Psalm 16:2 reads:

אָמַרְתְּ לַיהוָה אֲדֹנָי אָתָּה טוֹבָתִי בַּל-עָלֶיךָ

אָמַרְתְּ is 2fs in form. I was curious about how to understand this. Looking around, most translations seem to understand this as ultimately in the first person:

I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.” (NASB)

The NASB footnote indicates that “my soul” is understood as the implied subject. I suppose that makes sense. How common is it to have “my soul” as an implied subject? Are there other ways to understand this I should be aware of?

1 Answer 1


Implied subjects for the second person are normal; most sentences in Hebrew (as in English) that address someone as "you" don't name who is being addressed. So an implied "O my soul" is technically possible. (An implied "soul" is also the traditional explanation in Jewish commentaries for the feminine verb in 2 Samuel 13:39, but I prefer to analyze it as masculine; see this article for the theoretical basis.) However, I think it's very unusual to address your soul without naming it. Usually, in the Psalms, the soul is addressed by name (103:1, 104:1, 146:1), which avoids the problem of having to rely on an implied subject when speaking to yourself in second person.

At the level of the consonantal text, I think the best way to understand the word is to analyze it as first person, i.e. as אָמַרְתִּי "I said" without an implied "my soul." This is the same spelling used for the first-person verb form יָדַעְתִּי in the ketiv of Psalms 140:13 (ידעת). The fact that the qere changes the spelling there seems to indicate that ידעת is a valid orthography for a first-person verb (it's also the ordinary orthography in the oldest inscriptions, which don't mark most final vowels). Psalms 140:7 also provides a good parallel (אָמַרְתִּי לַיהוָה אֵלִי אָתָּה) to 16:2 (אָמַרְתְּ לַיהוָה אֲדֹנָי אָתָּה) which also supports reading 16:2 as first person.

  • Excellent answer+1 Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 16:44

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