Psalm 23 & God In Pursuit

~ Here and there I have heard Pastor John Piper say of Psalm 23:6, that a more literal Hebrew translation of it would be “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” 

In fact here is an excerpt from an article by him that states as much:

“God does not bless us begrudgingly. There is a kind of eagerness about the beneficence of God. He does not wait for us to come to him. He seeks us out, because it is his pleasure to do us good. God is not waiting for us; he is pursuing us. That, in fact, is the literal translation of Psalm 23:6: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.'”

How Much God Wants to Bless You @ Desiring God Ministries

I have always wondered about this.  Is that really one more valid way to translate the Hebrew? Because most Bible versions seem have the word follow in verse 6:

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (NIV)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me … (ESV), (KJV), (NKJV)

Of the Bibles found at BibleGateway.com, about 30 Bibles use “follow” and about 12 use “pursue”. 

So which is it? And why is it important?

~ Let me start with the question of which is it? For this, I will take a quick look at the Hebrew. One sec. 

This is the verse in question. Don’t worry if you do not follow the Hebrew. I myself am very rusty and you can get the point.  

The word that I have cirled, yirdphuni, comes from the word radaph ~ rdp, which it turns out really does mean pursue:

Here is a more colorful picture from Logos. I love these:

~ So a literal translation of the Hebrew really can be “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” Interesting.

Ok. So why is this important?

One reason why is personal. I personally just find the idea of goodness and mercy being in a hot pursuit of us, to be something cool.  It’s as if they pursue us so as to tackle us and I like that picture.  I like the idea and image of being jumped by God’s mercy and goodness.

A second reason why I think it’s important is because there is quite often an asymmetry that governs our lives.  We all too often remember or notice the bad things that take place in our lives but rarely the good.  This is will help us to be more sensitive to the good in our lives.

A final reason why is that this is really about God pursuing us more than anything. All too often we are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the ones seeking God. It really is the opposite – all through our lives… all the days of our lives.

You can read more about all this at the Piper article linked to up above. I will end for now.


*Note 1: All of the above and the following were accessed via Logos Software and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia in Logos.

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia : with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., Ps 23:6). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

*Note 2: I was just reading Proverbs 13 during my quiet time and noticed that it says in verse 21 “Adversity pursues sinners, but the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.” And yes. Sure enough. The word for pursue here is the same one discussed up above.

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