wayyiqtol test, Gen 42:6-17
dwashbur at nyx.net
Wed Feb 17 08:53:29 EST 1999
> In your post about Gen 42:6-17 in which you examined the string of
> wayyiqtols for sequentiality, you mentioned that the wayyiqtol in v. 8
> vayaker repeats the wayyiqtol of v. 7 vayakirem, thereby proving that the
> wayyiqtol is not inherently sequential. I disagree.
> I don't think anyone maintains that all the wayyiqtols represent one linear
> sequence of events like one line of dominoes: knock the first one down and
> all the rest will come down, too, all in order. Such a description of the
> Hebrew verbal system is a mere charicature of the idea that the wayyiqtol
> is a sequential form. The Hebrew writer is an artist among other things,
> and he knows how to use his language to the best advantage. We must give
> him room for temporal overlay, paraphrase, leitmotif, slowing narrative
> time, and, as you say, parallel threads.
But how can this be done with a form that is "inherently
sequential"? That's the big question, and I don't really see an
answer in this post.
> A couple things are going on with all these wayyiqtols is Gen 42, and with
> 42:8 specifically. For one, the advance of time is by small steps. As you
> have pointed out, several events don't *need* to be sequential in a real
> world. The Hebrew writer in this way stretches narrative time, sort of
> putting the camera into slow-motion, by using a preponderance of the
> mainline narrative forms but actually describing very little progress. In
> this particular meeting between Jacob's sons, this nicely achieves the kind
> of tension which is appropriate to a momentous event in the same way as
> it's achieved in a movie at a critical moment.
But in a movie we have (usually) clear indicators that we're in a
flashback or a sudden change of scene. I still don't see any
explanation of how a Hebrew writer could accomplish this sort of
artistry using a form that is *inherently* and *necessarily*
sequential. It seems to me that if he did, it would defeat his
purpose because the inherent and necessary meaning of the verb
is contradictory to what he's trying to do.
> Second, the particular type of case where the writer repeats a previous
> event (called back-looping or back-referencing) with a wayyiqtol and then
> resumes the narrative is temporal overlay. This is what's going on in
> 42:8. To, in a sense, refuse to demote the event to off-the-line material
> the second time it is mentioned is basically at odds with the standard use
> of the form. On the other hand, the jarring use of the form creates
> attention to the passage that is appropriate to its thematic importance.
I'm afraid I can't even make sense of this. Yes, it's temporal
overlay. But again, temporal overlay is inherently contradictory to a
chain of forms that are inherently sequential. This is not a
caricature of the idea of sequentiality, it's the logical conclusion
that we end up at if the WP is inherently sequential. OTOH, if it's a
simple-statement tense/form/whatever-we-call-it, then it's a very
nice form for doing what you describe because the "jarring use"
comes about because of the semantic content of the clause, not
because of the verb form. This provides a smooth and unified
explanation of the chain of WP clauses and allows the writer the
flexibility you describe (and I agree that he has that flexibility)
without having to violate the "inherent" force of the verb form.
> In this particular passage, the writer wanted to bring attention to this
> tense meeting between the brothers and the important thematic root nkr. In
> a way the Joseph cycle (as well as the Judah/Tamar pericope) is about
> "nkr-ing." Jacob recognizes his son's special garment stained with blood
> in Gen 37:33, but he fails to recognize the ruse of his hateful sons.
> Judah is then bested by Tamar's clever ruse when he recognizes the damning
> evidence possessed by her in 38:26. Joseph now in 42:7 and 8 recognizes
> his brothers, but reconcilliation will only be possible when they recognize
> and accept that Joseph is a favored man, something that is achieved through
> the clever series of tests by the disguised (also the root nkr) Joseph.
> In summary, I would say that this momentous event and the repetition of the
> root nkr (four times) in these verses are at just the strategic place for
> the Hebrew writer to do something at odds with the verbal system in
> general. In fact, I would consider 42:8 to be an exception that proves the
> rule, so to speak.
I submit that this kind of exegetical-linguistic back-flip is
unnecessary unless we are heck-bent on preserving the idea of
sequentiality at all costs, a preservation which is also unnecessary.
A Bible that's falling apart means a life that isn't.
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