Cf. H. Ferguson, ‘The Use of the Tenses in Conditional Sentences in Hebrew’ (Journal of the Society of Bibl. Lit. and Exeg., Middletown, Conn., June and September, 1882).—P. Friedrich, Die hebr. Conditionalsätze, Königsberg, 1884 (Inaug.-Diss.).—Driver, Use of the Tenses, 3rd ed., p. 174 ff.
[159a] 1. The great variety of construction in conditional sentences is owing to the fact that it frequently depends on the subjective judgement of the speaker, whether he wishes a condition to be regarded as capable of fulfilment (absolutely, or at least possibly), thus including those already fulfilled, or as incapable of fulfilment. On this distinction depends the choice both of the conditional particle to be used (see below), and especially (as also in Greek and Latin) of the tense. The use of the latter is naturally determined according to the general principles laid down in § 106 ff. In the following sketch, for the sake of clearness, conditional sentences without conditional particles will be first discussed (under b), and afterwards sentences with these particles (under l).
[159b] 2. The relation between condition and consequence may be expressed, as in English, by the simple juxtaposition of two clauses. At the same time, it is to be observed in general as a fundamental rule (in accordance with the original character of the two tenses), that the imperfect, with its equivalents (the jussive, cohortative, imperative, perfect consecutive, and participle), is used to express a condition and consequence which are regarded as being capable of fulfilment in present or future time, while the perfect represents a condition already fulfilled in the past, and its consequence as an accomplished fact. The other use of the perfect—to represent conditions regarded as impossible—occurs only in connexion with particles.
[159c] (a) Imperfect (cf. §107x) in protasis and apodosis, Jos 2218, ψ 10428 ff. יִלְקֹם֑וּן תִּתֵּן לָתֶם (if) thou givest unto them, they gather, &c.; ψ 13918, Pr 1217, Jb 2024, Ec 118, Neh 18; with an interrogative imperfect in the apodosis, Ju 1312; with the jussive, Jb 1016; with the cohortative, Pr. 1:23; with the perfect, Is 2610 (yet will he not learn righteousness; the apodosis forcibly denies
- It may, moreover, happen that a different idea is introduced in the apodosis, from that with which the protasis started—a source of many further variations.
- On the termination -וּן cf. §47m. In verse 28 b also יִשְׂבְּעוּן is probably to be explained from its immediately preceding the greater pause. These terminations in verses 28–30 and ψ 13918 can scarcely have any connexion with the conditional sentence, although it is strange that -וּן in Nu 3223 appears after אִם־לֹא in the protasis. In Nu 1629, 3220 -וּן as before א (as in Jb 3110 in the apodosis) is to be explained from the dislike of hiatus.