[b-hebrew] MOT YAMUT

George Athas George.Athas at moore.edu.au
Sun Dec 2 01:39:53 EST 2012

Posted on behalf of Eric Hirsch:

Judging from its context, the construction MOT YAMUT in 2:17 does not indicate an emphasis of the verbal idea.  Here, the infinitive construct conveys an abstact meaning of the verbas noted by Gesenius:

113a 1. The infinitive absolute is employed according to § 45 to emphasize the idea of the verb in the abstract, I.e. It speaks of an action (or state) without any regard to the agent or to the circumstances of time and mood under which it takes place.

Hence, the construction  may be translated somewhat awkwardly as "dying, you shall die."  What the author meant by this is determined by context, by what Yahweh did after they had eat.  With regard to Adam, he cursed the ground from which Adam's body was made and so made him mortal with a body that will now decay, that will not "return to dust."  The degeneration of the body isexpressed by Qoheleth in the allegory in chapter 12..  As in 2:17, the body and the spirit of man is distinguished when Qoheleth writes:

 7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Indeed, Qoheleth may be alluding to the Eden story.  So I would suggest that Gen 2:17 should be translated, "When you eat from it, you will become mortal."

That such a usage is not found elsewhere is explained by the fact that nowhere else is Yahweh presented as cursing someone to mortality.  The closest we come to such an idea is in Psalm 82 where El Elyon punishes his errant sons to "die like men." But where mortality is described in Qoheleth, we find related phraseology and concepts expressed.  This interpretation is commended over others that require some special and unlikely explanation such as Yahweh here lied, bluffed or equivocated.

In a related topic, the recurring phrase in Qohelth, "under the sun" appears to express the idea of human mortality.  As daylight gives way to night, so life gives way to death.  Life under the sun is temporary, man is mortal.

Eric Hirsch

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