[b-hebrew] infinitive absolute

George Athas george.athas at moore.edu.au
Thu Nov 2 17:23:05 EST 2006

Just to pick up on Karl's point here -- we need to distinguish between an
'intensive' meaning and an 'emphatic' meaning. If I intensify a verb, then I
have changed the nature of it. This would be similar to the intensive
meaning of a Piel. For example, Qal 'break' becomes Piel 'smash'. The
infinitive absolute contruction we are analysing is not of this order --
this is what I think Joel was picking up on. It doesn't make sense to die
However, 'emphatic' implies something different. The emphatic nature of the
'infinitive absolute + finite verb' construction focuses greater attention
on the verb. This is, I believe, what Muraoka is getting at (as Bryan
cited). I always teach my students that it is the biblical Hebrew equivalent
of using the adverb 'actually' or 'really'.
To demonstrate, let's think about the example from Gen 3. The snake is not
telling the woman that she will not die intensively. Rather the snake says
'You will not actually die'. In this context of the narrative, this type of
emphasis makes good sense.
To summarise: there is a fine distinction between 'intensive' and
'emphatic', and the 'infinitive absolute + finite verb' construction
indicates emphasis of the verb.
Best Regards, 

Moore Theological College 
1 King St, Newtown 2042, Australia 
Ph: (+61 2) 9577 9774 


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