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In Psalm 119:67, the last word is a Qal perfect first person common singular of the verb "to guard, watch, keep." I'm curious about the qåmeṣ vowel under the mem when I expected a pàṯaḥ. Does this have anything to do with its being the final word in the verse?

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  • Interesting 1 Samuel 25:21; 2 Samuel 22:22; Psalm 17:4; Psalm 18:22; Psalm 119:168; and Job 23:11 all have the patah under mem. Only Psalm 119:67 does not and it is only at the end of the sentence in Psalm 119:67.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 18, 2021 at 23:30
  • Hmmm . . . . great find Perry. I'll check into those verses! I realize this may be minutiae to many, but I so enjoy translating both Hebrew and Greek, and since my seminary days back in the 70's, I've been taking my time and noticing little things—as you may have guessed by this question—that I've glossed over in my past translation work. Again, thanks for responding Perry!
    – ed huff
    Oct 19, 2021 at 0:20

2 Answers 2

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I'm unable to answer this as I would like, but will put what I did find.

The other six occurances of שָׁמַ֜רְתִּי (Qal perfect 3rd person singular) 1 Samuel 25:21; 2 Samuel 22:22; Psalm 17:4; Psalm 18:22; Psalm 119:168; and Job 23:11 all have the patah under mem.

Only Psalm 119:67 does not and it is only at the end of the sentence in Psalm 119:67. – שָׁמָֽרְתִּי

Thus, while I cannot validate your suspected conclusion, it is consistent with what is available in the MT.

Something seems to be going on with the perfect tense here. The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translates it a English present tense.

   Before I was humbled I went astray, 
     but now I keep Your word.

Also ESV

  Before I was afflicted I went astray, 
  but now I keep your word. 

However, Psalm 119:168 is also translated with English present tense, but has the expected vowel points for Hebrew perfect tense.

Here are some possible uses of perfect tense, but it doesn't explain the changed vowel point.

(c) To express actions or facts, which are meant to be indicated as existing in the future in a completed state (futurum exactum), e.g. Is 4:4 אִם רָחַץ when he has washed away=when he shall have washed away (an imperfect follows in the co-ordinate sentence; cf. the conditional sentences in § 107 x); Is 6:11 (after עַד אֲשֶׁר אִם, as in Gn 28:15, Nu 32:17; also 2 S 17:13 after עַד אֲשֶׁר, Gn 24:19 after עַד אִם and elsewhere frequently after temporal conjunctions); Mi 5:2 (יָלָ֑דָה); Gn 43:14 כַּֽאֲשֶׁר שָׁכֹ֫לְתִּי שָׁכָֽלְתִּי וַֽאֲנִי and I—if I am bereaved (orbus fuero), I am bereaved, an expression of despairing resignation. Cf. Pr 23:15, Est 4:16. -- Gesenius, F. W. (1910). Gesenius’ Hebrew grammar. (E. Kautzsch & S. A. E. Cowley, Eds.) (2d English ed., p. 313). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

(b) In a class of actions which are completed just in the act of giving them expression. This usage appears chiefly with verbs denoting to speak, as verbs of swearing, declaring, advising, and the like, or their equivalents in gesture. Deu. 26:3 הִגַּדְתִּי הַוּוֹם I profess this day; 2 S. 17:11 כִּי יָעַצְתִּי I advise; 2 S. 19:8 בַּֽיהוָֹה נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי I swear by the Lord. Gen. 22:16, Nu. 14:20, Deu. 4:26; 26:17; 30:15, 18, 19, 1 S. 17:10, 2 S. 16:4 I worship, 19:30, 1 K. 2:42 I hear (obey), 2 K. 9:3 I anoint, Jer. 22:5; 42:19, Ez. 36:7, Ps. 129:8; 130:1, Pr. 17:5. Song 2:7 I adjure. So the frequent אָמַר י׳ saith Je., or כֹּה א׳ י׳ thus saith. In some cases impf. יֹאמַר is used, hardly as a frequent. but as a present. This occurs in the midst of a speech, Is. 1:11, 18; 33:10; 40:1, 25; 41:21, Ps. 12:6. Both forms Is. 66:9. -- Davidson, A. B. (1902). Introductory Hebrew grammar Hebrew syntax (3d ed., p. 60). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

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  • Thanks! I'm wondering if Gesenius could shed any light on this.
    – ed huff
    Oct 19, 2021 at 16:48
  • I didn't find it in Gesenius, but could have missed it.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 19, 2021 at 16:56
  • No, you're probably right. He's usually my last resort! Maybe there's a book out there on ancient Hebrew pointing. I know, good luck with that!
    – ed huff
    Oct 19, 2021 at 17:38
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The reason for the qamets instead of the patach on שָׁמָֽרְתִּי is the accent silluq, it looks just like metheg, and it will lengthen the short vowel. http://www.pericope.net/Assets/pericope_texts/Pausal_Forms_Revell/PausalTNK.pdf

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  • Thanks! Maybe a silly question, but is this related to the pronunciation that we've essentially lost from the original speakers over the course of time?
    – ed huff
    Oct 20, 2021 at 16:56
  • The Masorites added vowel points, cantillation, and accents. They were around the 5th to the 10th C.E. Without them we would have a text with only connsenants. Their vocalization is ancient, but exactly how old is unknown. oldtestamenttextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2011/06/… Oct 20, 2021 at 17:43
  • Thanks for the info!
    – ed huff
    Oct 20, 2021 at 17:45

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