Jer 15:6-9

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Sun Sep 19 02:48:42 EDT 1999

Dear Peter,

>In fact the whole problem with your arguments is that they are based a
>large number of cases each of which is individually doubtful. On your
>other E-mail you wrote of "the hundreds of QATALs and WAYYIQTOLs with
>future meaning", but despite many attempts you have not given any
>unequivocal examples (apart from "future perfects").

Your claim that my examples are doubtful evidently is based a strong belief
that the meaning of some examples cannot have another meaning than the
majority. Harris Birkeland and F.R. Blake both strongly believed that
WAYYIQTOL is a past tense. They both discussed the same counterexamples (
between 110 and 150 passages). They had already made up their mind that the
examples were past, but their reasons for drawing this conclusion is
interesting. Birkeland used all kinds of strange arguments to show that
only one or two could be non-past, while Blake said that the majority were
past (as they were written) but they were wrongly ppointed by the Masoretes.

As to examples of QATALs with future meaning, what about Jeremiah, chapter
6, which I mentioned earlier in this thread, but which nobody has commented
upon. I quote myself:

"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?"

>I am especially concerned at one argument in your other E-mail: this
>is prophecy, therefore (despite a disclaimer) this must be future. The
>prophetic books contain many passages which are clearly not future. So
>the argument that this passage must be future because it is in a
>prophetic book is completely invalid.

You are misrepresenting my view here. I have not said that everything in a
book written by a "prophet" has future meaning. What I have tried to convey
is that the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah contain a number of individual
sayings connected with the words "Thus says YHWH". Most of these tell what
will happen with a particular people (for instance, Jeremiah 15 speaks
about the exile) in the future. And here comes my argument: The *person*
who wrote the final draft of such a saying (for instance Jeremian 15)
*portrayed it* as a prophecy. Therefore, in connection with such an
individual saying, we could expect that the verbs have future meaning. I am
not aware of a single Hebrew scholar who claims that the meaning of the
Hebrew verbal system is fully understood, but several scholars say that it
is even less understood today than 50 years ago. To use an old theory about
the meaning of particular verb forms, a theory which is disputed by some
grammarians today, as a basis for Bible translation, instead of putting
most trust in the context, is in my view really dangerous. Poor readers!
>But to be honest my main reason for preferring a past to a future
>understanding of this passage is very simple: the verb forms are those
>used in the great majority of cases in the whole Hebrew Bible (very
>close to all unambiguous cases!) in past contexts rather than future
>contexts. If there was good evidence for preferring a different
>understanding in this case, I would accept it, but you have given no
>evidence which remotely convinces me that the traditional
>understanding (reflected in RSV and NRSV) of the Hebrew verb forms is
>wrong, either in general or in this particular case.

Thank you for your honesty in telling your main reason for choosing a past
meaning in Jer 15:6-9.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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