Monday, May 31, 2021

Assonance in Psalms 7, verse by verse

This is an experiment. It has resulted in one immediate change to my translation. Priorities change for me when I see alliteration and there is enough in verse 3 to pay attention. npwi is much better as the concrete throat in this context (rather than the innocuous me). But the repeating letters and pairs in the rest of the Psalm did not suggest anything. A recurring root in one verse will result in several potential suggests of paired letters.

Psalms 7 is the subject of psalms blogging this week here.

thlim z Psalms 7
a wigion ldvid
awr-wr lihvh
yl-dbri-cuw bn-imini
d: 3, v: 4, i: 8, l: 3, n: 3, r: 3, w: 4,
wr: 2,
1 A reel of David,
who sang to Yahweh,
over the words of Cush of Benjamin,
b ihvh alohii bç ksiti
howiyni mcl-rodpii vhxilni
h: 5, v: 5, i: 11, l: 3,
2 Yahweh my God in you I take refuge.
Save me from all my persecutors and deliver me,
g pn-i'trof carih npwi
porq vain mxil
v: 3, i: 5, n: 3, p: 3, r: 3,
'tr: 1, np: 1, pn: 1, r't: 1,
3 lest he tear like a lion my throat,
rending apart and there is none to deliver.

d ihvh alohii am-ywiti zat
am-iw-yvvl bcpii
a: 4, h: 3, v: 4, i: 8,
am: 2,
4 Yahweh my God if I have done this,
if there is injustice in my palm,
h am-gmlti wolmi ry
vaklxh xorri riqm
v: 3, i: 4, l: 3, m: 4, r: 4,
lm: 1, ml: 1,
5 if I have paid back evil to one who is at peace with me,
then let me be gripped without cause by my adversary.
v irdof aoib npwi viwg virmos larx kii
ucbodi lypr iwcn slh
v: 7, i: 9, l: 3, r: 4, w: 3,
6 Let an enemy persecute me and overtake and trample my life on earth,
and make my glory to dwell in the dust. Selah.

z qumh ihvh bapç hinwa bybrot xorrii
vyurh alii mwp't xivvit
a: 3, b: 3, h: 5, v: 8, i: 8, r: 4,
by: 1, yb: 1,
7 Arise Yahweh, in your anger, be lifted up in the outbursts of my adversary,
and be aroused, my God, judgment you command.
k vydt laumim tsobbç
vylih lmrom wubh
b: 3, v: 6, l: 3, m: 4,
mr: 1, rm: 1,
8 And an assembly of tribes surround you,
so for her of the high ground return.
't ihvh idin ymim
wop'tni ihvh
cxdqi uctumi ylii
h: 4, v: 5, i: 10, m: 3,
9 Yahweh makes the case for the peoples.
Judge me Yahweh,
for my righteousness and for my completeness in me.
i igmor-na ry rwyim utconn xdiq
ubokn libot ucliot alohim xdiq
v: 9, i: 7, l: 3, m: 3, n: 4, r: 3, t: 3,
dq: 2, xd: 2,
10 May the evil of the wicked be obliterated and prepare a righteous one.
So testing hearts and vital centres is God, a righteous one.
ia mgini yl-alohim
mowiy iwri-lb
i: 6, l: 3, m: 3,
11 My shield is of God,
saving the upright of heart.
ib alohim wop't xdiq
val zoym bcl-iom
v: 5, i: 3, l: 3, m: 3,
al: 2, zy 1,
12 God judges a righteous one,
and God is indignant every day.

ig am-la iwub krbo il'tow
qwto drç viconnha
a: 3, v: 6, i: 3, w: 3,
13 If he will not turn he will hone his sword,
his bow he directs, and he will aim.
id vlo hcin cli-mvvt
kixiv ldolqim ipyl
v: 6, i: 6, l: 5,
dl: 1, ld: 1,
14 And for him he has prepared consuming means of death.
His arrows for those in hot pursuit he will draw.
'tv hnh ikbl-avvn
vhrh yml vild wqr
h: 4, v: 4, l: 3,
hn: 1, hr: 1, nh: 1, rh: 1,
15 Behold he pushes out mischief,
and he is big with toil and he gives birth to falsehood.
'tz bor crh vikprhu
viipol bwkt ipyl
v: 5, i: 4, p: 3, r: 3,
rh: 2,
16 A pit he digs and he excavates it,
and he miscarries into the destruction that he has worked.
iz iwub ymlo brawo
vyl qodqodo kmso iird
d: 3, v: 8, i: 3,
dq: 1, qd: 2,
17 He turns his toil in his head,
and onto his scalp his violence descends.
ik aodh ihvh cxdqo
vazmrh wm-ihvh ylion
h: 6, v: 6, i: 3,
18 I will give thanks to Yahweh for his righteousness,
and I will psalm the name of Yahweh on high.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Discovering assonance

One of the characteristics of the Hebrew Bible is that the writing is filled with the play of sounds. Translations almost always fail. Notes can point them out, but a note is an explanation of play not the play itself. I have been experimenting with a simple counting algorithm to see if it can help me 'see' what I can't hear in translation.

The About page for the SimHebrew Bible gives an example from Qohelet 7:1:

qhlt z Qohelet 7
a 'tob wm mwmn 'tob
viom hmvvt miom hivvldo
v: 10, i: 3, m: 7,
'tb: 2, mw: 1, wm: 2,
1 A good name may be compared with good oil,
and the day of death with the day of its birth.

In these examples, the column in the middle is a count of individual letters and 'significant' double letters that repeat in the word. I am not sure how useful this is yet. But in this example it shows that in the verse, you can look for tet-bet, mem-shin, and shin-mem as significant repeating sounds. 

I started with the 401 letter combinations that initiate a root. There may be some I will miss. Also I ignored yod and vav between letters since these appear and disappear unpredictably. 

Here's another example, Psalms 6:11
thlim v Psalms 6
ia ibowu viibhlu maod cl-aoibii
iwubu ibowu rgy
b: 5, v: 10, i: 8, w: 3,
bw: 2, wb: 1,
11 Shamed and vexed much all my enemies.
Let them turn, let them be ashamed in a moment.

Psalms illustrates, as does Qohelet, the compactness of Hebrew poetry. You can see how English translations try to smooth out the poetry and add words that are not needed. (Find me a common translation that does not turn iwubu ibowu into iwubu vibowu. There is no vav there. Leaving out connectors is marginally acceptable in translation, but putting one in is inexcusable. It ruins the rhetoric.)

And another: Isaiah 24:2
iwyihu cd Isaiah 24
b vhih cym ccohn cybd cadoniv cwpkh cgbrth
cqonh cmocr cmlvvh clovh cnowh cawr nowa bo
a: 3, b: 3, h: 9, v: 13, c: 14, m: 3, n: 5, r: 3, w: 4,
aw: 1, ca: 2, cm: 2, cy: 2, hn: 1, lh: 2, mc: 1, nh: 1, nw: 2, wa: 1,
2 And it will happen, as people, as priest, as servant, as his lord, as handmaid, as her mistress,
as buyer, as seller, as lender, as borrower, as the usurious, as those allured by it.

In this example, the single letter counts are more significant. Isaiah is prose rhetoric and the translation repeats the sound /as/ the way the Hebrew repeats the /c/ sound. 

One more:
thlim yg Psalms 73
i lcn iwub ymo hlom
umi mla iimxu lmo
v: 6, i: 4, l: 4, m: 6,
lm: 2, ml: 1,
10 "So! his people will return here,
where they can be fully milked."

In this verse, I have even managed to repeat the l and m sounds in the English. I guess it depends on what we think the verse is saying. (I obviously don't think it is a pious comment.)

Friday, May 28, 2021

Exploring Modern Hebrew

When learning Hebrew, I did not use a total immersion process, but I am sort of doing that now, only sort of and only once a week and it is nearly impossible at age 75 to fix a total discontinuity between the mouth, the ear, and the eye.

The eye is slow but can look things up, and my eye has two tools, 

  1. the SimHebrew concordance which reveals all the uses of a given root in the canonical texts. 
  2. searches in my system to allow me to find the full Hebrew texts in both pointed and unpointed forms and my English translation. I have not yet figured out a way to expose this fully on the web.
The ear is fast but needs so much training that I despair of any magical super-saturation that will make me less deaf.

The mouth is slow of speech and slow to read in a foreign tongue.

But I can do one thing.  And that is to trace back a new word in Modern Hebrew to possible Biblical Hebrew roots and then see how this root has morphed or not in its possible glosses. There are some definite conflicts and some funny results. (Real etymologists may have better theories.)

For funny we found footnote in a discussion of publication terms, and furniture from this poem.

Footnote הערות שוליים appears to be based on the BH skirt (wvl) and exposed (yrh). yrh is the only root I can find that could give a shade of meaning to the first of this pair of words. /yr/ must be in the root because these letters never disappear. /hy/ cannot be the beginning of a root since there are no BH roots beginning with hy, and vt is a feminine plural ending so it is not likely part of the root. Curious that the feminine ending does not match the masculine ending of wvl.

Furniture רְהִיטִים seems to be based on the BH rh't girder (Song of Songs 1:17, 7:6) . I see that the translations vary to the point that you can't identify the underlying frame in the Song, so here is mine:

1:17 qorot btinu arzim rhi'tnu brotim
The rafters of our house are cedar. Our girders are fir.

7:6 rawç yliiç ccrml vdlt rawç cargmn 
mlç asur brh'tim
Your head upon you like Carmel and the tresses of your head like purple,
a king is bound in the girders.

The same root is used for trough (The stories of Jacob and the genetic manipulation of the flocks in Genesis 30:38/41 and in Exodus 2:16).

These are both examples where words rarely used in the Bible have taken on modern senses.

In some cases, the present day usage has morphed into a different meaning. /cys/ I have rendered in BH as grieve, or grief. MH carries the sense of anger. The ancient meaning does not appear to have carried forward into the modern era. But BH no longer uses /ap/ (nose) for anger as BH does, so there has been both displacement and change in the sense of cys. You can explore my glosses in the domains of wrath and grief here. (Search for wrath or grief to see all the roots under that label.) 

Am I justified in using grieve / grief for cys? It is certainly in partial use for this root already, and I don't think traditional translations are necessarily softening the word. My uses are grieve 46, grief 28, grievous 1, grievous behaviour 2, provoke grief 2. And precisely since it is not anger (ap), it fits better everywhere. 

There are 79 verses where cys is used. That is too many for a blog post, but you can see them all in the tooltips in the concordance. And you can compare them to NRSV (if the verse numbers match, which they sometimes don't). NRSV agrees with my rendering of grief sometimes, and also uses provoke or provoke to anger. I have used provoke twice as noted above but always with grief. I use provoke and its derivatives alone for /mrh/. NRSV uses rebel, but also uses rebel for another stem (srr) where I use rebel

It's a common problem with near synonymous terms that are not really synonyms. I put a software harness on my translation to stop me from such random freedom. All the translations in the tradition of the authorized version use synonyms far more freely than I do. The result is a shift in tonality for the words that is not justified by the music.

Translators always impose a tone on the Scripture whether they are musical or not. So do I. The only shifts in tonality that are permissible are shifts that might be noted between early and late Biblical Hebrew. Did early Hebrew experience cys as grief or as anger? My guess is grief. I think it consistently fits the usage of the word and I had no reason to vary it.

Where does my bias come from? Technically, I have to look at the words as they are used, and the parallels and contrasts that they are used with. Personally, like anyone, I know both anger and grief. I think that anger controlled, like fear controlled, is a better management of my own behaviour than anger expressed. Grief expressed even if exasperation, (sighing) can be shown with less harm to the one who you might be mentoring. I also have believed that I have been shown something of the love of God, and while God can be angry, God can also, like any parent, be grieved by the behaviour of humanity. That is why the human prays, Psalms 6:1. 

Yahweh, do not in your anger correct me,
and do not in your heat chasten me.

Perhaps if we fear to be corrected or chastened in anger, we will respond when grief is revealed.

Grief /cys/ occurs 7 times in the Psalms. Grief fits everywhere. Anger would fit, but it isn't needed. Which one is a modern projection?
P68עָֽשְׁשָׁ֣ה מִכַּ֣עַס עֵינִ֑י
עָֽ֝תְקָ֗ה בְּכָל־צוֹרְרָֽי
ywwh mcys yini
ytqh bcl-xorrii
Swollen from grief my eye,
viscous in all my troubles.

מכעס from grief
S1014רָאִ֡תָה כִּֽי־אַתָּ֤ה ׀ עָ֘מָ֤ל וָכַ֨עַס ׀ תַּבִּיט֮ לָתֵ֪ת בְּיָ֫דֶ֥ךָ
עָ֭לֶיךָ יַעֲזֹ֣ב חֵלֶ֑כָה
יָ֝ת֗וֹם אַתָּ֤ה ׀ הָיִ֬יתָ עוֹזֵֽר
rait ci-ath yml vcys tbi't ltt bidç
yliç iyzob klch
itom ath hiit yozr
Regard you will, for you yourself take note of toil and grief to give by your hand.
To you the hapless defer.
The orphan you yourself will help.
וכעס and grief
A3110חָנֵּ֥נִי יְהוָה֮ כִּ֤י צַ֫ר־לִ֥י
עָשְׁשָׁ֖ה בְכַ֥עַס עֵינִ֗י נַפְשִׁ֥י וּבִטְנִֽי
konni ihvh ci xr-li
ywwh bcys yini npwi ub'tni
Be gracious to me Yahweh because of my straits.
Swollen with grief are my eye, my being and my belly.
בכעס with grief
L7858וַיַּכְעִיס֥וּהוּ בְּבָמוֹתָ֑ם
וּ֝בִפְסִילֵיהֶ֗ם יַקְנִיאֽוּהוּ
vicyisuhu bbmotm
ubpsilihm iqniauhu
And they grieved him with their high places,
and with their graven images moved him to jealousy.
ויכעיסוהו and they grieved him
M855שׁ֭וּבֵנוּ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׁעֵ֑נוּ
וְהָפֵ֖ר כַּֽעַסְךָ֣ עִמָּֽנוּ
wubnu alohi iwynu
vhpr cysç yimnu
Turn us O God of our salvation,
and thwart your grief with us.
כעסך your grief
S10629וַ֭יַּכְעִיסוּ בְּמַֽעַלְלֵיהֶ֑ם
וַתִּפְרָץ־בָּ֝֗ם מַגֵּפָֽה
vicyisu bmyllihm
vtprox-bm mgph
and they grieved him with their wantonness,
and a plague broke out among them.

ויכעיסו and they grieved him

11210רָ֘שָׁ֤ע יִרְאֶ֨ה ׀ וְכָעָ֗ס שִׁנָּ֣יו יַחֲרֹ֣ק וְנָמָ֑ס
תַּאֲוַ֖ת רְשָׁעִ֣ים תֹּאבֵֽד
rwy irah vcys winiv ikroq vnms
tavvt rwyim tabd
Rebel will see and will grieve. So will his teeth gnash and decay.
The desire of rebels will perish.
וכעס and will grieve

Monday, May 24, 2021

Psalms 18

 Psalms 18 is the first long psalm, if we are reading in sequence - as is happening over at Christopher Page's site. His site is called 'in a spacious place'. Note how this idea of space has already been exposed in the psalms. It occurs again here in verse 20.

thlim ik Psalms 18 Fn Min Max Syll
a lmnxk lybd ihvh ldvid
awr dibr lihvh at-dbri hwirh hzat
biom hxil-ihvh aoto mcf cl-aoibiv umid waul
1 For the leader. Of a servant of Yahweh. Of David,
who spoke to Yahweh the words of this particular song,
in the day Yahweh delivered him from the slap of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.
3e 4C 12
b viamr arkmç ihvh kzqi 2 and he said, I am passionate about you, Yahweh, my courage. 3e 4B 10
g ihvh slyi umxudti umpl'ti
ali xuri aksh-bo
mgini vqrn-iwyi mwgbi
3 Yahweh my cliff, and my fortress and my security,
my God my rock. I will take refuge in him.
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my retreat.
3e 4C 11
d mhull aqra ihvh
umn-aoibii aivvwy
4 Praising I will call Yahweh,
and from my enemies I will be saved.

g 3e 4B 7
h appuni kbli-mvvt
vnkli bliiyl ibytuni
5 Enveloping me were death pangs,
and torrents of worthlessness alarmed me.
3e 4B 7
v kbli waol sbbuni
qidmuni moqwi mvvt
6 The pangs of the grave surrounded me.
Confronting me were death traps.
3e 4B 8
z bxr-li aqra ihvh val-alohii awvvy
iwmy mhiclo qoli
vwvvyti lpniv tboa baozniv
7 In my straits I call upon Yahweh and to my God I cry for help.
He hears from his temple my voice,
and my cry to his face comes into his ears.

3d 4C 16
k vtgyw vtryw harx umosdi hrim irgzu
vitgywu ci-krh lo
8 And the earth shakes and quakes, and the foundations of the hills shudder,
and are shaken for he was burning with anger.
3e 4B 17
't ylh ywn bapo vaw-mpiv tacl
gklim byru mmnu
9 A smoke ascends in his nostrils and fire from his mouth devours.
Coals were kindled from it.
~ 3e 4C 13
i vi't wmiim viird
vyrpl tkt rgliv
10 And he bends heavens and descends,
with dark turbulence under his feet.
3e 4B 7
ia vircb yl-crub viyof
viida yl-cnpi-ruk
11 And he rides on a cherub and he flies.
And he darts on the wings of the wind.
3e 4B 9
ib iwt kowç stro sbibotiv sucto
kwct-mim ybi wkqim
12 He sets darkness his hiding place, round about him his booth,
dark waters, thick clouds of the skies.

C 3e 4C 13
ig mnogh ngdo ybiv ybru
brd vgkli-aw
13 From the luminous before him his thick clouds passed by,
hail and coals of fire.
3e 4A 9
id virym bwmiim ihvh vylion iitn qolo
brd vgkli-aw
14 And Yahweh thunders in the heavens, and the Most High gives his voice,
hail and coals of fire.
3e 4B 15
'tv viwlk kixiv vipixm
ubrqim rb vihumm
15 And he sends his arrows and disperses them.
And lightnings he multiplies and confuses them.
3e 4B 8
'tz viirau apiqi mim viiglu mosdot tbl
mgyrtç ihvh
mnwmt ruk apç
16 Then seen are channels of waters, and discovered are the foundations of the world,
at your rebuke Yahweh,
at the breath of the wind of your nostrils.

3d 4C 16
iz iwlk mmrom iiqkni
imwni mmim rbim
17 He will send from on high. He will take me.
He will draw me out from many waters.
3e 4B 9
ik ixilni maoibi yz
umwonaii ci-amxu mmni
18 He will deliver me from my strong enemy,
and from those hating me, for they are more assured than I.
3e 4A 8
i't iqdmuni biom-aidi
vihi-ihvh lmwyn li
19 They will confront me in the day of my misfortune,
but Yahweh becomes my staff.

3e 4B 8
c vioxiani lmrkb
iklxni ci kpx bi
20 He has brought me out into a spacious room.
He will rescue me for he delighted in me.
3e 4A 8
ca igmlni ihvh cxdqi
cbor idii iwib li
21 Yahweh will reward me for my righteousness,
for the purity of my hands he will turn to me.
3e 4B 9
cb ci-wmrti drci ihvh
vla-rwyti malohii
22 For I have kept the ways of Yahweh,
and I have not been wicked with my God.
3e 4B 7
cg ci cl-mwp'tiv lngdi
vkuqotiv la-asir mni
23 For all his judgments are before me,
and his statutes I will not put aside from me.
B 3e 4B 8
cd vahi tmim yimo
vawtmr myvoni
24 And I am complete with him,
and I have kept myself from my iniquity.
3e 4B 7
ch viwb-ihvh li cxdqi
cbor idii lngd yiniv
25 And Yahweh turned to me for my righteousness,
for the purity of my hands before his eyes.

3e 4B 9
cv ym-ksid ttksd
ym-gbr tmim titmm
26 With one who is kind you show yourself kind.
With one who prevails complete you show yourself complete.
3e 4A 6
cz ym-nbr ttbrr
vym-yiqw ttptl
27 With the pure you show yourself pure,
and with the devious you show yourself tortuous.

3e 4A 6
ck ci-ath ym-yni towiy
vyiniim rmot twpil
28 For you yourself an impoverished people will save,
and eyes exalted you will humble.
3e 4B 8
c't ci-ath tair nri
ihvh alohii igih kowci
29 For you yourself will light my lamp.
Yahweh my God will illuminate my darkness.
3e 4B 6
l ci-bç arux gdud
ubalohii adlg-wur
30 For in you I have raced a raiding party,
and in my God I have leapt a barrier.

3e 4B 7
la hal tmim drco
amrt-ihvh xruph
mgn hua lcol hkosim bo
31 This God, his way is complete,
the promise of Yahweh refined.
He is a shield to all who take refuge in him.
3d 4C 6
lb ci mi aloh mblydi ihvh
umi xur zulti alohinu
32 For who is God apart from Yahweh?
And who a rock except our God?
C 3e 4C 11
lg hal hmazrni kil
viitn tmim drci
33 This God girds me in force,
and he gives the completeness of my way,

g 3e 4B 8
ld mwvvh rglii caiilot
vyl bmotii iymidni
34 making my feet resemble the hart,
and on my high places he stands me,
3e 4B 9
lh mlmd idii lmlkmh
vnikth qwt-nkuwh zroyotii
35 in teaching my hands to war,
and he has pinned brazen bow by my arms.
3e 4B 9
lv vtitn-li mgn iwyç
viminç tsydni
vynvvtç trbni
36 And you gave me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand confirms me,
and your gentleness gives me increase.
3d 4A 9
lz trkib xydi tktii
vla mydu qrsulii
37 You will broaden my paces under me,
lest my ankles be unstable.

3e 4B 7
lk ardof aoibii vawigm
vla-awub yd-clotm
38 I will pursue my enemies and will overtake them,
and I will not turn back until they are finished.
3e 4B 8
l't amkxm vla-iuclu qum
iiplu tkt rglii
39 I will wound them and they will not be able to arise.
They will fall under my feet.
g 3e 4B 8
m vtazrni kil lmlkmh
tcriy qmii tktii
40 And you will gird me with force for the war.
Those arising against me, you will bow down under me.

3e 4B 10
ma vaoibii ntt li yorf
umwnaii axmitm
41 And the nape of my enemies you have given to me.
And those hating me, I will annihilate them.
3e 4B 9
mb iwvvyu vain-mowiy
yl-ihvh vla ynm
42 They will cry for help and there is no salvation,
to Yahweh and he did not answer them.
3e 4B 8
mg vawkqm cypr yl-pni-ruk
c'ti't kuxot ariqm
43 And I pulverized them like dust in the face of a wind,
as dirt of the streets I did away with them.

3e 4B 11
md tpl'tni mribi-ym
twimni lraw goiim
ym la-idyti iybduni
44 You will secure me in the disputes of the people.
You will set me up as the beginning of nations.
A people I did not know will serve me.
3d 4B 8
mh lwmy aozn iiwmyu li
bni-ncr ickwu-li
45 Hearing by ear they will hear of me.
The children of the alien cringe to me.
3e 4B 9
mv bni-ncr iibolu
vikrgu mmsgrotihm
46 The children of the alien will wither,
no longer at ease from within their prisons.

3e 4A 6
mz ki-ihvh ubruç xuri
virum alohi iwyi
47 Yahweh lives and blessed is my rock.
The God of my salvation will be exalted.
3e 4B 9
mk hal hnotn nqmot li
vidbr ymim tktii
48 This God gives my vengeance,
and he subjugates peoples under me.
3e 4B 9
m't mpl'ti maoibii
af mn-qmii trommni
maiw kms txilni
49 He secures me from my enemies.
Indeed from those arising against me you will exalt me.
From a violent person you will deliver me.

3e 4B 6
n yl-cn aodç bgoiim ihvh
ulwmç azmrh
50 Therefore I will give you thanks among the nations Yahweh,
and to your name I will sing a psalm,
3e 4C 9
na mgdil iwuyot mlco
vyowh ksd lmwiko ldvid ulzryo yd-yolm
51 for the one who magnifies the victories of his king,
and does kindness for his anointed, for David and his seed for evermore.
3d 4C 7

To explore the music is a substantial journey. Psalms 18 and 2 Samuel 22 have the same words set to two different sets of accents. The 'tunes' are different. Just consider 1 verse. 
Comparing prose and poetic interpretations of the same words.
Psalms 18:4 and 2 Samuel 22:4

The shape is similar. One could adjust the g# or g natural in either passage by switching modes. Some ornaments like revia-mugrash, and ole-veyored never occur in the prose books, so we will find differences in the ornaments between the two versions. There are only a few passages where this kind of comparison is possible. Three psalms (105, 96, ans 106) are quoted in 1 Chronicles 16, and Psalms 136:1 besides being used in several other psalms (106:1, 107:1, 118:1 where the music is identical), is a phrase repeated in several prose passages: Jeremiah 33:11, Ezra 3:11, 1 Chronicles 16:34, 41, and 2 Chronicles 5:13, 7:3, 6, and 20:21. These all have unique recitations where the quote is part of a longer prose phrase. The music underlay depends where in the phrase the quote occurs. The final few words if at the end of a verse have identical underlays f-g#-e. 

I have used verses 21-25 to illustrate the complementarity of recurring words and music as the means of understanding internal structures in the text. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Back to the accents over and under the Hebrew text of the Bible

 We must have been here before. But why do I think I am missing the basic visual facts of these marks of taste? Because I hear conversations where we are either tied up in knots over naming these marks, or tied up in melismas over interpreting them.

Here's the table of accents again. 

The Accents of the Hebrew Bible relating to the Music

Below the text

Above the text



Accent name


Ornament relative
to the reciting note
Full name of the ornament









galgal, (tevir)


















tifha, (d'khi)


















mahpakh, (yetiv)






double merkha, kefulah









zarqa, tsinnor






telisha qetana






telisha gedolah






qarne farah

























Basic assumptions are these.

  • They appear in a fully-formed system in the Aleppo Codex.
  • They are considered a musical notation.
  • They are all hand signals used by the ancients for conducting the melodies.
  • The original music is 'lost'.
Basic observations are these.
  • Some are placed below the text. 
  • Every verse in the Bible has accents below the text.
  • Some are placed above the text.
  • About 14% of the verses have no accents above the text.
  • Two shapes are used both below and above the text. All others are distinct.
  • There is a very consistent usage matching the sense and accentuation of the words.
  • atnah occurs 0 or 1 times per verse.
  • Every verse ends with silluq. It may occur within a verse also.
  • There are two overlapping subsets of these accents. 
    • Subset 1 occurs in the three books of poetry. ** above means only used in subset 1.
    • Subset 2 occurs in the other 21 books and in the narrator's parts in the 3 books. * above means only used in subset 2.
  • In the poetry books ole always occurs with merkha following and in one case preceding (called ole-veyored) 0 or 1 times per verse and if it occurs with atnah, it is always before the atnah.
  • All the other accents are used from 0 to multiple times per verse.
That's a fairly small set of observations. Combinations of accents create musical motifs and phrases. These are potentially infinite, so no wonder it is hard to abstract them  by appealing to sequences of accents.

What are the fundamental disagreements?
  • The accents are punctuation. This is a partial truism but of little value.
  • Their function has no impact beyond a verse boundary. Provably false. Many examples have been pointed out on this blog and in my books.
  • The accents under the text are linked to a scale. True in my opinion. But which scale?
  • The accents are hierarchic. This is an entirely confusing concept. A musical phrase is not a hierarchy, it requires all its notes to be contributing to the whole effect.
If the accents under the text are a scale, then there is an implied harmonic substructure to be discovered. The deciphering key inferred by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura shows this underlying harmonic structure. Given a trained musical ear, her selection passes the tonus peregrinus test.

Even given the scale, there is a great deal more to discover about the usage of the accents. Some of what can be discovered is illustrated by the music I have developed and transcribed using the deciphering key inferred by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura. This blog contains enough examples to see the clarity and potential impact of her work.

See also my series on the Ladder or see volume 10 of the translation series, The Progression of the Music. This book lays out motifs and phrases used for every verse of Scripture and shows where they are unique and where they are identical. For an introduction to the deciphering key and the rationale behind it please see The Song in the Night.