As the Deer Bellows

One way I have been practicing my Spanish is to translate portions of Scripture from Spanish into English. Trying to decode the grammar and hunt down verb tenses can be a bit like detective work and it certainly has helped my language skills. One benefit of this exercise is that it has the effect of forcing you to slow down, pay attention to every word and truly digest the text. A second benefit is

the added perspective it can give on certain words or phrases. For example, the sons of Korah write in the forty-second psalm:

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so I long for you, God.

Other English translations will render it thus:

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.

Reading the two translations together we get the impression of a deer who is thirsty for a drink of water. In the same way, our souls ought to thirst after God.

Now here is my translation of a Spanish translation:

Like the deer that bellows for the watercourses,
so my soul cries out for you, my God.

I don’t know if this is closer to the Hebrew original or not, but it does give a slightly different meaning to the verse. When we read of a deer longing for water we might think of a deer panting heavily as she looks for a water source. But when we read of a deer bellowing for agua we imagine a deer letting out a deep, loud cry as she desperately staggers in search of a life-giving stream. If you have heard such a bellow before then you can appreciate the difference between a bellow and a pant.

The metaphor of the bellowing deer certainly fits with the language of the psalm:

My tears have been my food day and night
I pour out my heart
Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
I am deeply depressed
Why have you forgotten me?

These are not the words of someone quietly communicating the need for God and for his help. Rather, it is someone painfully calling out to God from the deep recesses of their soul and expressing the essential need of God’s presence. It is someone who is wrestling with what he knows about God and what he is experiencing in life. It is someone who bellows, like a deer, for living waters.



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