Psalm 68:4 (ESV),

4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!

The Hebrew text for the phrase emboldened above, i.e. "his name is the LORD" is as follows (from right to left):

בְּיָ֥הּ שְׁמ֗וֹ

At the beginning of the Divine Name, "Yah", the Hebrew letter ב (bet) is present. Does the presence of ב (bet) before the name "Yah" in Psalm 68:4 therefore constitute an example of a Beth Essentiae?

If it does so constitute, what is the correct way to interpret and understand the phrase?

If it does not, why does it not so constitute?

1 Answer 1


The second clause of Psalms 68:4 (68:5 in the MT):

סֹלּוּ לָרֹכֵב בָּעֲרָבוֹת בְּיָהּ שְׁמוֹ וְעִלְזוּ לְפָנָיו

is my favorite verse in Psalms, a reminder of my youth, written on the entranceway to the IDF artillery school at Shivta.

Compare to Isaiah 26:4:

בִּטְחוּ בַיהוָה עֲדֵי עַד כִּי בְּיָהּ יְהוָה צוּר עוֹלָמִים

and Exodus 15:2

עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ וַיְהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי וַאֲרֹמְמֶנְהוּ

In these examples בְּיָהּ or יָהּ serves as an emphatic marker in extremum, like "truly" or, "by God". The closest expression in English is "god-awful" as it was used in archaic English to mean inspiring mighty awe, although it has come to mean the opposite in modern English. The Arabic ياهو, which is apparently from the same source as בְּיָהּ and sounds similar, is a common Arabic emphatic.

So, IMHO, in Psalms 68:4, the ב in בְּיָהּ is the beth essentiae.

The meaning of the verse is:

Sing to the Divine (אלוהים), sing His name!
שִׁירוּ לֵאלֹהִים זַמְּרוּ שְׁמוֹ

Extol [He] who rides on the clouds, His name is great (בְּיָהּ שְׁמוֹ)!
סֹלּוּ לָרֹכֵב בָּעֲרָבוֹת בְּיָהּ שְׁמוֹ

And rejoice before Him (לְפָנָיו - to His face)!
וְעִלְזוּ לְפָנָיו

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