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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 52

§52. Piʿēl and Puʿal.

1. The characteristic of this conjugation consists in the strengthening of the middle radical. From the simple stem qaṭal (cf. §43b) the form קַטַּל‎ (cf. the Arabic conj. ii. qăttălă) would naturally follow as the perfect of the active (Piʿ̄l). The Pathaḥ of the first syllable is, however, with one exception (see m), always attenuated to ĭ in the perfect. In the second syllable, ă has been retained in the majority of cases, so that the conjugation should more correctly be called Piʿal; but very frequently[1] this ă also is attenuated to ĭ, which is then regularly lengthened to ē, under the influence of the tone. Cf. in Aram. קַטֵּל‎; but in Biblical Aramaic almost always קַטִּל‎. On the three cases in which ă before a final ר‎ or ס‎ has passed into Seghôl, see below, l.—Hence, for the 3rd sing. masc. perfect, there arise forms like אִבַּד‎, לִמַּד‎, קִדַּשׁ‎; גִּדֵּף‎, כִּבֵּד‎, &c.—Before afformatives beginning with a consonant, however, ă is always retained, thus קִטַּ֫לְתָּ‎, קִטַּלְתֶּם‎, קִטַּ֫לְנוּ‎, &c. In the infinitives (absol. קַטֹּל‎, obscured from qaṭṭâl; constr. קַטֵּל‎), imperfect (יְקַטֵּל‎), imperative (קַטֵּל‎), and participle (טְקַטֵּל‎) the original ă of the first syllable reappears throughout. The vocal Še of the preformatives is weakened from a short vowel; cf. the Arabic imperfect yŭqăttĭl, participle mŭqăttĭl.

The passive (Puʿal) is distinguished by the obscure vowel ŭ, or very rarely ŏ, in the first syllable, and ŏ (in pause ā) always in the second. In Arabic, also, the passives are formed throughout with ŭ in the first syllable. The inflexion of both these conjugations is analogous to that of Qal.

Rem. 1. The preformative מְ‍‎, which in the remaining conjugations also is the prefix of the participle, is probably connected with the interrogative or indefinite (cf. § 37) pronoun מִי‎ quis? quicunque (fem. i.e. neuter, מָה‎); cf. §85e.

2. The Dageš forte, which according to the above is characteristic of the whole of Piʿēl and Puʿal, is often omitted (independently of verbs middle guttural, §64d) when the middle radical has Še under it (cf. §20m), e.g. שִׁלְחָה‎ for שִׁלְּחָה‎ Ezekiel 17:17; בִּקְשֻׁ֫הוּ‎ 2 Chronicles 15:15 (but in the imperative always בַּקְּשׁוּ‎ 1 Samuel 28:7, &c.), and so always in הַלְלוּ‎ praise. The vocal character of the Še under the litera dagessanda is sometimes in such cases (according to §10h) expressly emphasized by its taking the form of a Ḥaṭeph, as in לֻֽקֳחָה‎ Genesis 2:23, with ־ֳ‎ owing to the influence of the preceding u, cf. פָּֽעֳלוֹ‎ for פָּעְלוֹ‎, &c.; Genesis 9:14, Judges 16:16. In the imperfect and participle the Še under the preformatives (Ḥaṭeph-Pathaḥ under א‎ in the 1st sing. imperfect) serves at the same time as a characteristic of both conjugations (Genesis 26:14 f.).

3. According to the convincing suggestion of Böttcher[2] (Ausführliches Lehrbuch, §904ff. and § 1022), many supposed perfects of Puʿal are in reality passives of Qal. He reckons as such all those perfects, of which the Piʿēl (which ought to express the corresponding active) is either not found at all, or only (as in the case of יִלֵּד‎) with a different meaning, and which form their imperfect from another conjugation, generally Niphʿal. Such perfects are the quṭṭal form of the stems אבל‎ (imperfect תְּאֻבְּלוּ‎ Isaiah 1:20), חפשׁ‎, טרף‎, ילד‎, יצר‎, לקח‎, עבד‎, שׁגל‎, שׁטף‎, שׁפךְ‎. Barth (see below) adds to the list the apparent Puʿal-perfects of אסר‎, בזז‎, זנה‎, חצב‎, כרת‎, נפח‎, עזב‎, עשה‎, ראה‎, and of verbs with middle ר‎ (hence with ŭ of the first syllable lengthened to ō), הרג‎, הרה‎ Job 3:3 [זרה‎, see §67m], זרע‎, זרק‎, טרף‎, מרט‎, קרא‎, שׂרף‎; also the infinitives absolute הֹרוֹ וְהֹגוֹ‎ Isaiah 59:13. In these cases there is no need to assume any error on the part of the punctuators; the sharpening of the second radical may have taken place in order to retain the characteristic ŭ of the first syllable (cf. Arab. qŭtĭlă as passive of qătălă), and the a of the second syllable is in accordance with the vocalization of all the other passives (see §39f). Cf. §52s and §53u.

2. The fundamental idea of Piʿēl, to which all the various shades of meaning in this conjugation may be referred, is to busy oneself eagerly with the action indicated by the stem. This intensifying of the idea of the stem, which is outwardly expressed by the strengthening of the second radical, appears in individual cases as—(a) a strengthening and repetition of the action (cf. the intensive and iterative nouns with the middle radical strengthened, §84b),[3] e.g. צָחַק‎ to laugh, Piʿēl to jest, to make sport (to laugh repeatedly); שָׁאַל‎ to ask, Piʿēl to beg; hence when an action has reference to many, e.g. קָבַר‎ to bury (a person) Genesis 23:4, Piʿēl to bury (many) 1 Kings 11:15, and often so in Syr. and Arab. Other varieties of the intensive and iterative meaning are, e.g. פָּתַח‎ to open, Piʿēl to loose; סָפַר‎ to count, Piʿēl to recount: [cf. כִּתֵּב‎, חִשֵּׁב‎, הִלֵּךְ‎, רִפֵּא‎, חִפֵּשׂ‎, תִּפֵּשׂ‎; מְאַהֵב‎, מְרַצֵּחַ‎].

The eager pursuit of an action may also consist in urging and causing others to do the same. Hence Piʿēl has also—(b) a causative sense (like Hiphʿîl), e.g. לָמַד‎ to learn, Piʿēl to teach. It may often be turned by such phrases as to permit to, to declare or hold as (the declarative Piʿēl), to help to, e.g. חִיָּה‎ to cause to live, צִדֵּק‎ to declare innocent, יִלֵּד‎ to help in child-bearing.

(c) Denominatives (see §38b) are frequently formed in this conjugation, and generally express a being occupied with the object expressed by the noun, either to form or to make use of it, e.g. קִנֵּן‎ to make a nest, to nest (from קֵן‎), עִפֵּר‎ to throw dust, to dust (from עָפָר‎), עִנֵּן‎ to gather the clouds together (from עָנָן‎), שִׁלֵּשׁ‎ to divide in three parts, or to do a thing for the third time (from שָׁלשׁ‎); probably also דִּבֶּר‎ to speak, from דָּבָר‎ a word. Or again, the denominative may express taking away, injuring, &c., the object denoted by the noun (privative Piʿēl, cf. our to skin, to behead, to bone), e.g. שֵׁרֵשׁ‎, from שֹׁ֫רֶשׁ‎ to root out, to extirpate, זִנֵּב‎ prop. to injure the tail (זָנָב‎), hence to rout the rear of an army, to attack it; לִבֵּב‎ to ravish the heart; דִּשֵּׁן‎ to remove the ashes (דֶּ֫שֶׁן‎), חִטֵּא‎ to free from sin (חֵטְא‎), עִצֵּם‎ to break any one’s bones (עֶ֫צֶם‎; cf., in the same sense, גֵּרֵם‎ from גֶּ֫רֶם‎); סֵעֵף‎ to lop the boughs, Isaiah 10:33 (from סְעִיף‎ a bough). Some words are clearly denominatives, although the noun from which they are derived is no longer found, e.g. סִקֵּל‎ to stone, to pelt with stones (also used in this sense in Qal), and to remove stones (from a field), to clear away stones; cf. our to stone, used also in the sense of taking out the stones from fruit.

The meaning of the passive (Puʿal) follows naturally from the above, e.g. בִּקֵּשׁ‎ Piʿēl to seek, Puʿal to be sought.

In Piʿēl the literal, concrete meaning of the verb has sometimes been retained, when Qal has acquired a figurative sense, e.g. גָּלָה‎, Piʿēl to uncover, Qal to reveal, also to emigrate, i.e. to make the land bare.

Also with an intransitive sense Piʿēl occurs as an intensive form, but only in poetic language, e.g. חתת‎ in Piʿēl to be broken in pieces, Jeremiah 51:56; פִּחַד‎ to tremble, Isaiah 51:13, Proverbs 28:14; רִוָּה‎ to be drunken, Isaiah 34:57; [מִעֵט‎ to be few, Ecclesiastes 12:3]; but in Isaiah 48:8, Isaiah 60:11 instead of the Piʿēl of פתח‎ the Niphʿal is certainly to be read, with Cheyne.

Rem. 1. The (more frequent) form of the perfect with Pathaḥ in the second syllable appears especially before Maqqeph (Ecclesiastes 9:15, Ecclesiastes 12:9) and in the middle of sentences in continuous discourse, but at the end of the sentence (in pause) the form with Ṣere is more common. Cf. גִּדֵּל‎ Isaiah 49:21 with גִּדַּל‎ Joshua 4:14, Esther 3:1; מִלֵּט‎ Ezekiel 33:5 with מִלַּט‎ Ecclesiastes 9:15; קִצַּץ‎ 2 Kings 8:16 with קִצֵּץ‎ Psalms 129:4; but Qameṣ never appears in this pausal form. The 3rd sing. fem. in pause is always of the form קִטֵּ֫לָה‎, except קִבָּ֫צָה‎ Micah 1:7; the 3rd plur. always as קִטֵּ֫לוּ‎; the 2nd and 1st sing. and 1st plur. of course as קִטָּ֫לְתָּ‎, קִטָּ֫לְתְּ‎, קִטָּ֫לְתִּי‎ (but always דִּבַּֽרְתִּי‎ and לִמַּ֫דְתִּי‎), קִטָּ֫לְנוּ‎. In the 3rd sing. perf. דִּבֶּר‎ to speak, כִּפֶּר‎ to pardon, and כִּבֶּס‎ to wash clothes (also כִבֵּס‎ Genesis 49:11) take Seghôl, but become in pause דִּבֵּר‎, כִּבֵּס‎ (2 Samuel 19:25); the pausal form of כִּפֶּר‎ does not occur.

Pathaḥ in the first syllable (as in Aramaic and Arabic) occurs only once, Genesis 41:51, נַ֫שַּׁנִי‎ he made me forget, to emphasize more clearly the play on the name מְנַשֶּׁה‎.

2. In the imperfect (and jussive Judges 16:25), infinitive, and imperative Piʿēl (as also in Hithpaʿēl) the Ṣere in the final syllable, when followed by Maqqeph, is usually shortened into Seghôl, e.g. יְבַקֶּשׁ־לוֹ‎ he seeks for himself, Isaiah 40:20; קַדֶּשׁ־לִי‎ sanctify unto me, Exodus 13:2. Pausal-forms with Seghôl instead of Ṣere, as יְרַחֶף‎ Deuteronomy 32:11, אֲרַחֶם‎ Hosea 2:6 (cf. Exodus 32:6 in the infinitive, and Genesis 21:9 in the participle), owe their origin to some particular school of Masoretes, and are wrongly accepted by Baer; cf. the analogous cases in §75n and hh. If the final syllable of the imperfect Piʿēl has Pathaḥ (before a guttural or ר‎), it remains even in pause; cf. §29s and 65 e. In the 1st sing. imperfect the e-sound occurs in two words for Ḥaṭeph-Pathaḥ, under the preformative א‎; אֱזָרֶה‎ Leviticus 26:33, Ezekiel 5:12, Ezekiel 12:14 and וְאֵסָ֣עֲרֵם‎ Zechariah 7:14 (in accordance with §23h).—Before the full plural ending וּן‎ (see §47m) the Ṣere is retained in pause, e.g. תְּדַבֵּר֑וּן‎ Psalms 58:2 (but Genesis 32:20 תְּדַבְּר֣וּן‎), cf. 2 Kings 6:19, Deuteronomy 12:3; so before Silluq Psalms 58:3, Job 21:11 and even before Zaqeph qaṭon Deuteronomy 7:5. Instead of תְּקַטֵּ֫לְנָה‎, forms like תְּקַטַּ֫לְנָה‎ are also found, e.g. Isaiah 3:16, Isaiah 13:18, in both cases before a sibilant and in pause. Also פַּלַּג‎ Psalms 55:10 occurs as the 2nd sing. imperative (probably an intentional imitation of the sound of the preceding בַּלַּע‎) and קָרַב‎ (for qarrabh) Ezekiel 37:17.

3. The infinite absolute of Piʿēl has sometimes the special form קַטֹּל‎ given in the paradigm, e.g. יַסֹּר‎ castigando, Psalms 118:18; cf. Exodus 21:19, 1 Kings 19:10 (from a verb ל״א‎); Psalms 40:2 (from a verb ל״ה‎); but much more frequently the form of the infinitive construct (קַטֵּל‎) is used instead. The latter has also, in exceptional cases, the form קִטֵּל‎ (with ă attenuated to ĭ as in the perfect), e.g. in 1 Chronicles 8:8 שִׁלְחוֹ‎; perhaps also (if not a substantive) קִטֵּר‎ Jeremiah 44:21; and for the sake of assonance even for infinitive absolute in 2 Samuel 12:14 (נִאֵץ נִאַ֫צְתָּ‎). On the other hand, שִׁלֵּם‎ Deuteronomy 32:35 and דִּבֵּר‎ Jeremiah 5:13 are better regarded as substantives, while דִּבֶּר‎ Exodus 6:28, Numbers 3:1, Deuteronomy 4:15 (in each case after בְּיוֹם‎), Hosea 1:2 (after תְּחִלַּת‎), in all of which places it is considered by König (after Qimḥi) to be infinitive construct, is really perfect of Piʿēl.

The infinitive construct Piʿēl, with the fem. ending (cf. §45d), occurs in יַסְּרָה‎ Leviticus 26:18; זַמְּרָה‎ Psalms 147:1; with ת‎ of the fem. before a suffix צַדֶּקְתֵּךְ‎ Ezekiel 16:52. On the verbal nouns after the form of the Aram. inf. Pa‛il (קַטָּלָה‎), see §84be.

Instead of the abnormal מְאָֽסְפָיו‎ (so Baer, Isaiah 62:9) as ptcp. Pi‛el, read מְאַסְ׳‎ with ed. Mant. and Ginsburg.

4. In Puʿal ŏ is sometimes found instead of ŭ in the initial syllable, e.g. מְאָדָּם‎ dyed red, Exodus 25:5, &c., Nahum 2:4, cf. Nahum 3:7 שָׁדְּדָה‎; Ezekiel 16:4, Psalms 72:20, Psalms 80:11. According to Baer’s reading also in תְּרָצְּחוּ‎ Psalms 62:4, and so also Ben Ašer, but Ben Naphtali תְּרַצְּחוּ‎. It is merely an orthographic licence when ŭ is written fully, e.g. יוּלַּד‎ Judges 18:29.

5. As infinitive absolute, of Puʿal we find גֻּנֹּב‎ Genesis 40:15.—No instance of the inf. constr. occurs in the strong verb in Puʿal; from ל״ה‎ with suffix עֻנּוֹתוֹ‎ Psalms 132:1.

6. A few examples occur of the participle Puʿal without the preformative (מְ‍‎), e.g. אֻכָּל‎ Exodus 3:2; יוּלָּד‎ (for מְיֻלָּד‎) Judges 13:8; לֻקָּח‎ 2 Kings 2:10; סֹעֲרָה‎ Isaiah 54:11. These participles are distinguished from the perfect (as in Niphʿal) by the ā of the final syllable. For other examples, see Isaiah 30:24, Ecclesiastes 9:12 (where יוּקָשִׁים‎, according to §20n, stands for יֻקָּ׳‎ = מְיֻקָּ׳‎); but, according to the Masora, not Ezekiel 26:17, since הַֽהֻלָּ֫לָה‎ as Mil‛êl can only be the perfect. The rejection of the מְ‍‎ may be favoured by an initial מ‍‎, as in Isaiah 18:27 (but also מְמֻשָּׁךְ‎); Proverbs 25:19 (where, however, read מוֹעֶ֫דֶת‎); so also in the participle Piʿēl מָאֵן‎ Exodus 7:27, Exodus 9:2 (always after אִם‎, but cf. also הַמֵּאֲנִים‎ Jeremiah 13:10, where, however, הַמָּֽאֲנִים‎ = הַמְמָֽאֲנִים‎ is to be read, with Brockelmann, Grundriss, p. 264 f.) and מַהֵר‎ Zephaniah 1:14 (and Isaiah 8:13?). Notice, however, Barth’s suggestion (Nominalbildung, p. 273) that, as the active of forms like אֻכָּל‎ only occurs in Qal, they are perfect participles of former passives of Qal (see e), and in Jeremiah 13:10, Jeremiah 23:32, perfect participles of Piʿēl.—On מְרֻבַּע‎ Ezekiel 45:2, see §65d.

  1. So in all verbs which end in Nûn, and in almost all which end in Lamed (Olsh. p. 538). Barth is probably right in supposing (ZDMG. 1894, p. 1 ff.) that the vowels of the strengthened perfects have been influenced by the imperfect.
  2. As Mayer Lambert observes, the same view was already expressed by Ibn Ǵanâḥ (see above, §3d) in the Kitāb el-lumaʿ, p. 161. Cf. especially Barth, ‘Das passive Qal und seine Participien,’ in the Festschrift zum Jubiläum Hildesheimer (Berlin, 1890), p. 145 ff.
  3. Analogous examples, in which the strengthening of a letter has likewise an intensive force, are such German words as reichen, recken (Eng. to reach, to rack); streichen (stringo), strecken: cf. Strich (a stroke), Strecke (a stretch); wacker from wachen; others, in which it has the causative sense, are stechen, stecken; wachen (watch), wecken (wake); τέλλω to bring to an end (cf. the stem τέλω to end, in τέλος, τελέω); γεννάω to beget, from the stem γένω to come into being (cf. γένος).
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