Noun Repetition... that isn't.

Charles David Isbell cisbell at
Mon Apr 15 11:53:56 EDT 2002


There are two different Hebrew grammatical phenomena at work in the examples
you have cited.
[1] The use of the Infinitive Absolute [in all stems] with a finite verbal
form has no apparent English equivalent.  The Inf A may serve three
functions in Hebrew.  [a] It is used as a surrogate for the Imperative
(ZaKhoR 'eT YoM Ha-Shabbat) to serve as an all inclusive, i.e., not limited
to either male or female but to all.  [b] When it FOLLOWS the finite form of
its verb, it indicates duration of time.  [c] When it PRECEDES its finite
verbal form, it performs a paranomastic or an internal adverbial accusative
function.  I would note that the modification of a finite verbal form is
adverbial rather than adjectival, if we are using standard grammatical
terms.  At any rate, this is difficult to render into idiomatic English, and
results in "seeing you will see" type phrases that no English speaker would
choose.  The Inf A in such formations may be called a verbal adverb, and
should be distinguished from the Inf C, a verbal noun that can take suffixes
and serve as the object of a preposition, etc.

But the contextual FORCE of the Inf A preceding is not difficult in most
cases.  Example:  In Gen 15.8, Avram asks God how he can "know" that what is
being promised is true.  The answer, spoken in 15.13 is that after 400 years
of alienation, enslavement and oppression, there will be judgment on the
oppressor via the plagues/the exodus, and settlement in the land of promise.
Notice how the historical "proof" is introduced with YaDo-a`  Teda`  This
has to be translated something like "you will know for certain."

The example you cite from 2 Kgs 25.15 is a different phenomenon.  Surely
both zahav zahav [and note kesef kesef in the same verse] implies "pure
gold" [or "pure silver"].  Hebrew doubles nouns in this way to underscore
intensity, duration, etc.  Thus le-Dor Dor means "for all generations"
[=forever].  In Exod 8.12, the dead frogs are piled up XoMoRiM XoMoRiM,
"pile upon pile," or "in heaps," as an indication of either the size of the
piles or their great number.

Hebrew also doubles other parts of speech to show such intensity.  mi va-mi
in Exod 10.8 indicates "exactly who are the ones going?"  lo' va-lo' is the
emphatic negative, "not at all."  Etc.

Hope this helps.

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