Psalm 1 is characterized by a dense web of semantic, syntactic, morphological, and sonic parallelisms. Here is a color-coded inventory:
אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים
וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים לֹא עָמָד
וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים לֹא יָשָׁב
כִּי־אִם בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה חֶפְצוֹ
וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה
The blessings of the one who has not walked in advice of the wicked,
in the way of the errant has not stood,
in the seat of scoffers has not sat!
Rather, in the instruction of יהוה is his delight,
and from his instruction he recites
day and night.
אשרי האיש אשר is a sound unit whose thrice repeated sounds (a, še, r, ē/ī/e) are tantamount to a musical flourish at the beginning of a symphony. The harmonic sound unit is at one and the same time a syntactic unit that introduces the entire composition. It is “the odd man out” in that it does not stand in parallelism with subsequent text units. As such it stands out, as does יומם ולילה at subunit end.
Rhymes are more pervasive in ancient Hebrew poetry than often noted, but the location of the rhymes is not fixed. For example, לא הלך לא עמד לא ישב constitute a sound rhyme – not to mention a syntactic and morphological rhyme – in reinforcement of the semantic rhyme. But the rhyme occurs once in the middle of a line, and twice at the end of lines.
This passage contains an interlocking rhyme scheme. רשעים חטאים במושב לצים interlocks with בתורת יהוה בתורתו יהגה. The pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton must be recalled.
Parallelisms establish equivalences. The strictest equivalences are not necessarily contiguous. Thus בעצת רשעים finds its closest echo in the relatively non-contiguous בתורת יהוה. The expected oppositional counterpart of רשעים, צדיקים, does not appear until the end of the composition, in vv 5-6. In v 6 רשעים is repeated, forming an inclusio.
After an onset construction whose constituents occur in canonical order, the repeated fronting of the argument of the unit’s constituent clauses – a ב-introduced prepositional phrase in every case, with or without one or more preposed syntactic operators – draws attention to the argument. The fronting in v 1 prepares the way for and allows the fundamental contrast of the unit, signaled by כי אם, to be more sharply drawn.
הלך עמד ישב is a semantic sequence that builds to a crescendo of increasing compromise with the advice and behavior of the heinous. The crescendo sets the stage for the reversal introduced by כי אם. רשעים חטאים לצים, on the other hand, is not a crescendo. The first two items are on a par with each other. They are synonyms, the first the standard oppositional counterpart to צדיקים, the second no less general of a term, but not used in a trope with צדיקים. לצים is an example of parallelism of specification. A thematically affine passage takes the opposite tack, in which מרעים and רשעים are an example of parallelism of generalization relative to the preceding מתי־שוא and נעלמים:
וְעִם־נַעֲלָמִים לֹא אָבוֹא׃
שָׂנֵאתִי קְהַל מְרֵעִים
וְעִם־רְשָׁעִים לֹא אֵשֵׁב׃
I have not sat with scoundrels,
I will not go in with dissemblers.
I hate the company of evil men,
with the wicked I will not sit.
Tense-switching is a feature of this unit. The qatals encode a past tense relative to the sentence’s principal embedded clauses, a nominal clause and a yiqtol clause with a temporal argument יומם ולילה. The temporal argument encodes aspect (durativity). Up to the present the subject has not done this and that; qatals mark the fact. In the past and in the present, תורת יהוה has been and remains the subject’s delight. A nominal clause is open to this understanding, and serves to encode it in-context. For the foreseeable future, the subject will recite from the instruction in which he delights. A yiqtol serves to mark this discourse feature. All referenced actions and attitudes are continuous in nature. All are viewed in their wholeness. A (stative) qatal חפץ in place of the nominal חפצו was conceivable. In that case tense-switching would not have occurred. If yiqtol served to encode imperfectivity in Hebrew, one might have expected a string of yiqtols in this subunit. Instead, a yiqtol in an אשרי construction comes naturally after an imperative. In that case, yiqtol encodes a future tense relative to the reference point (now) implied by an imperative:
אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר יֶחֱסֶה־בּוֹ
Taste and see
that יהוה is good!
The blessings of the man who takes refuge in him!
Tense-switching – not aspect-switching, is no less obvious in Ps 137:8-9. Tense-switching in parallelism is a form of merismus. In the past as in the non-past, a particular act or attitude characterized a particular subject (e.g. Ps 26:4-5 quoted above; Pr 3:13).