[b-hebrew] Translating - some elementary questions

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Oct 1 03:33:49 EDT 2006

On 10/1/06, Bob MacDonald wrote:
> I am looking at Psalm 145 verse 15;
> 1. (Ynei-KoL seems to have a first person singular suffix - my eye; perhaps
> it is an idiomatic plural? I notice that Gen 44:21 has the same word
> translated eyes, but the singular would give an equal sense.

It does not have the same words.  One reads (eyney and one reads (eyniy.
The difference in the last vowel is detected by the additional dot in the vowel
symbol between the -n- and the -y-.  The first means "eyes", plural,
in construct
form, so literally "eyes of".  The second is not plural at all but
does have the first
person singular suffix appended - "my eye".  This one is probably an
idiom which
is why you may see it translated as "eyes".

> 2. the suffix ka seems to mean 'your' - does 'eLeYkA then mean literally
> your God?

No.  )eleyka might have meant "your gods" but in the Bible, the plural in
construct of "gods" is indeed always derived from ")eloah".  So "your
gods" would be ")eloheikha".  Perhaps, ")eyley" would have been used in
ancient times to mean "the powers of" or something like that.  Except
for the singular verse that has been produced it isn't so used, so it's
hard to tell.  Anyway, the word ")eylekha" (to you) has a segol under
the -l- so it is not even a homonym (a word that sounds exactly the
same yet has different etymological history).  A segol is probably to
be pronounced "e" while a tsere is more of an "ei" sound.

> 3. What is the grammatical role of LAHem in the sentence?

"to them" marks the people to whom the food is given.  Grammatically,
this would be the indirect object.

> 4. 'eth-'AkLAm - is this an object marker followed by an irregular plural?

First, these are not both "a".  The first one is a qamatz, but is a
"qamats qatan".  That means it looks like a qamats in every way but
is read as "o".  There are some rules to know which instances are
"qamats qatan" and which aren't, but I don't know them, at least not
consciously.  So, at least this should be read as ")eth )owklam".  This
is basically how a Modern Hebrew reader willl read it.  The best way is
probably ")eth )owkhlowm".  That is probably how a Tiberian Massorete
would have read it.

Why is this so?  My working explanation is starts with the fact that
among the many situations in Semitic that later developed to a qamatz
in Hebrew, is a large class of instances that had a long "a".  Hebrew
Phoenician, and Canaanite developed long "a" into "o".  Aramaic and
Arabic did not.  The qamatz was part of this "long a to o" change.  This
is the point where the Massoretes codified the vowels, so this is the
stage the vowels represent.  It appears to me, that later, probably under
Arabic influence (which did not have the long a to o change), the words
which had Arabic parallels with a long a, were reread with the qamats
signifying "long a" again.  In non-Arabic speaking countries, this did not
happen.  This change is one of the basic differences between "Ashkenazi"
pronunciation and "Sefardi" pronunciation, Sefardi signifying spain and
Arabic speaking countries, while Ashkanzi signifies other European
countries.  However, the Massoretes also used a qamats in situations
that originally developed from other "non long a" cases.  The Arabic did
not have a "long a" in those cases and so did not influence the reading of
Hebrew.   Those are the situations of "qamats qatan", where the original
qamats sound of "ow" remained.  This is one such case.  The original
Semitic root behind this word is ")ukl", and this developed in Biblical
Hebrew, without a suffix, as ")okel".  Here, because of the suffix, the "o"
in ")okel" apparently became the "ow" of a "qamats".

Anyway, the plural form is not irregular.

> Is there an online resource for these questions? I have been using Blue
> Letter Bible and some sites that seem to derive from the same basic
> resources. I find they do not deal with all the words in the Hebrew text.

Perhaps this would be more useful:

More importantly, though, I think many of your questions come up
because you are trying to study Hebrew without studying Biblical
Hebrew grammar first.  I see that you are using Lambdin.  If you
are using it as a reference, don't.  Read it through, looking up the
examples.  Study the grammar as a whole first, and then go on to

Yitzhak Sapir

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