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What is the meaning/reason for the symbols at the end of various verses in the Hebrew Bible? For example, Song of Solomon 6:3:

אֲנִ֤י לְדוֹדִי֙ וְדוֹדִ֣י לִ֔י הָרֹעֶ֖ה בַּשׁוֹשַׁנִּֽים׃ ס

(In English, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine, He who pastures his flock among the lilies"--NASB Updated with original italics.)

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    Was there a reason for picking out this verse? These symbols are ubiquitous in the Hebrew Bible. – Dɑvïd Oct 12 '15 at 9:03
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    Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. When you have a chance, be sure to check out the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web... I took the liberty of generalizing your question, since I assume you are asking about the symbol meanings in general, not in regards to this verse. Please re-edit if I am mistaken. – ThaddeusB Oct 13 '15 at 1:43
  • I'm really not sure what you mean by "Symbols" - could you clarify? Do you mean characters? The orthography, niqqud, or pointing? Or something else entirely? – James Shewey Feb 2 '17 at 7:41
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The Hebrew letter ס (samekh) at the end of a verse in a digital (on-line) Tanakh (e.g., Mechon-Mamre.org) signifies a סתומה (setuma) in a Tanakh scroll (e.g., Aleppo Codex).

For example, Song of Songs 1:14.

Online Tanakh (Mechon-Mamre.org):

Setuma at the end of Song of Songs 1:14, Mechon-Mamre.org

Tanakh scroll (Aleppo Codex):

Setuma at the end of Song of Songs 1:14, Aleppo Codex

While a Hebrew letter פ (fe) at the end of a verse in a digital (on-line) Tanakh signifies a פתוחה (petucha) in a Tanakh scroll.

For example, Song of Songs 1:4.

Online Tanakh (Mechon-Mamre.org):

Petucha at the end of Song of Songs 1:4, Mechon-Mamre.org

Tanakh scroll (Aleppo Codex):

Petucha at the end of Song of Songs 1:4, Aleppo Codex

According to Chabad.org,

In terms of Jewish law, the word parshah refers to a set of verses that is written in the Torah scroll without any break within the text. Depending on how big the space needs to be before a particular parshah, it is called a parshah petucha, “an open portion,” or a parshah setuma, “a closed portion.” The text of “an open portion” always begins on a new line on the parchment, and “a closed portion” can begin even on the same line, after an empty space equaling the width of as few as nine letters from the previous portion.1

In our printed versions of the Torah, the chumash, the place where an “open portion” would appear in the Torah scroll is marked with the Hebrew letter pei (Heb. פ), and a “closed portion” is marked with the letter samech (Heb. ס).

The ׃ is a סוף פסוק (sof pasuk) which indicates the end of a verse.

Per Wikipedia,

The Sof passuk (Hebrew: סוֹף פָּסוּק, end of verse, also spelled Sof pasuq and other variant English spellings, and sometimes called סלוק silluq) is the cantillation mark that occurs on the last word of every verse in the Tanakh.

I don't see these in the Aleppo codex, so either the scribe didn't use them in that particular manuscript, or they are only incorporated in digital (online) Tanakhs.

  • Also related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/17531/… – user862 Oct 12 '15 at 9:04
  • @Davïd: Hmmm, I thought I included a comment with each picture when inserting them. Let me edit. It's Mechon Mamre. Thank you for the tidbit on the sof pasuk/spacing. :) – user862 Oct 12 '15 at 9:15
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    Btw - sof pasuq is inconsistently marked in Aleppo, which surprises me. I hadn't noticed before. I can't see a pattern (though I haven't tried very hard). Here's Ruth 4:13(end)-14. V. 13 ends with sof pasuq, but v. 14 doesn't. Scanning pages shows up quite a few such examples. Of course, there's always silluq to mark the verse end, so the sof pasuq is a bit redundant. – Dɑvïd Oct 12 '15 at 11:15
  • Does the 'samech' at the end of a verse have the meaning of... pause / reflect / and consider? I have heard somewhere that this is it's meaning. Anyone to confirm or refute? – Mona Oct 11 '18 at 18:30
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The Masoretic Text appears in several codices (Cairo, Aleppo, and Leningrad). These codices contain the Hebrew text written in columns (usually three per page). These columns contain paragraphs of verses, but the paragraphs are not indented (like modern English). Instead, the spacing between each paragraph determines whether or not there are major or minor separations of thought between the paragraphs.

So, on the one hand, there are the major paragraphs. To begin, the first paragraph in a book in the Hebrew Bible is assumed to be a major paragraph, and in this regard subsequent paragraphs may have a close connection to the first paragraph. If this is the case, then the spacing of the following paragraph(s) will be minimal. This minimal spacing brings the paragraphs closer together, and connects the ideas in the paragraphs which have the close connection. Thus in the printed form of the Masoretic Text (such as the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) the letter ס (samekh) will appear before the connecting paragraphs, which is the first letter of the Aramaic passive participle סתומא (determinative form), which means "what is closed."

On the other hand, if any subsequent paragraphs do not have such close connection with the preceding paragraph(s), but are instead to be read as more independent than the preceding paragraph(s), then the these subsequent paragraphs will begin on their own line (with no attempt to minimize the spacing with the preceding paragraph). Thus in the printed form of the Masoretic Text (such as the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) the letter פ (pei) will appear before the connecting paragraphs, which is the first letter of the Aramaic passive participle פתוחא (determinative form), which means "what is open."

Thus the Masoretic scholars developed a better system than exists in English. In English, indentation will mark the paragraph, but there is no way to group major and minor thoughts of paragraphs (unless further indentation occurs, of course, such as sub-bullet statements). The Masoretic scholars however recorded the paragraphs of text with respect to their spacing. The closer formatting of paragraphs one to another had connected (or "closed" the thoughts together); or, on the other hand, had "opened" (or separated the thoughts apart). In this respect, readers of the Hebrew Bible can "clump together" the major paragraphs of a book. So, for example, in the Song of Solomon, the first paragraph of the text (1:1 - 1:4) is the major paragraph with all subsequent paragraphs in the book "closed" with the first paragraph -- and so the book is one big thought. However, in 8:11 there is a major paragraph break, and so the reader stops and reads the remainder of the book (8:11-8:14) as a separate thought, or coda, to the book.

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What I dicover about פ and ס. They seem to be a marker and are an indication to two groups. When we read in Hebrew: By faith Isaac blessed Jacob an Esau concerning things to come, the apostle says, in the future times, both are blessed. Jabcob gets the right of the first-born and Esau gets the right of the second-born. A similar story is the narration of Tamar. She got also twins. Their names are Phares and Zarah. What is the privilege of an first-born? He gets a double heir, but what does it mean? A double heir means heaven and earth. Jacob gets heavenly and earthly things, but Esau only the earthly things. Esau chose the RED. The READ means he chose the earth, because adamah meany reddish. Esau ate from the reddish and the lenses are red coloured. The lenses are pointed to the red blood cells. In heaven we don´t need oxygen, but on the earth the life needs it. Twins in the bible are highly covert and two brothers also. If we recognize the pattern of the prophecy then we realize the difference of both. Back to the twins, Phares and Zarah. Phares represents the Jews after the rapture and Zarah represents the believers until the rapture. Another pair of men are Elijah and Elisha. Elijah represents the believers until the repture and Elisha after this event. see simson-project.com/elia-und-elisa.html. Another pair: Timnath-Serah and Timnath-Heres. Serah point out to the heaven and Heres to the earth. Serah means extend - until to the heaven - and Heres means shinning, its root means itch, because to take part on the right of the first-born is to late.

The marker פ and ס tells us the distinction between the saints of the most High and the saints on the earth.

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    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange Randy, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. – Steve Taylor Feb 1 '17 at 10:32
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    This is a very interesting approach and conclusion you've reached. Please consider adding some formatting to make it easier to read. It would also be greatly beneficial to see you add some references to better understand how others have approached and engaged with this idea, and how well it bears up to analysis and scrutiny. – Steve Taylor Feb 1 '17 at 10:34

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