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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 111

§111. The Imperfect with Wāw Consecutive.

1. The imperfect with wāw consecutive (§49a–g) serves to express actions, events, or states, which are to be regarded as the temporal or logical sequel of actions, events, or states mentioned immediately[1] before. The imperfect consecutive is used in this way most frequently as the narrative tense, corresponding to the Greek aorist or the Latin historic perfect. As a rule the narrative is introduced by a perfect, and then continued by means of imperfects with wāw consecutive (on this interchange of tenses cf. §49a, and especially §112a), e.g. Genesis 3:1 now the serpent was (הָיָה‎) more subtil... and he said (וַיֹּאמֶר‎) unto the woman; 4:1, 6:9ff., 10:9f., 15:19, 11:12ff. 27ff., 14:5f., 15:1f., 16:1f., 21:1ff., 24:1f., 25:19ff., 36:2ff., 37:2.

Rem. 1. To this class belong some of the numerous imperfects consec. after various expressions of time, whenever such expressions are equivalent in moaning to a perfect[2] (viz. הָיָה‎ it came to pass), e.g. Isaiah 6:1 in the year that king Uzziah died, I saw (וָֽאֶרְאֶה‎), &c.; Genesis 22:4, Genesis 27:34, Judges 11:16, 1 Samuel 4:19, 1 Samuel 17:57, 1 Samuel 21:6, Hosea 11:1; on the use of וַיְהִי‎ to connect expressions of time, see below, g.—It is only in late books or passages that we find the simple perfect in a clause following an expression of time, as 1 Samuel 17:55 (cf. Driver on the passage), 2 Chronicles 12:7, 2 Chronicles 15:8, &c., Daniel 10:11, Daniel 15:19; the Perfect after וְ‎ and the subject, 2 Chronicles 7:1.

2. The continuation of the narrative by means of the imperfect consec. may result in a series of any number of such imperfects, e.g. there are forty-nine in Gn. 1. As soon, however, as the connecting Wāw becomes separated from the verb to which it belongs, by the insertion of any word, the perfect necessarily takes the place of the imperfect, e.g. Genesis 1:5 and God called (וַיִּקְרָא‎) the light Day, and the darkness he called (וְלַח֫שֶׁךְ קָרָא‎) Night; verse 10, 2:20, 11:3 and frequently.

3. Of two co-ordinate imperfects consecutive the former (as equivalent to a temporal clause) is most frequently subordinate in sense to the latter, e.g. Genesis 28:8f. וַיַּרְא עֵשָׂו... וַיֵּ֫לֶךְ‎ when Esau saw that..., he went, &c.; so also, frequently וַיִּשְׁמַע‎, &c., Genesis 37:21, &c. On the other hand, a second imperfect consecutive is seldom used in an explanatory sense, e.g. Exodus 2:10 (וַתֹּ֫אמֶר‎ for she said); cf. 1 Samuel 7:12. Other examples of the imperfect consecutive, which apparently represent a progress in the narrative, in reality only refer to the same time, or explain what precedes, see Genesis 2:25 (וַיִּֽהְיוּ‎ they were; but Joshua 4:9, 1 Kings 8:8 they are); Genesis 36:14 (וַתֵּ֫לֶד‎), 36:32 (וַיִּמְלֹךְ‎), 1 Kings 1:44. 4. The imperfect consecutive sometimes has such a merely external connexion with an immediately preceding perfect, that in reality it represents an antithesis to it, e.g. Genesis 32:31 and (yet) my life is preserved; 2 Samuel 3:8 and yet thou chargest me; Job 10:8, Job 32:3; similarly in dependence on noun-clauses, Proverbs 30:25 ff.

2. The introduction of independent narratives, or of a new section of the narrative, by means of an imperfect consecutive, likewise aims at a connexion, though again loose and external, with that which has been narrated previously. Such a connexion is especially often established by means of וַיְהִי‎ (καὶ ἐγένετο) and it came to pass, after which there then follows either (most commonly) an imperfect consecutive (Genesis 4:3, 8, 8:6, 11:2, Exodus 12:29, Exodus 13:17, &c.), or Wāw with the perfect (separated from it), Genesis 7:10, Genesis 15:12, Genesis 22:1, Genesis 27:30, or even a perfect without Wāw (Genesis 8:13, Genesis 14:1f., 40:1, Exodus 12:41, Exodus 16:22, Numbers 10:11, Deuteronomy 1:3, 1 Samuel 18:30, 2 Kings 8:21, &c.), or finally a noun-clause introduced by Wāw, Genesis 41:1.

Rem. 1. This loose connexion by means of ויתי‎[3] is especially common, when the narrative or a new section of it begins with any expression of time, see above, b; cf., in addition to the above-mentioned examples (e.g. Genesis 22:1 and it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham), the similar cases in Genesis 19:34, Genesis 21:22, 1 Samuel 11:11, Ruth 1:1. Elsewhere the statement of time is expressed by בְּ‎ or כְּ‍‎ with an infinitive (Genesis 12:14, Genesis 19:17, 29 39:13, 15:18f., Judges 16:25) or by an independent sentence with the perfect (equivalent to a pluperfect, cf. §106f), e.g. Genesis 15:17, Genesis 24:15, Genesis 27:30, or by a temporal clause introduced by כִּי‎ when, Genesis 26:8, Genesis 27:1, Judges 16:16, כַּֽאֲשֶׁר‎ when, Genesis 12:11, Genesis 20:13, מֵאָזּ‎ from the time that, Genesis 39:5; or, finally, by a noun-clause (cf. §116u), e.g. 2 Kings 13:21 וַיְהִי הֵם קֹֽבְרִים אִישׁ‎ and it came to pass, as they were (just) burying a man (prop. they burying), that...; Genesis 42:35, 2 Kings 2:11 (the apodosis in both these cases being introduced by וְהִנֵּה‎); 1 Samuel 7:10, 2 Samuel 13:30, 2 Kings 6:5, 26, 19:37 (=Isaiah 37:38).—In 1 Samuel 10:11, 1 Samuel 11:11, 2 Samuel 2:23, 2 Samuel 15:2 a noun standing absolutely follows וַיְהִי‎ (as the equivalent of a complete sentence; see below, h), and then an imperfect consecutive follows.

2. Closely related to the cases noticed in g are those in which the imperfect consecutive, even without a preceding ויחי‎, introduces the apodosis either— (a) to whole sentences, or (b) to what are equivalent to whole sentences, especially to nouns standing absolutely. As in certain cases of the perfect consecutive (see §112x), so the imperfect consecutive has here acquired a sort of independent force. Cf. for (a) 1 Samuel 15:23 because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, וַיִּמְאָֽסְךָ‎ he hath rejected thee (cf. Numbers 14:16, Isaiah 48:4, where the causal clause precedes in the form of an infinitive with preposition), Exodus 9:21; for (b) Genesis 22:24 וּפִֽילַגְשׁוֹ‎ and (as to) his concubine..., וַתֵּ֫לֶד‎ she bare, &c.; Exodus 38:24, Numbers 14:36f., 1 Samuel 14:19, 1 Samuel 17:24, 2 Samuel 4:10, 2 Samuel 19:41 Keth., 21:16, 1 Kings 9:20f., 12:17, 2 Kings 25:22, Jeremiah 6:19, Jeremiah 28:8, Jeremiah 33:24, Jeremiah 44:25[4]—In 1 Kings 15:13, 2 Kings 16:14 the preceding noun, used absolutely, is even regarded as the object of the following imperfect consecutive, and is therefore introduced by אֶת־‎. 3. The imperfect consecutive serves, in the cases treated under a–h, to represent either expressly, or at least to a great extent, a chronological succession of actions or events; elsewhere it expresses those actions, &c., which represent the logical consequence of what preceded, or a result arising from it by an inherent necessity. Thus the imperfect consecutive is used—

(a) As a final summing up of the preceding narrative, e.g. Genesis 2:1, Genesis 23:20 וַיָּ֫קָם הַשָּׂדֶה וג׳‎ so (in this way) the field became (legally) the property of Abraham, &c.; 1 Samuel 17:50, 1 Samuel 31:6.

(b) To express a logical or necessary consequence of that which immediately precedes, e.g. Genesis 39:2, Job 2:3 and he still holdeth fast his integrity, וַתְּסִיתֵ֫נִי וג׳‎ so that thou thus (as it now appears) groundlessly movedst me against him; Psalms 65:9 so that they are afraid ...; even a consequence which happens conditionally, Jeremiah 20:17 וַתְּהִי‎ so that my mother should have been ... Another instance of the kind perhaps (if the text be correct) is Jeremiah 38:9 וַיָּ֫מָת‎ so that he dies (must die).

Rem. Such consecutive clauses frequently occur after interrogative sentences, e.g. Isaiah 51:12 who art thou (i.e. art thou so helpless), וַהִּֽירְאִי‎ that thou art (must needs be) afraid? Psalms 144:3 (cf. Psalms 8:5, where in a very similar context כִּי‎ that is used with the imperfect); Genesis 12:19 (וָֽאֶקַּח‎); 31:27 וָֽאֲשַׁלֵּֽחֲךָ‎ so that I might have sent thee away.

4. As regards the range of time it is to be carefully noticed—

(a) That the imperfect consecutive may represent all varieties in the relations of tense and mood, which, according to §107a, follow from the idea of the imperfect;

(b) That the more precise determination of the range of time to which an imperfect consecutive relates must be inferred in each case from the character of the preceding tense (or tense-equivalent), to which it is attached, in a more or less close relation, as temporal or logical sequence. Thus the imperfect consecutive serves—

(1) To represent actions, events, or states, which are past (or were repeated in past time), when it is united with tenses, or their equivalents, which refer to an actual past.

Cf. the examples given above, under a and f, of the imperfect consecutive as an historic tense. The imperfect consecutive also frequently occurs as the continuation of a perfect (preterite) in a subordinate clause; e.g. Genesis 27:1, Numbers 11:20, Deuteronomy 4:37, 1 Samuel 8:8, 1 Kings 2:5, 1 Kings 11:33, 1 Kings 18:13, &c.; also in Isaiah 49:7 וַיִּבְחָרֶ֫ךָּ‎ is the continuation of a preterite, contained, according to the sense, in the preceding נִֽאֱמָן‎. אֲשֶׁר‎.—In Job 31:26, 34 the imperfect consecutive is joined to an imperfect denoting the past in a conditional sentence. An imperfect consecutive occurs in dependence on a perfect which has the sense of a pluperfect (§106f), e.g. in Genesis 26:18, Genesis 28:6f., 31:19, 34 (now Rachel had taken the teraphim, וַתְּשִׂמֵם‎ and had put them, &c.); Numbers 14:36, 1 Samuel 28:3, 2 Samuel 2:23, Isaiah 39:1. Finally there are the cases in which an infinitival or participial construction representing past time, according to §113r, §116x, is taken up and continued by an imperfect consecutive.

(2) To represent present actions, &c., in connexion with tenses, or their equivalents, which describe actions and states as being either present or lasting on into the present (continuing in their effect); so especially,

(α) In connexion with the present perfects, described in §106g, e.g. Psalms 16:9 therefore my heart is glad (שָׂמַח‎) and my glory rejoiceth (וַיָּ֫גֶל‎); Isaiah 3:16 (parallel with a simple imperfect). Cf. also such examples as Psalms 29:10 וַיֵּ֫שֶׁב‎ (prop. he sat down, and has been enthroned ever since), Psalms 41:13.

(β) In connexion with those perfects which represent experiences frequently confirmed (see §106k), e.g. Job 14:2 he cometh up (יָצָא‎) like a flower, and is cut down (וַיִּמָּל‎); he fleeth (וַיִּבְרַח‎) also as a shadow, וְלֹא יַֽעֲמוֹד‎ and continueth not; Job 20:15, Job 24:2, 11, Isaiah 40:24, Proverbs 11:2.

(γ) In connexion with imperfects which, in one of the ways described in § 107. 2, are used in the sense of the present; e.g. Job 14:10 but man dieth (יָמוּת‎) and becometh powerless (וַיֶּחֱֽלָשׁ‎), &c., i.e. remains powerless; Job 4:5, Hosea 8:13, Habakkuk 1:9f., Psalms 55:18, Psalms 90:3, Job 5:15, Job 7:18, Job 11:3 (when thou mockest), 12:25, 34:24, 37:8 (parallel with a simple imperfect); 39:15. In the apodosis of a conditional sentence, Psalms 59:16, so also after an interrogative imperfect, 1 Samuel 2:29, Psalms 42:6 (וַתֶּֽהֱמִי‎ for which in verse 12 and in 43:5 we have וּמַה־תֶּֽהֱמִי‎ and why art thou disquieted?).

(δ) In dependence on participles, which represent what at present continues or is being repeated, e.g. Numbers 22:11, 1 Samuel 2:6, 2 Samuel 19:2 behold the king weepeth (בֹּכֶה‎) and mourneth (וַיִּתְאַבֵּל‎) for Absalom; Amos 5:8, Amos 9:5f., Nahum 1:4, Psalms 34:8, Proverbs 20:26, Job 12:22 ff., but cf. e.g. Job 12:4 קֹרֵא לֶֽאֱלוֹהַּ‎ who called upon God, וַיַּֽעֲנֵ֫הוּ‎ and he answered him.

(ε) In dependence on other equivalents of the present, as in Isaiah 51:12, Psalms 144:3 (see above, m); Job 10:22. So especially as the continuation of an infinitive, which is governed by a preposition (cf. §144r), Isaiah 30:12, Jeremiah 10:13, Psalms 92:8, &c.

(3) To represent future actions, &c., in dependence on—(α) an imperfect which refers to the future, Psalms 49:15, Psalms 94:22f.;—(β) a perfect consecutive, or those perfects which, according to §106n, are intended to represent future events as undoubtedly certain, and therefore as though already accomplished (perf. propheticum); cf. Isaiah 5:15 (parallel with a simple imperfect separated from ו‎); 5:16 (cf. 2:11, 17, where the same threat is expressed by the perfect consecutive); 5:25, 9:5, 10f., 1315.17 ff., 22:7 ff., Joel 2:23, Micah 2:13, Ezekiel 33:4, 6, Psalms 7:13, Psalms 64:8 ff.;—(γ) a future participle, Jeremiah 4:16.[5]

Rem. An imperfect consecutive in dependence on a perfect or imperfect, which represents an action occurring only conditionally, is likewise used only in a hypothetical sense, e.g. Job 9:16 אִם־קָרָ֫אתִי וַיַּֽעֲנֵ֫נִי‎ if I had called, and he had answered me, yet ...; Psalms 139:11 וָֽאֹמַר‎ if I should say (previously, in verse 8 f., hypothetical imperfects are used).—In Isaiah 48:18f. an imperfect consecutive occurs in dependence on a sentence expressing a wish introduced by לוּא‎ utinam (וַיְהִי‎ and it, or so that it were, equivalent to then should it be). Cf. also the examples mentioned above, under l (Jeremiah 20:17) and m (Genesis 31:27), where the imperfect consecutive expresses facts occurring contingently.

  1. On an apparent exception (the imperf. consec. at the beginning of whole books) see §49b note.
  2. Cf. Isaiah 45:4, where the imperf. consec. is joined to an abrupt statement of the cause, and Job 36:7, where it is joined to an abrupt statement of the place.
  3. Exhaustive statistics of the use of ויהי‎ in its many and various connexions are given by König in ZAW. 1899, p. 260 ff.
  4. Cf. the Mêšaʿ inscription, l. 5 (Omri) the king of Israel, ויענו‎ he oppressed Moab, &c.—The peculiar imperfect consecutive in Genesis 30:27 b (in the earlier editions explained as equivalent to an object-clause) arises rather from a pregnant brevity of expression: I have observed and have come to the conclusion, the Lord hath blessed me, &c.—In Genesis 27:34 read, with LXX, וַיְהִי‎ before כִּשְׁמֹעַ‎.
  5. Also in Jeremiah 51:29 the imperfects consecutive are attached to the threat virtually contained in the preceding imperatives. On the other hand וַיָּחֵ֫לּוּ‎ Hosea 8:10 would be very remarkable as expressing a future; the text is, however, certainly corrupt, and hence the Cod. Babyl. and the Erfurt MS. 3 endeavour to remedy it by וְיח׳‎, and Ewald reads וְיָחִלוּ‎—In Ezekiel 28:16 (cf. Jeremiah 15:6f.) וָֽאֲחַלֶּלְךָ‎ appears to announce an action irrevocably determined upon, and therefore represented as already accomplished; cf. the prophetic perfects in verse 17 ff.
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