Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/113. The Infinitive Absolute
Cf. the dissertation of J. Kahan, and, especially, the thorough investigation by E. Sellin, both entitled, Ueber die verbal-nominals Doppelnatur der hebräischen Participien und Infinitive, &c., Lpz. 1889; F. Prätorius, ‘Ueber die sogen. Infin. absol. des Hebr.’ in ZDMG. 1902, pp. 546 ff.
113a 1. The infinitive absolute is employed according to § 45 to emphasize the idea of the verb in the abstract, i.e. it speaks of an action (or state) without any regard to the agent or to the circumstances of time and mood under which it takes place. As the name of an action the infinitive absolute, like other nouns in the stricter sense, may form part of certain combinations (as a subject, predicate, or object, or even as a genitive, see below); but such a use of the infinitive absolute (instead of the infinitive construct with or without a preposition) is, on the whole, rare, and, moreover, open to question on critical grounds. On the other hand, the infinitive absolute frequently exhibits its character as an expression of the verbal idea by taking an object, either in the accusative or even with a preposition.
113b Examples of the use of the infinitive absolute:—
113c (b) As predicate, Is 3217 and the effect of righteousness (is) הַשְׁקֵט וָבֶ֫טַח quietness (prop. to find rest) and confidence.
113d (c) As object, Is 117 לִמְדוּ הֵיטֵב learn to do well; Is 715, Pr 1512, Jb 918; according to the sense also Jer 923 23:14, as well as Is 55 (הָסֵר and פָּרֹץ virtually depend on the idea of the wish contained in עֹשֶׂה); Is 2213, where a long series of infinitives absolute is governed by הִנֵּה, and 59:13 (six infinitives governed by יְדַֽעֲנוּם in verse 12); Dt 2856 is strange since the object precedes the infinitive absolute which governs it, also Is 4224, where the statement of place precedes the infinitive absolute.—In Jer 94, Jb 133 the infinitive absolute as the object of the verb is placed before it for the sake of emphasis (with the verb negatived by לֹא in Is 5720, Jer 4923), so also in La 345 where it is the remoter object and co-ordinated with a substantive.
113e (d) As genitive, Is 1423 בְּמַטְאֲטֵא הַשְׁמֵד with the besom of destruction; so perhaps also 4:4 בְּרוּחַ בָּעֵר; cf. further, Pr 13, 2116. The infinitive absolute is never used in immediate connexion with prepositions (which as being originally substantives govern the genitive), but always the infinitive construct; but if a second infinitive is co-ordinated by וְ with such an infinitive construct, it has the form of the infinitive absolute (since it is released from the immediate government of the preposition), e.g. 1 S 2213 ... בְּתִתְּךָ לוֹ לֶחֶם וְשָׁאוֹל לוֹ בֵּֽאלֹהִים in that thou hast given him bread ... and hast enquired of God for him; Ez 363; 1 S 2526, 33 (after מִן); after לְ Ex 326, Jer 718, 4417.
113f (e) Governing an accusative of the object, e.g. Is 2213 הָרֹג בָּקָר וְשָׁחֹם צאֹן slaying oxen and killing sheep; cf. Ex 208, 2330, Dt 512, Is 3719, Ez 2330, and of the examples in a–d, Dt 2856 Is 55, 586 f., Pr 2527, &c.; followed by a preposition, e.g. Is 715 מָאוֹס בָּרָע וּבָחוֹר בַּטּוֹב to refuse the evil and choose the good; Pr 1512 (הוֹכֵחַ לוֹ).
113g If the object be a personal pronoun, then, since the infinitive absolute can never be united with a suffix (see the note on a), it is affixed by means of the accusative-sign אֵת (אֹת), e.g. Jer 923 וְיָדוֹעַ אֹתִי and knoweth me; Ez 363. 113h 2. Analogous to the use of the infinitive absolute as the accusative of the object, mentioned in d, is its employment as a casus adverbialis in connexion with some form of the finite verb, to describe more particularly the manner or attendant circumstances (especially those of time and place) under which an action or state has taken place, or is taking place, or will take place; e.g. Jer 2219 he shall be buried with the burial of an ass, סָחוֹב וְהַשְׁלֵךְ a drawing and casting forth, i.e. being drawn and cast forth, &c.; Gn 2116 (הַרְחֵק a removing, i.e. distant; cf. Ex 337, Jos 316); Gn 3032, Ex 3036, Nu 65, 23, 15:35 (where a subject is added subsequently; see below, gg); Jos 317, 1 S 312 (הָחֵל וְכַלֵּה a beginning and ending, i.e. from beginning to end); 2 S 82, Is 711 (הַֽעֲמֵק and הַגְבֵּהַּ, prop. a making deep ..., and a making high, i.e. whether thy request extend to the world below or to the height above); 57:17 (הַסְתֵּר in hiding, sc. my face); Jer 315 (דֵּעָה וְהַשְׁכֵּיל with knowledge and understanding); Hb 313 (עָרוֹת, for the form cf. §75aa); Zc 73, ψ 3516 (חָרֹק, to define more precisely קָֽרְעוּ verse 15); Jb 153.
113i Rem. 1. To an adverbial infinitive absolute of this kind, there may further be added a casus adverbialis (the accusative of state or circumstance), or even a circumstantial clause, to define more exactly the manner in which the action is performed, e.g. Is 202 and he did so הָלֹךְ עָרוֹם וְיָחֵף walking naked and barefoot, prop. in the condition of one naked, &c.; Is 3014 a breaking in pieces (acc. to the reading כָּתוֹת; the Masora requires כָּתוּת) without sparing.
113k 2. A few infinitives of this kind, all of which are in Hipheîl, have, through frequent use, come to be treated by the language as simple adverbs; so especially הַרְבֵּה (cf. §75ff) multum faciendo, i.e. multum, very frequently strengthened by מְאֹד very and even used without connexion with a finite verb (see the Lexicon); also הֵיטֵב bene faciendo, i.e. bene, used especially to express the careful and thorough performance of an action (e.g. Dt 1315); in Dt 921, 278 it is added epexegetically to another adverbial infinitive absolute, in Jon 49 it twice precedes the verb for the sake of emphasis. Finally, הַשְׁכֵּם mane faciendo, i.e. early in the morning, then in general early with the additional idea of earnestness; in 1 S 1716 joined with the infinitive absolute וְהַֽעֲרֵב a denominative from עֶ֫רֶב evening (morning and evening, i.e. early and late), elsewhere (with the exception of Pr 2714) always joined with the infinitive absolute of the governing verb, e.g. Jer 117 for I earnestly protested (הַֽעִדֹ֫תִי) unto your fathers ... הַשֵׁכֵּם וְהָעֵד rising early and protesting, i.e. with earnest protestation; Jer 253, 265 (where וְ should be omitted before ה׳); Jer 2919, 3233, 2 Ch 1615. 113l 3. The infinitive absolute occurs most frequently in immediate connexion with the finite verb of the same stem, in order in various ways to define more accurately or to strengthen the idea of the verb.
113m These infinitives absolute joined immediately to the finite verb belong in a sense to the schema etymologicum treated in §117p, i.e. they are objects of the finite verb in question, except that the infinitive absolute (as a nomen abstractum) lays stress rather on the actual occurrence or the energy of the action (see the examples below), while the noun proper emphasizes the result or extent of the action; cf. e.g. Ex 2222 אִם־צָעֹק יִצְעַק אֵלַי if it actually happens that he cries to me, with Gn 2734 (as it were, he cried, so that a great cry was heard).
We must further distinguish—
113n (a) The infinitive absolute used before the verb to strengthen the verbal idea, i.e. to emphasize in this way either the certainty (especially in the case of threats) or the forcibleness and completeness of an occurrence. In English, such an infinitive is mostly expressed by a corresponding adverb, but sometimes merely by putting greater stress on the verb; e.g. Gn 217 מוֹת תָּמוּת thou shalt surely die, cf. 18:10, 18, 22:17, 28:22, 1 S 96 (cometh surely to pass); 24:21, Am 55, 717, Hb 23, Zc 1117; with the infinitive strengthened by אַךְ Gn 4428 (but 27:30 and Jacob was yet scarce gone out, &c.); Gn 433 הָעֵד הֵעִד בָּ֫נוּ he did solemnly protest unto us; 1 S 206 נִשְׁאֹל נִשְׁאַל David earnestly asked leave of me; Jos 1713, Ju 128 וְהוֹרֵישׁ לֹא הֽוֹרִישׁוֹ and did not utterly drive them out; especially typical instances are Am 98 I will destroy it from off the face of the earth אֶ֫פֶס כִּי לֹא הַשְׁמֵיד אַשְׁמִיד וג׳ saving that I will not utterly destroy, &c.; Jer 3011 and will in no wise leave thee unpunished; cf. further Gn 2018, 1 K 326, Jo 17, Jb 135.
113o The infinitive absolute is used before the verb with less emphasis:
(1) Frequently at the beginning of the statement; cf. Driver on 1 S 206. However, in these cases a special emphasis on the following verb is sometimes intended; cf. above, n, on Gn 433, 1 S 206; also Gn 316, 2628, 3217, 1 S 1428, 203. Elsewhere the infinitive absolute is evidently used only as possessing a certain fullness of sound (hence for rhythmical reasons, like some uses of the separate pronoun, §135a), as in Gn 1513, 437, 20, Ju 98, 1 S 1016, 2310, 2 S 16, 2018.
(2) Very frequently in conditional sentences after אִם, &c. The infinitive absolute in this case emphasizes the importance of the con- dition on which some consequence depends, e.g. Ex 1526 if thou wilt diligently hearken, &c., Ex 195, 215, 223, 11 f. 16, 22 (see above, m); 23:22, Nu 212, Ju 1611, 1 S 111, 1225; after לוּ 1 S 1430.
113p The infinitive absolute is used to give emphasis to an antithesis, e.g. 2 S 2424 nay; but I will verily buy (קָנוֹ אֶקְנֶה) it of thee, &c. (not receive it as a gift); Ju 1513 no; but we will bind thee fast ... but surely we will not kill thee; cf. further Gn 3130 (thou art indeed gone=) though thou wouldst needs be gone (Vulg. esto), because thou sore longedst, &c.; ψ 11813, 18, 126:6 (the second infinitive absolute as a supplement to the first—see below, r—comes after the verb).—Hence also, as permissive, Gn 216 f. אָכֹל תֹּאכֵל thou mayest freely eat, but, &c. (so that verse 16 is in antithesis to verse 17); or concessive, 1 S 230 I said indeed ..., 14:43.
113q The infinitive absolute is used to strengthen a question, and especially in impassioned or indignant questions, e.g. Gn 378 הֲמָלֹךְ תִּמְלֹךְ עָ֫לֵינוּ shalt thou indeed reign over us? Gn 3710, 437, Ju 1125, 1 S 227, 2 S 1943, Jer 31, 1312, Ez 289, Am 35, Zc 75; but cf. also Gn 245 must I needs bring again?
113r (b) The infinitive absolute after the verb, sometimes (as in n) to intensify the idea of the verb (especially after imperatives and participles, since the infinitive absolute can never precede either, e.g. Nu 1115, Jb 1317, 212, 372 שִׁמְעוּ שָׁמוֹעַ hearken ye attentively; Jer 2210; after participles, e.g. Is 2217, also elsewhere, e.g. Nu 2311, 2410 thou hast altogether blessed them; Jos 2410, 2 K 511, Dn 1110, and with the infinitive absolute strengthened by means of גַּם Gn 3115, 464, Nu 1613); sometimes to express the long continuance of an action; here again after an imperative, Is 69 שִׁמְעוּ שָׁמוֹעַ hear ye continually; after a perfect, Jer 629; after a participle, Jer 2317; after an imperfect consecutive, Gn 199, Nu 1132.
113s To this class belong especially those cases in which a second infinitive absolute is co-ordinated with the first; the latter then expresses either an accompanying or antithetical action or the aim to which the principal action is directed; e.g. 1 S 612 הָֽלְכוּ הָלֹךְ וְגָעוֹ lowing as they went (lowing continually; so after a participle, Jos 613b Qerê); Gn 87 it went forth to and fro; Is 1922 smiting and (i.e. but also) healing again; Jo 226 (see above, m).
113t Rem. 1. Instead of a second infinitive absolute (see above) there is sometimes found a perfect consecutive (Jos. 6:13 a and 2 S 1319 [but Stade’s וְזָעוֹק is preferable], in both places as perfect frequentative; Is 315 referring to the future, unless with Stade, ZAW. vi. 189, we read וְהַצֵּיל and וְהַמְלֵיט), or an imperfect consecutive (1 S 1923, 2 S 1613) or participle (2 S 165); cf. also u.
113u 2. The idea of long continuance is very frequently expressed by the verb הָלַךְ to go, along with its infinitive absolute, or even by the latter alone, and this occurs not only when it can be taken in its literal sense (to go, to walk, as in the examples given above, Jos 69, 13, 1 S 612, 2 S 316, 1319; cf. also, Is 316, where both infinitives stand before the verb, and ψ 1266, where הָלוֹךְ precedes), but in cases where הָלַךְ in the sense of to go on, to continue, merely performs also the function of an adverb. The action itself is added in a second infinitive absolute, or sometimes (see above, t) in a participle or verbal adjective. Examples, Gn 83 וַיָּשֻׁ֫בוּ הַמַּ֫יִם... הָלוֹךְ וָשׁוֹב and the waters returned... continually; Gn 85, 129, Ju 149, 2 K 211; with a participle following, Jer 416 (unless we read וּבָכֹה, as in 2 S 316); with an adjective following, Gen 2613, Ju 424, 1 S 1419, 2 S 510 (1 Ch 119), 2 S 1825.
On the other hand, in 1 S 1741 the participle הֹלֵךְ is used instead of the infinitive absolute. Of a different kind are the instances in which the participle הֹלֵךְ is used as predicate along with the co-ordinate adjective (Ex 1919, 1 S 226, 2 S 31, 1512, Est 94, 2 Ch 1712) or participle (1 S 1715, Jon 111, Pr 418, Ec 16).
113v 3. The regular place of the negative is between the intensifying infinitive absolute and the finite verb, e.g. Ex 523 וְהַצֵּל לֹֽא־הִצַּלְתָּ neither hast thou delivered at all, Ju 1513, Jer 1312, 3011; cf. Mi 110 (אַל). Exceptions are Gn 34 (where the negation of the threat pronounced in 2:17 is expressed in the same form of words); Am 98, ψ 498.
113w 4. With a finite verb of one of the derived conjugations, not only the infinitive absolute of the same conjugation may be connected (Gn 2822 Piʿēl; 17:13, Ex 223, Ez 143 Niphʿal; Gn 4015 Puʿal; Ho 418 Hiphʿîl; Ez 164 Hophʿal), but also (especially with Niphʿal, rarely with Piʿēl and Hiphʿîl; see Driver on 2 S 2018) that of Qal as the simplest and most general representative of the verbal idea, 2 S 2018 (with Piʿēl; but in Gn 3733, 4428 טֹרַף is a passive of Qal, §52e); 46:4 (with Hiphʿîl); Ex 1913, 2120, 2 S 237, Is 4030, Jer 105, Jb 62 (with Niphʿal); Is 2419 (with Hithpoʿēl; רֹ֫עָה in the same verse must also, according to the Masora, certainly be the infinitive absolute Qal; see §67o), and so always מוֹת יוּמַת he shall surety be put to death. Elsewhere the infinitive absolute of a conjugation with kindred meaning is found, Lv 1920, 2 K 323 Hophʿal for Niphʿal (but most probably we should read, with Driver, the infin. Niph. in both places, הִפָּדֵה and הֵֽחָרֵב); 1 S 216 (Piʿēl for Hiphʿîl, unless יְקַטְּרוּן is to be read); Ez 164 (Hophʿal for Puʿal). Finally, the infinitive absolute may equally well be represented by a substantive of kindred stem. In Is 2914 the substantive intensifying the verb is found along with the infinitive absolute.
113x 5. Instead of the infinitive absolute immediately connected with the finite verb, an infinitive construct form appears (cf. §73d), in Nu 2325 (גַּם קֹב; cf. Ru 216 גַּם שֹׁל); Jer 5034 (רִיב יָרִיב); Pr 231 (בִּין תָּבִין). In the last instances the infinitive is probably assimilated to the imperfect, like the infinitive Niphʿal in the forms noticed in §51k and note.—Cf. also 2 K 324 וַיָּבֹ֫אוּ בֹא וְהַכּוֹת (read so with the LXX) before א, hence, no doubt due to the dislike of a hiatus; so in ψ 5021, Neh 17 (הֲבֹל), all in rapid style; after the verb, Jos 77, unless הַֽעֲבֵיר is intended.
113y 4. Finally the infinitive absolute sometimes appears as a substitute for the finite verb, either when it is sufficient simply to mention the verbal idea (see z), or when the hurried or otherwise excited style intentionally contents itself with this infinitive, in order to bring out the verbal idea in a clearer and more expressive manner (see aa).
113z (a) The infinitive absolute as the continuation of a preceding finite verb. In the later books especially it often happens that in a succession of several acts only the first (or sometimes more) of the verbs is inflected, while the second (or third, &c.) is added simply in the infinitive absolute. Thus after several perfects, Dn 95 (cf. verse 11) we have sinned ... and have transgressed thy law, וִסוֹר and have turned aside (prop. a turning aside took place); so after a perfect Ex 367 (?), 1 S 228, Is 3719, Jer 145, 1913, Hag 16 (four infinitives), Zc 34 (but read with Wellhausen, after the LXX, וְהַלְבִּ֫שׁוּ אֹתוֹ), 7:5, Ec 89, 911, Est 313, 96, 16, 18, 12:6 ff., Neh 98, 13, 1 Ch 520, 2 Ch 2819; after the perfect consecutive, Zc 1210; after the perfect frequentative 1 K 925 (unless וְהִקְטִיר be intended); after the simple imperfect, Lv 2514, Nu 303, Jer 3244 (three infinitives), 36:23, 1 Ch 2124; after a cohortative, Jos 920; after the imperfect consecutive, Gn 4143 (as a continuation of וַיַּרְכֵּב); Ex 811, Ju 719, Jer 3721, Neh 88, 1 Ch 1636, 2 Ch 73; with אוֹ or after the jussive, Dt 1421, Est 23, 69; after the imperative, Is 3730b, Am 44f.; after the participle, Hb 215 (strengthened by אַף, and regarded, like the participle itself, as an adverbial accusative); Est 88.
113aa (b) At the beginning of the narrative, or at least of a new section of it. The special form of the finite verb which the infinitive absolute represents must be determined from the context. The infinitive absolute is most frequently used in this way, corresponding to the infinitive of command in Greek, &c.:—
113bb (α) For an emphatic imperative, e.g. שָׁמוֹר (thou shalt, ye shall), observe Dt 512; זָכוֹר (thou shalt) remember, Ex 133, 208 (the full form occurs in Dt 617 שָׁמוֹר תִּשְׁמְרוּן; 7:18 זָכֹר תִּזְכֹּר); Lv 26, Nu 42, 2517, Dt 116, 2 K 510, Is 385, Jer 22, followed by a perfect consecutive; Jos 113, 2 K 316, Is 74, 1431 (parallel with an imperative; in Na 22 three imperatives follow). But הַבֵּיט ψ 1425 may be only an incorrect spelling of הַבֵּט imperative.
113ee (δ) For the imperfect in emphatic promises, e.g. 2 K 443 ye shall eat and leave thereof; 19:29 (Is 3730), 2 Ch 3110; also in indignant questions, Jb 402 shall he that cavilleth contend with the Almighty? (on the addition of the subject cf. the Rem. below); Jer 31 and thinkest thou to return again to me? Jer 79 ff. (six infinitives, continued by means of the perfect consecutive; cf. §112o).
113ff (ε) For any historical tense (like the Latin historic infinitive) in lively narration (or enumeration) and description, even of what is still taking place in present time, e.g. Hos 42 swearing and breaking faith, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery (in these they are busied); 10:4 (after a perfect); Is 215, 594, Jer 815, 1419, Jb 1535; cf. further Jer 3233, Ec 42.—In Ez 2330, Pr 127, 1522, and 25:4, the infinitive absolute is best rendered by the passive. 113gg Rem. The subject is sometimes added to the infinitive absolute when it takes the place of the finite verb, e.g. Lv 67, Nu 1535, Dt 152, ψ 175, Pr 1712, Jb 402, Ec 42, Est 91. So, probably, also in Gn 1710, Ex 1248, although here כָּל־זָכָר according to §121a might also be taken as an object with a passive verb; cf. Est 313. In 1 S 2526, 33 the subject follows an infinitive absolute which is co-ordinated with an infinitive construct, see above, e.
- The infinitive absolute can never be joined with a genitive or a pronominal suffix.
- Perhaps הַצֵּג according to §53k should be explained as an infinitive construct, or should be written הַצִּג.
- ואחרי שָׁתֹה 1 S 19 is impossible Hebrew, and as the LXX shows, a late addition.
- That this casus adverbialis also was originally regarded as an accusative, may be seen from classical Arabic, where an infinitive of this kind expressly retains the accusative ending. In Latin the ablative of the gerund corresponds in many ways to this use of the infinitive absolute.
- Also in 2 K 2113 for מָחָה וְהָפַךְ read with Stade and Klostermann מָחֹה וְהָפֹךְ; similarly, with Stade, וְקָשֹׁה in Ju 424; וְחָזוֹק in Jer 2314, and on Is 315 cf. t.
- Cf. A. Rieder, Die Verbindung des Inf. abs. mit dem Verb. fin ... im Hebr., Lpz., 1872; also his Quae ad syntaxin Hebraicam ... planiorem faciendam ex lingua Graeca et Latina afferantur, Gumbinnen (Programm des Gymnasiums), 1884. G. R. Hauschild, Die Verbindung finiter und infiniter Verbalformen desselben Stammes in einigen Bibelsprachen, Frankfurt a. M., 1893, discussing especially the rendering of such constructions in the Greek and Latin versions.
- In Arabic also, the intensifying infinitive regularly stands after the verb, but in Syriac before the verb.
- Also in Ez 114 for the distorted form רצוא reads simply יָֽצְאוּ יָצוֹא.
- Cf. in French, Le mal va toujours croissant, la maladie va toujours en augmentant et en empirant, ‘continually increases and becomes worse and worse.’
- Cf. Rieder, Quo loco ponantur negationes לֹא et אַל... (Zeitschrift für Gymn.Wesen, 1879, p. 395 ff.).
- In three passages even the infinitive absolute of another stem of like sound occurs; but in Is 2828 אָדוֹשׁ is no doubt a mere textual error for דּוֹשׁ, and in Jer 813, according to §72aa, we should read אֹֽסְפֵם, and in Zp 12 אֹסֵף. Barth, Nom.-bildung, §49b, sees in אַדוֹשׁ and אַסוֹף infinitives Hiphʿîl, exactly corresponding in form to ʾaqâm[ā] the Aram. infin. ʾAphʿēl of קוּם; but there is no more evidence for a Hiph. of דּוּשׁ in Hebrew than for a stem אָדַשׁ.
- On these substantives (and on the use of the infinitive absolute generally as absolute object, see above, m), cf. the schema etymologicum treated in connexion with the government of the verb in §117p, q.
- In Ez 714 a perfect appears to be continued by means of an infinitive construct; but the text is quite corrupt; Cornill reads תִּקְעוּ תָקוֹעַ הָכִ֫ינוּ הָכֵן.
- Cf. also such infinitives in French as voir (page so and so, &c.), s’adresser..., se méfier des voleurs!
- Prätorius, op. cit., p. 547: the extraordinarily common use of the infinitive form qāṭōl in the sense of an imperative, jussive, or cohortative has long since caused it to be compared with the Arab. faʿāli. It thus appears that the infin. qāṭōl in Hebrew could be used from early times as a kind of fixed, invariable word of command.
- In Ez 2131, for the infinitives construct הָסִיר, הָרִים, הַשְׁפִּיל (beside הַגְבֵּהַּ) read with Cornill the infinitives absolute הָסֵר, &c. The Kethîbh probably intends הָסֵיר, &c.
- In 2 S 318 the infinitive construct appears to be used instead of the cohortative, but אוֹשִׁיעַ should certainly be read for הוֹשִׁיעַ. Also in 1 K 2230 (2 Ch 1829), which was formerly included under this head (I will disguise myself and go into the battle), read אֶתְחַפֵּשׂ וְאָֹבא.
- In Jb 3418 in a similar question instead of the infinitive constr. we should rather expect the infinitive absolute (הֶאָמֹר), unless with the LXX and Vulg. the participle with the article (הָֽאֹמֵר) is to be read.