hoy and 'oy in prophets

Charles David Isbell cisbell at home.com
Thu Apr 5 09:30:15 EDT 2001

Clay and Peter,

Should we not consider the possibility that the "Woe" oracles of the
prophets, particularly Isaiah, Amos and Habakkuk if I remember correctly,
are a literary device intended partly for their shock value in employing a
FORM that is appropriate to a funeral context?  In this way, those whose
actions are being castigated by the prophet, but who appear not yet to have
been punished for those actions, would get the idea that their punishment is
certain.  In other words, if I offer a eulogy for someone, the expected
context would be that his death has already occurred.  By analogy then, for
a prophet to express grief [in an attitude of outrage to be sure] over the
actions of certain persons would be to imply a context in which that person
was already "dead," i.e., certain to face divine punishment.  A prophetic
expression of "Woe" thus implies far more than merely a lament or a "tsk,
tsk."  It is a combination of grief and outrage at "sinful" actions and the
consequences that they have brought [=will inevitably soon bring] upon the
nation.  This of course can be linked to the grammatical use of the
prophetic perfect to describe something that referentially has yet to occur
at the moment of its utterance by the prophet, but is so certain as to be
appropriately expressed by the perfect.  I think this was argued about 20
years ago by R. E. Clements.

Do other list members have opinions on this formulation of the problem?

To those who observe, HaG PeSaH SaMeaH,

Charles David Isbell

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