Psalms 33:3

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.

My literal interpretation

This verse seems like pretty straightforward directions to someone. It is a command for someone to make up a new song to sing to another person, play something well, and shout out of pure happiness.

Initial thoughts

Who is this command directed at? Every reader of the verse? If it is directed at me, I can handle the shouting part, but y’all are not going to enjoy hearing me sing. And what are we supposed to “play skillfully”? Chess? A musical instrument?

Other translations

Some of the other translations answer my question about what we are supposed to be playing, though they don’t all agree on the type of instrument. The English Standard Version instructs the reader to “play skillfully on strings”. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt that they mean string instruments, rather than puppet strings. That assumption is confirmed by the Luther Bible 1912 which uses the term “Saitenspiel” (string play). The term “saiten” refers to strings as used specifically on musical instruments, though it can also refer to musical chords. A very specific instrument is given by the New Living Translation which tells us that playing must be “on the harp”. Though now I’m wondering where to find that exact harp, since it didn’t just say “a harp”. To confuse matters, The Message Bible strikes a completely different chord by directing us to “give him a trumpet fanfare.” 

The Message Bible also combines both the skillful playing and the shouting joyfully into that “trumpet fanfare”. They leave out the singing as well, telling us just to “invent your own new song to him”, which I guess is what is being played on those trumpets. Another combo of the playing and the shouting is found in the King James Version which tells us to “play skilfully with a loud noise.”  

So, let’s recap what is supposed to be happening in this talent show. Depending on which version of a bible they read, some people are going to be singing, playing a string instrument (maybe a harp), and shouting. Other people are going to be playing the trumpet. Still another set of people are planning to play (something/anything) really well and really loudly. Sounds like a fantastic show!

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