In Psalm 62, verses 2 and 6 differ in just one word, רַבָּֽה rabbāh, at the end of the verse. This is glossed as “great(ly)”, “much”, and the like.

Many translations render it as modifying the preceding verb: NASB “I will not be greatly shaken”, KJV and RSV “I shall not be greatly moved”. However, some translations render it such that (I assume) rabbāh modifies the negative instead: NIV “I will never be shaken”, NRSV “I shall never be shaken”.

What is the rationale behind the translation of this word?


1 Answer 1


The NASB, KJV and RSV translate the word רבה as "greatly", which is close to a linear (i.e, "literal") translation. The disadvantage is that "I will not be greatly shaken" could be misunderstood as "I will not be greatly shaken, just a little stirred".

OTOH, the NIV and NRSV avoid the possible "stirred, not shaken" misunderstanding and emphasize the use of רבה as an emphatic or superlative, by translating רבה as "never". This results in a translation that is closer to the meaning of the MT in current US English.

Both translation approaches translate רבה as an adjective modifying a verb, shaken, which is unique in the MT. The only other similar verse is Psalms 110:6, where the common translations see רבה as modifying ארץ, a noun, although when reading the MT it appears that רבה modifies מחץ, which is apparently a verb although possibly part of a noun phrase, מחץ ראש.

There is no similar usage of רבה in later historical layers of Hebrew. The usage in this verse therefore sounds quite awkward and out of place and is therefore worthy of commentary. In fact, the classical commentators, RASHI, Ibn Ezra, MALBIM and others make various attempts to explain this usage.

The intent might be:

אַךְ-הוּא צוּרִי וִישׁוּעָתִי רַבָּה מִשְׂגַּבִּי לֹא-אֶמּוֹט

which in English would read:

But He is my great salvation, my rock, I will not tremble

but the word is instead placed at the end of the verse for several likely reasons:

  1. in order to rhyme with הַדְּחוּיָה at the end of the following verse
  2. as a lead-in to the following verse
  3. not placing it at the end would break the chorus line repeated in verse 6 (MT 7)

As a lead-in to the following verse, רבה modifies the following verse to give the meaning:

How exceedingly long will you attack a man?

instead of (NKJV):

How long will you attack a man?

In any event, this is clearly word-play, seen commonly in Psalms.

  • Truly He is my rock and deliverance, my haven; I shall never be shaken (Psalm 62:3, JPS1985) أبو תודה רבה, תשובה טובה
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 5 at 13:08
  • 2
    Re: "Both translation approaches translate רבה as an adjective modifying a verb, shaken, which is awkward": It's not uncommon for feminine adjectives to be used as adverbs in Biblical Hebrew (and for that matter in Modern Hebrew); see en.wikisource.org/wiki/Gesenius%27_Hebrew_Grammar/100._Adverbs . So I don't think this is awkward, and I don't think the placement of the word "is highly unusual".
    – ruakh
    Feb 5 at 22:02
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    @ruakh The use of רבה in this verse is not only uncommon, it is unique in the MT. It's awkwardness is attested to by the classical commentators who present sometimes far fetched ideas about what רבה is doing here at the end of this verse. See in particular the attempts of RASHI, the MALBIM and the Ibn Ezra. The link to Gesenius in your comment has no relevance to the use of רבה in this verse. In any event, I added additional material to the post to clarify these issues. Thanks for your comment. Feb 6 at 10:28
  • I didn’t know I was stepping into something that classical commentators had grappled with—as I recall, I only noticed it because a reader was using a different translation from the one I had in hand. I would like to know more about what those commentators had to say, but I’m satisfied with this answer. Thank you! Apr 8 at 11:49

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