The verb in poetry

I have recently had requests for a more manageable version of my series interacting with Niccacci’s attempt to apply a discourse approach to the verb in biblical poetry, titled DABHVS for short. I began to do some updating as I edited the posts into one document, but it became too time consuming. For those interested, here is a .pdf of the series with minimal editing to give it better coherence as a single document.

Some of my views have matured so take it with a grain of salt, but I still think that Niccacci’s approach is misguided. I am teaching a course on biblical poetry this semester and hope to publish some of my lecture notes here, so perhaps I will have a chance to return to the question.

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6 Comments on “The verb in poetry”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Thanks for doing this. It’s greatly appreciated!

  2. jamesallman Says:

    I have been waiting for something like this. Thank you for your work.

  3. Phil Sumpter Says:

    Hi Pete, thanks for this, in particular for interacting with Ps 24 in more depth!

    I was particularly interested in your statement on p. 2 that one can recognize a short or long form (of the preterite) on the basis of the pronominal suffix. Nun paragogicum indicates a long form. I was surprised, however, that you feel that יכוננה (v. 2b) is a long form. If it was long, wouldn’t it have נֶנָּה as ending and not נְנֶהָ? If this is a long form, then I don’t see how it fits into your explanation that its use is archaisizing “defamiliarization,” for then it wouldn’t be able to refer to the past.

    Another difficult verb in this Psalm is ישא in v. 5. It is clause initial and starts a new strophe (the second of a two-strophe stanza, I’d argue [vv. 3-6]). Most translators simply translate it as future indicative (“he will receive”), often on form-critical grounds given the relation to Ps 15 [the last verse]. Andersen-Forbes even take it as the predicate of the entire v. 3 [one clean of hands … will receive …], but not only would that mean an example of drastic enjambment, it would also mean the question in v. 3 is only answered indirectly at best. According to Niccacci I’m guessing it would be jussive: “may he recieve …”, indicating that the speaker wishes it for whoever fulfils the criteria of verse 3. I’d appreciate any thoughts you have on that.

    • Peter Bekins Says:


      You are correct on יכוננה. I was working too quickly and misread it. It is a short form.

      On ישא, on a quick reading I think future works fine, and I would translate נשא and נשבע in the previous verse as past:

      Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
      And who shall stand in his holy place?
      The one clean of hands and pure of heart
      who has not lifted his soul toward falsehood
      and has not sworn deceitfully.
      He shall receive blessing from YHWH
      and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

      The perfect and imperfect seem to indicate a sequence of cause-effect. He has not done a and b, thus he will ascend the hill of YHWH. Likewise, he will receive blessing and righteousness.

  4. It would be fantastic to see some of your lecture notes on biblical poetry go on this site, please keep me posted.

  5. You might be interested in Michel’s work on the verb in poetry as I discuss and apply it to texts on my blog. Let me know what you think. I find Michel more helpful than Niccacci. I have tested the two theories on Isa 49 in a paper I have posted on the website.

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