Fw: Judges 3:23 , Niccacci

Bryan Rocine 596547 at ican.net
Sat Oct 3 22:48:44 EDT 1998

Dear B-Haverim,

Alviero Niccacci sends the following to the list.

From: Alviero Niccacci <sbfnet at netvision.net.il>
To: Bryan Rocine <596547 at ican.net>
Subject: Re: Judges 3:23 (Bryan Rocine)
Date: Saturday, October 03, 1998 10:28 AM

Dear Bryan Rocine,

Coming to your kind question concerning Jdg 3:23, it is clear that we have
in the text a transition from a chain of wayyiqtol's to weqatal. Before
correcting the text (see e.g. the BHS, which proposes *wayyin'ol* instead),
we should try to understand the text as it is on the basis of what we know
about the function(s) of the verb forms.

1) Clearly in Jdg 3:23 the narrative chain is discontinued by *wena'al*. We
know that a transition wayyiqtol -> weqatal in narrative means a transition
from foreground (or main-level) information to background (or
secondary-level) information. Usually the purpose of that transition is to
portrait something while it is happening, or to describe a custom--both in
the past. That weqatal is frequentative and is translated with the
imperfect in languages that have that tense, such as French, Spanish or
Italian. One such case is 1Sam 16:23, where weqatal describes what David
used to do each time that an evil spirit came upon Saul (compare 1Sam
16:16, where the same weqatal's in direct speech indicate simple future);
contrast R.D. Bergen, who speaks of "Eccentric grammar" in that passage (in
Idem, ed., _BH and Discourse Linguistics_). Besides this tense transition
wayyiqtol -> weqatal, the reverse tense transition is also attested, i.e.,
weqatal -> wayyiqtol, which indicates a transition from antecedent
information (or setting of the story) to main-line information (or
narrative line). One such case is 1Sam 10:9; also see 1Sam 1:12; 17:48;
25:20. Despite the fact that they are sometimes called "eccentric" or
"aberrant," these weqatal's behave according to established patterns.

2) On the contrary, cases like Jdg 3:23 are indeed exceptional because
their function is not to describe; instead, they convey a single
information, i.e., they are punctual as qatal and wayyiqtol, not
frequentative as usual weqatal's. What is then their function? The basic
information conveyed by the tense transition wayyiqtol -> weqatal in Jdg
3:23 is that the narrative line is discontinued; in fact if the author had
wished to convey an information on the main line, he had used another
wayyiqtol. Thus, *wena'al* expresses an information of some kind that is
given in a secondary line; in other words that information relates to the
previous wayyiqtol as background to foreground. However, while the exact
syntactic relationship is clear --i.e. *wena'al* depends on the previous
*wayyisgor*--the exact semantic relationship between the two remains to be
decided from the context and interpretation.

3) In my _Lettura sintattica della prosa ebraico-biblica_ (Jerusalem 1991,
145-146) I studied Jdg 3:23 among other texts. (Actually I analyzed there
the following complete texts: Joshua Chaps. 1-6; Judges Chaps. 1-4, 6-8;
2Samuel 5-7 // 1Chronicles 11-17. I also studied the use of *wayehî* in
Exodus 1-14, in outline only.) I suggested the following translation of Jdg
3:23: "(Ehud) shut the doors of the upper chamber on him by locking them,"
or "while at the same time he locked them."  I suggested that the function
of weqatal was to underline that the locking was not sequential, but
contemporary to the shutting; that is why the author avoids using another
wayyiqtol. I also suggested that this function of weqatal was similar to
that played by the absolute infinitive in Jdg 7:19 ("and they blew the
trumpets and *at the same time he smashed* the jars that were in their
I also mentioned that exactly the same case with another *wena'al* is found
in 2Sam 13:18 (an information also given in the Masora parva of both
passages). For Driver, _A Treatise_, Jdg 3:23 is "a rare and isolated
occurrence." He gives two explanations of that phenomenon, the first of
which seems exactly the one proposed here (the second is an imitation of
Aramaic). He writes: "Accordingly we find it [i.e. that weqatal] chiefly
used: 1) upon occasions when a writer wishes to place two facts in
coordination with one another, to exhibit the second as simultaneous with
the first rather than as succeeding it; for instance, in the conjunction of
two synonymous or similar ideas" (p. 158).

4) I am inclined to think that no sufficient evidence is available to posit
a qatal with (according to Waltke-O'Connor's terminology) "waw-copulative"
besides the well-known qatal with "waw-relative" (or conversive, i.e. usual
weqatal). Remember that the usual continuation form after a qatal is not
waw+qatal but rather wayyiqtol.

5) A bibliographical note: besides the authors already mentioned in this
forum, difficult cases of weqatal have been discussed by J. Huesman in
_Biblica_ 37 (1956) 410-434. He suggested these weqatal's to be read as
absolute infinitives preceded by waw--this however requires several textual
See, more recently, Bo Isaksson, *"Aberrant" Usages of Introductory wehaya
in the Light of Textlinguistics*, in: K.-D. Schunk -M. Augustin (eds.),
_"Lasset uns Brücken bauen..."_ (BEATAJ 42; IOSOT Congress, Cambridge

B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13208


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