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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 144

§144. Peculiarities in the Representation of the Subject (especially in the Verbal-clause).

1. According to § 40 ff. most forms of the finite verb include a specification of the subject in the form of personal afformatives (in the imperfect also in the form of preformatives). Not infrequently, however, masculine forms are used in referring to feminines, e.g. וִֽידַעְתֶּם‎ Ezekiel 23:49; עֲשִׂיתֶם‎ Ruth 1:8; in the imperfect, Joel 2:22, Song of Solomon 2:7; in the imperative, Amos 4:1, Zechariah 13:7 (for other examples, see §110k). On emphasizing the pronominal subject by the addition of the separate pronoun, see §135a and b.

On the masculine as prior gender, cf. §122g; on similar anomalies in the use of the personal pronoun, §135o, in the connexion between substantive and adjective, §132d, between subject and predicate, §145p, t, u.

2. The third person singular is often used impersonally, especially in the masculine, e.g. וַֽיְהִי‎ and it came to pass, וְהָיָה‎ and it shall come to pass; חָרָה‎ followed by לוֹ‎, &c., it became hot to him, i.e. he became angry, Genesis 4:6, &c.; וַיֵּ֫צֶר לוֹ‎ lit. and it became strait to him, he was distressed, Genesis 32:8;[1] also in the feminine, e.g. 1 Samuel 30:6 (Judges 10:9) וַתֵּ֫צֶר לְדָוִד‎ Judges 11:39, Jeremiah 7:31, Ezekiel 12:25, Job 15:32 (unless תְּמֽוּרָתוֹ‎ in verse 31 be the subject); cf. also the impersonal passives, Isaiah 1:6 (רֻכְּכָה‎), 29:6 (תִּפָּקֵד‎). Somewhat different are the instances in which the 3rd singular feminine occurs as the predicate of a feminine subject which is not mentioned, but is before the mind of the speaker, e.g. Isaiah 7:7, Isaiah 14:24, Jeremiah 10:7, Job 4:5, Job 18:15 (in 2 Kings 24:7 כָּל־אֲשֶׁר‎ is used in this way with a feminine predicate, and in Jeremiah 19:5 אֲשֶׁר‎ alone); different, too, are the instances in which the 3rd singular masculine refers to an act just mentioned, e.g. Genesis 17:11 וְהָיָה‎ and this (the circumcision) shall be a token of a covenant, &c.

Rem. The expressions for natural phenomena may be either in the 3rd sing. masculine or feminine, e.g. אוֹר‎ it becomes light, 1 Samuel 29:10 (but with an explicit subject, Genesis 44:3); וַיֵּאוֹר‎ and it became light; so also יַחְשִׁךְ‎ it grows dark, Jeremiah 13:16; but וְחָֽשְׁכָה‎ Micah 3:6; תָּעֻ֫פָה‎ though there be darkness, Job 11:17; תַּמְטִיר‎ it rains, Amos 4:7 (where, however, the context requires the reading אַמְטִיר‎); Psalms 50:3 נִשְׂעֲרָה‎ it is tempestuous. 3. The indefinite personal subject (our they, one, the French on, and the German man[2]) is expressed—

(a) By the 3rd person singular masculine, e.g. קָרָא‎ one (sc. any one who named it, see the Rem.) called (or calls) it, Genesis 11:9, Genesis 16:14, Genesis 19:22, Exodus 15:23; וַוִּקְרָא‎ Genesis 35:8, 10, 2 Samuel 2:16, Isaiah 9:5; וַיֹּא֫מֶר‎ one said, Genesis 48:1, 1 Samuel 16:4;[3] other examples are Genesis 38:28 one put out a hand; Numbers 23:21, 1 Kings 22:38, Isaiah 6:10 וְרָפָא לוֹ‎ and one heals them; 8:4 (יִשָּׂא‎); 46:7 (יִצְעַק‎); Amos 6:12, Micah 2:4, Job 27:23; by the 3rd singular feminine (יָֽלְדָה‎) Numbers 26:59.

Rem. The Jewish commentators, following the Arab grammarians, usually explain these singulars by the addition of the participle (generally determinate) of the same stem, e.g. קָרָא הַקֹּרֵא‎. This view is supported by the fact that such a complement sometimes occurs, e.g. Isaiah 16:10 יִדְרֹךְ הַדֹּרֵךְ‎ the treader treads out, for one treads out; 28:4, 24 (doth one plow continually?); Deuteronomy 17:6 (Ezekiel 18:32), Deuteronomy 22:8, 2 Samuel 17:9 (Ezekiel 33:4), Jeremiah 9:23; with an indeterminate participle (as in Arabic, e.g. qāla qāʾilun, a sayer says, i.e. some one says), e.g. Numbers 6:9, Amos 9:1; cf. above, §116t, and, on the whole question, Driver on 1 Samuel 16:4.

(b) Very frequently by the 3rd plural masculine, e.g. Genesis 29:2 for out of that well יַשְׁקוּ‎ they (i.e. people generally) watered the flocks; 26:18, 35:5, 41:14, 49:31, 1 Kings 1:2, Isaiah 38:16, Hosea 12:9, Job 18:18, Job 34:20, Esther 2:2, Nehemiah 2:7.

Rem. The 3rd plur. also is sometimes used to express an indefinite subject, where the context does not admit of a human agent or at least not of several, e.g. Genesis 34:27. In such a case the 3rd plur. comes to be equivalent to a passive, as very commonly in Aramaic (see Kautzsch’s Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., § 96. 1 c); e.g. Job 7:3 wearisome nights מִנּוּ־לִי‎ have they allotted to me (equivalent to were allotted to me; to make ‘invisible powers’ the subject is a merely artificial device); Job 4:19, Job 6:2, Job 18:18, Job 19:26, Job 34:20, Ezekiel 32:25, Psalms 63:11, Proverbs 2:22 (in parallelism with a passive); 9:11.

(c) By the 2nd singular masculine, e.g. Isaiah 7:25 לֹֽא־תָבוֹא שָׁ֫מָּה‎ one will (or can) not come thither (prop. thou wilt...); Jeremiah 23:37, Proverbs 19:25, Proverbs 30:28 (unless the reading should be תִּתָּפֵשׂ‎). Cf. also עַד־בֹּֽאֲךָ‎ or simply בֹּֽאֲךָ‎ (Genesis 10:19, 30, 13:10 בֹּֽאֲבָה‎) prop. until thy coming, i.e. until one comes.

(d) By the plural of the participle, e.g. Jeremiah 38:23 and all thy wives and thy children מֽוֹצִאִים‎ (prop. are they bringing out=) they will bring out, &c.; cf. Isaiah 32:12, Ezekiel 13:7, Nehemiah 6:10 (for some are coming to slay thee) and the passages discussed above, §116t.[4] In 1 Kings 5:1 the text is corrupt.

(e) By the passive, e.g. Genesis 4:26 אָז הוּחַל לִקְרֹא‎ then (was it begun=) began men to call upon, &c. (but read זֶה הֵחֵל‎ he began).

4. A peculiar idiom, and one always confined to poetic language, is the not infrequent occurrence of two subjects in a verbal sentence,[5] one of the person and the other of the thing. The latter then serves—whether it precedes or follows—to state the instrument, organ, or member by which the action in question is performed, and may be most often rendered in English by an adverb, as a nearer definition of the manner of the action. All the examples of this kind have this in common, that the subject denoting the thing takes a suffix in the same person as the personal subject.[6] They are thus distinguished from the accusatives treated in §117s, with which they are often confused.

(a) Examples where the subject denoting the thing precedes, אֶל־יְהֹוָה אֶקְרָא קוֹלִי‎ my voice—I cry unto the Lord, i.e. I cry aloud unto the Lord, Psalms 3:5, Psalms 27:7, Psalms 142:2; פִּֽי־קָרָ֫אתִי‎ my mouthI cried, i.e. I cried aloud, Psalms 66:17 (cf. 17:10); Isaiah 26:9 נַפְשִׁי‎ with my soul, i.e. fervently, and parallel with it אָף־רוּחִי‎; but נַפְשִׁי‎ Psalms 57:5 is rather a periphrasis for the 1st pers. I.

(b) Where the subject denoting the thing follows, צַֽהֲלִי קוֹלֵךְ‎ crythy voice (i.e. aloud), Isaiah 10:30; so also after an imperative, Psalms 17:13 (חַרְבֶּ֫ךָ‎) and verse 14 (יָֽדְךָ‎); 60:7, 108:7 (יְמִֽינְךָ‎); after a perfect, Habakkuk 3:15 (סוּסֶ֫יךָ‎); after a cohortative, Psalms 108:2 (אַף־כְּבוֹדִי‎). The subject denoting the thing stands between the personal subject and the predicate in Psalms 44:3 אַתָּה יָֽדְךָ‎.[7]

Rem. 1. Sometimes (as in other languages) an action is ascribed to a subject which can only have been performed at his direction by another person; cf. e.g. Genesis 40:22 (41:13), 41:14, 43:34 (and he commanded to set before them, &c.); 46:29, 2 Samuel 12:9.

2. Supposed ellipses of a definite subject are due either to a misunderstanding of the passage, or to a corruption of the text. Thus in 1 Samuel 24:11 after וַתָּ֫חָס‎ either עֵינִי‎ has dropped out (through confusion with עָלֶ֫יךָ‎) or we should read with the LXX וָֽאָחֻס‎. In 2 Samuel 13:39 (וַתְּכַל דָּוִד‎) the text is obviously corrupt.

3. In poetic (or prophetic) language[8] there sometimes occurs (supposing the text to be correct) a more or less abrupt transition from one person to another. Thus from the 2nd to the 3rd (i.e. from an address to a statement), Genesis 49:4 (?), Isaiah 31:6 (?), 42:20, 52:14, 61:7, Malachi 2:15 (where, however, for יִבְגֹּד‎ we should undoubtedly read תִּבְגּׄד‎); Psalms 22:9 [and regularly after a vocative, Isaiah 22:16, Isaiah 47:8, Isaiah 48:1, Isaiah 54:1, 11, Jeremiah 22:16, Jeremiah 49:4, 16, Amos 5:6f., Micah 1:2 (=1 Kings 22:28), Malachi 3:9, 2 Kings 9:31; and after הוֹי‎ Isaiah 5:8, Isaiah 29:15, Jeremiah 22:13]. From the 3rd to the 2nd pers., Deuteronomy 32:15, Isaiah 1:29 (but read probably חֶמְדָּתָם‎ for חֲמַדְתֶּם‎, which has caused the insertion of אֲשֶׁר‎), 5:8, Jeremiah 29:19, Job 16:7, cf. also Deuteronomy 32:17. From the 1st to the 3rd pers., Lamentations 3:1 (in a relative clause). In Job 13:28 the 3rd pers. וְהוּא‎ is probably employed δεικτικῶς for the 1st.

Footnotes:
  1. In Arabic and Ethiopic the masculine is commonly used in this case, in Syriac the feminine.—The forms חַם‎ hot, טוֹב‎ good, well, מַר‎ bitter, צַר‎ narrow, רַע‎ evil (frequently joined by לִי‎, לוֹ‎, &c.), which many regard as impersonal, are no doubt to be regarded in most cases not as forms of the 3rd pers. sing. perf., but, with Hupfeld on Psalms 18:7, as adjectives.
  2. In 1 Samuel 9:9 הָאִישׁ‎ (prop. the man) is used in exactly the same sense as our one.
  3. Elsewhere in such cases וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ‎ usually occurs (but not in the perfect, e.g. 1 Samuel 23:22), so that it is doubtful whether the present reading of Genesis 48:1, &c., would not be better explained according to §7d, note. In Genesis 48:2 for the extraordinary וַיַּגֵּד‎ the common form וַיֻּגַּד‎ is to be read; so in 50:26 for וַיִּישֶׂם‎ (after a plural) either וַיּוּשַׂם‎ or the 3rd plur.; in 2 Kings 21:26 וַיִּקְבְּרוּ‎.
  4. That this form of expression also (see g) comes to be equivalent to a passive is seen from the analogy of such Aramaic passages as Daniel 4:22, which exclude any idea of human agency. Cf. Kautzsch, Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., § 76. 2 e at the end, and in post.-bibl. Hebrew, e.g. Pirqe Aboth 2, 16; 3, 5, &c.
  5. Two subjects occur in a noun-clause in Psalms 83:19.
  6. In Exodus 6:3 שְׁמִי‎ is subordinated to the following passive נוֹדַ֫עְתִּי‎ (§121b); in 1 Samuel 25:26, 33 יָדִי‎, יָֽדְךָ‎ are subjects to the infinitive absolute הוֹשֵׁעַ‎, according to § 113 gg. In Psalms 69:11 read וָֽאֲעַנֶּה‎ for וָֽאֶבְכֶּה‎.
  7. In several of the above examples it might naturally be supposed that the subject denoting the thing (especially when it follows the verb) is to be explained rather as a casus instrumentalis, i.e. as an accusative, analogous to the adverbial accusatives in §118q. But although it is true that the subject denoting the thing often defines more closely the manner in which the action is performed, and although in similar (but still different) examples, Psalms 89:2, Psalms 109:30, Job 19:16, פִּי‎ occurs with בְּ‎ instrumentale, the explanation given above must nevertheless be accepted.
  8. In prose, Leviticus 2:8; but וְהִקְרִיבָהּ‎ here is hardly the original reading. Different from this is Genesis 26:7, where there is a transition to direct narration.
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