[b-hebrew] questions, reliable evidence, 'stand' and 'said'

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Wed Jul 8 16:49:43 EDT 2009

>Even if one
would say that the writer meant to make visible
that the cows came up out of the Nile and began
to stand beside those on the riverbank, the end
of the state is still not reached. So, both in
both the state expressed by the participle and by
the WAYYIQTOL R intersects E after the beginning
and before the end. So how can this WAYYIQTOL be

The above is a snippet from a very long thread. There are
a couple of disturbing points that might prove fruitful
for a thread that can reach some resolution.

The quoted discussion above on Gen 41 ends in an
apparent rhetorical question, that is, the question
expects a negative answer "it can't be perfective".

This question raises two questions of its own:
if it turns out that the phrase 'and they stood beside the
cows" can indeed be viewed perfectively in the context,
1) was the rhetorical question "how can this be
perfective?" intended to hide other possibilities?
If so, it would be unreliable scholarship.
or 2) was the rhetorical question "how can this be
perfective?" expressing that the person writing was
incapable of finding an answer? If so, it is equally
disturbing as unreliable scholarship.

So can 'stand' be viewed perfectively in such a context?
Of course.
Though I won't drag the list thru the 434 xx of la`amod.
The basic sense of the perfective here is 'to take a stand'.
This is similar to the statement made by Rolf in the long thread
> "In order to find examples where the perfective aspect portrays
actions that are ongoing, and where the end is not reached,
you can only use the perfect participle - he has stood.">

In other words, with some verbs it is not necessary that every
bit of 'stative time' be included if the stable state itself has been
reached. In the case of the cows above, this makes a
compelling, common sense solution. The cows went up and
then perfectively entered a state of standing.
2Chr 20:20 uve-tset-am `amad Yhoshafat vayyomer . . .
and while they were going out (to the wilderness) Yoshafat
took a stand and said . . .
2 Samuel 20:11 and 12 is a similar use of `amad, and Rolf will
be happy that these are a 'suffix-TAM' verb.
2 Ki 2:7 fifty prophets halxu vayya`amdu went and stood from
afar and the two of them `amdu stood/stopped at the Jordan.

One would have to acknowledge that vatta`amodna in Gen 41
is at least as perfective as `amad in the above contexts.
And if this is acknowledged, then the two disturbing questions

One gets another glimpse of this whole phenomenon in the
'unanswered' question about Genesis 12 vayyomer 'and he

David rightly pointed out that the words quoted were finished,
that the end point of the speaking was included in the context.

However, in Rolf's favor he could have pointed out that
languages and authors may chose to 'finesse' a quotation
frame, even if the context is a simple, completed event.
For example, in Greek (NB: I am not claiming that Greek equals
Hebrew, only that it is an example of a mixed aspectual approach)
it is common to use EIPEN 'he said (perfective)' for introducing
quoted speech. However, Greek authors would also vary their
introductions and could say ELEGEN 'he was saying
(imperfective)' for various reasons, like providing background
for a more decisive event/speech that was to follow, or for a
repeated speech, or for a long complicated speech, etc.
So the event itself, the quotation, may be present in whole,
but the introductory verb need not be perfective. However, since
the event is presented in whole, the natural reading is perfective
and the burden of proof would be on anyone claiming that the
default speech frame was imperfective. One can certainly
cite both the LXX translators and the targum translators
as supporting David's reading at Gen 12:1. The LXX chose
EIPEN (perfective) and the targum chose ve-amar (perfective).
And the 2000 occurrences of vayyomer/etc./ line up with
perfective patterns. (Even if we don't list and discuss them
all here.) So David's position stands, even if it is not an

This brings us back to the trustworthiness of the analyst.
If someone says that Gen 41 vata`amodna cannot possibly
be perfective, and they use similar analysis to dismiss the
concerted weight of the Aramaic targum, Syriac, Arabic,
and LXX, not to mention the internal Hebrew tradition of
complementary patterns of vayyiqtol // qatal in extended
contexts, they will find few takers of their position.

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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