“God save the king" or “May the king live” in 1 Samuel 10:24, et al.?
"And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king." (1 Samuel 10:24, KJV)
The word, “God (אלהים)” is not in the Hebrew, which says, “live (subjunctive) the king.” The subjunctive mood expresses a wish. The translators understood this passage as the invocation of the providential preservation of the life of the king. Thus “God” was added to convey the meaning of the utterance. If not to God, who else would God-fearing Hebrews address this plea to? To an impersonal "fate"? Such would be a Pagan attitude. Whereas contemporary English speakers might say, "Long live the king" without necessarily having God in mind, the preservation of life and God were intrinsically linked in the mind of a God-fearing Hebrew.
The addition of “God” in a phrase that does not have “אלהים” or “θεός” is not uncommon in the Bible. In translating “χρηματισμός (divine response)” the NIV and ESV add “God” (Romans 11:4) to convey that this divine response is from God. Also, in translating “χρηματίζω (divine admonishment)” the NASB and NKJV add “God” (Matthew 2:22) to convey that this divine admonishment is from God. Also, in translating “σέβομαι (devout)” the NASB adds “God” (Acts 13:43) to convey that these people are devout for God. Also, in translating “κορβαν (consecrated gift)” the NIV, ESV, and NASB add “God” (Mark 7:11) to convey that this gift is consecrated to God. Similarly, “God” was added in “God save the king” because it is God who allows the king to live. By adding “God,” the KJV does not do anything unusual that is unseen in other popular translations.
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