Translating Hebrew Verb Tenses
Psalm 1:1 provides a perfect example of how difficult it is to translate Hebrew verb tenses into English. In English verbs have three tenses; past, present and future. But in Biblical Hebrew there are only two verb tenses; perfect and imperfect. While our English verb tenses are related to “time,” Hebrew verb tenses are related to “action.” The perfect tense is a completed action and the imperfect tense is an incomplete action.

Because Hebrew tenses are related to “action,” there is no possible way to accurately translate such a verb into English whose verb tenses are related to “time.” The best we can do is translate the Hebrew perfect tense, which is a “completed” action, with the English past tense and the Hebrew imperfect tense, which is an “incomplete” action, with the English present or future tense. 

However, this does not always work. In Psalm 1:1 is the perfect tense Hebrew verb הלך (halakh), which we would translate into English as “walked” (past tense).

“Happy is the man that walked not in the council of the wicked…”

If you will notice, the past tense in English implies that he “did not walk” in their council, but could be interpreted to mean that this is not case in the present time. While Hebrew perfect tense verbs are a completed action, this completed action can be carried over to the present time. So in this case we will need to translate this perfect tense verb with a present tense English verb.

“Happy is the man that walks not in the council of the wicked…”