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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 142

§142. The Verbal-clause.

1. By §140f there is an essential distinction between verbal-clauses, according as the subject stands before or after the verb. In the verbal-clause proper the principal emphasis rests upon the action which proceeds from (or is experienced by) the subject, and accordingly the verb naturally precedes (necessarily so when it is in the perf. consec. or imperf. consec.). Nevertheless, the subject does sometimes precede even in the verbal-clause proper, in the continuation of the narrative, e.g. Genesis 7:19, 1 Samuel 18:1, 2 Samuel 19:12; especially so if there is special emphasis upon it, e.g. Genesis 3:13 (it is not I who am to blame, but) the serpent beguiled me, cf. Genesis 2:5, &c.[1] In the great majority of instances, however, the position of the subject at the beginning of a verbal-clause is to be explained from the fact that the clause is not intended to introduce a new fact carrying on the narrative, but rather to describe a state. Verbal-clauses of this kind approximate closely in character to noun-clauses, and not infrequently (viz. when the verbal form might just as well be read as a participle) it is doubtful whether the writer did not in fact intend a noun-clause.

The particular state represented in the verb may consist—

(a) Of an act completed long before, to which reference is made only because it is necessary for understanding the sequel of the principal action. If the predicate be a perfect (as it almost always is in these cases), it is generally to be rendered in English by a pluperfect; cf. the examples discussed above in §106f (1 Samuel 28:3, &c.); also Genesis 6:8 (not Noah found grace); 16:1, 18:17, 20:4, 24:1, 39:1 (and Joseph in the meanwhile had been brought down to Egypt); 41:10, Judges 1:16, 1 Samuel 9:15, 1 Samuel 14:27, 1 Samuel 25:21, 1 Kings 1:1, &c.—In a wider sense this applies also to such verbal-clauses as Genesis 2:6 (see further, §112e), since when they serve to represent an action continuing for a long period in the past, and thus to some extent a state.

(b) Of a fact, contemporaneous with the principal events or continuing as the result of them. To the former class belong all those instances in which the predicate is combined with הָיָה‎ (provided that הָיָה‎ has not, as in Genesis 1:2, Genesis 3:1, &c., been weakened to a mere copula, in which case the precedence of the subject is fully explained from the character of the clause as a noun-clause; cf. §141i, and the examples of הָיָה‎, &c., with a participle, §116r); as an example of the second class, cf. e.g. Genesis 13:12 אַבְרָם יָשַׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־כְּנָ֑עַן וגו׳‎ Abraham accordingly continued to dwell in the land of Canaan, but Lot dwelt, &c. Rem. 1. The close relation between verbal-clauses beginning with the subject and actual noun-clauses, is seen finally from the fact that the former also are somewhat frequently added with וְ‎ (or subordinated) to a preceding sentence in order to lay stress upon some accompanying circumstance; on such noun-clauses describing a state or circumstance, cf. §141e. This is especially the case, again, when the circumstantial appendage involves an antithesis; cf. Genesis 18:18 seeing that nevertheless Abraham shall surely become, &c.; 24:56, 26:27, Isaiah 29:13, Jeremiah 14:15, Psalms 50:17, Job 21:22, and such examples as Genesis 4:24, 29:17, where by means of וְ‎ a new subject is introduced in express antithesis to one just mentioned. Moreover, in the examples treated above, under b and c (1 Samuel 28:3, &c.), the subject is frequently introduced by וְ‎, which then corresponds to the Greek δέ, used to interpose an explanation, &c., see Winer, Gramm. des neutest. Sprachidioms, § 53. 7b.

2. By a peculiar construction verbal-clauses may be joined by means of וְ‎ and a following subject to participial clauses, e.g. Genesis 38:25 הִיא מוּצֵאת וְהִיא שָֽׁלְחָה‎ she was already brought forth, when she sent, &c.; 44:3, 4, Judges 18:3, Judges 19:11, 2 Samuel 20:8; for other examples, see §116u (where it is pointed out, note 1, that the apodosis also frequently appears in the form of a noun-clause, a further proof of the close relation between verbal-clauses beginning with the subject and noun-clauses proper). Without doubt there is in all these cases a kind of inversion of the principal clause and the temporal subordinate clause; the latter for the sake of greater emphasis being raised to an independent noun-clause, while the real principal action is added as though it were an accompanying circumstance, and hence in the form of an ordinary circumstantial clause. [Cf. Driver, Tenses, § 166 ff.]

2. According to what has been remarked above, under a, the natural order of words within the verbal sentence is: Verb—Subject, or Verb—Subject—Object. But as in the noun-clause (§141l) so also in the verbal-clause, a variation of the usual order of words frequently occurs when any member of the sentence is to be specially emphasized by priority of position.[2] Thus the order may be:—

(a) Object—Verb—Subject: Genesis 30:40, Genesis 37:4, 1 Samuel 15:1, 2 Kings 23:19 and frequently. Naturally the examples are far more numerous, in which the object precedes a verbal form which includes the subject in itself, e.g. Genesis 3:101418, 6:16, 8:17, 9:13, Exodus 18:23, Judges 14:3, 1 Samuel 18:17, 1 Samuel 20:9, 1 Samuel 21:10, 2 Kings 22:8, Proverbs 13:5, &c.

(b) Verb—Object—Subject: Genesis 21:7, Numbers 5:23, 1 Samuel 15:33, 2 Samuel 24:16 (but המלאך‎ is probably only a subsequent addition); Isaiah 19:13, Psalms 34:22, Job 11:19, &c.

(c) Subject—Object—Verb: Isaiah 3:17, Isaiah 11:8, Isaiah 13:18, Hosea 12:11, Psalms 6:10, Psalms 11:5, Job 29:25.[3] (d) Object—Subject—Verb (very rarely): 2 Kings 5:13, Isaiah 5:17, Isaiah 28:17, Psalms 51:5, Proverbs 13:16 (read כֹּל‎).[4]

(e) A substantival complement of the verb היה‎ is placed first in Isaiah 18:5 וּבֹסֵר גֹּמֵל יִֽהְיֶה נִצָּה‎ and a ripening grape the flower becometh.

Rem. Of specifications compounded with a preposition those of place stand regularly after the verb, unless they are specially emphatic as e.g. Genesis 19:2, Genesis 30:16, Genesis 32:5, Micah 5:1, Esther 9:12; in Genesis 29:25 בְּרָחֵל‎ with בְּ‎ pretii precedes for the sake of emphasis. Cf., however, in Genesis 35:13 the order verb—specification of place—subject.—The remoter object precedes for the sake of emphasis, e.g. in Genesis 13:15 (26:3), 15:3; even before the interrogative. Genesis 27:37 (cf. Jeremiah 22:15 where the subject precedes an interrogative, and 1 Samuel 20:8, Job 34:31 where a prepositional specification precedes). — Prepositional specifications of time, such as בְּרֵאשִׁית‎ (Genesis 1:1), בְּיוֹם‎, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא‎, &c. (but not בָּרִֽאשֹׁנָה‎, nor the simple רִֽאשֹׁנָה‎, בַּתְּחִלָּה‎, לְעוֹלָם‎), stand, as a rule, before the verb, provided it be not in the perf. consec. or imperf. consec.; so also certain adverbs of time, such as אָז‎, עַתָּה‎, whilst others like עוֹד‎, תָּמִיד‎ regularly follow the verb.

  1. This of course applies also to the cases, in which the subject consists of a strongly emphasized personal pronoun, e.g. Genesis 32:13 אַתָּה‎ thou thyself; 33:3 הוּא‎ he himself.
  2. Not infrequently also the striving after chiasmus mentioned in §114r, note, occasions a departure from the usual arrangement of words.
  3. This sequence occurs even in prose (Genesis 17:9, Genesis 23:6, &c.); it is, however, more doubtful here than in the above prophetical and poetical passages, whether the preceding subject should not be regarded rather as the subject of a compound sentence (§ 143), the predicate of which is an independent verbal-clause; this would explain why the verbal-clause is usually separated from the subject by one of the greater disjunctives.—On the other hand, the sequence SubjectObjectVerb is quite common in Aramaic (e.g. Daniel 2:7, 10); cf. Gesenius, Comm. on Isaiah 42:24, and Kautzsch’s Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., § 84. 1 b. The pure Aramaic usage of placing the object before the infinitive occurs in Hebrew in Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 21:21, Deuteronomy 28:56, 2 Samuel 11:19, Isaiah 49:6, 2 Chronicles 28:10, 2 Chronicles 31:7, 2 Chronicles 36:19 (?).
  4. This sequence occurs more frequently in noun-clauses with a participial predicate, e.g. Genesis 37:16, Genesis 41:9, 2 Samuel 13:4, &c., in interrogative sentences, e.g. 2 Kings 6:22, Jeremiah 7:19; in all which cases the emphasized object is placed before the natural sequence of subject—predicate. [Cf. Driver, Tenses, § 208.]
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