Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Psalm 133 - and its grammar

This is an odd presentation of Psalm 133. It happened sort of by accident. Green is for grammar.
A song of the steps of David
See how fine and how pleasing it is that brothers live as one
שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת לְדָוִד
הִנֵּה מַה טּוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים
שֶׁבֶת אַחִים גַּם יָחַד
like the finest oil on the head
dribbling on the beard
the beard of Aaron
dribbling to the mouth of his clothes
כַּשֶּׁמֶן הַטּוֹב עַל הָרֹאשׁ יֹרֵד
עַל הַזָּקָן זְקַן אַהֲרֹן
שֶׁיֹּרֵד עַל פִּי מִדּוֹתָיו
like the dew of Hermon
dribbling on the mountains of Zion
for there יְהוָה constituted the blessing
life for ever
כְּטַל חֶרְמוֹן
שֶׁיֹּרֵד עַל הַרְרֵי צִיּוֹן
כִּי שָׁם צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת הַבְּרָכָה
חַיִּים עַד הָעוֹלָם

A song of
the steps
feminine plural
of David
proper name, David with preposition
הִנֵּה מַה טּוֹב
See how good
adverb - no agreement in gender or number
וּמַה נָּעִים
and how pleasant
adverb - again no agreement in gender or number
to live
infinitive in construct, weak root ישב
אַחִים גַּם יָחַד
brothers as one
masculine plural
as oil
- is this construct?
the good

עַל הָרֹאשׁ
on the head
definite head - almost like English generic definite!
יֹרֵד עַל הַזָּקָן
running down on the beard
yored - the sound of brooks running - or singing! like shir which this psalm is, definite beard
זְקַן אַהֲרֹן
the beard of Aaron
specific priestly beard
that is running
the grammatical use of shin
עַל פִּי
to the mouth of
his clothes
plural with possessive pronoun third person masculine singular
כְּטַל חֶרְמוֹן
as dew of Hermon
that is running
עַל הַרְרֵי
to the mountains of
construct plural

כִּי שָׁם
for there

third person piel (this verb is always piel - intensive) singular.
You can't see the piel from the consonants alone. So was the piel made up later than the written texts?
the LORD

אֶת הַבְּרָכָה
+ the blessing
a definite blessing
life - plural!
עַד הָעוֹלָם
to the age
another definite age - life to eternity

Monday, December 28, 2009

The grammar of Psalm 117

 הַלְלוּ אֶת יְהוָה כָּל גּוֹיִם
Praise יהוה all nations
שַׁבְּחוּהוּ כָּל הָאֻמִּים
congratulate him all the peoples
כִּי גָבַר עָלֵינוּ חַסְדּוֹ
for his mercy has prevailed against us
וֶאֱמֶת יְהוָה לְעוֹלָם
and the truth of יהוה is forever
הַלְלוּ יָהּ
Praise Yah
I had a dream in the early morning and I should have immediately written it down because I forgot its clarity though not its intent. The intent is to do for the shortest psalm what I am in the process of doing for Ruth - grammar, letter by letter, word by word, phrase by phrase, meaning, textual allusions, structural form, and whatever else I can find out as I move from my native tongue to the Hebrew thought that the NT presents in translation on behalf of the Gentiles.

Structurally, the psalm opens and closes with a varied pair of brackets. The opening bracket also plays a second structural role in the first of two bi-cola. Congratulate? I chose this term to stop a mindless quick read of praise or laud. It is better if it is more like 'well done, my love.' The second 'parallel' is also surprising. The reason given for congratulations is stronger than God's desire for mercy. It has prevailed - past, completed, as in the flood waters prevailing over the earth. There seems a finality in the promise of mercy that cannot be undone. This truth is faithful in all respects and in all ages. It's a bi-colon, but not a parallel of similarity, or even of tense. Instead our reason for believing can encompass what is both complete and continuing for ever.

Psalm 117:1 is picked up by Paul (Romans 15:11) as justifying his 'Gospel to the Gentiles'. I see in the Comparative Psalter (Kohlenberger) that the LXX translators chose truth rather than faithfulness for the translation of verse 2. Verse 2 alludes to Exodus 34:6. So the psalm recognizes a universal aspect of God's mercy and lovingkindness as revealed to Moses. As Luther commented somewhere, the entire Gospel is contained in the Psalter. This Psalm implies that the mercy is universally available. Paul recognizes that universal aspect of the revelation in the Scriptures as fully expressed and realized in Jesus, son of God (Romans 1:4).

This psalm has only 17 words - so we can see them all at once. There also seems to be a remarkable foreshadowing of Psalm 118 that I just noticed - only three words are shared between these two psalms (excluding the name and some shorter words) all nations, his mercy, for ever. A curious accident of my now aging algorithm for comparing psalms.

Now here are its letters in two (three) piles - Of 62 letters, only 9 are from the non-grammatical group of 11. Of the remaining 52 letters, 17 are written in grammatical roles (omitting the prepositions from the count) leaving 36, if I haven't miscounted, of the grammatical letters acting as consonants. (Green is for grammatical, Blue for the group of letters that does not play a role in forming prefixes and suffixes, and Orange for the letters of the grammatical group of 11 that are behaving like consonants in this word.)

 הַלְלוּ אֶת יְהוָה
Praise יהוה
hallu et hashem

כָּל גּוֹיִם
all nations
col goyim

שַׁבְּחוּהוּ כָּל הָאֻמִּים
congratulate him all the peoples
shavxuhu col ha'umim


כִּי גָבַר עָלֵינוּ חַסְדּוֹ
for has prevailed against us his mercy
ci gavar `lenu xesedo

וֶאֱמֶת יְהוָה לְעוֹלָם
and the truth of יהוה is forever
ve'emet hashem l`olam

הַלְלוּ יָהּ
Praise Yah
hallu Yah


2nd person plural imperative, root הלל

direct object market followed by tetragrammeton

all as adjective

congratulate him
the peoples
3rd person singular suffix הוּ following second person plural imperative, root שבח (and I cannot stay with my prodding first translation - be free in him).
הָאֻמִּים is plural with definite article הָ and the root word is what? It's rare (Numbers 25:15, and Genesis 25:16) - it is not the usual root for people which would be with an ayin עַם. And though it looks a lot like the word in Psalm 2, וּלְאֻמִּים apparently it is distinguished by all my sources, English, Latin, and Hebrew as different. It is said to be derived from mother - so perhaps all who are born of woman.


it has prevailed
towards us
his mercy
for - acting as conjunction of purpose
strong - towering (Net Bible) root גבר perfect third person singular
first person plural pronoun with preposition
third person singular pronoun

and the truth of
is forever
Truth (LXX) preceded by connector
with construct implied making 'the' truth
- definite of proper name
verbless clause, preposition, a word meaning to the age or forever

closing the opening bracket