Prophetic Perfects in the Psalms

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Tue Apr 24 09:53:32 EDT 2001

Dear Lee,

See my comments below

>Dear Rolf,
>You did not respond to any of my points regarding Gen. 17:20 or 17:16. Do
>you agree with my assessment of these verses?

>(3) Gen. 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard (QATAL) you: I will
surelybless him (QATAL); I will make him fruitful (WEQATAL) and will greatly

LM: While it is true that we have no indicator of a future deictic point here,
there is no evidence that the "blessing" (QATAL) is not in the immediate
past. Thus is not at all necessary to make this future.

RF: We should not let a grammatical theory drive us to unnatural and forced
interpretations. The context strongly suggests that the clauses are
parrallel both as to time reference and contents.
> >Gen. 17:16 I will bless (WEQATAL) her and will surely give you (QATAL)
> >> a son by her. I will bless (WEQATAL) her so that she will be (WEQATAL)
> >> mother of nations; kings of peoples will come (YIQTOL) from her."

LM:In the case of Gen 17:16, the WEQATAL is enough to indicate a future deictic
point, thus the QATAL could very easily be a future perfect.

RF: This is no sulution. There is one main clause: "I will bless her.", and
there is another main clause: "and (I) will surely give you a son by her."
The main clause does not establish a new deictic point for the next clause.
To achieve this, you had to say something like this: "When I bless her
tomorrow,I will already ...."
>>(RF) 1) We both agree that QATAL represents the perfective aspect in Hebrew.
>> the English and the Hebrew perfective aspects identical in meaning, to the
>> effect that QATAL *allways* shows that an event is terminated?
>Dear Rolf, It is a mistake to impose the definitions of English tense on the
>Hebrew language.  While QATAL shows termination of an event, the results of
>the event may remain, especially in verbs whose Aktionsart requires it to be
>so (e.g. verbs such as "love" and "know.")
>> 2) If the answer is yes, do you say that the 2.505 QATALs I claim have
>> present meaning, in reality are present perfects or something else, i.e.
>> that all the events they describe were terminated at reference time, and
>> that QATAL  cannot have present (unterminated) reference?
>I do not know. I have not looked at your list.  Please list a few QATALS
>with non-durative Aktionsart which show unterminated reference.

It seems to me that your requirement is a contradiction of terms (if I
understand it correctly). Most verbs have durative Aktionsart, and while
verbs of the semelfactive type such as "beat" and "knock" in Hebrew may
have duration, it is very difficult to make that visible if it is true that
the perfective aspect do not make details visible. However, the following
prediction can be made on the basis of my model regarding semelfactive
verbs: When the context is of the kind that it "forces" details to become
visible, YIQTOL, WAYYIQTOL, and WEYIQTOL will reveal pregressive action
somewhere while QATAL and WEQATAL never will reveal such action.

To realize that termination of the action or state in question is not a
semantic (uncnacellable) part of QATAL we need to find examples from
different contexts and genres.

(1a) 1Sam. 8:5 They said to him,  "You are old (QATAL), and your sons do
not walk (QATAL) in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all
the other nations have."

(1b) 1Sam. 28:13  "The king said to her,  "Don't be afraid. What do you see
(QATAL)?"  The woman said,  "I see (QATAL) a spirit coming up out of the

These examples shows an unterminated state/action, and the lexical meaning
of the verbs help us show that they are unterminated. In (1a) there is
another QATAL  as well  which is unterminated (Compare 12:2 where there are
two unterminated states).

(2) 2Sam. 15:10 "Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes
of Israel to say,  "As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then
say,  'Absalom is king (QATAL) in Hebron.'"

This example shows either the entrance into the state of reigning, (most
likely), or that the king would exercise his kingly power (fientive). In
neither case is the end included.

(3) 1Sam. 2:1 "Then Hannah prayed and said:  "My heart rejoices (QATAL) in
the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high (QATAL). My mouth boasts
(QATAL)over my enemies, for I delight (QATAL) in your deliverance.

This example is from a poetic text, and of the four unterminated QATALs, at
least three are fientive.

2Sam. 16:4 Then the king said to Ziba,  "All that belonged to Mephibosheth
is now yours." ¶  "I humbly bow (QATAL)," Ziba said.  "May I find favor in
your eyes, my lord the king."

2Sam. 19:29 ¶ The king said to him,  "Why say more? I order you (QATAL) and
Ziba to divide the fields."

The QATAL XAWA is clearly unterminated and the same is true with )FMAR.
What is stressed is not that "I have bowed" or "H
I have said", but rather the fact that "I bow".

(5) 1Sam. 20:2  "Never!" Jonathan replied.  "You are not going to die!
Look, my father doesn't do (QATAL) anything, great or small, without
confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!"

Jonathan is not speaking of what his father "has done" but what he "does"
or "does not". There is no termination in this verb.

These examples are chosen from the books of Samuel. The grammars have
different kinds of names for some of the QATALs which clearly are not
terminated, and that is OK, but that does not invalidate the important fact
that they are unterminated. I will add one example of "gnomic" QATAL  which
is not found in the books of Samuel.

Is. 40:7 "The grass withers (QATAL) and the flowers fall (QATAL), because
the breath of the LORD blows (QATAL) on them.

>> 3) If QATAL does not *allways* show that the event in question is
>> terminated, how can you know that the more than 900 QATALs I claim have
>> future reference are future perfects (or something else) and not simple
>> futures, just by looking at the form?
>I never said they were. I only said that you should begin with the
>assumption that a perfective verb in future time is a future perfect.  I do
>not think you have given any convincing reason to begin otherwise. Why
>should you begin with the assumption that they are future?

>Lee R. Martin



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

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