Hebrew Syntax., 2 Sam 15:37

David Stabnow dstabno at lifeway.com
Thu Apr 18 15:32:03 EDT 2002

Rolf wrote: Regarding 1 Kings 3:24-26 you have a problem with your concept
"continually". I think we agree regarding what did happen, the soldiers
used some time to destroy this city and that city, they used some time to
fill this water spring and that water spring, until everything was ruined.
They could not do this destruction several times because there were a
limited number of cities, trees and water springs. These actions are
described with YIQTOLs ( and one WEQATAL)

Are the actions described by WAYYIQTOLs in verses 21-24 different? Hardly!
The Moabites were gathered together, one after the other (v 21), and they
stood there (not "had been standing" - focus on the continuing state). They
marched one after the other to the camp of Israel (v 24), and the
israelites rose, one after the other,and Israel struck the Moabites, one
after the other. Then the Moabites fled and Israel again killed Moabites,
one after the other. There were probably more Moabites that were killed
than the number of cities and springs that were destroyed according to
verse 25. If the actions described by the YIQTOLs are imperfective, the
WAYYIQTOLs must be imperfective as well.

DKS: You are correct, I was wrong to describe the action with the word
"continually."  But I can still conceive of a fundamental difference in the
kind of action described in the WAYYIQTOL's versus the
X-YIQTOL's/WEQATAL's.  It seems that the author was portraying the action
of the mustering in v. 21 and the battle in v. 24 as a whole, while the
despoiling of the land is somehow iterative.  The Moabites mustered, and
Israel defeated them; the defeat continued during the rout.  Then the
Israelites systematically despoiled Moab.

You are right that technically all action takes place one moment at a time,
one event after the other.  For example, in order for the Moabites to
gather, they gathered one after the other.  But the author has a choice how
he portrays that gathering, and he can bring out some nuance -- in this
case it would have been suspense if he had used X-YIQTOL: "One by one, from
city to city, the Moabites were called up, until they stood as a vast
army."  But the author chose to state it as a simple fact, not marked as
suspenseful: "The Moabites were called up and they stood."

At the end of v. 24 "the land" as a whole and (all) the Moabites in it are
the objects of the defeat.  The despoiling, on the other hand, is portrayed
as a city-to-city iterative action (YIQTOL).  The final city, Kir Haroset,
is then portrayed as the final single action (QATAL).

Rolf wrote: I work from the bottom and up, while discours analysis work
from the top an down.

DKS: I think you'll find that Talstra and his students are very much
bottom-up in their analysis, yet they refer to what they do as DA (except
for those among them who differentiate Text Linguistics from DA).

Rolf wrote: In order to substantiate that the prefix-forms and the
suffix-forms with prefixed WAW have a different meaning from those without
the WAW, *all* the forms must be analysed and semantic differences must be
domonstrated on the basis of their time references and the intersection of
event time by reference time. Verb meaning can never be established by a
study of the foreground/background functions of a few thousand forms
occurring in narrative contexts.

DKS: Two observations.  First, I am looking for how verb forms *function*
in sentences and paragraphs.  One component of analysis of various
sentences is semantic.  I think we are fundamentally different in our
approaches here.

Second, for my research into the nature of language, statistical
observations do have some merit.  Certainly statistics don't dictate what a
particular sentence *must* mean.  (Illustration: If a coin came up heads 5
times in a row, what are the odds it would come up heads the sixth time?
50/50.  Past patterns do not dictate current situations.)  Hypothetically,
even if we observe a certain function in all the other examples in our
corpus of a certain form, that does not mean that the one form we are
looking at will demonstrate that function -- this could be the one
exception.  Yet, there is merit in statistics.  Chances are good that this
form will have that function -- that is certainly the first line of
reasoning that should be pursued.  (Also, one should consider that perhaps
the coin is weighted such that it favors heads.)

You yourself have used statistics, and you argue that some forms of YIQTOL
in some grammatical constructions can have past reference.  The challenge,
in my mind, is to define what the writer/speaker of Biblical Hebrew
discerned as the indications of past reference.  What in grammar, syntax,
semantics, or text-grammar told the hearer that this YIQTOL has past
reference?  And which elements of the sentence or paragraph are meaningless
with regard to tense?  You argue that the conjunction is meaningless with
regard to tense, while conventional Biblical Hebrew grammar sees it as
crucial.  Conventional grammar puts little importance on the sentence that
comes before or after the sentence in question.  DA sees those as crucial.

Consider these random thoughts -- I don't have time to make my ramblings
more coherent.

Dave Stabnow
Bible Translation Editor
Broadman & Holman Publishers
Nashville, Tennessee
david.stabnow at lifeway.com

    Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for God's glory.  (1 Cor 10:31, HCSB)

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