[b-hebrew] Zech 6:8

Herman Meester crazymulgogi at gmail.com
Tue Dec 6 10:30:25 EST 2005

Dear Steve,

SM: Is it possible that the sight of the strong horses going over all the
earth caused Zechariah to cry in anguish?

H.: Although it is an unusual interpretation, it is syntactically not
impossible. Usually, the wayyiqtol (which ויזעק is) is assumed to be a
"consecutive" verb form, so that the action described in it follows an
action mentioned in the above. However, this is by no means always the case,
as a.o. Dave Washburn has shown very well. Therefore ויזעק may refer back,
"summarising" what the result was of all the prophet had been seeing.
However, it is an unusual exegesis, and I guess most people would expect
another form of the verb in that case. The verb ויזעק is a masculin
singular, which is unusual too for an unspecified (I mean, there being no
clear subject) "event", or "sight" to be referred to. It seems that there's
not a very probable alternative for the subject of ויזעק other than that it
is the same subject that וידבר has. Here too, however, we cannot be sure,
because unspecified subject change does happen quite often in the Hebrew of
the Bible.

SM: How do I look something up in a Midrash?

H.: There are a lot of them (and a lot of them translated to English btw).
If you're interested, a bibliography on this literature, or some kind of
general introduction is important. If you are not into this, tell me, I need
a couple of days to find some English introductions because they had me
study all that in German and French. If you happen to read German,
Stemberger is the key name (maybe translated into English?) I guess you'd
find a lot of Neusner's work (in English) in book stores. Have to say he's
criticised for writing too much, having his students do a lot of the work
and then putting his name on it. But you won't read clear nonsense there, I
Then the first thing to do is find a Midrash on Zachariah, which may be
inside a Midrash on the Minor Prophets. I'd have to go to the university
library myself to look for a specific midrash on that. Midrashim usually
follow the order of the Bible verses, so if you keep turning pages you'd
find something on Zach 6,8. Usually, if you have the Hebrew original, you'd
have to get used to (if this is not the case yet) "Hebrew" numbers of
paragraphs and chapters, where א is 1, ב 2 etc. But the Bible verses are not
always indicated clearly, you'd really have to find a word or phrase that is
mentioned in your Bible verse. And the openings of many midrashim (the
פתיחתאות) are usually *not* about the Bible book/chapter to be discussed. As
a starting point they could take, for instance, a verse of the Song of
Songs, elaborate on that, and then after a few pages or even longer arrive
at the "real" midrash, for instance about Gen. 1,1. A פתיחתא does have
something to do with the subject at hand, but sometimes we have to pay a
little attention.

Something else you could do is take a concordance to the rabbinic
literature, which is, I think, available only in Hebrew/Aramaic and if I'm
right called אוצר לשון חז"ל; look for ויזעק or something even more specific
to the Zach. text, and you'll find a number of places in the Talmudim, which
contains midrash too, naturally, or in the specific Midrashim, which we
usually call "collections", because their material is not written down by an
individual but collected by an editor.

Have you heard of this link?
There you can find links to a number of online rabbinic texts (and much
more), some in translation, might be interesting. Both talmudim, for
example, are online (full text).
I'm sorry if I would have been telling you only stuff you already know.
I don't know how easily, for example, you would be reading unvocalised
post-biblical Hebrew (or Aramaic); I love this literature, so I'd be happy
to answer all sorts of questions regarding it. Which makes me discover
things myself I didn't know, too, which is a lot.
And you could check the Targumim, the Jewish Aramaic translations to the
Hebrew Bible, available in translation (usually Spanish or English).
Sometimes they have unusual (i.e. unusual to us) interpretations.
Just plunge into it, it always pays off ;)

Best regards,

2005/12/6, Steve Miller <smille10 at sbcglobal.net>:
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* Herman Meester Sunday, December 04
> HM: In the few reactions I sent about the problem with the Z(Q hif'il, I
> don't think I said its basic meaning is "utter a cry for help", just
> something like "utter a cry", or "shout". English is not my first language,
> so this might not be the ideal translation.
> SM: Thanks Herman. In studying the 73 occurrences of Z`Q in the Tanach,
> the QAL form always is a cry for help or in anguish. "Utter a cry" does have
> that connotation, but not shout.
> HM: All I did was venture the possibility that HZ(YQ as a hif'il of a root
> Z(Q is not necessarily to be taken as "to make (s.o.) cry". This
> translation you propose would usually be taken to be a little odd in the
> context of your passage in Zech. Often this is what the hif'il does, but if
> we take it here as a verb that derives of the noun Z(QH "cry, shout", then
> we can let HZ(YQ mean litt. "to produce a Z(QH", to cry, shout. This kind of
> derivation happens elsewhere too in MT.
> SM: I agree that HZ(YQ does not have to mean to cause to cry. Yes, it
> could mean to produce a cry for help, to cry out of anguish. But that
> meaning could not fit the context.
> HM: Why can it take the direct object, then? Technically it is not even
> the direct object, which would be a suffixed [-(e)ni or -(a)ni] ויזעקני.
> We'd have to check all cases of אתי, אתך, אתם etc. in order to know if this
> example in Zech. 6,8 really is ungrammatical. Your question should be
> reframed, "is it good Hebrew to use אתי oti with this verb ויזעק?" Frankly I
> wouldn't know, we'd have to check the entire MT first. So far, you can just
> say "all right, apparently this too is possible in BHebrew." That's usually
> the safest strategy. The word את is not always the particle for the direct
> object, but any further I feel not qualified to answer.
> SM: Yes, I see that את does not always indicate what in English would be
> the direct object, but I thought that was dependent on the verb. That is a
> very good point. The Hiphil Z(Q uses את 4 times (Jud. 4:10,13 & 1 Sam
> 20:4-5), and these are the very 4 in which the Hiphil means to assemble
> people or things for an emergency. That would support the meaning of "he
> summoned me [for an emergency]", but I don't see how the context could allow
> that. The Qal has only one אֶתְכֶם in Judges 12:2, where it also seems to
> mean to call an assembly for an emergency, but without the authority to make
> it happen.
> HM: Your own favourite explanation, however, is not impossible.
> It's just not in line with traditional translations, which should never be
> a reason not to propose something else. If you take ויזעק אתי as "he made me
> shout" then you are assuming that המלאך first made "me" shout, and then
> proceeded talking: וידבר אלי and then we read what was said by המלאך. What
> the nature of this shout was, and how the מלאך did that, we don't know then.
> It is possible, as a lot of things are possible in the prophetic texts.
> Apparently, traditionally it was assumed to be odd if this was not specified
> by Zechariah, or it was assumed that the hif'il here is no problem at all,
> and works similar to the qal verb.
> SM: Is it possible that the sight of the strong horses going over all the
> earth caused Zechariah to cry in anguish?
> HM: By the way, if you happen to have a concordance to the Hebrew Bible
> within reach, you could look up all other cases of Z(Q as hif'il and see
> what kind of constructions you find. This is what I sometimes try if I
> wonder if something I read is "strange" or not; I usually find out it isn't.
> SM: That is what I do most of the time. I used to use my Wigram's a lot,
> but now I find it much more efficient to use Online Bible to search for the
> Strong's number and print out all the occurrences in English & Hebrew. There
> are 7 Hiphil. 4 mean to assemble people or things for an emergency (Jud.
> 4:10,13; 2 Sam 20:4-5).  Job 35:9 could be translated causatively or the
> same as the QAL. Jonah 3:7 seems to be causative. That leaves just Zech 6:8.
> HM: In the Prophets, linguistically a little more is possible than in the
> "classical Hebrew prose", like Kings, Judges, Deuteronomy etc., and in
> Psalms or Job, for instance, even more is possible, in the sense of
> constructions we don't expect.
> The Jewish midrash (exegesis) could indeed, by the way, if it suits a
> certain explanation, take ויזעק אתי in the very sense you take it. But in
> midrash, it would we considered that *both* meanings are inside this one
> verb, the traditional translation, and what you prefer. In a midrash, then,
> one could fill in what scream was uttered by the prophet, or what the מלאך
> really did in order to make "me" shout.
> If you're interested, look up a Midrash to Zechariah and see what they do.
> SM: thanks Herman. How do I look something up in a Midrash?

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