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PSALM 74, 5 

A MERE glance at this verse reveals numerous difficulties. To 
begin with the first word JHV scarcely yields a suitable meaning, 
and in spite of all attempted emendations and interpretations, seems 
to be out of place, as there is no noun in this verse which can be 
subject of this verb. It was perceived, made known, it was seen, 
are suggested renderings which have nothing to recommend them. 
Then the second word N'SDS is taken by some of the versions as 
a noun, something like KfcOS. 1 And even when one has succeeded 
in recasting the text in a more or less Hebraic form, the simile 
conveyed is so feeble as to be out of harmony with the tenure of 
the rest of the verses, where the Psalmist employs the strongest 
terms in describing the cruelty of the enemy. Nor is the lexical 
difficulty of the expression of J»y ^3?3 to be lost sight of. In all 
other places where tpD occurs it either stands alone, as in Gen. 

t : 

22, 13; Jer. 4, 7, or is followed by "IJ£, as in Isa. 9, 17. For j»y 
is never used in Hebrew in the sense of forest, and as 7|3D in our 
text must denote a thicket, if the ordinary interpretation be 
adopted, the singular p$t can scarcely be appropriate. In the fol- 
lowing verse neither the keKb njTl nor the kere FlV\ is suitable 
for the context, as the Psalmist obviously describes an event which 
took place in the past. It is therefore no wonder that modern 
commentators are almost unanimous in declaring this word to be 
corrupt. Some take it to be the ending of a longer word such as 

1 LXX has rr]V etcodov, and Jerome's rendering is in introitu. The 
variant readings zi-odov and exitu are probably due to the confusion of 
Nl'30 and NSIO. 

T T 



nyppO- Ehrlich in reading DS1 for 1"|JJ1 should have advanced a 
step further and deleted the 1 in order to make any sense at all, 
for there is no possibility of taking this clause as a circumstantial 
one. Although the copyists sometimes confused N with 5J (comp. 
I Kings I, i8&, 20), the fact that the Psalmist throughout this 
Psalm does not use the accusative sign JIN, despite the circumstance 
that in almost every verse there is a determinate noun in the 
accusative, is sufficient ground to reject this suggestion. 

The solution, I believe, lies in the correct interpretation of 
the expression yy 713D3 which in this case ought to be rendered 
in the wooden trellis-work. No simile is intended in this verse, but 
a vivid description of what actually took place. The form of tI3D 

t : 

or 7PD is certainly fi'al, with the original a remaining, as in Arabic 
and Syriac, or heightened to o, as is usually the case in Hebrew. 
In I Kings 7, 17, where the decorations and furniture of Solomon's 
Temple are described, the form D'ODb occurs which is conceivably 
a plural of 'iPD, and the ordinary form rDSb* is probably a nomen 
unitatis of this word. It would thus be identical in form and 
meaning with Arabic sibak "net-work, trellis-work." In verse 5 
of this Psalm we would require to emend the text slightly and 
read K'ln:) or K'qns instead of N'303. It is also probable that 
N13D3 of the versions may be retained as a nomen verbi, as in 
the case of VDDpl Num. 10, 2. The corruption of this word very 
likely arose through the misunderstanding of the expression tpD3 
YV- For when these words were taken to mean a thicket of trees, 
the whole verse had to be explained as a simile, and hence the 
participle was substituted for the infinitive. The ketib in verse 6 
would be retained, and read flVI. Here again the Massoretes had 
to punctuate this word jnjTl in order to make this verse follow the 
preceding one with some logical sequence. 

Having thus restored the text, we should translate the two 
verses as follows: Let it be known when axes were brought above 
in the wooden trellis-work, and when they struck down all its 
carvings together with hatchet and axes. The Psalmist, according 
to this interpretation, draws the attention of the reader to, or per- 

PSALM 74, 5 — HAMPER 587 

haps invokes God ( tPJS? may be understood) against, the wanton 
cruelty and ruthlessness of the enemy. He brings to the mind a 
vivid picture of the spitefulness of the oppressor who used all 
kinds of iron instruments, with the sole object of vexing the 
vanquished. The trellis-work of the Temple could have been de- 
stroyed quite easily without any instruments, especially as after- 
wards the Temple was entirely burned down. But the conqueror, 
to aggravate the mortification of the conquered nation, defiled all 
that was holy, and knowing, perhaps, that the Hebrews avoided the 
introduction of iron instruments when building the Temple or 
erecting an altar (comp. I Kings 6, I and Exod. 20, 25), he mocked 
them by demolishing the ornaments and decorations with hatchet 
and axes. One cannot help noticing that in this Psalm the author 
complains against the insults and effrontery of the impudent 
enemy. He asks God to remember that the enemy reproaches the 
Lord, and a worthless nation provokes His name (vv. 18, 22). 

It is now necessary to explain to what kind of wooden trellis- 
work the Psalmist refers. One's mind naturally turns to rt33B > 

T T : 

mentioned in I Kings 7 and in the parallel passages of Chronicles. 
But the trellis-work mentioned there was certainly of metal, and 
played a minor part in the Temple, for it did not belong to the 
building itself, but to the furniture and decorations of the Temple. 
Thus if the ordinary translations and commentaries are to be relied 
upon no wooden trellis-work existed in Solomon's Temple. There 
are, however, in the First Book of Kings, chapter 6, a few passages 
which have not been rightly understood. ng^pO (6, 18) has 
hitherto been taken to mean carving, and the verb ySp has been 
translated he engraved, carved. Despite the apparent consensus of 
opinion in this respect, I venture to question the philological 
soundness of this interpretation, as there is no evidence to support 
it. Were VPp^ to have that meaning, it would stand isolated in 
Hebrew without a parallel in the cognate languages and dialects. 
Even in Hebrew this signification of J?^p would be confined to 
these obscure passages. And this circumstance in itself is sufficient 
to arouse suspicion. Nor does the context demand this explanation. 
In Hebrew J?^ has two well-established meanings. In the first 


place it denotes he threw, slung, and occurs several times in the 
Old Testament, both as a noun and verb. In Arabic, Syriac, and 
Ethiopic the noun in various forms is of frequent occurrence. The 
same root with another signification is to be found in D'VPp 
curtains, hangings (Exod. 29, 9, etc.). For in that verse it is 
evident that the radical meaning must be he wove, plaited, twisted, 
intertwined. With such a signification this verb is frequent in 
Neo-Hebrew, and is attested in Arabic by the occurrence of 
kila'at(un) "a sail." Fraenke! 2 takes kil'(un) to be a loan-word, 
but the form kilU'at(un) which does not occur in any other dialect 
would tend to prove that it is a genuine Arabic root. The explana- 
tion of Gesenius that the idea underlying kil'(un) and the other 
meanings of V^P * s wavering, is precluded by Hebrew D'SDp, as 
pointed out above. For JJpp. > s so called, not because it hangs and 
waves, but on account of the way it is made. 

All the cases where the verbs and nouns occur being taken into 
consideration, it would appear that this root should be recognized 
in Hebrew with only two meanings: (1) he threw; (2) wove, 
plaited. The common ground for the origin of these significations 
is probably the idea of removing from one place and inserting 
into another. With some modification this idea is present in all 
the significations in the cognate languages. In Arabic kala'a (I and 
VIII conjugations) = he removed, uprooted, eradicated. The 

meaning he disentangled is required in J Asci.' £jv ( &-J' 1J4 kJlJuiU 

<>S j (jl ,!»-*■*> oJj ^•J^'i ^* Cl>* The forefeet of my horse 
got stuck among the stones. I alighted from it, disentangled its 
forefeet, and mounted it again (Ibn Batutah's Travels, Vol. IV, 
p. 9, edition of Defremery and Sanguinetti). Thus even here the 
idea is not merely uprooting, but taking out the foot from among 
the stones and placing it on the smooth part of the road. Out of 
this the notion of throwing, slinging could have naturally devel- 
oped, especially when the one who threw aimed at something. A 
parallel case is to be found in Arabic salaka "he inserted" and 
Hebrew ivbtyn "he threw." So also sabaka in Arabic = "he 

2 Die aramaischen Fremdworter im Arabischen, p. 224. 

psalm 74, 5 — halper 589 

inserted, intertwined," and in Syriac asbek(Afel of sbak) some- 
times = "he threw," and is chiefly used metaphorically in the sense 
of "attacked" (comp. Hebrew bsinn Gen. 43, 18). Thus we have 
harba (h)u ger ba'e denarme uenasbek nasa bahdade "He wishes 
to arouse strife (lit. sword) and throw men against one another," 
i. e. to set one against another (Homilies of Isaac of Antioch, 
Bedjan's edition, p. 456, 1. 12). In a similar way it is not hard to 
follow how the idea of "weaving" developed, for in weaving it is 
necessary to remove from one place and insert into another. And 
here again one may be permitted to quote the parallel of Arabic 
sabaka "he inserted," "wove," and Syriac asbek "he threw." 

Now the meaning he wove, plaited, intertwined suits JDP in I 

- T 

Kings, chapter 6, quite as well as carved. We ought to translate 
D«rc n«sw aypB nybpo no^a rvan bit, Wl And the cedar 
wood inside the house was an intertwining of gourds and out- 
spread flowers. According to this interpretation the ornaments 
were not carved out in the walls, but attached to them as a kind 
of appliqui, and hence they may rightly be called trellis-work, since 
they were intertwined. 

It is these ornaments that the Psalmist had in mind. 

Jersey City B. HauER