I glanced at the lectionary readings earlier in the day, but spent a little more time with them tonight, especially the response, which was Psalm 98. I wanted to point out one feature of verse 1 in particular that struck me, and this is one of the types of things I think we miss in English.
The English of Psalm 98.1
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm. (NAB)
This second half of this verse communicates the strength of God’s right hand and of his holy arm. That seems fairly straightforward, and frankly, that language might get a little boring as often as one hears about God’s right hand in the Old Testament. However, I think something more is going on at the level of the sounds of the verse, specifically in the second part which reads: “His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm.”
The Hebrew of Psalm 98.1
Since my main audience for this site is not necessarily scholars, I’m going to leave the text out. (You can check out the Hebrew of Psalm 98 at the link if you would like). I think many listeners may be able to catch this on the basis of sound alone (plus I’ve given it away a little in the title of the post). At any rate, check it out and see if you notice anything interesting (it’s only three seconds long):
Did you catch it?
There is a pretty significant repetition of the “o” vowel sound especially at the ends of words. There is even a use of the “o” vowel that might not be necessary (for my more advanced readers, lo [prep + pronominal suffix] doesn’t occur with the verb translated above as “has won” anywhere else that I am aware of). Perhaps I am making too much of this, but it seems to me that the repetition of the “o” vowel may be adding an additional layer to attempting to convey the awe-inspiring nature of the wondrous deeds of the Lord and the power of his right hand/holy arm.
Perhaps, I’m making too much out of too little, but we have something analogous in English when we speak of something eliciting “oohhs” and “aahhs.”
Related – Check out some of my other Psalms posts from this week: