[b-hebrew] prepositions and grammar

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Thu Oct 6 13:47:14 EDT 2005

> "Great. And how do you know the idea, if you ignore the grammar?"
> You don't ignore the grammar. You have to understand the grammar of both 
> languages.

Right. So you have to see that le is dative in Hebrew, and ask yourself, if 
English translation is equivalent of dative.
Say, "That Ishmael might live for you!" is a reasonable translation of what 
is properly dative, “consecrated to you”.
But omitting le in Gen2:7 changes the meaning.

> "Became to a living soul" is not good English.
> Become simply does not take a prepositional phrase as its object in 
> English.
> As for other examples,
> Exodus 4:3, 7:10, 7:12  Moses' staff became  (le) a serpent.
> Deuteronomy 26:5 became a (le) great nation
> Joshua 7:5 the heart of the people melted and became (le) water
> Judges 1:33 became (le) tributary to them
> Judges 8:27 it became (le) a snare to Gideon and to his family
> Ruth 4:13 she became to him (le) a wife
> 2 Sam 8:2 the Moabites became (le) servants to David
> Psalm 114:2 Judah became (le) a sanctuary to him
> Isaiah 63:10 he changed himself to become (le) an enemy to them

Your examples fall into the category of the comparative sense of le.
1Kings2:2, “Be strong, and show yourself as a (le) man,” or Exodus4:3, 
“[rod] became a (le) serpent.” Such usage of le is consistent with dative: 
“as a man, as a serpent” (Russian подобно+dative). The connotation is, 
“similar, but not the same”; Solomon, according to David’s estimate, was not 
a man yet, but should behave like one.

The man, however, is universally referred to as “living soul”; here 
identification replaces mere similarity. The reading, "The man became as a 
living soul" is possible, but unlikely. Even if the meaning is indeed such, 
the connotation is not becoming a live person (in which case le in the sense 
of "as" would be improper), but turning from "as dead" (from the drought) to 
"as alive" (in Eden), revived.

> Since you asked how I ignore the grammar, let me ask you, what grammars 
> and lexicons are you using for Hebrew and English?
> The definition I gave you for le is a standard definition found in 
> Brown-Driver-Briggs.

I rarely feel a need to consult lexicon, and certainly not a grammar, but 
when someone asks me for a reference, I suggest Steinberg. He is head and 
shoulders above BDB.

Vadim Cherny 

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