[b-hebrew] Genesis 20:13

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Fri Dec 10 20:47:27 EST 2004

Dear Dennis,

>These four examples are in Genesis 20:13; 
>Genesis 35:7; 2 Samuel 7:23; and Psalm 58:1. I 
>am not sure if Genesis 31:53; Exodus 22:8; 
>Deuteronomy 5:26; 1 Samuel 2:25; and 1 Samuel 
>17:26, 36 are also examples of this phenomena. 
>Some have said they were but most Hebrew 
>scholars do not even mention them as being in 
>the same class the four examples previously 
>mentioned. Nevertheless, my initial question 
>really deals with Genesis 20:13.

HH: It seemed to me that Ps 58:1; Ex 22:8; and 1 
Sam 2:25 do not show what you were suggesting. In 
Gen 31:53, the verb is plural, but God is 
mentioned more than once with a slightly 
different name, if that provides any extenuating 
circumstance. In Dt 5:26 and 1 Sam 17:26, 36 
Elohim is modified by a plural adjective 
"living." The other verses do seem to use a 
plural verb with Elohim.

>Adam Clarke, the great Methodist theologian of a 
>couple hundred years ago, recognized a problem 
>with this verse. He explained it as "Abraham was 
>(probably referring) to his first call." In 
>other words, he (Abraham) was referring back to 
>his call when he was a polytheist; before he was 
>a monotheist. Another possibility is that 
>Abraham was "caught" in deceit by the pagan King 
>Abimelech and to "get out of it" he rather 
>appealed to the king's pagan belief in multiple 
>gods. These explanations are more of a 
>theological nature. My question deals more with 
>grammar than theology though.

>Either explanation seems reasonable to me but I 
>have recently come across Albert Barnes' "Notes 
>on the Bible" in which is quoted (with regard to 
>Genesis 20:13) "13. ”™Ú  hît°pû is plural in 
>punctuation, agreeing grammatically with ýÏ”ÈÌ 
>'e˜lohîym. Â(w), however, may be regarded as the 
>third radical, and the verb may thus really be 
>singular."  Does this explanation seem 
>reasonable to you? Is the verb "wander", as used 
>in this verse, really to be understood as "the 
>third radical"? I hope so, this explanation does 
>appeal to me.

HH: There is no attestation for such a verb 
anywhere else, and few verbs have a third radical 
waw that I am aware of. I cannot think of any 
offhand, though there may be some. Anyway, it is 
much more likely that the normal understanding of 
the verb is right. Clarke is saying that rather 
than the waw letter being the sign of the third 
plural suffix for the verb, it may be a letter 
that is part of the root form of the verb. That 
is unlikely, since the verb supposed by the 
normal understanding exists and fits the context. 
And the form would be abnormal even if the letter 
was the third radical of the verb, since there is 
no yodh as a sign of the Hiphil. That sometimes 
occurs, though.

>Perhaps you could explain what, exactly, is a 
>Hebrew "third radical" verb? I may have a couple 
>of follow up questions based on your response 

HH: The normal understanding of the verb in Gen 
20:13 is that the verb is a third "heh" verb. 
"Heh" is like our letter "h," and it customarily 
drops off before the suffix. So Clarke would be 
saying that the verb was not a third "heh" verb 
but a verb whose third letter was waw.

HH: I think it's easier just to admit that the 
form elohim can sometimes take a plural verb. 
After all, its grammatical form is plural, and 
when it has a plural meaning, it can take plural 
forms. So if it rarely takes a plural form for 
the verb when it has a singular meaning, that 
should not surprise us unduly.

					Harold Holmyard

>Dennis K. Jones
>b-hebrew mailing list
>b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list