I have a question about a translation of the phrase mentioned in the title, which comes from Psalm 30 (31) as it appears in "The Office of Compline, Latin and English" from the Saint Louis Antiphonary for the Hours, Ignatius Press.

The Latin text with its context:

In te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in aeternum; in iustitia tua libera me.
Inclina ad me aurem tuam, accelera, ut eruas me.
Esto mihi in rupem praesidii et in domum munitam, ut salvum me facias.
Quoniam fortitudo mea et refugium meum es tu et properter nomen tuum deduces me at pasces me.

The English translation for the line in question:

Be a rock of refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me.

However, in my simplicity, it seems to me the Psalmist is asking God to be in the rock of refuge and in the mighty stronghold, in the sense of occupying these defensive places. This seems quite different in meaning from the provided English translation, which carries the sense of identification with these defensive places.

So, my question is: Is this a known Latin idiom that corresponds closely with the English translation, or is this a case where the Latin really means what I think it means, and the translator took the liberty of changing one sense into another?

  • 2
    Good question! Notice the use of accusative instead of ablative: it is "into" rather than "in". I suspect a Hebraism (or Grecism). I reformatted your question a little. If you prefer the original, feel free to roll back.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 20:39
  • 1
    For reference: the Vulgate has "esto mihi in lapidem fortissimum et in domum munitam ut salves me" and the LXX has "γενοῦ μοι εἰς θεὸν ὑπερασπιστὴν καὶ εἰς οἶκον καταφυγῆς τοῦ σῶσαί με."
    – brianpck
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 20:45
  • 'In the rock of refuge/mighty stronghold' would be in + ablative case. In + accusative is here used to show purpose. I'd translate as 'Serve as a rock of refuge/a might stronghold for me' or 'Serve as my rock of refuge....'
    – cnread
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 20:52
  • I appear to have the Nova Vulgata text, which is slightly different from @brianpck's Vulgate, which is slightly different from the text that appears in the Douay Rheims. However, in all three texts we have the pattern of in followed by accusatives. Commented May 2, 2017 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


This is most certainly a Hebraism. Compare to 2 Sam 7:14:

ego ero ei in patrem et ipse erit mihi in filium

In the Hebrew, we have:

אֲנִי֙ אֶהְיֶה־לּ֣וֹ לְאָ֔ב וְה֖וּא יִהְיֶה־לִּ֣י לְבֵ֑ן

Note the duplication of the "לּ֣" preposition, which is alternatively translated with a dative and with in + accusative. I am not an expert in Hebrew, and cannot comment on the niceties of this construction, but it appears to mirror the Latin double dative, i.e. "I will be to him as a father."

This same duplication of the "ל־" preposition occurs in the Psalm verse you cite:

הֱיֵ֤ה לִ֨י׀ לְֽצוּר־מָ֭עוֹז לְבֵ֥ית מְצוּד֗וֹת לְהוֹשִׁיעֵֽנִי

This is an almost identical construction (again, though, I am not an expert) translated in the same way: dative and in + accusative. By extrapolation, the English interpretation is entirely clear.

  • 1
    Thank you, especially, for finding another example of it. So, it seems the esse + in + accusative construct (directly imported from Hebrew) falls short of the sense of full identification that comes with the esse + nominative construct, and carries more of a functional or effective or analogous meaning. Commented May 2, 2017 at 22:27

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