[b-hebrew] Unpointed

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Thu Jun 17 04:16:40 EDT 2010

When interpreting the MT, it is always good to remember that
the masoretes knew Hebrew.
This can help is deciding what they have, or have not, written.
If they have not given points for an obvious reading, there is a
It is always good to ask what the Masoretes understood.
The consonantal text is often ambiguous, and someone may
want to read the consonantal text differently. But they should also
take the time to understand what the Masoretes were doing with
a particular verse.

Steve Miller katav
>Here are a few that I consider to be mistakes in the Masoretic pointing:
>Ps 23:6b  לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים  וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית־יְהוָה
. . .
>Ps 27:4 same as above except "all the days of my life" instead of "for the length of days"

The Masoretes at Ps 23.6 were certainly capable of reading the text
like the LXX translators did, and like they pointed Ps 27.4.
But they didn't.
The interesting question then becomes, what were they referring to,
why didn't they vocalize w.sh.b.t.y. as ve-shivti 'my staying, dwelling'?
It appears that they (or the tradition they recorded) intended to read
shavti as a verb and a dialectical variation of yashavti. [[ I doubt that they
intended 'I will do my repenting ('I will return') in the house of the Lord'
but I have not checked the midrashim.]]

> Ps 16:2 The MT Hebrew with vowels says "You (2nd person
> feminine singular) said to Jehovah ...".

It would appear that the Masoretes were implying a self-address to
a nefesh (feminine). this is not really problematical.

> Ps 110:3 The last phrase, "I have begotten You" is vowelled in the
> MT to say, "Your childhood". I believe that the meaning here is
> "I have begotten You", not "Your childhood" because:
. . .
> If someone has other suggestions, I would be glad to hear them.

Psalm 110 is interesting because the MT vocalization goes against
the consonants. The yod in yaldut[Y]xa 'your childhood' is out of
place. Even is one reads as a pausal form and puts a vowel between
yaldut 'childhood' and -xa 'your', a yod is not expected nor desired.
So, yes, the Greek translators translated the unvocalized text as
a verb yelidti-xa. But it is not clear if they had the consonants for
le-xa Tal 'you have dew' [(in which) I birthed you]. Also capable
of being read: 'for you, O Dew, I birthed you.'
But the MT is preserving a different reading. And
they signal that with their vocalization. 'You have the dew of your
childhood'. I happen think that the Greek reading as a verb
is the best way of reading the consonantal text. But the MT
still has place as a parallel tradition. And please note, even if
someone decides to take a different reading/interpretation from
the MT, the Masoretes have still preserved the grammatical shape
of the language in a remarkable way with Ps 2.7 yelidti-xa. An old,
relatively rare, ancient stative vocalization. Kol ha-kavod.

Other suggestions in the thread were more puzzling. Pr  1.19
reads fine as the MT, though it is capable of being read differently.
I take the subject of yiqqaH to be either goral 'fate' from verse
14, or else 'he/it' is a hidden reference to the the Lord and the Lord's
judgement that the wicked are ignoring. Both lead to the same
On Is 30.14, I don't see any reference to metallurgy but to pottery
and the inability to use a thoroughly smashed pot even for carrying
a burning coal to start a fire, or for scooping water from a very
small puddle. The MT works as is.

Randall Buth

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

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