[b-hebrew] Why not ")ULBAN"?

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Tue Apr 19 08:59:22 EDT 2011

pere biqqesh

At considering Ps 51:9 I wonder about the last word in the verse.
)LBYN, a typical Hiph'il, imperfect, first person singular: *I will cause to
be white* (in a literal translation)

Now, the real sense is: I will be caused to be/become white.
And so, Vulgate has "dealbabor" (a passive) and LXX has "leukanthésomai" (a

To my eyes it would seem more logical here the use of the Hoph'al: )ULBAN.

Why Hiph'il and not Huph'al?
Of course, I'm not intending to change the text; I just look for a more or
less convincing  explanation.

If you ever go through/went through an "ulpan" you would probably
be given an answer "kaxa" 'that's the way it is'.
This follows the universal rule of grammar:
"We do it like that because that is the way they do it."

The problem was the 'literal translation'. Words are not always coined
or used in a language according to an etymological source.
Here, your 'hiph`il' has become an idiomatic intransitive.
(Yes, we can speculate that at one time an object was included. That
is valid, etymological speculation. But eventually an idiomatic intransitive

sense became normal in BH. And that intransitive sense is what we
have in other places in BH. Cf. Is 1.18.)

We find the same development in a similar word
In mishnaic Hebrew we have הסמיק hismiq 'became red'
Likewise intransitive. Today we have both an
intransitive and transitive use of that verb.
hu hismiq 'he blushed'
hu hismiq et panav 'he reddened his face (=blushed)'
panav hismiqu 'his face reddened'.

Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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