[b-hebrew] Ecclesiastes 3:11

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Nov 17 11:37:08 EST 2007

On Nov 16, 2007 9:52 PM, Martin Shields wrote:
> Yitzhak,
> > Is it possible that the author of Qohelet is here trying to write in
> > Hebrew
> > a phrase using a specific word structure that is more natural in an
> > Indo-
> > European language, such as Greek (the phrase being something of the
> > sort of "without which a man will not find")?
> I think this is what the text means (see my other posts), but I don't
> think understanding it this way is necessarily dependent upon Indo-
> European influence. I think it is probably the simplest understanding
> of the Hebrew anyway. OTOH, there's a long tradition of seeing Greek
> influence in Qohelet, and if that's to be seen in any way in this
> verse I suspect it is more likely related to העלם (αιων in the
> LXX which is a term loaded with rather more baggage than עולם in
> biblical Hebrew).


Part of the reason I suggested IE influence is the unnatural word order
as far as Biblical syntax is concerned.  You can try to interpret the final
meaning any way you want, but the fact remains that "without which"
translates almost precisely the meaning of the words mbly and ?$r in that
order, and also does make sense of the sentence.  But ?$r doesn't work
in Biblical syntax in this way.  ?$r generally stands between the
subordinate clause and the main sentence, as a connection between
the two.  If the subordinate clause needs to refer to the antecedent it uses
the 3s pronoun. HALOT provides (in the entry on ?$r) Is 5:28 and Ps 95:5
as examples of this.  As far as "without", the general word is bl(dy,
possibly prefixed with m-.  A nice similar example is Gen 41:44.  Thus, to
say "without which" in normative Biblical Hebrew, one should write "?$r
bl(dyw" instead.  Indeed, if one replaces "mbly ?$r" with these words, the
sentence sounds a lot more "normal."  The use of "mbly ?$r" therefore
rings of the sound of some foreign influence, as if a speaker of a foreign
language, very possibly some IE language, tried to say "without which"
but did not use the appropriate Hebrew syntax, and used instead his
own native language syntax.  I'm not saying a non-Hebrew speaker
wrote this, but I think it does suggest that some foreign linguistic
influence is in place here.

Yitzhak Sapir

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