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Tehilim 9 begins like so:

לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל־מוּת לַבֵּן מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד׃

It contains the unfamiliar words עַל־מוּת לַבֵּן in the opening. What does this phrase mean?

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  • Note too Psalms 48:15
    – Double AA
    Apr 14 at 19:49

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According to Rabbi Ahron Marcus in his book on the evolution of Hebrew, Barzilai, pp. 269-270, "על-מות" refers to the soprano of a choir, i.e., the highest pitch. "בן" refers to the child soloist who joins the choir with a high-pitched voice (particularly useful for male-only choirs). So "למנצח על-מות לבן" refers to the child soloist leading the choir with a high pitch in this particular psalm. One such child soloist, Zecharyahu (the) "Ben" (possibly the same one originally referred to in this psalm), is mentioned in Divrei Hayamim 1:20:18. Rabbi Marcus also noted that this explanation seems to have been at least partly alluded to by the Radak.

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  • superb and thorough answer, thank you so much. Could be worth a blog post on Tanach Thoughts :) Apr 14 at 17:24
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    @AviAvraham thanks, you're welcome. That's certainly an idea, although to be truthful, Rabbi Marcus did all of the work. I just happened to have read his book so many times that I remember a lot of his ideas. It can be found on Otzar Hachochmah, BTW.
    – Harel13
    Apr 14 at 17:40
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The metzudos learns like the ibn ezra there who interprets it as "upon the death of Laben", who was an enemy of the Jews or of David.

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