[b-hebrew] Proverbs 13:1 (was Using an unpointed text)

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Aug 25 13:50:25 EDT 2007

M. O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure, has this to say on leftward verb gapping:
"There are only two cases of what appears to be leftward verb gapping.
 Although the
lines do not present the structural description of ordinary, rightward
gappings, there is
no other way to account for their unusual shape than to suppose that
leftward gapping
has occurred." (p. 404) The two examples provided are  Jdg 5:3c-3d,
and Dt  33:4b-5a.
The second appears to suggest "The coalition of the tribes of Israel
[shall live], Reuven
shall live."  I would rather connect Dt 33:4b to the rest of Dt 33:4
-- that is, to view
yxd as a way of describing the leaders of the tribes.  Nevertheless,
yxd is probably
more commonly translated as "community" in which case it does fit with Dt 33:5.
O'Connor also writes, "The two examples of leftward gapping, which are
both  located
near the start of the texts they occur in, are the most highly marked
instances of
gapping behavior.  Their disposition at poem openings may reveal the use made of
such highly marked structure in overall verse structure."

Now, as for Proverbs 13:1, it would appear to be indeed leftward
gapping, and it
works along with what O'Connor writes above.  One reason to question this may
be in that here we seem to have gapping with negation.  In one part of
the verse,
we have "did not heed," while the gapped takes only "heed" and not the
negation.  I am not sure if there are other examples of this.

If one denies the possibility of leftward verb gapping, one is left
with a comprehensible
but ungrammatical sentence.  We all know what it should mean, just not
sure how the
grammar makes it all work out.  Since the vocalization does not make sense, we
might ask whether one word is vocalized improperly.

HALOT suggests a conjectural reading for BN - as B at N, along the lines
of the root
$YR - $@R. (@ = qamats).  Part of the problem with this is that the perfect 3ms
form is attested in Daniel 10:1 as BIN (with a yodh).  It therefore
requires us to
conjecture two forms for this verb.  More problematic is that it destroys a very
obvious parallel between son-father in the verse.  If we are to try to read the
verse, even without vocalization, we must pay attention to all parallels.  The
theme of father-son discipline is significant in Proverbs and so we must assume
that BN-)B is a parallel and not just an accidental coincidence.

Another possibility I considered is XKM - where XKM would be to "acknowledge".
The problem with this is that XKM does not appear to be a transitive verb.

The most likely possibility, if one ignores leftward gapping, is MWSR.  We might
suggest that this is a Piel verb meaning "disciplines," and the
sentence is of the
form OVS.  (O'Connor gives as an example of this Ps 78:63a, and several others)
Such a form is rather uncommon in Hebrew verse and this might be a reason that
the verse was misread.  Furthermore, most Piel's of the verb WSR have a YODH
instead of the VOV but the root was originally -W-.  Either the word might have
remained as a sort of poetic form of the verb, or we can suggest that VOV and
YODH which were very similar in the Aramaic script of the Persian and Greek
periods, were confused (just like in the Pentateuch, we find HW) for
"she").  This
appears to me to be the most reasonable reading if one ignores gapping.  It
maintains all three important parallels - XKM - LC, )B - BN, MWSR - G(RH, and
its unique structure provides several mechanisms by which the verse would be
misinterpreted, even though such a verse is grammatically correct in Biblical
Hebrew.  I think this is indeed a good example of how one might approach
reading unvocalized text, but it also shows the pitfalls and the care that must
be taken in such an approach.

Yitzhak Sapir

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