A note on Psalm 105:18
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 3:47pm
A friend writes: “I was listening to a tape of Joyce Meyers. She read from her Bible Ps. 105:18, which is referring to Joseph. Her version said this: “The iron entered into his soul.” I tried to look it up in my Bible, and that version didn’t imply that meaning. Mine says ….his neck was put in irons.
Now, I checked on Blue Letter Bible, and the only versions that listed it the way Joyce Meyers read it, is Young’s Literal Translation and Darby Translation. I guess I am asking, which one is correct? It seems more of the translations we use every day do not translate it like the above version. There seems to be a much deeper meaning when it says ‘the iron entered his soul’. Thanks for any direction you can give me.
My reply: Go with this translation, “He was put into irons.” From what I can find out, the IRON does not enter into HIM (his soul), but HE enters into the IRON. I.e., he is put into irons. A standard commentary on Psalms says that the translation “the iron entered into his soul” is contrary to the grammar of the statement, “the word for ‘iron’ being masculine, while that for ‘soul’ is, like the verb, feminine.” I would point out that the sense that “he was put into irons” is consistent with the general form of Hebrew poetry called “Hebrew parallelism.” I.e., in a couplet like v. 18, the two parts are generally synonymous. The translation “The iron entered into his soul” seems to be totally unrelated to the first part of the verse. I don’t know why the NIV and other versions use “his neck.” The fact is that the Hebrew word translated “soul” and “neck” is NEPHESH, which has 3 main meanings: (1) life; (2) soul/spirit; and (3) the person. Young/Darby/Meyers are going with the second translation, which is OK in other contexts, but not here. The best sense here is the third, “the person as such, the whole person, the person himself.” That fits with the grammar, with the poetic parallelism, and with the best contextual meaning of the word. The New American Standard Bible (1995) says it right: “They afflicted his feet with fetters, HE HIMSELF was laid in irons.” (The KJV says “He was laid in iron”; the NKJV says “He was laid in irons.”) The idea of iron entering into one’s soul is a deep and lovely idea and probably was true for Joseph; and I’m sure Meyers was trying to teach from it some spiritual lesson about courage and resolve and determination and faithfulness. However, that is simply not what this text says.