The Study of Syntax

 

 

SYNTAX OF THE NOUN

 

 

The study of a noun in a sentence will involve the study of number, gender, and case.  This outline will focus on the most frequent need, the understanding of the cases, nominative, genitive, and accusative.

 

 

GENDER

 

Beginning language students know that Hebrew nouns may be in the masculine or feminine for reasons different than gender.  The beginning students needs to know these categories so that they do not make more of the classification than the language intended.  Here, access to a good syntax of Hebrew will be most helpful for the complete study; the following list will introduce the categories.

 

 

Masculine

 

1.                  To denote the male sex:

 

“man” (’adam), “king” (melek), or “father” (’ab)

 

2.                  To denote grammatical gender for inanimate objects:

 

“house” (bayit), “word” (dabar), “flesh” (basar)

 

3.                  To express abstract ideas (chiefly in the plural):

 

“life” (khayyim), “old age” (zequnim), “youth” (ne‘urim)

 

 

Feminine

 

4.                  To indicate the female sex:

 

“queen” (malkah), “mother” (’em)

 

5.                  To indicate grammatical gender for inanimate objects:

 

a.                   Names of countries and cities: “Moab” (mo’ab), “Egypt” (mitsrayim)

(masculine is usually used for the population of a city)

 

b.                  Common names of places, districts, and quarters: “the circle of the Jordan” (kikkar), “hell” (she’ol), “north” (tsaphon)

 

c.         Names of instruments and utensils: “sword” (khereb), “cup” (kos)

 

d.                  Parts of the body that occur in pairs: “ear” (’ozen), “eye” (‘ayin)

 

e.                   Names of the elements and unseen forces: “fire” (’esh), “wind, spirit” (ruakh)

 

f.                    Titles and designations: “preacher” (?) (Qohelet)

 

6.                  To express abstract ideas:

 

“faithfulness” (’emunah), “love” (’ahabah), “righteousness” (tsedaqah)

 

7.                  To form collectives:

 

“inhabitants” (yoshebet), “enemies” (’oyebet)

 

8.                  To indicate a single component of a masculine collective:

 

“ship” (oniyah) of a fleet (oni)

 

 

 

NUMBER

 

 

Likewise, nouns are singular, plural, or (rarely) dual (for objects naturally in pairs, or for two of a kind).  Most of the time these categories are incidental to the sentence.  However, at times a word will be plural when plural in number is not intended.   For the ways that Hebrew uses the plural, the reader should consult the full grammars of syntax when necessary.  The following will introduce the categories for singular and plural..

 

 

Singular

 

1.                  To indicate a single person or thing:

 

“a king” (melek)

 

2.                  To indicate a collective:

 

“people” (‘am), “trees” (‘ets)

 

 

Plural

 

3.                  To indicate simple plurality:

 

“king” (melakim)

 

4.                  To indicate composition:

 

“pieces of silver” (kesaphim), “firewood” (‘etsim)

 

5.                  To indicate natural products in an unnatural or manufactured state:

 

“barley [in grains]” (se‘orim) as opposed to “barley” [ears] (se‘orah)

 

6.                  To indicate extension when the object consists of separate parts:

 

“youth[time]” (ne‘urim),   “[shed] blood” (damim)

 

7.                  To indicate abstract ideas:

 

a.                   Quality:           “faithfulness” (’emunim)

 

b.                  State:              “virginity” (betulim)

 

c.                   Abstract plural of actions:    “ordination” (millu’im), “atonement” (kippurim)

 

d.                  Abstract plural of intensification:      “counsel” (‘etsot)

 

8.                  To indicate respect:

 

“God” (’elohim), also called the plural of majesty, plural of potentiality, or plural of eminence.  Attributive adjectives and verbs that go with the form are usually in the singular.

 

 

 

 

CASE

 

The noun has three possible cases, even though the language has no case endings: nominative, genitive, and accusative.   A good deal of the time the case involved will be routine and no special significance will be derived from it in the interpretation other that clarification of the sentence (such as when a nominative is the subject of the sentence, or a genitive is the object of a preposition, or an accusative is the direct object).  But there are many times when the exegete will need to consult the grammars to understand how a noun relates to the sentence.  This brief outline is a simplified presentation of the more detailed studies in the grammars.

 

The Uses of the Nominative Case

 

1.       To denote the subject of the sentence:

The normal use of the nominative case in Hebrew is for the subject of a clause.  For variations of word-order and subject-verb agreement, see the grammars.

 

“The serpent beguiled me” (Gen. 3:13)

 

2.       To denote the vocative:

In a direct address the vocative may have the definite article with it.

 

“Help, O king [lit. ‘the king’]” (2 Sam. 14:4)

 

3.       To denote the predicate nominative:

The nominative is used after a stative verb in the sentence; the subject and the predicate nominative are equated.

 

“For you were sojourners” (Deut. 10:19)

 

4.       To denote the nominative absolute in a sentence:

The nominative is isolated from the sentence (hence, absolute; it used to be called the casus pendens), but is connected to its function by a “resumptive pronoun.”  The independent nominative is not always connected to the subject of the sentence.

 

Yahweh--in the heavens is his throne” (Ps. 11:4)

 

It means “Yahweh’s throne is in the heavens,” but it is not saying it that way.

 

 

The Uses of the Genitive Case

 

These are the words that are said to be in the genitive or describing case: all words that are governed by a preposition, all words after the construct state (noun or infinitive), all pronominal suffixes on nouns ad verbal nouns (not on verbs--those are accusatives), and all clauses that function in one of these situations (a noun clause that is the object of preposition, or after a construct, or the like).

 

 

“Subject” Uses of the Genitive Case

 

5.         Possessor: the genitive is the possessor of the preceding thing (common use).

“the temple of Yahweh” or “Yahweh’s temple” (Jer. 7:4)

 

6.         Authorship: this genitive occurs after words of things that may be written, said, revealed or the like.

“the word of Yahweh” (the word Yahweh gave [Jer. 1:2])

 

7.         Subjective Genitive: the genitive is the subject of the action in the construct noun (usually a noun of action; common with infinitive construct).

“the wisdom of Solomon” (1 Kings 5:10)

 

8.       Agent: the genitive is the agent of the action (usually a person, after words that are passives).

“despised of [by] the people” (Ps. 22:7)

 

9.       Instrument: the genitive is now the impersonal instrument or means of the action (also after passives).

“attacked of [by] the sword” (Jer. 18:21)

 

10.       Cause of a State: the genitive is the cause of the state or the condition of the word in construct (rare use).

“sick of [because of] love” (Song 2:5)

 

 

“Object” Uses of the Genitive Case

 

11.       Object of the Preposition: this is a very common use, but it is a formal classification; meaning would be derived from the preposition’s meaning.

“unto Jonah” (Jonah 1:1)

 

12.       Objective Genitive: the genitive is the object of the noun in construct; some uses are similar to adverbial accusative, and may be called adverbial genitives.

“violence of [done to] your brother” (Ob 6 [”your” is a possessive genitive on “brother”])

 

13.       Indirect Object: the genitive is equivalent to the indirect object in English (this use is not real common).

“May He send your help” (Ps. 20:3 [= “help to you”])

           

14.       Possessed: the genitive is the thing possessed by the construct (this is the opposite of #1, but not as common   a use).

“the lord of the country” (Gen. 42:30)

 

15.       Purpose: the genitive expresses the purpose of the term in the construct (rare).

“sheep of [destined for] slaughter” (Ps. 44:23)

 

16.       Result: the genitive expresses the result of the word in construct (rare use).

“the chastisement of [resulting in] our peace” (Isa. 53:5 [”our” is a possessive genitive on “peace”])

 

17.       Action: the genitive is the term whose object is the construct word.

“the people of [are the object of] my wrath” (“my” is the possessive genitive on “wrath”)

 

 

“Modifying Uses of the Genitive Case

 

18.       Attributive Genitive: the genitive describes the noun in construct (a very common use)

my holy mountain” or “mountain of my holiness” (Ps. 2:6 [”my” is the possessive genitive for “holy mountain”)

 

19.       Genitive of Specification: the genitive after an adjective specifies the quality (the reverse of #14).

“unclean of lips” (Isa. 6:5 [now the genitive is the word being modified])

 

20.       Genitive of Material: the genitive is the material description of the noun in construct.

“vessels of earth” or “earthenware vessel” (Num. 5:17)

 

21.              Genitive of Location: the genitive expresses the setting or place for the construct noun.

“those eating of [at] the table of Jezebel” (1 Kings 18:19 [”Jezebel” is the possessive genitive after “table”])

 

22.              Measure: the genitive may express the measure of the word in construct, or the thing measured (the two are opposite each other in their construction).

“men of number” (i.e., a few men, measure [Gen. 34:30])

“an ephah of meal” (the thing measured [Jud. 6:19])

 

23.       Genitive of Worth: the genitive is worthy or deserving of the attribute.

“the glory of [due/fitting/worthy of] His name” (Ps. 29:2 [ “His” is the possessive genitive of “name”])

 

24.              Partitive Genitive: the genitive is the whole of which the construct is the part (as in Greek, it might be better termed the “wholative” genitive).

“the youngest of his sons” (2 Chron. 21:17 [“his” is the possessive genitive on “sons”])

 

25.              Family Relationship: the genitive expresses the source in a family.

“the son of Amittai” (Jonah 1:1)

 

26.              Proper Name: this genitive may be called the genitive by apposition, but it is a construct relationship, the genitive being the name of the thing mentioned.

“the river of Euphrates” or “the river, Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18)

 

27.              Superlative Genitive: the genitive is cognate to, or a synonym of, the construct, and the two express the superlative degree.

“the song of songs” (Song 1:1 [the most exquisite song])

 

28.              Genus: the genitive is the genus to which the construct belongs (rare).

“sacrificers of men” (“men who sacrifice”)

 

29.              Subspecies: the genitive is a subspecies of the larger class described by the context (rare).

“figs of firstfruits” (i.e., early figs [Jer. 24:2])

 

 

 

The Uses of the Accusative Case

 

 

“Object” Uses of the Accusative Case

 

 

1.                  Direct Object: this is the normal function of the accusative.

“And Yahweh God planted a garden” (Gen. 2:8).

 

2.                  Indirect Object: the accusative is the equivalent of the English indirect object (this is not that common).

“Did you fast [for] me?”  (Zech. 7:5)

 

3.                  Object of an Intransitive Verb: this is a common, idiomatic use with verbs of filling, putting on, etc., etc.

“Your hands are full [of] blood” (Isa. 1:15).

 

4.                  Cognate Accusatives: the accusative is from the same root as the verb.  It may be an accusative of the effected object in which the object is produced (not affected) by the verbal action:

“Let the earth vegetate [i.e., bring forth] vegetation” (Gen. 1:11).

 

Or, it may be the accusative of the internal object in which the noun indicates an action identical with or analogous to the action of the verb (equal to the cognate accusative for emphasis):

“They craved a craving” (lusted greedily)(Num. 11:34).

 

 

 

“Adverbial” Uses of the Accusative Case

 

In most of the adverbial accusatives the English translation must supply a preposition or use a more interpretive translation to communicate the idea.

 

5.                  Place: the accusative expresses the place of the action.

 

a.         Location: the accusative provides the location of the action (answering

“where?”). 

“There was a woman lying [at] his feet” (Ruth 3:8 [“his” is a genitive of possession with “feet”]).

 

b.         Termination: the accusative provides the termination of an action, often with the directive qamets he’ (answering “to what place?”).

“and go out [to] the open country” (Gen. 27:3).

 

c.                   Measure: the accusative explains the measure of the action (answering “how far?”).

“He went into the desert a journey of a day” or “a day’s journey”

(“day” is a genitive specifying the journey”).

 

6.                  Time: the accusative places time limitations on the action (answering “how long?” the action occurs).

“And dust you shall eat all the days of your life” (Gen. 3:14 [”dust” is the accusative of direct object; and “all” is the accusative of time, followed by genitives specifying “all of”).

 

7.                  Manner: the accusative describes the manner in which the action took place; a number of these have become fixed adverbial expressions.

“I am fearfully wonderfully made” (I am wonderful [in a way that causes] fear) (Ps. 139:14 [the participle “fearfully” is used substantivally]).

 

8.                  State: the accusative is the explicative of the state of the subject or of the object.

“And the first came out reddish” (explains the subject [Gen. 25:25).

“And Moses heard the people weeping” (explains the object [Num. 11:10]).

 

9.                  Specification: the accusative may specify or restrict the idea of the sentence.

“You are my refuge [as to] strength” (Ps. 71:7).

 

 

“Double Accusatives”

 

Sentences may use two accusatives, one for the direct object and the other to modify it in some way.  The adverbial accusative, or the cognate accusative, may be part of a double accusative construction.  Other constructions are more common and are less significant exegetically except that they clarify the meaning of the sentence.

 

10.              Objects with Causative Verbs: causative verbs often take two accusatives (one of them may approximate an indirect object in English, although both could be direct objects).

“He fed you manna” (Deut. 8:3).

 

11.              Direct Object and Indirect Object: with other verbs as well the second accusative may indicate the indirect object (usually a person).  This category overlaps with # 10 for all practical purposes.

“You have given me the land of the Negev” (Josh. 15:19).

 

12.              Object and Product: these accusatives appear with verbs of making and producing.

“And he built the stones [into] an altar” (1 Kings 18:32).

 

13.              Verbs Taking Means: the accusatives include the means used:

 

a.                   Verbs of Making: the second accusative provides the means or the material that was used.

“And Yahweh God formed the man [with] dust” (Gen. 2:7).

 

b.                  Verbs of Clothing or Stripping: the subject is qualified with another accusative.

“Saul clothed David [with] his armour” (1 Sam. 17:38).

 

c.                   Verbs for Plenty of Want: once again the preposition “with” must be supplied with the verbs of filling and emptying.

“They filled their bags [with] grain” (Gen. 42:25).

 

 

The Sign of the Accusative

 

The particle ’et (with a long vowel or a short vowel) is known as the sign of the accusative because it is written with definite nouns that are in the accusative case.  But this designation is more convenient than accurate.  Technically, it indicates a weak or slight emphasis, usually with the accusative, but not exclusively.  It is commonly written with determined nouns (the article), which may have a slight demonstrative force themselves.  The sign may be used with direct objects, indirect objects, adverbial accusatives, and even the nominative case (subject, 1 Sam. 17:34; 2 Kings 6:5; Gen. 27:42; predicate, Num. 35:7).

 

 

 

ATTRIBUTION

 

Hebrew may express a single, complex notion by the juxtaposition of two nouns that agree in case.  The two words could form a subject-predicate relationship if so desired (such as “I, Yahweh” being equivalent to “I am Yahweh”), but instead express one complex idea in the sentence (“I, Yahweh . . . .”).  The absence of a construct relationship, or a predication of the qualifying word, is the indication that apposition occurs.  It may come out sounding like a construct-genitive relationship, but the word is not in the construct.   The following types of apposition are common:

 

1.                  Name: the person or thing is qualified by the apposition expressing the name.

“the king, David” = “King David” (2 Sam. 3:31)

 

2.                  Species: the person or thing (genus) is qualified by the apposition of its class (species).

“a woman, a widow” = “a widow woman” (1 Kings 7:14)

 

3.                  Material: the person or thing is qualified by the apposition of material.

“the cherubim, gold” = “the golden cherubim” (1 Chron. 28:18)

 

4.                  Measure: the weight, number, or measure of a thing is qualified by the apposition of the thing weighed, numbered, or measured.

“about an ephah, barley” = “about an ephah [of] barley” (Ruth 2:17)

 

Here belongs a number of the uses of the word “all” (kol).

“all, the days of your life” = “all [of] the days of your life” (Gen. 3:17)

 

5.                  Attributive: the person or thing is qualified by the apposition of an attribute.

 

“words, truth” = “true words” (Prov. 22:21)

“wine, reeling” = “wine of reeling” or powerful wine (Prov. 22:21)

 

6.                  Repetition: the noun is often repeated (and so in the same case) for emphasis.

“Do not talk proudly, proudly” = “so proudly” (1 Sam. 2:3).

 

7.                  Pronominal Suffix and Noun: the suffix is qualified by the noun in apposition.  This is a full expression and need not be translated literally.

“And she saw him, the baby” = “and she saw the baby” (Exod. 2:6).

 

 

THE SYNTAX OF THE ARTICLE

 

 

Nouns may be definite in Hebrew in a number of ways: proper nouns (names) are automatically definite; nouns with possessive pronouns are definite; nouns in construct qualified by definite nouns in the genitive are also definite; and nouns that have the definite article.  The article points out, focuses on, or identified specifically the word to which it is attached.

 

There is no indefinite article (“a” or “an”) in Hebrew.  By omitting the definite article where it should be used, the writer emphasizes the class to which something belongs: the quality, nature, or character is stressed.  The article is frequently omitted in poetry, and one must make sure from contextual exegesis that it is not merely for metric considerations.

 

“[Such] knowledge is too wonderful for me” (Ps. 139:6).  The context has been discussing the kind of knowledge the LORD has. 

 

 

The following are the most common categories for the use of the article:

 

1.                  To Show Definiteness: this is the normal use of the article now.

“And Yahweh came down to see the city” (Gen. 11:5).

 

2.                  As a Demonstrative: this is an occasional usage; it appears to be the original force of the article.

this night” (Gen. 19:5)

 

3.                  To Show Previous Reference: the article refers to something previously mentioned.

“Now the name of the man was Elimelech” (Ruth 1:2)

 

4.                  As a Vocative: the article may be used in direct address.

“Listen, O high priest Joshua” (Zech. 3:8).

 

5.                  To Show Uniqueness: the article stress that the object is the only one of its kind.

“Yahweh--He is the [true] God” (1 Kings 18:39).

 

6.                  To Show a Generic Class: the article is used with a class of persons, animals, or other things determined in themselves and regarded as a unit.

“Not so are the ungodly” (Ps. 1:4).

 

7.                  As a Relative Pronoun: the article serves as the relative pronoun, especially when used with nouns/adjectives and participles that are attributive.

“to Yahweh who appeared to him” (Gen. 2:7).


 

THE SYNTAX OF THE VERB

 

 

THE PERFECT TENSE

 

The “perfect tense,” or “suffixed conjugation” as it is called, has to be surveyed for the kind of action it represents.  Both “perfect” and “tense” are more convenient designations than accurate.  But the kind of action that the perfect reflects is completed action, whether in the past, present, or future.  Most beginning students learn to translate the perfect as a simple past tense.  Now we divide the uses between those that are “aoristic” (complete, past tense, or point action) and those that are more “perfective” (with the emphasis on continuing results).

 

Note: the wayyipqod forms of the verb, the so-called imperfect or preterite with the waw consecutive, are to be included in this section.  In narrative the forms will most often be the definite past, which is why many prefer to call the form the preterite with the waw  consecutive.  But if the form follows a perfect tense with another nuance, then it may take the same nuance of that first form for its translation.  In some places, poetry especially, the preterite may appear with no waw at all (in passages where it cannot be the regular imperfect); the context will determine how it should be translated--usually as a past tense.

 

I do not think the fact that the “preterite” has these other meanings is reason enough not to call it a preterite; the non-preterite translations come from the syntactical construction of the sequential waw in the context.  For the other form, the perfect with the waw consecutive, we always call it the perfect with the waw consecutive no matter how it is translated in the context. 

 

 

Action Equivalent to “Aoristic” Action

 

1.                  Definite Past: the verb denotes completed action with no other qualifications; this category is common because it represents the simple past act.

“. . . and Lot also, his relative, he brought back” (Gen. 14:16).

 

2.         Very Recent Past: a special use related to the first category in which the context specifies that the action was very recent.

“What have you done? (just now [Gen. 4:10])

 

3.                  Constative: the action is still past time, but expressly indicates that the action covers a period of time.  This use is not very common.

“Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer” (Gen. 14:4).

 

4.                  Ingressive: the verb leads to the beginning of a state (translate with “became”).  This is a rare use too.

“the man . . . went forth and grew until he became great (Gen. 26:13).

 

5.                  Indefinite Past: the speaker refers to past action without defining specific circumstances.

I have seen the wicked in great power” (Ps. 37:35)

 

6.                  Unique Past: the action’s uniqueness is stressed by the writer.

“Who has [ever] heard anything like this?” (Isa. 66:8)

 

7.                  Gnomic Perfect: the verb denotes a universal or general truth, true in the past, present, and future.

“An ox knows it master” (Isa. 1:3).

 

8.                  Characteristic Perfect: the action is characteristic of the person in the past and in the present, but not in the future.

“Why do the nations rage?”  (Ps. 2:1).

 

9.                  Instantaneous Perfect: the action is going on at the time of the speaking (rare).

I raise my hand [here and now] (Gen. 14:22).

 

10.              Potential Perfect: the verb denotes action perceived as potential (very rare).

“What can the righteous do?”  (Ps. 11:4).

 

11        Epistolary Aorist: the verb denotes sending for something sent (very rare).

“See, I am sending to you” (1 Kings 15:19).

 

Action Equivalent to “Perfective” Action

 

12.              Present Perfect: the action includes definite past but also the state effected by the action.  (In English this tense is formed by the English present tense of the auxiliary or helping verb).

“For you have comforted me” (Ruth 2:13).

 

13.              Past Perfect: the action of the verb is anterior to the past time action of a previous verb.  (In English this is formed with the past tense of the auxiliary verb).

“Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them” (Gen. 31:32)

 

14.              Future Perfect: the action of the verb is anterior to a future time action.  (In English this is formed with the future tense of the auxiliary verb).

“I shall not leave you until I shall have done” (Gen. 28:15).

 

15.              Adjectival Perfect: the verb is the pure stative verb, translated as a predicate adjective.

“For I am too old for a husband to have” (Ruth 1:12).

 

16.              Stative, Transitive Perfect: the verb may be stative or transitive.

“your only son, whom you love” (Gen. 22:2)

 

17.              Prophetic Perfect: the verb describes the certainty of a future event as if it were done (because the “seer” has seen it). This is also called the perfect of confidence in passages expressing strong faith.

“For unto us a child was born” (Isa. 9:6).

 

18.              Perfect of Resolve: the verb expresses the determination or resolve of the person; the outcome is uncertain (unlike # 17).

“Naomi [has decided to] sell” (Ruth 4:3).

 

19.              Hypothetical Perfect: the verb denotes a condition contrary to fact (an optative); this is a very rare use.

If I said I have hope” (Ruth 1:12).

 

 

THE IMPERFECT TENSE

 

 

The “imperfect tense,” or “prefixed conjugation” as it is also called, indicates action that is incomplete, whether in the future, the present, or the past.

 

Note: The perfect with the waw consecutive belongs in this group; when a perfect withe the waw consecutive follows an imperfect tense, then it may be given the same translation nuance as the verb before it.  In some passages there will be no preceding verb, and the nuance must be derived from the contexts.  In such cases it may be simple future, or instruction.

 

 

Future Action

 

 

1.                  The Simple or Specific Future: the imperfect often denotes a real, future act; it may be certain and specific, or it may be ordinary and general.

“when you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).

 

2.                  The Historical Future: the imperfect is future from the standpoint of a past time action (rare use).

“Elisha was sick with the sickness from which he would die” (2 Kings 13:14).

 

3.                  The Anterior Future: the imperfect is anterior to a future event (rare use).

“And offer a burnt offering with the wood of the grove which you shall have cut down” (this is equal to   the perfect tense use of future perfect).

 

 

Repeated Action

 

 

4.                  Habitual Imperfect: the imperfect expresses continual, universal action (equivalent to the perfect tense’s gnomic use).

“Whoever laps with his tongue from the water as a dog laps” (Jud. 7:5).

 

5.                  Progressive Imperfect: the action of the verb is simply going on, or is in progress, but is not complete.  This is a common use of the imperfect.

“What do you seek?”  (Gen. 37:15).

 

6.                  Customary Imperfect: the action is repeated but in past time (translation uses “would” or “used to”).

“Now a mist used to go up and [used to] water” (Gen. 2:6).  The second verb is a perfect with a waw consecutive and so receives the same nuance.

 

7.                  Distributive Imperfect: the imperfect describes a plurality of action or distributive action (rare use).

“One company would turn into the way” (1 Sam. 13:17).

 

 

Modal Nuances

 

 

8.                  Potential Imperfect: the action is possible (translation uses “can, is able to”).

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?” (Ps. 139:7)

 

9.                  Permissive Imperfect: the action is permitted (translation uses “may”).

“from every tree of the garden you may eat freely” (Gen. 2:16).

 

10.              Deliberative Imperfect: the action is deliberated or reasoned (in questions, doubts; translation uses “should”).

Should I not search out rest for you?”  (Ruth 3:1).

 

11.              Obligatory Imperfect: the action is necessary; the subject is obliged to act (translation uses “ought to”).

“You have done things which ought not be done” (Gen. 20:9).

 

12.              Desiderative Imperfect: the subject is desirous or willing to act (translation uses “wish to, want to”).

“If he wants to redeem you, fine, let him redeem; but if he is not willing to redeem you” (Ruth 3:13).

 

13.              Possibility: the action may happen; it is possible it will .

“And the case that may be too difficult . . . ” (do not confuse this with permissive imperfect, for both use “may”).

 

14.              Final Imperfect: the verb denotes the purpose or the result; it occurs in final clauses or purpose clauses (often after “that, in order that”).

“that it may go well for you” (Ruth 3:1).

 

 

Volitional Aspects

 

 

15.              Imperfect of Injunction: the imperfect may stress an immediate, positive wish or command.

Purge [imperfect] me with hyssop” (Ps. 51:9).

 

16.              Imperfect of Instruction: the imperfect may be used to express general legislation or instruction.

“and thus you shall eat it” (the passover [Exod. 12:11]).

 

17.              Imperfect of Prohibition, or negative instruction or negative injunction.

You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13).

 

 

 

 

SYNTAX OF THE VOLITIVES

 

 

THE JUSSIVE

 

The jussive is the volitional mood of the third person, and of the second person

when negated (with ’al plus the jussive of the 2nd person we have a negative command).  The force of the jussive will vary greatly from context to context, and especially depending on the relation of the speaker and the subject.

 

From a Superior to an Inferior

 

1.                  Command: the jussive forms a direct command from the speaker, but in the 3rd person.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3).

 

2.                  Counsel: the superior gives advice or counsel, which is not a command.

“The officers shall say . . . , Let him go back” (Deut. 20:8).

 

3.                  Negative Command: the jussive in the 2nd person with the negative forms an immediate prohibition (the negative ’al indicates it is a jussive; lo’ goes with the imperfect).

Don’t eat food or drink water” (1 Kings 13:22).

 

 

From an Inferior to a Superior

 

4.                  Prayer: speaker makes a request for God to do something.

Let it be known this day that You are God” (1 Kings 18:36).

 

5.                  Desire: speaker expresses a desire for something to happen.

Let my lord [Esau] pass on before his servant” (Gen. 33:14).

 

6.                  Blessing: speaker expresses a blessing; the speaker is usually a priest or a theocratic administrator, and the blessing is actually an oracle (not a wish).

“Yahweh bless you and keep you” (Num. 6:24).

 

7.                  Wish: speaker expresses a hopeful wish (even for a blessing) for something to happen (which may be more or less probable); close to a greeting as well..

“Yahweh bless you” (Ruth 2:4 [the workers greeting Boaz]).

 

8.                  Request: speaker is making his request for something.

“Please, let your servant remain in the place of the lad” (Gen. 44:33).

 

9.                  Advice: speaker gives advice to a superior.

“Now let Pharaoh choose a wise and discerning man” (Gen. 41:33).

 

10.              Invitation: speaker extends an invitation.

Let the king and his servants go with your servant [me]” (2 Sam. 13:24).

 

11.              Negative Prayer: the jussive with the negative may be used with the above senses, but it is also used in the 2nd person for a negative prayer ( now to a superior, so not a command).

“Lord Yahweh, do not destroy Your people” (Deut. 9:26).

 

12.              Negative Desire.  not a prayer to God, the negated jussive may express a desire.

“(I desire one small request from you) do not refuse me” (1 Kings 2:20).

 

 

THE IMPERATIVE MOOD

 

The imperative is the volitional mood of the 2nd person only.  It never occurs with the negative adverbs (jussives and imperfects are used to give negative commands and prohibitions).  The force of the command varies greatly in strength from context to context, but it always has an emphasis on immediate compliance or response.  Sometimes the exegete has to describe the kind of force if none of the categories work.

 

1.                  Direct Command: the speaker gives a forceful command to be obeyed.

“Here is your wife.  Take her and leave” (Gen. 12:20).

 

2.                  Counsel or Advice: the speaker is not commanding but giving advice.

Go, return, each of you to her mother’s house” (Ruth 1:8).

 

3.                  Invitation: the speaker uses an imperative to extend an invitation.

Come here and eat from the food” (Ruth 2:14).

 

4.                  Permission: the speaker allows something to happen, expressing it with an imperative.

Go up and bury your father” (Gen. 50:6).

 

5.                  Interjection: the imperative arrests attention (idiomatic uses).

Come!  Let’s make bricks” (Gen. 11:3).

 

6.                  Promise or Assurance: the speaker uses the imperative to express what will happen.

“And in the third year [you will] sow and reap” (Isa. 37:30).

 

7.                  Request: the speaker uses an imperative to ask for something.

“Please give them a talent of silver” (2 Kings 5:22).

 

8.                  Rhetorical Command: the speaker uses the imperative ironically and rhetorically to convey his point.

Go to Bethel and transgress” (Amos 4:4).

 

9.                  Warning: the speaker uses the imperative rhetorically to warn of the consequences or effects.

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of love” (Hos. 10:12).

 

10.              Concession: the speaker uses the imperative rhetorically to convey the concessive idea.

Prepare for battle [=although you will prepare] and be broken [= you will be broken](Isa. 8:9).

 

 

 

THE COHORTATIVE

 

 

The cohortative is the volitional mood of the 1st person, singular or plural.  It conveys the will of the speaker in a resolve or in an invocation to the will of another or others.

 

 

Resolve

 

1.                  Determination: the speaker is determined to do something.

I will make it a ruin” (Isa. 5:6).

 

2.                  Intention: the speaker expresses his or her intention.

I will go down and see [if it is that bad]” (Gen. 18:21).

 

3.                  Desire: the speaker what he or she or they would like to do.

I desire to set a king over me” (Deut. 17:14 [Israel is the speaker]).

 

 

Request

 

4.                  Direct Request: the speaker asks for something.

Let me go up and bury my father, and I will return” (Gen. 50:5 [ the last cohortative is intention or determination]).

 

5.                  Wish: the request of the speaker does not directly invoke another.

“O my God, I have trusted in You; may I not be put to shame” (Ps. 25:2).

 

 

Hortatory

 

6.                  Hortatory: this is the pure cohortative, exhorting others to participate.

Let’s go after other gods” (Deut. 13:2).

 

 

 

 

THE DEPENDENT USE OF VOLITIVES

 

 

The volitives may be found in various types of sequences with the waw (variously conjunctive or consecutive).  The sequence is logical, rather than temporal, although there is a temporal sequence with the action.

 

1.                  Imperative followed by Perfect + Waw Consecutive: the perfect tense has the force of an imperative or an injunction.

Hear O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone; and you shall love (perfect + waw) Yahweh your God” (Deut. 6:4).

 

2.                  Imperative followed by Imperative + Waw Conjunction: the second imperative may be coordinated or subordinated (hence, just a waw conjunction).

“This do and [then/thus] live [you will live]” (Gen. 42:18).

 

3.                  Purpose or Result: The waw conjunction is used in a number of combinations with volitives and imperfects to express purpose or result.  Because it is a translation choice and not an automatic change, the waw is classified as a conjunction.

“Bring it to me that I may eat” (Gen. 27:4 [impv + coh]).

“Let me go . . . that I may glean” (Ruth 2:2 [coh + coh]).

“Open his eyes that he might see” (2 Kings 6:17 [impv + juss]).

“What shall we do . . . that the sea may be calm” (Jonah 1:11 [indic + juss]).

 

 

 

 

THE SYNTAX OF VERBAL FORMS,

INFINITIVES AND PARTICIPLES

 

 

THE INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE

 

The infinitive absolute is a verbal noun.  It may function in a sentence nominally or verbally.  It portrays the bare action of the verbal idea with no regard to the agent, circumstance, time or mood under which it takes place.

 

 

Nominal Uses

 

1.                  Subject: a rare use, but the infinitive can function as the subject.

To show partiality is not good” (Prov. 28:21).

 

2.                  Object: a rare use, but it can also be the object.

“Learn doing well” (Isa. 1:17).

 

3.                  Predicate Nominative: again rare, the infinitive is a predicate after a stative.

“The effect of righteousness is sowing quietness” (Isa. 32:17).

 

4.                  Emphasis: this is the most common use of the infinitive absolute; the emphasis does not bear upon the verbal action onl,but also on the mood, which is reinforced.  The exegete should first classify the verb, and then explain how the infinitive absolute emphasizes it.  These are the most common; there are others.

 

a.                   Affirmation: emphasizes the certainty of the verbal action (often future).

“You shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).

 

b.                  Doubt: emphasizes the improbability of the condition (“by chance”).

“Will you indeed reign over us?” (Gen. 37:8).

 

c.                   Supposition: emphasizes the condition as less probable (“if . . . should”).

“If her father wold happen to spit in her face” (Num. 12:14).

 

d.                  Antithesis: emphasizes a contrast (preceded by “but”).

but they did not drive them out” (Jud. 1:28 [but driving out they did not drive out])

 

e.                   Permission: infinitive heightens the permissive mood of the verb.

“You may freely eat” (Gen. 2:16 [eating you may eat]).

 

f.                    Obligation: enforces the oblgation.

“The ox must be stoned” (Exod. 21:28 [stoning will be stoned]).

 

5.                  Adverbial Accusative: another common use, the infinitive describes adverbially the manner, degree, or other modification of the verb.  Some forms have become fixed adverbs.

“The man shall surely be put to death, all the community stoning him” (Num. 15:35 [note the first infinitive is emphatic]).

 

6.                  Simultaneous or Complementary Action: a second infinitive is used which stresses the continual nature of the other (halok) or a complementary action.

“They [the cows] were going, going and lowing” (1 Sam. 6:12).

 

 

Verbal Uses

 

7.                  In Sequence: the infinitive absolute was a waw and follows sequentially a verb.

“You have sown much, but brought in little” (Hag. 1:6).

 

8.                  Pure Verbs: the infinitive absolute appears without a waw.

Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it” (Deut.5:12).

 

9.                  Governing an Accusative: the infinitive rules the accusative or preposition.

“Glory . . . that you know me” (Jer. 9:23 [24]).

 

 

THE INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

 

 

The infinitive construct is also a verbal noun, a true infinitive with no time

limitation.  The infinitive construct is more nominal than the infinitive absolute form.  But it may be used substantivally (in the place of a noun) or verbally.

 

 

Substantival Uses

 

1.                  It Occurs in Noun Cases: as a verbal noun the infinitive construct appears in the various cases.

“It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18 [as a nominative: the being of man alone is not good]).

 

“a time of mourning” (Eccl. 3:4 [as a genitive]).

 

“I do not know [how to] go out and come in” (1 Kings 3:7 [accusative]).

 

2.                  It Occurs in the Construct State: this is a common use of the infinitive construct; it is followed by either a subjective genitive or an objective genitive, and it often follows a preposition.  The whole clause becomes an adverbial clause.

“All of it was well watered, before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah” (Gen. 13:10 [before the destroying of Sodom and Gomorrah]).

 

 

Verbal Use

 

The common use of the infinitive construct is with the preposition lamed, which is the equivalent of the English infinitive.  The preposition usually expresses direction  of the action of the previous verb, but this shades off into other nuances.

 

1.                  Purpose: the infinitive is used to express purpose, goal, or the end of the action.

“And Jonah arose to flee” (Jonah 1:2)

 

2.                  Result: the infinitive expresses the result of the action.

“Why have I found favor in your sight so that you took notice of me?” (Ruth 2:10).

 

3.                  Epexegetical: the infinitive explains the circumstances or nature of the preceding verb; it answers the question “how?”  Translation uses “by/in . . . -ing.”

“The people are sinning against Yahweh by eating with blood” (1 Sam. 14:33).

 

4.                  Object: the infinitive completes the idea of the verb in much the manner of a direct object; it answers the question “what?”

“Stop entreating me to abandon you by returning [an epexegetical use] from after you” (Ruth 2:16).

 

5.                  Gerundive with lamed of Product: a rare use, but the infinitive may function as a verbal adjective expressing duty, necessity, or fitness; it usually is rendered “about to/ought to be.”

“The gates were about to shut” (Josh. 2:5).

 

6.                  Degree: the infinitive is translated “enough to” in this rare construction.

“Hezekiah was sick enough to die” (2 Kings 20:1).

 

Note: The infinitive construct in these uses may appear without the lamed preposition.

 

 

 

THE ACTIVE PARTICIPLE

 

The active participle represents continual, uninterrupted exercise of an activity, or the continuous exhibition of the condition denoted by the verb.  It is atemporal, depending on the context for its time.  Like adjectives it may function predicatively (verbally), attributively (adjectival), or substantivally (as a noun).

 

 

Verbal Use of the Active Participle

 

When the active participle functions as the predicate, it emphasizes the linear, durative action of the root.  At times the action is repeated rather than durative.  The time is derived from the context.

 

1.                  In Past Time

“while Lot [was] sitting in the gate” (Gen. 19:1 [durative])

“All that he [was] doing, Yahweh [was] prospering in his hand” (Gen. 39:3 [iterative]).

 

2.                  In Present Time

“And he said, ‘I [am] seeking my brothers” (Gen. 37:16 [durative]).

“One generation passes away, and another comes, but the earth abides continually” (Eccl. 1:4 [iterative action]).

 

3.                  Imminent Future: the action is represented as occurring in the present but actually will occur after an interval of time; the action is certain, and so this use is called futur instans.  It often follows hinneh.  Translation uses “about to.”

“Behold, I [am] bringing [about to bring] the flood of waters” (Gen. 6:17).

 

4.                  In Future Time

“For in seven days I [will be] sending rain on the earth” (Gen. 7:4).

 

 

Adjectival Use of the Active Participle

 

The emphasis is no longer on the linear durative action, but the concept of the root as a quality.  The participle as an adjective expresses neither time or aspect.

 

5.                  Attributive Adjective

“To the God who answered me in the day of my trouble” (Gen. 35:3).

 

6.                   Predicate Adjective

“Your eyes are the ones which saw all that Yahweh your God has done” (Deut. 3:21).

 

 

Substantival Uses of the Active Participle

 

The participle functions as a noun and makes prominent the fixed character of the root used.

 

“The Keeper of Israel will not sleep” (Ps. 121:4 [subject).

Whoever sheds blood . . .” (Gen. 9:6 [subject]).

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth (Eccl. 12:1 [object]).

“My soul waits for the morning, more than the watshmen” (Ps. 130:5 [noun of occupation]).

 

 

THE PASSIVE PARTICIPLE

 

Passive participles have the same functions as the active participles.  At times it is helpful to divide passive participle uses between true passives and false passives.  True passives occur when the subject is being acted upon (in process) and the participle functions as a verb.

 

“While she [was] being brought forth she sent to her father-in-law” (Gen. 38:25).

 

False passives form the common use, similar to the English passive participle.  It indicates that the person or thing is in a state as a result of an action.  The agewnt or instrument is usually supplied (often with a genitive after the participle in construct).

 

“Your cities [are] burned with [of] fire” (Isa. 1:7).

 

 

THE WAW CONJUNCTION, CONSECUTIVE, DISJUNCTIVE

 

 

Hebrew uses the conjunction in a wide number of ways.  Apart from the normal conjunction, there also appears the consecutive use, which affects the translation of the verbs, and the disjunctive which breaks the sequence.  The following list of uses shows the great many ways Hebrew uses the form.

 

1.                  Coordination: words are simply coordinated with “and.”

“God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

 

2.                  Sequence: the waw (mostly consecutive) stresses the temporal or logical sequential action between verbs (“and then”).

And [then] God said” (Gen. 1:3).

 

3.                  Disjunction: the waw expresses “but” or “now” or some parenthetical translation that breaks away from the sequence; it is signaled by the form on a non-verb at the beginning of the clause.

Now the earth was waste and void” (Gen. 1:2).

 

4.                  Adversative: the waw has the meaning “but” within a clause (as opposed to the above use).

“Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb” (Gen. 22:7).

 

5.                  Explicative or Epexegetical: “even, namely, that is.”

“the Lord, whom you seek, even the messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1).

 

6.                  Emphatic: the waw is translated “even, especially.”

“Now king Solomon loved many foreign women, especially the daughter of Pharaoh” (1 Kings 11:1).

 

7.                  Alternative: “or” (rare use).

“you, or your son” (Exod. 20:10)

 

8.                  Pleonastic: waw is merely stylistic (rare use).

“So now [and] I will be your servant” (2 Sam. 15).

 

9.                  Comparative: waw serves as a comparison (only in poetry).

“Does not the ear try words // as the mouth tastes its meat” (Job 12:11).

 

10.              Accompaniment: “with.”

“the box with the golden mice” (1 Sam. 6:11).

 

11.              Resumptive: the waw introduces the apodosis.

then your eyes will be opened” (Gen. 3:5).

 

12.              Adjunctive: “also.”

“Ask for him the kingdom also” (1 Kings 2:22).

 

13.              Distributive: a rare use, rendered “each, and,” or “by.”

“and with them the elders of each city” ([city and city], Ez. 10).

 

14.              Noun Clause: a common use, the waw begins a clause that is the subject or the object of a verb.

“And let it be when he lies down that you mark the place” (Ruth 3:4).

 

15.              Logical or Inferential Clause: a common use, the waw is rendered “and so, thus, therefore.”

“I was afraid . . . and so I hid” (Gen. 3:10 [waw consecutive]).

 

16.              Purpose or Result: waw usually with volitive sequence.

“Bring it to me that I may eat” (Gen. 27:4).

 

17.              Temporal: introduces clauses with “when, then”; often subordinates one waw consecutive clause to another.

When [and] she finished giving him a drink, then [and] she said” (Gen.  24:19).

 

18.              Causal: “for, since, seeing, because.”

“I know you fear God, for [and] you did not withhold” (Gen. 22:12).

 

19.              Concessive: “although.”

although [and] I may not be like one of your young girls” (Ruth 2:13)