Translation of Piel (and Pual) roots

Bryan Rocine brocine at
Sat Dec 25 14:49:23 EST 1999

Hi Bill,  You wrote:

> Hello,
> I was curious about Piel roots.

<noted and snipped>

Native users of Biblical Hebrew would probably not usually
think of the stem in which a particular verb appears.  They
would most often just read or hear words formed in Piel stem
as a seperate vocabulary items from their Qal, Hiphil, etc.
counterparts formed from the same root.  Our evidence for
this comes from modern day speakers of languages with stem
systems.  Because native speakers would not typically be
conscious of the stem system of their language, it is
usually best for a translation to avoid trying to force a
formulaic translation that suggests <a word's meaning = root
+ stem> in which <stem = causation> (or some such thing).
E.g. vayyabe' is not best translated "and he caused to go in
(or "to")."  Better is "and he brought in (or "to")."

That is not to say that there is no stem *system* in BH or
that Bible writers were ignorant about the stem system of
the language!  There are numerous places in the Scriptures
where the writer may play with a single root conjugated in
two stems in which he seems to relish the stem system of his
language.  For instance, Exodus 13:3 uses YC' in Qal and
Hiphil stems, Numbers 1:49-50 uses PQD in Qal and Hiphil,
Job 20:22-23 uses ML' in Qal and Piel, etc., etc., etc.

Waltke and O'Connor, in _Introduction to BH Syntax_ give an
intriguing analysis of the BH stem system in their
introduction to the stems.  They assert that the defining
parameters of the seven most common stems are whether the
subject is marked as active or passive, and surely more
interesting, whether the *object* is active or passive.
Piel stem communicates that the subject is active, and the
object is merely brought to a state.  ML' in Qal means "be
full," but the Piel, according to the formula, would be
"cause to be full."  Avoiding the formula, we would
translate the Piel simply, "fill."  Hiphil, in contrast to
the Piel, marks the object, as well as the subject, as
active or in some way participating in the event.  E.g. PQD
in Qal means "observe," in the Piel "caused to be observed"
or much better, "muster," and in Hiphil "cause to observe"
or much better "appoint as overseer."

Hoping to help,

B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206

(office) 315.437.6744
(home) 315.479.8267

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