“You get us ready for life:
you probe for our soft spots,
you knock off our rough edges.
And I’m feeling so fit, so safe:
made right, kept right.”
The above is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Psalm 7:9-10. This is not a translation of either the original Hebrew or the Greek Septuagint. Peterson has taken liberties with this psalm, and I wonder if he has personal reasons for doing so.
The Septuagint reads-
καὶ κατευθυνεῖς δίκαιον ἐτάζων καρδίας καὶ νεφροὺς ὁ θεός
and you shall straighten the just examining hearts and kidneys o God
Changing “examining hearts and kidneys” into the English idiom “probe for our soft spots” is clever. I don’t know if it captures the ancient Greek sense of the phrase. (Maybe someone who knows more Greek than I do can comment on that.) Nevertheless, I find the expression nicely captures my desire that God search me, make me aware of my shortcomings, and do something about them.
Which brings us to Peterson’s next line: “you knock off our rough edges.” Nowhere, in either the Hebrew or the Greek versions of Psalm 7, are there any words or phrases that can be translated into such an expression.
This discovery annoyed me at first. I’m trying to learn Greek, and usually Peterson’s substitutions of English slang for Greek phrases are instructive. The freedom of his paraphrases challenges me to be aware of the personal expressions that I use to explain scripture. However in this instance, inserting a sentence that has no basis in the original seemed deceptive.
My negative reaction was fueled by my disappointment that something like “you knock off our rough edges” wasn’t in the original text when I so wanted to find a phrase like that in the Septuagint. I long for God to free me of my rough edges. Thinking that such a longing was described in scripture gave me hope that knocking off rough edges was indeed one of the works of grace. (Finding a biblical basis for a description of grace feels more like theology and less like wishful thinking.)
So, either the Greek did mean something like knocking off rough edges or maybe Peterson felt the addition of that expression better captured what God would need to do if the psalm is to end as it does -- feeling fit, safe, made and kept right.