Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/109. Use of the Jussive

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Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar  (1909) 
Wilhelm Gesenius
edited and enlarged by Emil Kautzsch
, translated by Arthur Ernest Cowley
Use of the Jussive

§109. Use of the Jussive.

109a As the cohortative is used in the 1st pers., so the jussive is especially found in the 2nd and 3rd pers. sing. and plur. to express a more or less definite desire that something should or should not happen (cf. for its form, which frequently coincides with that of the ordinary imperfect,[1] §48f, g). More particularly its uses may be distinguished as follows:

1. The jussive standing alone, or co-ordinated with another jussive:

109a (a) In affirmative sentences to express a command, a wish (or a blessing), advice, or a request; in the last case (the optative or precative) it is frequently strengthened by the addition of נָא. Examples: Gn 13 יְהִי אוֹר let there be light! Gn 16, 9, 11, &c. (the creative commands); Nu 626 the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace! cf. verse 25. After particles expressing a wish, Gn 3034 לוּ יְהִי I would it might be; ψ 819 אִם־תִּשְׁמַע־לִי if thou wouldest hearken unto me! As a humble request, Gn 4433... יֵֽשֶׁב־נָא עַבְדְּךָ... וְהַנַּ֫עַי יַ֫עַל let thy servant, I pray thee, abide, &c., and let the lad go up, &c., Gn 474.

109c (b) In negative sentences to express prohibition or dissuasion, warning, a negative wish (or imprecation), and a request. The prohibitive particle used before the jussive (according to §107o) is almost always אַל־ (in negative desires and requests frequently אַל־נָא); e.g. Ex 343 אִישׁ אַל־יֵרָא neither let any man be seen! Pr 37 be not (אַל־תְּהִי) wise in thine own eyes! Jb 1531 אַל־ יַֽאֲמֵן ne confidat. In the form of a request (prayer), Dt 926 אַל־תַּשְׁחֵת destroy not! 1 K 220, ψ 279, 6918.

109d Rem. 1. The few examples of לֹא with the jussive could at most have arisen from the attempt to moderate subsequently by means of the jussive (voluntative) form what was at first intended to be a strict command (לֹא with imperf. indic.); probably, however, they are either cases in which the defective writing has been misunderstood (as in 1 K 26, Ez 4814), or (as in Gn 248) instances of the purely rhythmical jussive form treated below, under k. Moreover, cf. לֹא יוֹסֵף Jo 22 and from the same verb Gn 412 (unless it is to be referred to h) and Dt 131. The same form, however, appears also to stand three times for the cohortative (see below), and in Nu 2219 for the ordinary imperfect (but see below, i). Thus it is doubtful whether an imaginary by-form of the ordinary imperf. is not intended by the Masora in all these cases, and whether consequently יוֹסִף, &c., should not be restored.—On לֹֽא־תָחוֹס עֵֽינְךָ, &c., Dt 716, 139, &c., Ez 511, &c., cf. §72r, according to which תָחוּס should probably be read in every case.—The jussive appears in the place of the cohortative after לֹא 1 S 1436 (וְלֹֽא־נַשְׁאֵר co-ordinated with two cohortatives), 2 S 1712; cf. Is 4123 Keth. (ונרא, i.e. וְנֵ֫רֶא, after another cohortative); also (see above) לֹא אֹסֵף Dt 1816, Ho 915, and even without לֹא Ez 516.

109e 2. אַל־ with the jussive (or imperf., cf. §107p) is used sometimes to express the conviction that something cannot or should not happen; cf. Is 29 (where, however, the text is very doubtful) וְאַל־תִּשָּׂא לָהֶם and thou canst not possibly forgive them [R.V. therefore forgive them not]; ψ 346, 413, 503, 1213 (אַל־יִתֵּן); Pr 325, Jb 522 אַל־תִּירָא neither needest thou be afraid; 20:17, 40:32.

109f 2. The jussive depending on other moods, or in conditional sentences:

(a) Depending[2] (with Wāw) on an imperative or cohortative to express an intention or an assurance of a contingent occurrence, e.g. Gn 2451 take her and go, and let her be (וּתְהִי prop. and she will be)...; 30:3, 31:37, 38:24, Ex 84, 913, 1017, 142, Jos 416, Ju 630, 1 S 511, 73, 1 K 2110, ψ 1445, Pr 2022, Jb 146. Also after interrogative sentences, which include a demand, Est 72 (say) what is thy desire..., וְתֵעָשׂ and it shall (i.e. in order that it may) be granted! 1 K 2220, Is 1912, Jb 3834f. Depending on a cohortative, e.g. Gn 1920 אִמָּֽלְטָה נָּא שָׁ֫פָּה oh, let me escape thither...וּתְחִי נַפְשִׁי that my soul may live; even after a simple imperf. (cf. below, g), 1 K 1333 whosoever would, he consecrated him ... וִיהִי that he might be a priest (read כֹּהֵן) of the high places, but probably the LXX reading וַיְהִי is to be preferred. 109g Rem. In 2 Ch 3521 a negative final clause with וְאַל־ is dependent on an imperative, forbear from (meddling with) God... that he destroy thee not. As a rule, however, negative final clauses are attached to the principal sentence by means of וְלֹא and a following imperfect; so after an imperative, Gn 422, 1 K 142, 1844; after a jussive, Ex 3020, Neh 69; after a perfect consec., Ex 2835, 43, 30:12, Nu 185; after לֹא with an imperfect, Lv 106, Nu 183, Dt 1717 neither shall he multiply wives unto himself (וְלֹא יָסוּר לְבָבוֹ) that his heart turn not away; 1 S 2014, 2 S 2117, Jer 1121; after אַל־ with jussive, Lv 109, 1143, 162, 2 S 1325, Jer 256, 3720, 3824 f.; after the asseverative אִם with the impft., Gn 1423; even after a simple imperfect, Jer 104 with nails... they fasten it (וְלֹא יָפִיק) that it move not; after a participle, Jb 97.

109h (b) Frequently in conditional sentences (as in Arabic), either in the protasis or in the apodosis, cf. ψ 4512 יִתְאַו should he desire... then...; 104:20 תָּ֫שֶׁת... וִיהִי if thou makest darkness, then it is night; so also in the protasis, Ex 224, Lv 1524, Is 4128, Ez 147 (וְיַ֫עַל), Jb 3429; in the apodosis, Ex 79 then will it (not, then shall it) become a serpent; Pr 99 after an imperat. in the protasis; Jb 1016, 135, 2228. In a negative apodosis, Gn 412 (לֹֽא־תֹסֵף, but see above, d). In 2 K 627 אַל־יֽוֹשִׁעֵךְ (if the Lord do not help thee, &c.) is to be explained as a jussive in a negative protasis.

109i Rem. Undoubtedly this use of the jussive (in conditional sentences) is based on its original voluntative meaning; let something be so and so, then this or that must happen as a consequence. Certain other examples of the jussive, however, show that in the consciousness of the language the voluntative has in such cases become weakened almost to a potential mood, and hence the jussive serves to express facts which may happen contingently, or may be expected, e.g. Nu 2219 (מַה־יּׄסֵף, but cf. above, d); Jb 933 there is no daysman betwixt us, that might lay (יָשֵׁת, hence plainly a subjunctive=qui ponat; also in Nu 2319 נִֽיכַזֵּב that he should lie is probably intended as a jussive); Ec 514; so after interrogative sentences, Jer 911 who is the wise man, וְיָבֵן qui intelligat hoc?; Ho 1410.

109k Moreover, in not a few cases, the jussive is used, without any collateral sense, for the ordinary imperfect form, and this occurs not alone in forms, which may arise from a misunderstanding of the defective writing, as Dt 2821, 36, 32:8, 1 K 81, Is 121, Mi 34, 58, ψ 116, 1812, 212 Qe (מַה־יָּ֫גֶל, Keth. יָגִיל), 25:9, 47:4, 90:3, 91:4, 107:29, Pr 1525, Jb 1327, 1533, 189, 2023, 3722, 3311, 3614, 3824, Ec 126 (verse 7 יָשֹׁב, but immediately afterwards תָּשׁוּב), Dn 812, —but also in shortened forms, such as יְהִי Gn 4917 (Sam; יִהְיֶה), Dt 288, 1 S 105, 2 S 524, Ho 61, 114, Am 514, Mi 12, Zp 213, Zc 95, ψ 7216 f. (after other jussives), 104:31, Jb 1812, 2023, 26, 28, 27:8, 33:21, 34:37, Ru 34. This use of the jussive can hardly be due merely to poetic licence, but is rather to be explained on rhythmical grounds. In all the above-cited examples, in fact, the jussive stands at the beginning of the sentence (and hence removed as far as possible from the principal tone), in others it is immediately before the principal pause (Is 426, 502, ψ 6815, Pr 2325, Jb 2414, 293, 4019), or actually in pause (Dt. 3218, Jb 239, 11, La 350), and is then a simply rhythmical shortening due to the strong influence of the tone. Moreover, since the jussive in numerous cases is not distinguished in form from the imperfect (§48g), it is frequently doubtful which of the two the writer intended. This especially applies to those cases, in which a subjunctive is to be expressed by one or other of the forms (cf. §107k and m–x).

  1. With regard to verbs ל״ה, it is true that the full form of the imperfect is frequently used with the meaning of the jussive (as also for the cohortative, see §108a, note 2), e.g. אַל־יִרְאֶה Jb 39 (but previously יְקַו let it look for!):especially in (Neh 23) and immediately before the principal pause, Gn 19 תֵּֽרָאֶה; Ju 639 יִהְֽיֶה, but previously יְהִי־נָא; Is 473 תֵּֽרָאֶה, previously תִּגָּל; ψ 1097. On the attempt to distinguish such jussives from the imperfect by means of a special meaning ־ֵה, see §75hh.
  2. This does not include the cases in which the jussive is not logically dependent on a preceding imperat., but is merely co-ordinated, e.g. Gn 207, ψ 2714, &c.