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NLT Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, and “Blessed” (Psalm 1:1)

The usage of the word “blessed” in the scriptures is a word I have found interesting in my studies. It is hard for one English word to fully capture the meaning. Let’s look at how the new study Bibles treat the word “blessed.”

ESV Study Bible:

1:1 Blessed. The truly happy person is happy because God showers him with favor. Jesus uses the Greek equivalent in Matt. 5:3—11; cf. also James 1:12. The Latin translation, beatus, is the source of the word beatitude. the man. A specific, godly individual (Hb. ha’ish, “the man”) is held up as an example for others to imitate. Such teaching by use of a concrete example is common in OT wisdom literature.

NLT Study Bible:

1:1 Oh, the joys: This Hebrew term (’ashrey) is used twenty-six times in Psalms. Some translations render it as “blessed,” but a different term (barak) is used in contexts of blessing (5:12; 45:2; 107:38). – The godly do not permit themselves to live under the influence of sinners. Those who do not fear the Lord are wicked(36:1); they are the enemies of those who love God, those who do right, and the poor and oppressed (see10:2-13; 37:14). The wicked might appear pious (50:16) and sometimes enjoy temporary prosperity (37:35), but sorrow (32:10) and destruction (1:4-6) await them when their deeds catch up with them (9:16).

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This may be a pet peeve, but I do not like the word “happy” as a definition of the word “blessed.” I think the translation or explanation of “happy” completely gives the wrong idea to the reader. “Happy” indicates a mood or a feeling in our language today. God was not promising that the righteous would be happy or feel happy in life. I think it is better to understand that the righteous will have a satisfying, fulfilling life with God. Unfortunately, some translations are using the word “happy.”

How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers! (Psalm 1:1; HCSB)

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1; NRSV)

I am glad that the ESV did not fall into this trap of using the word “happy” instead of the word “blessed.” I think the word “happy” is very misleading to the average reader. But notice how the NLT dealt with the verse:

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. (Psalm 1:1; NLT)

I think “Oh, the joys” is a pretty good translation. “Oh, the joys” does not rely so much on one’s mood and feelings like the word “happy.” The righteous will have a more joyful life (satisfying life) than the wicked. I hope others will study the usage of “blessed” and consider that “happy” just does not go far enough in communicating the intent of the text.