Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

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Ulan
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Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by Ulan » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:33 am

I have a short question regarding the beginning of the Song of the Sea in Exodus 15. After the first verse, which is basically the introduction, we get these verses 2 and 3 as the proper beginning:

עָזִּ֤י וְזִמְרָת֙ יָ֔הּ וַֽיְהִי־לִ֖י לִֽישׁוּעָ֑ה זֶ֤ה אֵלִי֙ וְאַנְוֵ֔הוּ אֱלֹהֵ֥י אָבִ֖י וַאֲרֹמְמֶֽנְהוּ
יְהוָ֖ה אִ֣ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֑ה יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֹֽו

I don't know any Hebrew, and I've seen this as an allegedly rather literal translation:

2 My strength and my song is Yah, and he has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him, God of my father, and I will exalt him.
3 YHWH is a man of war, YHWH is his name.

The text is supposed to be either rather archaic or a deliberate archaism, depending on the scholar. The tetragrammaton shows up in verse 3 (technically in verse 1, but that's the intro) in form of a name introduction. Verse 2 uses first the short form "Yah", then the singular "eli" (in "this is my god"), then the plural construct "elohe" (god of my father). My question is whether there is any other possible translation that somehow gives meaning to the singular -> plural switch?

semiopen
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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by semiopen » Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:21 am

Ulan wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:33 am

The text is supposed to be either rather archaic or a deliberate archaism, depending on the scholar. The tetragrammaton shows up in verse 3 (technically in verse 1, but that's the intro) in form of a name introduction. Verse 2 uses first the short form "Yah", then the singular "eli" (in "this is my god"), then the plural construct "elohe" (god of my father). My question is whether there is any other possible translation that somehow gives meaning to the singular -> plural switch?
I'm not a scholar, but my vote is not archaic.

יָֽהּ (yah) is also seen in Exodus 17:16, Isaiah 12:2 and Isaiah 38:11 and a whole mess of Psalms (later ones).

This one is the oddest -
I thought, I shall never see Yah, Yah in the land of the living, Or ever behold men again Among those who inhabit the earth. (Isa. 38:11 TNK)
‎אָמַ֙רְתִּי֙ לֹא־אֶרְאֶ֣ה יָ֔הּ יָ֖הּ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ הַחַיִּ֑ים לֹא־אַבִּ֥יט אָדָ֛ם ע֖וֹד עִם־י֥וֹשְׁבֵי חָֽדֶל׃
(Isa. 38:11 WTT)

‎אֵלִי (aeli) is a bit unusual. It is spelled the same as ‎אֵלַ֖י (aeleye) - to, into, towards - which is seen quite frequently.

Aeli is found in a few of the later psalms and -
Of the rest he makes a god -- his own carving! He bows down to it, worships it; He prays to it and cries, "Save me, for you are my god!" (Isa. 44:17 TNK)
כִּ֥י אֵלִ֖י אָֽתָּה׃ - For you are my God.

The Psalms -
I say, "O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days, You whose years go on for generations on end. (Ps. 102:25 TNK)
אֹמַ֗ר אֵלִ֗י אַֽל־תַּ֭עֲלֵנִי בַּחֲצִ֣י יָמָ֑י בְּד֖וֹר דּוֹרִ֣ים שְׁנוֹתֶֽיךָ׃
(Ps. 102:25 WTT)
You are my God and I will praise You; You are my God and I will extol You. (Ps. 118:28 TNK)
אֵלִ֣י אַתָּ֣ה וְאוֹדֶ֑ךָּ אֱ֜לֹהַ֗י אֲרוֹמְמֶֽךָּ׃
(Ps. 118:28 WTT)

Psalm 102 also mentions yah.
May this be written down for a coming generation, that people yet to be created may praise the LORD. (Ps. 102:19 TNK)
תִּכָּ֣תֶב זֹ֭את לְד֣וֹר אַחֲר֑וֹן וְעַ֥ם נִ֜בְרָ֗א יְהַלֶּל־יָֽהּ׃
(Ps. 102:19 WTT)

This doesn't answer the grammatical questions, but my guess is that the singular/plural details aren't a big deal.

Ulan
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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by Ulan » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:06 pm

Thank you very much. Yah/Jah is used roughly 50 times in the Tanakh, in half of the cases as the formulaic hallelu Yah in Psalms 102-150. All of these are basically songs, and such is the piece that is at the heart of the topic of this thread. Maybe, Yah just sounds better, or maybe, it's archaic. In general, the hymns are mostly considered to be some of the oldest texts in the Tanakh (although many scholars will disagree), and the text genre includes Psalms like 104 or 150, even if it's notoriously difficult to date any of the psalms conclusively. Certainly the later part of this song, the Song of Miriam, is considered to be archaic, and possibly the whole Song of the Sea, which this is about. The Song of the Sea is often claimed to be the oldest text in the whole Tanakh, therefore my interest.

If this is indeed an old text, my question regarding the singular/plural gets a bit more weight, because some of the Psalms use some form of "elohim" actually with a plural meaning. Of course, the grammar here might simply not allow for any such consideration, which is why I asked. There may be also some nuance to the meaning of "eli" that gets lost in translation. If it's nothing, that's also okay.

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DCHindley
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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by DCHindley » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:40 pm

My understanding is that Elohim, the plural of El (god), has been used of the Judean God by Judeans since ancient times. I'm pretty sure that there has been a thread on the subject here, in the context of how the Canaanite god, El, got married to a female god. In time, this married pair of Gods morphed into a single god while continuing to use a plural form. However, I am no expert. DCH

Ulan
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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by Ulan » Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:00 pm

Well, sure. Psalm 82:1 is an example of the use of both meanings though, at least one of them obviously not meaning the Judean God himself:
אֱלֹהִים, נִצָּב בַּעֲדַת-אֵל; בְּקֶרֶב אֱלֹהִים יִשְׁפֹּט

God (elohim) takes his stand in the congregation of the divine (el), among the gods (elohim) he judges.

I'm not sure whether this isn't some forced translation, either, with only the second instance of "elohim" leaving no other option than to accept a standard plural form of the base meaning of the word, with "El" probably meaning the head of the pantheon, which may or may not be different from YHWH (I guess the pendulum has swung to "different from YHWH" in this case nowadays).

In the case of Exodus 15, I'm curious because of the contrast of the singular and plural forms within a single verse.

Ulan
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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by Ulan » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:33 am

At least it looks as if many scholars see the use of the short "Yah" as archaic. Psalm 104, one of the occurrences, even incorporates an abbreviated version of the Great Hymn to the Aten (before the part with the hallelu-Yah). Talk about recycling.

By the way, I'm aware of the point that many scholars reject such a direct dependence on the Egyptian hymn (and some deny it's a hymn), mostly because of the difference in theology. I can see the reasoning behind being cautious of what looks like random similarities, but I think the rejection is to a great part based in the prevailing notion that the religious texts somehow relate history. You can see the same reasoning when other obvious similarities get rejected, like the dependence of the Joseph and Potiphar's wife on the ancient Egyptian "Tale of Two Brothers", or the dependence of Herodes' infanticide in Matthew on one of the birth legends of Augustus. Some details don't add up, and the story around it is "totally different". However, that's not how story weaving works. It takes pieces of remembrance and makes something new out of it, if these pieces somehow fit a new situation. I admit that those vague relations are rather hard to nail down and should not be overused, but I think it's worth some consideration. In case of psalm 104, the line-up of the same motives in the same sequence is enough for me to accept a high likelihood of a direct dependency.

semiopen
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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by semiopen » Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:47 am

The existence of Archaic Biblical Hebrew has always seemed dubious to me - more of a political/religious concept than an actual thing.

There is a lot of stuff written about it.

Archaic Biblical Hebrew EHLL - Alice Mandel https://www.academia.edu/11263741/Archa ... ebrew_EHLL
The designation Archaic Biblical Hebrew (ABH) is used by biblical Hebrew scholars to classify anomalous forms in biblical poetry thought to be the vestiges of early Hebrew. Though, in recent years these forms have been reevaluated and attributed to dialect variation, language convergence with Aramaic, and linguistic register and style.
Personally, I agree with the above
Texts with features that are typically classified as ABH include Gen. 49 (The Blessings of Jacob), Exod. 15 (The Song of Moses), Num. 23–24 (The Ora-cles of Balaam), Deut. 32–33 (The Prayer and Blessing of Moses), Judg. 5 (The Song of Deborah), 1 Sam. 2.1–10 (The Prayer of Han-nah), Hab. 3, and various psalms, including Ps. 18/2 Sam. 22 and Ps. 68.
Dr. Mandel discusses many of the special features of ABH in the article. She doesn't mention any differences in singular or plural forms between ABH and SBH.

I reviewed recent literature on ABH and my impression is that there is a lack of scholars defending a ludicrously early origin for ABH.

Ulan
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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by Ulan » Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:10 am

Now let me get this straight: I consider the book of Exodus to be a post-exilic text, written in the 6th century at the earliest and probably still edited in the 4th or 3rd century BC. The text of the Song of the Sea itself (the bulk of the first half of the chapter) cannot be "ludicrously" early, either, given the list of opponents in that text. However, the song lacks the whole Sinai stuff - it's just the battle against the Egyptians, followed by the battles on entry into Canaan, which is usually seen as an older layer. "Archaic" in this sense is "coming from the time of Kings", probably the so-called Northern Kingdom.

But thanks for the link. This should give me some more insights.
Edit: Read it. It basically says that the question is still debated. I found it interesting that, in some cases, putative ABH may even be a sign of younger age, because it may hint at Aramaisms. At least there are still holdouts that think that Exodus 15 is truly old.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by Secret Alias » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:38 pm

The Samaritan text says gibbor of war not ish of war. Also this is a Song. It is literally 'performed' so it was likely - like Homer - something passed along by oral tradition before the codification of the Torah. https://www.israelite-samaritans.com/sa ... sic-choir/ The description of Philo with respect to the Therapeuts is clearly a preservation of the identical tradition 2000 years ago. The fact that Miriam is present means they are singing the Song of the Sea. http://rosetta.nli.org.il/delivery/Deli ... 1552686251
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Re: Question regarding the Hebrew in Exodus 15

Post by Secret Alias » Fri Mar 15, 2019 2:12 pm

For those who are interested in mysticism. The Samaritan writer Mark noticed that the number 888 appears at the beginning of the Greek translation:
τότε ᾖσεν Μωυσῆς καὶ οἱ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ τὴν ᾠδὴν ταύτην τῷ θεῷ καὶ εἶπαν λέγοντες ᾄσωμεν τῷ κυρίῳ ἐνδόξως γὰρ δεδόξασται ἵππον καὶ ἀναβάτην ἔρριψεν εἰς θάλασσαν
τότε ᾖσεν = 888. Why is this significant? Well, 888 of course is the number of the letters in the name 'Jesus' in Greek. The Hebrew name 'Joshua' appears - in gematria - in the middle of the text:
The LORD is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation (ישׁוּעָה) this is my God, and I will glorify Him; my father's God, and I will exalt Him.
The same five letters are used in 'salvation' and the name 'Joshua' (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ) hence by definition they are numerological equivalents. Did the Greek translators inserts 888 in the beginning to alert mystic readers that Joshua (Jesus) was the man of war? I strongly suspect so. Notice what the sixth century Alexandrian church father says about the Samaritans and their veneration of Joshua.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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