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The God Squad: The 23rd Psalm in its many permutations

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." — King James Version (KJV)

Q: I agree with you about changing "want" to "lack" in the 23rd Psalm. I have a large Bible, which is too heavy to hold but I sometimes read it in place of my smaller Bible because it includes many footnotes that help clarify some words. This morning I noted that the first sentence in the 23rd Psalm read "The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I lack." This Bible is the New American Bible, A Saint Joseph edition published by the Catholic Book Publishing Co. Some translations got it right. May God Bless you. — J in North Carolina

A: When I first made the point about the first verse of the most famous Psalm, I received emails pointing out that "want" and "lack" mean the same, "They wanted for nothing." True enough — in English. However, the Hebrew is clearer in its distinction between hafatz, meaning "want," and hasar, meaning "lack." The larger point is there is no limit to what we can want, but there are clear limits to what we need. Wanting is fuel for ambition, and ambition is not necessarily a sin. Not realizing that you have already been given all you need is a sin.

The point of the 23rd Psalm is that God is with us to provide our needs. No matter how poor we are, we can love God and believe that the God we love has already given us everything we need to live a good, humble and joyous life. That is why we need to update the King James Version translation. We need to return to gratitude and humility for what we have because it has been given to us. With this change, the Psalm is perfect. You should know that your New American Bible is not the only translation that got the first verse right. Some others (thank you, Bible Gateway) are:

New International Version (NIV): "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing."

Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC): "The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide and shield me], I shall not lack."

Christian Standard Bible (CSB): "The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need."

Common English Bible (CEB): "The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing."

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB): "Adonai is my shepherd; I lack nothing."

Contemporary English Version (CEV): "You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need."

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV): "The Lord is my shepherd. I will always have everything I need."

Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV): "The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing."

Expanded Bible (EXB): "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need [I will lack nothing]."

God'S Word Translation (GW): "The Lord is my shepherd. I am never in need."

Good News Translation (GNT): "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need."

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB): "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack."

International Children's Bible (ICB): "The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need."

International Standard Version (ISV): "The Lord is the one who is shepherding me; I lack nothing."

Lexham English Bible (LEB): "Yahweh is my shepherd; I will not lack for anything."

The Message (MSG): "God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing."

New Century Version (NCV): "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need."

New English Translation (NET): "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing."

New International Reader's Version (NIRV): "The Lord is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need."

New International Version (NIV): "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing."

New Life Version (NLV): "The Lord is my Shepherd. I will have everything I need."

New Living Translation (NLT): "The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need."

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB): "Hashem is my Ro'eh (Shepherd); I shall not lack."

The Passion Translation (TPT): "The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough."

The Voice (VOICE): "The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always."

World English Bible (WEB): "Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing."

Wycliffe Bible (WYC): "The Lord governeth me, and nothing shall fail to me."

Young's Literal Translation (YLT): "A Psalm of David. Jehovah [is] my shepherd, I do not lack."

And my favorite, from The Living Bible (TLB): "Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!"

Read the rest and say Amen!

SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at godsquadquestion@aol.com or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.

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