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Psalm 6:2 (BHS/WHM 4.2)

2יְֽהוָ֗ה אַל־בְּאַפְּךָ֥ תוֹכִיחֵ֑נִי וְֽאַל־בַּחֲמָתְךָ֥ תְיַסְּרֵֽנִי׃

Psalm 6:2 (LXX)

2Κύριε, μὴ τῷ θυμῷ σου ἐλέγξῃς με μηδὲ τῇ ὀργῇ σου παιδεύσῃς με.

Notes:

1.  The question here is whether the Psalmist is willing to be corrected, provided it is not in anger. Jeremiah 10:24 is cited for this purpose:

Correct me, O LORD, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.

The Psalmist may be seeking relief from all such correction. Leupold makes an interesting observation, “Both halves of the verse taken together are in reality a plea for forgiveness and a practical admission that the wrong done is of so serious a nature that it must be disposed of, which disposal can be effected only through forgiveness” (84).

The key to interpretation seems to be the complaints of physical distress which follow. On this basis, the parallel seems to be Psalm 38:

1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath! 2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. 3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. 4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. Psalm 38:1–4 (ESV)

The first line differs only in the adverbial phrase of the first clause. Rather than anger (aph) it has qesteph, ill humor, frustration, anger – especially the anger of YHWH.

His pain is such that he is seeking relief. Interestingly, he does not contest the rightness of God’s judgment, rather, he sees the judgment and knows that only the mercy of God can grant relief. An interesting parallel is Owen’s third directive in The Mortification of Sin:

Charge thy conscience with that guilt which appears in it from the rectitude and holiness of the law. Bring the holy law of God into thy conscience, lay thy corruption to it, pray that thou mayst be affected with it. Consider the holiness, spirituality, fiery severity, inwardness, absoluteness of the law, and see how thou canst stand before it. Be much, I say, in affecting thy conscience with the error of the Lord in the law, and how righteous it is that every one of thy transgressions should receive a recompense of reward.

John Owen, vol. 6, The Works of John Owen., ed. William H. Goold (Edinburg: T&T Clark), 57. It seems that David has suffered the full terror of the law and now seeks relief. Owen contends that such sounding of the law is a necessary element of mortification, lest we leave some residual sin untested and continue to harbor an enemy in our breast:

This is a door that too many professors have gone out at unto open apostasy. Such a deliverance from the law they have pretended, as that they would consult its guidance and direction no more; they would measure their sin by it no more. By little and little this principle hath insensibly, from the notion of it, proceeded to influence their practical understandings, and, having taken possession there, hath turned the will and affections loose to all manner of abominations.

By such ways, I say, then, as these, persuade thy conscience to hearken diligently to what the law speaks, in the name of the Lord, unto thee about thy lust and corruption. Oh! if thy ears be open, it will speak with a voice that shall make thee tremble, that shall cast thee to the ground, and fill thee with astonishment. If ever thou wilt mortify thy corruptions, thou must tie up thy conscience to the law, shut it from all shifts and exceptions, until it owns its guilt with a clear and thorough apprehension; so that thence, as David speaks, thy “iniquity may ever be before thee.”

John Owen, vol. 6, The Works of John Owen., ed. William H. Goold (Edinburg: T&T Clark), 57-58.

The law has sounded David thoroughly, he offers no defense or justification; he is guilty and seeks nothing more than mercy. Seen in this way, the prayer of David is an utter admission of his guilt. God has now exposed the sin and rent his heart – this much was mercy, painful though it was. David contends that to go further would be wrath.

2.  For the believer, a conscience troubled with sin is a good thing: to be untroubled is a sign of God’s displeasure. A parent does not correct another’s child; but, a parent who loves a child will correct the child as needful so as to protect the child from worse at a later date. Moreover, the parent having corrected ends the correction lest it turn to punishment or vengeance. The goal is not the child’s unhappiness but the child’s change. God’s law sounded David until it wrenched the humility from his heart.

It is painful to become humble, for pride stripped from the flesh tears. But humility obtained is sweet and restful.

3.  When God’s law sounds my heart, I should welcome the troubled conscience and pain – not because I relish the pain, but rather that the relish of sin should be wrung from my heart. When I seek relief, I must seek the relief which flows from repentance

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Psalm 51:8 (ESV)

Translation Notes:

The passage begins with the vocative Lord (YHWH). The LXX has the vocative kurie.

אַל־בְּאַפְּךָ֥

(Do) Not in your anger. The placement of this qualification, between the vocative address and the verbs is emphatic (Delitzsch). 

אַל

 The negation for request, rejection, prohibition (HALOT).

אַף

Means “nose”. HALOT explains, “in anger there is heavy breathing through the nose and a fire burns inside Dt 3222, which is why the nose becomes the organ symbolic of anger” (Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 76).

The phrase functions as an adverb. “Much more frequently the adverbial notion is expressed by a substantive preceded by a preposition, especially  b and  l”  Jouon and Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew §102d, p. 331.

תוֹכִיחֵ֑נִי

The athnan (accent) marks this as the end of the first phrase.

יכח

Hifil imperative. Halot notes, “with עַל, to reproach someone with something Job 19:5, to make a defence against 13:15” (410). It is used as to punish, avenge, chasten – in some circumstances even meditate or decide.  Being coupled with anger, the reproach must be severe and contrary. DeBurgh comments on the meaning here, in light of the second verb in the sentence, “The distinction between this verb and rsy when placed together as here, is, that the former is reprove by reasoning – the latter by chastisement” (87).  Perhaps the idea is then to “condemn” to rebuke in anger would be close to a condemnation.

The second half of the verse follows the same pattern. The difference is in the precise adverb and verb.

חֲמָת

Means heat (Ezk. 3:14), poison (Dt. 32:24), venom (Ps. 57:5), rage (Gen. 27:44), wrath (Prv. 15:1). Gesenius’ Lexicon has the root as “warmth” with poison being that which “burns the bowels”). “wrath, fury, rage, i.e., a very strong feeling of displeasure, hostility, and antagonism, usually in relation to a wrong, real or imagined, as an extension of the heat and burning feeling one can have when one is emotionally worked up and in strife and turmoil” (James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997)).

יסר

The meaning in the qal and niphal is to instruct, in the piel to chastise. The Greek παιδεύσῃς μεseems to capture this range of meaning well, in that the verb can mean to educate or physically chastise.

Translation:

The line moves rhythmically with two even phrases (aside from the vocative address in the first foot). Each adverb ends with your (Hebrew ka)and each verb ends with the personal pronoun direct object me, (Hebrew ni). Thus, not in anger yours admonish me; not in wrath yours chastise me. A slavish adherence to these effects will not work. However, carrying over the parallel structure into English, using English syntax would be wise.

Moreover, the syntax does awkwardly through the adverbs into emphasis. Normal English word order loses the oddness of the Hebrew line.

The initial foot must be a jarring vocative, Lord (for the translation of YHWH as “Lord” see John Frame The Doctrine of God). It is sufficiently distinctive that it could stand as its own nonconforming line.

In light of his ongoing pain, it does not seem necessary to translate the line as if he has not been rebuked at all. Rather, David is asking for the rebuke to end – at most he is asking that it not descend into wrath. Hence, the need for the emphasis on the adverbs.

The English falls into an easy three-beat line – interestingly the emphasis does not fall on the verbs but rather on not-anger/fury-me which is the emotional thrust of the lines:

Lord,

do not in anger rebuke me

 do not in fury strike me