Mark D. Futato Sr. in his Basics of Hebrew Accents, p 84, claims, “Even Homer nods,” so “even Masoretes make mistakes.” No one would disagree with this statement since textual variants exist not merely among different Masoretic traditions but even in the same Tiberian tradition. This is especially true for the accent system since it is considered a late imposition. However, the Tiberian Masoretic tradition of the accent system is more reliable than scholars usually assume. This paper will argue for the validity of the accentual division in three cases (Isa 40:3a; Num 13:33a; Prov 31:1) that Futato considers as Masoretic errors. I will first survey the recent research that reinforces the accent system’s reliability from the following aspects: the antiquity of the accent, its linguistic nature, the textual variants, and the validity of specific cases. Then I will argue for the MT reading of the three cases.
The Masoretic demarcation of Isaiah 40:3a is preferable based on the parallelism and the original context of Isaiah 40:1–11. The MT reads קול קורא “a voice cries” as the introduction of the direct speech. The prepositional phrase במדבר initiates the command and parallels בערבה in the second half. The LXX renders as קול קורא במדבר “a voice cries in the wilderness.” However, thhe LXX, followed by the NT quotation, is a reinterpretation of the verse that clarifies and makes the command more relevant to its audience. The second case (Num 13:33a) reflects the common misalignment between syntax and accentual prosody. It is mistaken, as Futato assumes, that the accentual division constantly changes the underlying syntactical structure. Finally, I will argue that the Masoretic division of the third one is also reasonable from a grammatical and syntactical perspective.
The validity of the accentual division in these three cases encourages readers to appreciate the Masoretic accent system seriously and carefully.