Monday, March 4, 2013

The limits of concentric structures

This post tests the claim that there is a 12 deep set of concentric circles in Isaiah 14:4-20.

This claim is made in JBL 131, no.4 (2012) 643, The Cryptic Meaning of the Isaiah 14 Mashal, by Nissim Amzallag and Mikhal Avriel.

If there are 12 concentric circles in this passage, the tables below show that it is a subjective decision. There are many aspects that weigh against it. The first is that a ring structure that is 12 deep will confuse the hearers. Humans can stretch to 7 maybe even 9 deep but 12 is well outside of our limit for processing.

I think the writers have a point that verse 12 is a centre, but a subjective structure of three deep is adequate: the first verses draw in the players who already know verse 12; the following verses describe the hubris that adds up to the fall in verse 12.

The final table below shows a seven deep objective circular structure to the passage. This is not an impossible insight into the mind of the originator of this passage.

Sorry - no English or Greek - haven't done the detailed translation yet... Just look at the pretty patterns.

Selected recurring words (Isaiah 14:4 to 20 excluding 6 to 18) - there are no pairwise connections between the verses taken in circular order (4, 20, 5, 19 etc)
Word and gloss * first usage12345VsRoot
המשׁל
4משׁל
שׁבת
4שׁבת
שׁבתה
4שׁבת
משׁלים
5משׁל
מקברך
19קבר
הרגים
19הרג
לא
20לא
בקבורה
20קבר
הרגת
20הרג
לא
20לא

Selected recurring words (6 to 18 excluding 8 to 16) - there is 1 pairwise connection in circular order (6,18)
Word and gloss * first usage1234VsRoot
מכה
6מכה
מכת
6מכה
גוים
6גוי
כל
7כל
ביתה
17בית
כל
18כל
גוים
18גוי
כלם
18כל
בביתו
18בית

Selected recurring words (8 to 16 excluding 10 to 14) - 1 pairwise connection (9,15)
Word and gloss * first usage123456VsRoot
לך
8לך
שׁאול
9שׁאול
רגזה
9רגז
לך
9לך
לך
9לך
כל
9כל
ארץ
9ארץ
כל
9כל
מלכי
9מלך
שׁאול
15שׁאול
מרגיז
16רגז
הארץ
16ארץ
ממלכות
16מלך

Selected recurring words (10 to 14) - no circular connections for 10,14 or 11,13
Word and gloss * first usage1234VsRoot
ויאמרו
10אמר
אתה
10אתה
משׁמים
12שׁמם
ואתה
13אתה
אמרת
13אמר
השׁמים
13שׁמם
אעלה
13עלה
ממעל
13מעל
אעלה
14עלה

Selected recurring words (4 to 20) - the deepest objective structure is 9 words, 7 deep. The central verse is pointed out by the recurrence in 4,12. The focus moves from how איך to you אתה.

Word and gloss * first usage123456789VsRoot
איך
4איך
עמים
6עם
שׁכבת
8שׁכב
לא
8לא
שׁאול
9שׁאול
רגזה
9רגז
מכסאותם
9כסא
ויאמרו
10אמר
אתה
10אתה
שׁאול
11שׁאול
איך
12איך
ואתה
13אתה
אמרת
13אמר
כסאי
13כסא
שׁאול
15שׁאול
מרגיז
16רגז
לא
17לא
שׁכבו
18שׁכב
ואתה
19אתה
לא
20לא
עמך
20עם
לא
20לא