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

Schmuel schmuel at escape.com
Fri Dec 31 12:13:01 EST 2004

Hi b-hebrew,

>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, it 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 enough."

Yes, I agree that this was actually the single most helpful analysis of any on the thread :-)  Apologies for bypassing/overloooking it in my summary,  I did reference it elsewhere it elsewhere, however, where the question first arose, as the heart of the matter :-)

>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.

Thanks.  I appreciate that you are coming from a point of what might be considered grammatical precision and nuance in the text and in the Hebraic commentators. 

>(I personally find that the context in Pro 5:15ff. is not sufficient to over-ride the syntax in v. 16.

:-)  That was sort of implied in your original, although much clearer here.

>  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 regulated.)
>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.

Thank you very much for your excellent discussion here.  Just one remaining question.  When I saw a parallelism in verses 15 and 16 with 17 and 18 (I almost hesitate to look back :-) was that in line with what you are sharing above about the poetry ?

Steven Avery
Queens NY

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