In Psalm 2:9 is the verb תְּ֭רֹעֵם from the root רָעָה shepherd or רָעַע break?

תְּ֭רֹעֵם has multiple homonyms, three based on the root רָעָה and two off the root רָעַע. Two of these five make sense, the root רָעָה shepherd or רָעַע break.

  • Most modern translations including the KJV translate this verb as "You will break them" or a synonym.
  • However, the Septuagint (LXX) translates תְּ֭רֹעֵם as ποιμανεῖς αὐτοὺς ("You will shepherd then") and,
  • the Vulgate reges eos ("You shall rule them," i.e. shepherd).
  • Rev. 19:15 appears to quote the LXX ποιμανεῖ αὐτοὺς ἐν ῥάβδῳ σιδηρᾷ, only changing person from 2nd to 3rd, and is usually translated in the modern English translations, "he will rule them with a rod of iron" (ESV).

Is there an objective way to determine how to translate this verb תְּ֭רֹעֵם?

  • Yet another of the numerous differences between the MT and LXX!!!
    – Dottard
    Aug 22 at 23:09
  • You have different texts based on competing Hebrew vorlages written in different times and places. What would be the criteria for objectively picking one over another? These issues are ultimately decided by theology and other arguments, rather than from the texts themselves.
    – Robert
    Aug 23 at 5:55

For the quotations of Psalm 2:9 in Revelation, given that John is writing inspired text, I would conclude that "shepherding/ruling" is correct in those contexts.

Verses below based from NA28

Revelation 19,15b ...and he himself will shepherd/rule ποιμανεῖ them with a rod of iron...

Revelation 12,5a And she bore a son, a male, who is fixing to shepherd/rule μέλλει ποιμαίνειν the nations with a rod of iron...

Revelation 2,27a And he will shepherd/rule ποιμανεῖ them with a rod of iron...


Malbim and Radak translate תְּ֭רֹעֵם as breaking, seeing a parallel/contrast between the first and last words of the verse.

תְּ֭רֹעֵם is breaking or puncturing while left intact, while תְּנַפְּצֵֽם is to shatter, where the shards scatter.

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