This week we received a new commentary on the Psalms by Tremper Longman III in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series. I know what some of you are thinking. Didn’t Derek Kidner write the commentary on Psalms in that series? Yes, he did. Is it out of print? No, it’s not. And I’m very thankful for that since I love Kidner on the Psalms. Kidner’s commentaries are now part of the “Kidner Classics Commentaries” along with his commentary on Jeremiah. This is certainly a win-win situation. The TOTC gets a nice updated edition on the Psalms and the classic set by Kidner is still available for those who have grown to love him and, like me, enjoy introducing him to others.
Here’s an excerpt from Longman’s commentary on Psalm 23.
“Verse 4 envisions God’s guidance through a time of utmost distress. Continuing the path metaphor, the psalmist imagines the path leading through the darkest valley or, according to another translation, ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’ The latter more traditional rendering derives from splitting the Hebrew world ṣalmāwet (deep darkness) into two words: ṣēl māwet (shadow of death). The former rendering has been considered more likely, however, since a cognate word was found at Ugarit. The traditional rendering continues, though, because the psalm is often used to console those who are nearing death. Of course, the translation ‘darkest valley’ simply broadens its application, certainly not excluding the difficult time of facing death.” (135-36)
“The NIV renders the final colon of the psalm: I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. The house of the Lord, of course, is the temple, and no-one actually lived there. The temple, though, was where God made his presence known among his people. The psalmist thus proclaims that he will live in the light of God’s presence.”
“The translation for ever gives a wrong impression, at least when the psalm is read in its original Old Testament context. The phrase is literally rendered ‘for length of days’, that is, for the duration of the psalmist’s life. After all, the teaching about the afterlife developed during the late Old Testament (Dan. 12:1-3) into the intertestamental period and blossomed in the New Testament. Reading Psalm 23 in the light of the New Testament indicates that it is true that the psalmist and others who put their trust in God will live in his presence forever.” (137)
For a defense of the traditional rendering and interpretation of verse 4 see Derek Kidner.
Psalms by Tremper Longman III is from IVP Academic. It is a paperback with 479 pages and sells for $18.00.
Tremper Longman III (PhD, Yale University) is Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is also Visiting Professor of Old Testament at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and adjunct of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He lectures regularly at Regent College in Vancouver and the Canadian Theological Seminary in Calgary.
Longman is the author or coauthor of over twenty books, including How to Read Genesis, How to Read the Psalms, How to Read Proverbs, Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation, Old Testament Essentials and coeditor of A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible. He and Dan Allender have coauthored Bold Love, Cry of the Soul, Intimate Allies, The Intimate Mystery and the Intimate Marriage Bible studies.