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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 149

§149. Sentences which express an Oath or Asseveration.

The particle אִם‎, in the sense of certainly not, and אִם־לֹא‎ (rarely כִּי‎ Genesis 22:16) in the sense of certainly, are used to introduce promises or threats confirmed by an oath (especially after such formulae as חַי־יְהֹוָה‎, חֵֽי־נַפְשְׁךָ‎,[1] חַי אָ֫נִי‎, בִּי נִשְׁבַּ֫עְתִּי‎, &c., as well as after imprecations, see below), and also simple asseverations, e.g. 1 Samuel 2:30, 2 Samuel 20:20, Job 27:5 after חָלִ֫ילָה לִי‎ far be it from me, but mostly without any introductory formula.

Rem. No certain explanation of these particles has yet been given. According to the usual view, phrases expressing an oath depend on the suppression of an imprecation upon oneself, e.g. the Lord do so unto me, if I do it equivalent to I certainly will not do it; then naturally אִם־לֹא‎ properly if I do it not equivalent to I certainly will do it. It is indeed difficult to understandsuch self-imprecations, put into the mouth of God, as in Deuteronomy 1:34 f., Isaiah 14:24, Isaiah 22:14, Jeremiah 22:6, Ezekiel 3:6, Ezekiel 35:6, Psalms 95:11. Possibly, however, the consciousness of the real meaning of the formula was lost at an early period, and אִם־לֹא‎ simply came to express verily, אִם‎ verily not.—In 1 Samuel 25:22, where, instead of a self-imprecation, a curse is pronounced upon others, read לְדָוִד‎ with the Lxx for לְאֹֽיְבֵי דָוִד‎.


(a) The particles אִם‎ and אִם־לֹא‎ used after the utterance of an oath and after formulae of swearing, e.g. 2 Samuel 11:11 (see note on a) חַי־יְהֹוָה וְחֵי נַפְשֶׁ֫ךָ אִם־אִֽעֱשֶׂה אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה‎ as the Lord liveth, and as ray soul liveth, I will not do this thing; 1 Samuel 14:45, 2 Kings 5:16 (after חַי יְהֹוָה‎; in 1 Samuel 14:39 and 29:6 חַי־י׳‎ is followed by a simple כִּי‎); Song of Solomon 2:7, Song of Solomon 3:5 (after הִשְׁבַּ֫עְתִּי‎ I adjure you); cf. also Genesis 14:23, Genesis 21:23, Genesis 26:29; spoken by God, Deuteronomy 1:34 f., 1 Samuel 3:14, Psalms 95:11; similarly אִם־לֹא‎ Genesis 24:37 f.; spoken by God, Isaiah 14:24, where אִם־לֹא‎ occurs first with the perfect in the sense of a prophetic perfect, §106n, but in the parallel clause with the imperfect; Jer 226; in Genesis 31:52 the negative oath introduced by אִם־אָ֫נִי‎, אִם־אַתָּה‎ is immediately afterwards continued by לֹא‎ with the imperfect.—In Ezekiel 34:10 the threat introduced in verse 8 by אִם־לֹא‎ is, after a long parenthesis, resumed with הִנְנִי‎.

(b) אִם‎ and אִם־לֹא‎ after formulae of cursing, e.g. 1 Samuel 3:17 כֹּה יַֽעֲשֶׂה־לְּךָ אֱלהִֹים וְכֹה יוֹסִיף אִם־תְּכַחֵד מִמֶּ֫נִּי דָבָר וג׳‎ God do so to thee, and more also! thou shalt not hide anything from me, &c.; cf. 1 Samuel 25:22. On the other hand, כִּי‎ follows the curse, in 1 Samuel 14:44, 1 Kings 2:23 (here with a perfect), and in 2 Samuel 3:35 כִּי אִם‎; in 1 Samuel 25:34 the preceding כִּי‎ is repeated before אִם‎; in 1 Samuel 20:13 the purport of the asseveration is repeated (after the insertion of a conditional sentence) in the perfect consecutive.

(c) אִם‎ and אִם־לֹא‎ as simple particles of asseveration, e.g. Judges 5:8 מָגֵן אִם־ֵי֥רָאֶה וָרֹמַח וג׳‎ truly, there was not a shield and spear seen, &c., Isaiah 22:14, Job 6:28 (in the middle of the sentence); after חָלִ֫ילָה חָלִ֫ילָה‎ absit, 2 Samuel 20:20; אִם־לֹא‎ with the imperf. Isaiah 5:9, with the perfect, Job 22:20.

  1. Also combined חַי־יְהֹוָה וְחֵי נַפְשְׁךָ‎ 1 Samuel 20:3, 1 Samuel 25:26 as the Lord liveth, and as thy soul (i.e. thou) liveth! (Also in 2 Samuel 11:11 read חַי־יהוה‎ instead of the impossible חַיֶּ֫ךְ‎). On חַי‎ and חֵי‎ in these noun-clauses (prop. living is the Lord, &c.), cf. §93aa, note.
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