Fw: Hebrew Syntax., 2 Sam 15:37

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Wed Apr 17 03:39:03 EDT 2002

Dear Bryan,

Thank you for your answer. To be frank, your interpretation shows in 
my view how unassailable discourse analysis is when it is applied to 
Hebrew verbs. I would go so far as to say that discourse analysis, as 
it is applied in studies of the Hebrew verbs, has all the potentials 
for hiding the meaning of the verbal system.

As to the NIV rendering and similar renderings in modern 
translations, it seems to me that the reason for their intersection 
of the YIQTOL  by the WAYYIQTOL is the *theory* that YIQTOL is 
imperfective while WAYYIQTOL is perfective. I can see no other reason 
for subordinating one clause that is connected with another by a 
simple WAW. So it is not the context that guides the translators but 
a particular grammatical theory, and this is dangerous.

2Sam. 15:37  (NIV) So David's friend Hushai arrived at Jerusalem as 
Absalom was entering the city.

As to your interpretation I find it dangerous as well. Mood gives a 
characterization of the actuality of an event by comparing the 
event's world to a reference world, which we might term the actual 
world. When an event is identical to the actual world it is described 
in the indicative mood (realis); when less than identical in the 
"subjunctive" mood (irrealis). So mood expresses the realation 
between the state/event contained in the verb and reality.

To translate a Hebrew clause in a modal way in English we need a 
context with clear marks for possibility, necessity, or desirability. 
Theoretical considereations (expected discourse patterns) regarding 
this can be very misleading. You write,

>Discourse analysis has not told me that X-yiqtol is modal
>in meaning, only that it is off-the-line in historical
narrative and plain vanilla direct speech.

I will strongly dispute that there is any X-YIQTOL or any other X- or 
WE/WA/(Y)- system in Classical Hebrew that can point out meaning or 
direct translation. The writers did not think discourse, but they 
thought in the terms of the linguistic conventions of their day. On 
the basis of this they could emphasize this or that (e.g. fronting, 
casus pendens), and handle new information in the customary way.

I have analysed all the X-YIQTOL examples with past meaning in the 
MT, and in hundreds of examples it is possible to demonstrate that 
the reason for the use of YIQTOL without WA(Y) is *word order* (not 
"foreground"/background"). Because the author wanted some element to 
precede the YIQTOL, a prefixed WA(Y) which would be normal according 
to linguistic convention, was prevented. Questions regarding 
"main-line, off-the-line" which are created by modern discourse 
analysts are completely irrelevant.

I bring two example that I have worked with today, with comments:

In verse 24 there are five wayyiqtols with plural subjects and at the 
end of verse 25 there are two wayyiqtols. Why do we between the 
wayyiqtols of verses 24 and 25 find four yiqtols and one weqatal, all 
with the same past reference as the wayyiqtols? The answer is word 
order; the objects of all the yiqtols precedes the yiqtols. If the 
objects were put after the yiqtols, we would have gotten four 
wayyiqtols, something which is corroborated by the fact that each of 
the four objects have a prefixed waw. The same situation occurs in 
verse 26 where we find two wayyiqtols with single subject and one 
yiqtol with plural subject. The reason for the yiqtol rather than a 
wayyiqtol in this verse, is the negation before it which even has a 
prefixed waw.
One can hardly argue that the plurality of the yiqtols indicates 
iterativity, habituality or progression, for the same argument could 
be used regarding the wayyiqtols since they are plural as well. I 
will later show that both aspects can be used in particular 
situations without any difference of meaning, so I do not at this 
point comment on the weyiqtol with past reference in verse 25.

1 Kings 3.24-26 "(24) When they came (WAYYIQTOL) into the camp of 
Israel, the Israelites rose up (WAYYIQTOL) and struck (WAYYIQTOL) the 
Moabites, and they fled (WAYYIQTOL) before them. And they entered 
(WAYYIQTOL) the land and struck (WAYYIQTOL) the Moabites.  (25) And 
the cities they destroyed (YIQTOL), and on every good tract of land 
each man threw  (ŠYIQTOL) a stone  and it was filled (YIQTOL), and 
all water springs they stopped up (YIQTOL), and every good tree the 
felled (YIQTOL), until only Kir Hareset was left (QATAL) with its 
stones. But men armed with slings surrounded it (WAYYIQTOL)  and 
attacked it (WAYYIQTO) as well. (26) When the king of Moab saw 
(WAYYIQTO) that the battle was too strong (QATAL) for him, he took 
(WAYYIQTOL) with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through 
(infinitive) to the king of Edom, but they were not able to do so 

In example (39a) there is an event of speaking and an event of 
answering, both expressed by a yiqtol, and there is no sign of 
habituality or iterativity in either case. Example (39b) has a 
wayyiqtol of the same root and in the same context as (39a), and 
(39c) is another context, but has )MR anD (NH as wayyiqtols, thus 
being an example that can be compared with (39a).
It is signalled in connection with both the wayyiqtols and the 
yiqtols of (39a,b,c) that the events in each case objectively were 
terminated at the deictic point. And therefore we cannot see any 
distinction in meaning between the wayyiqtols and the yiqtol, but all 
the verbs portray the same kind of event. There is a difference, 
however, but this difference is a syntactic one, one of word order. 
In Exodus 19:19 the subjects "Moses" and "God" precedes the verbs, 
but in Judges 8:8 and Exodus 20:1 the subject "he","God" is a part of 
the verb, and the subject "the men of Penuel" comes after the verb. 
The fronting of the subjects was probably done in order to stress the 
persons; but if the "normal" word order had been followed, both 
yiqtols of Exodus 19:19 would have been written as wayyiqtols.


a Exodus 19:19  As the sound of the horn became louder and louder; 
Moses began to speak (YIQTOL) and God answered (YIQTOL) him with a 
b Exodus 20:1 And God spoke (WAYYIQTOL) all these words:
c Judges 8:8 And he continued on his way up (WAYYIQTOL) from there to 
Penuel. And he went speaking (WAYYIQTOL) to them in the same manner, 
and the men of Penuel were answering (WAYYIQTOL) him  just as the men 
of Succot had answered  (QATAL). Judges 8:8

So back to 2 Samuel 15:37. For me to say that a verb is modal I need 
either lexicon (e.g.a word signalling modality),grammar (e.g 
apocopation), syntax (e.g. word order). If any of these are lacking 
and there is a WAW  seemingly coordinating two clauses, I must draw 
the conclusion that the verb is indicative. I therefore will 
translate as does ASV. To argue on the basis of a special theory of 
discourse that the YIQTOL does not portray an avent of this world but 
rather of an imagined world is in my view very misleading. Something 
that is unfounded is read into the text.

I know about your great knowledge of Hebrew, and with full respect 
for you as a scholar, I argue that discourse analysis leads you 



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

>here it is again.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Bryan Rocine" <brocine at earthlink.net>
>To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
>Sent: Sunday, April 14, 2002 6:43 PM
>Subject: Re: Hebrew Syntax., 2 Sam 15:37
>>  RE: Hebrew Syntax.Hi Rolf,  you wrote:
>>  >>>>
>>  Today I have been working with all the examples of BW)
>>  come in") realized as YIQTOLs with past reference. To
>>  illustrate the influence of discourse analysis on Bible
>>  translation, I invite you to analyse 2 Samuel 15:37 by
>>  of this method and any other method you deem fit.
>>  >>>>
>>  My response:
>>  I would interppret the x-yiqtol clause as OFF the mainline
>>  of the historical narrative in 2 Sam 15, and so
>>  inappropriately translated into the historical narrative
>>  mainline form of the target language (in English, the
>>  past).  I.e.  I would *not* translate "and Absalom
>>  entered..."
>>  Actually, the x-yiqtol is a direct speech construction, so
>>  this case is the narrator's brief departure into direct
>>  speech in which directly addresses the audience in a side
>>  comment like a parenthetical comment or an aside.  I call
>>  this phenomenon "speaking through the ivisible fourth
>>  (of the narrative's stage).
>>  In effect, the narrator is breaking out of the literary
>>  constraint of story-telling.  The x-yiqtol is
>>  predictive/modal in nature:  "But Absalom would come into
>>  the city."  This off-line comment by the narrator is
>>  designed to clarify for us how the plan of David to use
>>  Hushai as an insider could succeed; Absalom was not in
>>  Jerusalem at the time to witness Hushai's meeting with
>>  David.  Absalom would arrive at a later time.
>  > Discourse analysis has not told me that X-yiqtol is modal
>>  meaning, only that it is off-the-line in historical
>  > narrative and plain vanilla direct speech.  On the other
>>  hand, the modality of the x-yiqtol, which I have accepted
>>  based on a weighty consensus of experts does indeed
>>  harmonize with my discourse analytical framework.  Here is
>>  the value of discourse analysis to verbal semantics--as a
>>  test of verbal semantic hypotheses.
>>  BTW, I have not known Alviero Niccacci to concern himself
>>  awful much with verbal semantics.  His definition of tense
>>  is not the same as a linguist who specializes in verbal
>>  semantics like Comrie.  IOW, he is the wrong guy to pick
>>  if you want to criticize discourse analysts for entering
>>  discipline of verbal semantics.
>>  As for Longacre, he also has little to say about verbal
>>  semantics in Hebrew.  He has himself worked with a fairly
>>  traditional explantion of BH verbal semantics ala Lambdin.
>>  Shalom,
>>  Bryan
>>  B. M. Rocine
>>  Associate Pastor
>>  Living Word Church
>>  6101 Court St. Rd.
>>  Syracuse, NY 13206
>>  (office) 315-437-6744
>>  (home) 315-445-3085
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