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Song of Songs 6:12 (לא ידעתי נפשי שמתני מרכבות עמי־נדיב) is usually translated according to the following grammatical structure:

"I know not, my soul hath set me in chariots of my noble people."

But could it also be reasonably natural in Hebrew to interpret "my soul" as the object of the verb "to know/perceive", and "my noble people" as the subject of "hath set me"?

In other words, I wonder whether one can understand the sense of the sentence as being:

"Before I was even conscious of what was happening to me, my noble people had put me in chariots".

(Sorry if this is a very basic question, I've never learnt Hebrew.)

  • Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib. [KJV.] I knew not my soul, It made me -- chariots of my people Nadib [YLT.] It seems the experts disagree. – Nigel J Dec 21 '19 at 21:50
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"I don't know my soul" is a perfectly valid way to read the text. Job 9:21 is a close parallel (לֹא אֵדַע נַפְשִׁי), from which we can deduce that "I don't know my soul" is an expression of confusion or strong emotion. Here the words לֹא יָדַעְתִּי נַפְשִׁי are the equivalent but conjugated as perfect instead of imperfect. This reading is suggested by E. S. Hartom in his commentary on the verse (in Hebrew).

Your interpretation of the rest of the verse, "my noble people had put me in chariots," is less grammatical, because the word שָׂמַתְנִי is 3rd person feminine. But by changing the vowels on the consonantal text, it could be read as 2nd person singular (שַֹמְתָּנִי) or plural (שַֹמְתֻּנִי), so you could read "you have put me in the chariots of my noble people" or "you have put me in chariots, my noble people."

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  • Wouldn't we expect the object marker? I knew not — את — my soul? – Sola Gratia Dec 21 '19 at 21:01
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    @SolaGratia Usually yes, but it's not always marked. The verse in Job is another example of a definite direct object with no את – b a Dec 21 '19 at 21:02
  • Now that I think of it, you're right. I still consider myself very much a student of the Hebrew language. Thanks. – Sola Gratia Dec 21 '19 at 21:03

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