[b-hebrew] [b-Hebrew] YHWH Pronunciation - cholam analysis & Ben Hayim text question

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Fri Jul 22 08:38:40 EDT 2005

On 22/07/2005 11:58, David P Donnelly wrote:

> ...
>Why would the Masoretes point YHWH with the vowels  shewa-holem-qamets,
>if they wanted the Hebrew reader to pronounce that spelling "Adonay"?
>Why wouldn't the Masoretes have pointed YHWH with the vowels hatef
>if they were trying to indicate to the Jewish reader he was to read
>"Adonay" ?

One reason might be that hataf patah is never normally found under yod, 
and physically there is not space to write it there.

>At Judges 16:28 when YHWH followed Adonay,
>the Masoretes pointed YHWH with the precise vowels of Elohiym,
>which included placing the composite shewa, hatef segol under the yod.

This is interesting, but anomalous, as when the Elohim pronunciation is 
intended the regular pointing e.g. in Deuteronomy 3:24, 9:26, Ezekiel 
2:4, 3:11 is with sheva, not hataf segol. But then the hataf segol is 
not unique to Judges 16:28 as it is also found in Genesis 15:2,8, but 
apparently nowhere else. In fact these are the only cases in the Hebrew 
Bible of hataf segol under yod. (All of this taken from BHS, assumed to 
be an accurate reflection of L.)

Here are some statistics for YHWH pointed as Elohim in the Westminster 
Leningrad Codex:

Y:EHWIH - 2 (GEN 15:2,8)
Y:EHOWIH - 1 (JDG 16:28)
Y:HWIH - 271
Y:HOWIH - 31 (1KI 2:26; PSA 73:28; 140:8; ISA 50:4; JER 1:6; 7:20; EZK 
2:4; 3:11,27; 5:5; 8:1; 12:10; 13:16; 14:21,23; 16:36; 17:9; 20:39; 
21:33; 22:31; 23:32; 24:6,14; 26:21; 28:2; 30:22; 33:25; 39:17; 43:27; 
46:16; ZEC 9:14)
W:L"YHWIH - 1 (PSA 68:21)

And then for comparison, other cases of YHWH:

Y:HWFH - 4488
Forms ending in Y:HWFH - 1187
Forms ending in YHWFH - 788
Y:HOWFH - 30 (GEN 3:14; 9:26; EXO 3:2; 13:3,9,15; 14:1,8; LEV 25:17; DEU 
32:9; 33:12,13; 1KI 3:5; PSA 15:1; 40:5; 47:6; 100:5; 116:5,6; PRO 1:29; 
JER 2:37; 3:22,25; 4:3; 5:3,19; 6:9; 36:8; EZK 44:5; NAM 1:3)
Forms ending in Y:HOWFH - 14 (DEU 31:27; 1KI 16:33; JER 3:1,13,21; 4:8; 
5:2,9,15,18,22,29; 8:13; 30:10)
Forms ending in YHOWFH - 1 (GEN 18:17; EXO 13:12; LEV 23:34; JER 3:23; 
4:4; EZK 46:13)

I also found the following interesting case, which is the only hataf 
patah under yod in the Hebrew Bible:

$EY:AHWFH - 1 (PSA 144:15)

These statistics also put paid to Nehemiah Gordon's argument that the 
holam is written when the intended pronunciation is Elohim, and omitted 
only when the pronunciation is Adonay. Gordon, as quoted by Steven 
Avery, wrote:

>"only reason the Masoretic scribes would have left the form Yehowih without 
>dropping the vowel after the hey is because they knew this was not the true 
>pronunciation of the divine name. ... the Masoretic scribes knew the name to be 
>Yehovah and suppressed its pronunciation by omitting the "o". This is confirmed 
>by the fact that the scribes actually forgot to suppress the vowel "o" in a 
>number of instances."

But it seems that in the great majority of cases the Masoretic scribes 
didn't write the holam from Y:HOWIH, as well as in Y:HOWFH. So a 
different explanation is needed of why the holam is sometimes written 
and sometimes not.

>In 1008-1010 A.D. the Masoretes did not seem to recognize any Hebrew
>grammar rules,
>that might have prevented them from placing a composite shewa under a
I think it might be safer to say that they did have such a rule but that 
it was not applied 100%, as four exceptions are found in the Hebrew 
Bible - as listed above, there are none with hataf qamats. Also, in 
Masoretic times sheva may have been pronounced more like hataf patah 
than hataf segol, and so the former distinction could be lost without 
cost but the latter could not. Nevertheless, there are a lot of 
potentially fascinating details to look at here.

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

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