[b-hebrew] Zech 6:8

Steve Miller smille10 at sbcglobal.net
Thu Dec 8 22:52:19 EST 2005




From: Herman Meester  December 06


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. 

SM: I meant it not as a summary, but as an action following the going forth
of the strong horses.

H: 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: I thought that the 3rd person masculine singular was the normal B-Hebrew
indefinite pronoun. Examples are Zech. 13:9 & Isaiah 9:6. The pronouns in
Zechariah change a lot. A person whom I consider to be a great teacher of
the Bible, Witness Lee, said that “the hardest thing about Zechariah is the
pronouns.”  In Zech. 6:5-6, the angel is speaking. But in 6:8 the “He” doing
the speaking is God.

>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 ;)

SM: Herman, thanks very much. I did not know any of this. I can only read
English. I cannot read Hebrew, whether pointed or not, well enough to
understand it without helps. I think this would be over my head. I do have
the Stone Tanach with interesting footnotes, but they are often not
Biblically supported. I have read all of David Baron’s and Charles
Feinberg’s writing on Zechariah, and they had studied much Jewish writing.
David Baron’s writing on the Urim and Thummim from “The Ancient Scriptures
and the Modern Jew” was very enlightening. 


-Steve Miller


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