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Psalm 68:18 reads (NIV):

When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious— that you, LORD God, might dwell there.

The word translated as "received" is לָקַ֔חְתָּ, which seems to be normally translated as some form of "taking". Why do translators here seem unanimous on translating as receiving?

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The Hebrew word לקח lakah, means to take, always. It never has a connotation of receiving, neither in OT Hebrew nor in later Hebrew, and it's meaning is not context dependent.

The word that is context dependent in this verse is מתנות, matanot, whose primarily meaning is "gifts", but can also mean "bribes", or "tribute". In this verse, the meaning is apparently tribute.

The semantic context of Psalm 68:18 (MT 68:19) is aggressive military conquest (apparently of Jerusalem, not explicitly stated) and captives (the result of conquest). The next logical stage following conquest and captive taking in the late bronze age is exacting tribute from the conquered nation. This tribute is the מתנות, which is translated correctly as "tribute" by the NEB, and the NET, and explained well in the "Pulpit Commentary" for this verse.

The addendum, באדם ואף סוררים, b'adam w'af sorerim, "from men and even from the rebellious", states that tribute came from various populations, combatants and not. So for those who were not combatants, who gave "voluntarily" (after being scared out of their wits from witnessing the conflict), this was a "gift" which in English we say is "received" and since these people are mentioned first and the combatants parenthetically afterwards, the translators use "received".

The key to understanding that the actual intent is "take" is that "received" is a passive action whereas לקחת is active, consistent with the tone of the verse and the semantic context. This verse celebrates an aggressor who takes. It is not a "play nice" verse about someone who receives a present.

The intent of the second clause of the verse is celebratory, "your aggression was so awesome that even non combatants paid tribute".

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  • Approved this answer. It was the non-combatants that I wasn't grasping. Dec 6, 2022 at 18:48
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This is rather simple. The verb לָקַח (laqach) means "to take or receive", eg, Gen 2:15, 21, 22, 23, 3:6, etc.

The exact translation can be determined from the context. In Ps 68:18 the verb is used of taking/receiving "gifts from among men". Now it is a simple fact that one does not take a gift else it is not a gift. One must receive a gift for it to be a gift.

Hence the universal translation "received".

Here is an extract from BDB, showing the occurrences of לָקַח (laqach) meaning "receive".

f. = receive, accept, especially a bribe, gift, ransom, etc., 1 Samuel 8:3; 1 Samuel 12: 1 Samuel 12:4 (both followed by מִן), Amos 5:12; 2 Kings 5:15,16,20,23,26 (twice in verse); Psalm 15:5; interest-money Ezekiel 18:13,17; Ezekiel 22:12; inheritance Joshua 13:8; Joshua 18:7(both D), Numbers 34:14 (twice in verse); Numbers 34:15 (P); of earth, receiving Abel's blood Genesis 4:11(J); chastisement Isaiah 40:2; of perceiving a sound, Job 4:11 mine ear received a whisper of it; receive mentally: וְלָקַח בְּעָלָיו Exodus 22:10 (E) i.e. shall accept the oath as satisfactory; בָּרֵךְ לָקַחְתִּי Numbers 23:20 (JE), i.e. I have received (commandment by revelation) to bless; receive instruction Proverbs 24:32; Jeremiah 2:30 +; entanglements of temptation Proverbs 22:25.

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  • That doesn't answer the question really. For example, all your examples are generally translated as take, not examples of receive. And you can "take" a gift from underneath a Christmas tree, for example. I don't mean to say it wrong, but I still don't understand why it is such a lock-step and unanimity. Dec 6, 2022 at 8:24
  • @KyleJohansen - that verb occurs 965 tomes in the OT - I did not list them all, just the first few. Take a look at 1 Sam 8:3, 12:4, Amos 5:12, 2 kings 5:15, Ps 15:5, Eze 18:13, 17, etc.
    – Dottard
    Dec 6, 2022 at 10:05

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