[b-hebrew] Qatal in Gen 43:9, 14 and Michel's theory

Joseph Justiss jljustiss at msn.com
Wed Dec 8 15:25:06 EST 2010

As some of you are aware, Diethelm Michel's study of the verb in the Psalter was an attempt to describe the function of the verbal forms in prose as well by testing it in a genre, i.e. poetry, where frequent reference is made to all time stages (past, present, and future) as opposed to a genre like narrative where the use of the verbal forms might be obsured by the fact that they primarily reference events in one time stage (i.e. the past).  I want to show you two examples of how I think his theory does help explain the verb in narrative as well--at least narrative speech, but first a review of Michel on the qatal. I offer the following translation from the German:

-Explanation by means of the qatal (he actually calls it "perfect". I will use the more neutral terminology throughout)
As typical for the qatal we have found that it cites self-important facts which have no inherent connection to their setting. Frequently now the qatal is being used in a construction which adds an explanatory fact to something previously described. Therefore it explains. Usually the qatal in that case is tacked on by means of a ו, but also it can be used asyndetically. 
He further summarizes as follows:
The qatal recounts an action which is in no dependence, which is self-important. This is shown in three ways.
1.       If a qatal is isolated or stands at the beginning of a clause it states a fact.
2.       If a qatal syndetically or asyndetically connects to a yiqtol or participle it does not continue this, but presents an explanatory fact beside it.
3.       If many qatals stand beside each other asyndetically they do not indicate an action progression, but rather they list equally important facts.
It is number 2 which concerns us in this discussion. In Gen 43:9 Judah pledges himself as security for Benjamin with yiqtols then he switches to weqatals to explain exactly what he means by his pledge.  The weqatals do not add new information. They explain the preceding yiqtols--just like Michel's theory teaches.
The same thing happens again in 43:14.  Jacob expresses a desire that the man (Joseph) have mercy on the brothers with a yiqtol then he explains what having mercy would look like, i.e. "may he set your other brother and benjamin free."  So the weqatal also expresses desire in a sense.  So the difference between the verbs here is not one of tense or mood. The qatal functions here to further clarify Jacob's preceding expression of desire.
What do you all think?
Joseph Justiss   		 	   		  

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