[b-hebrew] Ps. 104:12 - (P)YM

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Jun 21 07:25:51 EDT 2004

On 19/06/2004 22:59, Yigal Levin wrote:

>Happy Tammuz to y'all,
>(P)YM - 'pha'im - in Ps. 104:12, is usually translated "branches". While this seems to fit the context, the word looks to me more like a plural of (oph, "bird". Any comments?
Your suggestion doesn't seem to have gone down well, but in support of it:

1) According to BHS, some MSS offer a Qere reading without the alef. The 
alef could have been inserted as a mater lectionis to indicate a long A 
vowel (later written as qamats) according to a common practice in DSS 
biblical MSS and later Hebrew, which is not usually found in the 
Masoretic text. But it is not impossible that such an added alef could 
have crept into a copy which became the basis for MT.

2) LXX has TWN PETRWN, "of the stones", and the Syriac is similar, 
suggesting at least that the expression was obscure at an early date.

3) `ophayim, the form in the text with the alef ignored or treated as a 
mater lectionis, is not a plural but a dual, and so might well refer to 
pairs or mating couples of birds. As such this can fit the context 
rather well, although not quite strictly grammatically: birds make 
nests, and pairs of them call to one another, with the implied result 
that they mate and produce eggs and young, so fitting the wider image of 
fruitfulness. This connotation is lost by "among the branches".

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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