[b-hebrew] Ps 68

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Mon Dec 19 05:47:29 EST 2005

On 18/12/2005 15:49, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman wrote:

>``Pave the way1 for the one who rides where the sun sets2 --- his name
>being Yah3 --- and rejoice before Him.''
>1.  From the root s.l.l, to cast a highway.  Birnbaum's ``extol''
>    reflects a common understanding of this word, an understanding
>    that dates back to the Targum's translation of Ps. 68, ``lift up a
>    song,'' from which this passage is taken.  But in light of the
>    following ``the one who rides...,'' our translation of ``pave''
>    seems much the more likely.  NRSV adds a footnote to their
>    translation ``lift up a song:'' ``Or cast up a highway.''
>2.  Aravot.  The idea presumably is that God rides his chariot on
>    high, drawing the sun across the sky.  (We have a similar
>    expression, ``rides off into the sunset,'' but the meaning is
>    quite different.)  NRSV suggests, ``rides among the clouds.''

It makes no sense for humans to pave the way for someone who is riding 
on the clouds! But if he is riding through the deserts, the only 
attested meaning of `arava, it makes a lot of sense for people to 
prepare a road for him, in the same way as even today in Middle Eastern 
cultures (and no doubt also in America!) roads are repaired before 
visits from the President.

I notice a clear and rather close parallel with Isaiah 40:3. Surely 
Psalm 68 is older than Isaiah 40. It seems to me rather likely that the 
prophet was deliberately echoing the psalm. He used the same word 
`arava, in the singular, and in parallel with midbar making his meaning 
clear, and his mesilla "highway" echoes sollu "pave (?)" in the psalm. 
This suggests to me that the prophet understood the psalm as something 
like "Pave the way for the rider through the deserts". And, as he would 
have been in touch with ancient traditional understandings as well as 
being a mother tongue speaker of biblical Hebrew, there is good reason 
to think that he was correct.

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

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