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When translating Psalm 68 to English, the phrase : " Rekev Elohim Ribotayim Alefei [Shin'an] - Adonai Bam Sinai Ba-Qodesh " ( רֶ֚כֶב אֱלֹהִ֗ים רִבֹּתַ֣יִם אַלְפֵ֣י שִׁנְאָ֑ן אֲדֹנָ֥י בָ֜֗ם סִינַ֥י בַּקֹּֽדֶשׁ ) in verse 17 is interpreted differently in the KJV, NIV, and NASB.

The literal English translation of [Tehillim 68:18] based on the Ivri text would be :

"Chariot [of] God [is] 10,000 [*] thousand-of Shin'an | Adonai [was] in-It [at] Sinai in-holiness." ( רֶ֚כֶב אֱלֹהִ֗ים רִבֹּתַ֣יִם אַלְפֵ֣י שִׁנְאָ֑ן אֲדֹנָ֥י בָ֜֗ם סִינַ֥י בַּקֹּֽדֶשׁ )
  • Shin'an ( שִׁנְאָ֑ן ) is often interpreted as 'Angels' "repeating" or amplifying the voice of Adonai.

  • Rashi believed that God has 1-Chariot of Angels

    " Even when God’s chariot of “twice ten thousand times thousands of” brilliant “sharpened” angels appeared, and the Lord was among them at Sinai with His holiness"
    [ https://www.sefaria.org/Psalms.68.18?lang=bi&with=Rashi&lang2=bi ]

The English [KJV] translation seems to differ supporting a different number of Chariot(s) made out of angels :

Psalm 68:17 [KJV]

"The chariots of God are [twenty thousand], [even] thousands of [angels] : the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy [place]."

  • So the KJV believes "Ribotayim Alefei" = 20,000 | not (10,000 * 1,000).

  • The KJV also interprets Shin'an as "Angel(s)". Yet the Hebrew word for "Angel(s)" is "Mal'akim" ( מלאכים‎ ).

  • Later - English translations remove the reference to Angels and just count the Chariot(s) of God.

The [NIV] adds a few words :

"The chariots of God are tens of thousands [and] thousands [of thousands] ; the Lord [has come from] Sinai into [his sanctuary]."

The [NASB] just gives a undefined count of Chariot(s) with no reference to Angels :

"The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness."

Which is correct in Psalm 68 : God has 1-Chariot made of 10,000,000-Angels, [or] 20,000-Chariot(s) with Angels, [or] thousands of chariot(s) with 0-Angels?

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  • I am unable to offer intelligent comment on your question but when I looked online with regard to the 'Ivri' text you mention I could find nothing. Do you have a link to it, to further my knowledge ? – Nigel J Apr 14 at 16:01
  • The Ivri (עִבְרִי) / Hebrew (ἑβραιου) text was provided in the question - with commentary by Rashi : sefaria.org/Psalms.68.18?lang=bi&with=Rashi&lang2=bi – חִידָה Apr 14 at 16:05
  • Thank you. Is this different to the Masoretic text, may I ask ? – Nigel J Apr 14 at 16:06
  • Yes - Ivri (עִבְרִי) / Hebrew (ἑβραιου) was referring to the Masoretic Text, not the DSS. – חִידָה Apr 14 at 16:12
  • Pardon my ignorance - DSS ? – Nigel J Apr 14 at 16:19
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Psalm 68:17 New International Version

The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.

The chariots
רֶ֤כֶב (re·ḵeḇ)
Noun - masculine singular construct
Strong's 7393: A vehicle, a team, cavalry, a rider, the upper millstone

Brown-Driver-Briggs points out that this is a collective noun.

2 Kings 13:7 shows this collective noun usage:

Nothing had been left of the army of Jehoahaz except fifty horsemen, ten chariots [רֶ֤כֶב] and ten thousand foot soldiers, for the king of Aram had destroyed the rest and made them like the dust at threshing time.

As for the word angel, it is not in the Hebrew text. Naturally however, we assume from the context that angels are in these choriots to complete the magistic picture.

As the number of chariots, we have 3 words: 2 numbers followed by a repetition:

[are] tens of thousands—
רִבֹּתַ֣יִם (rib·bō·ṯa·yim)
Strong's 7239: A myriad, large number

thousands
אַלְפֵ֣י (’al·p̄ê)
Strong's 505: A thousand

of thousands [are they]
שִׁנְאָ֑ן (šin·’ān)
Strong's 8136: Change, repetition

The psalmist was not trying to be precise here. He painted the picture of uncountable number of chariots.

In this case, I like NASB's translation the best:

The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands;

  1. "Chariots" is in the plural form for original collective noun.
  2. The word "angels" is not in it because it is not in the original Hebrew.
  3. Plural "Myriads" and "thousands upon thousands" paint the picture of uncountable number of chariots.

I'm rather happy with this NASB translation.

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The question only concerns the first half of Ps 68:17 and I will confine my comments to the first half and not comment on the second half.

First, angels are not mentioned in Ps 68:17; only chariots with un-named and un-mentioned drivers are referenced.

The word for "myriad" = 10,000 is רִבֹּתַ֣יִם and is pointed in the dual number and so, technically should be literally translated, 20,000.

The following phrase is "thousands of thousands". Taken with the previous 20,000, David is simply summoning the largest idiomatic number he can poetically muster: 20,000 and thousands of thousands (ie, literally millions).

Therefore, the following versions who translate something like, "the chariots of God are 20,000 and thousands of thousands ..." are most accurate and include, the ESV, KJV, NKJV, ASV, GWT, etc.

The simplest is perhaps the idiomatic translation something like:

"The chariots of God are uncountable millions"; or perhaps a little more modern, "The chariots of God are squillions", etc.

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Perhaps those more fluent at Hebrew are more accurate:

  God’s chariots are myriads upon myriads, 
     thousands upon thousands; 
     the Lord is among them as in Sinai in holiness. 

  Jewish Publication Society. (1985). Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures 
  (Ps 68:18). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

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