[b-hebrew] Jeremiah 1:5

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Thu Oct 22 10:08:45 EDT 2009

Dear Joe,

In connection with Hebrew verbs you should not 
*expect* anything. Any such expectation would be 
based of the grammar book one believes in. And 
grammar books often describe Hebrew verbs 
differently. I have never seen any book on Hebrew 
grammar or syntax making a systematic distinction 
between semantic and pragmatic factors, so the 
reader can know which intrinsic meaning a verb 
form has, and which meaning it has gotten from 
the context. Moreover, the definition of aspect, 
if such a definition is found, is superficial and 
never language-specific. So, instead of expecting 
something, make a study of the Hebrew text and 
see what you find there.

The most fundamental error in modern Hebrew 
grammars is that they make a semantic distinction 
between WAYYIQTOL and YIQTOL. There are scores 
upon scores of passages where YIQTOLs and 
WAYYIQTOLs are used with past reference (I deal 
with 1.027 examples of YIQTOLs with past 
reference in my dissertation), and where it is 
very likely that the reason for the choice of 
YIQTOL is that a substantive, or an adverb, or a 
particle occurs before the verb. If these words 
were removed, the	YIQTOLs would most likely 
get the prefixed conjunction WAW and become 

One example which has some bearing on Jeremiah 
1:5 is Job 38:8, because both have  the verb YC) 
with past reference. If the YIQTOL in Job 38:8 
had been clause initial, it would most likely 
have been a WAYYIQTOL, just as the clause initial 
WAYYIQTOL in the beginning of the verse.  A 
similar example from Jeremiah is 52:7.

Then to Jeremiah 1:5. The verb YCR is telic (the 
end is conceptually included in the action), and 
YC) is semelfctive or telic. When these verbs 
occur in a past setting, the actions are viewed 
as completed at reference time. This collides 
head on with most grammarians' view of 
imperfectivity.  Joüon/Muraoka, II, 368, h 
attempts to make an explanation: "Finally there 
are some yiqtols with no iterative or durative 
aspect, and thus having the value of qatal , 
which would be the expected form.  (NB, the word 
"expected"). The observation that some YIQTOLs 
cannot be explained as "durative past" (an 
expression which is a misnomer, since 
"durativity" is an Aktionsart term and not an 
aspect term) is good. But to say that they have 
exactly the same force or meaning as the very 
opposite form-QATAL, is in my view linguistic 
anarchy.  But please note the correct observation 
of the grammar (II, 370, i), contrary to most 
others, that the adverb +RM before a YIQTOL does 
not influence its meaning in any way.

  Active, passive, reflexive, telic, resultative, 
factitive, interative, habitual  actions etc. can 
be expressed in different ways in Hebrew: by the 
stem, by adverbs, by aspects and Aktionsart, and 
by particles. For example, an interative force 
can result from the combination of a semelfactive 
or telic verb plus the imperfective aspect.  One 
important side of the Piel stem is the 
resultative force (the subject leads the object 
through the end of an action and into a resultant 
state)-see the fine explanation of this by 
Waltke/O' Connor. But this resultative force can 
also be made visible in the Qal stem by the use 
of a semelfactive or telic verb plus the 
imperfective aspect. This is the way I would 
interpret the two YIQTOLs of Jeremiah 1:5. When a 
forming action is completed, the thing formed 
stands there. Jeremiah was formed by God, and 
what Jeremiah makes visible is a man existing in 
the state of having been formed to whom God could 
talk. This is similar to a king who accepts the 
throne, and then is in the state of reigning. We 
can reason in a similar way with the other 
YIQTOL. Jeremiah came out of his mother's womb, 
and what is made visible is not the movement out 
of the mother, but the resultant state of having 
been born. In this way the imperfective 
definition can be defended. True, the action is 
completed, but the resultant state is open-ended.

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>I have a question about the Yiqtol verb in Jeremiah 1:5.
>1. Am I correct to expect a Qatal form of È–¯ 
>instead of a Yiqtol after the temporal adverbial 
>prepositional phrase ·Ë¯Ì in verse 5?
>2. Is the sense of the verse some kind of modal 
>use of Yiqtol: "Before I could form you in the 
>womb I knew you."? Or are these even the right 
>kind of questions to be asking?
>Just wanted to get your thoughts.
>Joe Justiss
>Hotmail: Free, trusted and rich email service.
>b-hebrew mailing list
>b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

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