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1 Kings 1:40 New International Version

And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.

Berean Study Bible

All the people followed him, playing flutes and rejoicing with such a great joy that the earth was split by the sound.

Which version is more accurate?

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Indeed, the literal meaning of the word בָּקַע is to cleave, break open or through. However, we must remind ourselves that Hebrew has no abstract nouns and must use verbal-nouns to describe feelings and emotions.

For example, אַף is nostril, or nose. However, it is often (correctly) translated "anger" which means that a person who is angry is described as "nosing" - ie, breathing heavily.

The same is true in other circumstances. The Hebrew is highly idiomatic and so translating some words literally makes no sense. 1 Kings 1:40 is a good example of this. Thus, I would render 1 Kings 1:40 as either:

  • ... the earth seemed to burst open with their joyful sound,

or,

  • the earth shook with their joyful sound

Both of these idiomatic renderings have plenty of support among the many versions available. BDB lists 1 Kings 1:40 as "hyperbolic" supporting the above non-literal understanding.

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The literal meaning is indeed "split," not "shook."

You can find the Hebrew of the verse here:

http://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt09a01.htm#40

This is the part you're looking for:

וַתִּבָּקַע הָאָרֶץ

That first word, v'tibbaqa`, has a root of bq`, so we can look it up in Brown Driver Briggs by that:

https://archive.org/details/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft/page/130/mode/2up?view=theater

You can see the entry in the rightmost column; it's the last major entry in that column. It starts with the Qal. We follow to the next page...

https://archive.org/details/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft/page/132/mode/2up?view=theater

...to see the Niphal, which is used in this verse, and you can see that it means "be cleft, rent open" or "to burst open" and it even includes a reference to this very verse, "1 K 1^40".

They note that it's hyperbole. But technically it could mean that the earth was actually split open.

Here you can see how a wide variety of translations render it:

https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/1%20Kings%201:40

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