In the 1917 JPS translation of the Hebrew Bible, we have, in Ecclesiastes 2:

I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards; I made me gardens and parks, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit; I made me pools of water, to water therefrom the wood springing up with trees;

This was incredibly weird to me when I first read it.

For one thing, the preterite inflection for "to build" has always been "built" for me. This, however, I resolved somewhat when I saw this answer and tried running searches for the website the poster linked to for "builded".

More importantly, it was bizarre that "me" was used over "myself", when the constructions here take on a reflexive form. I've also seen this happen in an earlier chapter of this translation, in 1 Kings 19:6:

And he looked, and, behold, there was at his head a cake baked on the hot stones, and a cruse of water. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.

Here, the antecedent to "him" is clearly Elijah, who is also the antecedent to "he". This was even weirder to me than the "me" case in Ecclesiastes, since with the third-person, context is absolutely necessary to determine whether "him" is the same person as "he", whereas no such issue comes up with "himself".

What's with the disuse of "‑self" here? Is this some sort of a tendency in the style of religious texts that is also seen elsewhere, and if so, why is there a disjoint between this sort of wording and contemporary usage and style? (The Wikisource KJV upload has similar language for Ecclesiastes.) Perhaps this is something that was common in much older English (whose style might have still been kept for "newer" Bible translations)? Does this lack of usage speak to broader trends in English grammar?

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    This translation does indeed emulate the diction and cadence of the KJV, whose influence dominated English Bible translation well into the 20th century. There are still a lot of conservative churchgoers who regard the KJV as authoritative; see for instance this. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 10 '15 at 0:29
  • You just have to read wider. Nothing in the above sounds strange to me, sorry. Your idea that modern grammar is the only grammar is, well, ridiculous. Get some flexibility. – Marius Hancu Apr 10 '15 at 4:41
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    @MariusHancu: It initially just struck me as weird language for 1917 until I realised that they might have been trying to emulate KJV-esque English. For whatever reason, I've never noticed anything of the sort when reading anything from around the time of the KJV (which is about as far back as my experience with reading untranslated texts goes), so I figured I might as well ask about grammatical changes. – Maroon Apr 10 '15 at 5:01
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    By the way, a direct object IS needed for "laid down." If it were the intransitive "lay" (past tense of lie") rather than "laid" (past tense of lay), then it would not need an object. But they translated it as "laid". – Brian Hitchcock Apr 10 '15 at 10:56
  • @BrianHitchcock: oops, for some reason I've confused the two again... – Maroon Apr 10 '15 at 14:09

I think it is a peculiarity of the text that is because they were following the grammatical peculiarities of the original language, where the reflexive is not used for such constructions. In Hebrew it was something like the following:

I-made-great my-works. I-built for-me houses. I-planted for-me vineyards. I-made for-me orchards and-gardens and-I-planted in-them [a] tree-of all-[kinds]-of fruit. I-made for-me pools-of water for-watering from-them [the]-forest that sprout trees.

In other words, Hebrew does not use a separate morphological form for first person pronouns that are indirect objects of the verb, unlike English. It is also a curiosity (to me at least) that we do that in English.

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