Thursday, April 20, 2006

'Kiss the son' in Psalm 2:12

Liudger Sabottka, 'Ps 2,12: "Küsst den Sohn!"?', Biblica 87 (2006) 96-97.

Abstract: The long-standing difficulty in Ps 2,12 נשקו-בר is tentatively resolved by deriving נשקו from נשק II – 'to be armed', and interpreting the verbal form according to Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, § 52h, as 'privative Piel': 'to be/get disarmed', whereas בר takes its normal meaning 'pure, sincere'.

I've never found the rendering 'kiss the son' quite so problematic in the context of Psalm 2, but clearly many translations (e.g. NRSV, NEB) think they can produce something yet more plausible.


  1. Pete, perhaps more problematic for Sabottka's interpretation is that privative Piel only appears in the case of denominatives where the noun is 'clearly (?)' primitive? I am not sure if nashaq is a denominative of the cognate noun.

    But I have not read the Biblica piece, or have ever understood verbs.


  2. Thanks, Jim. The article is only really a page long and is therefore a very quick read. Was the point you make basically established by Jenni in Das hebräische Piel, which I believe you've read more recently than I?

  3. It is already suggested in Gesenius, but brought out more strongly in Jenni. But on second thoughts nashaq II could be denominative...

  4. It does look to me that nashaq II is denominative (from "equipment/weapon"). That br could be the adverbial "purely, sincerely" is not a new suggestion - the versions suggest it (see esp. Symmachus). The thing I like about this translation is that, unlike many other suggestions, no emendation is required. However, like P. Williams, I question the assumption that "Kiss the son" is problematic.

  5. There is an often overlooked problem:
    both לנשק lnasheq and לנשוק linshoq 'kiss' mark the kissee with ל. This is not definitive, because verbs can change or modify their valency. Note how לאהוב normally take את yet a couple of times can take ל as in ואהבת לרעך כמוך. Thus, בר bar is not definitive, but lacking lamed can qualify as problematic. Having granted problem status for the valency, the context and 'bar' suggest 'kiss someone who is a noble son'. Chaim Rabin has a supportive note on 'bar' somewhere.

    Randall Buth

  6. I am very interested in this but don't read German so couldn't read Sabottka's piece. How do you guys respond to the LXX different rendition of bar nashku and the Targum? We are having a big debate on this with an Orthodox Jewish anti-missionary over here: