[b-hebrew] Jer 38.9 as hyperbole
furuli at online.no
Mon Feb 14 05:27:24 EST 2011
Please see below.
> >Ebed-melech is
>> concerned about the life of Jeremiah, and he
>> tells the king that the prophet "is on the point
>> of dying," or that "he will die" if the situation
>> continues. This is a critical situation in the
>> real world. It is no exaggeration (hyperebole),
>The problem with this explanation is that it does
>not explain how the Hebrew communicated the
>subtlety of the translation 'be on the point of dying'.
>The MT, according to how the Masoretes understood it,
>was saying "and he is dead". That was an exaggeration
>in the circumstances.
Your statement that the Masoretes understood the text as, "and he is
dead" is completely unfounded. The Masoretes did not understand
Hebrew grammar, and they did not point their text on the basis of
grammar. The earliest work with some grammatical hints of which I am
aware, is Diqduq of Yusuf ibn Nuh, from aroud 1,000 C.E. He was a
Karaite, and the Karaite movement was founded in the eighth or ninth
century C.E. Because Hebrew grammar books did not exist in the first
millennium CE, the formation of such grammars was based on inductive
studies of the pointed Hebrew text by the Karaites. Any conclusion
based on induction can be questionable. The point here is that the
Masoretes pointed the Hebrew text and added vowel points long before
The Masoretes added their accents and vowels on the basis of the
recitation in the synagogue. In my dissertation, I argue that
narrative accounts would be recited in one way, and clauses
referring to the present and future, and poetic texts, in other ways.
So, the work of the Masoretes was pragmatic; they did not add accents
and vowels on the basis of grammatical meaning but on what they
heard. But later, when the Karaites started their inductive studies
in order to find patterns, they misinterpreted the Masoretes, and
took the work of the Masoretes to be semantic. They evidently saw the
Hebrew text in the light the tense languages around them, and they
interpreted the pragmatic differences in stress and vocalization made
by the Masoretes ,to represent tense. The Diqduq of Ibn Nuh indicate
the first steps in the direction of interpreting Hebrew as a tense
language. But the author states that there are different viewpoints
regarding the meaning of the verb forms. After the time of Ibn Nuh,
several grammatical works were written, and then we have the
full-blown Hebrew grammar of David Kimhi, around 1,200 C.E.
Our understanding of Jeremiah 38:9 should not be based on how we
think the Masoretes understood the text. But we should analyze text
itself and the situation. Jeremiah was still living. A verb referring
to his death must, therefore, either refer to the future, or to a
situation similar to 1) below. To die is either semelfactive or telic
(similar to "reach"), and 1) can only betaken in the sense that Rita
had almost reached the peak.
1) Rita was reaching the peak.
As already mentioned, there are almost 1,000 WAYYIQTOLs with non-past
reference. So, there is no reason to claim that Jeremiah 38:9 should
not be taken in a normal indicative sense. The Hebrew text should be
taken in its own right. The witness of the Targums and the LXX cannot
be used to find the meaning of the Hebrew text.
>Also, to correct some earlier statements-- my friend
>did not refer to we-met (weqatal) but to
>we-yamo't "and (so that) he would die".
>What is of interest is to notice that the Masoretes
>could have vocalized the Hebrew wymt in two
>ways: weyamo't (plain prose) 'so that he would die'
>or wayya'mot 'and he died.'
>the second carries shock and impact, even after
>one realizes that it is an exaggeration. Not only did
>the MT chose the 'more difficult reading', but the
>targum reflects (kevar mit) the same rhetorical
>(PS: I would appreciate more statistics on the
>Old Greek translators.)
I have recently moved my library of 8,000 books to a place where I
stay for a few months, until we move to a permanent residence
>Randall Buth, PhD
>Biblical Language Center
>Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life
>b-hebrew mailing list
>b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
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