WORD STUDY: HE DOESN’T DELIGHT IN HORSES
Psalms 147:10: “He delighteth not in the strength of horses; he takes not pleasure in the legs of man.”
I am a great fan of the Sci-Fi “Star Gate” series. I take particular interest in the character of Dr. Daniel Jackson who is portrayed as a brilliant archeologist and linguist. In one episode Dr. Jackson is discussing some ancient writings with another brilliant but secretly villainous archeologist and expresses his interest in a Latin phrase they found on an ancient artifact. The phrase is “dominatus praeteritius nabilis.” The archeologist quickly interpreted the phrase as “conqueror of time.” But then Dr. Jackson quickly responded by saying: “In context it would be more like “Master of the uncertain past.” The other archeologist praised Dr. Jackson as a brilliant linguist, but we all know that this archeologist was really the villain trying to steer our hero in the wrong direction.
Such an exchange by experts of ancient languages is not uncommon. The whole scene portrayed in the Star Gate episode appeared like a very natural give and take between two experts seeking the truth. Such give and take was and is very common among Jewish rabbis as they study the Holy Scriptures, for they are also experts in the Hebrew language and understand the difficulties of translating an ancient language. Most rabbis do not trust English translations of the Bible, because they know it can be the result of one man’s or one group’s opinion and that translation could be just as bias as the translation of the evil archeologist trying to deflect Dr. Jackson from the truth hidden in the ancient relic.
I often have people what a certain word really mean in Hebrew. That is an unfair question. Maybe for Greek it is ok, but Hebrew, I need to know the verse they are referring to because unless I know the context I have not the slightest idea what the word means. I may know it’s general use but I need to know the context. Many people will go to the back of their Strong’s Concordence or some Hebrew Dictionary and find the various usages of the word and be at a total loss as to what the word really means. Instead of finding out what a word means, you must determine what it means in the context it is use.
The KJV renders Psalms 147:10 as “He delighteth not in the strength of horses, he takes not pleasure in the legs of man.” I have read a number of commentaries on this passage where the commentator suggest that horses were considered in that day to be the most beautiful animals in existence and the legs of a man that have been properly conditioned were a thing of beauty but Gods does not take pleasure in such natural beauty.
I am not a brilliant linguist; however, I do challenge the renderings of three words: bigeburath from the root word gavar which is rendered as strength, the word yechepats from the root word chapats which is rendered as delight and the word yaretseh from the root word ratsah which is rendered as pleasure.
I would suggest that the word for delight“chapats in its context would suggest a bending toward or inclining before. In other words God is not saying that He does not delight in the strength of horse, I mean how could He say such a thing when He created the horses strength, but rather that He will not bend, incline or yield to the strength of horses. In context I would not use gavar as strength but more like mastery or control over horses. Finally, I do not see God not taking pleasure over man’s legs, but I would view the word ratsah which is rendered as pleasure to be more like association.
Thus, I would respond to the KJV rendering by saying: “No, in context it would be more like: “I will not yield to the mastery or control over horses nor do I associate with the strength of man’s legs.”
The key to my translation lies in the context. David is faced with a threat from the Assyrian nation. The Assyrians have the most powerful army in the world. They were considered invincible because they had the strongest and largest war chariots than any other nation. They spent 20 years breeding horses that were powerful enough and wild enough to pull these chariots and about the same amount of time training warriors and building the leg and arm strength of warriors to control or master these horses so they could be the charioteers. David did not have the time to breed horses nor the warriors who had such strength in their legs to control these horses with a chariot.
I am not saying the KJV is in error in its translations for indeed, they have chosen English words which match the Hebrew words, but we must be aware that there are other options out there to choose from and the writers of the KJV version did not have the benefits of recent archeological discoveries which revealed the nature of the ancient Assyrian war horses and their chariots. Had they had 21st Century knowledge, I have no doubt they would have tweaked their translation and instead of using English words which suggest that God takes no pleasure in the beauty of horses and man’s legs, they would have used words which express that God will not yield even to the most powerful weapons on the face of the earth nor its strongest warriors.
So now in our Western 21st. Century with North Korea and the United States squaring off with their nuclear weapons we have a wonderful promise that God is not at all impressed with the weapons of North Korea nor with the might and technological superiority of the United States. He is still in control and these weapons are no more a match for God that the chariots and warriors 3,000 years ago.