Psalm 64

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1705 Dutch painting based on the difficult verse 6

Psalm 64 usually refers to the 64th psalm from the Book of Psalms according to the Masoretic numbering. It corresponds to psalm 63 in the Septuagint (Vulgate) numbering. It is divided into either 10 or 11 verses (depending on whether the introductory לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמֹור לְדָוִֽד "To the chief Musician [נצח], A Psalm of David" is counted as a separate verse).

It is directed against the "wicked" (רעע) and "workers of iniquity" (פֹּעֲלֵי אָֽוֶן), whom God shall shoot with an arrow (וַיֹּרֵם אֱלֹהִים חֵץ)

Verses 6–7 (Vulgate: Psalm 63:7-8) have been the subject of confusion in early Bible translations; KJV translates the Hebrew as:

"They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded."

But Jerome, based on LXX, rendered this as

Scrutati sunt iniquitates; defecerunt scrutantes scrutinio. Accedet homo ad cor altum, et exaltabitur Deus. Sagittæ parvulorum factæ sunt plagæ eorum,

which translates to "They have searched after iniquities: they have failed in their search. Man shall accede to a lofty heart: And God shall be exalted. The arrows of children are their wounds."

The adjective altum in Latin has both the meanings "high" and "deep", and it is here used to translate LXX βαθεῖα "deep",[1] but it offered itself to an interpretation of an "exalted heart". The "arrows of children" (Sagittæ parvulum) render LXX βέλος νηπίων, which has no correspondence in the Hebrew text as it has come down to us.[who?]

Jerome's translation gave rise to mystical interpretations involving the Sacred Heart in early modern Christian tradition.[2]


  1. ^ βαθύς. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  2. ^ e.g. Serafino Capponi, Commentaria in Psalterium Davidicum, Volume 3, 1738, p. 95, interprets this in terms of Christ himself being the Man who can "accede to that exalted heart", Hic [Christus] solus accessit ad illum cor altum.

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