hoy and 'oy in prophets

c stirling bartholomew cc.constantine at worldnet.att.net
Thu Apr 5 14:07:15 EDT 2001

Thank you Charles David and thank you Peter.

on 4/5/01 5:32 AM, Peter Kirk wrote:

> . . . 
> So it seems that the open question is one of terminology. "Lament" doesn't
> sound right as in English that suggests a response after the event. Nor do
> "curse" or "threat" because they imply that the prophet, or God, is actively
> desiring the event rather than regretting it. Also "threat" implies that the
> event is not inevitable if the right response is made, which is not in focus
> in the Biblical examples which are not calls to repentance. The best term to
> me is simply "woe" . . .


Rather than searching for an English translation equivelent, my question may
be best formulated in terms of pragmatics. What is a woe oracle in the
prophets intended to do? Express grief or proclaim impending judgement or
both?  Sounds to me like both, but is not the expression of grief
pragmatically lower in prominence than the proclamation of impending
judgement? In other words the primary pragmatic function of the woe oracle
is to announce some future event and Œoy or hoy serve call attention to the
nature of the event as Charles David stated so clearly:

on 4/5/01 6:30 AM, Charles David Isbell wrote:

> 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. 

Very nice analysis. I am waiting with anticipation to see if anyone will
argue with you. 

I spent some time with Accordance on this question. Discovered that the
pattern hoy -> l+substantive is actually quite rare (Ez. 13:18), however the
alternative pattern  Œoy -> l+substantive is more common. In Isaiah the woe
oracles don't always have a preposition, but often take the form of hoy or
Œoy followed directly by a substantive. I am not terribly concerned about
the difference in form unless it has semantic and/or pragmatic implications.

In a prophetic woe oracle is it fair to suggest that:

hoy -> l+substantive
Œoy -> l+substantive
hoy -> substantive
Œoy -> substantive

may all have very similar functions semantically and pragmatically?

Thanks again,  Peter and Charles David for your valuable insights.


Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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