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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 115

§115. Construction of the Infinitive Construct with Subject and Object.

1. Like the infinitive absolute (see §113a), the character of the infinitive construct as a verbal noun is shown by its power of taking the case proper to its verb, and hence in transitive verbs[1] the accusative of the object, e.g. Numbers 9:15 בְּיוֹם הָקִים אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּן‎ on the day the tabernacle was reared up; 1 Samuel 19:1 לְהָמִית אֶת־דָּוִד‎ that they should slay David; Genesis 14:17, Genesis 19:29, Exodus 38:27, 1 Kings 12:15, 1 Kings 15:4; with a negative, e.g. Leviticus 26:15 לְבִלְתִּי עֲשׂוֹת אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֹתַי‎ so that ye will not do all my commandments; with the accusative of the personal pronoun, e.g. Deuteronomy 29:12 לְמַ֫עַן הָקִיס־אֹֽתְךָ‎ that he may establish thee; Genesis 25:26, Jeremiah 24:7; with a verbal suffix, e.g. Exodus 2:14 לְהָרְגֵ֫נִי‎ to kill me; Jeremiah 38:26 לְבִלְתִּי הֲשִׁיבֵ֫נִי‎ that he would not cause me to return (on the suffix, cf. c). In Isaiah 49:6 the object even precedes the infinitive with לְ‎; on this order cf. the note on §114r.—If the verb governs a double accusative, the infinitive may also take the same, e.g. Genesis 41:39 אַֽחֲרֵי הוֹדִ֫יעַ אֱלֹהִים֖ אֽוֹתְךָ אֶת־כָּל־זֹאת‎ forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this; Deuteronomy 21:16.

Rem. 1. The object after the infinitive construct must also always be regarded as in the accusative, even when it is not expressly introduced (as inall the above examples) by the nota accusativi אֶת־‎, and when therefore the substantive in question might easily be taken as the genitive of the object governed by the infinitive (the usual construction in Arabic), e.g. Proverbs 21:15 עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט‎ to do judgement. Against regarding it as a genitive, which is in itself possible (the doing, the executing of judgement), is the fact (a) that elsewhere the nota accusativi is so frequently added; (b) that in such a case the secondary forms of the infinitive, such as רְאֹה‎ for (פָּנֶ֫יךָ‎) רְאֹת‎ Genesis 48:11 (cf. Psalms 101:3, Proverbs 16:16), would be unintelligible; (c) that certain infinitive forms, if they were to be regarded as in the construct state, could hardly retain the pretonic Qameṣ without exception, whereas, when connected with suffixes (i.e. with real genitives; cf. §33c), this Qameṣ necessarily becomes Še; e.g. Genesis 18:25 לְהָמִית צַדִּיק‎ to slay the righteous (never as לַֽהֲמִית‎; cf., on the other hand, above, הֲשִׁיבֵ֫נִי‎); 2 Kings 21:8, Ezekiel 44:30. Similarly in such cases as Isaiah 3:13 (Psalms 50:4) instead of לָדִין עַמִּים‎ we should rather expect לְדִין‎, if the infinitive were regarded as in the construct state, and עַמִּים‎ as the genitive. Hence also in cases like Isaiah 58:9 (שְׁלַח‎ for שְׁלֹחַ‎) we must assume, with Sellin, op. cit., p. 78, a merely ‘external phonetic connexion’ and not the genitive construction.

2. The verbal suffixes added to the infinitive are (with the exception of לְהֽוֹצִאֵ֫הוּ‎ Jeremiah 39:14) only the suffix of the 1st pers. sing. (besides the above examples cf. also 1 Samuel 5:10, 1 Samuel 27:1, 1 Samuel 28:9, Ruth 2:10, 1 Chronicles 12:17, &c.) and plural; e.g. לְהַשְׁמִידֵ֫נוּ‎ to destroy us, Deuteronomy 1:27 (immediately after לָתֵת אֹתָ֫נוּ‎, so that ־ֵ֫ נוּ‎ is doubtless a verbal not a noun-suffix, although in form it might be either); לַֽהֲמִיתֵ֫נוּ‎ Numbers 16:13, Judges 13:23 (after חָפֵץ‎). Elsewhere the pronominal object is appended either by means of the accusative sign (e.g. Genesis 25:26 בְּלֶ֫דֶת אֹתָם‎ prop. in the bearing them; לָדַ֫עַת אֹתִי‎ to know me, Jeremiah 24:7) or in the form of a noun-suffix (as genitive of the object). The latter occurs almost always, whenever the context excludes the possibility of a misunderstanding; e.g. 1 Samuel 20:33 לְהַכֹּתוֹ‎ (prop. for his smiting) to smite him, not, as the form might also mean, in order that he might smite; cf. 1 Kings 20:35; with the suffix of the 3rd sing. fem. Numbers 22:25; of the 3rd plur. Joshua 10:20, 2 Samuel 21:2, &c. Hence also the suffixes of the 2nd sing. with the infinitive, as לְהַכֹּֽתְךָ‎ Jeremiah 40:14, cf. Micah 6:13, and even גַּדֶּלְךָ‎ to magnify thee, Joshua 3:7, must certainly be regarded as nominal not verbal suffixes. The connexion of the noun-suffix, as genitive of the object, with the infinitive, was so fully established, that it could be used not only in such strange cases, as Genesis 37:4 לֹא יָכְֽלוּ דַבְּרוֹ לְשָׁלֹם‎ they could not speak to him peaceably, cf. Zechariah 3:1 לְשִׂטְנוֹ‎ to be an adversary to him, but ultimately even in the 1st sing., as in Numbers 22:13 לְתִתִּי‎ to give me leave [Deuteronomy 25:7 לֹא אָבָה יַבְּמִי‎ he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother unto me; 1 Chronicles 4:10 לְבִלְתִּי עָצְבִּי‎ that it may not grieve me!]

3. The power of governing like a verb is also retained in those verbal nouns which, although originally secondary forms of the infinitive, have fully acquired the value of nouns, e.g. Isaiah 11:9 דֵּעָה אֶת־יְהֹוָה‎ (prop. to know the Lord) the knowledge of the Lord; לְיִרְאָה אֹתִי‎ to fear me, Deuteronomy 4:10, Deuteronomy 5:26, Deuteronomy 10:12; an accusative follows לְאַֽהֲבָה‎ Deuteronomy 10:12, 15, Isaiah 56:6 (cf. also 1 Kings 10:9, Hosea 3:1); לַֽהֲנָפָה‎ Isaiah 30:28; בְּשִׂנְאַת יְהֹוָה אֹתָ֫נוּ‎ Deuteronomy 1:27; after verbal nouns formed with the prefix מ‍‎ (cf. §45e), Numbers 10:2, Isaiah 13:19, Amos 4:11, Ezekiel 17:9. The accusative of the object likewise remains after infinitives (or their secondary forms) which have the article, e.g. Genesis 2:9, Jeremiah 22:16, or a suffix, e.g. Genesis 5:4, &c., 28:4, 6, 29:19 f., 30:15, 38:5, 2 Samuel 3:11, Isaiah 29:13.

2. The subject of the action represented by the infinitive is mostly placed immediately[2] after it, either in the genitive or nominative. The subject is in the genitive (§33c) whenever it has the form of a noun-suffix, and also when the infinitive has the termination of the constr. st. fem. sing. (see f); probably also in many other cases, where the infinitive in form and meaning is used more like a substantive, and accordingly governs like a noun. On the other hand, the subject of the infinitive is certainly to be regarded as a nominative, when it is separated from the infinitive by any insertion, and according to certain indications (see g) very probably in ninny other instances.

Rem. 1. Examples of genitives of the subject after infinitives in the connective form are Deuteronomy 1:27 בְּשִׂנְאַת יְהֹוָה אֹתָ֫נוּ‎ prop. in the Lord’s hating us; cf. 7:8, Genesis 19:16, 1 Kings 10:9, Isaiah 13:19, Isaiah 47:9, Hosea 3:1, Amos 4:11. The subject of the infinitive is probably also to be regarded as genitive in such cases as Exodus 17:1 and there was no water לִשְׁתֹּת הָעָם‎ for the people to drink (prop. for the drinking of the people), and in cases like Genesis 16:16 (בְּלֶ֫דֶת הָגָר‎); Genesis 16:3, Exodus 19:1, Numbers 20:3, 4, 33:38, 1 Kings 6:1, Psalms 133:1, 2 Chronicles 7:3, &c.

2. Examples in which the subject is separated from the infinitive by an insertion, and hence must certainly be regarded as a nominative, are Job 34:22 לְהִסָּ֫תֶר שָׁם פֹּֽעֲלֵי אָ֫וֶן‎ that the workers of iniquity may hide themselves there (prop. for the hiding themselves there the workers of iniquity); cf. Genesis 34:15, Numbers 35:6, Deuteronomy 19:3, Judges 9:2, 2 Samuel 24:13, Psalms 76:10, and below, i. The subject is likewise to be regarded as a nominative, whenever the Lamedh is prefixed to the infinitive by means of a pretonic Qameṣ (cf. b above), e.g. 2 Samuel 19:20 לָשׂוּם הַמֶּ֫לֶךְ אֶל־לְבּוֹ‎, since, if the infinitive were used as a nomen regens, we should rather expect לְשׂוּם‎ according to §102f. That the subject of the infinitive is regarded elsewhere also as nominative is again (see above, b) probable, since in such forms as הָנִיחַ‎ Deuteronomy 25:19, Isaiah 14:3, הָמִיר‎ Psalms 46:3, &c., the pretonic Qameṣ is retained without exception, whereas on the analogy of הֲנִיחִי‎ Ezekiel 24:13, הֲקִימוֹ‎ Jeremiah 23:20, &c., we should expect הֲנִיחַ‎, הֲמִיר‎, &c., if the infinitive were regarded as a nomen regens. Or was the retention of the Qameṣ (assuming the thorough correctness of the Masoretic punctuation) rendered possible even before a following genitive, because that vowel was characteristic of the form? It is at all events certain that owing to the lack of case-endings,[3] a distinction between the genitival and nominatival constructions could not have been consciously made in the case of most infinitives, e.g. in unchangeable forms like קְטֹל‎, קוּם‎, &c.

3. When both a subject and an object are connected with the infinitive, the rule is, that the subject should immediately follow the infinitive, and then the object. The latter, in such a case, is necessarily in the accusative, but the subject (as in e) may be either in the genitive or in the nominative. The noun-suffixes again are, of course, to be regarded as genitives, e.g. Genesis 39:18 כַּֽהֲרִימִי קוֹלִי‎ as I lifted up my voice (cf. 1 Kings 13:21, and the examples, Genesis 5:4, &c., enumerated above, under d), and so also substantives which follow a connective form, Deuteronomy 1:27, &c.; see above, d and f.

On the other hand, the subject appears necessarily to be in the nominative in such cases as Isaiah 10:15 כְּהָנִיף שֵׁ֫בֶט אֶת־מְרִימָיו‎ as if a rod should shake them that lift it up (for the plur. מרימיו‎ cf. §124k), not כַּֽהֲנִיף‎, as would be expected (see g above), if שֵׁ֫בֶט‎ were in the genitive; cf. 2 Samuel 14:13, Job 33:17. And so probably also in other cases, as Genesis 5:1, Genesis 13:10, Joshua 14:7, 1 Kings 13:4, 2 Kings 23:10, Isaiah 32:7. The subject is separated from the infinitive by an insertion (and consequently must necessarily be in the nominative; see g above), e.g. in Jeremiah 21:1.

Rem. Less frequently the object is placed immediately after the infinitive, and then the nominative of the subject, as a subsequent complement, e.g. Isaiah 20:1 בִּשְׁלֹחַ אֹתוֹ סַֽרְגוֹן‎ when Sargon sent him; Genesis 4:15, Joshua 14:11, 2 Samuel 18:29, Isaiah 5:24, Psalms 56:1, Proverbs 25:8. In Numbers 24:23 the subject follows an infinitive which has a noun-suffix in place of the object.

  1. For examples of the accus. of the object with a pass. infin., see §121c.
  2. In Genesis 24:30 the subject of כִּרְאֹת‎ is wanting (but כְּשָׁמְעוֹ‎ follows); the original reading was undoubtedly כִּרְאֹתוֹ‎, and the text is now in a state of confusion; verse 30a should come before verse 29b. In Genesis 19:29, Genesis 25:26, Exodus 9:16, Exodus 13:21, 1 Samuel 18:19, Jeremiah 41:6, Psalms 42:4 the subject, although not indicated, is easily supplied from the context. The infinitive in such cases is best rendered in English by a passive.
  3. In Arabic, where the case-endings leave no doubt as to the construction, it is equally possible to say either qatlu Zaidin (gen. of subj.) ʿAmran (acc.), literally Zaid’s killing ʿAmr, or qatlu ʿAmrin (gen. of obj.) Zaidun (nom. of subj.), or even el-qatlu (with article) Zaidun (nom. of subj.) ʿAmran (acc. of obj.).
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