Deut. 4:26

Reginald Wallace Ponder, Jr. rwponder at lycos.com
Wed Sep 27 22:50:11 EDT 2000


     I was reading Deut. 4:26 and came across a grammatical anomaly:  The
second-from-last word in the verse (shin-mem-daleth) is in the niphal
infinitive construct form (also same form as niphal imperative) but it
appears to function as an infinitive absolute.  This is the most logical
rendering, and apparently the one followed by most translators.  Acutally,
I tried to read it as a niphal imperative, because much of my recent study
in Deuteronomy has been on the significance/frequency of the niphal
imperative in Deuteronmy.  But it simply mutilates the syntax of the
sentence to read it that way -- I gave up.  I also tried to read the final
daleth as a resh -- one of the most common copying errors -- but I could
not get the rest of the sentence to work without really twisting the
syntax away from usual Biblical Hebrew patterns.  For theological reasons,
I would like to think this is a niphal imperative from shin-mem-resh (that
root in  that form occurs a couple of times in Deut. 4, and numerous other
times in Deuteronomy.  I believe it's an important expression in
Deuteronomy; but that's another matter.)  However, the grammar/syntax of
the sentence strongly favors the notion that this is an infinitive
construct functioning as an infinitive absolute.
    I looked this up in Gesenius and he says matter-of-factly that this is
an infinitive construct functioning as an infinitive absolute.  So that
seems to be the case, from all perspectives (much to my dismay, but that's
Bible interpretation -- the text says what it says rather than sometimes
what we want it to say.).
     May question is this: Does this grammatical anomaly suggest that
originally the Hebrew infinitive was a single phenomenon with *alternate*
forms -- the construct and absolute or something akin to them -- but
without the clear distinction in grammatical function that eventually was
the case?
     Or is this likely a mistake in pointing -- it really should be
pointed as an infinitive absolute?
     Or does anyone want to encourage me to continue trying to read the
form as being derived from shin-mem-resh? (I doubt it.)
     Shalom!
     Rev. Reggie Ponder, Jr.
     Mt. Tirzah United Methodist Church
     Timberlake, NC USA   
 



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