veqatal and adverbs,2

yochanan bitan-buth ButhFam at
Mon Sep 4 05:39:59 EDT 2000

vayyixtov rolf `al "veqatal and adverbs":
>If you by "correct answer" mean what is the normal way that something is
>expressed in the Tanach, I agree that the answer is "a" in the first place
>and "b" in the second. We have no quarrel about the fact that WEQATAL
>has a habitual meaning in past contexts. But this is not the point. We are
>discussing the following question: Is iterativity a semantic part of the
>WEQATAL form in past contexts, or is it pragmatic, that is, is it
>upon the context?

I beg to differ. That is exactly the point. Did the author use veqatal
INSTEAD of vayyiqtol in order to signal habitual repetitive actions? We are
not discussing your definition of semantics but the function of the hebrew
verbs and structure. If the author used veqatal at Gn 29.1-3 instead of
vayyiqtol in order to signal habitual action, it is 100% irrelevant (to me
least) whether you call that a pragmatically-based signal or a
semantically-based. The point is that the author got his point accross and
effectively used the Hebrew verb morphology to do it. 
This is the bread and butter of biblical Hebrew that everyone learns to
process as they learn the language, whether around a campfire 2500 years
ago, in a synagogue 1500 years ago, or today.

Your jump to 2K 18.4 is also irrelevant:
>In order to  demonstrate that we need the
>context to interpret WEQATALs as iterative, I must point to at least one
>parallel to Genesis 29.1-3 where the WEQATALs definitely are not
>We have such an example  in 2 Kings 18:4 (RSV).

First, I accept that we need context to interpret a Hebrew verb. As I've
said many times, a binary, two-way, differentiation in the Hebrew verb
system creates a logical necessity of complex interaction with all
potential and real literary worlds.  veqatal isn't simply '(past) habitual'
but imperfective and future as well. One takes the whole potential verbal
reference and fits it into the context, WHILE at the same time being aware
of which verbal reference was NOT chosen. In gn 29.2 the past context
brings out the imperfective (non-future) application of veqatal to the
fore, and the immediate interpretation  of the 'imperfective' is habitual,
even though there are occasional 'incomplete'-type applications, like Gn

Up to here everything said is 'normal' and 'commonplace'.
2 Kings 18.4 is a different question. And like your statistics show, there
is a residue with Hebrew verbs. There are three different ways to approach
1. Read what I consider the MT: "he removed" (perfective singulative of the
action), followed by veqatal imperfectives, "and he was breaking apart...,
and was cutting down..., and was smashing...". This is how the MT Hebrew
reads, and I personally recommend reading this way. The transition from a
perfective to the 'internal imperfective' is admittedly unexpected and not
very common for the MT. The poles and altars are plural so they provide a
natural application for the imperfective, but the snake is singular and
requires an even rarer descent into an internal imperfect for one action.
[However, for yourself almost every verse in the tana"x is exactly this
irregular, since you call the vayyiqtol an internally viewed imperfective.
So I live with this thing rarely, while you propose having it for breakfast
lunch and dinner :-) It is your refusal to work with two morphological
categories, vayyiqtol and yiqtol/veyiqtol, (supported, but not caused, by a
brittle semantic theory that requires a 100% subjective semantic
interpretation)  that leads you into getting this exactly inside
2. Many would consider the text corrupt because of the unexpected singualr
action at the end of the chain. One possible proposal is the narrative
infinitive. that would preserve the same consonantal text and could explain
the syntax and semantics because the infinitive is potentially ambiguous.
(The narrative infinitive is an old standby of NWS, attested in an SV form
in Amarna, Phoenician and 2xx in MT, plus a more frequent veQatol form as
would be proposed here. This later is more common and even occurs in Qumran
in Hebrew Tobit and 4QMMT but is still rare enough that its discourse
functions are not completely clear.) So that is a possible option, but not
the MT.
3. Many others would call these simple qatal + simple vav. They would
belong to that 'residue' that no one likes and that occasionally are
attmepted to be attributed to LBH glosses. I personally don't like this
option and do not consider it a responsible reading of the MT. In other
words I would READ 2K18.4 according to #1 and the MT, even though #2 might
have produced it, or  even remotely #3.

But the main point is that Gn 29.1-3 represents commonplace Hebrew and the
the author used the verb morphology veqatal to signal and lead the reader
to the habitual sense. 

Randall Buth

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