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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 148

II. Special Kinds of Sentences.
§148. Exclamations.

The originally interrogative מָה‎ is used to introduce exclamations of wonder or indignation = O how! or ridicule, why! how! sometimes strengthened by זֶה‎ or זֹאת‎ according to §136c.—Astonishment or indignation at something which has happened is introduced by אֵיךְ‎ how (likewise originally interrogative) with the perfect; the indignant refusal of a demand by אֵיךְ‎ (but also by מָה‎ Job 31:1) with the imperfect; an exclamation of lamentation by אֵיכָה‎, less frequently אֵיךְ‎ how!; in Joel 1:18 by מָה‎.

Examples:—

מָה‎ (or מַה־‎ with a following Dagĕš, see § 37) expressing admiration (or astonishment) before verbal-clauses, e.g. Genesis 27:20 (מַה־זֶּה‎); 38:29, Numbers 24:5 (how goodly are...!); Psalms 21:2, Song of Solomon 7:2; before the predicate of noun-clauses, e.g. Genesis 28:17, Psalms 8:2; mockingly before the verb, 2 Samuel 6:20 (how glorious was...!); Jeremiah 22:23, Job 26:2 f.; indignantly, Genesis 3:13 מַה־וֹּאת‎; 4:10, 20:9, 31:26 what hast thou done!

אֵיךְ‎ with the perfect, e.g. Genesis 26:9, Psalms 73:19; in scornful exclamation, Isaiah 14:4, 12; in a lament (usually אֵיכָה‎), 2 Samuel 1:25, 27; with the imperfect, in a reproachful question, Genesis 39:9, Genesis 44:8, Psalms 11:1, Psalms 137:4; in a mocking imitation of lament, Micah 2:4.

אֵיכָה‎ with the perfect, Isaiah 1:21, Lamentations 1:1; with the imperfect, Lamentations 2:1, Lamentations 4:1.

Rem. 1. The close relation between a question and an exclamation appears also in the interrogative personal pronoun מִי‎ in such cases as Micah 7:18 מִי־אֵל כָּמ֫וֹךָ‎ who is a God like unto thee? and so in general in rhetorical questions as the expression of a forcible denial; similarly in the use of an interrogative sentence to express a wish, see §150d, 151 a.

2. A weaker form of exclamation is sometimes produced by the insertion of a corroborative כִּי‎ verily, surely, before the predicate, Genesis 18:20; cf. 33:11, Isaiah 7:9, and the analogous cases in the apodoses of conditional sentences, § 159 ee.

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