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Archive for August, 2014

Ezekiel 2 contains the speech of God’s calling Ezekiel to become a prophet. As I was translating through Ezekiel 2:1, I came across a very surprising form of verb.. The whole verse reads:

וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֵלָ֑י בֶּן־אָדָם֙ עֲמֹ֣ד עַל־רַגְלֶ֔יךָ וַאֲדַבֵּ֖ר אֹתָֽךְ

And [the voice] said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak with you”

How, I asked, is a verb that appears to be a wayyiqtol (וַאֲדַבֵּ֖ר) translated with volative force? I understand that if the verse read

And [the voice] said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet.” And I spoke with you.

the verse would not have made much sense at all, but, at first glance, the form of the verb seemed to necessitate that translation. On top of that problem, BHS does not specify any variant readings for the verse. Obviously, my “first glance” was the problem.

First, the word is not a wayyiqtol. Wayyiqtols take the ּ וַ (waw + patach + doubling of the next letter). The word has וַאֲדַבֵּ֖ר the waw + patach, but with compensatory lengthening, we would expect a waw + qamets (long “a” vowel) instead. What is actually happening is a waw + shewa is prefixing the word. The shewa cannot stand next to the compound shewa, so the shewa becomes whatever vowel makes up the compound shewa. In this case, that vowel is a patach. The form is not a wayyiqtol at all; it’s a weyiqtol.

While this observation clears up most of my confusion, I still wanted to know why the form (according to Accordance and all the the translations I checked) is a cohortative rather than a 1cs yiqtol form. The cohortative usually takes a final ה, but that ה is lacking from the form in the text. Why should it be translated as a cohortative at all?  The answer lies in the previous verb. The word עֲמֹ֣ד is an imperative. When a weyiqtol follows a cohortative, the weyiqtol takes on volative force. Van Pelt (17.6.2) provides a great example from Jeremiah 11:6:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֵלַ֔י קְרָ֨א אֶת־כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֤ים הָאֵ֙לֶּה֙ בְּעָרֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֔ה וּבְחֻצ֥וֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר שִׁמְע֗וּ אֶת־דִּבְרֵי֙ הַבְּרִ֣ית הַזֹּ֔את וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אוֹתָֽם

And Yahweh said to me, “Call out all these words in the cities of Judah and outside Jerusalem saying, ‘Hear (imperative) the words of this covenant and obey (weyiqtol) them.'”

Lesson learned: One vowel makes a huge a difference.

 

 

 

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Define “Sarcasm” –  the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny (Merriam Webster).

Example: I love very few things more than memorizing enough vocab to win at German scrabble.

While my use of sarcasm also contains a heavy dose of overstatement, I really do not love to memorize words. This statement shocks no one, I’m sure. I, however, was home schooled. Typically, we home schoolers have (at least) the entire English dictionary memorized by the time we reach high school. I never grasped the practice.

Since I am a student of both Greek and Hebrew, I know the immeasurable benefit of memorizing words, namely, being able to read. I am now in the process of learning another language: German. In the first two weeks, I have memorized the English glosses of nearly 500 German words. Trust me, the fun is in the reading. Actually, memorizing Worten hasn’t been too schlecht. Plus, the more vocab you have memorized, the easier time you have in figuring “fun stuff” of syntax.

Let me tell you something. Prepositions put the Furcht Gottes in any potential language learner. German is no exception. My vocab memorization was going a lot like a Schiff in guten Wetters…until I got to prepositions. Then my nice Schiff hit some scharf rocks. Sure, April Wilson tells you that the discussion on prepositions is overwhelming and that the material is really only reference material. If you’re really going to learn a language, you’re going to have to learn the prepositions. No question. It still hurts when you come across a Wort wie “gegen.”

While prepositions are nasty in any language, German loves to stick it to you. Apparently, German prepositions can change the meaning of verbs, come after the object of preposition, or even be split up in the phrase. Yes, fun stuff indeed. I feel a little hypocritical at this point since a non-English speaker accused English of similar crimes. Non-English speakers, ich leide mit dir.

Don’t let this somewhat negative post deceive you. Ich leibe Deutsch. I love learning languages. I love the prospect of being to read and enjoy the language (even the nasty prepositions). I only hope to communicate that memorizing viele Worten, as painful as it is, is probably one of the most best ways of truly learning a language. It will remove many road blocks and lead to a more satisfying experience.

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In the last post, I dealt briefly with how God’s role as Creator and Sovereign impacts how the psalmist reacts to good or bad occurrences in his own life**. Now, I want to examine how the psalms portray God’s role as Covenant Keeper and Deliverer and those roles play out in different “life” contexts.

The psalms that focus on God the Covenant Keeper often have an eye on the past. Psalm 136 (the “his steadfast love endures forever” psalm) begins by praising God for his goodness and sovereignty (over both divine and human rulers). The psalm then moves to describe his past acts in creation, deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and victory over the kings of Canaan. All these acts demonstrate that his חסד, a term often associated with covenant faithfulness, endures forever.  The psalmist employs this phrase as a drummer would bang on a drum.  The phrase resonates with every reflection on past faithfulness. The psalmist brings all these past acts forward into his own time in the next section of the psalm:

It is he who remembered us in our low estate
his steadfast love endures forever
and rescued us from our foes
his steadfast love endures forever
he who gives food to all flesh
his steadfast love endures forever

That very same God who remembered his covenant in the past remembers it now. The psalm itself is a call to remembrance – after all, people often forget before God does. In response to this memory of God’s faithfulness, the people are to worship God continually. With every beat of the drum (His steadfast love endures forever), give thanks to the God of heaven, now and forever.

God as Covenant Keeper also comes up in several lament psalms as well. The psalmist celebrates God’s faithfulness to his covenant to such a great extent that the lament part often takes us by surprise. Psalm 44 is a good example. The psalm begins with, “We have heard with your ears what you have done” and begins to describe all the great victories that God had won for Israel. In response to God’s great acts of faithfulness, the people boasted in God not in their abilities. The psalm then turns downward to describe their current condition: “But You have rejected and humiliated us.” Their enemies trample them down. They suffer evil continually. The fault, they maintain, is not their own: “All this has happened to us, but we have not forgotten You or betrayed Your covenant.” Contrary to what God had promised to do for the faithful, God seems to have left them to their enemies. Yet, worshipers cry out for Yahweh to save Israel because of his steadfast love (חסד). They maintain that God is still the covenant keeper despite their feeling of abandonment! They found their hope for the future not in the present but in the past. No present situation diminishes God’s role as the One Who Keeps His Covenant.

Lastly, we should give some attention to God’s role as Redeemer. God’s strength is demonstrated by his acts in Creation and the successful execution of his will in this world. His faithfulness is demonstrated by the work he did on his people’s behalf in the past and present. These truths about God motivate the psalmists’ bold requests for help from Yahweh and establish their confidence in his salvation. Psalm 62 begins with:

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

The psalmist asserts that his salvation comes from God alone.  No need to beg for mercy from the rich and power. No need to sacrifice to any other gods. God alone is sufficient. God will move on behalf of the faithful and cannot be stopped. Not all psalms are like psalm 61 in their expression of such confidence. Yet, even the ones that seem to end so bleakly, they always maintain hope for salvation in some way. Psalm 89 is a punch in the gut but still calls for Yahweh to remember them and manages to finish with: “May the LORD be praised forever. Amen and Amen.” If anyone has hope, may they hope in God. He alone is able to save even when our present is in ruin.

While the picture I have presented about God’s attributes in the psalms has come no where close to exhausting the material of the psalms, I hope that the picture I have presented is enough to begin to understand the attitude the psalms demand from people who make use of them in worship (whether by reading, praying, or singing).  The psalms are beautiful. The writers were masters of imagery and parallelism. They give expression to a great range of human emotion and experience. What I think makes the psalms majestic, however, is the fact that each psalm expresses the wonderful truth that such a great God would bend his ear to hear the cry of his people and answer.

**NOTE: I do not intend to limit the meaning of the psalms to a single writer. The poets and editors of the psalms intended that all people who sang these psalms as a part of their worship. In a more limited sense, the worshiper would understand meaning of the psalms in the light of their everyday life as well. Psalms 25 and 51 are examples of individualistic psalms which move from the individual to the corporate confession and praise in a couple of lines at the end of each psalm. These moves transform an individualistic prayer into an expression of corporate hope making these songs even more appropriate for use in worship and prayer. We would do best to remember this feature of the psalms when interpreting and applying them. The psalmists’ reflections on the character and roles of God embody not only their own cares and concerns but also those of the people who would sing and pray them in worship. In this way, they bend our twisted minds and attitudes back into proper shape: humans living as humans were made to live.

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