To you, silence is praise, O God . . .
LOOK: Valérie Hadida (French, 1965–), Nuage (Cloud), 2013. Hadida is a contemporary figurative sculptor from France who works mainly in bronze and clay. Many of her “petites bonnes femmes” (little women) sculptures are available for sale through websites like Artsper and Artsy. View process photos on the artist’s Facebook page.
Tibi silens laus
For you, silence is praise
Dumiyyah (alternatively transliterated as dumiyah, dumiyya, or dûmîyâ) is one of several Hebrew words for “silence.” It’s used four times in the Psalms, most famously in Psalm 62:1—“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation”—but also in Psalm 65:1. In addition to its straightforward sense, the word implies waiting or repose.
(Related post: “The savasana of Lent”)
The song above is a contemplative setting of the opening phrase of Psalm 65 in two languages. It layers the Hebrew dumiyyah with the Latin Vulgate translation of Leka dumiyyah tehillah.
In “Mystery of the Missing Silence,” Christian spirituality writer Carl McColman ponders why so many English translations of Psalm 65:1 eliminate or obscure the word dumiyyah that’s in the original text. The few well-established ones (in Christian circles) that retain it are:
- The Darby Bible (DBY): “Praise waiteth for thee in silence, O God, in Zion . . .”
- The New American Standard Bible (NASB): “There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God . . .”
- The GOD’S WORD Translation (GW): “You are praised with silence in Zion, O God . . .”
- The English Standard Version (ESV) has “Praise is due you,” but a footnote provides the alternate translation “Praise waits for you in silence.”
McColman’s word study led him to reach out to Jewish friends with a familiarity of Hebrew, including one in rabbinical school, who pointed him to the Stone Edition Tanach from ArtScroll. First published in 1996, this translation by an international team of Torah scholars renders Psalm 65:1a as “To you, silence is praise, O God in Zion.” (Other modern Jewish translations, like Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg’s, have something similar.) A footnote in the Stone Edition cites commentary from the medieval rabbinic scholar Rashi (1040–1105), who said, “The praises of infinite God can never be exhausted. Silence is his most eloquent praise, since elaboration must leave glaring omissions.”
“Dumiyah” by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan is featured on the Art & Theology Lent Playlist on Spotify.
* Note: In most modern Jewish translations, which tend to count the original headings in the Psalms as verses, this is Psalm 65:2. In the Vulgate and in Eastern Orthodox Bibles, which follow the Septuagint numbering system instead of the Hebrew (Masoretic) one, it is Psalm 64:2. However, for consistency, I refer to it throughout this post as Psalm 65:1, following the numbering in Protestant Bibles.