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Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 26/1 (2000), pp.

47-73
47
Raymond de Hoop (Groningen, The Netherlands)
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE
AND THE MASORETIC ACCENTS:
EVALUATION OF A RECENT APPROACH (PART 1)
1
ABSTRACT
In this paper the recent use of the Masoretic accentuation as a means to
establish the colometry in Hebrew verse is evaluated. A comparison of
different studies referring to these accents demonstrates that such a
reference is made in a rather ad hoc fashion, whereas the accents are not
always interpreted in a consistent manner. For that reason in this paper
an attempt is made to give a systematic description of the Masoretic
accentuation with regard to its use for the colometry of Hebrew verse. In
the present part (Part I) the poetic accents were studied and it has been
shown that (1) the accents function according to a system which might
also provide a guideline for the colometry of the text; (2) the colometry of
texts from the "poetic books" in studies referring to the Masoretic
accentuation agrees to a large extent with these findings; whereas it was
demonstrated that the colometry of diverging passages (e.g. Pss 68 and
110) also could be read according to the Masoretic accentuation; (3)
reference to "a major disjunctive accent" is not sufficient, the value of an
accent depends on its position within the complete syntax of Masoretic
accents. Part II will deal with the use of the system of accentuation in the
so-called "prose books" (or Twenty-one Books).

1 The present paper is a revised and updated version of De Hoop 1993, of which
parts were read at a meeting of the staff of the Semitic Institute at the
Theological University Kampen, August 1993. My colleague, Dr. Paul
Sanders (Zwolle), discussed several topics of this paper with me and shared
with me his insights into these matters. I wish to thank him and Professor Dr.
W.T. Woldemar Cloete (University of the Western Cape, Bellville), who both
very kindly read the final draft of this paper and suggested several important
improvements. Thanks are also due to Dr. Leslie McFall (Cambridge), who
kindly corrected the English of this paper. Needless to say I alone am
responsible for the views expressed in this paper.
RAYMOND DE HOOP 48
1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 General
One of the problematic aspects of the study of Hebrew verse is the correct
delimitation of cola in a poem and scholars sometimes differ sharply on
the colometry of a verse (Korpel & De Moor 1988:6; Cloete 1989a:11-
17; 1989b:17-19; Niccacci 1997). In his study of Joshua 24 Koopmans
utilised the Masoretic accentuation in his discussion on the delimitation
of cola in Hebrew verse (1990:177-178). The purpose of the present
paper is to evaluate the use of the Masoretic accents in recent studies
following Koopmans's suggestion.
Koopmans defended the poetic structure of Joshua 24 with the so
called "Kampen method", a method for the analysis of Semitic verse,
developed by Van der Lugt (1978) and De Moor (1978a; 1978b; 1980;
1984; 1986; see also Korpel & De Moor 1988). Koopmans added
explicitly in his argumentation an element that had not been used before,
namely Masoretic accentuation (1990:177-178). In the colometric text he
included a codification of the disjunctive accents which stand at the end
of cola as divided by him. Though he was certainly not the first to look at
the Masoretic accents for this purpose,
2
as far as we are aware, he was the
first to include them in the discussion of the colometry. To indicate the
relative weight of an accent, he adopted a system whereby the accent is
represented by a number corresponding to the order of the accents as
found in the tabula accentuum of BHS. Josh 24:2, for example, is written
as follows (Koopmans 1990:181 [accents in square script added, RdH]):
And Joshua said to all the people, (2aA)
[7] :. ::: .: :
"Thus says Yahweh, God of Israel, (2aB)
[3] : : : ::
Across the river your fathers lived of old,
(2bA)
[5] :: .: :::: :: : :.:
Terah, father of Abraham and of Nahor, (2bB)
[2] : : :: : :
but they served other gods." (2bC)
[1] : :: :.
Koopmans (1990:178) stated that the representation of the accents was
not intended to suggest that the Masoretic accentuation was the key to
colometric division, but only one consideration amongst others, such as

2 Cf., for example, LaSor 1979; Van der Lugt 1978:102-117; Van der Meer &
De Moor 1988:vii, sub 3; Korpel & De Moor 1988:6; Christensen 1987a;
1987b; 1988; 1989. See also Cloete 1989a:61-66, for the studies by
Kurylowicz and Cooper.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 49
internal parallelism. Yet his system was immediately adopted by other
scholars applying the "Kampen method" (e.g. Kim 1993; Korpel 1993;
De Moor 1993; Roersma 1993; Spronk 1995).
3
Considering the results of the first analyses which adopted this
system, De Moor (1993:192) wrote that as a rule the major Masoretic
accents were employed.
4
Furthermore it was found "that within a verse-
line the order of magnitude of accents is always increasing." Within the
sequence of accents at the end of the cola "a distinctive accent of a lower
magnitude than the preceding one usually indicates that a new verse-line
is starting at that point." This rule can be found in Joshua 24:2 as quoted
above, where the order of accents is revia [7], segolta [3] // zaqeph qatan
[5], atnach [2], silluq [1]. As a consequence, the system not only
functions as an indication for the colometry of the passage, but also gives
an indication with regard to the end of a poetic verse.
5
The advantage of the system introduced by Koopmans is that the
delimitation of the cola is no longer a matter of a scholar's personal
preference. Colometry has to be based on the discussion of tradition,
comparable to the use of the vocalisation of the text. The delimitation of
cola can be argued on the basis of comparison of other analyses in which
the accents were used (De Hoop 1993; 1995:272-273; 1999:92-93; cf.
also below), or compared with other traditions (Sanders 1996:102-132;
De Moor 1997b; Korpel & De Moor 1998:1-9 and passim). These
comparisons demonstrate that the Masoretic accentuation is closely
related to ancient colometric divisions and gives an extra dimension to the

3 Cf. also other scholars such as Price 1990:145-147; 288-289; Christensen
1993:17-30; Tsumura 1993:293-304; Ryou 1995:180, 184-187.
4 A definition of what the larger accents are is lacking in the earlier studies.
Often one had to derive from the analysis what an author had in mind in using
this terminology. Cf., for example, De Moor 1993:192, who refers to the
"larger Masoretic accents" which are followed with regard to the delimitation
of the cola and verses. Consequently it appears that we have to consider tifcha,
pashta and geresh also as "larger accents", because these accents are
frequently found at the end of cola (De Moor 1993:185-191). Cf., however,
also n. 12, below. It should, however, be noted that in later studies a definition
can be found; cf. De Moor 1997b:328; Korpel & De Moor 1998:10-11.
5 A unit consisting of one or more cola, hence a mono-, bi-, or tricolon (Korpel
& De Moor 1988:14-29). Usually the term "verse" or "verse-line" is used, but
"poetic verse" seems more appropriate; cf. Sanders 1996:101. The conclusion
with regard to the function of accents indicating the end of a poetic verse was
also reached in Sanders 1996:257; Korpel & De Moor 1998:12.
RAYMOND DE HOOP 50
discussion of Hebrew colometry.
6
Yet the use of this system does not
imply for any of the scholars who adopted it, that the Masoretic
accentuation should be followed blindly (cf. e.g. Kim 1993:124; Sanders
1996:112), because the accentuation also reflects the Masoretic
interpretation (cf. Cohen 1972; Freedman & Cohen 1974; Tov
1993:6771). For that reason one frequently finds deviations from the
accents indicated by means of exclamation or question marks between
brackets.
1.2 Definition of the Problem
Nevertheless, despite the reservations expressed by the "Kampen"
scholars, others have expressed their doubts about the validity of
Masoretic accentuation (Cloete 1989a:62; Edelman 1993:309; Hffken
1997:250). Undoubtedly their reservations are inspired by the general
tendency to disregard the Masoretic interpretation of the text as
represented in the Masoretic accentuation. The importance of the accents
is reduced to giving information about the stress and the cantillation of
the text. The value of the syntactic interpretation in the sense of
punctuation, which might indicate the end of a colon, is ignored or denied
(cf. Cloete 1989a:61-62), whereas the fact that "certain accents coincide
very often with colon boundaries" is regarded as more or less accidental
(Cloete 1989a:3, 62)
7
. The objective of this paper is to study which
accents "often coincide", how often they do and in what context (of
accents). This objective could be significant in view of the results of the
study of Sanders, who concluded with regard to the colometry: "In
virtually all cases the presupposition that the accentuation of the Tiberian
Masoretes ... suggests a colometric division ... found clear confirmation"
(Sanders 1996:257; see also 104-105; 256-257).
8

6 This is in contrast to those scholars who emphasise the fact that the Masoretic
accentuation is much younger than the poem and thus unreliable as a guideline
for the colometry of Hebrew verse (Cloete 1989a:3; Hffken 1997:250). The
correspondence between the Masoretic accents and other ancient divisions of
the text are demonstrated in Revell 1971-72; 1976; Tov 1990:9-12; Sanders
1996:110-111, 119-120 (on the basis of Revell 1980; 1981 [see in addition,
recently Churchyard 1999]); De Moor 1997b.
7 Cloete's remarks on the Masoretic accentuation are not made in reaction to the
studies by the "Kampen School". His remarks represent more or less general
scholarly opinion on the system of accentuation.
8 This objective is not just promising in view of the results of studies from
"Kampen" scholars, but also in view of studies by others, who expressed their
reservations regarding the Masoretic accentuation, such as Cloete 1989a.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 51
On the other hand, the doubts raised by Hffken and others might also be
due to some weakness in the analyses of the "Kampen School" and the
somewhat unclear value to be given to the Masoretic accents. First of all,
the accents that mostly mark the end of a colon are the main accents:
silluq, atnach, segolta, zaqeph qatan and revia. Yet these accents are
sometimes found at the beginning of a colon, for example in Isa 40:16
(De Moor 1993:188; Korpel & De Moor 1998:31-32):
9
And the Lebanon will not suffice for fuel, (16aA)
. : : ::
and its beasts will not suffice for a burnt offering. (16aB)
: . :
Whereas the colometry proposed by De Moor is straightforward, the
position of at least the zaqeph qatan on : in verse 16aB will raise
doubts concerning the validity of the Masoretic accentuation, as indicated
by the question mark in De Moor's analysis (1993:188).
However, the matter is even more complicated. Whereas it might
appear that there is a certain consensus regarding the main accents
marking off the cola, one frequently encounters a different interpretation
of their value. Judg 13:3b,
10
for instance, was analysed by Kim
(1993:175):
11

Reed, reviewing Cloete 1989a, wrote of "Cloete's colographic arrangement",
saying: "The ends of the cola often correspond with the Masoretic disjunctive
accents, suggesting either than (sic, for 'that') the author has relied too heavily
on the Masoretes or more likely that the Masoretes deserve more credit for
their work" (Reed 1991:351).
9 Cf. for similar cases also Gen 49:1B, 7C, 8aA, 13aA, 22 (De Hoop 1999:86
[not listed on p. 93], 113, 145, 150, 221); Lev 26:14, 20aC, 25aB (Korpel
1993:126-127); Deut 32:17, 20, 27 (Sanders 1996:104-105, 114-115); Judg
13:3aA; 14:2; 15:18bC; 16:1aB, 14cB (Kim 1993:175, 227, 294, 301, 338); 1
Kgs 2:4cA (Koopmans 1991:434; De Hoop 1995:273), 7bB (Koopmans
1991:435) Nah 1:10aC; 3:13bA (Spronk 1995:170, 176). In several cases these
references concern the revia. Discussion of the remarkable position of these
major disjunctive accents is found in De Hoop 1993:24-27; Sanders 1996:114-
115; followed by Korpel & De Moor 1998:31-32.
10 Texts, such as Judg 13:3, which are generally considered to be prose are
sometimes defined as "narrative poetry" in studies by "Kampen" scholars (for
example, De Moor 1984; 1986; Koopmans 1988; 1990; 1991; De Hoop 1988;
1995; 1999; Kim 1993; Korpel 1988; 1993; Roersma 1993). It is not within
the range of this study to start a discussion on the distinction between verse
and prose. In this paper we will accept the definition of a text as verse, when it
was defined as such in the studies by "Kampen" scholars (or others). On the
problems of the distinction between prose and verse, see Cloete 1988;
RAYMOND DE HOOP 52
Behold, you are barren, (3bA)
;.: ::
And have not given birth, (3bB)
: :
but you will conceive, (3bC)
:
And give birth to a son. (3bD)
: ::
Because only the disjunctive accents at the end are included in the text,
differences in analysis may go unnoticed. However, if all the disjunctive
accents are represented, discrepancies come to light very soon.
Comparable to the foregoing example is Gen 16:11aB, but the colometry
of the text is presented as follows (Roersma 1993:221 [accents added,
RdH]):
And the angel of YHWH said to her, (11aA)
:: : :
"Behold, you have conceived and shall bear a son." (11aB)
: :: :
These examples demonstrate that in one case the pashta and the tifcha are
regarded as indicating the end of a colon and in another, almost identical
case they are not. However, such methodological inconsistency escapes
notice as long as the accents at the end of the cola are listed exclusively,
whereas the accents that are ignored are left out.
12
Inconsistencies are not
solely found between different studies but even in one strophe, for
instance, Josh 24:13 (Koopmans 1990:184, 205-206 [accents added,
RdH]):
And I gave to you (13aA)
:: : :
a land which you did not work in (13aB)
: :..: :
And cities which you did not build, (13bA)
:: ::: : :.
and you dwell in them (13bB)
: : : ::
vineyards and olive groves (13cA)
:: :::

1989a:3-4; 1991; Koopmans 1990:165-176; De Moor & Watson 1993; Watson
1993:380-381 (1994:27); Niccacci 1997; Kuntz 1999:44-47.
11 Cf. also Judg 13:5a, 7a, 24a (Kim 1993:175, 187, 211).
12 References to the pashta, for instance, are sometimes clearly contradictory.
Korpel (e.g. 1996a:45-46) clearly considers pashta to indicate the end of a
colon (Isa 55:10aA [cf. 1996a:45, n. 11]; 1laA). On the other hand, De Moor
(1997b:330) considers it "unacceptable" to find a pashta at the end of a colon
(with regard to Isa 61:1laA). Cf., however, Exod 19:3bA, 5bA (De Moor
1997a:259); Isa 40:2aA, 9aA, etc. (De Moor 1993:185-186, 192-193; Korpel
& De Moor 1998:23, 27).
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 53
Which you did not plant, (13cB)
:: .::: :
From them you are eating. (13cC)
:: : ::
If cola 13aB and 13bA, on the one hand, are compared with cola 13cA
and 13cB, on the other hand, it is not clear why identical syntactic
constructions (i.e. with identical Masoretic accents) are written
colometrically in different ways. In our view such a different delimitation
is unlikely and for that reason a more systematic approach toward
colometric methodology and Masoretic accentuation is called for.
In more recent studies the information concerning the accents in
general still remains restricted to those at the end of a colon (De Hoop
1995; Spronk 1995; Korpel 1996a; 1996b; 1996c; De Moor 1997b),
thereby concealing on occasions a dubious use of the Masoretic
accentuation. Spronk (1995:178-179), for instance, stated that his
colometry of Nah 2:9, 11 was "indicated by" and "according to the
Masoretes". Yet in his colometry of Nah 2:9, 11, he ended several cola
after the tifcha, but he arbitrarily ignored the same accent elsewhere most
of the time (cf. e.g. Nah 2:10a with 10bB, 11aAB with 11bC) without
even listing these occasions.
Similarly, De Moor stated in his presentation of the colometry of Isa
61:10-62:9 that Codex Leningradensis (henceforth CL) represents Isa
61:1lb as follows (De Moor 1997b:326, 330):
13
So the Lord YHWH will make sprout
righteousness and praise
: : ;. :. : :
Before all the nations.
: .:: .:
In 1QIs
a
the text is written:
So YHWH Elohim will make sprout righteousness
;. :. :: :
and praise before all nations.
:. :: .: ::
Presented in that way it might appear that 1QIs
a
has a better colometry
than CL. However, the text of Isa 61:Ilb in CL contains several other
disjunctive accents, which were not listed by De Moor. According to
these accents the colometry would be written differently:

13 We assume De Moor refers to the Masoretic accentuation as presented in the
CL, because the text is not written colometrically in the codex.
RAYMOND DE HOOP 54
So the Lord YHWH
14
: :
(He) will make sprout righteousness and praise
: : ;. :.
before all the nations.
: .:: .:
So, even if one would prefer the colometry found in 1QIs
a
which is not
under discussion here De Moor's presentation should have provided all
the evidence available in order not to obscure the discussion. In the most
recent studies by "Kampen scholars" the complete evidence is provided
(Sanders 1996; Korpel & De Moor 1998; De Hoop 1999), which is an
important development in the discussion on the use of Masoretic
accents.
15
In conclusion it can be objected that the Masoretic accentuation is
applied to the text in these studies in a rather ad hoc fashion. First of all,
Kampen scholars do not offer an explanation or a discussion of the
system of accentuation in case the Masoretic accentuation gives rise to
problems concerning its own validity. Secondly, the representation of the
disjunctive accents in the analysed texts is generally incomplete, which
gives a misguided impression of the evidence under discussion. Thirdly,
it appears that the accents are not interpreted in a consistent manner. In
some cases certain accents are ignored, whereas in other cases they are
referred to as evidence for the proposed colometry, an apparent
inconsistency that not only occurs between different scholars, but also in
one and the same study. Because the examples given above could easily
be multiplied, it appears that we are dealing with a lack of a sound
methodology. Therefore, a new start is called for in which the reference
to the Masoretic accentuation is tied to a more systematic approach than
the one which has been offered to date.

14 Note that in other cases the revia where it is preceded by the geresh is
regarded as indicating the end of a colon too: Isa 61:10aA; 62:4aA, 6aA (De
Moor 1997b:328, 329-332). For a comparable colometry, cf. e.g. Isa
55:12bAB (Korpel 1996a:46).
15 In Korpel & De Moor 1998 all accents are presented in the colometric written
text; however, they refer in the discussion solely to the accent at the end of the
colon. In Sanders 1996 and De Hoop 1999 all disjunctive accents are listed in
the discussion. Both presentations have their own advantage, though a
combination of both would probably be the best: the value of each disjunctive
accent except for silluq is dependent on the possible presence of the
preceding and following disjunctive accents; cf. n. 28 below.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 55
1.3 The Present Study
In this paper we will make an attempt to give a systematic description of
the Masoretic accentuation with regard to its use for the colometry of
Hebrew verse. In order to reach that goal, we will first discuss briefly
previous studies on the Masoretic accentuation which described the
system of accentuation and rules underlying this system. Then we will
discuss the Masoretic accentuation in a twofold manner: we will start
with the "poetic accents" in Psalms, Job and Proverbs; and then, in Part II
we will discuss the system in the "prose books" ("Twenty-One Books").
16
In order to avoid subjectivity as much as possible, we will give a
description of the Masoretic accentuation system in combination with
texts in which the colometry is indisputable. In the first section on the
poetic accents several acrostics can be explored because in general, the
text itself gives an indication of the delimitation of the different poetic
units (colon, poetic verse, etc.) in the text (LaSor 1979:331-333). In this
respect we will consider Pss 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145; Prov 31:10-
31; Pss 136 and 150 could be helpful too. In Part II colometrically written
texts in the Twenty-One Books will be considered, namely Deut 32; 2
Sam 22; 23:24; also the acrostics in Lam 3-4;
17
while Lam 5 might be
included too. On the other hand, texts like Exod 15; Judg 5 are to be
excluded.
18
After having given an overview of the accentuation in these

16 On the two different systems, cf. Wickes 1881; 1887; Yeivin 1980:157-158
(and passim). According to Cohen (1969:5) the understanding of the prose
system will greatly facilitate the study of the poetic system. In our view this
statement is capable of being reversed: because our interest is mainly focused
on poetic texts, it is appropriate to start with the poetic books.
17 Lam 1 and 2 are not listed here. Both chapters form an acrostic, yet their
colometry is not indisputable. On this matter, cf. the discussion in Part II, and
furthermore De Hoop (forthcoming). In addition to these two chapters, Pss 9
10, Cant 4:9-11 (cf. Watson 1984:199) and Nah 1:2-7 (Spronk 1995; 1997:22-
26; 1998) could be included as acrostics. However, the acrostic form does not
offer an unmistakable colometry and for that reason these texts are excluded
from this discussion.
18 Spronk (1995:168 n. 37) suggested that on the basis of, among others, the
colometrically written poem of Exod 15, it has been established that the
disjunctive accents of the Masoretes can be trusted in about 90% of the cases.
However, with regard to the traditional colography of Exod 15 in the codices
he errs, because the text is written in a "small brick over large brick" layout
(cf. Snaith 1962:108-109). In this layout even the major disjunctive accents
like atnach and zaqeph qatan are disregarded. So the traditional colography of
this text is not in line with the Masoretic accentuation. With regard to Exod
15, cf. also Sanders 1996:131, n. 132. Spronk (1995:168, as well as Korpel &
RAYMOND DE HOOP 56
texts we will give in both sections ("poetic" and "prose") a similar outline
of the accentuation in studies presented by the "Kampen School". The
results will be combined later in order to establish whether there is any
correspondence between the two sets of results. Finally we will test the
outlined system in several ways in order to discover if the system has any
merit. On the basis of these results we will try to give an outline of the
system of the Masoretic accentuation with regard to the colometry of
Hebrew verse.
2. PREVIOUS STUDIES ON THE MASORETIC ACCENTUATION
19
In the earlier studies of the "Kampen School" the previous studies on the
Masoretic accentual system (such as, for example, Wickes 1881; 1887;
Cohen 1969; Yeivin 1980) are generally ignored. However, the increasing
importance of the Masoretic accents for the colometry (and the
termination of poetic verses) of a poem within the "Kampen School"
(compare Korpel & De Moor 1998: passim) makes a change in this
situation desirable. Recent studies (De Hoop 1993; Sanders 1996) have
demonstrated that earlier literature sometimes dealt with the system of
Masoretic accentuation in a way that helped for a better understanding of
accentuation with regard to the colometry. For that reason a short
overview of the system of accentuation as presented in earlier studies is
given here.
The two treatises on the Masoretic accentuation by Wickes (1881;
1887) are pivotal and have set the standard for a systematic description of
the use of Masoretic accents (Cohen 1969:10; Dotan 1970:xvi-xviii;
Yeivin 1980:162-163; Price 1990:5-6). The results of his work, with
some modifications, have been presented by Yeivin (1980:165-218, 264-
274), who added some additional material of his own on the interpretative
value of the accents. Wickes (1881:24-53; 1887:29-60) explained the
system underlying the placing of the accents on the basis of the
dichotomy of the Masoretic verse. Yet his explanation cannot be used in
every instance (Yeivin 1980:172; cf. esp. Price 1990:36-47), while later

De Moor 1998:3 (who mention 85%) neglect to give a scholarly presentation
of the evidence that these calculations were based on. However, as will be
demonstrated in the present paper, the number of cases where the accents can
be trusted is considerably higher than they suggest.
19 It is not within the range of this study to give a comprehensive overview of
previous research on the Masoretic accents. The reader is referred to the
overview offered by Dotan 1970:viii-xviii; Yeivin 1980:160-163; Price
1990:5-9.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 57
modifications have to be taken into account (Cohen 1969:30-35). A rather
short, but very instructive, description has been offered by Revell (1992),
who combined the new insights with previous studies. The following
description is largely based on Revell's work (Revell 1992:595, col. 11).
The accentuation can be described as marking "terminal" accent
clauses, ending with silluq or atnach, and "medial" accent clauses, ending
with zaqeph qatan or segolta. The shortest Masoretic verses contain only
one terminal clause, e.g. Exod. 15:18:
20
YHWH will reign for ever and ever. (18)
. ::.: : :
A few Masoretic verses consist of one medial and one terminal clause,
such as Exod 15:12:
21
You stretched out your right hand, (12A)
:: : : :
the earth swallowed them. (12B)
:. :::
But usually, when a Masoretic verse consists of more than one clause
ending with an accent, it contains according to Revell two terminal
clauses, as in Exod 15:3:
22
YHWH is a warrior, (3A)
: :: :
YHWH is his name. (3B)
: :
However, in our view the clause ending with atnach should not be
considered a terminal clause, but medial. It immediately precedes a
terminal clause and for that reason it should be regarded as a medial
clause.
23
In the following passage the clause marked by atnach can be

20 Yeivin 1980:178; Revell 1992:595, col. II. For the colometry, see Snaith
1962:109; Giese 1991:10; 1994:37; a different colometry is found in
Freedman 1980:197. Similar accentual patterns are found in Gen 1:13; Lam
3:16.
21 Yeivin 1980:178; Revell 1992:595, col. II. Colometry according to Giese
1991:9; 1994:37; Freedman 1980:196 (contrast Snaith 1962:109). Cf. Gen
23:12; Qoh 4:5; Lam 5:19, 21.
22 Yeivin 1980:178; Revell 1992:595, col. II; Giese 1991:8; 1994:37; Freedman
1980:195 (contrast Snaith 1962:108). Cf. also Exod 15:5, 13; Gen 2:4; 1 Sam
2:6; 2 Sam 22:27.
23 The value of the Masoretic accents is relative and not absolute (Yeivin
1980:169; see also p. 59, with n. 28, below), so in this case too the value of
atnach is relative and not the same as that of silluq. In our view this is the best
RAYMOND DE HOOP 58
regarded as "terminal". These clauses (or one of them), are mostly
preceded by medial clauses, for instance Exod 15:2:
24
YH is my strength and my song, (2aA)
: : .
and he is my salvation; (2aB)
. :: :
This is my God, and I will praise him, (2bA)
: :
my father's God, and I will exalt him. (2bB)
:: : : :
Finally, according to Revell (1992:595), "no verse contains more than
two terminal clauses, but either [clause] may be preceded by several
medial clauses." Where more than one medial clause is used before
atnach, the first may be marked by segolta. However, in case segolta
marks the end of a colon, it is questionable whether we are dealing with a
medial clause. In such a case it is possible that segolta marks a (third)
terminal clause, which is preceded itself by a medial clause as, for
instance, in 1 Kgs 2:4 (accents added, RdH):
25
So that YHWH may establish his word (4aA)
:: :; .::
which he spoke to me saying: (4aB)
:: :. : :
'If your sons observe their way, (4bA)
:: : : : :::
to walk before me in truth, (4bB)
:: : :c: ::::
with all their heart and all their soul', (4bC)
:: c:::: :: :::::
saying, 'there will not be cut off from you a man (4cA)
: : ::: : :
from upon the throne of Israel.' (4cB)
: : :: :. :
It may be obvious from the previous examples that the Masoretic
accentuation also gives an indication regarding the end of a poetic verse,
when indicating the terminal clause. However, as was observed above,
26
our prime interest in this paper is the colometry of Hebrew verse; the
delimitation of poetic verses is only secondary here.
As indicated in the texts cited above, the accent clauses are
subdivided by minor disjunctive accents (e.g. tifcha, pashta) according to

conclusion, given the fact that the value of the accents is relative, and
consequently the grades offered in Yeivin should be adjusted accordingly to
reflect this.
24 Revell 1992:585, col. II. Colometry according to Giese 1991:8; 1994:37;
Freedman 1980:195. See also Snaith 1962:108. Cf. also Exod 15:16; Gen 2:3;
etc.
25 Koopmans 1991:434, with some modifications in De Hoop 1995:273. Cf. also
Josh 24:2 in Koopmans 1990:181 (quoted above).
26 Cf. n. 5 above; see also Sanders 1996:256-257.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 59
the principle of dichotomy. Each clause is divided in two, and each of
these units may be divided in two again. Studies based on Wickes's
Treatise take it for granted that, if the major dichotomy by means of
atnach is absent, the position of atnach is taken either by zaqeph qatan or
by tifcha (Wickes 1887:61-65; Mitchell 1889:132-133; Yeivin 1980:178;
Price 1990:65-71). However, in his study of the Masoretic accents Cohen
has demonstrated that the major dichotomy in the verse is sometimes
lacking, and the subdivision is created by means of tifcha as, for example,
in Gen 46:23 (Cohen 1969:30-35):
27
And the son(s) of Dan: Hushim.
:: ::
The verse consists of only two stresses and it would seem rather unlikely
that this clause had to be split up. Consequently, the major dichotomy is
not supported by the Masoretic accentuation where a minor disjunctive
accent is used (Cohen 1969:33).
Sometimes the accents are classified in grades of disjunctive force
(generally four grades) on the basis of their use in marking the dichotomy
(cf. Yeivin 1980:168-169; Price 1990:27-31; Revell 1992:595, table
mas.01). However, to begin with, as was already argued by Wickes
(1887:14-15; Yeivin 1980:169) such a classification might be misleading
when followed as an absolute guideline, indicating the pausal value of an
accent. The pausal value of an accent is relative, not absolute:
28
a disjunctive of grade II is not classified by a longer pause than those of
grade III, but by the fact that their clause is normally divided by a
disjunctive of grade III. For this reason, in a short verse, the real
disjunctive value .... of a disjunctive of grade II might be less than that of
a disjunctive of grade IV in a long verse or in different circumstances
(Yeivin 1980:169).

27 Cf. also Gen 26:6 (three stresses); Num 26:11 (two stresses). Contrast,
however, Price 1990:65, with n. 4, who considers tifcha as carrying the main
syntactic division of the verse in certain cases.
28 The advantage of the present system in grades 1-4 over the more ancient
classification of "emperors, kings, dukes, counts" is that the former system
leaves the possibility open for a relative grading, whereas the latter clearly
classifies in the sense of "more" and "less" (Yeivin 1980:169). However, it
appears that the atnach has still a more or less absolute value, while its value
is dependent on silluq and on the presence or absence of other disjunctive
accents breaking the clauses between atnach and silluq (see n. 23, above).
RAYMOND DE HOOP 60
Next, these grades do not take into account the distinction made by Revell
between an accent which ends an "accent clause" and the minor
disjunctive accents
29
which subdivide these "accent clauses" (Wickes
1887:15; cf. also Mitchell 1889; 1891). An approach which does not
distinguish sufficiently between these two different types of accents will
easily err in its reference to the Masoretic accentuation. For that reason
we will now start with an overview of the use of the accents that mark
accent clauses in the acrostics of the Hebrew Bible. The results of this
overview will be compared with the analyses of texts by the "Kampen
School".
First, we will start with the three poetical books (Psalms, Job,
Proverbs), which give a good indication of the system of the Masoretic
accentuation. In Part II of this paper we will continue with texts from the
so-called Twenty-One Books ("prose books").
3. THE SYSTEM OF MASORETIC ACCENTUATION: "POETIC
ACCENTS "
3.1 Acrostics
The placement of the accents by the Masoretes reflects a regular pattern
in combining the diverse accents, even though a general description is
quite difficult to offer (Revell 1992:596). However, to start with the most
simple, verses are generally divided into two halves, of which the first
typically ends with atnach, and the second part ends with silluq, as in Ps
25:8
Good and upright is YHWH, (8a)
:::
therefore he instructs sinners in the way. (8b)
: :: ::.
In the acrostics of the poetical books these two parts are, in almost half of
the cases, not subdivided by a minor disjunctive accent (approximately
45%). In more than half of the cases the "atnach clause" is subdivided by
a dechi (56.5%) and in the "silluq clause" by a revia mugrash (53.4%), as
in Ps 25:10:
30

29 These minor disjunctive accents which only subdivide the accent clauses are
erroneously called "servi" in Korpel & De Moor 1998:10. Yet the term
"servus" is restricted to the conjunctive accents in the realm of a disjunctive
accent no matter whether a "heavy" or a "minor" disjunctive accent; cf.
Yeivin 1980:165.
30 On the "defective revia mugrash", cf. n. 32, below.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 61
All YHWH's paths are loyal and reliable, (10a)
:: : :::
for those who keep his covenant and charge. (10b)
:. : : .::
In a longer verse containing three parts the first part might end with a
revia gadol (30.7% without subdivision by any lesser disjunctive accent),
which in turn might be subdivided by mehuppak legarmeh or azla
legarmeh (in 69.3% of the cases) as Ps 25:5:
Lead me in your truth and teach me, (5A) : :: : :: ::
for you are the God of my salvation, (5B) . : : : :
for you I wait all the day long. (5C) : :: : ; :
Sometimes the first accent clause might end with 'oleh we-yored
(occurring only twice in the acrostics), and be subdivided by tsinnor (or
zarqa) or revia qatan, as Ps 37:40:
YHWH helps them and delivers them; (40aA)
:: :c :.
he delivers from the wicked and saves them, (40bA)
:. : :.:: :::c
because they take refuge in him. (40bB)
: ::
See also Ps 48:3:
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, (3aA)
:: ::: _ : c
Mount Zion, crest of Zaphon,
31
(3bA)
c . :: .
the city of the great King. (3BB)
: :: : ;
In our investigation of the use of Masoretic accents, we checked the
colometric division of CL, BHK, BHS and Van der Lugt (1980) with the
Masoretic accents which were placed at the end of each colon. As we
noted above, the advantage of this selection is that the colometry of these
poems is tied to the acrostic structure and the degree of subjectivity is
kept as low as possible. In this respect the intention of the Masoretes who
placed the accents can be traced, and it can be ascertained which accent
they used at the end of a colon and which they did not.
The result of our investigation agrees with the description given
above, which was based on previous research into the poetic accents. It
appears that in the acrostics only silluq, 'oleh we-yored, atnach, and revia

31 Cf. De Moor 1997a:62, with n. 296, 191.
RAYMOND DE HOOP 62
gadol were positioned at the end of a colon. The "minor disjunctive
accents" like azla legarmeh, mehuppak legarmeh, dechi, revia qatan,
tsinnor (or zarqa) and revia mugrash are never used as an accent marking
the end of a colon, but only to subdivide one.
32
3.2 Studies from the "Kampen School"
An analysis of the colometrically written texts in the studies from the
"Kampen School" shows some divergent results with regard to the
Masoretic accents. For our analysis we took every colometrically written
text in their studies into consideration; the analyses of complete texts or
chapters are listed first, followed by some smaller passages.
1. In Ps 46 the cola ended with a major disjunctive accent in 95.8% of
the cases; only once (4.2%) did a colon end with a minor disjunctive
accent (De Moor 1978b:216).
2. In Ps 68 the major disjunctive accents were found at the end of the
cola in 88.9% of the cases, and the minor disjunctive accents in
11.1% of the cola (De Moor 1990:118-122; 1997a: 172-176).
3. In Ps 70 we found the major disjunctive accents at the end in 81.3%
of the cases, and the minor accents in 18.7% of the cola (De Moor
1978b:206-207).
4. In Ps 77 the major disjunctive accents were found in 100% of the
cases at the end of a colon (Van der Meer 1994:110).
5. In Ps 78 major disjunctive accents are found at the end of the cola in
96.9% of the cases, and minor disjunctive accents were found at the
end of a colon in only 3.1 % of the cola (Korpel & De Moor
1988:54-60).
6. In Ps 83 the cola were ended in 100% of the cases with a major
disjunctive accent (De Moor 1978b:216).
7. In Ps 96 the cola had the major disjunctive accents at the end in
93.5% of the cases; in 6.5% of all cola a minor disjunctive accent
was found at the end (De Moor 1978b:207-208).
8. In Ps 98 we found the major disjunctive accents at the end in 90.5%
of the cases; 9.5% of the cola ended with a minor disjunctive accent
(De Moor 1978b:208).

32 The use of the revia mugrash might be somewhat confusing. The revia
mugrash is sometimes found at the position normally occupied by atnach but
in that case written defectively (without geresh). However, in that case its
function is comparable to revia gadol, whereas the accent is generally
preceded by dechi. Cf. Yeivin 1980:270; Price 1990:207-208; Revell
1992:596.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 63
9. In Ps 107 the cola had a major disjunctive accent at its end in 98.3%
of the cases, whereas only one colon (out of 59, i.e. 1.7%) had a
minor disjunctive accent (De Moor 1980:315).
10. In Ps 110 the cola ended with a major disjunctive accent in 77.3% of
the cases; the rest (i.e. 22.7%) ended with a minor accent (Van der
Meer 1988:211-215).
11. In Job 3-14 selected passages
33
and in Job 28 only the major
disjunctive accents (i.e. 100%) were found at the end of the cola
(Van der Lugt 1988a; 1988b:279-280). The analysis by the same
author of the whole book of Job (i.e. Job 3:3-42:6) agrees with this
result in that only in a very few cases does a minor disjunctive or
even a conjunctive accent end a colon (Van der Lugt 1995:476-477).
12. In some smaller units of texts in De Moor 1978a; 1978b; 1980 the
major disjunctive accents were found in 91.4% of the cases and the
rest were terminated by a minor disjunctive accent (8.6%).
34
In
Korpel & De Moor 1988,
35
Korpel 1990,
36
Sanders 1996,
37
De Hoop
1999
38
the major disjunctive accents were used in 100% of the cases
examined.

33 The following passages were written colometrically in Van der Lugt 1988a:3-
38: Job 3:11-12, 16, 20-21; 4:2-21; 5:8, 17; 6:2-13; 7:1-21; 9:13-24; 13:1-28;
14:4-6, 13-15.
34 The poetic texts that are found, are Pss 1:5-6; 18:2b-3, 25, 39; 31:6; 40:15;
57:8-9a; 59:5b-6a; 80:20; 108:2; 135:1; 140:13-14; 149:9. Passages from
Psalms which were also discussed in their entirety in these articles, are not
listed here.
35 The following passages are listed: Pss 3:8; 16:1 1; 33:16-17; 34:11; 63:6;
64:2-5; 74:22; 98:5-6; 103:1-5; 126:5-6; 145:15-16; 146:6.
36 We found the following passages: Pss 2:7; 58:10; 82:1; 89:6-8; 91:4; 131:2;
Job 16:9.
37 In this study we found the following passages: Pss 50:12-13; 73:16-19; 74:16-
17; 81:10, 14-17; 92:15-16; Job 38:7. His colography of Ps 106:36-38
(Sanders 1996:394) was not included in this calculation. The Masoretic
accentuation in verse 37 contains a clear example of Rabbinic exegesis,
because according to the accentuation the word ::: should be read as one
colon, therefore Sanders' colography (and that of BHS) should be followed
here. On the other hand, one could follow the Masoretic accents with regard to
the colometry of verse 38 and a change would not be required. If Ps 106:36-38
was included in the calculation, the result would have been that 95% of the
cola were marked by a major disjunctive accent, and consequently 5% by a
minor one.
38 The following passages are found: Pss 72:10; 76:12; Job 6:15. The final
passage was listed as a part of Job 6:15-20 in De Hoop 1997:19; here too the
major disjunctive accents were used to indicate the end of a colon.
RAYMOND DE HOOP 64
As a result of this evidence we may conclude that the analyses in these
studies correspond to a large extent with the pattern of accentuation found
in the acrostics, namely, major disjunctive accents are to be found at the
end of a colon, not the minor ones. Such a conclusion seems to suggest
that studies which do not confirm this pattern are based on a wrong
colometry of the poem. But this cannot be absolutely conclusive. The
only valid conclusion at this stage is that such studies are apparently not
in line with the Masoretic accentuation. In the next section we will
discuss two passages which were found not to be in line with the
Masoretic accentuation. Maybe a different colometry on the basis of the
Masoretic accents is possible and may provide a better colometry (or, at
least, one of equal quality) of the text.
3.3 Discussion
Pss 68 and 110 both had a clearly diverging pattern when compared with
the Masoretic accents in the acrostics. In Ps 68 it was seen that 11.1 % of
the cola terminated at a minor disjunctive accent; in Ps 110 it was 22.7%.
Using both Psalms, we will now discuss two verses in order to check
whether a colometry based on the Masoretic accentuation is possible. We
will start with Ps 110:1-2.
3.3.1 Psalm 110
Ps 110:1-2 is presented in the work of Van der Meer (1988:211-212, 215)
as a unicolon, a tricolon, followed by an uncertain bicolon and a
unicolon:
Word of YHWH to my lord: (1aA)
: : ::
"Sit at my right hand, (1bA)
: :: ::
till I make your foes (1bB)
: ::.
your footstool. (1bC)
: .: :
Your mighty sceptre, (2aA)
.::
YHWH stretches forth from Zion, (2aB)
.: ::
Rule in the midst of your foes!" (2bA)
: :;:
In our view the Masoretic accentuation might suggest a different reading.
First, the revia at the end of verse 1aA does not suggest that we are
dealing here with a unicolon, but just with the beginning of a new poetic
verse (cf. Van der Lugt 1995:477).
39
Furthermore, the introductory

39 Cf. Booij 1991:407, who seems to prefer this delimitation of the text.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 65
formula :: :: (v. 1aA) might be regarded as part of the same
poetic verse as the contents of the "word of YHWH", because sometimes
the formula constitutes part of the same colon (e.g. Isa 14:22b).
40
A
comparison with other introductory formulas demonstrates that a
distinction between introduction to direct speech and the direct speech
itself does not necessarily always result in separated units, neither in
Ugaritic verse (De Moor 1984:266-268) nor in Hebrew verse; see e.g. Ps
82:6 (cf. Korpel 1990:351):
41
I, I say, "You are gods, (6aA)
:: :: :: :
and sons of the Most High, all you." (6aB)
:: :: :. ::
A second example is from Ps 2:7 (Van der Lugt 1978:496):
I will tell of the decree (7A)
; : c:
YHWH said to me, "You are my son, (7B)
: :: : :
Today I have begotten you." (7C)
: : : :
These examples demonstrate that the introductory formulas can be
considered to be an integral part of the poem and do not necessarily have
to be separated from their contents (De Moor 1984:268).
Secondly, in verse 1b we are dealing with two parallel elements, not
three. Note the parallelism of the verbs :: and :: on the one hand, and
on the other hand the locative elements ::: and :.: :. So, the
Masoretic accentuation correctly suggests we read two parallel cola here.
Furthermore, the word .:: (verse 2A) has an emphatic position,
which is emphasised by revia. The use of this revia is comparable to the
use of the revia in the Twenty-One Books. Syntactically the word is part
of the following clause, and it appears that the accent is positioned here as
an emphatic or musical accent, not as a pause indicator (cf. Sanders
1996:115).
42
As a result verse 2 should be read as a bicolon, in which the
dominion of the ruler over his enemies is the subject (Booij 1991:397).
Finally it should be pointed out that the parallelism of imperatives :: and

40 Snaith 1962:1033 reads verse 1aA and 1bA as one colon.
41 Reference could also be made to Job 28:14 (Van der Lugt 1988b:280;
1995:309); Lam 3:18, 24, 54, 57 (Renkema 1998:332, 334).
42 Cf. also, for example, Pss 46:5; 83:5, 14 (De Moor 1978b:216); 81:14
(Sanders 1996:389); 98:9 (De Moor 1978b:207-208); 107:25 (De Moor
1980:315); 118:9 (De Moor 1978b:198); 140:13 (De Moor 1978a:139). Cf.
also Ps 76:12, where atnach has a comparable position (De Hoop 1999:132).
With regard to the prose system, cf. now also Korpel & De Moor 1998:31.
RAYMOND DE HOOP 66
, and the repetition of : "your foes" argue in favour of taking
these two verses together, reading them as one strophe. For that reason
we would suggest Ps 110:1-2 be read as follows (cf. Snaith 1962:1033):
Word of YHWH to my lord: (1aA)
: : ::
"Sit at my right hand, (1aB)
: :: ::
till I make your foes your footstool. (1aC)
: .: : : ::.
Your mighty sceptre, YHWH stretches forth from
Zion, (2aA)
.: :: .::
Rule in the midst of your foes." (2aB)
: :;:
3.3.2 Psalm 68
Ps 68:16-17 was written in a strophic layout by De Moor (1990:121;
1997a: 174-175) as follows:
Mountain of Elohim, (16aA)
::
Mount Bashan, (16aB)
: :
mountain of the hump-backed, (16bA)
:: ::.
Mount Bashan, (16bB)
: :
why do you lay in wait, (17aA)
.: ::
mountains of the hump-backed, (17aB)
:: : :. :
O mountain on which Elohim desired to stay, (17bA)
: ::: :: :
yes, (on which) YHWH wanted to dwell for ever? (17bB)
.: : :: _
The first strophe betrays a delimitation in which the so-called intra-colon
or half-line parallelism
43
was avoided. However, in Ps 68:9 we find the
following delimitation (De Moor 1990:120; 1997a: 173):
The earth quaked, also the heavens dripped, (9aA)
c:: :::_ :.
before Elohim, He-of-the-Sinai, (9aB)
: : : : :c:
before Elohim, the Elohim of Israel. (9aC)
: : : : : :c:
Note that in this case the Masoretic accentuation seems to suggest another
colometry, but in our view the reading suggested by De Moor should be
preferred (cf. also Carniti 1985:28; Fokkelman 1990:74; for a different
colometry: Snaith 1962:995). The strong parallelism of :: :c: (9aB,

43 To avoid confusion the latter term should be abandoned for this phenomenon
(Sanders 1996:115-116, with n. 65). On this phenomenon, cf. Watson
1994:104-191.
THE COLOMETRY OF HEBREW VERSE 67
9aC), and the very strong present intra-colon parallelism
44
argues in
favour of this colometry. This layout supports a different reading of verse
16, namely as a bicolon containing in both cola intra-colon parallelism
(cf. Watson 1994:155). The next bicolon in De Moor's layout (v. 17a)
should be read as one colon (cf. Fokkelman 1990:74) if we were to follow
the Masoretic accentuation. Together with the next bicolon (v. 17b) it
might form a tricolon, although the Masoretic accent at the end of verse
17a, 'oleh we-yored, has a larger pausal value than atnach (Yeivin
1980:267). With regard to this accent Van der Lugt found it frequently at
the end of the first colon in a tricolon (1995:476). Consequently verses
16-17 might be read as one strophe, in which ::::. of the first colon
of verse 17 clearly parallels the same expression in verse 16 (cf. inter alii
Snaith 1962:995; Fokkelman 1990:74, 77-81; Emerton 1993:25).
Mountain of Elohim, Mount Bashan, (16aA) : : ::
mountain of the hump-backed, Mount Bashan, (16bB) : : :: ::.
why do you lay in wait, mountains of the hump-
backed, (17aC)
:: : :. : .: ::
O mountain on which Elohim desired to stay, (17bA) : ::: :: :
yes, (on which) YHWH wanted to dwell for
ever? (17bB)
.: : :: _
3.4 Conclusion regarding the "Poetic Accents"
It appears that the Masoretic accentuation in the Three Books (Psalms,
Job, Proverbs) functions according to a system which might also provide
a guideline for the colometry of the text. It was found that the cola of the
acrostics were always ended by the major disjunctive accents: silluq, 'oleh
we-yored, atnach, revia gadol.
45
These cola may be subdivided by the
minor disjunctive accents, which had, however, no separating force in the
sense of indicating the end of a colon.
The colometry of texts from the "poetic books" in studies by the
"Kampen School" agrees to a large extent with the findings in the
acrostics. On the other hand, there were also analyses which showed a
divergence of 10-22% from the reading suggested by the accentuation.
Two passages (Pss 68 and 110) from these texts were discussed, and this
discussion demonstrated that it is possible to read the colometry of these
texts according to the Masoretic accentuation, offering in that way a
colometry which is able to compete with the "diverging" one.

44 According to Watson (1994:144-145) Ps 68 has a "high density of internal
parallelism".
45 Sometimes the defective revia mugrash, on this accent, cf. n. 32 above.
RAYMOND DE HOOP 68
It has also been shown that a reference to "a major disjunctive accent" is
not sufficient. Words which received an emphatic position in the colon
syntactically (especially at the beginning of a colon) can also be
emphasised by means of a Masoretic accent. In the poetical books
(Psalms, Job, Proverbs) we found revia gadol at this position,
corresponding to the position which revia sometimes has in the "prose"
books. So, it depends entirely on the position of such "a major Masoretic
accent" whether it should be seen as indicating the end of a colon or not.
46
In Part II of this paper we will deal with the use of the system of
accentuation in the so-called "prose books" (or Twenty-one Books).
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