Friday, January 30, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 17

This is a 17th post on the subject of rarely used words. It is not about Psalm 17. Here are the rare words I found in Psalm 11.
Psalm 11:2אֹפֶלdarkness or secretly (opher)
Psalm 91:6, Job (5 times) and once in Isaiah 29:18

בְּמוֹin (bmo)
Job (5 times) and Isaiah (4 times)
Psalm 11:4עַפְעַפָּיו his eyelids (apapaiv)
Psalm 132:4, Job (3 times), Proverbs (4 times) and Jeremiah 9:18
Psalm 11:6גָפְרִיתpitch or brimstone (gaprit)
Job 18:15 and a few other scattered places.

זִלְעָפוֹתraging heat (zilaphot)Psalm 119:53 and Lamentations 5:10

מְנָת portion(mnat)Psalm 63:10 and 2 Chronicles (2 times) and Nehemiah (3 times)

Is there any significance to this short psalm sharing 4 rare words with Job?

Verse 2 alone shares its two rare words in 10 verses of Job. It is not hard to imagine the threat of such 'darkness' or 'obscurity' in this formative portion of Job 3:6

הַלַּיְלָה הַהוּא יִקָּחֵהוּ אֹפֶל
halaila hahu yiqaxehu, opher
The night - that night, let אֹפֶל seize it

invent your word - how does normal darkness seize light - what darkness overcomes light?

אַל־יִחַדְּ בִּימֵי שָׁנָה בְּמִסְפַּר יְרָחִים אַל־יָבֹֽא
al-yixad biyomei shana bemispar yeraxim al-yabo
Let it have no joy in the days of the year
into the number of the months of the year let it not come

And here we link to another rare word occurring in Job and Psalm 21 חדה. (xdh) In Job it signifies not joining. In Psalm 21:6 it signifies the ultimate joining of the king in joy to God's presence. (One of its glosses in BDB is joy - but the KJV uses such a gloss only in Exodus 18:9. As with all words, it gets its 'meaning' by what usage we have of it. The usages are extreme as you can see.)

תְּחַדֵּהוּ בְשִׂמְחָה אֶת־פָּנֶיךָ
tixadhu bsimxah et-paneyka
you have filled him with the joy of your presence

[Update: I note more connections between Job and the psalms here]. And what about that preposition, בְּמוֹ? Seems to be just a preposition - translatable by just about any English preposition that you want to chose: At in into through with or for. (It is one of the few prepositions that BLB bothers to enumerate.)

Eyelids occurs in close proximity to אֹפֶל in Job 3:9 - here as the dawn of the day, the fluttering of the eyelids of the sun. Mostly, as in Psalm 11:4 and Psalm 132:4 it is used in parallel with eyes.

Verse 6 touches on Sodom and Hell of course. Where else do you find brimstone and burning heat? (Well - to tell you the truth, fire is omnipresent.) As to portion, perhaps we will return to this when we get to Psalm 63. That's enough free-association for today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 16

Keeping a bookmark for this one - The Ark and the Cherubim in the Psalms by John Day - HT Jim West via Richard. The ark ארון is used once in the psalms but the allusions are many. What can be made of the love of the imagery of the cult? One day, perhaps, I will find the discipline to write of such. The idea of footstool which Day introduces - how will one respond to the combination of images around worship at the footstool and making your enemies your footstool? (Psalm 99, 110, 132) - to come back to later...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 15

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down.

Psalm 10 and 12 share an oddball word. I eventually settled on a very simple translation that reminds me of the sniff and snort golf games I played with my brother-in-law 45 years ago. If you win the hole, you get a snort of scotch. If you lose, you only get a sniff. After several wins, you tend to lose.

What can one do with the disjointed nature of these two uses of פוח? It is a near impossibility. These are not everyone's favorite verses in the old translations either. If these psalms were written to speak to each other, then there is some hope of allusion in 12 from 10. The sounds are similar - but to hear allusion, I would need much more faculty with the idiom of the time.

What do you think? Who is snorting at whom? (Snort has the merit of linking the thought of 10:4-5 - the haughty countenance to the dismissive huff.)

Psalm 10:4-5
Criminal looks down his unseeking nose
There is no God in all his purposes
His ways are twisted in all times
High is your judgment, out of his sight
All his foes, he snorts at them (yipiah bahem)
Psalm 12:5
For the havoc of the poor
for the groaning of the needy
now I will arise says יְהוָה
I will impose in safety
he snorts at him (yipiah lo)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rarely user words in the Psalter - 14

Psalm 10:9 has a real rarity: חטף to seize - used twice in this verse and then only in Judges 21:21 - the story of the restoration of Benjamin, certainly not one of my favorite passages!

He lies in wait in his covering
like a lion in its lair
He lies in wait to seize the poor
He seizes the poor
He draws him into his net

So is there any significance to this rare word? Does it make this acrostic archaic? Does it help restore Benjamin? Is it he that falls into the net?

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 13

Psalm 9-10 has 2 occurrences of דך (dak) a word referring to 'the crushed' and also occurring in Psalm 74:21. Psalm 10:10 uses the form דכה in the confused section of the psalm, a word used only the Psalter. In the last verse of Psalm 10, another rare word ערץ is found. In this case KJV has rendered both different rare words 'oppress' in the same verse! I too have had to adjust even my attempts of careful concordance in this psalm.

and יְהוָה will be secure refuge for the crushed
secure refuge in times in trouble
He crushes
He is collapsed
and he falls pierced by his mighty ones
You will make your ears hear to judge orphan and the crushed
He will not continue to oppress humanity in the earth

A similar word דכא, also glossed as crushed, is used in Isaiah 53:5. It is most curious how even in the same 'author', the translations vary sometimes without a sufficient reason. While some aspects of concordance are impossible to achieve, there are times when I think it is desirable.

My own concordance on 'crush' is inaccurate but perhaps fitting as I merge bruising, crushing, oppression, dispossession, covering and hope into a single post. Psalm 139:11 has a real hapax שוף which I rendered 'crush' without a backward look. But perhaps when I come to it again, I will change it!

When I was younger, I thought in my vanity that I had read the Bible. I was not even close. I had scanned it (some of it). I had had some of it read to me. I am still not close to anything that could be called a complete reading - even one. When I have finished this psalms project, maybe I will have achieved one read of these poems.

How would I see anything significant in one rare word when I could scarcely remember the frequently used words and reading it in a foreign tongue (English)? It is singularly unimportant that one should have 'read the Bible'. I ask myself then - what is important? Perhaps only an honest connection with a healing spirit. This is for both the crushed and the crushers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 12

On to Psalm 9. What is this odd title?
עַלְמוּת לַבֵּן
To death / of the son? or perhaps instead of to death it is one word related to 'women' עַלְמוֹת (suggested in BDB page 761). Is this maybe an acrostic for a children's choir?

The word is separated in the dictionary from other uses of death. Perhaps due to the preposition. A similar construction, this time with maqqep (hyphen), is used in Psalm 48:14 in what is a rare sentence.

He will be our guide to death
הוּא יְנַהֲגֵנוּ עַל־מֽוּת

I need to make a disclaimer. I am sure there are errors in my translations and my analysis. So read these pages with care - and check up on my work or challenge it. Make me do my homework too. This particular word is not translated in the Septuagint as having to do with death:

He will shepherd us for ages to come

The RSV follows the Septuagint and (if only I could read the apparatus!) it looks like there may be manuscript variations that support reducing the words to 'for ever and ever' עֹולָם וָעֶד as in the prior colon. So perhaps the phrase is nothing that special after all. Maybe just another copying error.

On the other hand, maybe the Septuagint translators followed a text that had slipped when copying the second colon and made the two the same when they shouldn't have been. And I really like the "he will be our guide to death". Death is worth having guidance for, and I doubt that a better guide can be found.

What do you do with poems where there are possible copying errors and you think somehow you should be able to put your trust in them? Simple - don't eat the menu. Our trust is to be in God, not in words. The words are pointers. It doesn't mean we are without correction or solace, exactly the opposite. Words without God would be no solace at all.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 11

Psalm 8, 81, and 84 are for a particular instrument, the גתית. At the wine-presses, or to the tune wine-press, or on an instrument named after the wine-press. I am sorry I somehow missed the wine-press imagery. I have no idea where my first title came from - while musing! That shows how important it is to make notes! [I think I found it - another unrelated musical instrument might relate to musing - in earlier days I can imagine getting confused over these strange words.]

What, I wonder, would give these three psalms this shared title?

Words in this psalm that are unique in the psalter: nurselings, ינק,
your splendor chanted above the heavens
by the mouth of children and nurselings

flock, צנא, (the more common words for flock or sheep are צאן, כשב, שה). It looks like this word which occurs only twice in the Bible is a misprint fro (sorry, I mean 'for') the more common word. (Ed. Bob how could you suggest such a thing!)

, אלף, and fish דג. The other word for fish (דגה) is also used just once in the Psalter (Psalm 105:29).

flock and cattle, all of them and more
beasts of the field, bird of the heavens
and fish of the sea traversing seaways

So fish are rare in the Psalms. But the seas are plentiful.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 10

We have not quite finished with Psalm 7. I had a bizarre query that made me miss the obvious. There is yet another rarely used word דלק which I have rendered as related to burning - a continuing metaphor for Hell.
his arrow for burnings he will make

There is something uniquely expressed about God's indignation and fire in this psalm - and in Psalm 10 where this word is also used

In pride criminal burns poor

and the playful acrostic enters a confusing section. You really need to read the whole frantic poem to get the turbulence suggested in this word at the beginning of the non-acrostic section.

Finally in this psalm is the pit that is dug חפר.

A pit he will dig and will explore it
and will fall into the depths that he made

This word occurs also in Psalm 35:7 where the subject of the verbs is not ambiguous as it is in Psalm 7

because for nothing they hid a pit for me
their net for nothing
they dig for my life
Let destruction come upon him unknown to him
and let his net which he hid catch him
in destruction he will fall

It is this psalm and other verses about nets and pits and digging that allow a translator to remove the ambiguity from Psalm 7.

- well it's obvious what it means, eh. Why would God fall into a pit? Is he blind or something?

But why would we remove ambiguity? If the psalm says such-and-such or fails to say what-I-think-it-should-say - why would I presume 'to restore' something that in a momentary whim seems meaningful to me? As if words might fly over the centuries to my writing desk.

- Oh - right you are, Bob - that's exactly what I meant - well done!

No friends, and no, Beloved, or to steal a lovely phrase, no, my gentle snowflakes, I will try and avoid such an imposition - but be sure to correct me if you think I need it.

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 9

Still on Psalm 7 - verse 2, the verb for tearing (me) apart פרק is used only 2 times in the Psalter - here and in Psalm 136.

deliver me
or he will sieze like a wild beast my throat
tearing (me) apart and there is none rescuing

The use in Psalm 136 is right at the end and is usually translated redeemed or delivered - I suppose that's what we 'ought to hear' in a well-behaved religious framework - nothing so forceful as the real working passion of God.

our humiliation he remembered for us, for his loving-kindness is for ever
and tears us from our enemies, for his loving-kindness is for ever
giving bread to all flesh, for his loving-kindness is for ever

Another interesting word in this psalm is גמר. It is used five times and only in the Psalter. As I look at my translations, I see they are sometimes too subtle.

Psalm 7:9
Mature the fruits of wickedness
maybe I should say
Bring to an end the fruits of wickedness

Psalm 12:1 - here the parallel, vanished, פַסּוּ is unique in the whole Bible - if we understand the completing of God's work in the cross of Jesus, then each of these unique words reveals something new. This psalm tells us that even the merciful must die in that redemptive mechanism.

Save יְהוָה, for ceased are the merciful
for vanished are the faithful
among the children of dust
Psalm 57:2
I will call to God Most High
to God who fulfills all for me
He will send from heaven and will save me
he reproached the one crushing me
Psalm 77:8
in the ages to come will the Lord reject?
will he never again be favorable?
has his mercy ceased in perpetuity?
a word from generation to generation ended?
has the One forgotten grace?
as if his tender mercies were shut up in anger?
Psalm 138:8
יְהוָה will complete his work for my sake

And more rare words in Psalm 7:11 (but occurring elsewhere in the Bible), זעם, for indignation. Note that I do not fill in the blank as do some translations. It is leading and misleading to fill in blanks.

God judges right and God is indignant every day
and the sharp sword of Psalm 7:12
If he will not turn he will sharpen לטש his sword
used also in Psalm 52:2
You devise calamities with your tongue
like a honed לטש razor that acts treacherously

And one more - קדקד 'pate' or hoary scalp - used in Psalm 7:16
He will return his trouble on his head
and on his scalp his violence will descend
and Psalm 68:21
surely God will wound the head of his enemies
the hairy crown of one walking in his offense
... you will make his life an offering for sin ... the rarity of this word for sin in the psalms (once as noun, 3 times as verb) needs attention - but for another post (See Psalm 68:21)

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 8

Eight is for Psalm 7 - and we all want to know about Hell - so let's go to this lake of fire and apply for the available jobs - advertised here as assistants to the Life-Guard.

The first clue in this Psalm is in the title. It is a שגיון, (shiggaion) a word shared only with Habakkuk 3:1. (That poem is worth reading even in translation. I think I will give it a once over translate later...) And these two, Psalm 7 and Habakkuk 3, share a common theme. Do you who fear Hell really suppose that the Anointing is not there? Where did you learn your Christ? How do you know about fire?

No one knows what this word שגיון means. I rendered it reel - an agonized dance. I have seen such. The psalm is "A reel of David who sang to יְהוָה ". Sing, Beloved, and rejoice. With David and Habakkuk, you can be sure that your defiance-of-despair-in-the-face-of-lack-of-prosperity will not be ignored by the One in whom the Anointing was and is fully present without reserve.

You might notice that I am developing an idea - Christ, Oil, Anointing, Anointed, Messiah - are we too slow to see the reality of the Kingdom and the Priesthood which Jesus (He is Lord of all) brings through his death and through the vindication of his work in the resurrection? This is no time for imagination - though there is nothing wrong with imagination if it is in this full Spirit of the Possible. But this is time and there is always time for hearing and doing that we may understand. Meet him in his death by baptism and you will not be disappointed. He has harrowed Hell. He has defined it that you may understand. The Judge is the Life-Guard at the Lake of Fire.

There are two unique words in Psalm 7:14. I have not looked at every word between verse 1 and 14 but my rough search did uncover these two: חבל and הרה and Beloved, don't be too sure as to who is the subject of these verbs.

Behold he will bind sorrow and has conceived trouble
and will bear falsehood

I suspect I should not let this translation stand. The word is in the Piel and the Piel probably demands more of a transformation of the binding aspect of the Qal. Lambdin's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew defines Piel as transitivizing, denominative, intensive, or unclassified! (Sounds like I can do what I like with it then.)

Well, my bind is that there is one of whom I have heard who has bound sorrow through his cross. That is also my release from all my bonds. So I will keep the 'bind' and label the Psalm as I have - Binding sorrow. Conceived is heavily used (20 times) in Genesis but rare in the rest of TNK (22 times). I bet that word is worth a study.

The ambiguity of the subject of these verbs in Psalm 7 is useful. If this Anointed one has bound sorrow for us, then though we too will bind our own sorrow, we have an enormous power in his having been freed from bondage (the resurrection) that gives to us life by his Spirit. We can both rest in the completion of his binding of sorrow and we can share this work of his also - for ourselves and for others. (Remember how work is used in John, e.g. John 5:36, and Paul, e.g. Galatians 2:16, and you will understand how faith enables this participation without superrogation.)

Grammar and information

If the psalms are a story, grammar is TMI, as they say. For a mere 5 verses (53 words) in psalms 1 and 2 I have 954 possible entries in my table. True that the first two days were occupied with designing the tables and setting filters for data entry and reporting, but that is still probably 2 minutes per word - eighty-six 7.5 hour days!

Even with modern technology and default values, it will take 4 full-time months of work to annotate such a body of literature 19,551 words by hand! (And you would end up with about 352000 answers. I am sure there are some interesting patterns there but I may not pursue this with too much alacrity. Mind you, some 75% of the answers are similar - so if one could default the values more efficiently - like observe enclitics and decide algorithmically what the default form and part of speech is...)

Here's a bit a Psalm 2 - not exactly complete and probably with a few errors and omissions.

Part of Speech Person Number Gender Sfx Root Pfx Form Aspect Tense

םה לָ

Verb 3 Plural
וּ רגשׁ
Qal Indeterminate Perfect
ים גו

ים לאם

Verb 3 Plural Non-specific וּ הג י Qal Incomplete Imperfect


Verb 3 Plural Non-specific וּ יצב יִתְ Hithpael Completed Imperfect
Plural Male י מלך



Verb 3 Plural Non-specific ים רזן וְ Qal
Participle Active
Verb 3 Plural Non-specific וּ יסד נוֹ Hiphil Incomplete Imperfect







על וְ

וֹ משיח

Verb 1 Plural
ה נתק נְ Piel Incomplete Imperfect


ֹותֵימֹו מוסר

Verb 1 Plural
ה שׁלך וְנַ Hiphil Incomplete Imperfect
Preposition 1 Plural
וּ ממ

Noun 3 Plural
ימֹו עבת

Verb 3 Singular Masculine
Qal Continuous Participle Active

שמים בּ Absolute

Verb 3 Singular

שׁחק יִ Qal


Verb 3 Singular

לעג יִ Qal

מֹו ל

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My first detail grammar lesson

Here is Psalm 1:1 - any comments from those who really think grammar? For two years I have avoided learning the 'rules' but now the time has come. I am wondering if I can automate part of this long manual process...

Part of Speech Person Number Gender Sfx Root Pfx Form Aspect Tense
י אשׁר

Singular Non-specific
אישׁ הָ Absolute

Relative Pronoun
Singular Non-specific

Negative Particle


Verb 3 Singular

Qal Indeterminate Perfect
Singular Non-specific ת עץה בּ Construct

Plural Non-specific ים רשׁע

Singular Non-specific
דרך וּבְ Construct

Plural Non-specific ים חטא

Negative Particle


Verb 3 Singular

Qal Indeterminate Perfect

מושׁב וּבְ Construct

Plural Non-specific ים לץ

Negative Particle


Verb 3 Singular

Qal Indeterminate Perfect

Update: see here for a helpful presentation on grammar and gender. HT Suzanne.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Why biblical Hebrew

The disciplined Daniel and Tonya have asked a number of questions on the study of Biblical Hebrew. Here are my responses.

Why do you study biblical Hebrew?
To get to a better understanding of the experience of the life of the Spirit in the first century of this era. The writers of the NT, particularly the writer of Hebrews read the scripture is a way that is different from the ways I have seen in my culture.

What do you want to be able to do with your ability in biblical Hebrew?
I am doing a little teaching: 5 minutes a week in Sunday School and one mature student. I want them to enjoy the language as much as I have. I want the youngsters to say in their teens if they so desire - I can do this.

How does biblical language study relate to you as a confessor of Scripture?
It reveals to me that I do not have, nor does any tradition have all the answers in a nice pile.

Since we’re talking about reading this Hebrew Bible, what is the Hebrew Bible?
I don't feel the need to give it bounds at the moment. But I have only touched a few books.

Goals for 2009.
I have no set goals. In this third year of study, I hope to apply the tools of my trade to the problem of learning and researching biblical Hebrew - and hopefully presenting the results of my study more clearly. I would like to create a database with the properties of each word in the psalter. Although I am translating other books also, I do not expect to include them in the database in quite the same way.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 7

I think I have improved my root algorithm. I added some tests for the possessive plurals and I scored 41 out of 39 for love. Not bad eh? Also I got 1 out of 1 for potentates in Psalm 2. In Psalm 2, those potentate rule-makers are unique. And I eliminated a lot of false unique hits by getting the love right. Evaluating an I'll go rhythm is an intensive musical experience concentrating on sequences of rules. (That was a joke.)

What is this turmoil in the-many nations?
and the-many peoples meditating on empty?
They set themselves - these kinglets of earth
these rule-makers וְרֹוזְנִים reasoning as one
against יְהוָה and against his anointed

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 6

For today of course מֹר and כתם each occur once only in the Psalms - in the joy of a wedding.

Your throne O God is now and for ever
a sceptre of equity the sceptre of your kingdom
You have loved righteousness and hate wickedness
therefore God your God has anointed you
with oil of rejoicing with your companions

All your garments are myrrh מֹר and aloes
cassia from palaces of ivory
lutes make you glad
kings' daughters are among your highly valued
a consort is placed at your right hand in gold כתם of Ophir

Be his consort indeed.

You have died to the law through the body of Christ,
so that you may belong to another,
to him who has been raised from the dead
in order that we may bear fruit for God.

קטרת occurs twice, Psalm 66:15 and Psalm 141:2. For frankincense, go to the Song especially chapter 4.

let my prayer be established as incense קטרת in your presence
a lifting up of my palms, the offerings of evening

I will complete for you my vows
which my lips have set free
and my mouth spoke in the trouble that was mine
whole offerings of marrow I will offer to you
with incense קטרת of a ram

Monday, January 05, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 5

OK - when is a word rare? What is a word anyway? One sequence of arbitrarily spaced letters? Or a useful phrase? Or something understood? A way into the relationship that is of everlasting significance no matter how short your life is or seems to be.

Well here's a unique letter trio מטה, the thing you take up and walk - your bed. It derives from a not so rare word - to stretch out נטה - the sort of thing you do on a bed. But in the Psalms it is most commonly applied to ears - when we implore God to stretch out an ear to listen.

I have a child - now 38 - who could never say milk - always said nilk. Even when prompted by a long mmmmmmm - he would say mmmmmm nilk. He's in good company. m's and n's don't go together that often and it seems m's occasionally trump n's.

So where's this unique word and what does it mean? It is in Psalm 6, the first penitential psalm - the place where we need to pay attention, because it is not a laughing matter to be rebuked by God is his wrath. But consider - would God bother if you were not really important to him?

I am weary with my groaning
I swim every night in my bed מטה
with my tears my couch ערש I water
consumed from grief my eye ages in all my straits

While we're here, we better follow up on the couch too - maybe the Most High has something to tell us when we are reclined and his ear is inclined usward. ערש is not too common either - occurring only 3 times in the psalms. No reclining till the work is done - so promises David
I will not enter the tent of my house
nor will I go up to my bed chamber עַל־עֶרֶשׂ יְצוּעָֽי
nor will I let my eyes sleep
my eyelids slumber
until I secure a place for יְהוָה
a dwelling-place for the Mighty One of Jacob

I think this is hyperbole from David - and two words for bed in a row - the second one rendered chamber and the pair perhaps meaning bedroom! The words for bed are multiplying like rabbits. When we follow this word, it occurs twice, once above in Psalm 132 and again in psalm 63

when I remember you on my bed עַל־יְצוּעָי
in the night-watches I groan in you
for you have been my help
and in the shadow of your wings I rejoice
my being clings to you
your right hand holds me

The third usage of ערש in the Psalms reveals yet another word for bed in the parallel colon

and he will be considered happy in the earth
and you will not give him into the will of his enemies
יְהוָה will confirm him on a bed ערש of sorrow
all his couch משכב you change in his illness

I think this is a blessing but the English needs work... any suggestions?

משכב is more frequent than the other word for bed, occurring 4 times, Psalm 4:4, Psalm 36:4, and Psalm 149:5 - part of the final instruction and closing bracket of the Psalter. The word it is related to is to lie down, itself used 6 times. I'll leave that one for another day. First Psalm 4

Tremble and do not be missing the goal
speak with your heart
on your bed and be still

Then in Psalm 36, the writer does not necessarily speak of a different person on a bed. I, with some risk, think that the enemy is more within than objectified in someone else.

trouble he devises on his bed
he presents himself on a way that is not good
evil he does not reject

And finally - let us be joyful on our beds in every sense

Joy for the many under protection in glory
singing on their beds עַל־מִשְׁכְּבֹותָֽם
exaltations of God in their voice
a sword of many mouths in their hand

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 4

New wine (תירוש) is used once in the Psalter. It is rare in that it is a five letter word. But I suppose, given its derivation from ירש to inherit or possess, it is not really so rare. The new wine we had in Mons en Provence (Beaujolais Nouveau) was in our estimation the worst wine we tasted there. When we mentioned this to the local baker who sold us good local wine, he nodded his head in agreement. What the psalmist knows in Psalm 4 is in his estimation better than new wine.

You have put joy in my heart
more than when their grain
and their new wine increased

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 3

In Psalm 2 we have a rare root נסך. The traditional translation is of course

I myself have set וַאֲנִי נָסַכְתִּי that one - my own king in Zion, my holy hill

After all, what do you do with a king? You establish or set him up (qal perfect). But curiously, this is the only use of נסך with that translation. The other usage of נסך in the Psalter (Psalm 16:4 - qal imperfect) and most of the other uses in the rest of the canon are used for the act of pouring out an offering. The curious thing about the offering in Psalm 16 is that it is negative and can be conceptually matched with the negative expression of resurrection. The use of drink-offerings (same root) is unique to Psalm 16 but frequent (63 times) in the rest of the canon.

I will not offer their offerings בַּל־אַסִּיךְ נִסְכֵּיהֶם with blood
and I will not put their names on my lips
יְהוָה is the portion of my field and my cup
for you will not abandon my life to the place of the dead
You will not allow your righteous to see a pit
You will make known to me a path of Life
satisfaction of joys in your presence
pleasures unending at your right hand

The not's are matched only conceptually since a different particle (לֹא) is used in the second pair.

Another use of נסך with the translation 'set up' is in Proverbs 8:23 נִסַּכְתִּי (niphal) speaking of Wisdom. What if we translated that as

From everlasting I was poured out
From the beginning
Before ever the earth was

Blog list gadget fixed

Google had made it very awkward to add and update my blog list since they had restricted the auto-update to Google blogs only. Now they have repaired that problem so my blog list is back up.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 2

In Psalm 1 there is a word used only once in the Psalter: וְעָלֵהוּ and its leaf. The leaf of the righteous will not fade. This is (perhaps) reflected in the vision of Ezekiel 47:12 which provides the inspiration for the Revelation of John and his vision of the tree of life.

like a tree transplanted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its time
and its leaf does not wither
and in all that it does, it prospers

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 1

In Psalm 2, there is a word used only twice נתק: Psalm 2:3, and Psalm 107:14. These are clearly closely connected.

The taunt of the kings is to break the bonds of יְהוָה and his anointed.

They set themselves - these kinglets of earth
these rule-makers reasoning as one
against יְהוָה and against his anointed
Let us break נְֽנַתְּקָה their monopoly מֹֽוסְרֹותֵימֹו
and kiss good-bye to their cartel

The bonds of the contentious in Psalm 107 are broken in mercy.

Sitting in darkness and shadow of death
bindings of affliction and iron
for they contended words of God
and the counsel of the Most High they spurned
and he will humble their heart with toil
they fell and there was no help
And they cry to יְהוָה in their trouble
and out of their distress he delivers them
He rescues them from darkness and shadow of death
and their bonds וּמֹוסְרֹותֵיהֶם he breaks יְנַתֵּֽק

The bonds word (מוסר) is rare also, occurring in these two passages as well as Psalm 116:16 (Here the word for loosed (פתח) is much more frequent - 18 times in the psalms).

Precious in the eyes of יְהוָה is the death of those under his protection
I pray יְהוָה for I myself am your servant
I myself your servant and child of your faithfulness
you have loosed my bonds לְמֹוסֵרָֽי

This sounds a little gentler than the breaking asunder of bonds - but perhaps strong willed and contentious folk need a more violent treatment.

How extensive is the language of the Psalms

My [very] rough count says there are about 1500 unique word-roots in the Psalter - about 19,551 words barring arguments from textual critics. There are 6,982 distinct words. So the average word is used about 3 times and the average root about 4 times.

Which words / roots are unique? Lots - about 360 roots [+/- 1 30% - the algorithm has many boundary failures] and about 4600 words are used only once [reasonably accurate - a pure count].

I am finding that short of writing a whole book on the story in the psalter, its structure is elusive - there are signs of structure but they are so manifold, the engine of their being is not easily summarized in a single image.

If I did one unique root a day, it would take a year. Does this seem like a project worth the effort? [Can I find them all accurately?]

Any project in the Scriptures is worth the effort - even the scoffer can enter the world of the saints.