Psalm 133:2: Flowing Oil, Beard, or Both?

Psalm 133:2 says, “כשׁמן הטוב על־הראשׁ ירד על־הזקן זקן־אהרן שׁירד על־פי מדותיו”

My question is this: Does שׁירד על־פי מדותיו (flows down over the collar of his robe) have reference to the שׁמן (oil/fat) or to הזקן (the beard)? Instinctively I’d assume that it is the oil that flows but it seems that this could be a reference to the beard. Or is it perhaps intentionally ambiguous in order to signify both? Hebrew experts, give me a hand with this, please.



3 thoughts on “Psalm 133:2: Flowing Oil, Beard, or Both?

  1. Looks like some form of parallelism with the verb ירד repeated. I would venture that the it is the oil flowing in both cases. Not a hebrew expert but I edited several articles on hebrew parallelism for a Russian text linguist eons ago.

  2. It is not the beard but the sweet or good oil which is flowing. Technically, in Hebrew grammar this is called a “sorite” and involves a movement/development of some thought. In this case it is the flow of the sweet oil which is being developed as on the head, flowing down the beard, on Aaron’s beard, flowing down on the collar of his robes. (see Wilfred G. E. Watson, “Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to Its Techniques” JSOTSup 1995, pp.212-213).

  3. C. Stirling: Thanks for the input.

    Rick: Much appreciated. I’ll see if I can get a hold of the article you mention. It was actually another JSOTSup volume (Directions in Biblical Hebrew Poetry) that got me thinking about this (particularly Adele Berlin’s chapter). She suggests that there may be some intentional ambiguity there.

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