Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/126. Determination by Means of the Article
126a 1. The article (הַ·, הָ, הֶ, § 35) was originally, as in other languages (clearly in the Romance; cf. also ὁ, ἡ, τό in Homer), a demonstrative pronoun. The demonstrative force of the article, apart from its occasional use as a relative pronoun (see §138i), appears now, however, only (a) in a few standing phrases, and (b) in a certain class of statements or exclamations.
(b) includes those instances in which the article, mostly when prefixed to a participle, joins on a new statement concerning a preceding noun. Although such participles, &c., are no doubt primarily regarded always as in apposition to a preceding substantive, the article nevertheless has in some of these examples almost the force of הוּא (הִיא, הֵ֫מָּה) as the subject of a noun-clause; e.g. ψ 1910 the judgements of the Lord are true..., verse 11 הַנֶּֽחֱמָדִים וג׳ prop. the more to be desired than gold, i.e. they are more to be desired, or even they, that are more to be desired, &c.; cf. Gn 4921, Is 4022 f., 44:27 f., 46:6, Am 27, 57, ψ 3315, 497 (הַבֹּֽטְחִים in the parallel half of the verse continued by a finite verb); ψ 1043, Jb 616, 284, 303, 4125 and frequently. When such a participle has another co-ordinate with it, the latter is used without the article, since according to the above it strictly speaking represents a second predicate, and as such, according to i, remains indeterminate; e.g. Jb 510 who giveth (הַנֹּתֵן) rain, &c. and sendeth וְשֹׁלֵחַ &c.
126c The article is sometimes used with similar emphasis before a substantive, which serves as the subject of a compound sentence (§140d); e.g. Dt 324 הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּֽעֳלוֹ i.e. as a fresh statement (not in apposition to the preceding dative), really equivalent to he is a rock, perfect in his work (i.e. whose work is perfect); cf. ψ 1831.
126d 2. The article is, generally speaking, employed to determine a substantive wherever it is required by Greek and English; thus:
(a) When a person or thing already spoken of is mentioned again, and is consequently more definite to the mind of the hearer or reader; e.g. Gn 13 and God said, Let there be light: verse 4 and God saw the light (אֶת־הָאוֹר); 1 K 324 fetch me a sword: and they brought the sword; Ec 915. (In 2 S 122 therefore לֶֽעָשִׁיר must be read.) (b) With a title understood and recognized by every one, e.g. הַמֶּ֫לֶךְ שְׁלֹמהֹ ὁ βασιλεὺς Σαλωμών: Gn 358 under the oak (the well-known oak which was there).
(c) With appellatives to denote persons or natural objects which are unique, e.g. הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל the high priest, הַשֶּׁ֫מֶשׁ the sun, הָאָ֫רֶץ the earth.
126e (d) When terms applying to whole classes are restricted (simply by usage) to particular individuals (like ὁ ποιητής, meaning Homer) or things, e.g. שָׂטָן adversary, הַשָּׂטָן the adversary, Satan; בַּ֫עַל lord, הַבַּ֫עַל Baal as proper name of the god; הָֽאָדָם the (first) man, Adam; הָאֱלֹהִים or הָאֵל ὁ θεός, the one true God (cf. also ὁ Χριστός in the New Testament); also הַנָּהָר the river, i.e. Euphrates; הַכִּכָּר the circle, sc. of the Jordan, the Jordan plain [Gn 1917, &c.].
(e) Very often with the vocative, e.g. 2 S 144 הוֹשִׁ֫עָה הַמֶּ֫לֶךְ help, O king; Zc 38 יְהוֹשֻׁעַ הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל O Joshua the high priest; 1 S 1758, 249, 2 K 95; in the plural, Is 4218, Jo 12, 13; but cf. also Jos 1012, Is 12, 4913 (שָׁמַ֫יִם and אֶ֫רֶץ); 23:16, Ho 1314, Jo 15, ψ 3412, Ec 1017, 119, &c. The vocative occurs without the article in Is 222, since it has been already defined by a preceding accusative.
126f Rem. Strictly speaking in all these cases the substantive with the article is really in apposition to the personal pronoun of the 2nd person, which is either expressly mentioned or virtually present (in the imperative), e.g. 1 S 1758 thou, the young man. But such passages as Is 4218, where the vocative precedes the imperative, prove that in such cases the substantive originally in apposition eventually acquired the value of a complete clause.
126g (f) With words denoting classes (see particulars under l).
(g) In a peculiar way, to specify persons or things, which are so far definite as to be naturally thought of in connexion with a given case, and must be assumed accordingly to be there (see q–s).
(h) With adjectives (also ordinal numbers and demonstrative pronouns used adjectivally) which are joined to substantives determined in some way (see u).
126h Rem. The article may be omitted in poetry in all the above-mentioned cases; in general it is used in poetry far less frequently than in prose. Its use or omission probably often rests on rhythmical grounds; it is sometimes omitted also for rhetorical reasons. Cf. e.g. אֶ֫רֶץ for הָאָ֫רֶץ ψ 22; מְלָכִים as vocative, verse 10; מֶ֫לֶךְ for הַמֶּ֫לֶךְ 21:2; שִׁמְךָ גָּדוֹל וְנוֹרָא (contrary to u, v) 99:3. In the instances in which the ה of the article is omitted after a prefix (§35n), the vowel of the article is often retained after the prefix even in poetry, e.g. בַּשָּׁמַ֫יִם ψ 24, &c. 126i (i) On the other hand, the article is always omitted when a person or thing is to be represented as indefinite (or indefinable) or as yet unknown; consequently also before the predicate, since this is from its nature always a general term, under which the subject is included, e.g. Gn 297 עוֹד הַיּוֹם גָּדוֹל as yet the day is great, i.e. it is yet high day; 33:13, 40:18, 41:26, Is 663.
126k Rem. 1. As exceptions to the above rule it is usual to regard those examples in which a determinate adjective or participle (equivalent to a relative clause) is used apparently as a predicate, e.g. Gn 211 הוּא הַסֹּבֵב it is the compassing, i.e. that is it which compasseth; 42:6, 45:12, Ex 927, Dt 321, 818, 117, 1 S 416, Is 1427, Mal 32 (cf. in Greek, e.g. St. Mat. 10:20, where Winer, Gram. des neutest. Sprachidioms, § 58, 2, Rem., explains οἱ λαλοῦντες as a predicate with the article). In reality, however, these supposed predicates are rather subjects (acc. to §116q), and the only peculiarity of these cases is that the subject is not included under a general idea, but is equated with the predicate.
126l 3. The use of the article to determine the class is more extensive in Hebrew than in most other languages. In this case the article indicates universally known, closely circumscribed, and therefore well defined classes of persons or things. The special cases to be considered are—
126m (a) The employment of general names as collectives in the singular, to denote the sum total of individuals belonging to the class (which may, however, be done just as well by the plural); e.g. the righteous, the wicked man, Ec 317; the woman, i.e. the female sex, 7:26; הָֽאֹיֵב the enemy, i.e. the enemies (?) ψ 97; הָֽאֹרֵב the liers in wait, i.e. the liers in wait; הֶֽחָלוּץ the armed man, i.e. soldiers; הַֽמְאַסֵּף the rearguard; הַמַּשְׁחִית the spoiler, 1 S 1317; so also (as in English) with names of animals, when something is asserted of them, which applies to the whole species, e.g. 2 S 1710 as the courage of הָֽאַרְיֵה the lion. Especially also with gentilic names, e.g. the Canaanite, Gn 137 (cf.15:19 f.); so in English the Russian, the Turk, &c., in Attic writers ὁ Ἀθηναῖος, ὁ Συρακόσιος, &c.
126n (b) Names of materials known everywhere, the elements and other words denoting classes, even though only a part and not the whole of them is considered, in which case in other languages, as e.g. in English, the article is usually omitted (cf., however, our to fall into the water, into the fire, &c.), e.g. Gn 132 and Abram was very rich בַּמִּקְנֶה בַּבֶּסֶף וּבַוָּהָב in cattle, in silver and in gold; Jos 119 and he burnt their chariots בָּאֵשׁ with fire; cf. Gn 614, 4142 (unless this means, the chain necessarily belonging to the official dress); Ex 23, 314 (35:32), Is 122, &c, and בַּשָּׁמֶן with oil very commonly in the sacrificial laws, Ex 292, &c., and also Dt 3324, 2 S 121, Is 16, ψ 235, &c. Similarly the article is used with terms of measurement, as הָֽאֵפָה Ex 1636, &c.: הַחֹמֶר and הַבַּת Ez 4511; הָעֹ֫מֶר Ex 1622; בַּחֶ֫בֶל 2 S 82.
(c) The expression of abstract ideas of every kind, since they are likewise used to represent whole classes of attributes or states, physical or moral defects, &c.; e.g. Pr 255 (בַּצֶּ֫דֶק); Gn 1911 and they smote the men... בַּסַּנְוֵרִים with blindness; Am 49, &c.; but in הַח֫שֶׁךְ Is 602 the article is no doubt due to dittography of the ה, and the parallel וַֽעֲרָפֶל has no article.
126o (d) Comparisons, since the object compared is treated not (as usually in English) individually but as a general term, e.g. Is 118 white כַּשֶּׁ֫לֶג as snow, כַּצֶּ֫מֶר as wool; red כַּתּוֹלָע like crimson; Is 344 and the heavens shall be rolled together כַּסֵּפֶר as a scroll; cf. Nu 1112, Ju 818, 169 as פְּתִיל־הַנְּעֹרֶת a string of tow is broken; 1 S 2620, 1 K 1415, Is 1014, 2420, 2710, 298, 536, Na 315, ψ 337, 4915; cf. also such examples as Gn 1928, Ju 146, where the object compared is determined by a determinate genitive which follows (according to §127a).
126p Examples of indeterminate comparisons are rare, and perhaps due only to the Masora,—so at least in the case of singulars, while in such plurals as those in Gn 4230, 1 K 1027, Jo 24, 7, the omission of the article may be explained by the ordinary rules. On the other hand, the article is regularly omitted when the object compared is already defined by means of an attribute (or relative clause, Jer 239, ψ 1712), e.g. Is 162 כְּעוֹף נוֹדֵד קֵן מְשֻׁלָּח as wandering birds, (as) a scattered nest (but cf. 10:14 כַּקֵּן); 14:19, 29:5 כְּמֹץ עֹבֵר (but ψ 14 כַּמֹּץ); Jer 230, Pr 278, Jb 2925, 3014.—In comparisons with persons also the Masora seems to avoid the use of the article, as in כְּגִבּוֹר Jb 1614 and seven other places (כַּגִּכּוֹר only in Is 4213), כְּאָב Jb 3118, כְּגֶ֫בֶר Jb 383, 407.
126q 4. Peculiar to Hebrew is the employment of the article to denote a single person or thing (primarily one which is as yet unknown, and therefore not capable of being defined) as being present to the mind under given circumstances. In such cases in English the indefinite article is mostly used.
126r Thus Am 519 as if a man did flee from a lion (הָֽאֲרִי, i.e. the particular lion pursuing him at the time), and a bear (הַדֹּב) met him, &c., cf. 3:12, 1 K 2036 (John 10:12); also Gn 87 f., 14:13 (הַפָּלִיט, i.e. one that had escaped, the particular one who came just then; so also Ez 2426, 3321; cf. 2 S 1513); Gn 151, 11 18:7 the servant, who is regarded as being constantly at hand and awaiting his commands; cf. 2 S 1717 (but הַנַּ֫עַר Nu 1127 is used like הַפָּלִיט above); Gn 1930, unless בַּמְּעָרָה means in the well-known cave; בַּמָּקוֹם Gn 2811, according to Dillmann, upon the place suitable for passing the night, or the right place, but it may possibly also refer to the sanctuary of Bethel afterwards so sacred and celebrated; Gn 4223, 462, 5026, Ex 215, 32, 420, 2120 (2 S 2321), Lv 2342, 2410 (Samaritan יִשְׂרְאֵלִי without the article); Nu 1711, 216, 9, 25:6, Dt 195, Jos 215, Ju 418, 825, 1319, 1619, 1929, 2016, 1 S 1734, 1913, 2110, 2 S 1717, 1 K 68, 1314 (? most probably a particular tree is meant); 19:9, Is 714 (הָֽעַלְמָה, i.e. the particular maiden, through whom the prophet’s announcement shall be fulfilled; we should say a maiden [cf. Driver on 1 S 14, 68, 1913]; Jb 931.
126s So always to write in the book (or on the scroll, Nu 523, Jer 3210), i.e. not in the book already in use, but in the book which is to be devoted to that purpose, equivalent to in a book, on a scroll, Ex 1714, 1 S 1025, Jb 1923. Especially instructive for this use of the article is the phrase וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם, which does not simply refer back to the previous narrative in the sense of the same day, but is used exactly like our one day (properly meaning on the particular day when it happened, i.e. on a certain day), 1 S 14, 141, 2 K 48, 1118, Jb 16, 13. In Gn 3911 even כְּהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.
126t The article is sometimes used in this way before collectives in the singular, which are not meant to denote (like the examples given under l) a whole class, but only that part of it which applies to the given case; thus הָֽעֹרֵב, הַיּוֹנָה Gn 87, הַצִּרְעָה Ex 2328.
126u 5. When a substantive is defined by the article, or by a suffix, or by a following genitive determinate in any way (see the examples below), the attribute belonging to it (whether adjective, participle, ordinal, or demonstrative pronoun) necessarily takes the article (see, however, the Rem.), e.g. Gn 1012 הָעִיר הַגְּדֹלָה the great city; Dt 324 יָֽדְךָ הַֽחֲזָקָה thy strong hand. A genitive following the substantive may, according to §127a, be determined either by the article, e.g. 1 S 2525 אִישׁ הַבְּלִיַּעַל הַוֶּה this worthless man (prop. man of worthlessness; cf. also such examples as 2 Ch 3618, where the article is prefixed only to a second genitive following the noun); or as a proper name, e.g. Dt 117 מַֽעֲשֵׂה יְהֹוָה הַגָּדֹל the great work of the Lord; or by a suffix, e.g. Is 369 עַבְדֵי אֲדֹנִי הַקְּטַנִּים the least of my master’s servants.
126v When several attributes (whether connected by Wāw or not) follow a determinate substantive, each of them takes the article, e.g. Dt 1017 הָאֵל הַגָּדֹל הַגִּבֹּר וְהַבּוֹרָא the great God, the mighty, and the terrible. Cf. also Ex 33, Dt 119, in both of which places a demonstrative with the article also follows the adjective.
Rem. 1. The article is, however, not infrequently used also—
126w (a) With the attribute alone, when it is added to an originally indefinite substantive as a subsequent limitation; so always with ordinal numbers after יוֹם, e.g. Gn 131 (cf. 2:3, Ex 2010, &c.) יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי the sixth day (prop. a day namely the sixth; but יוֹם שֵׁנִי a second day, Gn 18); Ex 1215 מִיּוֹם הָֽרִאשֹׁן from the first day onward (not before Dn 1012 and Neh 818 is מִן־הַיּוֹם הָֽרִאשׁוֹן used instead of it). On the other hand, the article is always found after בְּ, hence בַּיּוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי, &c., although it is possible that the original reading in these cases was בְּיוֹם, and that the article is only due to the Masora. In Ju 625 the text is evidently corrupt (see verse 26).—Especially also in certain frequently recurring combinations as in particularizing the gates in Jer 3814, Ez 92, &c., Zc 1410, and courts in 1 K 78, 12, &c., Ez 4028; and very often when the attribute consists of a participle, e.g. Dt 223, Ju 2119, 1 S 2510, Jer 273, 4616 חֶ֫רֶב הַיּוֹנָה the sword which oppresses (?); Ez 1422, Zc 112 Keth. (the impenetrable forest?) Pr 2618, ψ 11921.
126x Of the other examples, Gn 2129 (where, however, the Samaritan reads הכבשות), 41:26 (but cf. verse 4), Nu 1125, Ju 1627, 1 S 1717 may at any rate be explained on the ground that the preceding cardinal number is equivalent to a determinant; in Gn 121, 289, 10, &c., the substantive is already determined by כָּל־, and in 1 S 1429 (דְּבַשׁ) by מְעַט.—In 1 S 1223, 2 S 124, Is 720 (where, however, הַשְּׂכִירָה might also be understood as a subsequent explanation of בְּתַ֫עַר) and Neh 935, the omission of the article after the preposition is certainly due merely to the Masora. In 1 S 1623 (unless רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים is to be read twice), Zc 47 (where however אַתָּ הָהָר is probably meant), ψ 10418 (where a ה precedes הָרִים, hence probably a case of haplography), the omission of the article before א, ר (?) and ה may be due to a regard for euphony (see z below). On the other hand, in 1 S 618 (read הָאֶ֫בֶן הַגְּ׳), 17:12 (הַזֶּה is a later addition), 19:22 (cf. the LXX), Jer 172, 3214, 403 Keth., Ez 23 (read גּוֹי or omit גּוֹיִם with Cornill), Mi 711, ψ 624, either the text is corrupt, or the expression incorrect. But in 2 K 2013, Jer 620, Ct 710 acc. to D. H. Müller (Anzeiger der Wiener Akad., phil-hist. Kl. 1902, no. x) הַטּוֹב is the genitive of a substantive, aromatic oil, sweet cane (in Jer 620 read וּקְנֵה), like spiced wine. In Is 392 read שֶׁ֫מֶן הַטּוֹב and in ψ 1332 כְּשֶׁ֫מֶן חַטּ׳.
126y (b) No article with the attribute, while the substantive is determined either by the article, or a suffix, or a following genitive. Thus the article is sometimes omitted with demonstratives, since they are already to a certain extent determined by their meaning (cf. also the Mêšaʿ inscription, l. 3, הבמת זאת this high place); as with הוּא Gn 1933 (evidently for euphony, and so probably often); 30:16, 32:23, 1 S 1910; with הִיא Gn 3821; with זוּ ψ 128 (according to the Masora זוּ is a relative pronoun here, as always elsewhere); with אֵ֫לֶּה 1 S 223, according to the present corrupt text (the original reading כָּל־עַם יהוה became כָּל־עַם אֱלֹהִים, and אֱלֹהִים was then corrupted to אֵלֶּה); so, almost without exception, when the substantive is determined only by a suffix, e.g. Jos 220, Ju 614, 1 K 108, 2 K 12 and 8:8 f., where חלי, as in Jer 1019, has arisen by contraction from חָלְיִי, or we should simply read חָלְיִ (in all these passages with זֶה); Gn 248 (with זֹאת); Ex 101, 1 K 2223, Jer 3121 (with אֵ֫לֶּה).
The article is sometimes omitted also with the attributes referring to proper names, as צִידוֹן רַבָּה Jos 118, 1928, חֲמָת רַבָּה Am 62. Other examples are Jos 163, 5, 18:13, 1 K 917 (but in 1 Ch 724, 2 Ch 85 with the article). In Gn 711, &c., תְּהוֹם רַבָּה is also a case of this kind, תְּהוֹם being used (almost always without the article) as a sort of proper name; cf. also אֵל עֶלְיוֹן the most high
- On the analogous use of the article before participles which have a verbal suffix, as in ψ 1833, &c., cf. above, §116f.
- On the subsequent change of שָׂטָן, אָדָם, אֱלֹהִים into real proper names by the omission of the article, cf. above, §125f.
- For further exceptions see Nestle, ZAW. 1904, p. 323 ff.
- Cf. the useful statistics of J. Ley in the Neue Jahrbücher für Philologie und Pädagogik, 2te Abteilung, 1891, Heft 7–9, and M. Lambert, ‘ L’article dans la po&ésie hébr.,’ REJ. 37, 263 ff.
- But in Ex 1223 המ׳ is either to be explained as the destroyer (now mentioned for the first time) according to q, or a particular angel is meant whose regular function it was to inflict punishments. Others again take המ׳ even in Ex 1223 impersonally = destruction.
- In nearly all the above examples the presence of the article is only indicated by the vowel of the prefix (בַּ, כַּ, לַ) and might therefore be merely due to the masoretic punctuation. There is, however, no reason to doubt the correctness of the tradition. The same is true of the examples under n and o.
- Cf., however, analogous examples in biblical Aramaic in Kautzsch’s Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., 79 f, e.g. Dn 214, 32, &c.
- The demonstrative used adjectivally is generally placed after the adjective proper; in such cases as עַמְּךָ הַזֶּה הַגָּדוֹל 2 Ch 110 the adjective forms a further (fresh) addition to עַמְּךָ הַזֶּה.
- Cf. Driver, Tenses, 3rd ed., 209; M. Lambert, REJ. 31, 279 f.—The omission of the article from the substantive is not to be regarded in this instance as an indication of late style, and consequently cannot be put forward as a proof of the late origin of the ‘Priestly Code’ (cf. Dillmann on Gn 131, Holzinger, Einl. in d. Hexateuch, p. 465, and especially Driver in the Journal of Philology, xi. 229 f., against Giesebrecht in ZAW. 1881, p. 265 f.). On the other hand, the common omission of the article from the substantive before a determinate adjective (e.g. כְּנֵ֫סֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה the great synagogue, in the Mishna; cf. Segal, Mišnaic Hebrew, p. 19 ff.) is certainly a later idiom.
- Cf. Nöldeke, Beiträge zur semit. Sprachwiss., p. 48, n. 1.