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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 48

§48. Shortening and Lengthening of the Imperfect and Imperative. The Jussive and Cohortative.

1. Certain modifications which take place in the form of the imperfect, and express invariably, or nearly so, a distinct shade of meaning, serve to some extent as a compensation for the want of special forms for the Tempora relativa and for certain moods of the verb.

2. Along with the usual form of the imperfect, there exists also a lengthened form of it (the cohortative), and a shortened form (the jussive).[1] The former occurs (with few exceptions) only in the 1st person, while the latter is mostly found in the 2nd and 3rd persons, and less frequently in the 1st person. The laws of the tone, however, and of the formation of syllables in Hebrew, not infrequently precluded the indication of the jussive by an actual shortening of the form; consequently it often—and, in the imperfect forms with afformatives, always—coincides with the ordinary imperfect (indicative) form.

In classical Arabic the difference is almost always evident. That language distinguishes, besides the indicative yăqtŭlŭ, (a) a subjunctive, yăqtŭlă; (b) a jussive, yăqtŭl; (c) a double ‘energetic’ mood of the impf., yăqtŭlănnă and yăqtŭlăn, in pause yăqtŭlā, the last form thus corresponding to the Hebrew cohortative.

3. The characteristic of the cohortative form is an ā (־ָה‎) affixed to the 1st pers. sing. or plur., e.g. אֶקְטְלָה‎ from אֶקְטֹל‎.[2] It occurs in almost all conjugations and classes of the strong and weak verb (except of course in the passives), and this final ־ָה‎ has the tone wherever the afformatives וּ‎ and ־ִי‎ would have it. As before these endings, so also before the ־ָה‎ cohortative, the movable vowel of the last syllable of the verbal form becomes Šeewâ, e.g. in Qal אֶשְׁמְרָ֫ה‎ I will observe, in Piʿel נְנַתְּקָ֫ה‎ let us break asunder, Psalms 2:3; on אֶשְׁקֳטָה‎ Isaiah 18:4 Qe (cf. also Isaiah 27:4, Ezra 8:25, &c.), see §10h; with the Kethîbh of these passages, compare the analogous cases ישׁפוטו‎, &c., §47g.—On the other hand, an unchangeable vowel in the final syllable is retained as tone-vowel before the ־ָה‎, as (e.g.) in Hiph. אַזְכִּ֫ירָה‎ I will praise. In pause (as before û and î), the vowel which became Še is restored as tone-vowel; thus for the cohortative אֶשְׁמְרָ֫ה‎ the pausal form is אֶשְׁמֹ֑רָה‎ Psalms 59:10; cf. Genesis 18:21, Isaiah 41:26.

The change of ־ָה‎ into the obtuse ־ֶה‎ seems to occur in 1 Samuel 28:15, unless, with Nestle, we are to assume a conflate reading, וָֽאֶקְרִַא‎ and וָֽאֶקְרֶה‎; and with the 3rd pers. Psalms 20:4, in a syllable sharpened by a following Dageš forte conjunct.; cf. similar cases of the change of ־ָה‎ into the obtuse ־ֶה‎ in l and in §§73d, 80i, 90i. In Psalms 20:4, however, יְדַשְּׁנֶ֫הָ‎—with suffix—is probably intended. An ־ָה‎ cohort. is also found with the 3rd pers. in Isaiah 5:19 (twice); Ezekiel 23:20, and again in verse 16 according to the Qe, but in both these cases without any effect on the meaning. Probably another instance occurs in Job 11:17, although there תָּעֻ֫פָה‎ might also, with Qimḥi, be regarded as 2nd masc. For the doubly irregular form תָּב֫וֹאתָה‎ Deuteronomy 33:16 (explained by Olshausen and König as a scribal error, due to a confusion with תבואת‎ in verse 14), read תָּב֫וֹאנָה‎. For תְּבוֹאָֽתְךָ‎ Job 22:21 the noun תְּבוּאָֽתְךָ‎ thine increase, might be meant, but the Masora has evidently intended an imperfect with the ending ath, instead of ־ָה‎, before the suffix, on the analogy of the 3rd sing. fem. perfect, see §59a; on ותבאתי‎ 1 Samuel 25:34, see §76h.

The cohortative expresses the direction of the will to an action and thus denotes especially self-encouragement (in the 1st plur. an exhortation to others at the same time), a resolution or a wish, as an optative, &c., see § 108.

4. The general characteristic of the jussive form of the imperfect is rapidity of pronunciation, combined with a tendency to retract the tone from the final syllable, in order by that means to express the urgency of the command in the very first syllable. This tendency has, in certain forms, even caused a material shortening of the termination of the word, so that the expression of the command appears to be concentrated on a single syllable. In other cases, however, the jussive is simply marked by a shortening of the vowel of the second syllable, without its losing the tone, and very frequently (see above, b) the nature of the form does not admit of any alteration. It is not impossible, however, that even in such cases the jussive in the living language was distinguished from the indicative by a change in the place of the tone.

In the strong verb the jussive differs in form from the indicative only in Hiphʿîl (juss. יַקְטֵל‎, ind. יַקְטִיל‎), and similarly in the weak verb, wherever the imperfect indicative has î in the second syllable, e.g. from יָשַׁב‎ impf. Hiph. יוֹשִׁיב‎, juss. יוֹשֵׁב‎; from מוּת‎, יָמִית‎ and יָמֵת‎; also in Qal of the verbs ע״וּ‎ and ע״י‎, as יָמֹת‎, ind. יָמוּת‎; יָגֵל‎, ind. יָגִיל‎; in all conjugations of verbs ל״ה‎, so that the rejection (apocope) of the ending ־ֶה‎ in Qal and Hiph. gives rise to monosyllabic forms, with or without a helping vowel under the second radical, e.g. Qal ind. יִגְלֶה‎, juss. יִ֫גֶל‎; Hiph. ind. יַגְלֶה‎, juss. יֶ֫גֶל‎; and in the Piʿēl יְצַו‎ from the indic. יְצַוֶּה‎ (called apocopated imperfects). But almost all[3] the plural forms of the jussive coincide with those of the indicative, except that the jussive excludes the fuller ending וּן‎. Neither do the forms of the 2nd sing. fem., as תַּקְטִ֫ילִי‎, תָּמ֫וּתִי‎, תִּגְלִי‎, &c., admit of any change in the jussive, nor any forms, whether singular or plural, to which suffixes are attached, e.g. תְּמִיתֵ֫נִי‎ as ind. Jeremiah 38:15, as jussive Jeremiah 41:8.

The meaning of the jussive is similar to that of the cohortative, except that in the jussive the command or wish is limited almost exclusively to the and or 3rd pers. On special uses of the jussive, e.g. in hypothetical sentences (even in the 1st pers.), see §109h.

5. The imperative, in accordance with its other points of connexion with the imperfect in form and meaning, admits of a similar lengthening (by ־ָה‎, Arab. imper. energicus, with the ending -ănnă or -ăn, in pause ) and shortening. Thus in Qal of the strong verb, the lengthened form of שְׁמֹר‎ guard is שָׁמְרָה‎[4] (šŏme, cf. קִטְלִי‎ qîṭe, §46d); עֲזֹב‎, עָזְבָה‎ Jeremiah 49:11; שְׁכַב‎, שִׁכְבָה‎ lie down; שְׁמַע‎, שִׁמְעָה‎ hear, in lesser pause שְׁמָ֫עָה‎ Daniel 9:19; in Niphʿal הִשָּֽׁבְעָה‎ Genesis 21:23. Cf., however, also מִכְרָה‎ sell, Genesis 25:31, notwithstanding the impf. יִמְכֹּר‎; עֶרְכָה‎ Job 33:5 (cf. עִרְכוּ‎ Jeremiah 46:3), but impf. יַֽעֲרֹךְ‎; אֶֽסְפָה‎ collect, Numbers 11:16 (for אִס׳‎ cf. §63l and the plural אִסְפוּ‎), but 2nd masc. אֱסֹף‎; נִצְּרָה‎ Psalms 141:3. Barth (see above, §47i note) finds in these forms a trace of old imperfects in i, cf. §63n. On the other hand, קָרְבָה‎ Psalms 69:19 (also Imperat. קְרַב‎ Leviticus 9:7, &c.), but impf. יִקְרַב‎. Without ה‎, we have the form לְךָ‎ go, Numbers 23:13, Judges 19:13, 2 Chronicles 25:17. The form קְטֹל‎ in pause becomes קְטֹ֫לָה‎, the form קְטַל‎ becomes קְטָ֫לָה‎, e.g. יְרָ֫שָׁה‎ Deuteronomy 33:23. But also without the pause we find מְ֫לוֹכָה‎ Judges 9:8 Keth. and צְרוֹפָה‎ Psalms 26:2 Keth., on which see §46e. On the other hand רְגָ֫זָה‎, פְּשֹׁ֫טָה‎, עֹ֫רָה‎, חֲג֫וֹרָה‎ Isaiah 32:11 are to be explained as aramaizing forms of the and plur. fem.; also for חִרְדוּ‎ v. 11 read חֲרָ֫דָה‎, and for סֹֽפְדִים‎ v. 12 read סְפֹ֫דָה‎.

The shortened imperative is found only in verbs ל״ה‎, e.g. in Piʿēl גַּל‎ from גַּלֵּה‎. The shade of meaning conveyed by the imperatives with ־ָה‎ is not always so perceptible as in the cohortative forms of the imperfect, but the longer form is frequently emphatic, e.g. קוּם‎ rise up, ק֫וּמָה‎ up! תֵּן‎ give, תְּנָה‎ give up!

Rem. The form דְּעֶה‎ for דְּעָה‎, best attested in Proverbs 24:14 (where it is taken by the Masora as imperat., not as infin., דַּעָה‎) is evidently due to the influence of the ה‎ which follows it in close connexion (so Strack, on the analogy of Job 31:2); for other examples of this change of a to Seghol, see above, under d, §73d, and §80i. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether רַבֶּה‎ Judges 9:29 (from רָבָה‎) is intended for רַבָּה‎, and not rather for the common form of the imperative Piʿēl רַבֵּה‎. In favour of the former explanation it may be urged that the imperative צֵ֫אָה‎ (from יָצָא‎) follows immediately after; in favour of the latter, that the ending ־ָה‎, with imperatives of verbs ל״ה‎, is not found elsewhere, and also that here no guttural follows (as in Proverbs 24:14).

  1. The perfect has only one form, since it cannot be used, like the imperfect, to express mood-relations (see §106p).
  2. Probably this ā goes back to the syllable an, which in Arabic (see above, Rem. to b) is used for the formation of the ‘energetic’ mood, and in Hebrew (see the footnote to §58i) often stands before suffixes.
  3. Only in 1st plur. do we find a few shortened forms, as נַשְׁאֵר‎ 1 Samuel 14:36, parallel with cohortatives; and נֵ֫רֶא‎ Isaiah 41:23 Keth.
  4. On the reading שָֽׁמְרָה‎ (i.e. šāmera, according to the Jewish grammarians), required by the Masora in Psalms 86:2, Psalms 119:167 (cf. also Isaiah 38:14, and שָֽׁמְרֵנִי‎ Psalms 16:1), see §9v; on מלוכה‎, Judges 9:8 Keth., see §46e.
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