Thursday, September 2, 2010

Translation, please!

This past Sunday we sang the well-known hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," and I couldn't help noticing how difficult some of the language is.  For one thing, the word "fount" could hardly be considered part of the everyday vernacular.  But at least the root word is obvious in the word fountain, so we can all still understand it.

The second verse provides a much larger challenge:

"Here I raise my Ebenezer:
'Hither by thy help I've come;'
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home."

What exactly is an Ebenezer?!?  Well, as the image hints, an Ebenezer is a rock, stemming from a rather obscure story in the book of 1 Samuel.  In that story, the Israelites are at war with the Philistines.  Samuel prays to God for help and protection, and the Israelites win the battle.  In recognition, he places a stone, and names it Ebenezer, which means stone of help.

So the hymn intends to remind us of God's presence and help in our lives.  Our accomplishments stem from our great gifts and endowments, mixed with our effort.  I can't help wondering if the hymn expresses that properly for us today.  Should the language be rewritten for clarity?  Should the second verse have a footnote in the hymnal?  Hopefully for at least my readers, this hymn now makes a bit more sense.

PS I'm still tweaking the blog design.  Stay tuned for more changes!


  1. the elw did a mostly good job of modernizing its language. its an ongoing process tho.

  2. Thanks for the reminder of two services. I would havebeen there at 10:00. The info on the Ebenezer stone was appreciated. I think we all need one of them!