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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 109

§109. Use of the Jussive.

As the cohortative is used in the 1st pers., so the jussive is especially found in the 2nd and 3rd pers. sing. and plur. to express a more or less definite desire that something should or should not happen (cf. for its form, which frequently coincides with that of the ordinary imperfect,[1] §48f, g). More particularly its uses may be distinguished as follows:

1. The jussive standing alone, or co-ordinated with another jussive:

(a) In affirmative sentences to express a command, a wish (or a blessing), advice, or a request; in the last case (the optative or precative) it is frequently strengthened by the addition of נָא‎. Examples: Genesis 1:3 יְהִי אוֹר‎ let there be light! Genesis 1:6, 9, 11, &c. (the creative commands); Numbers 6:26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace! cf. verse 25. After particles expressing a wish, Genesis 30:34 לוּ יְהִי‎ I would it might be; Psalms 81:9 אִם־תִּשְׁמַע־לִי‎ if thou wouldest hearken unto me! As a humble request, Genesis 44:33... יֵֽשֶׁב־נָא עַבְדְּךָ... וְהַנַּ֫עַי יַ֫עַל‎ let thy servant, I pray thee, abide, &c., and let the lad go up, &c., Genesis 47:4.

(b) In negative sentences to express prohibition or dissuasion, warning, a negative wish (or imprecation), and a request. The prohibitive particle used before the jussive (according to §107o) is almost always אַל־‎ (in negative desires and requests frequently אַל־נָא‎); e.g. Exodus 34:3 אִישׁ אַל־יֵרָא‎ neither let any man be seen! Proverbs 3:7 be not (אַל־תְּהִי‎) wise in thine own eyes! Job 15:31 אַל־ יַֽאֲמֵן‎ ne confidat. In the form of a request (prayer), Deuteronomy 9:26 אַל־תַּשְׁחֵת‎ destroy not! 1 Kings 2:20, Psalms 27:9, Psalms 69:18.

Rem. 1. The few examples of לֹא‎ with the jussive could at most have arisen from the attempt to moderate subsequently by means of the jussive (voluntative) form what was at first intended to be a strict command (לֹא‎ with imperf. indic.); probably, however, they are either cases in which the defective writing has been misunderstood (as in 1 Kings 2:6, Ezekiel 48:14), or (as in Genesis 24:8) instances of the purely rhythmical jussive form treated below, under k. Moreover, cf. לֹא יוֹסֵף‎ Joel 2:2 and from the same verb Genesis 4:12 (unless it is to be referred to h) and Deuteronomy 13:1. The same form, however, appears also to stand three times for the cohortative (see below), and in Numbers 22:19 for the ordinary imperfect (but see below, i). Thus it is doubtful whether an imaginary by-form of the ordinary imperf. is not intended by the Masora in all these cases, and whether consequently יוֹסִף‎, &c., should not be restored.—On לֹֽא־תָחוֹס עֵֽינְךָ‎, &c., Deuteronomy 7:16, Deuteronomy 13:9, &c., Ezekiel 5:11, &c., cf. §72r, according to which תָחוּס‎ should probably be read in every case.—The jussive appears in the place of the cohortative after לֹא‎ 1 Samuel 14:36 (וְלֹֽא־נַשְׁאֵר‎ co-ordinated with two cohortatives), 2 Samuel 17:12; cf. Isaiah 41:23 Keth. (ונרא‎, i.e. וְנֵ֫רֶא‎, after another cohortative); also (see above) לֹא אֹסֵף‎ Deuteronomy 18:16, Hosea 9:15, and even without לֹא‎ Ezekiel 5:16.

2. אַל־‎ with the jussive (or imperf., cf. §107p) is used sometimes to express the conviction that something cannot or should not happen; cf. Isaiah 2:9 (where, however, the text is very doubtful) וְאַל־תִּשָּׂא לָהֶם‎ and thou canst not possibly forgive them [R.V. therefore forgive them not]; Psalms 34:6, Psalms 41:3, Psalms 50:3, Psalms 121:3 (אַל־יִתֵּן‎); Proverbs 3:25, Job 5:22 אַל־תִּירָא‎ neither needest thou be afraid; 20:17, 40:32.

2. The jussive depending on other moods, or in conditional sentences:

(a) Depending[2] (with Wāw) on an imperative or cohortative to express an intention or an assurance of a contingent occurrence, e.g. Genesis 24:51 take her and go, and let her be (וּתְהִי‎ prop. and she will be)...; 30:3, 31:37, 38:24, Exodus 8:4, Exodus 9:13, Exodus 10:17, Exodus 14:2, Joshua 4:16, Judges 6:30, 1 Samuel 5:11, 1 Samuel 7:3, 1 Kings 21:10, Psalms 144:5, Proverbs 20:22, Jb 146. Also after interrogative sentences, which include a demand, Esther 7:2 (say) what is thy desire..., וְתֵעָשׂ‎ and it shall (i.e. in order that it may) be granted! 1 Kings 22:20, Isaiah 19:12, Job 38:34f. Depending on a cohortative, e.g. Genesis 19:20 אִמָּֽלְטָה נָּא שָׁ֫פָּה‎ oh, let me escape thither...וּתְחִי נַפְשִׁי‎ that my soul may live; even after a simple imperf. (cf. below, g), 1 Kings 13:33 whosoever would, he consecrated him ... וִיהִי‎ that he might be a priest (read כֹּהֵן‎) of the high places, but probably the LXX reading וַיְהִי‎ is to be preferred. Rem. In 2 Chronicles 35:21 a negative final clause with וְאַל־‎ is dependent on an imperative, forbear from (meddling with) God... that he destroy thee not. As a rule, however, negative final clauses are attached to the principal sentence by means of וְלֹא‎ and a following imperfect; so after an imperative, Genesis 42:2, 1 Kings 14:2, 1 Kings 18:44; after a jussive, Exodus 30:20, Nehemiah 6:9; after a perfect consec., Exodus 28:35, 43, 30:12, Numbers 18:5; after לֹא‎ with an imperfect, Leviticus 10:6, Numbers 18:3, Deuteronomy 17:17 neither shall he multiply wives unto himself (וְלֹא יָסוּר לְבָבוֹ‎) that his heart turn not away; 1 Samuel 20:14, 2 Samuel 21:17, Jeremiah 11:21; after אַל־‎ with jussive, Leviticus 10:9, Leviticus 11:43, Leviticus 16:2, 2 Samuel 13:25, Jeremiah 25:6, Jeremiah 37:20, Jeremiah 38:24 f.; after the asseverative אִם‎ with the impft., Genesis 14:23; even after a simple imperfect, Jeremiah 10:4 with nails... they fasten it (וְלֹא יָפִיק‎) that it move not; after a participle, Job 9:7.

(b) Frequently in conditional sentences (as in Arabic), either in the protasis or in the apodosis, cf. Psalms 45:12 יִתְאַו‎ should he desire... then...; 104:20 תָּ֫שֶׁת... וִיהִי‎ if thou makest darkness, then it is night; so also in the protasis, Exodus 22:4, Leviticus 15:24, Isaiah 41:28, Ezekiel 14:7 (וְיַ֫עַל‎), Job 34:29; in the apodosis, Exodus 7:9 then will it (not, then shall it) become a serpent; Proverbs 9:9 after an imperat. in the protasis; Job 10:16, Job 13:5, Job 22:28. In a negative apodosis, Genesis 4:12 (לֹֽא־תֹסֵף‎, but see above, d). In 2 Kings 6:27 אַל־יֽוֹשִׁעֵךְ‎ (if the Lord do not help thee, &c.) is to be explained as a jussive in a negative protasis.

Rem. Undoubtedly this use of the jussive (in conditional sentences) is based on its original voluntative meaning; let something be so and so, then this or that must happen as a consequence. Certain other examples of the jussive, however, show that in the consciousness of the language the voluntative has in such cases become weakened almost to a potential mood, and hence the jussive serves to express facts which may happen contingently, or may be expected, e.g. Numbers 22:19 (מַה־יּׄסֵף‎, but cf. above, d); Job 9:33 there is no daysman betwixt us, that might lay (יָשֵׁת‎, hence plainly a subjunctive=qui ponat; also in Numbers 23:19 נִֽיכַזֵּב‎ that he should lie is probably intended as a jussive); Ecclesiastes 5:14; so after interrogative sentences, Jeremiah 9:11 who is the wise man, וְיָבֵן‎ qui intelligat hoc?; Hosea 14:10.

Moreover, in not a few cases, the jussive is used, without any collateral sense, for the ordinary imperfect form, and this occurs not alone in forms, which may arise from a misunderstanding of the defective writing, as Deuteronomy 28:21, 36, 32:8, 1 Kings 8:1, Isaiah 12:1, Micah 3:4, Micah 5:8, Psalms 11:6, Psalms 18:12, Psalms 21:2 Qe (מַה־יָּ֫גֶל‎, Keth. יָגִיל‎), 25:9, 47:4, 90:3, 91:4, 107:29, Proverbs 15:25, Job 13:27, Job 15:33, Job 18:9, Job 20:23, Job 37:22, Job 33:11, Job 36:14, Job 38:24, Ecclesiastes 12:6 (verse 7 יָשֹׁב‎, but immediately afterwards תָּשׁוּב‎), Daniel 8:12, —but also in shortened forms, such as יְהִי‎ Genesis 49:17 (Sam; יִהְיֶה‎), Deuteronomy 28:8, 1 Samuel 10:5, 2 Samuel 5:24, Hosea 6:1, Hosea 11:4, Amos 5:14, Micah 1:2, Zephaniah 2:13, Zechariah 9:5, Psalms 72:16 f. (after other jussives), 104:31, Job 18:12, Job 20:23, 26, 28, 27:8, 33:21, 34:37, Ruth 3:4. This use of the jussive can hardly be due merely to poetic licence, but is rather to be explained on rhythmical grounds. In all the above-cited examples, in fact, the jussive stands at the beginning of the sentence (and hence removed as far as possible from the principal tone), in others it is immediately before the principal pause (Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 50:2, Psalms 68:15, Proverbs 23:25, Job 24:14, Job 29:3, Job 40:19), or actually in pause (Deuteronomy 32:18, Job 23:9, 11, Lamentations 3:50), and is then a simply rhythmical shortening due to the strong influence of the tone. Moreover, since the jussive in numerous cases is not distinguished in form from the imperfect (§48g), it is frequently doubtful which of the two the writer intended. This especially applies to those cases, in which a subjunctive is to be expressed by one or other of the forms (cf. §107k and m–x).

  1. With regard to verbs ל״ה‎, it is true that the full form of the imperfect is frequently used with the meaning of the jussive (as also for the cohortative, see §108a, note 2), e.g. אַל־יִרְאֶה‎ Job 3:9 (but previously יְקַו‎ let it look for!):especially in (Nehemiah 2:3) and immediately before the principal pause, Genesis 1:9 תֵּֽרָאֶה‎; Judges 6:39 יִהְֽיֶה‎, but previously יְהִי־נָא‎; Isaiah 47:3 תֵּֽרָאֶה‎, previously תִּגָּל‎; Psalms 109:7. On the attempt to distinguish such jussives from the imperfect by means of a special meaning ־ֵה‎, see §75hh.
  2. This does not include the cases in which the jussive is not logically dependent on a preceding imperat., but is merely co-ordinated, e.g. Genesis 20:7, Psalms 27:14, &c.
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