9

Psalm 139:17-18 (KJV), "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee."

Here's the question I have: If you look at the underlying Hebrew, when the author awakes, he is with you (feminine). Here is the interlinear for reference. You can see that that last pronoun is a second person feminine singular (2fs) reference. It's merely rendered as "thee" or "you" in all translations I can find.. certainly all the major ones. What is going on with the Hebrew here? What is the author doing?

In 139:17, The word translated as "your thoughts, God" (רֵעֶ֣יךָ) is clearly referring "to God (El)" and uses a masculine second person possessive ending ("your").

But in 139:18, once the author "awakes" the author says "I am yet with you (2fs)"... And that ending pronoun is clearly a feminine pronoun reference to God (El). It might be translated as "with you, oh divine woman" (since English does not carry a gendered you). What do you think the reason for this feminine gendered reference is? Am I misreading the Hebrew somehow?

16

עִמָּֽךְ contains the pausal form of the 2nd person, masculine gender, singular number (2ms) pronominal suffix. This form is identical to the 2nd person, feminine gender, singular number (2fs) pronominal suffix in appearance (spelling).

Robert Ray Ellis wrote,1

Ellis, Robert Ray. Learning to Read Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar. Ch. 16, p. 168

When you examine the cantillation marks of Psa. 139:18,

Cantillation Marks of Psa. 139:18

you will see a sof pasuk or silluk at the end of the verse. The syllable adjacent to the sof pasuk (i.e., the final syllable) is in pause, hence the change of the pronominal suffix in appearance.


Footnotes

1 Ch. 16, p. 168

References

Ellis, Robert Ray. Learning to Read Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar. Waco: Baylor UP, 2006.

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  • 1
    Thank you! This makes a lot of sense. This explains this term in a variety of places. For example, in Judges 7:12 is, "“The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.”" Compared just a few verses later at 7:16, "“The lord said to him, I will be with you”". This second version has the pausal suffix that looks like 2fs, but the difference between them is that there is no end of the statement in the first case, but there is in the second case. The phrase in 7:12 continues with "might warrior" and the same phrase terminates in 7:16. Both are addressed to Gideon (a male). – Gus L. May 31 at 16:30
  • This would mean that BibleHub has marked it incorrectly, right? Interestingly, BlueLetterBible actually omits that phrase. – Nacht Jun 1 at 0:10
  • @Nacht-ReinstateMonica—Certainly possible. Those websites and programs are coded by humans, and unless the coding is very sophisticated by considering cantillation marks, it won’t be able to distinguish between the pausal and non-pausal forms. I copied the Hebrew text with cantillation marks from BLB, so you might be looking at the wrong verse. – Der Übermensch Jun 1 at 4:22
  • I was looking at the Reverse Interlinear part. Was hoping to find that BLB had noted its case correctly. But actually it doesn't look like it notes the case anywhere anyway. – Nacht Jun 1 at 9:25
  • 1
    @Nacht-ReinstateMonica Ah, I see what you mean now. Yeah, BLB often neglects to parse the Hebrew prepositions. – Der Übermensch Jun 1 at 12:42
5

with You.
עִמָּֽךְ׃ (‘im·māḵ)
Preposition | second person feminine singular [2FS]
Strong's Hebrew 5973: With, equally with

For the most part, Hebrew suffixes are pronominal—that is, they function as pronouns. When attached to prepositions, they usually function as the object of the preposition. Because they act as pronouns, pronominal suffixes possess person, gender, and number.

One complication comes when the 2MS is in a pause, marking a break in the reading of the text, it looks just like 2FS. The context here clearly indicate that the preposition refers to a masculine God despite the feminine form of the preposition.

Well, Der Übermensch, you beat me to it. I went to lunch before finishing my answer.

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  • Thanks @TonyChan, thanks! This was not in my inteo hebrew course. Great to have this knowledge – Gus L. May 31 at 18:02

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