[b-hebrew] The Explicative use of wayyiqtol

John Cook jacook at eisenbrauns.com
Thu Apr 20 09:03:56 EDT 2006


Dear Moon-Ryul,

You have found an interesting passage that demonstrates the inadequacies of the conventional view that one of the semantic features of WAYYIQTOL is temporal succession (or sequential). I have argued in a JSS article that wayyiqtol is best understood as marking the most salient events in narrative, whether in the primary string of events or in flashback narration (Cook, John A.
2004 The Semantics of Verbal Pragmatics: Clarifying the Roles of Wayyiqtol and Weqatal in Biblical Hebrew Prose. Journal of Semitic Studies 49/2: 247-73).  

Examples such as Num 1:48 as well as examples I offered in my article, such as Genesis 29:23-25a, 28-30a, demonstrate the saliency marking of WAYYIQTOL devoid of any clear sense of temporal succession.  In the latter passages, a temporally successive interpretation leads to an odd sequence of events, whereby Laban gives each of his daughters a maidservant between the time that Jacob has gone in to them on their wedding night and the following morning.  It seems doubtful that Laban would have taken such an inopportune moment to give his daughters maidservants.  Instead, I think the WAYYIQTOL forms in these instances mark the giving of the maidservants as highly salient to the narrative---particularly poignantly expressed by being placed in the middle of the report of the consummation of each marriage.

I would understand the slightly different situation in Num 1:48 similarly: the X-NEG-QATAL clause about the Levites not being included in the census introduces background information, negative clauses generally being less salient than positive clauses (universally speaking); the event of God's directive to Moses not to count the Levites is then expressed by WAYYIQTOL because it is the one salient event within the subnarrative explaining why the Levites were not counted in the census.

One could translate the WAYYIQTOL in vs. 48 with a past perfect form, but that is according to the logic of the narrative, not necessitated by the form itself or the syntax of the passage.  I would translate: 

46 And all those who were numbered were 603,550. 47However, the Levites according to the tribe of their father were not numbered among them.  48Yhwh (had) directed Moses saying, "Only the tribe of Levi you must not number (i.e., include in the census) . . .

This may not explain the passage to everyone's satisfaction, but I think it makes fairly good sense out of what is going on.  The main point I would like to emphasize is that we do not require some semantically marked temporally successive (or sequential) verb form in Hebrew any more than we do in English, German, etc.  Temporal succession is a default characteristic of narration---unless we somehow mark an event as "out of sequence," the reader/listener will assume the events took place in the order they are reported. In this case, the logic of the order of the clauses along with the X-NEG-QATAL syntax signals that the events should not be understood in their default temporally successive order.


John A. Cook
Editor, Eisenbrauns




> Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
> 
> Hi, let me send my message again, because the previous one was reported to contain
> many wierd characters.
> 
> Hhere have been many and in depth discussions on the sequential nature of
> 
> WAYYIQTOL.  The following is the quote from the archive of this list written by
> 
> Prof. Niccacci:
> 
>  
> 
>  
> 
>  The information conveyed by this wayyiqtol is USUALLY ALSO
> CHRONOLOGICALLY sequential (or successive) to that of the preceding
> wayyiqtol; however, there are cases of explicative wayyiqtol as well as of
> resumptive wayyiqtol. This fact does not contradict the claim that
> wayyiqtol is sequential; it only qualifies it. 
> 
> 
> --------------------------------
> 
> I would accept the above explanation even in the case where > 
> a single WAYYIQTOL occurs next to X+QATAL (e.g. Josh 24:32, 24:33)
> as long as  WAYYIQTOL  states something which flows out of the
> context set up by X+QATAL. I have no problem with 
>  WAYYIQTOL which goes back to sometime in the narrative 
>  and starts or resume  a flash-back sequence of WAYYIQTOLs.
> 
> I would accept the "summarizing" use of wayyiqtol, because the summarizing
> 
> is a sort of conclusion which is a sort of logical entailment, which involves 
> 
> a  sequence. 
> 
> 
> However, it is difficult for me to understand  the case of Num 1:47-54 within a broad
> or qualified sense of sequence:
> 
>  
> 
>  47 The families of the tribe of Levi, however, were not counted (X + QATAL ) along with the others.
>  48 The LORD had said to Moses (WAYYIQTOL):
>  49-53 "You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. ......."
> 
>  54 The Israelites did  (WAYYIQTOL) all this just as the LORD commanded Moses.
> 
> 
> Verse 54 is an example of summarizing use of wayyiqtol, which summarizes
> 
> all things mentioned  in the chapter 1 before that verse. So, verse 54 is not a part of
> 
> a sequence started by WAYYIQTOL of verse 48. So, we have here a stand-alone
> 
> single WAYYIQTOL in  v 48.  This stand-alone single WAYYIQTOL does not form a sequence,
> 
> because v 48 DOES NOT FLOW out of the context set up by X + QATAL in v 47.
> In this context, WAYYIQTOL in 48 explains the reason for the situation described in 
> v 47. To use Niccacci's classification, X + QATAL in v 47 belongs to the previous
> sequence, but does not set up a new context for the following sequence. 
> 
> In sum, WAYYIQTOL in v 48 does not start a new sequence of flash-back nor
> form a sequence with respect to the context set up by X + QATAL. It simply provides
> an explanation for v. 47 by remembering a previous commandment of the Lord to 
> Moses. In other words, this WAYYIQTOL occurs in a context which is not
> sequential in any sense. 
> 
> Can we explain this "explicative use" of WAYYIQTOL within the paradigm of 
> broadly understood sequence, as Niccacci seems to believe?
> 
> I know that Bruce Waltki and O'Connor, in his book ( p. 547), claim that 
> two orthogonal properties of wayyiqtol is subordination and perfective aspect. 
> Under the notion of subordination, they include succession (temporal and logical)
> and epexegesis (explanation) (e.g. 2 Sam 14:5, Ruth 2:3). 
> 
> But for me, it is hard to understand in what sense both succession and epexegesis
> can be lumped together under the notion of subordination. If "X is subordinated to
> Y" means here that "X is related to Y", then the concept seems too broad and so
> vacuous, because every sentence occurring in a narrative is somehow related to its neighbors.
>  
> Any way out?
> 
> 
> Moon-Ryul Jung
> 
> Sogang Univ,
> 
> Seoul, Korea



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