Ps 18 -2 Sam 22, merismus

Bryan Rocine 596547 at
Mon Feb 1 23:37:55 EST 1999

Dear Rolf and other friends,

Rolf referred to Psa 18:5--


> In v 5 we find a clear parallelism between a qatal and a yiqtol with past
> meaning. Are they interchangeable as far as meaning is concerned, or do
> they have different meanings but fill the same function?

I would like to propose a poetic devise called verbal merismus to explain
such a case.  Merismus is identified by Watson et. al. as an abbreviated
reference to a whole by naming representative or complementary parts.  It
is not the individual elements that matter, but their signification as a
unit.  Merismus is commonly achieved by complementary word pairs like (some
of my translations will seem rough because I am trying to preserve the BH
word order and I know you can readily check other E translations):

heaven/earth = everywhere
Psa 73:25 Whom do I have in heaven? And next to you I don't desire
(anything/anybody) in earth.  

morning/night = all the time
Psa 92:3 To declare in the morning your graciousness, and your faithfulness
in the nights. 

wilderness/Carmel = everywhere
Isa 32:16  Then in the wilderness will dwell justice, and righteousness in
Carmel will remain.

Merismus can also be achieved through gender-matching.  I mention it here
because it moves us out of the lexicon to the realm of the morphology of
the language .  For example:

Isa 19:2
And I will join 
          Egyptians(m) against Egyptians
And they will fight
          each man(m) against his neighbor(m)
          a city(f) against a city
          a kingdom(f) against a kingdom.
It means EVERYONE is going to be fighting.

Hab 3:3b achieves merismus by combining the use of word pairs and gender
matching in chiastic parallelism.

Hab 3:3b
Covered the heavens(m) His glory(m) and His praise(f) filled the earth(f).
It means His EVERY HONOR is found in EVERY PLACE.

So now let's go one step more, to the verb forms.  I suggest merismus is
achieved by the complementarity in the meanings of the qatal and yiqtol. 
Two forms, taken together, should suggest every something or all of
something.  For instance, do a yiqtol and a qatal, in parallel parts of a
verse suggest ALL TIME?  Not sure.  Maybe sometimes.  For instance:  

Psa 9:7
YHVH forever will sit(yiqtol); He prepared(qatal) for judgment His throne.

But other examples even more clearly use both yiqtol and qatal to refer to
temporally identical situations.  In so doing, the poet creates a merismus,
in essence, a view of one event "from all angles."  Psa 18:5 is an example
with its qatal 'apapuni and yiqtol yeba`atuni.  One of my favorite examples
of verbal merismus is Psa 93:3

nos'u neharot yhvh 
nos'u neharot 
qolam yis'u neharot

And what do I suggest is the complementarity that exists between the forms?
 Writer viewpoint.  Subjective viewpoint.  The qatal is attributive,
adjectival like the Akkadian permansive described by Bergstrasser, et. al. 
The yiqtol expressess emerging action.  nos'u expresses a naked fact, that
the floods are lifters.  The yiqtol depicts action emerging from them.  The
merismus then suggests every view.  A translation:

Floods are lifters, O YHVH
Floods are lifters;
It is their roar that the floods lift.

The merimus suggests the lifting is utter lifting, total lifting by viewing
it in complementary ways.  Without the merismus, the floods may be pinned
with an attribute(qatal), but the event is not depicted as
emerging(yiqtol).  Or again, without the merismus, they may lift(yiqtol),
but that does not attribute a quality to them(qatal).  This verse presents,
in a sense, the floods as both lifters and lifting.  Other examples of
verbal merismus include Psa 6:10, 7:14, 7:15, 9:7, 37:28, 78:50, 96:10,
110:6, 111:15, 114:3, to name a few in Pss.

Would verbal merismus be a good explanation for what's going on in Psa 2:1?

Can you point me to literature that discusses the odd juxtaposition of
qatal and yiqtol in some BH verses of poetry?


B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13208


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