[b-hebrew] Re: agent or patient in Psa. 33:12?

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Thu May 13 15:19:49 EDT 2004

Dear Peter,

>>HH: You seem to be assuming that everything is pretty much equal, 
>>so it is just a matter of seeing which subject and object is most 
>>appropriate. But the grammar works differently in each case.
>>HH: If God is the subject of the second clause, everything goes smoothly:
>>Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (which the Lord is its God),
>>The people He chose as an inheritance for Himself.
>>HH: If the people is the subject, things do not proceed well.
>>Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord
>>The people which chose as an inheritance for itself.
>>HH: The verb "chose" is missing an object. How would you alter the 
>>preceding statement?
>>                 Yours,
>>                 Harold Holmyard
>Harold, you seem to be arguing here from English syntax. The two 
>alternatives can be rendered in English:
>(1) ... the people which he chose as an inheritance for himself.
>(2) ... whom the people chose as an inheritance for itself.
>In English syntax, the relative pronoun "which" in (1) can be 
>omitted, but the relative pronoun "whom" in (2) cannot be omitted, 
>and so such a sentence without a relative pronoun has to be a 
>shortened form of (1). But the same rule for omission of relative 
>pronouns does not necessarily apply in Hebrew - at least unless you 
>can demonstrate that it does. So I don't think your argument holds 

HH: Yes, I think it does hold up. If there were an understood "whom," 
as you suggest is possible, then one would expect the antecedent to 
the understood relative pronoun to directly precede the relative 
clause. Here the antecedent would seem to be YHWH, which does not 
directly precede the clause. Also, I would expect the relative clause 
with an understood relative pronoun to modify the noun in a 
restrictive way, but I don't think the clause here functions 
restrictively. I don't want to get into an discussion about the 
restrictive idea, since there may be exceptions, but it seems that 
unmarked relative clauses are usually restrictive in Hebrew. That is, 
they help to define the entity being modified. Further, somebody else 
already made the point that HGWY and H(M are functioning in 
parallelism. I suppose they don't have to, but that is the natural 

>But there are other arguments. I would expect something like BOW if 
>the line were to be understood as (2).

HH: But this argument has already been made by both myself and Liz. 
Also one would expect BW to precede LNXLH, coming right after the 
verb. We were proceeding with that understanding already established. 
That is how I could argue as I did.

>  And another point which no one has mentioned is the rather rare and 
>strongly disjunctive accent, shalshelet gedola (found only 38 times 
>in the Hebrew Bible), on H(M. This strongly suggests that, at least 
>in the pronunciation which the Masoretes heard, a strong break is to 
>be understood after H(M, probably a clause break as in 
>interpretation (1). This kind of disjunctive accent would not be 
>expected if H(M is the subject of BXR.

HH: That's an interesting argument.

					Harold Holmyard

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