596547 at ican.net
Fri Feb 12 07:25:25 EST 1999
The poem in Deu 32 seems to have evidence of an archaic Hebrew system in
which two prefixed verb forms are often difficult to distinguish. Prefix
(a) is sometimes shortened or apocopated, depending usually on the verbal
root, and tends to come clause-initially. It has the significance of a
preterit or modal, a distinction which, how ever significant, is not always
possible to determine. The other prefixed form (b) is longer, as compared
to the first, with certain roots and tends to come in the second position
of a clause. It has the value of a past imperfective (for repetitive or
habitual activity in the past) or a non-past (i.e., present generic or
future). Conveniently, this confusing picture is *usually* simplified for
us in prose as follows:
(a) with preterit value manifests as a wayyiqtol
(a) with a modal value manifests clause-initially in direct speech only
(b) with a past habitual, repetitive value manifests clause-medially
outside of direct speech only.
(b) with a non-past meaning manifests clause-medially inside direct speech
Perhaps Deu 32 is an old poem or perhaps the poet adopted an old syntax
with which he was still familiar. In either case, re your particular
query, in v. 38 and the two prefixed forms yo'kelu and yi$tu, it seems
that context does not necessitate any reading of the prefixed form. So lets
enjoy them all at once! My translation: "Where are their gods?--some
rock--they are hidden in it...
...which ate... it drank
...which eats... it drinks
...which intends to eat... it intends to drink."
Poetically, we limit ourselves in a translation, and then cannot enjoy the
scrumptious ambiguity in the verb forms. In a sense, the prefixed form in
this poem has a very simple signification of a vivid description of
Hoping to help,
> In Deut. 32:37 there is a perfect/qatal/suffix conjugation verb XFSFYW.
> which is translated unremarkably as a past tense, "they took refuge"
> (NIV). In the next verse, though with a change of subject, there are two
> more past tenses, "ate" and "drank," though the verb in each case is an
> imperfect/yiqtol/prefix conjugation verb, YO)K"LW. and YI$:T.W.
> I'm not sure if this bears on the endless thread concerning the Hebrew
> conjugations or not, but in any case I was wondering if someone could
> address the question of imperfect/yiqtol/prefix conjugation as a past
> tense, not so much generally, but rather specifically in this verse,
> where there is no waw, consecutive or otherwise, and where the verbs in
> question are found in a subordinate clause introduced by )$ER
> Mark Joseph
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