Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Psalm 139 - aporia in verse 16

לֹא-נִכְחַד עָצְמִי, מִמֶּךָּ: אֲשֶׁר-עֻשֵּׂיתִי בַסֵּתֶר; רֻקַּמְתִּי, בְּתַחְתִּיּוֹת אָרֶץ. 15 My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
גָּלְמִי, רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ, וְעַל-סִפְרְךָ, כֻּלָּם יִכָּתֵבוּ: יָמִים יֻצָּרוּ; ולא (וְלוֹ) אֶחָד בָּהֶם. 16 Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance, and in Thy book they were all written-- even the days that were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
וְלִי--מַה-יָּקְרוּ רֵעֶיךָ אֵל; מֶה עָצְמוּ, רָאשֵׁיהֶם. 17 How weighty also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
I can barely phrase this question but will let this post go in case someone sees it - how to approach this passage - the above copied from the referenced site, with its sudden shift from singular to plural?

Here is the LXX NETS
My frame was not hidden from you, which you made in secret
and my substance was made in the deepest parts of the earth
Your eyes beheld my unwrought state
In your book all people shall be written
in a day they will be formed, and no one is among them
But your friends are very precious to me, O God
Their beginnings were much strengthened

And this is what I have so far.

not hid were my bones from you
that were when I was made in secret
embroidered in the lowest parts of earth
your eyes saw my embryo
and in your book all of them were written
days were fashioned when not one was of them
to me how precious your thoughts, O God
how numerous their source

J. M. Neale cites the Syriac 'In thy books shall all these things be written, days shall be formed, and there is no one in them' and the Chaldee paraphrases 'All my days are written in the book of thy memory, in the day when the world was created, from the beginning were all creatures created, and as yet there was not one of them'.

How do you handle the shift from singular to plural? And what about the different reading of 'thoughts' which balances the beginning of the psalm and 'friends' which changes the focus entirely? Is רע friend the easier reading? If so that leaves Psalm 139:2 as a hapax in the whole Hebrew Bible. BDB glosses רע as purpose or aim.


Bob MacDonald said...

Here's an alternative from N. H. Tur Sinai who takes ולא אחד as a verb: In thy book they were all written down, the days are tied up, and none will be added to them.

Bob MacDonald said...

Helping myself again - BLB was misleading to me - I really will have to stop using it and find better tools. עצם is not as unique as it implies - Even if singular itself, it provides the necessary two items to justify the plural in verse 16 - the question is then different. Why did early interpreters come up with such wide variations?

Bob MacDonald said...

Seems to me looking back up the thought chain that there are more plurals than are noted in translations in verse 14 : נוֹרָאוֹת נִפְלֵיתִי נִפְלָאִים מַעֲשֶׂיךָ

is this not plural - singular passive - plural - plural
fearfully I am separated
wonderful your doings

The traditional fearfully and wonderfully made is clever in imitating the assonance, but redundant and inaccurate.

Here is Mary Herbert's poetic version

Each inmost piece in me is thine:
While yet I in my mother dwelt,
All that me clad
From thee I had.
Thou in my frame hast strangely dealt:
Needs in my praise thy works must shine
So inly them my thoughts have felt.

Bob MacDonald said...

Now here's a remarkable coming together - corresponding to when I awake I am still with you is the modern Hebrew meaning of לֹא-נִכְחַד - I will not be extinct!