[b-hebrew] Why a whole thread?

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Wed Dec 15 13:55:07 EST 2010

Isaac Fried  wrote:
> I think that SHE ( - ש ) is a variant of ZEH ( זה ):

and Karl Randolph wrote:

> your proposed answer below makes no sense, as far as we understand it.

>> why was there a whole thread devoted to Song 1.12
>> and trying to read hmlk as a verbal NOUN?
>> A verbal noun phrase would not have needed/wanted the sh-.

> That part (verbal noun) doesn’t make sense to me either.

I will unpack the statement, explain it, repack it, and put the verse in

>> A verbal noun phrase would not have needed/wanted the sh-.

a verbal NOUN is another way of talking about what
is often called an "infinitive construct" in English.

In order to understand the significance of the names
it is important to know the difference between
a 'prepositional noun phrase level' and a 'clause level'.

"because the house is big" in English has a
clause, "The house is big", that is, the relator
word 'because' introduces a full predication, a sentence,
something at a clause level.
On the other hand,
"because of the bigness of the house"
has 'because' introducing a prepositional noun phrase
'of the bignessof the house', or stated in another way,
this has 'because of' introducing a noun phrase. In either
case this is something that is not a full syntactical
predication something that is not a clause and not a sentence.

Now English often allows the mixing of levels,
e.g. 'until the end', noun phrase level,
'until you reach the house', clause level.
'Until' can be used as a 'preposition' (nounphrase level)
and as a 'conjunction' (clause level) in English.

Hebrew has a special structure for 'upgrading', i.e.,
expanding a preposition into a clause level relator.
Hebrew can take a preposition (e.g. `ad 'until') and
add asher 'that' in order to make a clause level
relator, a 'conjunction' in common English metalanguage.
That means that when one finds "`ad asher" and
"`ad she-.." one immediately expects a full
predication to follow, a 'clause', something that
would be an independent sentence if the relator/
conjunction were not in place.

Now notice what that means in Hebrew.
With simple `ad "until" one says עד עשותו `ad `asoto
"until his doing".
While with עד אשר `ad asher, one would say
עד אשר יעשה
`ad asher ya`ase "until that he will do".
It would be bad hebrew grammar, against the
fundamental structure of the Hebrew language,
to say
*עד אשר עשותו
  "*until that his doing".
'his doing' is not a clause-level predication,
it is not a sentence,
and only serves as an object of a preposition.

This is why one of the names of `asoto עשותו in
Hebrew is "shem po`al" "noun of action", and why
linguistists categorize various infinitives and gerunds
under the category "verbal nouns". It's a
structural level thing.

Getting back to Song 1.12, as soon as one sees
עד ש- or עד אשר
one expects a full predication to follow. A full predication
means a clause with a QATAL, YIQTOL, or a "verbless"
clause that has a subject and predicate. the predicate
can be an adjective (ha-bayit gadol "the house is big"), or a
participle (ha-ish holex), a prepositional phrase (ha-bayit
ba-har "the house is on the mountain) or even another
noun (ha-ish gibbor "the man is a warrior").
But it cannot be something from the noun phrase level,
(ha-bayit ha-gadol "the big house"), or ( עשותו "his doing").

Consequently, it is misreading Biblical Hebrew to try and
read an "infinitive absolute" after עד אשר or עד ש. One needs
something at the clause level.

What do we find at Song 1.12?

'The king is in his *mesib-/*meseb/*mesab."
The LXX understood this as referring to 'reclining',
that is 'reclining at a meal'. That makes good sense with
the history of the language, where reclining at a meal is
called meseb/mesubbin in later Hebrew, most famously in the
haddaga to Passover, ma nishtana ha-layla ha-ze ...,
kullanu mesubbin "how differs this night? --
we are all reclining (like nobility at a symposion/triclinium)".
Thus, literally, "the king is in his couch/reclining",
or to paraphrase Gene Autry,
"until the king is back in the saddle again".
In addition, mesibba is attested in post-biblical Hebrew as
referring to a meal, a party.
"Until the king is at his party" would work.

There is probably a wordplay here with the etymology, too.
the word mesibbo goes back to "that which surrounds him",
which can be taken as a metaphor/metnomy for the bride.

And all this fits the context rather well. Verse twelve appears
to begin the bride's speech about 'him' and continues with
verse 13 "my lover is a bundle of myrrh, between my breasts
he will spend the night."

Certainly one interpretation of this context is that the king
is back in the saddle, is on his couch/at his party, is in that which
surrounds him. He will spend the night between her breasts.
Which is why the injunction developped
to read this book only after the age of 30. I beg the indulgences
of those on the list who are under 30.

The  girl wants her perfume to draw in the king 'all the way'
until their nard and myrrh mix.

Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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