Jer 15:6-9

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Tue Sep 14 10:31:47 EDT 1999

Randall Buth wrote:

>>in the mentioned verses I count 12 QATALs, 1 WEQATAL  and 3 WAYYIQTOLs. I
>>cannot find any clue in the context suggesting that the events mantioned
>>the prophet is past; i.e. that reference time comes before speech time.
>>However, I find many clues that they are future; i. e. reference time
>>after speech time. How would the particular model for Hebrew verbs that
>>believe in, direct you in the translation of these verses? In other words,
>>how would you translate the verses?
>what's the problem? the 12 qatal and 3 vayyiqtol are all a past
>description. the remarkable features are the many clauses without vav
>giving a kind of 'stunned' effect to the speaker: "i destroyed my people.
>>from their ways they didn't repent. their widows became many even for me,
>more than the sand of the seas."
>[the veqatal veHafera is ambiguous, either like natasht ... aHor telexi
>(you rejected ... and kept going backwards) or more probably as an
>idiomatic endiadys with simple vav.]
>the section 15.6-9 ends with a future "their remant i will put to the
>sword" which is the only clue WITHIN 15.6-9 of a future application.
>the problem is not grammar but the genre of prophecy. prophets are known to
>describe things in the past as a dramatic presentation from a futuristic
>viewpoint. one of the most well-known in christian circles is isaiah 53.
>by itself, jeremiah 15.6-9 is past. the only way to get a future sense out
>of jeremiah 15.6-9 is to put it inside a future prophetic context. did
>jeremiah do that in 15.1-5, and 10ff? yes? [yes. vehaya ... ufaqadti ...
>unetatim ... (6-9) ... eten ... veha`avarti...]
>so what's the problem with the hebrew? translation to another language?
>well, that is a different question altogether and depends on the principles
>for the translation and the intended audience.

Dear Randall,

There is no problem with the text, but rather with some models that are
used to fix the time of the events described by the text. In my view, the
problem is more grammatical than one of genre, because the view that there
is a genre called "prophetic perfect" is based on the belief that tense is
grammaticalized in Hebrew and that perfect is a past tense. However, the
discussion of this text can throw some light on the difference between the
models for the Hebrew verbal system that recently have been outlined.

I have no problems with the *principle" of "prophetic perfect", that
someone projects himself into the future and look backwards. We have an
example of such a projection in Jer 16:14,15 where it is explicitly said
that the people in the future will look back and refer to their being
brought back from the land in the north. However, in  15:6-9, nothing is
said about such a projection, but we find these verses in the middle of a
prophecy about the future (in which we both agree). We may therefore ask:
Why can we not construe the three WAYYIQTOLs and the QATALs following them
(except L)H in v 6, which is present) as true futures?

Hebrew cannot be studied in the light of the versions, but looking at  the
versions may give some clues as to how certain verb forms were construed by
people of old. It is interesting that the three WAYYIQTOLs are rendered by
future in the LXX and in the Vulgate, and if we remember the great number
of WAYYIQTOLs that have a non-past meaning in Jeremiah and in the rest of
the Bible, the view of the translators of these two versions is not

Jeremiah, chapter 6 may give some parallel thoughts:

v1: The RT of the QATAL  must come after C (=future).
v2: The RT of the QATAL  must come after C (=future).
v3: The RT of the YIQTOL must come after C, and this demands that the same
is true with the two QATALs.
v4: The RT of the WEYIQTOL(which has modal force) must come after C, and
the QATAL and the YIQTOL covers exactly the same time period: RT either
comes after C in both or coincides with C in both.
v5: The RT of both WEYIQTOLs comes after C.
v6: The RT must come after C in the second QATAL.

There is no doubt that the setting is future, something which is shown by
the 6 imperatives, the two YIQTOLs and the two WEYIQTOLs. The use of 5
QATALs with future meaning in-between these other verbs is a strong
argument in favour of QATAL being used with a true future meaning. So
again, why cannot all the verbs in 15:6-7 have future meaning?


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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