Thinking about Psalm 19:4

I’ve been interacting with Kris over at Old School Script for the last day or so about Psalm 19:4, particularly the particle בלי toward the end of the verse.  Here was my last comment in my part of the exchange so far:

Okay. So, I realize I was probably too brief and unclear above, but I think what I was trying to suggest is what is suggested by the UBS Handbook on Psalms. According to how I am reading the text, the logic would be as follows:

vs. 2 creation(i.e. heaven/sky) is telling/proclaiming God’s glory/handiwork
vs. 3 day/night are doing so too (i.e. pouring forth speech and knowledge)
vs. 4 but they do so silently, or without words (reading with the NASB – There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. *with the particle being the simple negative “not” and no insertion “whose” as a smoothing over of “who their voice is not”)
vs. 5a their line (as opposed to their voice – the phonological similarity between qavam and qolam would actually be used to draw a contrast, i.e. like the familiar “don’t get mad, get glad” play on words) goes out (if qavam is being used to phonologically to draw a contrast, this would explain why it seemingly appears out of nowhere when all of these other speech words are activated)
vs. 5b is a synonymous parallel with what precedes – their message/report/testimony goes out to then ends of the earth (the UBS Handbook recommends translating as “message/report/testimony” here because they have understood verse 4 to say that the testimony is unspoken, thus translating as “speech” does not work.

Psalm 19 is a text that I’ve also been interested in for quite some time. Consider clicking over to Kris’s blog and chiming in on the discussion.  I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts as well, particularly about the use of the particle in verse 4 and how the surrounding text might influence how one reads the particle.

1 Comment

  • Thanks for the “advertisement”. I’ve been a bad “blogger” and just saw this. Sadly, I’m still in the dark. Just aware of more logs to stump my toe on! :-/ But the insights you brought are MUCH appreciated.

    It’s hard for me—because I don’t know any other modern languages—to leave English aside when I’m studying BH, and so, in cases like Ps 19.4, I try really hard to let Hebrew be Hebrew, even if it doesn’t make that much sense in an English translation.

    That’s kind of why I’m trying to debunk myself (i.e. rule the option out) of taking בלי as a semi-conjunction that introduces an explanatory element to the preceding parallel clauses:

    “There’s no words, there’s no speech WITHOUT their voices being heard.”

    Even though it looks weird, sounds weird, maybe even (interpretively) reads weird, I feel like it’s easy to take בלי as a negative marker; but from what I’ve seen of this lexeme, it can do more than this—and I just wonder if this is one of those cases…