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A Misunderstood Masorah Parva Note In L for l)'w%(r: in Numbers 2:14

Daniel S. Mynatt
Anderson College, Anderson, SC, USA

1. In BHS, the word wO)bfc;w% (and his host) in Num 2:15 has been annotated with the Mp note pOysb p~r bOyO (occurs 12 times at the beginning of a verse in this book). This arrangement of the material by BHS obscures and simplifies a more complex situation. In L, the manuscript base for BHS, the Mp is radically different. The pertinent section of text in L with its Mp notes is presented below. This section of text is in the right column of the page in the manuscript (v. 14 and Mp notes highlighted).

2. The most apparent problem is that there is only one circule for the two notes. The left note +b#b lO (occurs once in the section on the tribes [Num 1:20-2:34]) obviously should be matched with l)'w%(r: (Reuel) in Num 2:14. The word l)'w%(r: occurs only once in Num 1:20-2:34.

3. The right note (pOysb #Oyrb bO) is more problematic. There are two options for interpreting the note itself. The solution to the problem of the one circule varies according to which alternative is chosen.

4. Option 1. The note could be understood, "occurs twice at the beginning (of a verse) in this book." For this interpretation to work, one must assume that #Oyr means "beginning" and is a shortened form of )qwsp #yr. Certainly, #yr is not the usual Mp term for "beginning" (#)r is). Nevertheless, since #yr is Aramaic for "beginning," and since #yr is used in Masoretic notes with this meaning, the possibility exists that it might mean "beginning" here.

5. The threshold problem with this interpretation of the note is that l)'w%(r: is not at the beginning of a verse. Thus, we must also assume that the note belongs with another word. This is not an unwarranted assumption since l)'w%(r: already has one Mp note. The only word in the line that begins a verse is wO)bfc;w%. Thus, the note could belong with this word, and we would assume that the corresponding circule has been omitted by accident.

6. There are two problems with this argument. First, it requires one to argue that the notes and circules have been switched; each note has been matched with the more distant circule instead of the closer one. This is not a frequent occurrence, but it happens occasionally. See the Mp notes in L for the phrase hr"#&;(e (b@ar:)ab;w% (and in the fourteenth) in Gen 14:5 for an example.

7. Second, wO)bfc;w% occurs at the beginning of a verse in Numbers several more times than twice. Fortunately, it occurs 12 times. Thus, we could speculate that the tens digit, yO, has also accidentally been omitted. This too is not a frequent error, but it happens occasionally. For an example, see the Mp note in L for the word w%hn"ymil; (according to its kind) in Gen 1:12.

8. This is the interpretation of the evidence which G. Weil followed in editing the Masorah of BHS. BHK has also followed this line of reasoning, although in the margin the note has been modified less drastically to pOysb #yrb bOyO. The upper apparatus in BHK gives the correct Mp of L, but there is no indication that the Mp note has been moved from l)'w%(r: in Num 2:14 to wO)bfc;w% in Num 2:15. Thus, the reader cannot precisely ascertain the extent of the revision. Since both BHS and BHK have revised the note along these lines, this interpretation of the evidence has been presented exclusively in the printed editions of L's Mp.

9. The 12 occurrences of wO)bfc;w% at the beginning of a verse in Numbers are Num 2:4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30. None of the other parallel texts has an Mp note for this text feature.

10. Option 2. Although l)'w%(r: is spelled with a resh here, it is spelled with a dalet in Num 1:14; 7:42, 47; and 10:20: l)'w%(d@: (Deuel). These two names refer to the same person, the father of Eliasaph who was the leader of Gad. Thus, the Mp of L might refer to l)'w%(r: and be understood, "occurs 2 times with resh in this book." The note would be distinguishing occurrences of l)'w%(r: from l)'w%(d@:. The second occurrence of l)'w%(r: is Num 10:29. There it refers to Moses' father-in-law, a different person with the same name.

11. In opposition to this interpretation is that fact that it requires l)'w%(r: to have two separate Mp notes. This is uncommon in L but not unattested. For an example, see the Mp notes in L for the word wydFqup@; (numbered) in Num 1:22.

12. In support of this interpretation, we can note that #yr is the customary spelling for the word resh, as opposed to a minority spelling for the word "beginning."1 The Second Rabbinic Bible has a similar note for l)'w%(r: using #yr to mean the letter resh: My+b#b #yr yOtk lO (hapax written resh in the section on the tribes).2 Since l)'w%(r: occurs once more in Numbers (10:29), the frequency statement in the Mp of L is accurate, and the note requires no emendation. And last, Weil has not supplied the note in BHS to any of the parallel passages. Although this omission could be a printing error, it might also be an indication that he had reservations concerning the accuracy of the note in BHS.

13. Thus, my conclusion is that the Mp of L is correct when properly interpreted. Furthermore, this Mp note has been misunderstood in the printed editions of L's Mp, first in BHK and then in BHS. Last, a scholar of the MT can only discern this misunderstanding by consulting L itself.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1996.


1Note the entry in Yeivin's glossary (Yeivin 1980:116).

2Goshen-Gottstein 1972:310. This note is simply a reformulation of the note on the left side of the column in L: +b#b lO.


Elliger, K., and Rudolph, W., eds., 1983. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. 2d ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

Goshen-Gottstein, M. H., ed., 1972. Biblia Rabbinica. Vol. 1. Jerusalem: Makor.

Kittel, Rudolf, ed., 1937. Biblia Hebraica. 3d ed. Stuttgart: Privegierte Württembergische Bibelanstalt.

Yeivin, Israel 1980. Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah. Masoretic Studies, no. 5. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press.