SVO in narration

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Fri Sep 8 13:27:40 EDT 2000

It certainly took me long enough, but here are some examples of 
SVO qatals that do not appear to be pluperfect.  First, though, I'd 
like to address some of the examples you already presented.
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Dave Washburn [mailto:dwashbur at]
> > > > Better, I think, to bring the arguments than to claim a view outdated.
> > > Yes, can we have some examples where SVO clauses are clearly meant
> > > to carry the narration along?
> >
> > I want to be sure I understand you here: are you saying that the
> > only two possible options for SVO are either 1) pluperfect or 2) "to
> > carry the narration along"?  If so, this is the problem.  As Harold
> > Holmyard already pointed out, SVO is mainly used to provide
> > circumstantial information that may be, but need not necessarily
> > be, pluperfect.  In fact it can be concurrent with the main line, or
> > even subsequent as required by the context.  There are some
> > pluperfects, to be sure, but pluperfect is not the primary force of the
> > SVO construction.
> I was taught that, the SVO in a narrative text should be translated
> with "meanwhile," i.e., concurrent as you say, or in the pluperfect.
> Are there any examples where the SVO clause is clearly subsequent?
> I was working on the Dinah story, and got called to task by my professor
> because I hadn't taken account of this. Gen. 34:5 I had translated
> "then Joseph heard," and the prof wanted "Meanwhile, Joseph had heard."

I have to disagree with your professor here.  The NIV rendering 
make much more sense: "When Jacob heard that his daughter had 
been defiled, his sons were in the field with his livestock; so he 
kept quiet about it until they came home."  We have 2 SVO qatal 
clauses here, actually, the one about Jacob and the one about the 
sons.  Are both pluperfect or "meanwhile?"  "Meanwhile, Jacob 
heard...meanwhile, his sons were in the field, and he kept quiet 
about it until they got home."  That doesn't make much sense to 
me.  In this case it seems to me that, in a way, these 3 clauses do 
carry the narration along; Shechem violates Dinah, falls for her and 
asks his father to get her for his wife.  Jacob hears that his 
daughter has been violated, but since his sons are off somewhere 
with the livestock he waits until they get home to tell them about it. 
When did he hear about the violation?  We don't know; we know it 
was concurrent with his sons being off tending the flock, but its 
temporal relation to Shechem's request to his father is not 
indicated.  Drawing on visual imagery, I tend to see it this way: 
Shechem forces himself on Dinah and finds that he loves her and 
afterward speaks tenderly to her.  As she is leaving, he watches 
her go and asks his father to get her as his wife.  Dinah reaches 
home, tells her father about the attack, and Jacob waits until his 
sons get home to tell them about it.  The story moves on from 
there.  I don't see any reason to require "meanwhile" here.

> An example from Rashi is Gen. 4:1,
> "And the man knew' already before the events related above took place--
> before
> he sinned and was driven out of the Garden of Eden. So, also, the conception
> and birth of Cain took place before this. Had it been written,
> yada(  )adam
> it would imply that after he was driven out children were born to him."

I also have to disagree with Rashi here.  This interpretation is more 
than a little forced, and seems designed to support the 
grammatical idea.  What does he do with the WAW at the 
beginning of the verse?  It seems to me that, if his interpretation 
were correct, it wouldn't be there.  Since it is, it would appear to 
connect the statement to the preceding material about the tree of 
life and the flaming sword in some way.  At what point does the 
expulsion take place within chapter 4?  After Abel's birth?  Before?  
Between Abel's birth and when Cain and Abel assume their 
respective careers?  Just before the offerings are brought?  I'm 
sorry, it just doesn't wash.  It looks to me as though Rashi is 
stretching the text to fit his grammar, and it's not working.

> This is very important, do you have any examples where the SVO
> clause is clearly subsequent?

Okay, here we go.  These are gleaned from Waltke and O'Connor 
chapter 30.  

Exod 16:35 The Israelites ate manna for 40 years.  In the context 
of the story, this hasn't happened yet: Moses is commanding 
Aaron to set aside a pot of the what-is-it as a commemoration of 
its appearance.  He does this at the beginning of the journey, not 
the end, as shown by the context.  Hence, this statement has to 
be subsequent to the gathering of the commemorative pot of 

Gen 13:12 Abram dwelt in Canaan.  This is as opposed to Lot, who 
settled in the Jordan valley near Sodom.  The previous clause says 
"They parted one from the other," and the next 2 clauses are 
clearly explanatory: Abram settled in Canaan, Lot settled in the 
cities of the plain.  Notice that both clauses are SVO, so if we 
decide to maintain that it means "Abram had dwelt in Canaan" then 
we also have to say "And Lot had dwelt in the cities of the plain," 
which clearly violates the context since Lot has only just decided 
to go there.  In fact, the Lot clause makes it even more clear that 
this clause is subsequent to the separation.

Dan 10:12 is another clear one: Your words were heard, and I 
came in response to them - SV, )ANIY BF)TIY is a plain sequence. 
It can't be concurrent or pluperfect, because the previous temporal 
clause refers to the words being heard: "from the day you set your 
heart to understand and humble yourself, your words were heard.  I 
came in response to them."  

There are others, but these should be enough to establish that a 
qatal in SVO can mean many things besides pluperfect or 

Dave Washburn
"Éist le glór Dé."

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