Whenever I am at a loss how to illustrate the PsalmChallenge Sunday psalm, I look in the beautiful medieval Stuttgart Psalter to see how they did it.
So imagine my consternation today when I found our Psalm 90 illustrated with a man watching a spider spin its web.
Huh?? I didn't see a spider mentioned in any of the translations I had perused nor in the original Hebrew.
Then it dawned on me that the copyist creating the manuscript in 820-830 in France would have only the Latin Vulgate available to him.
It was only much later, during the Protestant reformation in the 14th and 15th centuries, that the Bible was translated into modern languages (against great resistance from the Catholic Church).
So I searched our Psalm 90 in the Vulgate for some sign of a spider and sure enough:
|9 Quoniam omnes dies nostri defecerunt in ira tua defecimus anni nostri sicut aranea meditabantur|
|10 Dies annorum nostrorum in ipsis sep tuaginta
anni si autem in potentatibus octoginta anni et amplius eorum labor et
dolor quoniam supervenit mansuetudo et cor ripiemur|
The English Psalter translates the verses as
9 For all our days are spent; and in thy wrath we have fainted away. Our years shall be considered spider:
10 the days of our years in them are threescore and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years: and what is more of them is labour and sorrow. For mildness is come upon us: and we shall be corrected.
Or more polished:
"Our years pass away like those of a spider."
Meaning our life is as frail as the thread of a spider web.
But still, I don't understand where the translator could have gotten spider from the Hebrew
Photo is from Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart DFG-Viewer
where it can be enjoyed in high resolution_____________________________________________________
OK, let's see the whole Psalm 90 in a good and modern translation by Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal, directly from the Hebrew:
1. A prayer of Moses, the Man of God:
O Lord, You have been our refuge from generation to generation.
2. Before the mountains were born, before You formed the earth and the world,
from eternity to eternity You are God.
3. You turn mankind back to dust; You decreed, “Turn back, you children of man!”
4. For in Your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that has passed, like a watch in the night.
5. You cause them to flow by. They are sleep. At daybreak they are like grass that renews itself;
6. at daybreak it flourishes, renewed; by dusk it withers and dries up.
7. Indeed we are consumed by Your anger, terror-struck by Your fury.
8. You have set our iniquities before You, our hidden sins in the light of Your face.
9. All our days pass away under Your wrath; we consume our years like a sigh.
10. The days of our years are all of seventy years or, given the strength, eighty years; but the best of them are trouble and sorrow. They pass by speedily, and we fly away.
11. Who can know Your furious anger, and Your wrath, which matches the fear of You.
12. Bring us to know how to count our days rightly, that we may obtain a wise heart.
13. Turn, O Lord! How long?! Show mercy to Your servants.
14. Satisfy us at daybreak with Your steadfast love that we may sing for joy all our days.
15. Give us joy for as many days as You have afflicted us, for the years we have seen calamity.
16. Let Your deeds be seen by Your servants, Your glory by their children.
17. May the favor of the Lord, our God, be with us; establish with us the work of our hands; yes, the work of our hands, establish it!
Translation: Rabbi Segal. See his excellent commentary.
Photos (all can be enlarged with a click and then a second click):
1. Stuttgarter Psalter
2. Statues made from Dead Sea salt crystals. Mamilla mall Ahava store.
3. Just before the sun rises over Jerusalem. You can see the tall mast of the Calatrava bridge on the horizon.