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More on Metathetic Parallelism

Author(s): Wilfred G. E. Watson


Source: Die Welt des Orients, Bd. 19 (1988), pp. 40-44
Published by: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (GmbH & Co. KG)
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More

on Metathetic

Parallelism

By Wilfred G. E. Watson, Newcastle

upon Tyne

type of parallelism considered briefly here is "Metathetic Parallel


in several Hebrew
ism", first identified by N. Bronznick
texts.1) It is a
form of synonymous parallelism where the corresponding objects and
predicates are transposed. For example, in Ps.35,7
The

ky "For
secretly they hid a pit for me,
their net they secretly dug for
my person"

hnm tmnw ly sht


rstm hnm hprw Inpsy

it is evident that the terms sahat, "pit", and reset, "net" only make sense
if they are interchanged (nets are not dug; cf. v. 8 "let the net which they
hid ensnare them"). The switch is not actually effected but the sentence is
read as if ithad been and only then does the couplet become intelligible.
This type of implied transposition within a line or couplet Bronznick
The present note provides fur
parallelism.2)
aptly named metathetic
ther confirmation for his proposal.
We can begin with a simple from of such implied metathesis in Hos.
13,12b, an example not mentioned by Bronznick:
zbhy ^dm eglymysqwn

"sacrificing men,

they kiss

calves."

P.Mosca
would see this line as ironic: "These people have everything
Instead of kissing human beings and sacrificing calves, the
backwards.
fools have reversed the process!".3)
J) N.M.

Bronznick,

'Metathetic

Parallelism':

- An
Unrecognized

Subtype

ymous Parallelism,Hebrew Annual Review (= HAR) 3 (1979) 25-39.

of Synon

are Jes. 17,5; 22,3; 29,3,5;


discussed
54,14;
49,25;
by Bronznick
2) The examples
Am. 6,11; 8,12; Mic.
105,18; Prv. 18,15; Job 13,25;
50,19; 90,9;
2,1; Pss. 25,14;
3 (1979) 36 n.3, he refers to Jer. 8,15; Am. 5,21; Pss.
In a footnote, HAR
30,17;
38,30;
He also gives an
Job 6,11 and 13,26. Not all these are convincing.
23,5; 56,13; 74,19;
55,5;

from an Amidah
prayer.
example
in Canaanite
Child
Sacrifice
3) P. Mosca,

in Mulk
A Study
and Israelite Religion:
The
to me but cited by G.C.Heider,
and mlk, Harvard,
1975, 258 n. 155 (unavailable
The Role
A Reassessment
Cult of Molek.
1985] 312 n.617). A.R.W.Green,
[Sheffield,

of Human Sacrifice in theAncient Near East (Missoula 1975) 172-173 discusses the

of Hos.
problems
doubt that Hosea

"there is no
13,2 and though he can provide no solution, concludes:
in the first crisis
terrible and sacrilegious
is talking about
something

Welt des Orients 19, 40-44, ISSN 0043-2547


? Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1989

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More

Another additional
Hab. 3,8b:

on Metathetic

Parallelism

41

this time of metathetic

example,

"when you mounted

ky trkb rl-swsyk

is

parallelism,
your

horses,

your chariots of victory".

mrkbtyk ysw'h

In his recent study of Hab.3, Hiebert comments: "P. Humbert, suggesting


that it is customary for the warrior in the ancient Near East tomount his
chariot rather than the horses that draw it, reverses the order of the paral
lel pair swsyk/mrkbtyk.He has some support for his position in that Barb
(i. e. Codex Barberini) appears to reflect this same reversal. But all other

versions support theMT. The usual sequence of the parallel pair swsym/
mrkbh in biblical poetry favors the order here... as does the meter... It is
best to understand this bicolon as containing 'imagistic parallelism'
in which the poet does not seek to refer to two separate acts but a single
act described with two related images".4) It is possible,
instead, that
Humbert's
suggestion of reversing the components of the word pair is
correct if understood as a form of metathetic parallelism.
Although Bronznick only discussed Hebrew passages, metathetic par
allelism is also found in texts outside Hebrew. One occurrence is in an
Akkadian

su.il.la prayer:5)
napluski tasmu qibTtki nuru

"Your glance is favourable hear


ing, your word, light."

In his study of this poem, Sperling commented: "the poet has effected a
transfer of properties between the faculties of seeing and hear
He
added: "A lesser poet would have preferred 'Your glance is
ing."6)
Your
word
is light'."7) In fact, this is an example of metathetic par
light,
allelism (although Sperling did not use that description) and the line is
intended to be understood as:
chiastic

"Your glance

is light, your word

is favourable

hearing."

It would seem that this sequence was adopted so that the first part of the
line (especially tasmu) could be linked with the end of the preceding line

the north

of

Within
this context
human
sacrifice may well
have been
Kingdom.
For yet another solution cf. F.
(I owe this last reference to Prof. W. Rollig).
I.Andersen/D.
N. Freedman,
Hosea
(Garden City 1980) 632. Another
example may be

intended."
Job

16,6.

4) T. Hiebert,
24 n.32.

God

of my Victory.

5) Discussed

most

recently

The

by S. D.

bung 60),WO 12 (1981) 8-20.


6) Sperling,WO 12 (1981) 18.
7) Sperling,WO 12 (1981) 20.

Ancient

Sperling,

Hymn
A

su-il-la

in Habakkuk
to Istar

3 (Atlanta

(Ebeling,

1986)

Handerhe

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42Wilfred G.E.Watson
"How sweet
(rev. 20): ki tabu suppuki ki qerub nesmuki (variant: semuki),
are prayers to you! How near is your favour!"8)
- less certain because it occurs on a
seal,
Another, less certain example
- is:
a material on which mistakes were common
"son of two-thirds man and one
third god."9)

dumu.gisidingiri.am

This would appear to invert the well-known


inGE I ii 1 and elsewhere):

of Gilgamesh

description

(as

"he was one-third god and two


thirds man."

sittinsu ilu-ma sullultasu amelutu

Most probably, however, the inscription on the seal is incorrect.


An intermediate stage is represented by a line from an Old Babylonian
It runs:
prayer recently studied by B.Groneberg.10)
"The iris of my eyes weeps,
the tears are flowing."11)

burmi-inlja dimatum
izannun parsdt

comments: ?Ich nehme an, daB sich das Verb izannun auf
Groneberg
This can be represented
burminTja bezieht und parsdt auf dimatum."12)
schematically as:
burmi-Tmja dimatum izannun parsdt

where

the metathesis

the transition between parallelism

aa' // bb' marks

and may
8) Such linking occurs elsewhere
cent of Istar, (Bab.) 2-3:
dStn uzunsa
dIstar marat
[iskun]
dSin uzu[nsa]
iskunma marat

b'

a'

explain

set her mind,


"Istar, Sin's daughter,
her mind."
yes, set Sin's daughter
thwarts in pieces, Your mooring
E. Reiner, Your

the curious

rope

word

cut. Poetry

order

in the Des

and

from Babylonia

"In other poems, such pairs of lines are


Assyria (Michigan 1985) 31-32 comments:
and in fact are identical but for the fact that the sec
usually built on the same pattern,
... The
is reversed
... Here
this poetic convention
ond of the pair adds the hero's name
to
the
predicate
also
the verb first,
gives syntactic prominence
inversion, by placing
no reference to
but makes
in the first line stands ... at the end of the sentence,"
which
the linkage

so effected.

cassites
1971) 108-109.
Les legendes des sceaux
(Brussels
Literatur:
in der altbabyblonischen
Eine
Einfiihrungsszene
B.Groneberg,
10)
Keilschriftliche
in: K.Hecker/W.Sommerfeld,
zum
Gott,
personlichen
kungen
9) H.Limet,

turen (= CRRAI XXXII, Berlin 1986) 93-108. The text is IM 58424.

18. According
n) IM 58424:
sandhi
spelling of burmi-Tmja.
12) Groneberg,

Einfiihrungsszene,

to Groneberg,

Einfiihrungsszene,

Bemer
Litera

102, burmTmja

102.

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is a

More

on Metathetic

Parallelism

43

of the type ab // a'b' (alternating parallelism)13) and truemetathetic par


allelism, ab' // a'b.
A related form is the chiastic patterning in BAM No.214
II 10-11:
dsamas dayyan same u ersetim dayydn miti u balati attama
"O Shamash, the judge of the heavens and the netherworld,
judge of the dead and the living are you."14)
expected sequence to match
Finally, the strange Babylonian
another illustration of metathetic

The

the

same u ersetim would be balati u miti.


extispicy BRM 4 12:26 may be yet

parallelism:
asar balati imdt
iballut
(KI) mw//(BAD)
area
it
will get well, (if in) the area of life,
is
the
of
he
death,
"(if
in)
he will die."15)
asar

The Ugaritic texts provide us with a particularly


formulaic phrase
rgm's wlhst abn

(KTU

clear example.

It is the

1.3 III 22 f. and par.)

conventionally translated "a tale of trees and a whisper of stones."16) In


point of fact, the imagery here is of the wind rustling the leaves of the
tress and making them whisper.17) In addition, Ug. rgm is equivalent to
Akkadian
rigmu, which denotes a loud noise (AHw. 982-983 a). If the
components of this line are actually inmetathetic parallelism (as *lhst's
wrgm abn) then the more natural and expected translation would be:
"a whisper

of trees and the noise of stones".

It is possible that rgm was placed first in the line in order to match the
two neighbouring
lines both of which also begin with rgm: rgm it ly
a possible
cf. Bronznick,
HAR
3 (1979) 37.
origin in alternating
parallelism
cf. J.T.Willis,
in the Old
Parallelism
parallelism
alternating
Alternating
(ABA'B')
Testament
Psalms
and Prophetic
in: E.Follis,
in Biblical
Literature,
ed., Directions
Hebrew
and E.Zurro,
Procedimientos
iterativos en la
1987) 49-76
Poetry
(Sheffield
13) For

On

poesia

ugaritica

y hebrea
(Rome
1987) 218-239.
HTR
80 (1987) 27.
cf. R. Borger,
(unpublished),

14) Text: T.Abusch,


K 9513
15) Parallel:

CAD M2 317b.

HKL

II, 34. For

the translation

see

49. Here
rs and
nouns. Similarly,
'bn are probably
collective
CML2,
16) So Gibson,
un asunto de madera
y una charla de piedra," G. del Olmo
184; "la
Lete, MLC,
e il mormorio
dell'albero
della pietra,"
Gli antenati
di Dio
parola
P.Xella,
(Verona
"Es

1982) 101; also, M. A. Korpel/J.C. de Moor, UF 18 (1986) 205.

to Gibson,
49 n.4, this line refers "simply
to the action of the
CML,
17) According
as the conversation
of the various
natural
wind, picturesquely
represented
phenom
ena." Comparable
is KTU
"if the trees do not mur
1.82:43 krsm. Ittn. kabnm. th(!)ggn,
no sound." The subject of the verb hgg is "trees" and of ytn
mur, if the stones make
Contrast
J.C. de Moor,
An
(with ellipsis of ql) is "stones"
(metathetic
parallelism).

Anthology of Religious Texts fromUgarit, (Leiden 1987) 181 ("if the treesdo not give
[sound],

if the stones

do not murmur")

and

his comment,

180, n.40.

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44Wilfred

G.E.Watson

and rgm ltd'mm (line 27).18)


1.6 V 17-19, where Mot says to Baal:
flk .pht. gly--bsdm.
"On your account I experienced

wargmk (lines 20d-21)


Less certain is KTU

sinking(?) in thefields,

elk . pht dre. bym


which

on your account I experienced


sowing in the sea,"

to the single line (KTU 1.6 II 34-35):


"In a field she (Anath) scattered
him (Mot)."

corresponds
bsd tdr'.nn

This is an indication, perhaps, that in the couplet too, dre, "sowing" of


the second line really refers to bsdm, "in the fields," of the first, so that
is connected with bym, "in the sea" of the
gly.
(whatever itmay mean)
second line.19)
functions of
his note by discussing possible
Bronznick concluded
metathetic parallelism. He listed three : (1) it enables the poet "to arrange
for the concluding words of the first stich to be read together with the
opening words of the second stich as a unit;" (2) the B-word of a word
pair can come in the A-word position, and (3) it is used for the purpose
function is foremost,
of foreshadowing,"
i.e., proleptically. Whichever
the overall effect of metathetic parallelism, according to Bronznick, is to
interlock the components of a couplet.20) The functions of metathetic
and Ugaritic passages presented here have
in the Akkadian
parallelism
been discussed above.
The examples of metathesis from Hebrew and Akkadian given here as
in languages
well as the additional examples of metathetic parallelism
other than Hebrew
show that this form of parallelism must now be
accepted as a genuine sub-type of synonymous parallelism. There is no
doubt that future research will extend the range of instances.

18)Note the anacrusis of dm; according toKorpel/de Moor, UF 18 (1986) 205, rgm.

es etc. begins

a new

strophe.

19)On gly see now G. A. Rendsburg, JAOS 107 (1987) 627 (according to him it

denotes

a downward

movement)

and

on

the whole

passage,

J. F. Healey,

Corn: new lighton thekilling ofMotu", Or 52 (1983) 248-251.


20) Bronznick,

HAR

(1979)

37-38.

On

anadiplosis,

reversal

and

"Burning
interlocking

the
cf.

W. G. E.Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry :A Guide to itsTechniques (Sheffield 1986)


208-213,

356-359

and

273

respectively.

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