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The first part of Psalm 22:8 is translated variously between translations. Most translations render it as:

“He trusted in the Lord..." (NKJV)

Other translations render it:

"Commit thyself unto Jehovah..." (ASV)

Many translations have a footnote here, saying it can also be translated the way other translations render it, so for example, the footnote of the ASV on this verse says: "Or, He trusted on Jehovah, that he would deliver him".

When looking at the Hebrew word and its usage on Bible Hub, it seems clear on the surface level that it's an imperative verb, meaning that it's a direct assignment to the person being addressed, which explains the translation as the ASV has it, for example.

However, that doesn't explain why so many other translations render it the other way. I can see an answer to the question on one of two fronts (or both):

  1. The verb can be used in a non-imperative sense.

  2. There is a difference in the vowel points in different Hebrew Masoretic manuscripts and texts.

On Bible Hub, the word shows up as: "גֹּ֣ל" ("gōl"). However, if the dot on top of the gimel were not present, and instead there would be a marking under the gimel, it would be: "גַּל" ("gal"). That second word is a noun, derived from the verb, which literally means something like: "which is rolled" – the verb means "to roll", by the way, with a figurative implication being "to lean/trust" (see: Psalm 37:5, Proverbs 16:3), which would apply here in Psalm 22:8. This is why the noun indicates a pile of rocks (like in Joshua 7:26). If this is right, and if we then take the alternative vocalization, Psalm 22:8 would mean something like: "[He] which is rolled on the Lord", which explains the translation of the NKJV and many others.

I'm not sure what the definitive explanation of the variance is, which is why I ask the question. Hoping someone has some valuable insights to share!

God bless you all!

2 Answers 2

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The Dead Sea Scrolls fragments of Psalm 22 included part of verse 8, which is translated, "Commit yourself to the Lord! Let him deliver--let him rescue him since he delights in the him!

The Septuagint translators reveal their choices in the matter and should also be taken into consideration: "He hoped upon the Lord, let him rescue him! Let him deliver him! For he desired him.

Also note that the Septuagint translators in verses 4 and five translated the Hebrew to the word, "hoped" three times.

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Psalm 22:8 (KJV 1900)

He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him:

Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

Psalm 22:8 (NET 2nd ed.)

They say, “Commit yourself to the LORD! Let the LORD rescue him!

Let the LORD deliver him, for he delights in him.”

In Hebrew, it's verse 9:

גֹּ֣ל אֶל־יְהוָ֣ה יְפַלְּטֵ֑הוּ יַ֝צִּילֵ֗הוּ כִּ֘י חָ֥פֵֽץ בּֽוֹ

|gōl | ʾel-yəhwâ | yəp̄alləṭēhû | yaṣṣîlēhû | kî | ḥāp̄ēṣ | bô|

|[You] roll away | to YHWH | let him rescue him | Let him deliver/rescue him| because | he delights | in him|

There's a superficial issue in that the word translated as "trusted" is an idiom that literally means "to roll away" and has a number of senses:

ָּלַל (gālal I), q. roll, roll away; flow down; drag; wallow (#1670); גָּלִיל (gālîl I), nom. turnable door, rollers (#1664).

ANE The vb. גָּלַל is common in later Aram. and Heb., Syr., Mand., Eth., and Arab. (gwl IV). The nom. galālu, meaning stone or specially prepared stone, is known in Akk. (CAD 5:11), but an etymological connection to גָּלַל is doubtful. The Akk. nom. gulgullu, skull, is common (cf. Heb. גֻּלְגֹּלֶת, #1653 < גּלל). The related nom. גַּלְגַּל, meaning wheel, is known in Phoen., Can., and old Aram.

OT

  1. The vb. גָּלַל occurs 16×. In physical motion it refers to the rolling of a stone (Gen 29:3, 8, 10; Josh 10:18; 1 Sam 14:33). The image of a stone rolling back is used to describe the self-destructive ways of the deceitful (Prov 26:27). The vb. is also used to describe a slain soldier wallowing in blood (2 Sam 20:12) or the bloodied garments of war (Isa 9:5 [4]). Isaiah describes the destruction of the heavens as the rolling up of a scroll (34:4).

Other occurrences are metaphorical without any sense of a physical rolling.

It is used once to describe retribution, when the brothers of Joseph fear a reprisal (Gen 43:18). The psalmist asks that his reproach be rolled away (Ps 119:22; the vb. should probably be impv., cf. G), similarly Josh 5:9.

Amos asks that justice flow like rushing water (Amos 5:24).

Three times גָּלַל is used as a metaphor for trust; in Ps 37:5 it is parallel with the common word for trust (בָּטַח, #1053); Prov 16:3 is virtually identical in thought; in Ps 22:8 [9] גָּלַל describes the attitude of the sufferer (taken as pf., cf. G). This is a beautiful mental image of what it means to commit oneself to God.

  1. The nom. גָּלִיל is used 4×. In 1 Kgs 6:34 it occurs twice to refer to some type of hinge mechanism for double doors to swing open, but the sense of folding is not compatible with the root (Dahood, 542). In Esth 1:6 it refers to a silver rod or rings on which curtains were hung. In Song of Songs 5:14 it refers to the arms of a lover described as gold, or possibly to bracelets so large that the arm appears as gold (Dahood, 542–43).

P-B The nom. גּליל is found at Qumran to describe a semicircle with towers (1QM 9:10), and a nom. גֶּלִלְתַא is found in the Talm. for a folding couch.

So in this case, the idea is that "they" the people who "shake their head and say" in the previous verse are being quoted, and they are saying, literally

"You rolled away to YHWH"

and what they mean by that is that you turned to, committed to, or trusted in YWHW.

Then the Hebrew switches to the third person:

"Let him rescue him, let him rescue him who delights in him"

However in English, we don't like these changes in person within a quote, so most English translations put everything into the third person, e.g. "They say, 'He rolled away to YHWH, let him trust in him'

And then they interpret that to mean something like committed or trusted, because it is not a literal rolling away.

Bottom line, you have to be careful when translating idioms.


Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 867–868.

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  • Very good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 20:38
  • Thanks for your detailed explanation @Robert, I much appreciate it! However; I'm not seeing how your literal rendering from the Hebrew is justified. As far as I can see now, "גֹּ֣ל" ("gōl") must be understood as an imperative. And if it is indeed an imperative, you can't derive the rendering: "[You] rolled away to YHWH", but only: "[You,] roll away to YHWH!". Your rendering, after all, isn't a command, but a description. That's my current understanding, although I'd love to be wrong! Do you think "גֹּ֣ל" ("gōl") isn't always imperative, or e.g. that the context can change the meaning here?
    – Blanck24
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 7:41
  • @Blanck24 Concepts like imperative are completely irrelevant at the level of idioms. If it's idiomatic to say "Stay Frosty" when you really mean "good luck", then you better translate that into another language with their equivalent of "good luck". That's what "idiom" means and this is an idiom.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 7:55
  • I see what you're saying, though I certainly wouldn't say that the concept of the imperative is irrelevant in idioms, just that it might look different. E.g.: "Good luck" is – grammatically speaking – not an imperative; however, it clearly functions as one idiomatically, as it often has the same meaning as "try your best!". It could very well be the case that the same is going on in Psalm 22:8; but what is the evidence that proves that "גֹּ֣ל" ("gōl"), though it is grammatically imperative, here functions as non-imperative? We can't just declare that it does, we need a good argument.
    – Blanck24
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 20:09
  • I can imagine is that it could function somewhat like the following English example, where a man says to his friend about someone who drives without his seatbelt on: "Drive without a seatbelt, [and] you'll reap the benefits". In this case, "drive without a seatbelt" is grammatically imperative, but it functions as a description of the person driving without a seatbelt, and "you" is grammatically second person, but here addresses the person driving the car. This kind of thing certainly works in Psalm 22:8, but I'm wondering what argument we can make for it. Does this occur more in the OT?
    – Blanck24
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 11:16

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