This morning, I was taken back by the verse on a daily calendar that sits on my desk. As I turned it to May 18, I read the last verse of Psalm 27. Psalm 27:14 is a glorious verse full of commands, great commands, that blessed me early this morning. I pray they will do the same for you.
Though I have read this chapter and verse multiple times, I was taken back this morning by what I read. I went to look at this verse in Hebrew, Greek, and other English translations because the wording on my desk-top calender struck me as different than what I had read previously. Reading Scriptures in other translations can often invite us to look at them more deeply, or with a new set of eyes, praise the Lord!
Psalm 27:14 is a glorious verse which commands the reader to wait for Yahweh twice and to be strong once. In the midst of these second-person singular commands, these imperatives addressed to “you,” there is one command in the third-person, a jussive addressed to “him” or “it.” The question is who is the subject of this command or entreaty? Is it “him” or “it”? Who is entreated to show your heart strong? Is it “him” or “it”? If it is “him,” then Yahweh is the One entreated to show your heart strong. If it is “it,” then your heart is the one entreated to show itself strong. Both are great! Either way, this entreaty has the intention that your heart is shown strong as you wait for Yahweh! What glorious news! Hallelu-Yah!
However, which is it? Who shows your heart strong? Is it Yahweh? Or, is it your heart? Let us consider this as we take a closer look at Psalm 27:14 together.
Psalm 27:14 reads: קוה אל־יהוה חזק ויאמץ לבך וקוה אל־יהוה
There are two ways to translate this verse:
  1. Wait for Yahweh! Be strong, and let Him show your heart strong! Yes, wait for Yahweh!
  2. Wait for Yahweh! Be strong! Yes, let your heart show strength! Yes, wait for Yahweh!
The difference between my two translations above is who we understand the subject of the third verb to be in this sentence. Who is entreated to show your heart strong? Is it Yahweh? Or, is it your heart? Is Yahweh the One entreated to show/make your heart strong as you wait for Him? Or, is your heart the one entreated to show/make itself strong as you wait for Yahweh? Both are glorious news for us and our hearts! But which one is it?
First, let’s look at my first translation:

Psalm 27:14 Wait for Yahweh! Be strong, and let Him show your heart strong! Yes, wait for Yahweh!

 

In the first translation, the subject of the verb is understood as the third-person masculine singular subject, “him/it,” which is included in the verb itself. Unlike English, Hebrew and Greek verbs include the subject and thus do not need an explicit noun like English requires. The verb, ויאמץ, is a Hiphil jussive, third-person masculine singular verb with a prefixed conjunction (if this sounds foreign to you, that’s ok! Skip to what it means), meaning, “and let him/it show strength,” or, “and let him/it prove himself/itself strong.” This first translation allows the “him/it” to remain as the subject of the verb in question. In context, that “Him” would refer to Yahweh, the One for whom the reader is commanded to wait. The noun לבך, “your heart,” is then understood as the object of the verb. Thus, it is rendered “and let Him (Yahweh) make your heart strong.” As such this translation identifies Yahweh as the One who is entreated to make your heart strong as you wait for Him.

This is also how the translators of the King James Version (KJV) and of the New King James Version (NKJV) understood the verse. Both render Psalm 27:14 as, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (KJV). As stated above, this translation understands that Yahweh is the One entreated to strengthens your heart. As you wait for Yahweh, meaning as you put your hope and trust in Him, and as you are strong, then Yahweh is entreated to show or make your heart strong. What glorious news! Hallelu-Yah!
Now, let’s look at my second translation:

Psalm 27:14 Wait for Yahweh! Be strong! Yes, let your heart show strength! Yes, wait for Yahweh!

In the second translation, the subject of the verb is understood as the noun‎ לבך, “your heart.” “Your heart” is the “it” included in the verb itself. Thus we get, “and let your heart show strength.” As such, this translation identifies your heart as the one which is entreated to show or take strength as you wait for Yahweh.
This is also how many translators of accurate, great translations understand this verse (see NASB, ESV, NIV, TLV, CJB, etc.). Both the NASB and ESV are word for word in their rendering except for the “yes” which the NASB includes prior to the last command. They render Psalm 27:14 as, “Wait for the LORD; Be strong; and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD” (NASB). As stated above, this translation understands that your heart is one which is entreated to be strong. In this case, as you wait for Yahweh, meaning you put your hope and trust in Him, and as you are strong, then your heart will show or take strength. What glorious news! Hallelu-Yah!
Both translations are great news for you–provided that you wait for Yahweh and are strong as you wait for Him! Either Yahweh is here entreated to show or make your heart strong as you wait for Him, or your heart is entreated to show or take strength as you wait for Yahweh. Glorious news either way!
Yet still we must ask, which one is right? Who is the subject of the verb? Who is being entreated? Is it Yahweh? Or, is it your heart? Who is entreated to show your heart strong?
Theologically, both are true.
We cannot object on theological grounds to the interpretation that Yahweh is the One who strengthens us or our hearts as we wait for Him. Nor can we object theologically to an entreaty for our heart to show or take strength as we wait for Yahweh. Both are true theologically.
Grammatically, the second translation is correct.
First, in Hebrew the subject normally follows the verb and must match in gender and number. The noun לבך, “your heart,” both follows the verb and agrees with it in gender and number. The noun לבך, “your heart,” is a masculine singular noun and thus agrees with the verb, ויאמץ, which is a third-person singular masculine jussive.
Second, Hebrew has a word, or a grammatical marker, that would be used if the noun לבך, “your heart,” was the object of the verb: את. This word is not translated into English because it is only a grammatical marker in Hebrew to identify the definite direct object in a sentence. If David intended for the noun לבך, “your heart,” to be the object instead of the subject of the verb, then the Hebrew text would read, “ויאמץ את לבך.” We would then translate it without question as, “and let him show your heart strong.”
Third, the translators of the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in the third century BC, understood the noun לבך, “your heart,” as the subject of the verb. In Greek, the subject is always placed in the nominative case, but the object is place in the accusative or dative case. The Septuagint reads: καὶ κραταιούσθω ἡ καρδία σου. The words ἡ καρδία, “the heart,” are in the nominative case which identifies it as the subject of the verb. Thus, the Septuagint makes explicit that “your heart” is the subject of the entreaty “let it show strength” or, “let it prove strong.”
In light of such things, your heart, rather than Yahweh, is being commanded to show or take strength as you wait for Yahweh.
So why the other translation?
If the grammar shows that “your heart” is the subject, not the object, then why did the translators of the KJV and the NKJV render the subject as Yahweh and “your heart” as the object? I do not know, for I was not present for those discussions, if there were any. Nevertheless we can propose two possible answers.
First, they may have (mis)understood the verb or the noun to be something other than what they are. I do not think this to be the case, but it is possible.
Second, they may have understood that the definite direct object marker was intentionally left out by David due to the genre of the Psalms. The Psalms are poetic, or prophetic, material. As such, normal grammatical rules are at times ignored or broken. This is true whether we are reading Hebrew or English poetic material. Certain grammatical rules can be bent or be broken within poetic texts. Words that would be necessary in narrative material are at times omitted in poetic texts. As such, it is possible for the first rendering to be correct even though the grammatical marker את in Hebrew is missing. Thus, it is possible to understand “your heart” as the object rather than the subject of the verb. This could explain why the KJV and the NKJV translate this passage as they do. This requires us to assume that the object marker was intentionally left out due to the poetic nature of this text. In that case, Yahweh would be the one entreated to show or make your heart strong as you wait for Him. Which is glorious news! Hallelu-Yah!
Both translations are true theologically. Both translations are possibly true grammatically, though the latter has much more grammatical support. Thus, it seems that the second translation is correct. Your heart is the subject of the third-person command. Your heart is commanded to show strength as you wait for Yahweh.
Such an understanding also fits the context of this verse. Psalm 27:4 contains 4 commands. Three of the commands are second-person imperatives addressed to “you.” The fourth command is a third-person jussive addressed to “him/it.” If the jussive is addressed to “your heart,” as is argued above, then even though it is third-person it is nevertheless addressed to “you.” However, should we understand the jussive to be an entreaty to Yahweh, we have a change of addressee with two commands addressed to “you,” then one addressed to “Him,” followed by one more to “you.” It is possible, but not as likely as each of the commands in this verse being addressed to “you.” “You” are commanded to wait for Yahweh twice in this verse. “You” are commanded to be strong once. “Your heart” is commanded to be strong once.
Such an understanding forms a chiastic structure as follows:
       A. You must wait for Yahweh!
                B. You must be strong!
                B1. Your heart must be strong!
       A1. You must wait for Yahweh!
Centered in the commands for you to wait for Yahweh are the commands to be strong which are an expression of Hebrew parallelism: saying the same thing in different words. The imperative command to “Be strong!” and the jussive command to “let your heart show strength” are one and the same. As you wait for Yahweh, you must be strong. Yes, let your heart show strength as you wait for Yahweh.
Who shows your heart strong? Is it Yahweh? Or, is it your heart? Both are true theologically. But the grammar and composition of Psalm 27:14 supports the latter. Psalm 27:14 contains four commands to you. 1) Wait for Yahweh! 2) Be strong! 3) Yes, let your heart show strength! 4) Yes, wait for Yahweh!
Both translations are worth your meditation and prayer. But regardless of our understanding, we are commanded to wait for Yahweh and be strong. Yes, wait for Yahweh!
Psalm 27:14 קוה אל־יהוה חזק ויאמץ לבך וקוה אל־יהוה
  1. Wait for Yahweh! Be strong, and let Him show your heart strong! Yes, wait for Yahweh!
  2. Wait for Yahweh! Be strong! Yes, let your heart show strength! Yes, wait for Yahweh!
May we together be those who wait for Yahweh, those who are strong, and let our hearts show strength. Yes, let us wait for Yahweh!
Blessings,
Pastor Chris Montgomery
5/18/2020

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