he will my shield and <portion> be

snoopBob

Member
English USA
In the lyrics of Amazing Grace there is the verse:

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.


I simply want your opinion about the use and intended meaning of the word 'portion' in this context.
Please elaborate!

Thank you very much for your thoughts,

And please give your thoughts before reading others!
 
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  • panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Difficult.
    As with many hymns of the period, syntax and vocabulary have been contorted to fit the rhyming scheme.
    I was expecting that the OED definition of portion, a person's lot, destiny or fate, to apply. But I'm not sure that fits well with the context, and I don't see any other appropriate definition.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I feel sure that panjandrum has found the meaning. "Portion" meaning one's lot in life - the fate that has been handed out to one. Perhaps the presence of the Lord in one's life is seen as something inevitable, but gratefully accepted .
     

    papakapp

    Senior Member
    English - NW US
    I don't think it is talking about one's allotment in life. I think He [God himself] is the allotment.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Welcome to the forum. :)

    I hadn't been familiar with that verse and was puzzled, but when I looked in the WR dictionary* I found that one definition, new to me, is: "a person's lot or destiny". That's the only one that seems to fit, so I agree with Panjandrum.

    *Enter any word or phrase in the search box at the top of the page. It also provides links to pertinent prior discussions.
     

    TeriFromAdobe

    New Member
    English -American
    Since this is a hymn, the best way to understand it is by comparison with the way the word is used in scripture.

    "My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my Portion for ever"(Psalm 73:26).

    "The LORD is my Portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him" (Lamentations 3:24).

    Note the parallel references to hope, failing flesh, etc. also present in the hymn. These passages would have been familiar to the intended audience.

    A good translation would be "guaranteed due". The implication is that God will not abandon those who have faith; that his presence and support can be absolutely relied upon.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think you are right Teri: in the Bible "portion" (inheritance) is used in a special way, and that is most likely the way we should read it in the Amazing Grace lyrics too.

    I like the analysis given here:
    The Lord is My Portion—I Shall Not Want : The Christian Pulse
    ... one of the most powerful metaphors for God found in the Bible is portion...Four times in the Psalms and once in Lamentations, the scripture writers describe God as their portion (Psalm 16:5, 73:26, 119:57, 142:5, Lamentations 3:24). Each time it is a reminder that whatever happens in this world, we have a possession that transcends all trial, tragedy, and difficulty.
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It comes from Jewish biblical history. When the Hebrews entered the promised land of Israel, eleven of the twelve tribes were allotted their own portion of the land to settle on and cultivate. However, the tribe of Levi were not given any land because they were the priestly tribe whose duty was to serve God in the Temple. They were to regard God himself as their “portion”, receiving special blessings and the material support of the rest of the people in return. In Christian thinking, all believers now have God directly as their “portion”, looking towards a spiritual inheritance rather than earthly reward.
     

    Wai Yim

    New Member
    Cantonese
    It comes from Jewish biblical history. When the Hebrews entered the promised land of Israel, eleven of the twelve tribes were allotted their own portion of the land to settle on and cultivate. However, the tribe of Levi were not given any land because they were the priestly tribe whose duty was to serve God in the Temple. They were to regard God himself as their “portion”, receiving special blessings and the material support of the rest of the people in return. In Christian thinking, all believers now have God directly as their “portion”, looking towards a spiritual inheritance rather than earthly reward.
    Great interpretation. Praise the Lord.
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I agree that portion is to do with the land - central in Jewish thought. I think Psalm 16.5-6 makes the connection clear.
    Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
    The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
    'Boundary lines' and 'inheritance' clearly refer to the land, and therefore 'portion' needs to be interpreted in this light - and therefore also John Newton's hymn.
     
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