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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 49

§49. The Perfect and Imperfect with Wāw Consecutive.

1. The use of the two tense-forms, as is shown more fully in the Syntax (§§ 106, 107, cf. above, § 47, note on a), is by no means restricted to the expression of the past or future. One of the most striking peculiarities in the Hebrew consecution of tenses[1] is the phenomenon that, in representing a series of past events, only the first verb stands in the perfect, and the narration is continued in the imperfect. Conversely, the representation of a series of future events begins with the imperfect, and is continued in the perfect. Thus in 2 Kings 20:1, In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death (perf.), and Isaiah... came (imperf.) to him, and said (imperf.) to him, &c. On the other hand, Isaiah 7:17, the Lord shall bring (imperf.) upon thee... days, &c., Isaiah 7:18, and it shall come to pass (perf. וְהָיָה‎) in that day...

This progress in the sequence of time, is regularly indicated by a pregnant and (called wāw consecutive[2]), which in itself is really only a variety of the ordinary wāw copulative, but which sometimes (in the imperf.) appears with a different vocalization. Further, the tenses connected by wāw consecutive sometimes undergo a change in the tone and consequently are liable also to other variations.

2. The wāw consecutive of the imperfect is (a) pronounced with Pathaḥ and a Dageš forte in the next letter, as וַיִּקְטֹל‎ and he killed; before א‎ of the 1st pers. sing. (according to §22c) with Qameṣ, as וָֽאֶקְטֹל‎ and I killed. Exceptions are, וַֽאֲכַסֵּךְ‎ Ezekiel 16:10 according to the Dikduke ha-ṭeamim, § 71; also וַֽאֲמֹתְתֵ֫הוּ‎ 2 Samuel 1:10 according to Qimḥi; but in Judges 6:9 וָֽאֲגָרֵשׁ‎ should be read according to Baer, and וָֽאֲ׳‎ in both places in Judges 20:6. Dageš forte is always omitted in the preformative יְ‎, in accordance with §20m.

(b) When a shortening of the imperfect form is possible (cf. §48g), it takes effect, as a rule (but cf. §51n), after wāw consec., e.g. in Hiphil וַיַּקְטֵל‎ (§53n). The tendency to retract the tone from the final syllable is even stronger after wāw consec. than in the jussive. The throwing back of the tone on to the penultima (conditional upon its being an open syllable with a long vowel, §29a), further involves the greatest possible shortening of the vowel of the ultima, since the vowel then comes to stand in a toneless closed syllable, e.g. יָקוּם‎, juss. יָקֹ֫ם‎, with wāw consec. וַיָּ֫קָם‎ and he arose (§67n and x, §68d, §69p, § 71, §72t and aa, §73e).[3]

In the first pers. sing. alone the retraction of the tone and even the reducing of the long vowel in the final syllable (û to ō, î to ē, and then to ŏ and ĕ) are not usual,[4] at least according to the Masoretic punctuation, and the apocope in verbs ל״ה‎ occurs more rarely; e.g. always וָֽאָקוּם‎ (or וָֽאָקֻ֫ם‎, a merely orthographic difference) and I arose; Hiph. וָֽאָקִים‎ (but generally written וָֽאָקִם‎, implying the pronunciation wāʾā́qem, as וָֽאָקֻם‎ implies wāʾāqŏm); וָֽאֶרְאֶה‎ and I saw, more frequently than וָאֵ֫רֶא‎, §75t. On the other hand, the form with final ־ָה‎ is often used in the 1st pers. both sing. and plur., especially in the later books, e.g. וָֽאֶשְׁלְחָה‎ and I sent, Genesis 32:6, Genesis 41:11, Genesis 43:21, Numbers 8:19 (וָֽאֶתְּנָה‎, as in Judges 6:9, 1 Samuel 2:28, and often, probably a sort of compensation for the lost נ‍‎); Judges 6:10, Judges 12:3, 2 Samuel 22:24, Psalms 3:6, Psalms 7:5, Psalms 90:10, Psalms 119:55, Job 1:15 ff., Job 19:20, Ezekiel 7:28, Ezekiel 8:25, Ezekiel 9:3, Nehemiah 2:13, Nehemiah 5:7813, Nehemiah 6:11, Nehemiah 13:782111121, &c.—Sometimes, as in Psalms 3:6, with a certain emphasis of expression, and probably often, as in Judges 10:12, וָֽאוֹשִׁ֫יעָה‎ before א‎, for euphonic reasons. In Isaiah 8:2 וָֽאָעִ֫ידָה‎ may have been originally intended; in Psalms 73:16 וָֽאֲח׳‎ and in Job 30:26 וָֽאֲי׳‎. In Ezekiel 3:3 read וָאֹֽכְלֶהָ‎ or וָאֹֽכְלָהּ‎.

This ו·‎ is in meaning a strengthened wāw copulative, and resembles in pronunciation the form which is retained in Arabic as the ordinary copula ().[5] The close connexion of this with the following consonant, caused the latter in Hebrew to take Dageš, especially as ă could not have been retained in an open syllable. Cf. בַּמָּה‎, כַּמָּה‎, לָ֫מָּה‎ (for לַמָּה‎), where the prepositions בְּ‎ and לְ‎, and the particle כְּ‍‎, are closely connected with מָה‎ in the same way (§102k).

The retraction of the tone also occurs in such combinations, as in לָ֫מָּה‎ (for לַמָּ֫ה‎ §102l).—The identity of many consecutive forms with jussives of the same conjugation must not mislead us into supposing an intimate relation between the moods. In the consecutive forms the shortening of the vowel (and the retraction of the tone) seems rather to be occasioned solely by the strengthening of the preformative syllable, while in the jussives the shortening (and retraction) belongs to the character of the form.

3. The counterpart of wāw consecutive of the imperfect is wāw consecutive of the perfect, by means of which perfects are placed as the sequels in the future to preceding actions or events regarded as incomplete at the time of speaking, and therefore in the imperfect, imperative, or even participle. This wāw is in form an ordinary wāw copulative, and therefore shares its various vocalization (וְ‎, וּ‎, וָ‎, as 2 Kings 7:4, and וַ‎); e.g. וְהָיָה‎, after an imperfect, &c., and so it happens = and it will happen. It has, however, the effect, in certain verbal forms, of shifting the tone from the penultima, generally on to the ultima, e.g. הָלַ֫כְתִּי‎ I went, consecutive form וְהָֽלַכְתִּ֫י‎ and I will go, Judges 1:3, where it is co-ordinated with another perfect consecutive, which again is the consecutive to an imperative. See further on this usage in § 112.

As innumerable examples show, the Qameṣ of the first syllable is retained in the strong perf. consec. Qal, as formerly before the tone, so now in the secondary tone, and therefore necessarily takes Metheg. On the other hand, the ō of the second syllable in verbs middle ō upon losing the tone necessarily becomes ŏ, e.g. וְיָֽכָלְתָּ֫‎ Exodus 18:23.

The shifting forward of the tone after the wāw consecutive of the perfect is, however, not consistently carried out. It is omitred—(a) always in the 1st pers. pl., e.g. וְיָשַ֫בְנוּ‎ Genesis 34:16; (b) regularly in Hiphʿil before the afformatives ־ָה‎ and וּ‎, see §53r; and (c) in many cases in verbs ל״א‎ and ל״ה‎, almost always in the 1st sing. of ל״א‎ (Jeremiah 29:14), and in ל״ה‎ if the vowel of the 2nd syllable is î, Exodus 17:6, Exodus 26:46710 ff., Judges 6:26, &c., except In Qal (only Leviticus 24:5, before א‎) and the 2nd sing. masc. of Hiphʿil-forms before א‎, Numbers 20:8, Deuteronomy 20:13, 1 Samuel 15:3, 2 Kings 13:17; similarly in Piʿēl before א‎, Exodus 25:24, Jeremiah 27:4. On the other hand the tone is generally moved forward if the second syllable has ê (in ל״א‎ Genesis 27:10 &c., in ל״ה‎ Exodus 40:4, Jeremiah 33:6, Ezekiel 32:7); but cf. also וְיָרֵ֫אתָ‎ Leviticus 19:1432 and frequently, always before the counter-tone, Joel 4:21, Psalms 19:14.[6] With ā in the penultima the form is וְנָשָׂ֫אתָ‎ Isaiah 14:4, and probably also וְקָרָ֫אתָ‎ Jeremiah 2:2, Jeremiah 3:12, 1 Samuel 10:2 with little Tēlîšā, a postpositive accent.

But before a following א‎ the ultima mostly bears the tone on phonetic grounds, e.g. וּבָאתָ֫ אֶל־‎ Genesis 6:18, Exodus 3:18, Zechariah 6:10 (by the side of וּבָ֫אתָ‎), &c. (cf., however, וְקָרָ֫אתָ‎, before א‎, Genesis 17:19, Jeremiah 7:27, Exodus 36:29); וְהִכִּיתָ֫ אֶת־‎ Judges 6:16, cf. Exodus 25:11, Leviticus 24:5 (but also וְצִוִּ֫יתִי אֶת־‎ Leviticus 25:21). Likewise, before ה‎, Amos 8:9, and ע‎, e.g. Genesis 26:10, Genesis 27:12, Leviticus 26:25 (cf., however, וְקָרָ֫אתִי עָלָיו‎, Ezekiel 38:21); on verbs ע״ע‎, see §67k and § ee.

(d) The tone always keeps its place when such a perfect stands in pause, e.g. וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ‎ Deuteronomy 6:11, Deuteronomy 11:15; וְאָמָ֑רְתָּ‎ Isaiah 14:4, Judges 4:8; sometimes even in the lesser pause, as Deuteronomy 2:28, Ezekiel 3:26, 1 Samuel 29:8 (where see Driver), with Zaqeph qaṭon; and frequently also immediately before a tone-syllable (according to §29e), as in וְיָשַׁ֫בְתָּה בָּ֑הּ‎ Deuteronomy 17:14, Ezekiel 14:13, Ezekiel 17:22, Amos 1:471012—but also וְחָֽשַׁקְתָּ֫ בָ֔הּ‎ Deuteronomy 21:11, Deuteronomy 23:14. Deuteronomy 24:19, 1 Kings 8:46.

  1. The other Semitic languages do not exhibit this peculiarity, excepting the Phoenician, the most closely related to Hebrew, and of course the Moabitish dialect of the Mêšaʿ inscription, which is practically identical with Old Hebrew. It also appears in the inscription of זכר‎ of Hamāth (cf. Nöldeke, ZA. 1908, p. 379) where we find ואשּׂא ידי‎ and I lifted up my hand, ויענני‎ and he answered me, after a perfect of narration.
  2. This name best expresses the prevailing syntactical relation, for by wāw consecutive an action is always represented as the direct, or at least temporal consequence of a preceding action. Moreover, it is clear from the above examples, that the wāw consecutive can only be thus used in immediate conjunction with the verb. As soon as wāw, owing to an insertion (e.g. a negative), is separated from the verb, the imperfect follows instead of the perfect consecutive, the perfect instead of the imperfect consecutive. The fact that whole Books (Lev., Num., Josh., Jud., Sam., 2 Kings, Ezek., Ruth, Esth., Neh., 2 Chron.) begin with the imperfect consecutive, and others (Exod., 1 Kings, Ezra) with wāw copulative, is taken as a sign of their close connexion with the historical Books now or originally preceding them. Cf., on the other hand, the independent beginning of Job and Daniel. It is a merely superficial description to call the wāw consecutive by the old-fashioned name wāw conversive, on the ground that it always converts the meaning of the respective tenses into its opposite, i.e. according to the old view, the future into the preterite, and vice versa.
  3. The plural forms in וּן‎ also occur less frequently after wāw consecutive; cf., however, וַיְרִיבוּן‎ Judges 8:1, Judges 11:18, Amos 6:3, Ezekiel 44:8, Deuteronomy 4:11, Deuteronomy 5:20. The 2nd fem. sing. in ־ִין‎ never occurs after wāw consecutive.
  4. In the 1st plur. וַנַּֽעֲמִיד‎) Nehemiah 4:3 is the only instance in which the vowel remains unreduced (cf. ונשׁוב‎, i.e. וַנָּשׁוּב‎, Nehemiah 4:9 Keth.; Qe וַנָּ֫שָׁב‎). On the treatment of the tone in the imperfect, imperative, and infinitive Niphʿal, see §51n.
  5. In usage the Hebrew wāw does duty for the Arabic (wāw apodosis, see §143d) as well as .
  6. The irregularity in the tone of these perfects manifestly results from following conflicting theories, not that of Ben Asher alone.
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