In Judges 5:7 (in the song of Deborah) we find:  

חָדְלוּ פְרָזוֹן בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל,  חָדֵלּוּ, עַד שַׁקַּמְתִּי דְּבוֹרָה, שַׁקַּמְתִּי אֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל

The archaic Hebrew word shakamti is comprised of the Qal perfect verb kam which means "arose" in Hebrew, and the common Hebrew suffix conjugation ti which conjugates a verb in the first person singular (leaving aside the morpheme sha for now). Thus the most natural translation for shakamti would be "I arose", indeed this is what we find in most translations. NIV for example has:

Villagers in Israel would not fight;
    they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
    until I arose, a mother in Israel.

However CEB and others have:

Villagers disappeared; they disappeared in Israel, until you, Deborah, arose, until you arose as a mother in Israel.

They take kamti as a second-person singular feminine. Though in the normal lingo the word kamti is never ever in the second-person, they see it as an archaic Hebrew word, a form commonly used in ancient Hebrew poetry. See Psalms 103:1-6; Deut. 33:16; 2 kings 4 throughout; especially in the latter the archaic ketiv -i is consistently eliminated by the keri. (h/t to ba)

In all these cases a letter is added to the end of the word (typically the letter yud), thus oz become ozi, shochen becomes shocheni. And as ba points out in the comments, here too kamt which is the the 2nd person conjugation of "arose" becomes kamti.

The problem is that in standard biblical Hebrew ti is a common suffix conjugation for the first person singular, and is never taken in the second-person singular. But this doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to archaic Hebrew (when addressing the feminine 2nd person). In the song of Deborah which is full of archaic Hebrew it is equally likely that kamti is to be taken in its normal sense--I arose or in its archaic sense--you arose. My question is, how do we know what the author had in mind when he wrote these words?

Another example is Jeremiah 2:20 where the words shavar-ti and nitak-ti appear, in standard Hebrew they would mean "i broke" and "i detached", but here again some scholars insist that they are to be taken as archaic expressions of Hebrew thus rendering them "you broke", "you detached".

I find this extremely confusing, as there seems to be no way of differentiating between 1st person and 2nd person feminine singular in archaic Hebrew. How are we to find the true meaning of a word ending in ti in any given biblical text (besides for context as it isn't always possible to judge by it)?

  • But never do we find two letters as we find them here: tau and yud: Actually, here it's also one letter, since the ordinary 2nd person conjugation is kamt. But you're quoting the wrong verses for comparison to "archaic Hebrew"; see II Kings 2 (throughout) for better examples, where the archaic ketiv is consistently eliminated by the keri (e.g. verse 16 אתי instead of standard את). Etymologically the 1p -ti ending is from something like while the 2p -t ending would be from ti (compare Ugaritic morphology)
    – b a
    Apr 9, 2018 at 18:48
  • @ba thanks for your helpful comment. I edited my question. I hope it is better now. Btw i wasn't able to find your references in 2 kings 2. Did you reference the wrong place?
    – Bach
    Apr 9, 2018 at 20:42
  • II Kings 4, sorry
    – b a
    Apr 9, 2018 at 20:45
  • @ba wow thanks for pointing out this chapter to me. It is fascinating to see the differences between keri and ketiv and how the archaic hebrew has been edited by the Hebrew scribes, and i never even realized what was going on there in front of my nose.
    – Bach
    Apr 9, 2018 at 20:57
  • +1. However, I'm confused by ..a form commonly used in ancient Hebrew prose. See Exodus 15:2; Psalms 123:1; Deut. 33:16... First, I would call those all poetry (rather than prose). More importantly, I'm not seeing a form like this (second person with a yod at the end) in any of them. I do see the archaic yod on construct nouns the last two (I'm missing whatever is odd in Ex 15:2), but that's a different deal (and present on I think every instance of the word אח in construct). I follow the analogy to Jer 2:20 and have pondered that one myself.
    – Susan
    Apr 10, 2018 at 6:51

2 Answers 2


Why it is like this: in Proto-Northwest Semitic, the 1st person singular 'perfect' has /-tu/. Already in the Amarna letters (ca. 1361-1332 BCE), the Canaanite change to /-tī/ is attested. This may have to do with the development of /-ī/ in the 1st person singular pronoun (/'anōkī/), which is also attested in these letters. However, /-ī/ is also the ending of 2nd person feminine singular forms in common Semitic. This leads to an ambiguous system where "I fed the donkey" and "you fed the donkey" cannot be distinguished. In such situations, speakers tend to emphasise parts of the word to indicate the difference. In this case, it is likely that speakers would have lengthened the /-ī/ in the 1st person (for resemblance to the personal pronoun), which eventually also led to the shortening and dropping out of /-ī/ in the 2nd person feminine singular perfect, yielding the system as we know it. (However, the original /-ī/ for 2nd person feminine singular remains visible in the yiqtol.)

What to do with it: it is likely that the forms could already be distinguished very early in the development of Biblical Hebrew, because the change to /-tī/ is as early as the Amarna letters and the system is unworkable without disambiguation. Thus, in almost all biblical material the paradigm can be followed, and only in archaic/archaising texts like Judges 5 we must be careful. (A methodological problem, because it leads to a circular definition of "archaic/archaising". Fortunately, in many texts like Judges 5 there are many more indications that the text is archaic.)

In archaic/archaising texts, we cannot rely on much else than context, because the redaction history allows for hypercorrections in either direction (thus we should also suspect 2fs forms which could in context be 1cs). Also context does not help much in this case, because a 1cs aligns better with v. 9 where Deborah would also be speaking, while a 2fs aligns better with v. 12, where she is addressed.

However, another possible source of help is the ancient translations. In the case of Jdg 5:7, the Septuagint translates with ἀναστῇ, a 2nd person. This is also indicated by the BHS. The argument for translating a 2nd person would be that the LXX (and other ancient translations) stood closer to the original than later redactors.


shabar means to break or smash. shabartu means to be allowed to break. shabati means to have the liberty of breaking it.

  • nitkati could mean you destroyed or it destroyed or for the destruction of.
    – Onwuka
    Dec 4, 2021 at 5:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.