Friday, 26 June 2009

What is the syntax of Ps 24:3-5?

For the Hebrew of this ... sentence ... go here.

All translations of Ps 24:5 that I know of (including commentaries) treat v. 5 as starting a new clause: "He will receive ... ." Andersen-Forbes, however, analyse this differently. They see vv. 4-5a as being one sentence, with the whole of v. 4 being the subject of the verb יִשָּׂא in v. 5. This would render the translation: "One clean of hands ... who has not lifted ... will receive."

My question is: What makes this a better reading then the typical one?

Here are the pros and cons of A-F's suggestion that I can think of:


- The question in v. 3 is only indirectly answered, which is odd. Having said that, the answer is clarified once more in v. 6, so perhaps this is intentional ... . The indirectness of the answer may relate to the function of the section within the context of the whole Psalm.

- Though subject and verb are part of one clause, poetically they cross a strophe boundary (vv. 3-4//5-6), which may be unusual.


These become particularly clear when we compare the Psalm to Psalm 15, its close relative:

- Ps 15 also has noun-phrases followed by qatal verbs in the section describing qualifications for temple entrance (vv. 2-5). The difference is, the qatals in Ps 24 are preceded by אֲשֶׁר, which A-F consider to be a "nominalizer." That means that the following two qatal clauses, in contrast to Ps 15, "function [syntactically] as a noun." (I have to say, however, that this is an odd concept for me ... I don't see, for example, how Deut 13.7 is "nominalized." Hay anyone heard of this concept?).

- Ps 15:5c, like Ps 24:5, is a promise of the benefits such a righteous person would receive. The difference is that in Ps 15 an extra subject is added beforehand: עֹשֵׂה־אֵלֶּה. In Psalm 24, there is no extra subject before the verb. Admittedly, this happens elsewhere in the Bible (cf. Isa 3:7), but not only is the entire preceding verse nominalized (unlike in Isa 3:6), the subject of the verb is repeated afterwards in v. 6, as if one wanted to clarify the answer to the question in v. 3.

- V. 4 as subject is syntactically possible (i.e. noun-phrase+relative clause). It occurs 4 times in poetic books: Pss 24:4-5; 35:8; 41:10; 86:9 and c. 67 times in the rest of the Bible. A good example of a very similar construction with a long subject is Deut 28:56. The first noun-phrase consists of two elements and the relative clause consists of two further subclauses (and this isn't even poetry, so there's no parallelism!). Cf. also Num 9:13; Josh 1:18; and Ezra 6:5 (in Aramaic), which have especially similar structures.

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