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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 155

§155. Relative Clauses.
See V. Baumann, Hebräische Relativsätze, Leipzig, 1894 (cf. the heading of § 138 above); G. Bergsträsser, ‘Das hebr. Präfix שׁ‎,’ ZATW 1909, p. 40 ff.[1]

1. By §138a, e, relative clauses are divided into two classes: those which are used for the nearer definition of a noun (substantive or pronoun), and those which are not dependent on a noun. The former may be called incomplete, the latter complete relative clauses.

Complete relative clauses, as a rule (see the exceptions under n), are introduced by the originally demonstrative pronoun אֲשֶׁר‎; see further in §138e. Similarly, incomplete relative clauses may also be introduced by אֲשֶׁר‎, or by some other demonstrative pronoun; see further in §138a and g–k. Very frequently, however, especially in poetic style, the attributive relation is expressed by simple co-ordination.[2]

The governing substantive or pronoun is frequently (in certain cases always) resumed by a pronominal suffix or an adverb. The resumption may, however, be omitted, just as in relative clauses introduced by אֲשֶׁר‎, &c.; see §138f.

In Arabic a distinction is made between relative clauses used for the nearer definition of a determinate substantive (ṣila), and those which are attached to an indeterminate substantive (ṣifa). The former must be introduced by the demonstrative pronoun allaḏî, the latter are always simply co-ordinated. The same distinction was no doubt originally observed in Hebrew, since simply co-ordinated relative clauses are most commonly found after indeterminate substantives (see the examples below), and in cases like Deuteronomy 28:49 (גּוֹי אֲשֶׁר לֹֽא־תִשְׁמַע לְשֹׁנוֹ‎ a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; cf. Isaiah 66:13, and especially 1 Samuel 3:11), the addition of אֲשֶׁר‎ is explained from the special stress laid on the indeterminate substantive,[3] a nation of such a kind, thou understandest not their tongue. On the other hand, in poetic style at least, אֲשֶׁר‎ is somewhat frequently omitted even after a determinate noun, but only rarely in prose (except by the Chronicler; cf. 1 Chronicles 9:22, 1 Chronicles 12:23, 1 Chronicles 29:1 (read prob. אֲשֶׁר‎ for אֶחַד‎), 2 Chronicles 15:11; after כָּל־‎ 1 Chronicles 29:3, 2 Chronicles 18:23, 2 Chronicles 30:17, 2 Chronicles 31:19, Ezra 1:5, but also Genesis 39:4; for further instances, see Driver, Introd.8, p. 537, no. 30); so Exodus 18:20, Judges 8:1, Judges 20:15, 1 Kings 13:12 (=which way), so 2 Kings 3:8, 2 Chronicles 18:23; Nehemiah 13:23; after a pronominal subject, 1 Samuel 6:9. In Jeremiah 52:12 for עָמַד‎ read עֹמֵד‎ with the LXX.

2. If the nearer definition of a substantive or pronoun is effected by simple co-ordination of the relative clause, it may take the form—

(a) Of a noun-clause, e.g. 2 Samuel 20:21 a man of the hill country of Ephraim שֶׁ֫בַע שְׁמוֹ‎ whose name was Sheba; Zechariah 6:12, Job 1:1, Job 3:15 with princes זָהָב לָהֶם‎ that had gold; Psalms 11:4, Proverbs 22:11; when referring to a noun-suffix, e.g. Psalms 49:14 זֶה דַרְכָּם כֵּ֫סֶל לָ֫סוֹ‎ this is the way of them who have (self-)confidence.—On periphrases of this kind to express negative attributes, as in Job 38:26 עַל־אֶ֫רֶץ לֹא־אִישׁ‎ on a land where no man is, see §152u, and cf. for this very short form of the relative clause, Genesis 15:13 בְּאֶ֫רֶץ לֹא לָהֶם‎ in a land that belongs not to them; Deuteronomy 32:17 (לַשֵּׁדִים לֹא אֱלֹהַּ‎); Habakkuk 1:6, Proverbs 26:17 (לֹא־לוֹ‎).

(b) Of a verbal clause.

Here we must distinguish the cases in which the retrospective pronoun—

(1) Is the subject of the relative clause, and is contained in the verb; so after a determinate substantive, Psalms 34:9 happy is the man יֶֽחֱסֶה־בּוֹ‎ that trusteth in him; Jb 33 b הַלַּ֫יְלָה אָמַ֫ר‎ the night which said; after כָּל־‎ Psalms 71:18; referring to a vocative, which is determinate in itself even without the article, Isaiah 54:1, or to a noun-suffix (see under e), Psalms 16:4; after an indeterminate substantive, e.g. Job 31:12 it is a fire (that) devoureth unto Abaddon; Dt 3217 b, 1 Samuel 6:9, Isaiah 55:13, Isaiah 56:2, Psalms 68:31, Psalms 78:6, Proverbs 30:17, Lamentations 1:10, 2 Chronicles 28:9; referring to the suffix in הִנְנִי‎ Isaiah 28:16, prop. behold me, who have laid, &c., but perhaps the participle יׄסֵד‎ is to be read; 29:14, 38:5 (but probably again the participle יוֹסֵף‎ should be read instead of the imperfect); Ezekiel 25:7. The relative clause is used in this way especially to supply the place of an adjective, e.g. Genesis 49:27 זְאֵב יִטְרָ֑ף‎ a wolf that ravineth, i.e. a ravining wolf; Isaiah 51:12; to express a negative quality, e.g. Isaiah 40:20, Hosea 4:14 עָם לֹֽא־יָבִין‎ an undiscerning people.

Rem. Very frequently such relative sentences are attached to substantives which have the particle of comparison כְּ‍‎, e.g. Job 7:2 כְּעֶ֫בֶד יִשְׁאַף־צֵל‎ as a servant that earnestly desireth the shadow, &c.; Deuteronomy 32:11, Isaiah 62:1, Jeremiah 23:29, Hosea 6:3, Psalms 42:2, Psalms 83:15, Job 9:26, Job 11:16; so also after כְּמוֹ‎ Psalms 58:5; after a determinate substantive, e.g. Isaiah 53:7 (but the better reading is כְּשֶׂה‎ without the article), 61:10 f., Habakkuk 2:14, Psalms 49:13, 21, 125:1; see also the examples under h. Sometimes it seems simpler in such cases, to take the verb directly as predicate to the preceding substantive, and to explain כְּ‍‎ (for כַּֽאֲשֶׁר‎; see Comparative Clauses, §161b) as a conjunction—a view which even Hupfeld was ready to accept, at least as regards Psalms 90:5, Psalms 125:1, Isaiah 53:7, Isaiah 61:11, but it can hardly be right.

(2) The cases in which the retrospective pronoun represents an accusative of the object, or would do so if not suppressed, as it usually is in such cases in relative clauses with אֲשֶׁר‎, cf. §138b. Examples with the retrospective pronoun are, Deuteronomy 32:17 אֱלֹהִים לֹא יְדָעוּם‎ gods whom they knew not (see also the end of the verse); after a substantive with בְּ‎(see above, g), Jeremiah 23:9, Job 13:28. Without a retrospective pronoun, after a determinate substantive, Judges 8:1, Psalms 33:12 (preceded by a relative clause with אֲשֶׁר‎); Job 28:1. Other examples of this kind, though the article is omitted according to poetic usage, are Isaiah 15:7 (יִתְרָה עָשָׁה‎, for which Jeremiah 48:36 יִתְרָת עָשָׂה‎ with the substantive in the construct state governing the relative clause, see §130d), Psalms 7:16, Psalms 51:10, Lamentations 1:21.—Without the retrospective pronoun, after an indeterminate substantive, e.g. Isaiah 6:6 רִצְפָּה בְמֶּלְקָחַ֫יִם לָקַח מֵעַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ‎ a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar; Exodus 15:17, Isaiah 42:16 (48:17, Psalms 25:12, all after בְּדֶ֫רֶךְ‎; but Psalms 32:8 בְּדֶ֫רֶךְ־זוּ תֵלֵךְ‎); Isaiah 64:2; Ecclesiastes 10:5 (in 6:1 the same clause with אֲשֶׁר‎); moreover, in Jeremiah 14:18 read with the LXX אֶל־אֶ֫רֶץ לֹא יָדָֽעוּ‎ into a land (that) they know not.

(3) The cases in which the retrospective pronoun is dependent on a preposition, or its place is taken by the adverb שָׁם‎, as in Jeremiah 2:6 end. Thus after a determinate substantive, Psalms 18:3 צוּרִי אֶֽחֱסֶה־בּוֹ‎ my rock in which I take refuge; Exodus 18:20, Isaiah 42:1; in Jb 33 a also, the omission of the article with יוֹם‎ is only a poetic licence. After an indeterminate substantive, Jeremiah 2:6, last clause but one; Psalms 32:2.

In this case also the retrospective word is not infrequently suppressed, giving rise to extremely short, bold expressions, such as Isaiah 51:1 look unto the rock חֻצַּבְתֶּם‎ (whence) ye were hewn, and to the hole of the pit נֻקַּרְתֶּם‎ (whence) ye were digged; Job 21:27 the devices (where-with) ye act violently against me.—A retrospective adverb is suppressed in Job 38:19 where is the way (to the place where) the light dwelleth? cf. 38:24.

Rem. 1. The omission of the retrospective word occurs most frequently in relative clauses which are governed by the construct state of a preceding substantive (especially an expression of time) and hence are virtually in the genitive. In addition to the instances already given in §130d, cf. the following: after בְּיוֹם‎ Leviticus 7:35, Psalms 56:10; after מִיּוֹם‎ Jeremiah 36:2; after simple יוֹם‎ Psalms 56:4 (יוֹם אִירָא‎ on the day when I am afraid); after בְּעֵת‎ 2 Chronicles 29:27 (בְּעֵת הֵחֵל הָֽעוֹלָה‎ at the time when the burnt offering began); 20:22, 24:11, Job 6:17; after לְעֵת‎ Deuteronomy 32:35; after עַד־עֵת‎ Micah 5:2; after מֵעֵת‎ Psalms 4:8 thou hast put gladness in my heart more than (their gladness) at the time (when) their corn and their wine are increased.

2. The agreement (§138d) of the retrospective pronoun with a pronominal regens in the 1st or 2nd person also takes place in a simple co-ordinated relative clause in 1 Samuel 26:14 who art thou (that) criest? Cf., however, Isaiah 63:19 we are become as they over whom (בָּם‎ not בָּ֫נוּ‎) thou no longer bearest rule.

3. Occasionally—chiefly in poetic or otherwise elevated style—even independent relative clauses are simply co-ordinated with a regens, whereas we should expect them always to be preceded by a demonstrative pronoun, on the analogy of the examples in §138e. The suppressed pronoun would stand—

(a) As subject, Isaiah 41:24 an abomination (is he) that chooseth you (but read perhaps לִבְחֹר‎); Job 30:13, cf. §152u.

(b) As object, Isaiah 41:2, with a retrospective pronoun; Malachi 2:16 וְכִסָּה‎ and him that covereth (or read וְכֹסֶה‎ ?); Job 29:12 I delivered... the fatherless also, and him that had none to help him.

(c) In the genitive governed by a substantive (cf. §130d), Exodus 4:13 שְׁלַח־נָא בְּיַד־תִּשְׁלָֽח‎ send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send, i.e. by the hand of some one else; Psalms 65:5 and Proverbs 8:32, verbal-clauses after אֵשְׁרֵי‎ O the happiness of the man, &c.; Psalms 81:6, Psalms 141:9, Job 29:16, Lamentations 1:14; after כָּל־‎ Genesis 39:4, but we must certainly read here, with the Samaritan and LXX, כָּל־אֲשֶׁר יֶשׁ־לוֹ‎ as in verses 5 and 8; Exodus 9:4; verbal-clauses after כָּל־‎ 1 Chronicles 29:3, 2 Chronicles 30:19, 2 Chronicles 31:19, Ezra 1:5.

(d) Governed by a preposition; so verbal-clauses after אַֽחֲרֵי‎ Jeremiah 2:8; after אֶל־‎ (=to the place where), 1 Chronicles 15:12, but Exodus 23:20 before the same verb אֶל־הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר‎; after בְּ‎ Jeremiah 2:11, 2 Chronicles 1:4 (בַּֽהֵכִין‎=בְּהַֽה׳‎=to the place where); after לְ‎ Isaiah 65:1 לְלוֹא שָׁאָ֫לוּ‎ by them that asked not for me... לְלֹא בִקְשֻׁ֫נִי‎ them that sought me not; Ezekiel 13:3 that which they have not seen, but the text is hardly correct; after עַל‎ Psalms 119:136, cf. §158b; after עִם‎ 2 Chronicles 16:9.—A noun-clause follows לְ‎ in Nehemiah 8:10. An analogous instance in Aramaic is Ezra 5:14 to one whose name was Sheshbazzar [so in the papyri, see the Lexicon, p. 1116a].

  1. In this exhaustive article the author shows that between שׁ‎ (on the pronunciation see § 36) and אֲשֶׁר‎ there is syntactically no primary difference, but only a secondary distinction which arose in the course of the development of the language, namely that אֲשֶׁר‎ is preferred in combinations which are customary in the old literary language, and שׁ‎ in those which are derived from the popular language or from Aramaic.
  2. The old view that all these cases arise from the omission of אֲשֶׁר‎ is incorrect. These co-ordinated attributive clauses are rather a mere subdivision of the various kinds of circumstantial clauses (see § 156) which may be attached to a nomen regens. Cf. in English this is the letter (which) he wrote to me.
  3. So Baumann, op. cit., p. 14 f., following Böttcher, Lehrbuch, ii. 80.
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