In Tehillim 104. The first verse uses the expression גדלת מאד.

The vowels under גדלת are 2nd person, past tense. However, in the context of the verse this is not how it is translated. Why is this not written as אתה גדול?

  • 2
    Suppose I were to translate your question here into Portuguese, and to translate "expression" as a Portuguese word that generally means "predicate". Should someone then ask why you didn't write "predicate"? That's what this question sounds like.
    – msh210
    Oct 25 '18 at 4:07
  • The Machberet Menachem ties its structure to Teh. 92:6, and Dev 3:24, plus three other aspects of the g-d-l root sefaria.org/…
    – rosends
    Oct 25 '18 at 10:26
תהלים פרק קד, א בָּרֲכִ֥י נַפְשִׁ֗י אֶת־ה׳ ה׳ אֱ֭לֹקי גָּדַ֣לְתָּ מְּאֹ֑ד ה֭וֹד וְהָדָ֣ר לָבָֽשְׁתָּ:

The Artscroll Tanakh translates Psalms 104:1 Bless Hashem, O my soul. Hashem, my G-d, You are very great; You have donned glory and majesty.

The Malbim understands that גדלת can be viewed as a verb or a noun. Hashem is exceedingly great because He is the source and cause of everything from the outset.

You could read this as a verb of being (gerund) - i.e. G-d is in a state of being very great. Technically the 'Past tense' is better understood to be a perfect tense - the action has a completeness to it, in this context the action here is not past - as in completed, but rather is perfect and whole in every way. So the praise of G-d here as being Great is a perfect greatness, without defect.


Rashi to Iyyov 1:5 writes that when a verse wishes to describe something which is in the present and ongoing, it will sometimes use the past tense (and sometimes the future).

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