of the Exegetical Procedures




The supplemental illustrations and sample studies on these pages are designed to correspond with the assignments for the course in exegesis.  These are not answer keys to the assignments, but are parallel studies that will demonstrate the kind of content and format that may be used in doing these procedures.  The assignments do not have to follow these samples precisely, for they only give general guidelines for the kind of work that can be done.








A Sample of Presenting Categories of Meaning

for a Word Study




Yakakh, “Reason, Argue, Settle a Dispute”


The verb yakakh appears in Isaiah 1:18 and has been traditionally rendered “come now, let us reason together says the LORD.”  The verb is used extensively for all kinds of actions in a (legal) dispute.  The following categories of meaning (or nuances) emerge from the uses that are listed in the standard lexica.  A survey of the uses will enable us to decide what its precise meaning is in Isaiah 1:18.


I.                    “Initiation of a Dispute”

It is used for starting a (legal) dispute in Micah 6:2: “Arise, plead your case . . . for Yahweh . . . is lodging a charge” (yitwakkakh [hithpael]).


II.         Various Aspects of “Disputation”

A.                 Complaining (formal): “Abraham complained (wehokiakh [hiphil]) to Abimelech” (Gen. 21:25).

B.                 Arguing (a case): “I . . . argue (wehokeakh [hiphil]) my case” (Job 13:3.

C.                 Reasoning: “You must reason (hokeakh tokiakh [hiphils]) with your neighbor lest you bear sin” (Lev. 19:17).

D.                 Reproving (very common use): “How forceful are honest words, but what good is reproof (yokiakh hokeakh [hiphils]) from you?” (Job 6:25).

E.                  Defending (one’s case): “I have no hope, yet I will defend (okiakh [hiphil]) my ways to his face” (Job 13:15).

F.                  Confuting (the adversary): “there was none that confuted (mokiakh [hiphil]) or answered his words among you” (Job 32:12).

G.                 Maintaining Justice: “my eyes pour out tears to God that he would maintain the right (weyokakh [hiphil]) of a man with God” (Job 16:21). 


III.       “Consummation of a Dispute”

A.                 Deciding a Case: “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide (yokiakh [ hiphil]) by what his ears hear” (Isa. 11:3).

B.                 Chastening or Carrying Out a Decision: “I will chasten him (wehokakhtiw [hiphil]) with the rod of men” (2 Sam. 7:14).


So the notion common to all these nuances in legal or quasi-legal contexts is “to argue, dispute, contend.”  More precisely, the verb focuses on either the initiation of the dispute, or the progression of a dispute, or the consummation of a dispute.  The hiphil stem is used in almost all passages, except in Micah 6:2 where the hithpael is used, and in Genesis 16:20, Job 23:7, and Isaiah 1:18 where the niphal is used, expressing either a passive or reflexive idea.


The meaning of “reason together” is not a common use for the word; it does not fit the Leviticus passage very well.  Lisowsky does not even list it as a meaning.  Gemser concludes for Isaiah 1:18, “The Ni. niwwakakh in Jes. 1:18, occurring at the end of the rib[1] of verses 2-20, means ‘let us come to an arrangement, a decision’.”  The idea “reason together” is too mild for such a legal dispute, and especially misleading when there is only one guilty party in the case.  For the word in Isaiah 1:18 the categories of beginning a dispute or proceeding with a dispute do not work.  So we conclude that (1) the verb is a legal term, and (2) it focuses on the settling of the dispute.  The translation would be: “Come now, let us settle this dispute; though your sins be as scarlet . . . .”  God then lays out the terms for ending the dispute: they must repent and do works of righteousness or they will be destroyed, but if they repent he will wash them whiter than snow.






A Sample of Studying Etymologies

of Rare Words



The Old Testament is filled with rare and problematic words, each offering its own set of problems to work with in the study.  The bottom line is that tracing the etymology of one of these is like doing detective work--you have to chase down every possible lead to see what evidence is available, and then evaluate what you have to see if it informs the meaning of the word in the passage in any way.


Sullam (Genesis 28:12 and 13a)


This is the familiar story of Jacob’s ladder.  Jacob fled from home on his journey to his uncle’s place, and on the way had a dream.  In the dream he saw a sullam.  The English Bibles translate this as “ladder” or some equivalent, because that is what the context indicates.  But the word is a “hapax” (Greek for “once”) meaning that this is the only place where this word occurs.  We know it refers to something in the semantic range of a ladder or staircase, but what precisely is it?


The Hebrew dictionary (BDB, p. 700) lists it under the verbal root salal, “to lift up, cast up.”  Most Hebrew students soon learn that this dictionary is arranged that way, and so everything has to be identified with a root.  Sometimes the dictionary is guessing at the connection.  Here, the fact that the noun sullam has a doubled lamed led them to put it under the geminate root salal.  But that still leaves unexplained the final -m.  In your etymology studies you want to be able to account for every part of the word, not just some of the letters.  There are ways that the final -m could be explained, such as an adverbial ending (but this is a noun), or an enclitic mem (which is usually an easy explanation for an unexpected m at the end of a word).  


The verb salal seems to be the root for two other nouns: solelah is a “mound,” and mesillah is a “highway.”  In both cases the nouns are feminine, accounting for the final -ah.  And the second noun follows the pattern of nouns that begin with a prefixed mem (see the grammars): maqom, “place,” from qum, midbar, “wilderness,” from dabar (not “word” but “back”), mapteack, “key,” from patack, “to open.”


But we are still left with questions about sullam.  The versions do not give a great deal of help.  The Greek used klimax, “ladder” or “staircase,” and the Latin scala.


To pursue this further you would check (1) word study books, (2)  commentaries, or   (3) the dictionaries of the other Semitic languages if you have access to them.  If the resources you check are good one, i.e., they give you the kind of material you need but may not have access to, then you should come across some suggestions from the cognate languages--the other Semitic languages.


In this case there is an Akkadian word simmiltu, “stairway,” that seems to be cognate.  You first have to make sure its letters or form correspond.  The -tu ending you may set aside, for the final -u is a case ending, and the t is simply the feminine ending (as it is frequently in Hebrew).  That leaves simmil- as our word.  It has a similar structure with the doubling of the middle letter, except that the letters are not in the same order, simmil instead of sullam.  The word looks close and has the same meaning, but how do we account for this change?


You may recall from beginning Hebrew that metathesis occurs in these languages.  You used it with the hithpael of verbs that began with s.  So the principle of letters changing place exists, but how widespread is it?  You could check Moscati’s Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages to make sure, but knowing it happens would probably be enough to say this word is still in the running.


Then you want to find out what this word meant (besides “stairway”) in the Akkadian texts--what it really meant.  If the literature you found did not already tell you, then you would go to an Akkadian dictionary to survey its usage.  But you will probably be told about the word if it is introduced into the commentary you are reading.  It is used to describe the “stairway of heaven” extending from heaven to the netherworld, with angels and messengers ascending and descending on it.  Another connection may be found with the celestial ladder in the Pyramid texts of Egypt.  In other words, this is no ordinary ladder, but the ramp way between heaven and earth in ancient religious texts.  The idea with the temple step-tower, the ziggurat, with its long staircase up the front, would be in mind.  When Jacob slept, the slop of the mountain was transformed into such a celestial ladder, for here was a place where heaven and earth met.  The precise use of sullam is therefore appropriate to the story.


The etymology gives a fuller picture of the meaning (especially the connotation) of the word.  This was a special revelation to Jacob, with a special kind of causeway or staircase.


In some of the literature you will find bibliography, such as books or articles that will give you a full survey of the data from the ancient texts.  That is a time-saver.  All you need to do then is evaluate the possible connection to make sure it is a good one.  Here you would be directed to a book by Harold R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena in the Light of Akkadian and Ugaritic (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1978), and Alan Millard, “The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven (Gen. 28:12, 17),”  Expository Times 78 (1966):86-87.






A Sample of Using the Old Greek

in a Word Study



You are preparing a message on 1 Samuel 3, trying to explain that Eli was removed from the priesthood because he was unable to rule over his own household.  You are looking at this theme for a practical exposition on the family responsibilities of ministers.  And you come to 1 Samuel 3:13, the heart of the passage, which says that Eli would be removed from office because he did not rebuke his sons.  You turn to your Hebrew Dictionary (BDB, p. 462) and discover that the verb, kahah, occurs only here in the Bible, and only rarely in Syriac and Aramaic.  There is another root kahah, “to be or grow dim, faint.”  But that is obviously a homonym, and rightly listed as a separate root.  You know the word must have something to do with rebuking or restraining the sons.  But the difficulty is that he did rebuke them (see 2:23).  It has to mean more than “rebuke.”


You are therefore left with only a couple of resources for your research: later Biblical Hebrew (the Jewish Mishnah, Midrash, and Talmud) and the ancient versions.  The dictionary on the Hebrew and Aramaic of the Rabbinic literature by Jastrow offers little help; there the word is linked to “grow dim,” with the explanation “to make the heart dim” is “to reproach.” 


So we next look at the Greek Old Testament.  You can approach this in one of several ways.  The concordance by Hatch and Redpath for the Septuagint should give you the word that is used.  Or, if you have a copy of the Greek-English Old Testament (which would be well worth having),[1]  then you will just look up the passage (recall from Old Testament Introduction that in the Greek Bible 1 Samuel is called 1 Kings--there is a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Kings).  So 1 Kings 3:13 (LXX) it is.  There the verse uses enouthetai, from the verb noutheteo, “to admonish, to place in the mind.”


Now you have to test this.  The basic test would be to determine if this is a good translation or not.  First, you have to know something about which books of the Bible were done well in the Greek.  You are in luck--Samuel was done well.  Then you want to make sure that the translation of the context is well done or fairly literal.  You can do this in a short cut by reading a verse from the column Bible and the same verse from something like the NASV, and work through the chapter that way.  You will soon see if it is a good translation of the chapter or not.  This should be enough, but you could then go to Hatch and Redpath to see what other Hebrew words noutheteo translated in Samuel, or in the Old Testament at large.


The conclusion of the matter will probably be that the Greek text here has a rather good translation of a rare Hebrew word.  You cannot be 100% sure that is the precise nuance of Hebrew kahah--translations are glosses anyway, and do not correspond exactly.  But the word fits the context and especially the meaning of the verse, and does not conflict with the fact that he did rebuke his sons.  But it is a much more positive word: Eli did not do his job of training his sons, putting the right way in their minds, or, admonishing them.  Because he did not train them well, they were corrupt.  As a result, they all would be finished in priestly roles.





A Sample of the Analysis of

Figures of Speech



For this sample I shall work in a passage of Scripture that has a good variety of figures, even though the assignments divide up the figures into different kinds.  But this will provide a sample of the procedure to follow on all the assignments: identifying the figure, naming and explaining it, and offering a paraphrase of the idea.   I shall select some lines from Psalm 2.



1.         Verse 1: “Why do the nations rage?” (the question).


The psalmist knows why they are in turmoil, for the rest of the psalm will explain that.  The question is rhetorical, that is, designed to make a point.  The figure is erotesis.  Bullinger lists 19 uses of the rhetorical question.  Here it could be to express amazement, or indignation.   The psalmist is amazed that nations should rebel.



2.         Verse 1: “and the peoples imagine a vain thing”


The enemies do not get together to plan something futile--they think they will win.  So the psalmist has inserted his opinion of their plans.  The figure is a metonymy of effect or adjunct.  The enemies get together to plan their attack, which the psalmist knows is futile.  So he simply says that they plan a vain thing.



3.         Verse 3:  “Let us break their chains


This is what the enemies say.  Now, if they were literally in chains and fetters, they could not be getting ready for an attack, probably not even able to plan.  The figure is therefore an implied comparison, a hypocatastasis.  Their being under the dominion of the Israelite king is like being tied up or in chains (as we would say, “I am tied down tonight”).  They want to be free from the controlling and restricting reign of the LORD’s anointed.



4.        Verse 4: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord ridicules them”


All of these expressions are very human descriptions of God’s response to the foolishness of sinful rebels.  We classify them as anthropomorphisms.  To describe God as if seated means that he reigns as king.  To say he laughs and mocks is to say that he regards their plan as foolish and ridiculous--as we humans would mock something.  Bullinger uses a more precise figure, chleuasmos, mocking.  But you need the anthropomorphism to say the human description is applied to God.



5.         Verse 6: “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill”


The reference is to the coronation of the king on the throne in the palace which is on Mount Zion.  The figure would be the metonymy of subject, putting the place in the text but meaning what is on that place. 



6.         Verse 7: “You are my Son”


Since God does not procreate, the designation of the king as his son must be a straight metaphor.  The king is here compared to a son, and the point of the comparison includes the special privileges of one so close in relationship.  In the context this king will inherit the realm--sons inherit.  But the language comes from the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7, in which God says He will be the Father, and the king will be His son. 


Note: Now, you have to be careful that you do not jump to New Testament usage of this passage too quickly, i.e., to the Son of God.  This term comes from the Davidic Covenant, so every king in Judah could be called God’s Son.  This is why Peter so easily says Jesus is the Messiah (anointed king) the son of God (Matt. 16); Peter would later realize he said more than he understood.  Psalm 2 uses the word son for the Davidic king.  Other New Testament passages will use the word son differently, to express Jesus’ divinity.


7.         Verse 7: “today I have begotten you”


Again, God did not procreate/father the king.  That is a pagan thought and foreign to the Old Testament.  The word “today” refers to the king’s coronation: the man who is to be crowned king is said to be born today.  The expression builds on the metaphor just introduced, so a comparison is made here too, but it is implied.  It does not say “my making you king is like begetting you.”  So we call it hypocatastasis.


Note: Let me reiterate the caution.  In the New Testament Jesus will be called the first begotten, the begotten, and the only begotten.  The contexts determine the meanings.  Psalm 2 is quoted in the New Testament with regard to Jesus’ coronation after the resurrection--“this day have I begotten you.”  Hen John says Jesus is the “only-begotten” of God, that is different--it means Jesus shares the divine nature of the Father (but had no beginning).  Psalm 2 could be said by any king in Jerusalem when he was crowned.



8.        Verse 8: “the ends of the earth as your possession.”


The passage records God’s desire to give the kingdom to the Davidic king.  If this is taken literally, it refers to peninsulas, distant lands, earth essentially.  It could be called a synecdoche, the remote parts of the earth meaning the whole earth.  But the line is parallel to “nations,” and so people is what is meant, not dirt and land only.  Thus, “ends of the earth” is a metonymy of subject meaning the nations or tribes of people that live in those remote parts.



9.         Verse 9: “you will dash them to pieces like pottery”


The verse tells how easily the king will establish his sovereignty over the rebellious nations.  He will put down the rebellion as easily as one takes an iron rod and smashes an old flower pot.  The figure is a comparison, and so simile.  There is probably also an allusion to Egyptian custom where the pharaoh would first go to the temple and smash a little votive pottery jar that represented the rebellious city.  In this way, he would easily destroy them because he had already smashed them in the presence of his god.



10.       Verse 12: “Kiss the Son”


The psalmist is calling for the rebels to be wise and serve Yahweh and His anointed king before they are destroyed.  So he tells them to submit to the king, but he uses the idiom, “Kiss the Son.”  The act of kissing, often a real act, signified submission and obeisance.  So we would call it a metonymy of adjunct, it is an act that accompanies (=adjunct) submission.  The kiss itself means nothing (cf. Judas) if it is not the sign of submission to the king.   If there was no actual act of obeisance involved (like kissing), then you could call this an implied comparison, a hypocatastasis, meaning submit to the king as if kissing him in submission.






Samples of Textual Criticism



First Sample: Psalm 125:1, 2



This textual problem will give you a chance to work with the versions as well as

the material from Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls.  You will need the Hebrew Bible with a critical apparatus at the bottom, the Greek text of the Psalm (use the column Bible if you do not know OT Greek well enough to read), and a copy of the page from Sanders on the Discoveries in the Judean Desert (Qumran).


            1.    The first thing to do is make a very literal translation of the Hebrew text.  Do not rely on an English version, because they often smooth over the problem.  You may use an English text beside the Hebrew to save time, but use something fairly literal like the NASV.


Psalm 125:1 and 2 reads as follows:


1 Those who trust (plural participle) in Yahweh [are] like Mount Zion;

it cannot be moved (3msg imperfect); forever it remains (3msg imperfect).       2 Jerusalem--as the mountains [are] around it,

so Yahweh [is] around his people, from now and forever.


What is difficult here is the use of “Jerusalem” in verse 2.  It is an independent nominative absolute, standing by itself, and introducing the subject dramatically.  Then the sentence begins, and includes a reference (pronoun “it”) to Jerusalem.


2.     The next thing to do is to discover the textual difficulty and be able to explain the variant reading or readings.  So you first look down in the apparatus at the bottom of the page, after “Ps 125, 1."  The first problem is a small one, a variant reading “in” Mount Zion rather than “like” Mount Zion.  There is not much support, and so we will not stop to consider it.  But after the parallel lines we have the next textual problem, and that is what we want to consider.


The editors tell us that the Greek has “ho katoikon (= Hebrew yo-) Ierousalem.”  So first we have to get a translation of that to know what is different.  You can either translate it, or you can look at the column Bible in the Greek Old Testament where someone will have translated it (and it is usually fairly accurate).  The Greek texts involves a different reading of the verb “dwells” and a joining of the lines: “the dweller/inhabitant of Jerusalem.”  It has a singular participle (katoikon) before “Jerusalem.”


This is why the editors have put in parentheses the Hebrew letter yod with the holem vowel.  The Masoretic Text has the imperfect “it dwells” (Hebrew ye-sheb), but the Greek has a participle and so they must have thought the word was yo-sheb, “the inhabitant of.”  The editors only reconstruct the part of the Hebrew word that would be seen differently in the variant (what they think the translator thought it was), and so yo is given to you instead of the MT’s  ye.   Both the Hebrew imperfect and the participle have a sere as the next vowel, so they do not bother with the complete word (the accent-type slash indicates an abbreviation).


So the Greek translation says that “the inhabitant of Jerusalem will never be moved,” whereas the Hebrew text we have says “it [mount Zion] cannot be moved, it remains [dwells] forever.  Jerusalem--.”


3.     Now we need to check the Dead Sea Scroll.  We will not always be able to do this because we do not have the manuscripts on all the Bible.  But here we do.  If you look at the typed copy of the scroll rather than the photo you can look through the line letter by letter.  You will notice parts of the line missing from the damage to the scroll--you just work with what you have (although on occasion measuring the space will help solve a problem to see how many letters would have been there).   You will also notice that the scribes used the old forms of the Hebrew alphabet for the holy name.  And you will also notice that there are no vowels, so you are primarily working with the letters and what they represent.  The DSS usually write things plene, meaning that if it is a historic long vowel it would have the vowel letter there, a waw or yod, for example.  So, as you look through the line of Psalm 125, you would check for the spelling of the verb; but you will notice that the word in question, “yesheb” or as the LXX thought of it, “yosheb,” is missing.  It is a pity that the scroll is broken off there, for if it had been a participle as the Greek translation concluded, a waw would have been written to indicate holem-waw of the participle.  


But we have another clue here: note that prefixed to the negative lo’ is the letter shin (sh).  You might think the scribe at Qumran simply made a mistake; but this is too strange for that kind of accidental error.  This looks intentional.  So you would have to get out BDB and look up the letter shin (or a good Hebrew grammar).  You would find that instead of writing the relative pronoun ’asher, “which,” the scribes often used the abbreviated form, the letter shin, and prefixed it to the first word of the clause.  What that means in this line is that the Qumran scribe read the line in agreement with the Babylonian Text (preserved in our Masoretic Text), adding the relative pronoun to make that clear: “Those who trust in Yahweh are like Mount Zion which cannot be moved it remains . . . .”     It seems that the scribe was aware of the problem of this line, perhaps even aware of the reading in the Greek translation, and wanted to clarify how it should be interpreted.  He knew it was Mount Zion that remained forever--not the inhabitant of Jerusalem.


By the way, this is a good example of why the Dead Sea Scrolls were such a break through.  They preserve readings that agree with the Babylonian Text Type.  Our Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic Text, based on manuscripts that date from about 900 A.D., preserves the Babylonian Text Type, but the Scrolls take us back a thousand years (100 B.C. to 100 A. D.) and show harmonious readings.


            4.     Now we are ready to try to solve the problem.  This involves evaluating the external evidence and the internal evidence.  We pretty well have the external evidence laid out.  The Babylonian Text Type (our Masoretic Text or Hebrew Bible) and the Palestinian Text Type (the Qumran scroll) attest to the reading that Mount Zion remains forever.  The Alexandrian or Egyptian Text Type has the inhabitant of Jerusalem as the subject of “cannot be moved.”   But solving a textual problem is not just a matter of adding up manuscripts, although when two traditions agree that is significant.


We must always consider the internal evidence, the tendency of scribes and what would lead the scribes to do what they did.  Here we get behind the text and reason from one to the other.  The reading that best explains the origin of the other is to be preferred--and that is usually the more difficult text (but be careful, a completely corrupt text is too difficult).


So, if the reading that is found in the Greek translation was the original, what would have caused the Masoretic and Qumran scribes to change it (accidentally or intentionally).  Since the problem involves the beginning of the second verse, it is not just a matter of the scribe accidentally using an “e” instead of an “o” in the verb.  If it had been an “o” and read “the inhabitant of Jerusalem,” a very common expression in the Bible, why would a scribe break up the lines and have it read “he dwells/remains;  Jerusalem -- as the . . . .”  Scribes do not usually introduce grammatical difficulties into the text; they tend to smooth them out.


So, try the other way.  If the original had exactly what our Masoretic Hebrew Text has, why would the Greek version come up with what it has.  This is easier to explain.  First, the Greek translation is made from a Hebrew manuscript without vowels.  They may have had an oral tradition to go with it, but they are looking at forms in the manuscript.  With no vowels for the verb, and no accents or verse divisions to indicate where to stop, they assumed the form went with “Jerusalem” as the common expression.  That would have solved for them the difficulty of knowing what to do with the word “Jerusalem.”  They were trying to make sense out of a difficult grammatical construction, and made a smooth reading. 


Therefore, the reading in the Masoretic Text, confirmed by Qumran, preserves the more difficult reading and that would explain how the Greek translation developed its reading. 


A further step would be to study the other two major textual problems in this psalm to see if we have a pattern here.  And it looks like we do.  Verse 3 in the psalm says “For the rod of wickedness will not rest on . . . .”  The Greek version makes the verb a hiphil, as if Yahweh is the subject: “For [Yahweh] will not cause to rest.”  And now with the causative verb “rod” becomes the object, not the subject.  Also, the word “wickedness” is a rare word, spelled with different vowels that “the wicked,” which would have the same letters.  The Greek translation, without the vowels, and knowing the common words better, has it “the rod of the wicked.”  You would have to do these textual problems to understand them fully; but it is enough to point out here that the Greek version of the psalm had trouble with rare words and difficult grammar, and tended to smooth them out to harmonize with the idea of the psalm.


The first verse, then, says that those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, [which] abides forever.  The Greek limits that spiritual security to the people who dwell in Jerusalem, which introduces a theological idea that cannot be sustained.


Second Sample: Isaiah 29:13


The passage in Isaiah says: “Wherefore the LORD says, ‘Forasmuch as this people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.” 


It is this last clause that is the focus of this sample textual problem (the verse has some other difficulties as well).   The Hebrew order has: “and it was [wattehi] their fear [yir’atam] me [’oti] by the precept of men [mitswat ’anashim] taught [melummedim].”  Clearly the verb, the 3fsg preterite with the waw consecutive, “and it was,” is to be joined with the pual plural participle at the end of the line; and the subject of the sentence is “their fear of me”: “their fear of me was taught . . . .”


The Greek Old Testament has for this clause the following: “in vain do they worship me, teaching the commandments and doctrines of men.”  How are these changes to be explained? 


            1.  The word “their fear” (yir’atam) could have been interpreted as “their worship,”

since fearing the LORD was a normal way to express worship.  If this is the case then they were not looking at a different word or confusing it with a different word, but interpreting what “fear” meant here.


            2.  The pual participle at the end of the verse was translated as a piel by the Greek

version.  The consonants would all be the same, of course, but the vowels different.  They interpreted the line to be saying that the people who were worshiping in vain were teaching the precepts of men.  The MT has the passive idea that their fear of God was taught by the precepts of men.  In both cases false teaching came from human precepts and not divine ones.


            3.   Either the Greek translation reduplicated the translation of the participle or

translated it to mean “teaching doctrine” because it has two objects--“teaching doctrines and commandments.”


These are the differences.  And these are some of the explanations of what might have happened if the MT was the original and the Greek an attempt to translate it.  If the Greek translation represents the original, it would be more difficult to explain all the changes in the Hebrew text to get to its construction and meaning.  Besides, the Greek text is the only version that differs like this from the Hebrew.


I would conclude that the Hebrew text represents the original text of Isaiah 29:13, and the Greek version, although capturing the gist of the verse, has some very different wording.  The Hebrew text says that the peoples’ fear of God was taught by the precepts of men (not God)--so it is not true devotion.  And the Greek text says that the people worship God in vain, teaching the precepts of man (and not of God).  The meanings are not far apart, but are definitely not the same.


Now the additional difficulty is that in Matthew 15:8, 9 Matthew records the saying of Jesus: “Hypocrites!  Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; and in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”  In other words, the New Testament passage uses the reading of the Greek version of Isaiah and not the Hebrew.  So one might ask, which one was correct?  Which one was inspired Scripture?


Before addressing this we may observe that there are some unanswered questions here in Matthew.  Did Jesus himself say these words from Isaiah 29?  Or did Matthew remember what Jesus essentially said and insert the passage from Isaiah to get the wording exact?  Did Jesus say the words in Hebrew, or in Greek--and if he said them in Hebrew, did Matthew simply copy the passage out of the Greek translation into his manuscript?  Well, we cannot know for certain how this worked exactly.  But we can say that when Jesus denounced the hypocrites of his day he cited the words of Isaiah and applied them to the people.


Let us assume for the sake of the argument that Jesus denounced them and said these exact words about them that we have in the common Greek Old Testament: “in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”  To get back to our original question, we ask which reading was the inspired text?  Technically, both.  In the Old Testament the evidence indicates that the MT is the original reading, the one that the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write.  In the New Testament when Jesus or the apostles used the Bible, they were free to quote from any of the many versions that were available, just as we are today--and those versions are not the inspired original autographs.  But they were serviceable translations of the text, usually very exact. 


The doctrine of inspiration applies to what was inscripturated in the original autograph of Matthew, regardless of the version or the source from which it was taken.  It was what Jesus wanted to say--he used the wording to denounce the hypocrites; and it was what the Holy Spirit wanted said at this time, and recorded in the New Testament at this place.  Jesus would have used a different version of the passage, then; but that different version then becomes part of the inspired New Testament text.  It is a translation of Isaiah 29:13 that although it had problems it nevertheless captured the sense of the context.


The assignment (Ps. 2:9) and this sample (Isa. 29:13) just introduce you to the difficulty of inter-testamental quotations that involve some changes in the readings (and there are almost 200 of them).   It would take a separate course of study to work through them all and try to get a sense of how the Bible versions have been used in the New Testament, and how those citations and paraphrases have become part of the inspired New Testament text.  But this is a start.






Samples of Syntax of the Noun


Assignment ten calls for the classification of selected nouns in the first chapter of Jonah.  This sample sheet will discuss other noun forms in Jonah 1 so that your thinking about the passage will be confined to one context.


Jonah 1:1


“The word of the LORD came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying”

The word “word” is the subject of the sentence, and so in the nominative case.


“Jonah” is a genitive because it comes after the preposition: “unto Jonah.”  But we classify this as an object of the preposition, and the significance would come from the meaning of the preposition (if there were any) and not the simple classification of “object of the preposition.” 


The word “son” comes after “Jonah,” and is said to be in “apposition” to it.  This means it has the same case (genitive) as the word before it, and functions the same way grammatically; but it is also in construct, and so the word “Amittai” is construct as well.  “Amittai” may be called the gentile of family relationship.


Your assignment calls for you to classify “LORD” after “word of.”


Jonah 1:2


“Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.”

            The noun cases are also rather simple in verse 2.  “Nineveh” is simply another object of the preposition (so genitive).  And “the city” which follows it directly is in apposition to it, so has the same case and usage.  One could say “go to Nineveh” or, “Go to the city.”  The pronoun suffixes “it” and “me” are genitives, objects of the prepositions.  No major import is found here.


Your assignment asked for “their wickedness.”



Jonah 1:3


“And Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD; so he went down to Joppa and found a boat going to Tarshish; he paid its price and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from before the LORD.”


“Jonah” is the subject of the sentence and so the nominative case.  “Joppa” comes after the verb “he went down,” but is not the direct object (“to go down” does not take a direct object).  It would be an adverbial accusative of termination, telling where Jonah went, and so we supply a preposition “to” Joppa.  Then, “boat” is the accusative, the direct object of the verb “found.”  And finally, “LORD” is the genitive, the object of the preposition “from before/presence of.”


Your assignment was to classify “Tarshish” in this verse.



Jonah 1:4


“Now the LORD hurled a great wind into the sea, and there was a great storm in the sea; and the ship was about to be broken (lit.: thought it was to be broken).  The “LORD” is the subject of the verb, and so the nominative case.  The word “wind” is the direct object of the verb, and so accusative.  The word “sea” comes after a preposition, and so is a genitive, the object of the preposition.  These are all pretty much straightforward and not exegetically significant other than clarifying the sentence.  The word “storm” is a little different: it follows a verb “to be” and so is a predicate noun, not a direct object.  It is called a predicate nominative.



Jonah 1:5


And the mariners were afraid, and they cried each man to his god(s); and they hurled the cargo which was in the boat into the sea to lighten [it] from them.  Now Jonah had gone down into the lower deck of the ship, and lay down, and was fast asleep.”


The nouns in this verse are fairly straightforward.  But the word “man” is interesting.  The verb is plural, “they cried”; and then the subject listed after it is “a man to his god(s).”  The noun is a nominative since it is the subject of the verb; but it has to have a distributive sense, “each man.”  The “cargo” has the sign of the accusative before it, and here it is the direct object.  I also point out a verb here since soon we will look at verbs.  It is a perfect tense, yarad.  But Jonah went down into the ship earlier than the storm and their activity of throwing cargo overboard.  To reflect that time sequence we have to use a past perfect for the perfect tense--“Jonah had gone down.”


Your assignment asked for the classification of “ship” in the expression “the lower deck of the ship.”



Jonah 1:6


“And the captain of the crew drew near to him, and said to him, “What to you, O sleeper? [What is with you, or, why are you sleeping].  Get up, call upon your God.  Perhaps God will have compassion on us so that we do not perish.”


The “captain is the subject of the sentence, and so the nominative case.  The word “sleeper” is a niphal participle; Since this is a direct address, the participle would be used as a substantive, in the place of a noun, and therefore nominative case (as a vocative).  The pronominal suffix on “God” is a genitive, and we would simply classify it as a genitive of possession.  At the end of the verse we have the imperfect tense, “we perish.”  This one we would classify as a final imperfect (not because it comes at the end of the sentence but) because it shows the purpose or result of the wish: “in order that we not perish.”


Your assignment asked for the word after captain, “crew,” to be classified and explained.



Jonah 1:7


“And each man said to his companion, ‘Come, let’s cast lots so that we may know on whose cause this storm [is] upon us.’  So they cast lots.  And the lot fell on Jonah.”


In the words and acts of the sailors twice we have the word “lots” as the direct object of the verb “cast”; these are both accusatives, direct objects.  But in the final clause of the verse “lots” is the subject of the verb “fell,” and so a nominative case.  I add this observation of the verb “know,” which is a qal cohortative.  Coming after the cohortative “let’s cast” this would be an indirect volitive, showing purpose of result, and so we translated it “in order that we may know” (rather than “and let’s know”)



Jonah 1:8


“So they said to him, “Tell us, [you] on whose account this storm [has come] upon us, what is your mission, and from where do you come; what is your land, and from what people are you?”


The English makes “us” look like an object of the verb, at least an indirect object in our language.  In Hebrew it is the object of the preposition, “tell to us,” and so a genitive.   The pronominal suffix on “mission” could be the simple genitive of possession; but it could also be a subjective genitive, if mission is taken more of an action than a mere occupation--the mission you are doing.



Jonah 1:9


“And he said to them, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I fear Yahweh the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

The word “Yahweh” has the sign of the accusative; here it is the direct object of the verb “fear” (put first in the clause for emphasis).  The word “sea” and “dry land” are both accusatives as well, both having the sign of the accusative; they are the direct objects of the verb “made.”


Your assignment had you do three words here: “Hebrew,” “God” and “heaven.”



Jonah 1:10


“And the men were greatly afraid [lit.: feared a great fear], and said to him, ‘What in the world have you done [lit.: what is this you have done]?’  For they knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.”


In this verse we have an example of a cognate accusative: the direct object accusative of the verb “fear” is from the same verbal root “fear.”  It emphasizes the verbal action, so we render it “they were terrified” or the like.  Then, later in the verse we have an entire clause introduced with the particle “that” (Hebrew ki) which serves as the direct object of the verb “they knew.”  As we shall see , this is called a noun clause, because the clause functions as a noun answered the question of what they knew.






Syntax of the Verb



This sample will look at some of the main verbs in the poem of Jonah in Jonah 2; it will be a closer sample for the assignment which is also a psalm, Psalm 3.  In addition to the verbs, some of the important noun cases will be noted in passing.


Jonah 2:3


“And he said:

I cried our of my distress to the LORD and he answered me;

from the belly of Sheol I cried for help.  You heard my voice.


This chapter is a declarative praise psalm in form; knowing this helps us a good deal on the sequence of the ideas.  It begins with a report of the cry out of distress.  So the first verb “I cried” (as well as the other perfect tense verbs in the verse) would be the simple definite past.   The verb construction “and he answered me” is the preterite with the waw consecutive (some learn it as the imperfect with a waw consecutive); it surely is a preterite (definite past tense) in this verse. 

In the second half we have “from the belly of Sheol.”  The word “belly” is a genitive because it comes after a preposition; but the word “Sheol” is a genitive coming after the construct.  It could be a partitive genitive, the whole being Sheol and the part the belly or central area.  The verse ends with “my voice”; “voice” is the accusative of the direct object, and the suffix “my” the possessive genitive.



Jonah 2:4


“And you cast me out [into the] depths, into the heart of the seas;

and the current surrounded me.

    All your breakers and your rollers passed over me.”


The verse starts out with the hiphil preterite with the waw consecutive, and so that is clearly the past tense, reported what God did--“you cast me out.”  The suffix on it is the accusative direct object (suffixes on nouns are genitives).  The word “depths” is a noun, telling the direction or termination of being cast out, and so an adverbial accusative (it is not a genitive or a nominative). 

The verb at the end of the first line looks like an imperfect tense; but in the verse all the others verbs are referring to the past time, and so this must be explained as a preterite without the waw consecutive (which happens in poetry), or a preterite use of the imperfect tense. 

“All your breakers” is technically the word “all” in construct followed by the genitive of specification (all what? all breakers) with a possessive genitive suffix on it.  The word “all” would be nominative, forming the subject of the verb “passed.



Jonah 2:5


“And I said [thought], ‘I was cast out from before your sight;

I shall look again to your holy temple.

The first line uses the two perfect tenses for the past time, and so pose no difficulty.  But in the second line we have a verbal hendiadys--two verb forms to express one thought, and so one of the forms becomes adverbial.  Literally: “I will add to look” is the hiphil imperfect followed by the hiphil infinitive construct.  The verb “to add” becomes the modifier, and the infinitive the main verb.  The nuance of the imperfect would be specific future: “I shall look again.”

The last phrase at first glance seems to say “to the temple of your holiness” or “to your holy temple.”  The word “temple” is in construct to a noun with as suffix, and so since the latter is definite (due to the suffix) the former construct noun is definite too.  The word “holy” is the genitive of attribute, modifying temple.  The suffix on the end of it applies to the complete bound construction: “your holy-temple” (and so not, “temple of your holiness”).



Jonah 2:6


“Waters engulfed me to [my] life;

the deep surrounded me;

seaweed (reeds) [were] wrapped around my head.”


The first verb is the perfect tense, and since it is still reporting the dilemma, it is a definite past.  It has an object suffix on it, an accusative direct object. The second colon has our verb form again, the preterite of sabab without the waw consecutive.  It looks like a normal imperfect, but is referring to past time.



Jonah 2:7


“To the ends of the mountains I descended;

the earth, its bars [closed] behind me forever;

     but you brought my life up from the pit/destruction O Yahweh my God.”


The report continues to say that he went down to the depths of the sea, to the ends of the mountains.  “Ends” is in construct, so “the mountains” is a genitive, probably a partitive genitive again.  He sees the mountains on the coast continuing to the bottom of the sea; and he went to that part of the mountains. 

The second colon uses “the earth” as in independent nominative absolute.  The word is stuck out front, and then the formal subject “bars” (sand bars, or prison bars) continues the sentence.  You could translate it “the earth with its bars [were] behind me forever,” but “bars” can also be an apposition to “earth” to explain what section or part of the earth closed behind him.

The last colon uses the hiphil (because it has an object) preterite with the waw consecutive to mark the turning point. He descended, but God brought him up.  The word “my life” has “life” as the accusative, direct object, and its suffix as a genitive of possession.

“Yahweh” is vocative, and so a nominative case.  “God” is in apposition to it and so has the same case and use.  The suffix is a genitive, possession likely.



Jonah 2:8


“When my life fainted within me, I remembered the LORD,

and my prayer came in to you, into your holy temple.”


The first verbal form in the verse is the hithpael infinitive construct (we shall look at verbals in another assignment). It has the preposition on it and so is a temporal or adverbial use: “when . . . .”   The word “life” is a subjective genitive because it comes after the infinitive construct:   “In the fainting [within myself] of my life.”

The verb “I remembered” is a definite past.   The “prayer” is the nominative case, the subject of the verb “came in”; the suffix on it could be either possession or authorship.



Jonah 2:9


“Those who meticulously observe [keep] vanities of falsehood

forsake their loyal love.”


The verse begins with the piel participle, “those observing.”  The object is “vanities,” but it is in construct to “falsehood.”   This would be an attributive genitive: “false vanities.”  But the word “vanities” is a figure, a metonymy of effect showing that the false deities are worthless.

The verb “forsake” is given a present tense translation since it matches the ongoing activity of the participle.  It is a habitual imperfect.  Its object (and so accusative) is “loyal love.”  The suffix on the end of that word could be either objective or subjective genitive.  If objective, then they forsake the love that someone (God) has for them; if subjective, then they forsake or ruin the love they are showing or might show to others.  The first is better, since it would mean their idolatry prevents God’s love from getting to them.  The second would say their idolatry nullifies any good they might do.



Jonah 2:10


“But I with the voice of thanksgiving I will sacrifice to you;

that which I have vowed I will repay

 Salvation [is] of the LORD.”


This is the contrast with the pagan idolaters.  The word “thanksgiving” (todah) is a genitive after the construct “voice” (which is also a genitive due to the preposition).  It could be a genitive or specification (thankful voice) or objective genitive (voice producing thanksgiving). 


The verbs “I will sacrifice” and “I will repay” are both cohortatives, and so express the resolve of Jonah.  The perfect tense could be a definite past (“I vowed”) or a present perfect (“I have vowed”); he vowed to praise God when he prayed for deliverance from a watery grave.







Samples of Volitives in Psalm 132



The volitional forms in Hebrew are the imperative (for second person), the jussive (for third person, or if negated as a negative command, the second person), and the cohortative (for the first person).  The study of the cohortatives must also consider how these forms work together with the waw (“and”) and how they work with the other verbs as well when in sequence.


Psalm 132:1


Remember, O Yahweh, for David’s sake, all his afflictions.”


The verb is zekor, the qal imperative, msg, from zakar.  Since this is addressed to God the force of the imperative is a petition, a request or prayer.  But the essence of the imperative--immediate response--is retained.  (Then you would have to do a word study to see that “remember” has the sense of acting on what is remembered).


Psalm 132:6, 7


“Look, we heard of it in Ephratah; we found it in the fields of Jaer!

Let us go to his resting place; let us worship at his foot stool.”


The verse seems to be a recollection of David’s finding the ark and moving it to Jerusalem, and it may possibly be a re-enactment of it.  The “Behold” or “look” that begins verse six suggest an instant idea, and so the two perfect tenses (both qal perfects, 1cpl, with object suffixes) could be past tenses--“we found it”--or very recent past--“we just found it”--or present perfects--“we have found it.” 


In verse 7 we have cohortatives, the first the qal from bo’ (“to come, go, enter”) and the second the hishtaphel from khawah (“worship).  These are plural cohortatives and in this passage have the nuance of the pure hortatory--“let’s do such and such.”  The people exhort one another to go to the sanctuary to worship at the ark of the covenant (the foot stool).


The word “foot stool” describes the ark, the box, that went into the Holy of Holies.  The language is anthropomorphic, referring to a place for God’s feet.  God sat enthroned above the cherubim (carved on top of the lid of the box) in the shekainah glory, that luminous cloud of his presence; and the ark was a stool for his feet.  The blood would therefore be sprinkled at the feet.  Traditionally the lid on the box has been called a mercy seat; but this psalm and others clarifies the idea.



Psalm 132:8


“Arise, O Yahwe to your resting place, You and the ark of your strength.”


The verse begins with qumah, the alternative form of the masculine singular imperative (from qum, “arise”).  It again is a prayer or petition, perhaps a call for God  (addressed as dwelling with the ark) and his ark to go to the sanctuary.


The word “strength” is a genitive; here it would be an attributive genitive because it can modify the “ark”: “and your mighty ark” (“your” is a possessive genitive).



Psalm 132:9


Let your priests be clothed with righteousness;


and let your saints give a ringing cry.”


The verb in this first colon is yilbeshu, from labash, “to be clothed.”  The form could be parsed as a qal imperfect, or as a qal jussive.  Since this section is a prayer, the form (and the verb in the second colon as well) would be jussives.  Here too they will be petitions or prayers.


The figure of speech would be hypocatastasis, since one cannot be clothed with righteousness.  It implies a comparison between being completely righteous, covered with righteousness, and putting on clothes.  Clothes often represent character in this way.



Psalm 132:10


“For the sake of David your servant,

do not turn away the face of your anointed”


Here the verb has the negative ’al instead of lo’.   This negative normally goes with jussives; and so we find the verb tasheb is a jussive (the imperfect would have been tashib, with the longer hireq-yod vowel).   ’al plus the jussive, 2msg, forms a negative imperative (the actual imperative never occurs with a negative): “do not turn away.”  But it is still in the area of prayer.


These prayers will be picked up in the end of the psalm as the LORD says that in Zion his resting place he will clothe the priests with righteousness and cause the king to flourish.






Samples of Verbal Forms in Genesis



Genesis 2:16-18



And Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, From every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat from it, for when you eat from it you shall surely die.  And Yahweh said, Man’s being by himself is not good. I will make for him a complementary help.


The expression “you may freely eat” is made up of the qal infinitive absolute (’akol) followed by the qal imperfect, 2msg.  First, you classify the verb.  The imperfect tense here should be a permission imperfect (modal nuance): “you may eat.”  Then, the infinitive absolute emphasizes both the meaning of the verb and (more importantly) the permissive nuance: “you may eat to your heart’s content.”


The well-known expression “the knowledge of good and evil” has to be interpreted along the way.   The word “knowledge” comes after the genitive “tree,” and here would be an objective genitive.  This is because these two trees somehow would produce what their genitives said.  If they ate from the tree of life, they would live forever; so if they ate from the tree of knowledge, they would know good and evil.  Then, “good and evil” (a merism by the way) would be genitives of specification, telling what kind of knowledge.


“You shall not eat” is the negative with the qal imperfect, stressing prohibition--you shall not eat from it, any time.


“When you eat” is literally “in the day of your eating.”  “In the day of” is idiomatic for “when.”  But “eating” is the qal infinitive construct, technically the object of the prepositional idiom “when.”  This is an adverbial use of the infinitive for a temporal clause.  The suffix on it is a subjective genitive, because “you” will be doing g the “eating.”


“You shall surely die” is the qal infinitive absolute emphasizing the qal imperfect from mut.  The verb is specific future; so then the infinitive emphasizes the certainty of it.


In verse 18 the word “being” (heyot) is the qal infinitive construct from hayah, “to be.”  In this sentence it functions as a noun, and therefore as the subject of the sentence: the being [or man alone] is not good. 


“I will make” is probably to be taken as the qal cohortative from ‘asah, “to make.”  Usually with III He’ verbs you cannot distinguish an mperfect from a cohortative (the -ah of the cohortative is not present).  Here the MT indicates it is a cohortative, and so the usage would be “resolve.”  “I will make” is stronger than the simple future “I shall make.”



Genesis 14:19


“And he blessed him, and said, Blessed [be] Abram by El Elyon,

creator of heaven and earth.


The word “blessed” is baruk, the qal passive participle from barak.  In a blessing like this one from the high priest we would supply the jussive form of the verb: “may Abram be blessed.”  The participle is then functioning as a predicate adjective.  And “Abram” would be the nominative, the subject.


The word “creator” is the qal active participle, qoneh.  It is a noun use of the participle, in apposition to “El Elyon,” which was a genitive after the preposition “by.”  So this word would also be a genitive by apposition   But it is in construct (nouns and participles that end with segol he’ change to sere he’ in the construct), and so “heaven and earth” would be genitives after it, and clearly objective genitives because they are what is created.  And the two of them form a merism, meaning the whole universe.





[1] The Hebrew word rib [pronounced reev] is a parallel term; it refers to a legal dispute or an indictment.  A passage that has legal charges or complaints in them, calls for witnesses, and demands justice, is often classified as a “rib pattern.”

[2] It will have to be remembered that this column Bible is only one manuscript of the Old Testament in Greek, albeit the best--Codex B or Vaticanus.  The copy of the Septuagint by Rahlfs is a critical edition.  On a really important matter you would want to see that what B has is in fact the best or only reading.