Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chains and cords

I noticed a few weeks ago the similarities, in words and tone, between Psalms 116, in the Bible, and Alma 36, in the Book of Mormon.

It is quite possibly that the author of Alma 36, being of Hebrew derivation, knew and loved this psalm, though it is not as familiar as others to our modern ears.

Psalms 116: 3-4, 16:

"The sorrows of death compassed me,
and the pains of hell gat hold upon me:
I found trouble and sorrow.

Then called I upon the name of the Lord;
O Lord, I beseech thee,
deliver my soul

...Oh Lord, thou hast loosed my bonds."

Alma 36: 18:

"... I cried within my heart:
O Jesus, thou Son of God
have mercy on me,
who am in the gall of bitterness
and am encircled about
by the everlasting chains of death ...

In my study of the Hebrew Tanakh today, I learned that the word, (chbl) translated "sorrows" in this Psalm can also be translated as "bonds" or "cords." The authors of the King James Version preferred to stick with "sorrows" but the authors of the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh use "bonds," which runs a clearer thread of continuity through the psalm. The bonds (chbl) mentioned at the beginning are released at the end.

The latter translation also more closely matches Alma's psalm, he who had found himself encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. True, "chains" (ziyqah) is a different word from cords or bonds, yet easily a synonym.

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