[b-hebrew] Genesis 8:22

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Apr 29 16:21:26 EDT 2006

On 4/27/06, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:

> > > HH: The word  MW(D ("time") clearly can refer to the seasons of
> > >  nature.  In Jer 8:7 it refers to the migration season for birds. In Ps
> > > 104:19 it refers to nature's seasons:
> >
> >I think you are mistranslating Psalm 104.  The word mw(d very often
> >refers to the full moon holiday.
> HH: A full moon holiday is foreign to the context
> of the natural world of Psalm 104 [...]
> HH: What do wild goats care about a full moon
> holiday? What do beasts of the forest care about
> it? What do lions care about it?

I have developed an analysis method of poems that uses the structure
of the poem as direction in understanding the context.  I think it works
out quite successfully, as I will demonstrate here, but I guess you could
argue it is irrelevant to the poem.  I think it lets me understand the poem
without any preconceptions about the poem's intent, letting the structure
speak for the poem.  It focuses on the use of triple parallelisms vs. dual
parallelisms.  Triple parallelisms are more important, and sequences of
triple parallelisms much more so.  In this psalm, there are 7 cases of
triple parallelisms.  Two of them mark the beginning and end of the
psalm.  There are also two cases of pairs of triple parallelisms.  One of
them is vs. 24-25, which clearly praise God.  The other case is vs. 14-15,
which praises how the creation permits the earth to bring the food to man.
In these two cases we seem to be able to discern the main theme of the
poem: praising god for creating the earth suitable for man.  In other words,
this poem isn't just a praise of God for creation, but specifically highlights
how the creation enables man to survive.  With this theme in mind, we can
now interpret the vs 16-23.  Here, we see the birds, the mountain goats,
and the lions, in the natural scheme of things.  But the climax would
appear to be in the final verses of this section, vs. 22-23, which show how
man has a way to make his bread in this natural scheme of things.  This
is even a logical continuation to the previous section which praises the
creation of the earth as able to give bread.  Now, it praises the creation
of the natural order that allows man to utilize and bring that bread into
actual reality.  In this natural scheme of things the stars would seem to
be out of context. However, when one reads how the natural scheme
divides the earth, one realizes their role: birds - treetops, mountain
goats - hills and mountains. lions and forest beasts - earth in the dark
of the night.  man - earth in the daytime.  Without the sun, man could
not make his bread because it is too dangerous to go outside in the
dark of the night to sow the fields and reap the harvest.  This is quite
clearly the role of the sun in these verses.  Without the moon, man
could not go outside in the nights at all, but thanks to the moon, man
can go outside and celebrate in the light of the full moon.  The full moon
is therefore directly relevant to the context.

> HH: Here is a small piece of writing about this part of Psalm 104:
> http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1995/PSCF6-95Schafran.html

Thanks for this article.  Evidently, I disagree on how the structure
of the poem is to be interpreted, and the conclusions that are to be
derived from such structure.  A key difference is that I use pure
structure of the psalm as a guide to understanding the psalm,
while the structure that Dr. Philip Schafran notes is based on his
interpretation of the meanings and how to divide the various topics.
I will have to read this entire article more closely.

> HH: The moon is related to the cycle of day and
> night, to the cycle of months, to the tides. It
> seems to do other things. Here are a few quotes
> from people writing on this topic (note
> especially the second quote):

20th and 21st century physics and astronomy is not relevant to
Biblical studies.  Arguing that the moon has a role in seasonal
changes does not prove any point.  You need to show that this
seasonal change is intended here.

> >As for Jeremiah, I had considered the possibility that the terms in
> >Jer 8:7 refer to constellations.  The main argument is the joint
> >terms sws and (gwr, which appear jointly in places I consider to
> >be astrological contexts.  This example is a rebuke of astrology.
> HH: The obvious meaning of the passage stands:
> Jer. 8:7 Even the stork in the sky knows her
> appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and
> the thrush observe the time of their migration.
> But my people do not know the requirements of the

"Seasons" is obviously not an "obvious" meaning of the
passage, except maybe to you.  Furthermore, "the swift
and the thrush" probably refers to a term that denoted one
bird.  Unlike the "swift" and "stork", there are species of
doves that are found year round in Israel and so the dove
seems to be an odd choice for a verse that speaks of how
the birds properly observe their migration.  In any case,
translating the word as "seasons" is not necessary in the
context of the verse.  The other instances that speak of
"moed" as a counterpart to "new moons" would seem to
work against such a translation.  This is why "appointed
times" is a better translation and that in this particular case
it may be a "seasonal appointed time" is irrelevant to the
meaning of the word.

Yitzhak Sapir

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