In Psalm 23:6, the וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י (dwell, return), is Qal, Perfect aspect, yet all translate in the future "will dwell" or will return." Is it because the context?

  • 3
    This is a classic example of waw consecutive. Do you have a Hebrew grammar?
    – fdb
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 23:45

1 Answer 1


The Idea in Brief

The Masoretic Text does not indicate here the appearance of the consecutive waw with the Hebrew verb יָשַׁב (to dwell) but instead the consecutive waw with the Hebrew verb שׁוּב (to return). This conclusion comes from the marginalia of the Masoretic Text, which is the Massorah Parva.


The Masoretic Text of the verse appears as follows:

Psalm 23:6 (BHS)
6 אַ֤ךְ׀ טֹ֤וב וָחֶ֣סֶד יִ֭רְדְּפוּנִי כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑י וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י בְּבֵית־יְ֝הוָ֗ה לְאֹ֣רֶךְ יָמִֽים׃

With regard to the term in question (וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י) the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) provides the margin reference "ב" with a small dot on top (comment of the Massorah Parva) which means that this exact verb form (accents and vowel points) appears in one other place in the Hebrew Bible.

This verse is as follows.

Genesis 28:20-22 (NASB)
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

The exact same verb form (accents and vowel points) appears here, but the waw is coordinating and the verb is שׁוּב (to return). By referencing this parallel, the Masorete copyist(s) saw this verb in Psalm 23:6 (and not the verb יָשַׁב, to dwell).

In this regard, the Masorete copyist(s) did not use the disjunctive accent mark (‘Ôlè weyôrēd) but instead the conjunctive accent mark (Mêrekhā). To this end, they added more information in the margin of the Masoretic Text (Massorah Parva) to avoid confusion of accent marks. (Please click here and here for a quick primer on Biblical Hebrew accents in poetry.) So we find in the margin the following comment in Hebrew: מלרע, which if we check the BHS Index Siglorum Masorae Parvae means, ab inferior parte (indicat accentum in ultima syllaba poni), or --in modern English -- from the lower part (indicates the accent is placed on the last syllable). In other words, the copyist(s) of the Masoretic Text are letting us know that this word is accented conjunctive (not disjunctive) and also corresponds in meaning to the same exact word that appears in Genesis 28:20-22 (verses already noted, above).

In other words, the Masorete copyist(s) were not drawn by the parallel in Psalm 27:4, which most English versions (not to mention the LXX) have inferred the translation to be based on יָשַׁב, but instead by the parallel in Genesis 28:20-22 based on שׁוּב. In the context of Genesis, Jacob is in Beth-el, which in Hebrew means “the House of God.” Jacob looked forward to the day when he would return to “the House of God.” The verb here (with the coordinating waw) is וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י, which grammatically is the exact same form which appears in Psalm 23:6 (with the consecutive waw). To put it another way, neither Jacob nor David had yet found fulfillment in the promises made to them regarding the “the House of God,” and therefore in hope they would “return” to see fulfillment.

Thus, if the Masorete copyist(s) were aware of the Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Hebrew Bible, they would have known that the LXX editors believed the verb at hand was יָשַׁב, to dwell. If the Hebrew (וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י) were based on the literal grammatical structure of יָשַׁב, to dwell, then the form would be the infinitive construct form with the masculine singular personal pronoun suffix -- that is, my dwelling. In this regard, Gesenius (1982) states that such is not the case.

וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י Ψ236 can hardly be intended for an infin. with suffix from יָשַׁב, but rather for a perf. consec. from שׁוּב; but read וְיָשַׁבְתִּי.

There is no “Qere and Ketiv” note in the margin of the Masoretic Text to tell us to read the text “וְיָשַׁבְתִּי.” In other words, Gensensius at least substantiates that the verb form in Psalm 23:6 is not יָשַׁב (to dwell) but instead שׁוּב (to return). As noted, most translations understand the meaning of יָשַׁב (to dwell), but not all. For example, the editorial footnotes of BHS indicate that the Syriac (Peshutta Hebrew Bible) of this particular passage understands the Hebrew verb as שׁוּב, and not יָשַׁב. Thus the proximate affinity of Psalm 23:6 with Psalm 27:4 appears to have made the logical nexus with יָשַׁב, however, the Masoretes and the Syriac version of the Hebrew Bible point otherwise.


If the marginalia of the Masoretes are accurant, then the correct translation of the passage would be as follows:

Psalm 23:6
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will return (and remain) in the house of the Lord forever.

The temple did not exist at the time when David wrote this Psalm. Therefore he was alluding to some time in the future after his death (when his son would build the temple) and he would “return.” Thus David implies resurrection in this Psalm in the same way that resurrection appeared for Jacob and the Fathers.

Genesis 28:13-15 (NASB)
13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (emphasis added)

Jacob's ladder, which ascended and descended from heaven was connecting the Zion in heaven with the Zion on earth. “The House of God” had not yet been established at the time of Jacob (Beth-El) or the time of David (temple), but both received promises in order to “return” in fulfillment of both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenant. This parallel is what the Masoretes were trying to convey in their marginalia of the Masoretic Text, which is the Massorah Parva.

Gesenius, Wilhelm; E. Kautzsch; A.E. Cowley. Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 189 (footnote).

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