when read in the Hebrew we have the sonic, poetic quality of alliteration and pun and in context a simile כִּיקַר כָּרִים (ky-kar karym); “as the fat of lambs” or “glory of the pastures.” cf New International Version renders this as “beauty of the fields” (again accurate given the nuances of the Hebrew words)—a similar expression chosen by NAS scholars.

In translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek, translators often make choices of either a “word for word” translation or “dynamic equivalent.” In this case both the KJV and NAS scholars are most likely using an expression that captures the dynamic equivalent of the Hebrew for their time periods respectively—that is to say, an expression (or figure of speech) that is both true to the Hebrew and most easily understood by the modern audience for which it is translated.

That being said, the expression “Fat of the land” can be found in modern literature such as in John Steinbeck’s Mice and Men (1937)—(meaning the richness of the land) which is of course a biblical allusion from the KJV translation as found in Ge 45 “And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.” Note the expression “fat of the land” is similar to “fat of the lamb” (KJV).

The NAS (published in 1960) chooses an expression that is equally true to the Hebrew (“glory of the pasture”) but with a more modern vernacular. The expression “the glory of the pastures” (while accurate) just doesn’t have the same poetic register as “fat of the lambs”—but of course, that is a matter of opinion—and it is just as precise as “fat of the lamb.”

Additionally, in modern English, ‘fat’ has taken on more negative connotations than in Elizabethan (and other) times—being associated with “unhealthy”, etc. (as opposed to “richness”) therefore, modern translators might opt for more positively charged word (in this case ‘glory’); and “of the pastures” could be another way to say “lambs”—creatures who are closely associated with pastures—because that is where they feed (see Davidson).

Also, I am inclined to think the KJV scholars might have been having a little fun here because the expression is so close to “fat of the land” which is a similar expression found in Ge 45—of course I cannot prove that—put it registers as a bit “punny.”

In any case, the different renditions do not change the message of the text—the enemies of the Lord are going to be “vaporized” (will quickly perish) like a burnt offering or like “green pastures in the heat of summer” (Craigie 298).


Botterweck, G. Johannes, et. al. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (15 Volumes). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

Craigie, Peter. Psalms 1-50 Word Biblical Commentary. Word Books, 1983.

Davidson, Benjamin. The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon. Hendrickson Publishers1995.

Dotan, Aron. Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia. Hendrickson Publishers, 2001.

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