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Cantata 89: Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim (1723) BWV 89

Cantata 89: Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim

Aria (Bass)
Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim? Soll ich dich schützen, Israel? Soll ich nicht billig ein Adama aus dir machen und dich wie Zeboim zurichten? Aber mein Herz ist anders Sinnes, meine Barmherzigkeit ist zu brünstig.
Recitativo (Alto)
Ja, freilich sollte Gott
Ein Wort zum Urteil sprechen
Und seines Namens Spott
An seinen Feinden rächen.
Unzählbar ist die Rechnung deiner Sünden,
Und hätte Gott auch gleich Geduld,
Verwirft doch dein feindseliges Gemüte
Die angebotne Güte
Und drückt den Nächsten um die Schuld;
So muss die Rache sich entzünden.
Aria (Alto)
Ein unbarmherziges Gerichte
Wird über dich gewiss ergehn.
Die Rache fängt bei denen an,
Die nicht Barmherzigkeit getan,
Und machet sie wie Sodom ganz zunichte.
Recitativo (Soprano)
Wohlan! mein Herze legt Zorn, Zank und Zwietracht hin;
Es ist bereit, dem Nächsten zu vergeben.
Allein, wie schrecket mich mein sündenvolles Leben,
Dass ich vor Gott in Schulden bin!
Doch Jesu Blut
Macht diese Rechnung gut,
Wenn ich zu ihm, als des Gesetzes Ende,
Mich gläubig wende.
Aria (Soprano)
Gerechter Gott, ach, rechnest du?
So werde ich zum Heil der Seelen
Die Tropfen Blut von Jesu zählen.
Ach! rechne mir die Summe zu!
Ja, weil sie niemand kann ergründen,
Bedeckt sie meine Schuld und Sünden.
Mir mangelt zwar sehr viel,
Doch, was ich haben will,
Ist alles mir zugute
Erlangt mit deinem Blute,
Damit ich überwinde
Tod, Teufel, Höll und Sünde.

What shall I make of thee now, Ephraim?

Aria (Bass)
What shall I make of thee now, Ephraim? Shall I protect thee, Israel? Shall I not simply an Admah make out of thee now, and like a Zeboim transform thee? But this my heart is other-minded, and my compassion’s love is too ardent.
Recitative (Alto)
Yea, surely oweth God
To speak his word of judgment
And for his name’s disdain
Against his foes take vengeance.
Past counting is the sum of thy transgressions,
And even though God should forbear,
Rejecteth yet the ill-will of thy spirit
The offer of his kindness
And to thy neighbor shifts the guilt;
For this his vengeance must be kindled.
Aria (Alto)
An unforgiving word of judgment
Will over thee most surely come.
For vengeance will with those begin
Who have not mercy exercised,
Reducing them like Sodom to mere nothing.
Recitative (Soprano)
Well, then, my heart will lay wrath, rage, and strife aside;
It is prepared my neighbor to forgive now.
But yet, what terror doth my sinful life afford me,
That I ’fore God in debt must stand!
But Jesus’ blood
Doth my account make good,
If I to him, who is the law’s foundation,
In faith take refuge.
Aria (Soprano)
O righteous God, ah, judgest thou?
I shall then for my soul’s salvation
The drops of Jesus’ blood be counting.
Ah! Put the sum to my account!
Yea, since no one can ever tell them,
They cover now my debt and failings.
My failings are so great,
But all that I would have
Is fully in my favor
By thine own blood accomplished,
So that I shall now conquer
Death, devil, hell, and error.
Translations by Z. Philip Ambrose are published in J.S. Bach: The Extant Texts of the Vocal Works in English Translations with Commentary Volume 1: BWV 1-200; Volume 2: BWV 201- (Philadelphia: XLibris, 2005) and also online at

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Johann Sebasian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Boroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg concertos, th Goldburg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and over three hundred cantatas of which around two hundred survive. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.

Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

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