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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 108

§108. Use of the Cohortative.

The cohortative, i.e. according to §48c, the 1st pers.[1] sing. or plur. of the imperfect lengthened by the ending ־ָה‎,[2] represents in general an endeavour directed expressly towards a definite object. While the corresponding forms of the indicative rather express the mere announcement that an action will be undertaken, the cohortative lays stress on the determination underlying the action, and the personal interest in it.

Its uses may be divided into—

1. The cohortative standing alone, or co-ordinated with another cohortative, and frequently strengthened by the addition of the particle נָא‎:

(a) To express self-encouragement, e.g. Exodus 3:3 אָסֻ֫רָה־נָּא וג׳‎ I will turn aside now, and see...! So especially as the result of inward deliberation (in soliloquies), e.g. Genesis 18:21, Genesis 32:21 (rarely so used after אַל־‎, Genesis 21:16 let me not look...! Jeremiah 18:18), and also as a more or less emphatic statement of a fixed determination, e.g. Isaiah 5:1 I will sing[3]...! 5:6, 31:8. Cf. also Genesis 46:30 now let me die (I am willing to die), since I have seen thy face; and Psalms 31:8. In the 1st pers. plur. the cohortative includes a summons to others to help in doing something, e.g. Psalms 2:3 נְנַתְּקָה‎ come! let us break asunder! &c., and Genesis 11:3.

(b) To express a wish, or a request for permission, that one should be allowed to do something, e.g. Deuteronomy 2:27 אֶעְבְּרָה‎ may I be allowed to pass through (let me pass through)! Numbers 20:17 נַעְבְּרָה־נָּא‎ may we be allowed to pass through! Jeremiah 40:15 let me go, I pray thee! &c.; 2 Samuel 16:9; so after לֹא‎ 2 Samuel 18:14; after אַל־‎ 2 Samuel 24:14, Jeremiah 17:18, Psalms 25:2 (אַל־אֵב֫וֹשָׁה‎ let me not be ashamed; cf. Psalms 31:2, 18, 71:1); 69:15. After אַל־נָא‎ Jonah 1:14.

2. The cohortative in dependence on other moods, as well as in conditional sentences: (a) In dependence (with wāw copulative; Psalms 9:15 after לְמַ֫עַן‎) on an imperative or jussive to express an intention or intended consequence, e.g. Genesis 27:4 bring it to me, וְאֹכֵ֑לָה‎ that I may eat, prop. then will I eat; Genesis 19:5, Genesis 23:4, Genesis 24:56, Genesis 27:25, Genesis 29:21, Genesis 30:25 f., 42:34, 49:1, Deuteronomy 32:1, Hosea 6:1, Psalms 2:8, Psalms 39:14, Job 10:20 Qe; Isaiah 5:19 and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, וְנֵדָֽעָה‎ that we may know (it)! Genesis 26:28, 1 Samuel 27:5. Also after negative sentences, Genesis 18:30, 32, Judges 6:39, and after interrogative sentences, 1 Kings 22:7, Isaiah 40:25, Isaiah 41:26, Amos 8:5.

(b) In conditional sentences (with or without אִם‎) to express a contingent intention, e.g. Job 16:6 אִם־אֲדַבְּרָה‎ should I determine to speak, my grief is not assuaged, וְאַחְדְּלָה‎ and should I forbear, what am I eased? without אִם‎ Job 19:18, Job 30:26 (where, however, וָאיחלה‎ is probably intended); Psalms 73:16 (unless וָֽאֲח׳‎ should be read), 139:8 f. After the 3rd person, Job 11:17 though it be dark, &c. So perhaps also 2 Samuel 22:38 אֶרְדְּפָה‎ if I determined to pursue, then ..., but cf. Psalms 18:38.

(c) Likewise in the apodosis of conditional sentences, e.g. Job 31:7 f. if my step hath turned out of the way ..., אֶזְרְעָה‎ then let me sow; cf. 16:4 f. I also could speak as ye do, if ...! So even when the condition must be supplied from the context, e.g. Psalms 40:6 else would I declare and speak of them; 51:18 else would I (gladly) give it, i.e. if thou didst require it (cf. the precisely similar וְאֶשָּׂא‎ Psalms 55:13); Job 6:10. In the 1st plur. Jeremiah 20:10. To the same category belong the cohortatives after the formula expressing a wish מִֽי־יִתֵּן‎, מִֽי־יִתְּנֵ֫נִי‎, e.g. Jeremiah 9:1 oh, that I had ..., וְאֶֽעֶזְבָה‎ then (i.e. if I had) should I (or would I) leave my people, &c.; Judges 9:29; without Wāw Isaiah 27:4, Psalms 55:7, Job 23:4 (cf. also verse 7).

Rem. 1. The question, whether a resolution formed under compulsion (a necessity) is also expressed by the cohortative (so, according to the prevailing opinion, in Isaiah 38:10 אֵלֵ֫כָה‎; Jeremiah 3:25, Jeremiah 4:19, 21, 6:10, Psalms 55:3, 18 (?); 57:5, where, however, with Hupfeld, שָֽׁכְבָה‎ should be read; 77:7, 88:16, and in the 1st plur. Isaiah 59:10), is to be answered in the sense that in these examples the cohortative form is used after its meaning has become entirely lost, merely for the sake of its fuller sound, instead of the ordinary imperfect. This view is strongly supported by the rather numerous examples of cohortative forms after wāw consec. of the imperfect (cf. §49e, as also Psalms 66:6 שָׁם נִשְׂמְחָה‎ there did we rejoice[4]; Psalms 119:163 וָֽאֲתַעֵ֑בָה‎; Proverbs 7:7), which can likewise only be explained as forms chosen merely for euphony, and therefore due to considerations of rhythm.

2. The cohortative is strange after עַד־‎ Psalms 73:17 until I went... אָבִ֫ינָה‎ I considered their latter end; possibly a pregnant construction for ‘until I made up my mind, saying, I will consider’, &c. (but אָבִ֫ינָה‎ Proverbs 7:7 is still dependent on the preceding וָ‎); עַד־אַרְגִּ֫יעָה‎ Proverbs 12:19 is at any rate to be explained in the same way (in Jeremiah 49:19, Jeremiah 50:44 we have כִּי־א׳‎ with a similar meaning), as long as I (intentionally) wink with the eyelashes (shall wink). On the other hand, in Exodus 32:30 אֲכַפֵּר‎ is to be read, with the Samaritan, instead of אֲכַפְּרָה‎ after אוּלַי‎.

  1. For the few examples of cohortatives in the 3rd sing., see §48d.
  2. But verbs ל״ה‎, according to §75l, even in the cohortative, almost always have the ending ־ֶה‎; cf. e.g. in Deuteronomy 32:20 אֶרְאֶה‎ after אַסְתִּ֫ירָה‎.
  3. R.V. let me sing.]
  4. Analogous to this cohortative (as equivalent to the imperfect) after שָׁם‎ is the use of the historic imperf. after אָז‎, §107c.
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