[b-hebrew] verb forms - Isaiah 56:6-7 was dying you shall die

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Thu Apr 12 11:01:24 EDT 2007

Dear Harold and Peter,
Yes, you are correct of course. BH has really only two tenses imperfective
and perfective,
plus the participle. The imperfective is for verbs where we would use a
modal, as well as uncompleted actions that began in the past and continue
into the future.
The problems come not in narrative, where it is clear that we are dealing
with a narrative tense (which in English are the past tenses), but in the
prophetic texts.
I should have said that the Qatal is always past, not that the Yiqtol is
always future.
Perhaps you'll prove me wrong here too.
Liz Fried

> -----Original Message-----
> From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On
> Behalf Of Harold Holmyard
> Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 10:47 AM
> To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] verb forms - Isaiah 56:6-7 was dying you shall die
> Dear Liz,
> >>
> >>> Oh, I don't insist on anything but that verbs in Yiqtal be translated
bytheEnglish future
> (and verbs in Qatal by English past tense), that's all I
> >>> insist on. ...
> >>>
> >> Yes, but my main point is that this is not necessarily appropriate.
> >> Rather often in biblical Hebrew YIQTOL does not have a future meaning,
> >> but a past or present continuous one. Or at least that is my
> >> understanding of the Hebrew verb system, although of course it is
> >> controversial. The problem comes when YIQTOL in biblical Hebrew is read
> >> as if it were the future tense in modern Hebrew.
> Peter is absolutely right, except that the assertion is not even a
> matter of controversy. YIQTOL does signify the future in biblical
> Hebrew, but that is not all it does. It is the imperfective, and the
> imperfective might be considered appropriate for the future, since
> future actions are usually not yet complete. But the imperfective is
> also used for actions that are in progress or for actions that are
> iterative, intermittent, prolonged, or stative.  These can be in the
> present or past:
> Judg 7:5: whoever laps with his tongue
> Ex 23:8 a bribe blind officials
> Gen 2:6 streams would come up from the ground
> 1 Sam 1:7 and so he used to do annually
> 1 Kgs 8:6 a stairway led up to the middle level
> Since the YIQTOL may be a blending of two earlier verb forms in West
> Semitic, its older forms may even indicate a simple past:
> Ex 15:1: then Moses sang
> 1 Kings 3:16: then two prostitutes came to the king
> The YIQTOL has all sorts of modal uses as well, which call for helping
> verbs in English like "can, would, could, may, should, must, want, will.
> The YIQTOL can also function as an imperative:
> Ps 51:9: cleanse me with hyssop
> Gen 1:9: let dry land appear
> Yours,
> Harold Holmyard
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