Reading With the Masoretes: The Exegetical Utility of Masoretic Accent Patterns
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Though interpreters commonly neglect the masoretic accents in exegesis, this system clarifies and confirms the sense of the text through highly predictable patterns. This dissertation seeks to establish the presence of intentional Masoretic accent patterns that correspond to syntactic features of the text. After establishing the statistical consistency of the pattern in the book of Judges, each chapter examines various examples of the pattern and intentional divergence. Intentional divergence also serves to establish the premise that the patterns are indeed laid down in a systematic fashion. Various examples of divergence illustrate their usefulness by indicating points of semantic interest. The value of these regular patterns and divergent examples warrants greater attention in the exegetical process. Chapter 2 presents the pattern for Etnachta at the conclusion of mid-verse direct speech (e.g., Judg 1:3; 4:9; 6:20; 7:9–11; 8:20; 15:1). Chapter 3 examines the pattern for the interjection ועתה (ve‘atah) from Genesis to Kings (e.g., Judg 13:7; 15:18; 1 Sam 9:13; 2 Kgs 7:9). Chapter 4 opens up the pattern for framing conditional clauses (e.g., Judg 4:8; 6:17; 9:15; 9:19–20; 11:30–31; 13:16; 13:23; 14:13; Gen 18:3; 28:20–22). Chapter 5 investigates the use of Masoretic accents in contexts of contrast, specifically in the presence of the contrast structures vav + X + verb, and vav + לא + verb (e.g., Judg 1:27; 2:17; 10:13). The examination of these patterns forms the heart of the dissertation. At least three practical implications for exegesis emerge from this study: (1) confirmation of clause boundaries, (2) guidance in grouping clauses, and (3) indication of literary interest via accent patterns. The consistency and predictability of the accents benefits the interpreter in the course of regular Bible reading, and the intentional divergence from these patterns often signals a point of literary interest. Readers must know the typical patterns in order to spot divergence from them. The dissertation concludes with suggestions for future study related to Masoretic accent patterns.