[b-hebrew] Israel "in" Egypt 215 or 430 years ?

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Fri Aug 20 09:19:39 EDT 2004

Dear Peter,

>I don't think the singular B.:)EREC should be pressed to mean a 
>single country, especially as it is taken up with a plural pronoun, 
>just as the singular ZAR:(:AKF is taken up with a plural pronoun. 
>The meaning may be that "each of your descendants will live in a 
>country not his/her own", referring to various different countries. 
>Remember that Isaac lived in the land of the Philistines for many 
>years (ch.26) and Jacob served and was to some extent oppressed by 
>Laban in Aram for many years (chs.29-31). So the plural object could 
>refer to the various countries.

HH: The plural object refers to the residents of the land as far as I 
am concerned. That is a simpler structure with a more natural 
understanding of the function of the suffix. It's common for Hebrew 
to make the switch from a nation/land/city to its inhabitants. 
Otherwise in Gen 15:13 you would have singular "land" referring to 
plural lands but taking a plural suffix contrary to grammatical 
expectation. One would not know whether the plural suffix referred to 
the people of the lands or to the various lands. And since there 
would be nothing indicating plainly that there were plural lands, the 
natural assumption would be that the suffix referred to the people. 
The idea that the plural suffix would refer to the various peoples of 
the various lands is too complex without explicit clarification.

>I have just noticed something fascinating here. We have
>WA(:ABFDW.M "and they will serve them"
>W:(IN.W. )OTFM "and they will afflict them"
>In the first clause, we presume that the subject is the Israelites 
>and the object is presumably the strange countries or their people 
>(as explicitly in the next verse), but in the second, the subject 
>and object are reversed. Is this switch reference signalled by the 
>use of the full non-suffix pronoun in the second clause, or is it 
>taken only from the context?

HH: It's signaled by the suffix (and the context). It is conceivable 
that the use of verb (BD in the Qal was once more flexible. There is 
a usage with the preposition B to mean work with, "use as subjects, 
impose tribute on," seen in later books (Jer 25:14; 27:7; Ezk 34:27). 
In English we work, but we can work someone too. "Don't work him to 
death." It is possible that (BD once had this usage so that Gen 15:13 
reflects it. But that is just speculation, and your understanding is 
more in line with the evidence as we have it.

>I also note the form DFN in the next verse, translated "I will 
>judge/punish", but surely this must be a participle?

HH: Right.

					Harold Holmyard

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