Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/110. The Imperative

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§110. The Imperative.
Mayer Lambert, ‘Sur la syntaxe de l’impératif en hébreu,’ in REJ. 1897, p. 106 ff.

110a 1. The imperative,[1] which, according to § 46, is restricted to the 2nd pers. sing. and plur., and to positive commands, &c., may stand either alone, or in simple co-ordination (as in 1 K 1844, Is 561, 6518) with other imperatives:

(a) To express real commands, e.g. Gn 121 get thee out of thy country; or (like the jussive) mere admonitions (Ho 1012) and requests, 2 K 522, Is 53; on the addition of נָא see below, Rem. 1. The imperative is used in the sense of an ironical challenge (often including a threat) in 1 K 222 ask for him the kingdom also; 22:15, Ju 1014, Is 4712 (with נָא), Jer 721, Ez 2039, Am 44, Jb 383f., 40:10ff., La 421. The imperative has a concessive sense in Na 315 (though thou make thyself many, &c.), and in the cases discussed under f, e.g. Is 89 f., 29:9.

110b (b) To express permission, e.g. 2 S 1823 after previous dissuasion, (then) run (as far as I am concerned)! Is 2112, 4511.

110c (c) To express a distinct assurance (like our expression, thou shalt have it)[2] or promise, e.g. Is 6518 but be ye glad, &c. (i.e. ye will have continually occasion to be glad); and Is 3730, ψ 1102; in a threat, Jer 219. So especially in commands, the fulfilment of which is altogether out of the power of the person addressed, e.g. Is 5414 be far from anxiety (meaning, thou needst not fear any more); Gn 128, &c. (for other examples, such as 1 K 2212, 2 K 513, see below, f). Most clearly in the case of the imperative Niphʿal with a passive meaning, e.g. Gn 4216 וְאַתֶּם הֵאָֽסְרוּ and ye shall be bound; Dt 3250, Is 499 (Is 4522, see below, f).

110d Rem. 1. The particle נָא age! (§ 105) is frequently added to the imperative, as to the jussive, sometimes to soften down a command, or to make a request in a more courteous form (see above, a), Gn 1213, 242, sometimes to strengthen an exhortation uttered as a rebuke or threat (Nu 1626, 2010) or in ridicule (Is 4712).

110e 2. The imperative after the desiderative particle לוּ Gn 2313 (at the end of verses 5 and 14 also read לוּ for לוֹ and join it to the following imperative) is due to an anacoluthon. Instead of the imperfect which would be expected here after לוּ, the more forcible imperative is used in a new sentence.

110f 2. The imperative in logical dependence upon a preceding imperative, jussive (or cohortative), or an interrogative sentence, serves to express the distinct assurance or promise that an action or state will ensue as the certain consequence of a previous action. So especially:

(a) The imperative when depending (with wāw copulative) upon another imperative. In this case the first imperative contains, as a rule, a condition, while the second declares the consequence which the fulfilment of the condition will involve. The imperative is used for this declaration, since the consequence is, as a matter of fact, intended or desired by the speaker (cf. divide et impera), e.g. Gn 4218 זֹאת עֲשׂוּ וִֽחְיוּ this do, and live, i.e. thus shall ye continue to live. Gn 171, 1 K 2212, 2 K 513, Is 3616, 4522 (וְהִוָּֽשְׁעוּ), Jer 616, Am 54, 6, ψ 3727, Pr 33f., 4:4, 7:2, 13:20 Keth., Jb 29, 2 Ch 2020; in Jer 255, Jb 2221 נָא is added to the first imperative. In other cases, the first imperative contains a mocking concession, the second an irrevocable denunciation, e.g. Is 89 רֹ֫עוּ עַמִּים וָחֹ֫תּוּ (continue to) make an uproar, O ye peoples, and ye shall be broken in pieces; cf. verse 9 b.

110g Rem. 1. If a promise or threat dependent on an imperative be expressed in the 3rd pers. then the jussive is naturally used instead of the 2nd imperative Is 810, 552.

110h 2. In Pr 2013 the second imperative (containing a promise) is attached by asyndeton; elsewhere two imperatives occur side by side without the copula, where the second might be expected to be subordinated to the first, e.g. Dt 224 הָחֵל רָשׁ (where רָשׁ is virtually, as it were, an object to הָחֵל) begin, take in possession for to take in possession (cf., however, Ju 196 הֽוֹאֶל־נָא וְלִין be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and on this kind of co-ordination in general, cf. §120d). But such imperatives as (לְכוּ) לֵךְ, (ק֫וּמוּ) קוּם, when immediately preceding a second imperative, are for the most part only equivalent to interjections, come! up!

110i (b) The imperative, when depending (with wāw copulative) upon a jussive (cohortative), or an interrogative sentence, frequently expresses also a consequence which is to be expected with certainty, and often a consequence which is intended, or in fact an intention; cf. Gn 207 and he shall pray for thee, וֶחְֽיֵה and thou shalt live; cf. Ex 1416, 2 K 510, Jb 116, ψ 1285 the Lord bless thee ... so that (or in order that) thou seest, &c.; Ru 19, 411; after a cohortative, Gn 122, 4518, Ex 310 וְהוֹצֵא that thou mayest bring forth; Ex 1822, 1 S 1217, 1 K 112; Jer 3515 (after imperative and jussive); after an interrogative sentence, 2 S 213 wherewith shall I make atonement, וּבָֽרֲכוּ that ye may bless, &c.—In Nu 519 the imperative without וְ (in 32:23 with וְ) is used after a conditional clause in the sense of a definite promise.

110k Rem. The 2nd sing. masc. occurs in addressing feminine persons in Ju 420 (עֲמֹד, according to Qimḥi an infinitive, in which case, however, the infinitive absolute עָמֹד should be read; but probably we should simply read עִמְדִי with Moore), Mi 113 and Zc 137 (after עוּרִי); and in Is 231, the 2nd plur. masc. (On the four forms of the 2nd fem. plur. imperative in Is 3211, erroneously explained here in former editions, see now §48i). In Na 315 the interchange of masc. and fem. serves to express totality (the nation in all its aspects). Cf., moreover, §145p on other noticeable attempts to substitute the corresponding masculine forms for the feminine.

  1. On the close relation between the imperative and jussive (both in meaning and form), cf. § 46 and §48i.
  2. Like the threatening formulae in the Latin comic writers, e.g. vapula, Ter. Phorm. v. 6, 10=vapulare te iubeo, Plaut. Curc. vi. 4, 12.