"KINGS" OR "MESSENGERS" IN 2 SAMUEL 11:1? THE MASORETIC TEXT AND ITS LINGUISTIC BACKGROUND

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Abstract

An old exegetical mystery concerns the dating of the events recounted in 2 Sam 11:1. According to this verse, David sent his troops to siege the Ammonite capitol one year after certain persons had left. These persons are identified by the ancient versions—as well as by the parallel account of 1 Chr 20:1—as “the kings”, that is, the coalition of Aramaean kings mentioned in the previous verse (2 Sam 10:19). This understanding also seems to be reflected in the vocalization of MT, while the consonantal texts seems to refer to “the messenger”, that is, the envoys dispatched by David to convey his condolences to the Ammonite king, and whose visit to Ammon ignited the war in the first place (2 Sam 10:1-18, esp. 2-4). The paper discusses the relation between these two readings. A critical scrutiny of previous studies demonstrates that they have failed to supply adequate explanation to the discrepancy between the consonantal text and the vocalization revealed in the MT. Most importantly, unlike the position held by many previous scholars, it should be stated explicitly that the best Tiberian codices do not treat this case as an example of ktib and qcrê. It is suggested that despite the apparent difference, both aspects of MT are best be interpreted in the same way as referring to “the messengers”. The seemingly diverging vocalization in fact reflects a late Second Temple pronunciation of this word following a phonological development that took place during that period, namely, the drop of the glottal stop, accompanied by a compensatory lengthening of the following vowel: *malak-im *malakim > mlakim, which is homophonous with mlakim “kings”. This development is reflected in contemporaneous evidence, consisting of the Dead Sea scrolls and the oral tradition of the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)13-36
Number of pages24
JournalTextus
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010

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