Verbum Incarnatum: An Academic Journal of Social Justice


The crucial lines in Zeph 2:3; 3:12 state that a people described as ani and anawim (in Hebrew) will be saved from the coming wrath and left as a remnant faithful to the LORD.1 These terms in Hebrew, however, may be rendered either metaphorically (i.e., the spiritually poor or “humble”) or more literally as those who suffer material poverty (i.e., the poor). To date, the majority of First World English translations render the term metaphorically, including major Catholic translations. This article will argue, following historical and lexical evidence, that the terms ani and anawim in Zeph 2:3 and 3:12-13 should be translated as those who are economically poor. The common translation of “humble” or “meek” in these verses represents a First World bias and should be rejected. Revision to the Catholic lectionary’s translation would correctly represent the historical meaning of the texts as well as inspire homiletic exhortations on Catholic social teaching.