[b-hebrew] Re:morpho-syntax, was Proverbs 5:16 - a declaration or a question ?

B. M. Rocine brocine at twcny.rr.com
Fri Dec 31 11:03:39 EST 2004

Hi Steven,

I would like to make a lateral move in the thread.  I find your thread 
review interesting in what it leaves out from my own contribution.  Here's a 
quote from my earlier response to your query:

"Not only does v. 16 not have any sign of a question, as George mentioned, 
also features a clause-initial yiqtol form, which I think is highly unusual
in an unmarked question, particularly in a question that is not parallel
with a question.  Neither does a clause-initial yiqtol favor indicative
mood.  The vast majority of clause-initial yiqtols are volitional,
preferring the "may" or "let" translation like the KJV uses.  I think
context would have to be definite before we would prefer the interpretation
of v. 16 as a question.  I will let you decide if you think it is "definite

I think the above comment could be the key to understanding the proverb, but 
I understand how such a comment can be overlooked.  The comment just does 
not register sometimes.  Many students of BH have not been trained to pay 
attention to the position of a finite verb within its clause and the 
significance of word order.  However, I believe that the ancients were very 
sensitive to this syntactical feature, and I suspect it is at least partly 
responsible for the likes of Rashi who interpreted Pro 5:16 as expressing 
the hope that one's disciples would increase.

(I personally find that the context in Pro 5:15ff. is not sufficient to 
over-ride the syntax in v. 16.  I believe v. 16 expresses hope: "may your 
fountains break forth streetwards, your irrigation canals into the plazas." 
I do not find v. 17 to contradict.  I understand that if the addressee is 
promiscuous, his issue would emerge from sources that are not his alone. 
But v. 16 refers to *his* fountains and *his* canals.  palgey mayim, in 
particular, is not an image of unrestrained gushing forth such as the 
profligate man would produce.  In particular, palgey mayim are irrrigation 
ditches that are located carefully and through which the flow of water is 

Lack of training in appreciation of syntax is also understandable because we 
have yet to see a comprehensive explanation of the function of morpho-syntax 
in poetry, which by the way, I personally believe is basically the same as 
it is in prose.


You wrote:
> Thread review:
> Maurice mentioned the "HOTTP = Hebrew Old Testament Text Project,
>       which cordially allows both possibilities,
> Yigal gave a short voice for the declarative,
> George gave the Genesius reference, allowing but not insisting on the 
> interrogatory
> Harold gave arguments for the interrogatory, and analyzed detail thereof.
> Karl gave a rather unusual suggestion  (which I am taking the liberty of 
> considering a bit afield).
>    Notable basic quote - "There is no grammatical indication that this is 
> a question."
> Peter weighed in with Karl's suggestion
> Bryan also, with the significant
>  "leaving the MT as is and wrestling with whether Pro 5:16 is a question 
> or a hope."
> One reason I will bypass Karl's suggestion is that I consider the 
> Masoretic vowels as part of the Received Text, not arbitrary or guesswork.
> Now let's continue <whew>,
> While much as been addressed, originally there were some points that 
> really were not addressed,
> Original question posts
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2004-December/021849.html
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2004-December/021851.html
> Which I will re-phrase here.
> A) Numerous Hebraic commentators, as mentioned by John Gill, see the verse 
> 16 and 18 as
>    related to children/descendents or disciples.  Afaik, these men were 
> not slow to see
>    sexual themes, yet they saw a different type of parallelism here, with 
> waters being used
>    in two different way. This seems to be fundamental to making 
> comfortable the interpretation
>    of the declarative  and yet nobody commented on these ideas.
> B) Accepting "A" then seems to lead to a very nice parallelism of verses 
> 15 and 16
>     to 17 and 18, which would eliminate any supposed difficulties in the 
> text.
>     (Which magnifies the importance of the reasonableness of "A")
>     Am I the only one who sees or is concerned with such parallelism ?
> Thanks to all for your help on this thread and the Isaiah 9:6 one as well,
> as the secular calendar year draws to a close.
> Shalom,
> Steven Avery
> Queens, NY
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/

B. M. Rocine
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206

ph: 315.437.6744
fx: 315.437.6766 

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