Prophetic Perfects in the Psalms

Lee R. Martin lmartin at
Wed Apr 25 12:03:47 EDT 2001

Dear Rolf,
You suggested that the second verb in Gen 17:20 (which is QATAL) is parallel
to the third and fourth verbs, which are WEQATALS.  I disagree. The first
two verbs are both QATAL and they are parallel. The next two verbs are
WEQATAL and they are parallel.   I believe that you are driven by your
grammatical theory driving you to forced and unnatural interpretations.

Regarding Gen 17:16, you said that one main clause does not establish a new
deictic point for the next clause. Of course it does. It happens thousands
of times in the HB. It is everywhere.  Not every change of deictic point is
introduced by a temporal clause, especially in Direct speech.

As for perfective vs imperfective and aspect vs aktionsart, you can define
the terms in such a way that makes the data fit your description.  The
Hebrew verbs must be understood on their own terms, and I do not think your
theory and your descriptions are faithful to the usage of the Hebrew verb
system.  I see nothing in your description of "terminated" vs "unterminated"
that illuminates the QATAL vs YIQTOL.  I disagree with every one of the
examples that you listed below.  The QATAL signifies the completion
(termination, if you will) of an action or state, rather than the movement
toward completion, which would be YIQTOL. In 1 Sam 8:5, Samuel is not
becoming old, he has become old.  His sons are not being disobedient, they
have already been disobedient.  In 1Sam 28:13 the woman has already seen the
apparition. In 2Sam 15:10, when they hear the trumpet, Absolom has already
been made king. In 1 Sam 2:1, when Hannah sings, her heart has already
rejoiced, as opposed to a YIQTOL which would be future "will rejoice."   In
2 Sam 16:4, the statement about bowing is performative, it is finished at
the same time that it is stated so.  Ditto with 2 Sam. 19:29.

Your definitions of termination vs nontermination may fit the examples that
you have given.  But It seems to me that you are asking the wrong questions
about the Hebrew Verbs, thus your descriptions do not aid in our
understanding of BH.  Your methodology does not help me to read Hebrew as
Hebrew.  I do not think we are on the same page.

Lee R. Martin

> >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
> LM: While it is true that we have no indicator of a future deictic point
> 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
> 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
> the
> > >> 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
> 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.",
> 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
> To achieve this, you had to say something like this: "When I bless her
> tomorrow,I will already ...."
> >
> LM:
> >>
> >>(RF) 1) We bot agree that QATAL represents the perfective aspect in
> >Are
> >> the English and the Hebrew perfective aspects identical in meaning, to
> >> effect that QATAL *allways* shows that an event is terminated?
> >
> >Dear Rolf, It is a mistake to impose the definitions of English tense on
> >Hebrew language.  While QATAL shows termination of an event, the results
> >the event may remain, especially in verbs whose Aktionsart requires it to
> >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,
> >> that all the events they describe were terminated at reference time,
> >> 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
> 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
> (QATAL)?"  The woman said,  "I see (QATAL) a spirit coming up out of the
> ground."
> 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
> 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,
> least three are fientive.
> (4)
> 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)
> 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
> that they are unterminated. I will add one example of "gnomic" QATAL
> 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.
> LM:
> >>
> >> 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
> >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
> Regards
> Rolf
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
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