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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 110

§110. The Imperative.
Mayer Lambert, ‘Sur la syntaxe de l’impératif en hébreu,’ in REJ. 1897, p. 106 ff.

1. The imperative,[1] which, according to § 46, is restricted to the 2nd pers. sing. and plur., and to positive commands, &c., may stand either alone, or in simple co-ordination (as in 1 Kings 18:44, Isaiah 56:1, Isaiah 65:18) with other imperatives:

(a) To express real commands, e.g. Genesis 12:1 get thee out of thy country; or (like the jussive) mere admonitions (Hosea 10:12) and requests, 2 Kings 5:22, Isaiah 5:3; on the addition of נָא‎ see below, Rem. 1. The imperative is used in the sense of an ironical challenge (often including a threat) in 1 Kings 2:22 ask for him the kingdom also; 22:15, Judges 10:14, Isaiah 47:12 (with נָא‎), Jeremiah 7:21, Ezekiel 20:39, Amos 4:4, Job 38:3f., 40:10ff., Lamentations 4:21. The imperative has a concessive sense in Nahum 3:15 (though thou make thyself many, &c.), and in the cases discussed under f, e.g. Isaiah 8:9 f., 29:9.

(b) To express permission, e.g. 2 Samuel 18:23 after previous dissuasion, (then) run (as far as I am concerned)! Isaiah 21:12, Isaiah 45:11.

(c) To express a distinct assurance (like our expression, thou shalt have it)[2] or promise, e.g. Isaiah 65:18 but be ye glad, &c. (i.e. ye will have continually occasion to be glad); and Isaiah 37:30, Psalms 110:2; in a threat, Jeremiah 2:19. So especially in commands, the fulfilment of which is altogether out of the power of the person addressed, e.g. Isaiah 54:14 be far from anxiety (meaning, thou needst not fear any more); Genesis 1:28, &c. (for other examples, such as 1 Kings 22:12, 2 Kings 5:13, see below, f). Most clearly in the case of the imperative Niphʿal with a passive meaning, e.g. Genesis 42:16 וְאַתֶּם הֵאָֽסְרוּ‎ and ye shall be bound; Deuteronomy 32:50, Isaiah 49:9 (Isaiah 45:22, see below, f).

Rem. 1. The particle נָא‎ age! (§ 105) is frequently added to the imperative, as to the jussive, sometimes to soften down a command, or to make a request in a more courteous form (see above, a), Genesis 12:13, Genesis 24:2, sometimes to strengthen an exhortation uttered as a rebuke or threat (Numbers 16:26, Numbers 20:10) or in ridicule (Isaiah 47:12).

2. The imperative after the desiderative particle לוּ‎ Genesis 23:13 (at the end of verses 5 and 14 also read לוּ‎ for לוֹ‎ and join it to the following imperative) is due to an anacoluthon. Instead of the imperfect which would be expected here after לוּ‎, the more forcible imperative is used in a new sentence.

2. The imperative in logical dependence upon a preceding imperative, jussive (or cohortative), or an interrogative sentence, serves to express the distinct assurance or promise that an action or state will ensue as the certain consequence of a previous action. So especially:

(a) The imperative when depending (with wāw copulative) upon another imperative. In this case the first imperative contains, as a rule, a condition, while the second declares the consequence which the fulfilment of the condition will involve. The imperative is used for this declaration, since the consequence is, as a matter of fact, intended or desired by the speaker (cf. divide et impera), e.g. Genesis 42:18 זֹאת עֲשׂוּ וִֽחְיוּ‎ this do, and live, i.e. thus shall ye continue to live. Genesis 17:1, 1 Kings 22:12, 2 Kings 5:13, Isaiah 36:16, Isaiah 45:22 (וְהִוָּֽשְׁעוּ‎), Jeremiah 6:16, Amos 5:4, 6, Psalms 37:27, Proverbs 3:3f., 4:4, 7:2, 13:20 Keth., Job 2:9, 2 Chronicles 20:20; in Jeremiah 25:5, Job 22:21 נָא‎ is added to the first imperative. In other cases, the first imperative contains a mocking concession, the second an irrevocable denunciation, e.g. Isaiah 8:9 רֹ֫עוּ עַמִּים וָחֹ֫תּוּ‎ (continue to) make an uproar, O ye peoples, and ye shall be broken in pieces; cf. verse 9 b.

Rem. 1. If a promise or threat dependent on an imperative be expressed in the 3rd pers. then the jussive is naturally used instead of the 2nd imperative Isaiah 8:10, Isaiah 55:2.

2. In Proverbs 20:13 the second imperative (containing a promise) is attached by asyndeton; elsewhere two imperatives occur side by side without the copula, where the second might be expected to be subordinated to the first, e.g. Deuteronomy 2:24 הָחֵל רָשׁ‎ (where רָשׁ‎ is virtually, as it were, an object to הָחֵל‎) begin, take in possession for to take in possession (cf., however, Judges 19:6 הֽוֹאֶל־נָא וְלִין‎ be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and on this kind of co-ordination in general, cf. §120d). But such imperatives as (לְכוּ) לֵךְ‎, (ק֫וּמוּ) קוּם‎, when immediately preceding a second imperative, are for the most part only equivalent to interjections, come! up!

(b) The imperative, when depending (with wāw copulative) upon a jussive (cohortative), or an interrogative sentence, frequently expresses also a consequence which is to be expected with certainty, and often a consequence which is intended, or in fact an intention; cf. Genesis 20:7 and he shall pray for thee, וֶחְֽיֵה‎ and thou shalt live; cf. Exodus 14:16, 2 Kings 5:10, Job 11:6, Psalms 128:5 the Lord bless thee ... so that (or in order that) thou seest, &c.; Ruth 1:9, Ruth 4:11; after a cohortative, Genesis 12:2, Genesis 45:18, Exodus 3:10 וְהוֹצֵא‎ that thou mayest bring forth; Exodus 18:22, 1 Samuel 12:17, 1 Kings 1:12; Jeremiah 35:15 (after imperative and jussive); after an interrogative sentence, 2 Samuel 21:3 wherewith shall I make atonement, וּבָֽרֲכוּ‎ that ye may bless, &c.—In Numbers 5:19 the imperative without וְ‎ (in 32:23 with וְ‎) is used after a conditional clause in the sense of a definite promise.

Rem. The 2nd sing. masc. occurs in addressing feminine persons in Judges 4:20 (עֲמֹד‎, according to Qimḥi an infinitive, in which case, however, the infinitive absolute עָמֹד‎ should be read; but probably we should simply read עִמְדִי‎ with Moore), Micah 1:13 and Zechariah 13:7 (after עוּרִי‎); and in Isaiah 23:1, the 2nd plur. masc. (On the four forms of the 2nd fem. plur. imperative in Isaiah 32:11, erroneously explained here in former editions, see now §48i). In Nahum 3:15 the interchange of masc. and fem. serves to express totality (the nation in all its aspects). Cf., moreover, §145p on other noticeable attempts to substitute the corresponding masculine forms for the feminine.

  1. On the close relation between the imperative and jussive (both in meaning and form), cf. § 46 and §48i.
  2. Like the threatening formulae in the Latin comic writers, e.g. vapula, Ter. Phorm. v. 6, 10=vapulare te iubeo, Plaut. Curc. vi. 4, 12.
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