Truth, Understanding, Insight

Why is Psalm 145 missing a verse?

29th July 2012, hej


1) Mystery of the extra words in the NIV translation

Psalm 145 is an alphabetic acrostic, but in the Masoretic Hebrew text it is missing the Hebrew letter 'nun'. Some more modern English translations add a verse, following the Catholic translations and Septuagint. The following will argue that there are powerful reasons why this letter was left out, and why the Masoretic Hebrew text is accurate.

We were made aware of this as we were given a 'nice-sounding' verse from Psalm 145:13 in a get-well greeting card, saying 'the Lord is faithful to all his promises & loving toward all he has made.' Not being familiar with this, we looked up our KJV Bibles and found instead,

Thy kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations.

The subsequent investigation revealed that the NIV had an added line to 145 verse 13. Had the KJV lost some text? Investigation also revealed that there seems much variation on what might be added to that verse for the missing letter of the acrostic, and that some Christians might argue about the validity of the words added and what those words should be, but Jews only talked about the meaning of the missing letter. Jews fully accepted the missing letter in the acrostic.

This chapter is not the only one with a missing letter in an alphabetic acrostic. Psalm 34 (with 23 verses) begins with every letter except vav. Psalm 37 (40 verses) has verses beginning with every letter but ayin. That Psalm 145 is not the only case of a missing letter, indicates that there might be a reason for it.

The portion of Psalm 145 reads:

12 להודיע לבני האדם גבורתיו וכבוד הדר מלכותו׃
To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glory of the majesty of His kingdom.
13 מלכותך מלכות כל־עלמים וממשׁלתך בכל־דור ודור׃
Thy kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations.
No 'nun' נ
(Where some modern English translations add to verse 13)
14 סומך יהוה לכל־הנפלים וזוקף לכל־הכפופים׃
The LORD upholds all that fall, and raises up all those that are bowed down.
15 עיני־כל אליך ישׂברו ואתה נותן־להם את־אכלם בעתו׃
The eyes of all wait for Thee, and Thou give them their food in due season.

Counted letters

It is highly unlikely that the Masoretic text would lose one letter, let alone a whole verse. Each copy of the official copy had every letter counted. It is Jewish tradition to have Soferim count the number of each letter, the number of words and verses, so the text is always accurate. One lost or added letter meant rejection of a whole manuscript. Jewish tradition has Ezra the Scribe setting out the work of the Soferim. As Jews knew they had a perfect master copy there was some freedom with other, often personal, copies. Some personal copies have lots of things added, such as one version of the Psalm 145 found in the Dead Sea cache of scrolls which adds “Blessed be the LORD and blessed be his name forever and ever” after every verse.

But this addition ought not to be surprising as Psalm 145 is the Psalm recited three times daily as a prayer by Jews. For a long time it has been very important in worship. It is called the Ashrei (or 'Happy'). In addition, whereas they do not often add verses to other Psalms, for Psalm 145 they do. The sages for this worship prayer added a verse each from Psalms 84 and 144 to the beginning, and to the end a verse from Psalm 115. Jews themselves ask why add verses to this Psalm? One answer is that it is incomplete. The verses they add do not begin with the letter 'nun'. This indicates that it has always been incomplete.

Incompleteness of a world with suffering

The incomplete nature might have to do with an idea I heard that might be quite common among Jews, that the letters are part of the words that were the origin of the creation process.

And Elohim said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light. (Gen 1:3)

Another source says,

In the medieval.. Sefer Yitzirah: The Book of Creation, the letters of the Alef-bet are described as the stones used to build a house They are called the “twenty two letters of foundation.” This highlights the belief in the essential relationship between letters, words and the creative process. (

The Psalm is a happy psalm, yet in the Psalm it speaks of stumbling, the bent being made straight and deliverance from the wicked. The world is not perfect. It is not complete. The end is that 'all creatures shall bless His holy name', which implies a happy future, when the process of this creation is complete and there is complete happiness. No Jewish text ever adds the incomplete letter.

The missing letter

More than the mere statement of incompleteness, the precise letter that is missing stands out. Our Lord points out the value placed in the missing item, over the others present. More attention is given to the lost or missing item.

What woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, does not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. (Luke 15:8-10)

It seems that every time one would read it we would take note of that one missing letter. Is there anything special about the letter 'nun'? It turns out there is.

NEXT PAGE... The letter 'nun'
Topics: Psalm