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In Psalm 11:5, most English translations say something to the effect of “God’s soul hates the wicked”

(NASB) The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates.

However the LXX and Vulgate appear to understand the Hebrew to be saying “the wicked hates his own soul” Is this a plausible translation of

וְרָשָׁע וְאֹהֵב חָמָס שָׂנְאָה נַפְשׁוֹ

Why do modern Hebrew scholars choose a different translation?

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  • If God created us in his likeness he would have to have a soul too. Apr 24, 2022 at 23:34
  • It's a matter of personal judgment to take LXX over Mesoretic Txt. LXX could well be better than the MS. It could be ambiguous in the Hebrew, which resulted in LXX adding "own" to show reflexive pronoun. The vulgate or Old Latin translation might have been done from the LXX. If the Heb text is ambiguous then we should trust the ancient sages of the LXX any day compared to modern men. I cant read Heb: interlinear says : »cha·Mas;»violence שָֽׂנְאָ֥ה S»sa·ne·'Ah»hateth נַפְשֽׁ·וֹ׃ S»naf·Sho.»his soul
    – Michael16
    Apr 25, 2022 at 12:52

1 Answer 1

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It is true that the Vulgate and the Septuagint give a very different translation from the Masoretic text in Ps 11:5. Specifically, we have:

Vulgate (as translated by DRB):

The Lord trieth the just and the wicked: but he that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul.

LXX (as translated by Breton)

The Lord tries the righteous and the ungodly: and he that loves unrighteousness hates his own soul.

The Hebrew Masoretic Text:

  • NIV: The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.
  • ESV: The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
  • NASB: The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And His soul hates one who loves violence.
  • BSB: The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked; His soul hates the lover of violence.
  • HCSB: The LORD examines the righteous and the wicked. He hates the lover of violence.
  • NRSV: The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence.
  • YLT: Jehovah the righteous doth try. And the wicked and the lover of violence, Hath His soul hated,
  • NKJV: The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
  • J P Green: Jehovah tries the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked, and him that loves violence

All that one can say here is that the Hebrew is correctly and reasonably translated by the above versions (and all others I checked). Note the comments of Barnes:

His soul hateth - that is, "he" hates. God is often spoken of in language appropriate to man; and he is here referred to as having a soul - as he is elsewhere as having eyes, hands, or feet. The meaning is, that all such persons were the objects of the divine abhorrence, and that the divine dealings with them were not, as with the righteous, to "try" them, but to "punish" and "destroy" them. Knowing this, the persecuted author of the psalm, instead of fleeing, calmly committed himself and his cause to God.

The only real matter in the Hebrew is whether the last phrase of the Hebrew should be translated as either:

  • He hates the wicked, or
  • His soul hates the wicked

The second is more literal and the first is idiomatic English.

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