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Psalm 6:4 (BHS/WHM 4.2) English: 6:3

4וְ֭נַפְשִׁי נִבְהֲלָ֣ה מְאֹ֑ד וְאַ֯תָּ֥ יְ֝הוָ֗ה עַד־מָתָֽי׃


Psalm 6:4 (LXX)

4 καὶ ἡ ψυχή μου ἐταράχθη σφόδρα, καὶ σύ, κύριε, ἕως πότε;

Psalm 6:4 (VGCLEM)

4 Et anima mea turbata est valde ; sed tu, Domine, usquequo ?



Why the Waw here? The preceding two verses begin without a conjunction.  However, these preceding verses begin with a plea. In the second verse, the plea gives an explicit cause of the plea. The first clause of verse 4 (Heb; English 3), acts as amplification of the preceding colon thus functioning in two coordinate ways: It amplifies the preceding colon and gives the basis for the consequent plea (But you, O Lord, how long?).  The tie to the preceding verse is made stronger the repetition of the verb to be in horror, quake. Leupold actually links the first colon with the preceding verse. Bratcher and Reyburn note:

Since verse 3a goes so closely with the last part of verse 2b, TEV, NEB, NJB, and others join it directly to verse 2 instead of making it a separate sentence, as RSV does. That is, line a of verse 3 should be translated as if it were line c of verse 2. Here the image of being exhausted is extended from the bones to the nefesh, the soul, but the psalmist has reversed the word order in the Hebrew to provide still greater extension of the image of exhaustion.

Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 60.

Jouon and Muraoka note:

Quite often the Waw, like and in our languages, expresses a nuance of emotion rather than a logical link (§177m, 652).

Which seems to give the force of the Waw in this instance:

His plea is reinforced by three considerations that set forth his misery: “I am weak,” “my bones are terrified,” “my soul is exceedingly terrified.”…Paralyzing fear might be a good commentary on what was felt. All who take sin lightly may well weigh what true children of God have felt when God’s Spirit wrought repentance in their heart. The peak of suffering is expressed by, “My soul is terrified exceedingly” (Leupold, 85).


My soul.

2. LN 26 heart, the inner self, i.e., the essence of life, including thinking, feeling, willing, desiring (Ge 34:3); 3. LN 23.88–23.128 life, i.e., that animate part of a person existing until the state of death (1Sa 19:11); 4. LN 9.1–9.23 person, i.e., a human being as a living person (Ex 16:16); 5. LN 23.88–23.128 unit: מַפָּח נֶפֶשׁ (mǎp∙pāḥ ně∙p̄ěš) dying, formally, exhaling gasp of the soul, i.e., the very beginning of the state of no longer being alive (Job 11:20+);

James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Waltke in his Proverbs (NICOT) commentary writes of the word:

But in the Old Testament nepes refers to the passionate drives and appetites of all breathing creatures, including their hunger for food and sex….Nepes is often used with words denoting yearning. The craving for God, however, distinguishes human nepes from animal nepes ….Since it refuse to the basic nature of a human being as having and being “passionate vitality,” it is better glossed according to context by “hunger”, “self”, and “life” (Proverbs, vol. 1, p. 90).

Accordingly, something like “life” or “desire” or “heart” may be more appropriate as a translation than “soul”.

נִבְהֲלָ֣ה מְאֹ֑ד

She quakes/is horrified exceedingly.

וְאַ֯תָּ֥ יְ֝הוָ֗ה

But you, O Lord.

The you here is interrupts the flow: there are you two vocatives in a row, But you, Lord ….


Until when.

De Burgh writes, “Wilt thou delay?” beautifully expressive of failing strength, causing the sentence to be imperfect.”

And thou, O Jehovah, how long? This elliptical form of expression serves to express more strongly the vehemence of grief, which not only holds the minds of men bound up, but likewise their tongues, breaking and cutting short their speech in the middle of the sentence. The meaning, however, in this abrupt expression is doubtful. Some, to complete the sentence, supply the words, Wilt thou afflict me, or continue to chasten me? Others read, How long wilt thou delay thy mercy? But what is stated in the next verse shows that this second sense is the more probable, for he there prays to the Lord to look upon him with an eye of favor and compassion. He, therefore, complains that God has now forsaken him, or has no regard to him, just as God seems to be far of from us whenever his assistance or grace does not actually manifest itself in our behalf. God, in his compassion towards us, permits us to pray to him to make haste to succor us; but when we have freely complained of his long delay, that our prayers or sorrow, on this account, may not pass beyond bounds we must submit our case entirely to his will, and not wish him to make greater haste than shall seem good to him.

John Calvin, Psalms, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Ps 6:3.

Spurgeon in the Treasury of David quotes John Donne as follows:

Ver. 3. O Lord, how long? As the saints in heaven have their usque quo, how long, Lord, holy and true, before thou begin to execute judgment? So, the saints on earth have their usque quo. How long, Lord, before thou take off the execution of this judgment upon us? For, our deprecatory prayers are not mandatory, they are not directory, they appoint not God his ways, nor times; but as our postulatory prayers are, they also are submitted to the will of God, and have all in them that ingredient, that herb of grace, which Christ put into his own prayer, that veruntamen, yet not my will, but thy will be fulfilled; and they have that ingredient which Christ put into our prayer, fiat voluntas, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven; in heaven there is no resisting of his will; yet in heaven there is a soliciting, a hastening, an accelerating of the judgment, and the glory of the resurrection; so though we resist not his corrections here upon the earth, we may humbly present to God the sense which we have of his displeasure, for this sense and apprehension of his corrections is one of the principal reasons why he sends them; he corrects us therefore that we might be sensible of his corrections; that when we, being humbled under his hand, have said with his prophet, “I will bear the wrath of the Lord, because I have sinned against him” (Mic 7:9), he may be pleased to say to his correcting angel, as he did to his destroying angel, This is enough, and so burn his rod now, as he put up his sword then. John Donne.



Yes, my life shakes in  horror

But you – Lord … until when?

Horror as an adjective horribly means “a lot” in common usage.  However, “shakes in horror” is odd enough as to avoid the common misuse.  I have changed the rhythm here to slow down and draw out the imagery. The accented first syllable is to capture the emotional effect of the initial Waw

Mercy Lord – I break

Heal Lord – my soul does quake

Yes, my life shakes in  horror

But you – Lord … until when?