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

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Aug 15 08:40:23 EDT 2005

On 8/15/05, Dave Washburn wrote:
> Once again, we're dealing with the semantics of the verbs in question here.
> Your very statement, "He cannot run to them, before seeing them" etc. shows
> that.  It's the meanings of the words, not the form of the verb, that convey
> sequence.  You're not making much of a case here.

I am not trying to.  I am trying to show that the semantics of the words
complement the semantics conveyed by the verb forms.  It isn't intended to
be a proof.  One cannot prove something out of a single passage or two or
three examples.  The problem becomes worse in Biblical Hebrew, which is
(probably) not a uniform language, and contains elements that were not
only composed over a wide variety of periods, covering hundreds of years,
and varying geographical locales, but also that each specific document was 
subject to much editing over those hundreds of years.

> > 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.
> Surely you jest.  Where do you get the idea that a wayyiqtol would "suggest
> that Abraham was standing idly by"?  Nothing in the context or the text hints
> at such a thing, nor does anything in the verb form.  

Surely I don't.  Even before I understood the concepts of the various
meanings, the word "wayye$eb" intrinsically conveyed to me, as a kid reading
the Bible in Hebrew, an *act* of sitting and not some stative verb
form. This is
conveyed solely by the verb form.  It also happens to be the standard 
understanding of such a verb form.  That it doesn't work well with your theory 
is your issue.  I think some of the discussions here should separate between 
personal theories that may be advanced by individual members on the list, and 
which those same members may discuss, and the standard accepted 
understanding which is what someone new to Biblical linguistics is interested 
in knowing.

> YHWH appearing.  That's an awfully short line!  And the business about "a new
> line of events" ignores the fact that the next verb, "he lifted," is another
> wayyiqtol.  What's it sequential to?  Abraham sitting?  

Yes.  Abraham was sitting, and then he looked up.  What's the problem?

> Hardly.  To get that
> you'd have to assume that Abraham stood up and then lifted his eyes, 

Huh?  Why? How?  Why does "lifting one's eyes" require Abraham to 
stand up?

> In addition, what's the first wayyiqtol in verse 1
> sequential to?  Ishmael's circumcision?  I think not.  It begins a new
> pericope, and isn't sequential to anything.  

It is sequential to anything that happened previously.  Being sequential
doesn't mean you have to know what the previous episode in the story
was.  What you do assume is that anything that happened previously
is over.  And that is the basic assumption of a new pericope.

> Nor is the wayyiqtol of "he
> lifted," unless you want to claim that it's sequential to either YHWH
> appearing or Abraham sitting, neither of which makes sense.  

Why is Abraham sitting not a sensible prior event to Abraham raising his

> It's a participle.  And there is a "wa" but it's prefixed to HINNEH.  

Hinneh is not a verb.  Look at my other message.  "wa" or "w:" will always
be there.  But generally in conjuction with a verb it suggests serial,
sequential action.  As a reprecussion of this, when it does not appear in
conjuction with a verb, it suggests non-sequential action.

> You're
> still not making your case, because you haven't shown syntactically that
> there's anything in any of these wayyiqtols that requires sequence
> independent of the inherent meanings of the terms used.

You think I'm trying to make a case.  I'm trying to explain my understanding
of the standard interpretation of the Biblical Hebrew of these verses.  I'm not
out to make a case or prove anything.  If I'm wrong in describing the
standard way these forms are understood by most linguists, please correct

> Okay, you still haven't explained how a form that is always sequential to
> something else can begin a new line of events.  You also haven't explained
> why, if it's true that "by the time he looked up and sighted them, they were
> already standing before him," he had to run to them.  Running to them
> suggests that they were  still a ways away.  

"Standing before him" doesn't mean they were an inch away.  They could have
been a yard or two away.

> So your whole sequence breaks down right there.

No, it does not.

> Actually, what we have is a fine example of shoehorning the grammar into the
> theory rather than the reverse.  

Huh? You don't like the theory because you have your own theory.  However,
until your theory is accepted by most linguists, you should discuss your
theory amongst linguists.  But if a new person comes and tries to understand
the passage, it is only reasonable to say, "Look, this is what most linguists
and almost everybody thinks it means.  But I think something else, based on
various exceptions."  And only then discuss your ideas.

> See my 1994 paper in Hebrew Studies.  I gave scads of exceptions, enough to
> bring the whole idea into question.  And the "sequential action" in 2 Sam
> 24:1 is built into the verbs rather than the forms, as well.

I skimmed it.  I am not a linguist and am not qualified to pass judgement on 
your theory.  But it appears to me that you attempt to build a case
out of three
exceptions.  One of them, is a problematic case in its own right, apparently 
being duplicated in the MT, which you try to explain away.  We have to 
remember that Biblical Hebrew is not uniform, and contains many editorial 
modifications.  It is not a pure document that can be analyzed using the same 
tools in linguistics, because it may contain imports from other languages 
(Phoenician? Israelite?) and different times.  While linguistic analysis can be 
used to analyze the majority of cases, you can never be sure if an exception 
is the result of an odd use of the language, different semantics of
the language,
or simply the result of editorial activity.  So I perceive that
starting an analysis
off of exceptions is methodologically problematic, as it makes certain 
assumptions about the text such as that the text is written in uniform
of the same time, by the same hand, and does not contain editorial activity 
such as a conflation of multiple accounts.

Yitzhak Sapir

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