Ps 19.4: a confusing text that's baffled me for years


As the title suggests, there's an element in Psalm 19.4 that's been a real thorn in my (interpretive) side for many years... and, it's still there! Ouch! So, any help on this will be much appreciated. Let's start with the verse and its immediate context:

2 ‏הַשָּׁמַיִם מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוֹד־אֵל וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו מַגִּיד הָרָקִיעַ׃

‎3‏ יוֹם לְיוֹם יַבִּיעַ אֹמֶר וְלַיְלָה לְּלַיְלָה יְחַוֶּה־דָּעַת׃

‎4‏ אֵין־אֹמֶר וְאֵין דְּבָרִים בְּלִי נִשְׁמָע קוֹלָם׃ ‎

5‏ בְּכָל־הָאָרֶץ יָצָא קַוָּם וּבִקְצֵה תֵבֵל מִלֵּיהֶם

2  Heavens declare God’s glory and the sky his handiwork3  Every day pours speech and every night reveals knowledge

4  There is no speech and there are no words — ??? their voice heard.

5  Throughout all earth voice goes out and utterance to end of earth

My problem with this section is vs. 4c (English version vs. 3c). In a general sense, what does it mean? How does it relate to the surrounding content? So many translations suggest different things, and it all boils down to one particle with three consonants: בלי. What is this particle doing? Is it a preposition, a semi-conjunction, a simple negative, etc.?

This is a verse that's bothered me since my first years of reading Biblical Hebrew back in 2006—and I'm still uncertain! So, if you'd like to join me in this conversation on figuring out the best way to read this verse, please do so!

I'm currently writing an article with a friend on בלי that analyzes its different duties/functions, as it's a rare phenomenon that actually allows us to see different developments of its grammaticalized state, even in the closed corpus of the Hebrew Bible. For instance, we see it as a noun, a preposition, a conjunction, and a negative marker.

Anyways, please join in—and let's not let theological musings interpret the text. One of the privileges of reading the original languages is to let the text speak for itself, so to speak. Of course the only reason I'm interested in coming to a firm conclusion is for the theological implications, but we must let the text take us there—and not the other way around.