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

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Aug 25 17:41:32 EDT 2007

On 8/25/07, Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

Vs. 4: Torah Moses commanded us, (Torah) is the inheritance of the
assembly of Jacob. Here we have a forward gap, where Torah is the
subject of what Moses commanded and the inheritance of Jacob. No need
to posit a backwards gap.

I already showed how Judges 5:3 can be understood without a backwards gap.
> 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.
I know of no cases where negation to positive, or positive to
negation, is used in any gap, forward or backwards.

> If one denies the possibility of leftward verb gapping, one is left
> with a comprehensible
> but ungrammatical sentence.

Agreed, as long as one insists that BN mean 'son'.

> ...  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.
Which is what I have done.

> 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.

Not necessarily, unless one accepts HALOT's conjecture. If we accept
that sometimes, not often, that the interior yod is left out, it is
possible that this is a qal with unusual spelling. There are other
examples of the interior yod being omitted in qal.

> ...  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.
The connection is not as close as you think.

If we leave the BN in Proverbs 13:1 out of the counting, we get the
following results:

12 verses list both father and son, 26 verses mention father, 53
verses mention son or sons.

Of the verses that mention correction MWSR, 2 mention father and
son(s) and correction, 3 mention father(s) and correction, 5 mention
son(s) and correction, MWSR is mentioned in 30 verses.

These are just raw numbers, an analysis should get a higher
correlation, but it would still be low.

> 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.
Agree with this assessment.

> 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)

There is not a single other example of YSR in the piel being written
with a waw. You might argue that this is the only example of this verb
being used in the pual.

> 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

"pitfalls and care" above, exactly, that's why context is so important.

There is only a low correlation between father - son - correction in
Proverbs, so there is no strong reason to insist that BN means "son'.
The verb BYN occasionally loses its medial yod in qal (probably still
pronounced "bean") so there is the possibility that BN is the verb
BYN. Or we could follow your suggestion making MWSR a verb participle
of a form that is no where else attested to in Tanakh, or say that we
are dealing with a corrupted text.

While I think BN is the verb of this sentence, the case can be made
that MWSR is the verb. The backwards gap is problematical because
there is no other example where it can be clearly demonstrated, nor is
there any example (known to me) with a gap going from a negation to a
positive. So we are left with teasing out of four words which is the
verb, subject and object.

Karl W. Randolph.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list