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Miriam's Song (the Song of the Sea) - Exodus 15 - suggested reconstruction

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Conventions used in transliteration below are:

 

Reconstruction

This is an attempt to reconstruct a possible original version of the Song of the Sea. It combines analyses by Cross and Freedman (Ancient Yahwistic Poetry, ref) and Freedman (Strophe and Metre, in Poetry, Pottery and Prophecy, ref), who were seeking to analyse the similarities with Canaanite (especially Ugaritic) poetry, together with insights into Egyptian poetics from Foster (ref) and Burkhard (ref).

The underlying hypothesis, justified at greater length elsewhere, is that the author of this Song chose to combine elements of both Canaanite and Egyptian poetics in the final version. Canaanite poetry was strongly metrical, as shown by Cross, Freedman and others, whereas New Kingdom Egyptian poetry was predominantly non-metrical, based instead on conceptual phrases of roughly equal length each concluded at the line end. Hence Egyptian poetry was end-stopped and shows essentially no enjambment. Hebrew poetry shows enjambment even at an early stage, although its use increased considerably in later work such as Lamentations. Both poetic traditions share a number of literary devices in common, such as the use of parallelism, alliteration etc. The proposed Egyptian reconstruction uses a division into lines that follows the Masoretic text: all Canaanite reconstructions necessarily assume that the line lengths were originally about half of that chosen later, with the corollary assumption that later copiers imposed their own poetic expectations on the earlier text. However, it should be noted that the poetic conventions are more than simply to do with line lengths - metrical and conceptual patterns are crucial to this understanding and classification.

In practical terms, the layout of this page is to compare side-by-side the Canaanite (left-hand) reconstruction with Egyptian (right-hand). The central columns indicate stress, syllable and word counts for the two approaches.


Then Mosheh sang this song with the children of Yisra'el to Yahweh, proclaiming:

  Canaanite Egyptian
  TransliterationStressSyllableWord  StressSyllableWord Transliteration
1. ’ašîyrah laYahweh
kîy-gâ’ôh gâ’âh
çûç warôkibôw
râmâh beyam
2
2
2
2
6
5
5
4
2
3
2
2
  4
4
11
9
5
4
’ašîyrah laYahweh kîy-gâ’ôh gâ’âh
çûç warôkibôw râmâh beyam
2. vâzzîy wazimrât yâhû
yehîy lîy lîyšûvâh
zeh ’êlîy wa’arômimenhû
elôhêy ’âbîy wa’anwêhû
3
3
3
3
7
6
9
9
3
3
3
3
  5
3
3
13
9
9
6
3
3
vâzzîy wazimrât yâhû yehîy-lîy lîyšûvâh
zeh ’êlîy wa’arômimenhû
elôhêy ’âbîy wa’anwêhû
3. Yahweh ’îyš-milxâmâh
Yahweh šimôw
2
2
6
4
3
2
  5 10 5 Yahweh ’îyš milxâmâh Yahweh šimôw
4. markabôt parvôh waxêylôw
yârâh beyâm
mibxar šâlišâyw
tubbavû beyam-çup
2/3
2
2
2
5/8
4
5
6
2/3
2
2
3
  5
4
12
11
5
5
markabôt parvôh waxêylôw yârâh beyâm
mibxar šâlišâyw tubbavû beyam-çup
5. tihômôt yakaçîyumû belib-yâm
yâradû bemecôwlôt kemôw-’âbn
3
3
11
10
4
4
  3
3
11
10
4
4
tihômôt yakaçîyumû belib-yâm
yâradû bemecôwlôt kemôw-’âbn
6. yaminkâ YHVH
ne’dârîy bex
yaminkâ YHVH
tirvac ’ôwyêb
2
2
2
2
5
5
5
4
2
2
2
2
  4
4
10
9
4
4
yaminkâ YHVH ne’dârîy bex
yaminkâ YHVH tirvac ’ôwyêb
7. berôb ga’ônkâ
taharôç qâmeykâ
tešallax xarônakâ
yô’kilêmôw keqash
2
2
2
2
5
5
6
6
2
2
2
2
  4
4
11
12
4
4
berôb ga’ônkâ taharôç qâmeykâ
tešallax xarônakâ yô’kilêmôw keqash
8. bex ’appeykâ
nevaremû mêm
niccabû kemôw-nêd nôzilîym
qâpa’û tihômôt belib-yâm
2
2
3
3
5
4
9
9
2
2
4
4
  4
3
3
9
9
9
4
4
4
bex ’appeykâ nevaremû mêm
niccabû kemôw-nêd nôzilîym
qâpa’û tihômôt belib-yâm
9. ’âmar ’ôyeb
’erdôp ’assîyg
axallêq šâlâl
timlâ’êm napšîy
’ârîyq xarbîy
tôrîyšêm yâdîy
2
2
2
2
2
2
4
4
5
5
4
5
2
2
2
2
2
2
  4
4
4
8
10
9
4
4
4
’âmar ’ôyeb ’erdôp ’assîyg
axallêq šâlâl timlâ’êm napšîy
’ârîyq xarbîy tôrîyšêm yâdîy
10. nâšaptâ bex
kiççâmôw yâm
câlalû kevôpert
bemêm ’addîyrîym
2
2
2
2
6
4
6
5
2
2
2
2
  4
4
10
11
4
4
nâšaptâ bexkâ kiççâmôw yâm
câlalû kevôpert bemêm ’addîyrîym
11. mîy kâmôkâh
be’êlim YHVH
mîy kâmôkâh
ne’dâr beqôdš
nôwrâ’ tehillôt
vôsêh pel’
2
2
2
2
2
2
4
5
4
4
5
4
2
2
2
2
2
2
  3
3
3
9
8
9
4
4
4
mîy-kâmôkâh be’êlim YHVH
mîy-kâmôkâh ne’dâr beqôdš
nôwrâ’ tehillôt vôsêh-pel’
12. tîytâ yaminkâ
tiblâvêmôw ’arc
2
2
6
5
2
2
  4 11 4 tîytâ yaminkâ tiblâvêmôw ’arc
13. xitâ bexaçdikâ
vam-zû gâ’altâ
nêhaltâ bevâzzikâ
vel-nawêh qâdšekâ
2
2
2
2
7
6
8
6
2
3
2
3
  4
4
13
14
5
5
xitâ bexaçdikâ vam-zû gâ’altâ
nêhaltâ bevâzzikâ vel-nawêh qâdšekâ
14. shâmavû vammîym yirgâzûn
xîyl ’âxaz yôšibêy palâšt
3
4
8
8
3
4
  3
4
8
8
3
4
shâmavû vammîym yirgâzûn
xil ’âxaz yôšibêy palâšt
15. ’âz nibha
’allûpêy ’edôm
’êylêy môw’âb
yo’xazêmû ravd
nâmôgû kullam
yôšibêy kevn
2
2
2
2
2
2
4
5
4
5
5
5
2
2
2
2
2
2
  4
4
4
9
9
9
4
4
4
’âz nibhalû ’allûpêy ’edôm
’êylêy môw’âb yo’xazêmû ravd
nâmôgû kôl yôšibêy kevn
16. tippôl valêhem
’êymâtâh wâpaxdâh
begadôl zerôwv
yiddammû ke’âbn
vad-yavbôr vammekâ YHVH
vad-yavbôr vam-zû qânîytâ
2
2
2
2
3
3
5
6
6
5
8
8
2
2
2
2
4
5
  4
4
3
3
11
11
8
8
4
4
4
5
tippôl valêhem ’êymâtâh wâpaxdâh
begadôl zerôwvkâ yiddammû ke’âbn
vad-yavbôr vammekâ YHVH
vad-yavbôr vam-zû qânîytâ
17. tabi’êmôw tittâvêmôw
behar naxlâte
mâkôn lešibte
valtâ YHVH
miqdâš YHVH
kôninû yâdeykâ
2
2
2
2
2
2
8
6
6
5
4
6
2
2
2
2
2
2
  3
3
4
4
10
10
11
10
4
3
4
4
tabi’êmôw ’el-gebûl qôdše
tittâvêmôw behar naxlâte
mâkôn lešibtekâ pâvaltâ YHVH
miqdâš YHVH kôninû yâdeykâ
18. YHVH yimlôkâ
levôlâm wâved
2
2
5
5
2
2
  4 10 4 YHVH yimlôkâ levôlâm wâved
19. kîy bâ’ çûç parvôh berikbôw
bepâršâyw yâm
yâšab YHVH valêhem
’eth-mêy yâm
benêy yisrâ’êl hâlkôw
beyabšâh betôk-yâm
5
2
3
2
3
2
8
4
7
3
7
6
5
2
3
3
3
3
  7
5
5
13
10
13
7
6
6
kîy bâ’ çûç parvôh berikbôw bepâršâyw beyâm
yâšab YHVH valêhem ’eth-mêy yâm
benêy yisrâ’êl hâlkôw beyabšâh betôk-yâm
20. wattiqqach miryâm hannebîy’âh
’axôwth ’aharôn
’eth-hattôp beyâddâh
wattêce’n kol-hannâšîym ’axreyhâ
betuppîym ûbimxôlôt
3/2
2
2
3/3
2
9/5
5
6
10/8
7
3/2
2
3
4/3
2
  3
4
3
2
9
11
10
7
3
4
4
2
wattiqqach miryâm hannebîy’âh
’axôwth ’aharôn ’eth-hattôp beyâddâh
wattêce’n kol-hannâšîym ’axreyhâ
betupîym ûbimxôlôt
21. wattavan lâhem miryâm
šîyrû laYHVH
kîy-gâ’ôh gâ’âh
çûç warôkibôw
râmâh beyam
3
2
2
2
2
7
5
5
5
4
3
2
3
2
2
  3
4
4
7
10
9
3
5
4
wattavan lâhem miryâm
šîyrû laYHVH kîy-gâ’ôh gâ’âh
çûç warôkibôw râmâh beyam

Note for verse 17. The justification for including the additional phrase rests not solely on metrical counts, but also on the closely parallel phrasing used in Psalm 78:54, which also links the idea of Yahweh bringing his people (the same root verb is used) to his special mountain. An alternative variation is shown in the "Canaanite" reconstruction, where the two verbs are placed in the first phrase of the couplet, and the description of the mountain in the second. This structure is less appealing than that of having a verb followed by nominal phrase in each part.

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