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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 51

Verba Derivativa, or Derived Conjugations.
§51. Niphʿal.[1]

1. The essential characteristic of this conjugation consists in a prefix[2] to the stem. This exists in two forms: (a) the (probably original) prepositive , as in the Hebrew perfect and participle, although in the strong verb the ă is always attenuated to ĭ: נִקְטַל‎ for original nă-qăṭăl, participle נִקְטָל‎, infinitive absolute sometimes נִקְטוֹל‎; (b) the (later) proclitic in (as in all the forms of the corresponding Arabic conjugation vii. ʾinqătălă), found in the imperfect יִקָּטֵל‎ for yinqāṭēl, in the imperative and infinitive construct, with a secondary ה‎ added, הִקָּטֵל‎ (for hinqāṭēl), and in the infinitive absolute הִקָּטֹל‎ The inflexion of Niphʿal is perfectly analogous to that of Qal.

The features of Niphʿal are accordingly in the perfect and participle the prefixed Nûn, in the imperative, infinitive, and imperfect, the Dageš in the first radical. These characteristics hold good also for the weak verb. In the case of an initial guttural, which, according to §22b, cannot take Dageš forte, the emission of the strengthening invariably causes the lengthening of the preceding vowel (see §63h).

2. As regards its meaning, Niphʿal bears some resemblance to the Greek middle voice, in being—(a) primarily reflexive of Qal, e.g. נִלְחַץ‎ to thrust oneself (against), נִשְׁמַר‎ to take heed to oneself, φυλάσσεσθαι, נִסְתַּר‎ to hide oneself, נִגְאַל‎ to redeem oneself; cf. also נַֽעֲנֶה‎ to answer for oneself. Equally characteristic of Niphʿal is its frequent use to express emotions which react upon the mind; נִחַם‎ to trouble oneself, נֶֽאֱנַח‎ to sigh (to bemoan oneself, cf. ὀδύρεσθαι, lamentari, contristari); as well as to express actions which the subject allows to happen to himself, or to have an effect upon himself (Niphʿal tolerativum), e.g. דָּרַשׁ‎ to search, to inquire, Niph. to allow oneself to be inquired of, Isaiah 65:1, Ezekiel 14:3, &c.; so the Niph. of מָצָא‎ to find, יָסַר‎ to warn, to correct, Jeremiah 6:8, Jeremiah 31:18, &c.

(b) It expresses reciprocal or mutual action, e.g. דִּבֶּר‎ to speak, Niph. to speak to one another; שָׁפַט‎ to judge, Niph. to go to law with one another; יָעַץ‎ to counsel, Niph. to take counsel, cf. the middle and deponent verbs βουλεύεσθαι (נוֹעַץ‎), μάξεσθαι (נְלְחַם‎), altercari, luctari (נִצָּה‎ to strive with one another) proeliari.

(c) It has also, like Hithpaʿēl (§54f) and the Greek middle, the meaning of the active, with the addition of to oneself (sibi), for oneself, e.g. נִשְׁאַל‎ to ask (something) for oneself (1 Samuel 20:628, Nehemiah 13:6), cf. αἰτοῦμαί σε τοῦτο, ἐνδύσασθαι χιτῶνα to put out on (oneself) a tunic.

(d) In consequence of a looseness of thought at an early period of the language, Niphʿal comes finally in many cases to represent the passive[3] of Qal, e.g. יָלַד‎ to bear, Niph. to be born; קָבַר‎ to bury, Niph. to be buried. In cases where Qal is intransitive in meaning, or is not used, Niphʿal appears also as the passive of Piʿēl and Hiphʿîl, e.g. כָּבֵד‎ to be in honour, Piʿēl to honour, Niph. to be honoured (as well as Puʿal כֻּבַּד‎); כָּחַד‎ Piʿēl to conceal, Hiph. to destroy, Niph. passive of either. In such cases Niphʿal may again coincide in meaning with Qal (חָלָה‎ Qal and Niph. to be ill) and even take an accusative.

Examples of denominatives are, נִזְכַּר‎ to be born a male, Exodus 34:19 (from זָכָר‎; but probably הַזָּכָר‎ should here be read); נִלְבַּב‎ cordatum fieri, Job 11:12 (from לֵבָב‎ cor); doubtless also נִבְנָה‎ to obtain children, Genesis 16:2, Genesis 30:3.

The older grammarians were decidedly wrong in representing Niphʿal simply as the passive of Qal; for Niphʿal has (as the frequent use of its imperat. shows), in no respect the character of the other passives, and in Arabic a special conjugation (ʾinqătălă) corresponds to it with a passive of its own. Moreover, the forms mentioned in §52e point to a differently formed passive of Qal.—The form נְגֹֽאֲלוּ‎ Isaiah 59:3, Lamentations 4:14, is not to be regarded as a passive of Niphʿal, but with König and Cheyne as a forma mixta, in the sense that the punctuators intended to combine two optional readings, נִגְאֲלוּ‎, perf. Niph., and גֹּֽאֲלוּ‎, perf. Puʿal [cf. also Wright, Compar. Gramm., p. 224]. Although the passive use of Niphʿal was introduced at an early period, and became tolerably common, it is nevertheless quite secondary to the reflexive use.

Rem. 1 The infin. absol. נִקְטוֹל‎ is connected in form with the perfect, to which it bears the same relation as קָטוֹל‎ to קָטַל‎ in Qal, the ô in the second syllable being obscured from an original â. Examples are, נִכְסֹף‎ Genesis 31:30; נִלְחֹם‎ Judges 11:25; נִשְׁאֹל‎ 1 Samuel 20:628, all in connexion with the perfect.

Examples of the form הִקָּטֹל‎ (in connexion with imperfects) are, הִנָּתֹן‎ Jeremiah 32:4; הֵֽאָכֹל‎ Leviticus 7:18; once אִדָּרֹשׁ‎ Ezekiel 14:3, where, perhaps, the subsequent אִדָּרֵשׁ‎ has led to the substitution of א‎ for ה‎.—Moreover, the form הִקָּטֵל‎ is not infrequently used also for the infin. absol.,[4] e.g. Exodus 22:3, Numbers 15:31, Deuteronomy 4:26, 1 Kings 20:39. On the other hand, כְּהִנָּדֵף‎ should simply be read for the wholly abnormal כְּהִנְדֹּף‎, Psalms 68:3 (commonly explained as being intended to correspond in sound with the subsequent תִּנְדֹּף‎ but probably a ‘forma mixta’, combining the readings כְּהִנָּדֵף‎ and כִּנְדֹף‎). Elision of the ה‎ after prepositions is required by the Masora in בִּכָּֽשְׁלוֹ‎ Proverbs 24:17 (for בְּהִכָּ׳‎), בֵּֽהָרֵג‎ Ezekiel 26:15 and בֵּֽעָטֵף‎ Lamentations 2:11; also in verbs ל״ה‎ Exodus 10:3 (לֵֽעָנוֹת‎); Exodus 34:24, Deuteronomy 31:11, Isaiah 1:12 (לֵֽרָאוֹת‎); in verbs ע״וּ‎ Job 33:30 (לֵאוֹר‎). It is, however, extremely doubtful whether the infin. Qal of the Kethîbh is not rather intended in all these examples; it certainly is so in Lamentations 2:11, cf. Psalms 61:3.

2. Instead of the Ṣere in the ultima of the imperfect, Pathaḥ often occurs in pause, e.g. וַיִּגָּמַֽל‎ Genesis 21:8; cf. Exodus 31:17, 2 Samuel 12:15 (with final שׁ‎); 2 Samuel 17:23 (with ק‎); Jonah 1:5 (with מ‍‎); see §29q. In the 2nd and 3rd plur. fem. Pathaḥ predominates, e.g. תִּזָּכַ֫רְנָה‎ Isaiah 65:17; Ṣere occurs only in תֵּֽעָגֵ֫נָה‎ Ruth 1:13, from עגן‎, and hence, with loss of the doubling, for תֵּֽעָגֵ֫נָּה‎; cf. even תֵּֽאָמַֽנָה‎ Isaiah 60:4.—With Nûn paragogicum (see §47m) in the 2nd and 3rd plur. masc. are found, יִלָּֽכְדוּן‎, תִּלָּֽחֲמוּן‎, &c., in pause יִבָּֽהֵלוּן‎, תִּשָּֽׁמֵדוּן‎, &c.; but Job 19:24 (cf. Job 24:24) יֵחָֽצְבֽוּן‎.

3. When the imperfect, the infinitive (in ē), or the imperative is followed in close connexion by a monosyllable, or by a word with the gone on the first syllable, the tone is, as a rule (but cf. וַיֵּאָֽבֵק אִישׁ‎ Genesis 32:25), shifted back from the ultima to the penultima, while the ultima, which thus loses the tone, takes Seghôl instead of Ṣere; e.g. יִכָּ֫שֶׁל בָּהּ‎ Ezekiel 33:12; וַיֵּעָ֫תֶר לוֹ‎ Genesis 25:21; in the imperative, Genesis 13:9.—So always הִשָּׁ֫מֶר לְךָ‎ (since לְךָ‎ counts as one syllable) Genesis 24:6, &c., cf. 1 Samuel 19:2; and even with Pathaḥ in the ultima, תֵּעָ֫זַב אָ֑רֶץ‎ Job 18:4 (but cf. וַיֵּעָֽתֵ֫ר אֱלֹהִים‎ 2 Samuel 21:14). Although in isolated cases (e.g. Genesis 32:25, Ezra 8:23) the tone is not thrown back, in spite of a tone-syllable following, the retraction has become usual in certain forms, even when the next word begins with a toneless syllable; especially after ו‎ consec., e.g. וַיִּשָּׁ֫אֶר‎ Genesis 7:23; וַיִּלָּ֫חֶם‎ Numbers 21:1 and frequently, וַיִּצָּ֫מֶד‎ Numbers 25:3; and always so in the imperative הִשָּׁ֫מֶר‎ Exodus 23:21, Job 36:21, and (before Metheg of the counter-tone) Deuteronomy 24:8, 2 Kings 6:9. On the avoidance of pausal-forms in the imperative (Amos 2:12 with Silluq, Zechariah 2:11 with Athnaḥ), and imperfect (Proverbs 24:4, &c.), see §29o, and note; on the other hand, always הִמָּלֵט‎, יִמָּלֵט‎, &c.

In the imperative, נִקְבְּצוּ‎, for הִקָּֽבְצוּ‎, with the rejection of the initial ה‎, occurs in Isaiah 43:9, and in Joel 4:11 in pause נִקְבָּ֑צוּ‎ (cf. נִלְווּ‎ Jeremiah 50:5); but in these examples either the reading or the explanation is doubtful. The 2nd sing. imperat. of נִשְׁבַּע‎ is always (with ־ָה‎ paragogicum) הִשָּׁ֫בְעָה לִּי‎ swear to me, Genesis 21:23, &c. (also הִשָּֽׁבְעָה לִי‎ Genesis 47:31, 1 Samuel 30:15).

4. For the 1st sing. of the imperfect, the form אִקָּטֵל‎ is as frequent as אֶקָּטֵל‎, e.g. אִדָּרֵשׁ‎ I shall be inquired of, Ezekiel 14:3; אִשָּׁבֵעַ‎ I will swear, Genesis 21:24; cf. Genesis 16:2, Numbers 23:15, Ezekiel 20:36, and so always in the cohortative, e.g. אִנָּֽקְמָה‎ I will avenge me, Isaiah 1:24; cf. 1 Samuel 12:7, Ezekiel 26:2, and in the impf. Niph. of פ״ו‎ (§69t). The Babylonian punctuation admits only ĭ under the preformative of the 1st person.

  1. Cf. A. Rieder, De linguae Hebr. verbis, quae vocantur derivata nifal et hitpael, Gumbinnen (Progr. des Gymn.), 1884, a list of all the strong Niphʿal forms (81) and Hithpaʿēl forms (36) in the Old Testament; and especially M. Lambert, ‘L’emploi du Nifal en Hébreu,’ REJ. 41, 196 ff.
  2. See Philippi in ZDMG. 1886, p. 650, and Barth, ibid. 1894, p. 8 f.
  3. Cf. Halfmann, Beiträge zur Syntax der hebräischen Sprache, I. Stück, Wittenb., 1888, 2. St. 1892 (Gymn.-Programm), statistics of the Niphʿal (Puʿal, Hophʿal, and qāṭûl) forms at different periods of the language, for the purpose of ascertaining the meaning of Niph. and its relation to the passive; the selection of periods is, however, very questionable from the standpoint of literary criticism.
  4. But, like הִקָּטֹל‎, only in connexion with imperfects, except Jeremiah 7:9. Barth is therefore right in describing (Nominalbildung, p. 74) both forms as later analogous formations (in addition to the original Semitic נִקְטוֹל‎), intended to assimilate the infinitive to the imperfect which it strengthens.
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