The "times" of Isaiah

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Thu Aug 19 11:25:11 EDT 1999

Peter Kirk wrote:

>Dear Rolf,
>I really cannot let you get away with the statement below. Your whole
>thesis is dependent on your classification of verbs into past, present
>and future. You need to have clearly defined and stated criteria for
>how you decide which verbs are past, present and future. This is not a
>minor error but a potential flaw in your whole methodology. As such it
>is without a doubt of the first importance.
>Peter Kirk
>______________________________ Reply Separator
>Subject: The "times" of Isaiah
>Author:  furuli at at internet
>Date:    15/08/1999 13:20
>Dear Paul,
>>First, a methodological error:  You specifically classify KOH )FMFR
>>YHWH as QATAL with present meaning.  You wrote:
>>> 201 QATALs with present meaning (including 22% with the words "Thus
>>says YHWH")
>This is not a methodlogical error, but if it is an error, it is one of
>judgement or interpretation. I will concentrate on the more importatnt

Dear Peter,

You are wrong!  Both you and Paul claim that I have a model or models with
definite criteria for the classification of verbs and that these models are
built on several assumptions which mold my conclusions.  I use only one
model with the very simple cancellability principle, and even this
principle is not "absolute" because it allows for exceptions, provided that
these exceptions are explained by Hebrew idiom. Apart from this, I only use
the normal principles of general linguistics. But of course, if I am blind
regarding my own work, you have the privilege to show which criteria I use
and which other model(s) I follow.

Regarding past, present and future, I follow Comrie and look for (1)
lexically composite expressions, such as "five minutes after...", (2)
lexical items, such as "now", "today" etc, and (3) to the context. Because
I do not know at the outset whether there are grammatical expressions for
time "tenses" in Hebrew, I cannot use this criterion as it, for instance,
can be used for English.

I will use CH )MR as an example. I looked at all the 499 examples of this
expression in the Bible and found that all YIQTOLs of )MR (except three in
conditional clauses,1 Sam 14:9;20:22; 2 Sam 15:26) have future meaning. How
did I reach that conclusion? Simply by taking a quick look at the context;
you need no model for that. Just look at them yourself: Gen 32:5;50:17, Ex
3:14;19:3; 20:22; 1 Sam 11;9; 18:25;20:7; 2 Sam 7:8;11:25;19:10; Is 37:10;
Jer 21:3; 23:35,37; 2 chr 10:10. In addition to these, the following
examples have a YIQTOL and a QATAL of )MR in the same verse, the YIQTOLs
having future meaning: GEN 32:5; 2 SAM 7:8:19:6; 2 Kings 22:18; Is 37:6;
27:4; Jer 37:7;45:4; Ezek 33:27. 1 Chr 17:7; 2 Chr 34:26.

The information above suggests that the QATAL of )MR does not have future
meaning, and that in exclamations with KH it was not natural to use the
YIQTOL form with present meaning (though this is done in other contexts).
The QATAL  form of )MR, therefore, will either have a RT before C (past
meaning), or a RT coinciding with C (perfect, or present). But how can we

The prophet Malachi accounts an imaginary conversation between God and the
people. YHWH is speaking, and as in other places, he speaks about himself
both in first  third person. In 3:8 we find a WEQATAL with present meaning
-"You say" and in v 10 we find God's words to the people and  )MR YHWH.
Because this is a conversation, it is extremely difficult to believe that
RT comes before C. There are similar QATALs in vv 11-13. Based on the
context I draw the conclusion that all the QATALs here have present meaning.

In Jeremiah 50:1 do we learn that it is YHWH who speaks through Jeremiah.
Verse 18 expresses the reaction of God to what is written in v 17 (cf LKN),
and if it is true that God speaks through the prophet, I see no other
possibility than analysing the QATAL  of )MR as a verb with present
meaning.  We find similar examples in  2 Kings 21:12 ( v 10 suggests that
God's words came to the prophet as he spoke), Jer 44:1-2, and Ezek 33:25.

Even the proclamation of Cyrus (Ezra 1:2; 2 Chr 36:23) uses the formula CH
)MR, and it is difficult to believe that RT coms before C in such a

I found two examples of CH )MR with past meaning (2 Sam 16:7;19:1). Both
are preceded by WAW, and because they occur in a different situation than
the other QATALs, their past meaning have no bearing on the temporal
meaning of the other QATALs

Based on a study of all the 499 examples of CH )MR in the light of their
context, I draw the conclusion that RT coincides with C in all instances
except the two with past meaning. If this conclusion is wrong, does it stem
from a flaw in the methodology or a flaw in the interpretation of the texts?


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list