[b-hebrew] Dying, you will die Gen 2:17

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Mon Apr 9 20:23:04 EDT 2007


I have looked up these paragraphs in the Kautzsch improvisation of  
Gesenius, and am ready now to doff (do-off?) my hat in utter  
admiration of a student prepared to bravely wade through this  
grammatical thicket of Teutonic abstract erudition. What does he have  
against SHATOH of 1 Samuel 1:9 that prompts him to denounce (p. 340,  
footnote 3) it so vehemently as "impossible Hebrew"?

I sincerely believe that there is actually little more to MOT TA-MUT  
of Genesis 2:17 then a sounding game of the vocal articulation O-TA-U  
made possible in Hebrew by the interchangeability of O and U. Compare  
also the SHOB A-SHUB (O-A-U) of Genesis 18:10 and BO YA-BO (O-YA-O)  
of Leviticus 14:48. Interestingly enough, the English translation of  
this last verse is just "And if the priest shall come in", and not  
"And if the priest shall indeed come in", as though BO is 'in'. On  
the other hand, this same translator translates the same BO YA-BO of  
1 Samuel 9:6 as "cometh surely to pass", and not "all that he saith  
of, cometh to pass".

It is mostly exercised with the "weak" (or "lean") verbs that have  
only one or two stable radical letters, verbs which are given by this  
rhyming device greater substance and a more pronounced  
representation. It seems to me that the translators of the Hebrew  
bible have read into this harmless, yet strange to the foreign ear,  
prosodic device of poetical flourish some unregistered extraneous  
meaning, which Gesenius and his followers later avidly over- 
grammatized. Here are some more such examples:

Genesis 15:13 YADOA TE-DA "Know of a surety"
Genesis 26:28 RAO RA-I-NU "We saw certainly"
Genesis 27:30 YACO YACA "was yet scarce gone out"
Genesis 43:7 SHAOL SHAAL "asked us straitly"
Exodus 3:7 RAOH RA-I-TI "I have surely seen"
Exodus 15:1 GAOH GAAH  "he hath triumphed gloriously"
Exodus 15:26 SHAMOA TI-SHMA "If thou wilt diligently hearken"
Exodus 21:5 AMOR YO-MAR "shall plainly say"
Leviticus 27:19 GAOL YI-GAL "will in any wise redeem it"
Numbers 13:30 ALOH NA-ALEH "Let us go up at once"
Numbers 21:2 NATON TI-TEN "If thou wilt indeed deliver"
Deuteronomy 17:15,  SOM TA-SIM "Thou shalt in any wise set"
Deuteronomy 24:13 HA-SHEB TA-SHIB "In any case thou shalt deliver him"
Judges 15:2 AMOR AMAR-TI KI SNOAH SNE-TAH ", I verily thought that  
thou hadst utterly hated her"
1 Samuel 26:25 ASOH TA-ASEH Ve-GAM YAKOL TU-KAL "thou shalt both do  
great things, and also shalt still prevail"
1 Samuel 30:8 HA-SEG TA-SIG Ve-HA-CEL TA-CIL "for thou shalt surely  
overtake them, and without fail recover all"
Amos 5:5 GALOH YI-GLEH  "shall surely go into captivity"
MOTeTA AREC, NOA TA-NUA EREC "The earth is utterly broken down, the  
earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly"
Isaiah 61:10, SOS A-SIS "I will greatly rejoice"
Esther 6:13 NAFOL TI-POL "shalt surely fall"
All with disappointing English addenda that actually detract from the  
beauty of the concise Hebrew original.

In the case of the strong verbs, such as MLK in 1Samuel 24:20 MALOK  
TI-MLOK, "thou shalt surely be king", the translation, in my opinion,  
is a constrained and not a very successful imitation of a mild case  
of Hebrew grandiloquence.

I decidedly do not do theology, and will not go into theological  
speculations, but I still insist that I find 'surley' with reference  
to God jarring and patently misplaced. The Hebrew editors of the  
bible, in my humble opinion, could not have intended it.

By the way, the Luther translation of MOT TA-MUT is the beautiful  
"wirst du des Todes sterben", "unto death you will die"! Similarly,  
he goodly translates MALOK TI-MLOK of 1Samuel 24:20 as "du König  
werden wirst".

Still, the issue of the Hebrew "Infinitive Absolute" is fascinating,  
and is worth the while discussing in detail, particularly when used  
in such fictional dramatic settings as the scenes of Isaiah 22:13.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Apr 5, 2007, at 11:42 PM, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:

> Dear Isaac,
> Gesenius, Paragraph 45, pages 122-123:
> [cut]
> Paragraphs 113, 114, 115, pages 339-355. I will quote paragraph  
> 113, number
> 3, page 342:
> [cut]
> Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Isaac Fried" <if at math.bu.edu>
> To: "Scott McAliley" <scottanderin1 at hotmail.com>
> Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2007 10:38 AM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Dying, you will die Gen 2:17

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