[b-hebrew] Re: hwh in Hifil?

Dr. Joe Sprinkle jsprinkle at crossroadscollege.edu
Mon Aug 11 21:42:55 EDT 2003

> Shalom,
> I am stundying the E and J relations in the Pentatauch.  JOhn Day made a
> statement in regards to yhwh being qal rather than Cross's opnion that it
> causitive (hifil).  He states that hwh is not attested in the Hifil in
> Hebrew, unlike in Syriac.  I have a basic (1 year) of Biblical Hebrew, and
> just need to better understand this statement.  WHat i think he is saying
> that hwh does not exist in the hifil in Hebrew.  Can someone verify or
> assist me in this?  I know it is basic, but understanding that staement
> fully is very important to continuing.  Day uses Ex 3:14 as his proof of
> yhwh being qal.
> Thanks
> John D Robinett

There are two types of verbs in Hebrew: Active and Stative.  The Hiphil
seems to behave differently with the two.  With an active verb the Hiphil
tends to be "causative." It causes the action in Qal to occur. However, with
a stative verb, the hiphil is not causative, but instead tends to increase
the state of the verb in Qal and make the verb transitive.   Thus the
stative verb RWM "to be high" in the Hiphil does not mean "to cause"
anything, but "to increase the height of X, to raise X." It increases the
state of "high" and allows the verb to take a direct object.

Once this is seen, it becomes obvious why HYH "to be" (a stative rather than
an active verb) would not have a Hiphil form, since one would expect the
hiphil would not mean "cause to be" but "increase being for X."  The
ocassions for expressing that meaning would be so rare that it would be not
be likely to occur.

If YAHWEH is a verb related to "to be" (as Exod 3:14 suggests) rather than
pun/folk etymology, it is probably based on an archaic form of HAYAH before
the W became a Y in later Hebrew (see original first vav verbs like YALAD
which were originally WALAD forms and the Aramaic form HWH "to be").

Yahweh would then be a Qal imperfect form.  The Qal normally takes an /I/
vowel under the preformative YOD, but the /A/ vowel is influenced by the
gutteral HE that tends to prefer /A/ vowels over the /I/ vowel of the
paradygm for Qal imperfects and caused the /I/ to gravitate to that /A/
vowel.  Thus the /A/ vowel has nothing to do with the hiphil form, even
though it would be a homonym of a hypothetical hiphil form, but has to do
with the gutteral in the root.  Since the hiphil form does not in fact
exist, Yahweh (if a verb) is most certainly a Qal form "He is."

Joe Sprinkle

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