[b-hebrew] Waw Consecutive in Narrative Hebrew Narrative

Paul Zellmer pzellmer at sc.rr.com
Sun Oct 12 09:09:01 EDT 2003


While the archives will show that many megabytes have been written on this
list concerning the waw-consecutive, I cannot recall any specific mention of
this question.  Based on the history of this list, I can almost guarantee
that your question will bring out responses that will have little or no
bearing on your question.  So, while I am by no means as distinguished as
some who might well respond, let me try to focus on the situation in which
you find yourself.

Unlike what occurs in discussions on the waw-consecutive on this list, it
would appear like both of your instructors are interpreting the form
similarly.  While they each may use different terminology than I will, they
appear to agree that the form (to use discourse analysis terminology)
advances the mainline or falls on the backbone in narrative passages.  Yes,
even your Hebrew teacher seems to indicate this, in that he does not state
that your other instructor was giving an incorrect interpretation, just an

It is notable that, in the vast majority (may I say, all the unambiguous)
narrative passages, the initial verb form is something other than a
waw-consecutive, a form that either sets the time or marks a break in the
narrative stream, and then the sequence of events is carried forward using
this form.  So your first instructor is noting that finding a
waw-consecutive here is unusual.  But I would suspect that the truth lies
somewhere between the two positions that you present.  I do not see it as
the mark of "a continuation of the Torah."  Nor do I find it completely
meaningless.  Instead, I would see it as a literary device to show that we
are not starting with a mere disjointed tale, but that this is an event that
is connected with other events which would already be known to the reader.

Hope this helps,

Paul Zellmer

Matt wrote:
> Hello All,
> I've recently had instructors at school tell me two (apparently)
> conflicting
> things about waw consecutives in Hebrew Narrative.  I was wondering if I
> could get a few list members to chime in with their thoughts about it.
> Off-List replies are fine if appropriate (i.e. theologically or other than
> linguistically motivated).
> The point that one of my teachers made is that since the book of Joshua
> starts with a waw-consecutive, it is meant to be read as a continuation of
> the Torah.  He made the point that throughout the TaNaK, there
> are numerous
> points where books start with a waw-consecutive and that this is
> a literary
> tool used by the authors to portray them as a linear story, and that we
> should read them in that light.
> My other teacher (my Hebrew teacher) shook his head and said
> that's not what
> he thought at all.  He suggested that waw-consecutives are almost a
> "default" type of verb form in Hebrew, and that they are so
> common, that to
> find them at the start of the book isn't surprising at all.  He thinks the
> first view reads far too much into the text.
> Any discussion/suggestions would be warmly received.
> Shalom,
> --Matt

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