The Pruning of a Totally Spiritual Tattoo

Today's victim of the needle thought she was getting a great conversation piece, something special to celebrate, flaunt and force her spirituality on others. She was going to tattoo a bible verse on her foot, in genuine Hebrew. She chose Psalm 18:2...

What she got was this:

For those who don't know their verses by heart, here's Psalm 18:2, in English:

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

You're probably thinking there's no way such a long and complex verse can fit into just two words. If you thought that, you're correct!

What does it say? Random crap. The first word (on the right), doesn't mean anything at all. The second word can be read as "Zmira", which means "Pruning" in Hebrew.

This tattoo is so bad, it really should be pruned off!

Today's Hebrew lesson; This is what Psalm 18:2 looks like in Hebrew:

Word of advice, if you're going to tattoo a bible verse, compare it to a verified source.

I have no idea how today's victim managed to get it so wrong. There are websites where you can see Old Testament verses in Hebrew, or you can buy a Hebrew bible, but do try to get it right!


  1. I think I figured it out:
    The first word is yud, chet which is 18 numerically (yud=10, chet=8), then a bet which is 2 numerically. This makes the first word 18:2.

    The second word was probably supposed to be zemer, which I think means song.

    So, the tattoo artist probably meant to tattoo the words "Psalm 18:2" in hebrew

  2. Oh my, you did figure it out, I totally missed that!

    The tattoo is still a wreck, though.
    The correct way to actually write "Psalm 18:2" in Hebrew would be:
    תהילים יח ג

    Strangely, it seems that this verse comes as number 3 instead of 2 in the Hebrew version of Psalms.

  3. Explanation of Zmira and the 2 vs. 3 deal:

    1. You definitely talk in Hebrew about Zmira, although you'll more often hear the plural, Zmirot, and the meaning would be closer to 'hymns' than 'psalms'. Someone definitely messed up there, but I can sort of see the process.

    2. Most of the psalms begin with a little 'dedication' such as מזמור לדוד or למנצח שיר מזמור etc. etc. (according to researchers this was probably a sort of conductor's note - it indicated how the psalm was to be sung). In the English translations of the bible, these are not counted as verses, while in Hebrew they are. This is what happened here. Look up the English and Hebrew versions of the whole psalm and you'll see the English either completely drops the first verse, or more usually renders it as a little note, before the actual verse numbering.

    And Now You Know!

  4. Thanks, Anonymous. It's a great explanation, definitely something worthy of attention when getting name-of-a-verse tattoo.

  5. What she wanted to write is
    מזמור יח ג
    Writing תהלים is also a possibility, but she wrote Zmira so she probably meant Mizmor (a psalm)

  6. Oh that was defenitely the first thing I thought of. "Zmirah (as in singing zmirot) 18:2". Tried... and FAIL.

  7. I simply want to get a tattoo of the word, Psalms under a cross. No verse or anything just, Psalms. I'd like to verify the correct way of writing this..I have seen two ways, can you please verify if possible? Also, I guess there's a difference between regular Hebrew vs. Paleo-Hebrew...which was Psalms written in...

    תהילים vs. תהלים

    1. Actually, "Paleo-Hebrew" refers to the old Hebrew alphabet, which, while denoting the same consonants as the modern script does, is virtually identical to the original Phoenician script it is derived from. The modern script uses Aramaic matrix (also ultimately derived from the Phoenician alphabet). The term has nothing to do with the language itself. The only difference between the words תהלים and תהילים is the absence of one yud in the former. The latter is just a modern spelling where yud helps denote the [i] sound indiscriminately (in the proper nikkud system, yud is used to denote [i] only if it is a long vowel, which is not the case for the first [i] in Tehillim).

      On a personal note, please just don't tattoo anything. It's a bad idea. Kind of tawdry and, at the end of the day, not very aesthetic at all (especially when the body ages). And if you take Tanach (what you call the "Old" Testament) seriously, bear in mind that tattooing one's body is expressly prohibited there.


Please use the Name/URL option to sign your comment (URL is optional).
Comments signed as Anonymous won't be published anymore.