[b-hebrew] 2Sam24:1 v. Gen18:1-3

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Aug 14 02:32:33 EDT 2005

I am not sure what Peter Kirk holds, I hold and think I have stated in
this regard
here that a series of "wayyiqtol"s or the wa- prefix, when applied to
a verb, marks
a sequential action that begins after the last action had completed. 
Gen 18:1-3 is a
good paragraph illustrating the various ways this concept is put to practice.

In Gen 18:2, Abraham raises his eyes, "and sees" ("wayar)").  It should be clear
that he cannot see the three men before raising his eyes.  But the linguistic 
sequence conveys that.  Similarly, in the later part of 18:2, he sees them, runs
to them, and then bows before them.  He cannot run to them, before seeing them,
and he bows to them only after he finishes running.  In both these cases we have
a sequence of "wayyiqtol"s which convey sequential action.

But in 18:1 we do not have such a sequence.  In 18:1, instead of
saying "wayye$eb"
it says "and he sits."  Why?  Because if it said "wayye$eb" it would
suggest that
Abraham was standing idly by, and then, sequentially, God appeared to him, and
then, sequentially, Abraham sat down.  Because 18:1 wants to suggest
that Abraham
was already sitting, it says "And God appeared to Abraham, and he is
sitting."  The
original line of events (consisting of only "And God appeared to
Abraham") is broken
and a new one is created.  We then follow this new one: Abraham is
sitting outside the
tent, he raises his eyes, he sees.  A perfectly sequential new line of events.

But now, in 18:2, we see a break again.  "And behold, three men are
standing before
him."  These men did not run or sit down prior to his sighting them,
and then stand
*after* he looked up to see them.  The text suggests by its use of the
verbs that by
the time he looked up and sighted them, they were already standing before him.
Because it is non-sequential it is conveyed with the verb no long
immediately following

So again, a new sequence of events is started which states "And
behold, three men
are standing before him."  This sequence of events finishes very
quickly because we
immediately return to the first timeline with a repeat of "And he
saw."  As I mentioned
above, when we begin a new line of events we generally follow it.  In
this case, in
order to return to the first line of events the last verb from the
first line of events ("and
he saw") was repeated.

So in Gen 18:1-3, we have examples of how Biblical Hebrew generally conveys
sequential action, sequential action that is broken by a new timeline,
and sequential
action that is broken by a new timeline and a return to the previous
timeline.  All of
this is absent in 2 Sam 24:1.  There we just have sequential action. 
I don't know if
there are any exceptions to this semantics of Biblical Hebrew, but it
has worked for
me anytime I used it, and it is based on a booklet written by a linguist on the 
differences between Biblical and modern Hebrew.

Yitzhak Sapir

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