Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/128. The Indication of the Genitive Relation by means of the Construct State

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Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar  (1909) 
Wilhelm Gesenius
edited and enlarged by Emil Kautzsch
, translated by Arthur Ernest Cowley
The Indication of the Genitive Relation by means of the Construct State

§128. The Indication of the Genitive Relation by means of the Construct State.
Cf. especially Philippi’s work cited at the head of § 89.

a 1. The genitive relation is regularly expressed (see § 89) by the close connexion of the nomen regens (in the construct state) with the nomen rectum (in the genitive). Since only one nomen regens can be immediately connected with a nomen rectum, it follows that the same genitive cannot depend on two or more co-ordinate nouns, but a second (sometimes even a third, &c.) regens must be added with a suffix referring to the nomen rectum, e.g. בְּנֵי דָוִד וּבְנֹתָיו the sons of David and his daughters (not בְּנֵי וּבְנוֹת דָּוִד); cf. 1 K 828.[1] The language also prefers to avoid a series of several co-ordinate[2] genitives depending upon one and the same nomen regens (such as occur in Gn 1419, Nu 205, 3154 [1 Ch 131], 1 S 237, 2 S 196, Is 225, ψ 57, 83),[3] and rather tends to repeat the nomen regens, e.g. Gn 243 אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַ֫יִם וֵֽאלֹהֵי הָאָ֫רֶץ the God of heaven and the God of the earth (so in Jer 81 the regens is five times repeated). A lengthened series of genitives may, however, be formed by a nomen rectum serving at the same time as regens to a genitive depending on it (cf. § 127 a [d]); e.g. Gn 479 יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי אֲבֹתַי the days of the years of the life of my fathers; cf. Jb 1224, where there are three genitives, Is 1012 four, and 21:17 five (unless the last three are in apposition). As a rule, indeed, such an inconvenient accumulation of genitives is avoided by means of a circumlocution in the case of one of them (see § 129 d).

b Rem. As the fundamental rules stated above are the necessary consequence not merely of logical but more especially of rhythmical relations (see § 89 a), we must feel the more hesitation in admitting examples in which genitives are supposed to be loosely attached to forms other than the construct state. Some of these examples (the supposed genitives following a regens which is determined by the article) have been already discussed in § 127 f–h. Compare, moreover:

c (a) Genitives after the absolute state, e.g. Is 281 גֵּֽיא־שְׁמָנִים הֲלוּמֵי יַ֫יִן the fat valley of them that are overcome with wine. The usual explanation that גֵּֽיא־שְׁמָנִים forms one single idea (in German Fettigkeitstal), on which the genitive הֲלוּמֵי יַ֫יִן then depends, in reality explains nothing; the text is almost certainly corrupt. In Dt 1518 מִשְׁנֵה would be expected; in Jos 311 הַבְּרִית is a later addition; in Is 3213 (מָשׂוֹשׂ), and ψ 6822 (שֵׂעָר), the absolute for the construct state probably rests only on the authority of the Masoretes. In Ju 625 ff. the text is obviously in confusion. In Ju 832 (cf. 6:24) כְּעָפְרָה should come either after וַיִּקָּבֵר or at the end of the verse, unless, with Moore, we omit אֲבִי הָֽע׳ as a gloss (from 6:24); in Is 6311 משֶׁה is probably a gloss on יְמֵי־עוֹלָם which has crept into the text; in 2 S 42 לְאִישׁ־בּ֫שֶׁת, according to the LXX, has dropped out before בֶּן; in Ez 611 רָעוֹת is to be omitted with the LXX; if originally in the text, it could only be genitive (= all abominations of evils), not an adjective; Pr 216 the text is altogether uncertain (the LXX read מֽוֹקְשֵׁי for מְבַקְשֵׁי); in 1 Ch 913 the preposition לְ (after a ל) has dropped out before מְלֶאכֶת (cf. 12:25).—Elsewhere (Dt 35, 1 K 413, 2 Ch 85) the supposed genitives are to be taken rather as words of nearer definition standing in apposition, i.e. with high walls, gates, and bars. In Jer 85 ירושלים is either in apposition to העם הזה or is better (since not in the LXX) omitted as a gloss.

d (b) Genitives after a noun with a suffix (where the suffix prevents the direct government by the nomen regens). Thus in Lv 273, 5, 6, where הַזָּכָר after עֶרְכְּךָ[4] might be taken, contrary to the accents, as subject of the following clause; in Lv 515, 25 the suffix may refer to Moses. In Lv 63 מִדּוֹ בַד his garment, namely the garment of linen, unless simply in apposition, cf. § 131 d (or read מִדֵּי?); Lv 2642, where בְּרִיתִי יַֽעֲקֹב וגו׳ could at most be explained as an ellipse for בְּרִיתִי בְרִית יַֽעֲקֹב, cf. § 125 h (probably, however, it is a case of dittography of the י, which was repeated also before אברהם; so Valeton, ZAW. xii. 3); equally strange is בְּרִיתִי הַיּוֹם Jer 3320, &c. On the other hand, אִם יִֽהְיֶה נְבִֽיאֲכֶם יְהֹוָה Nu 126 could not possibly mean if your prophet be a prophet of the Lord; the text is manifestly corrupt (probably נְבִֽיאֲךָ מִיַּהְוֶה is to be read, with Marti). In ψ 457 בִּסְאֲךָ אֱלֹהִים (usually explained as thy divine throne), אלהים is most probably a later addition [another suggestion is to read כֵאלֹהִים like God(’s throne): cf. § 141 d, note]. In Jer 5220 two readings are probably combined, לִנְחֻשְׁתָּם without any addition, and לִנְח֫שֶׁת בָּל־הַכֵּלִיס. In Nu 2512 שָׁלוֹם is in apposition to בְּרִיתִי. On דַּרְכֵּךְ זִמָּה Ez 1627, cf. § 131 r.

e (c) The interposition of a word is assumed between כָּל־ (the whole; cf. § 127 b) and the genitive governed by it in 2 S 19, Jb 273 (עוֹד), and, if the text is correct, in Hos 143 (תִּשָּׂא). In reality, however, in all three places the genitive relation is destroyed by the transposition of the words (instead of עוֹד כָּל־, &c.), and כָּל־ is rather to be taken adverbially (equivalent to wholly), e.g. 2 S 19 because my life is yet wholly in me, i.e. my whole life; cf. Philippi, Stat. Constr., p. 10.—On the instances in which the original construct state אֵין non-existence is used without a following genitive, see the negative sentences, § 152 o.

f 2. The dependence of the nomen rectum on the nomen regens by no means represents merely what is, properly speaking, the genitive relation (see the examples under g–i). Very frequently the nomen rectum only adds a nearer definition of the nomen regens, whether by giving the name, the genus or species, the measure, the material, or finally an attribute of it (genit. epexegeticus or appositionis,[5] see the examples under k–q).

Examples. The nomen rectum represents—

g (a) A subjective genitive, specifying the possessor, author, &c., e.g. בֵּית־הַמֶּ֫לֶךְ the king’s house; דְּבַר יְהֹוָה the word of the Lord.

h (b) An objective genitive, e.g. Ob 10110 מֵֽחֲמַס אָחִיךָ for the violence done to thy brother[6] (but in Ez 1219 מֵֽחֲמַס is followed by a subjective genitive); Pr 202 אֵימַת מֶ֫לֶךְ the terror of a king; Gn 1820 זַֽעֲקַת סְדֹם the cry concerning Sodom; Is 235 שֵׁמַע צֹר the report of (about) Tyre, cf. 2 S 44; Am 810 אֵ֫בֶל יָחִיד the mourning for an only son; Dt 2014 שְׁלַל אֹֽיְבֶיךָ praeda hostibus tuis erepta; cf. Is 314. In a wider sense this includes such examples as דֶּ֫רֶךְ עֵץ הַֽחַיִּים the way of (i.e. to) the tree of life, Gn 324; cf. Pr 727, Jb 3820; דֶּ֫רֶךְ הַיָּם the way of (by) the sea, Is 823; זִבְחֵי אֱלֹהִים the sacrifices of (i.e. pleasing to) God, ψ 5119; שְׁבֻעַת יְהֹוָה the oath of (i.e. sworn before) the Lord, 1 K 248; דִּבְרֵי לְמוּאֵל the words of (i.e. addressed to) L., Pr 311.

i (c)A partitive genitive; this includes especially the cases in which an adjective in the construct state is followed by a general term, e.g. חַכְמוֹת שָֽׂרוֹתֶיהָ the wisest of her ladies, Ju 529; cf. for this way of expressing the superlative, § 133 h, and also r below.

k Merely formal genitives (genit. explicativus or epexegeticus, genit. appositionis) are those added to the construct state as nearer definitions—

(d) Of the name, e.g. נְהַר פְּרָת the river Euphrates; אֶ֫רֶץ כְּנַ֫עַן the land of Canaan; בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל the virgin Israel (not of Israel), Am 52.

l (e) Of the genus, e.g. Pr 1520 (21:20) כְּסִיל אָדָם a fool of a man (=a foolish man); cf. Gn 1612, Is 14, 2919, Ho 132, Mi 54, &c.

m (f) Of the species, e.g. אֲחֻזַּת קֶ֫בֶר a possession of a burying-place, i.e. hereditary sepulchre, Gn 234, &c.; תְּאֵנֵי הַבַּכֻּרוֹת the early figs, Jer 242; אֹ֫הֶל בֵּיתִי the tabernacle of my house, i.e. my dwelling-place, ψ 1323.

n (g) Of the measure, weight, extent, number, e.g. מְתֵי מִסְפָּר people of number, i.e. few in number, Gn 3430, Dt 265; cf. also Ez 473–5 waters of the ankles, waters of the loins, waters of swimming, i.e. which reached up to the ankles, or loins, or necessitated swimming; but in verse 4 in apposition (?) מַ֫יִם בִּרְכַּ֫יִם.

o (h) Of the material[7] of which something consists, e.g. כְּלִי חָ֑רֶשׂ a vessel of earthenware, Nu 517; כְּלֵי כֶ֫סֶף vessels of silver (cf. the French des vases d’or); אֲרוֹן עֵץ an ark of wood, שֵׁ֫בֶט בַּרְזֶל a rod of iron, ψ 29; cf. Gn 321, 614, Ju 713, &c. p (i) Of the attribute of a person or thing, e.g. Gn 178 אֲחֻזַּת עוֹלָם an everlasting possession; Pr 178 a precious stone; cf. Nu 286, Is 138, 284, ψ 232, 313, Pr 519, 145, Jb 4119, and the examples of the genitive with a suffix given in § 135 n. Such a periphrasis for the expression of attributes frequently occurs, even when the corresponding adjectives are in use. Thus especially קֹ֫דֶשׁ holiness very frequently serves as a periphrasis for the adjective קָדוֹשׁ (e.g. בִּגְדֵי הַקֹּ֫דֶשׁ the holy garments, Ex 2929), since קָדוֹשׁ is used almost exclusively in reference to persons (hence also with עַם and גּוֹי people, and with שֵׁם the name of a person); the only exceptions are מָקוֹם קָדוֹשׁ holy place, Ex 2931, &c.; מַ֫יִם קְדשִׁים holy water, Nu 517; קָדוֹשׁ as the predicate of יוֹם day, Neh 810 f., and of מַֽחֲנֶה camp, Dt 2315. So also the use of צַדִּיק righteous is always confined to persons, except in Dt 48; elsewhere the periphrasis with צֶ֫דֶק or צְדָקָה is always used, e.g. מֹֽאזְנֵי צֶ֫דֶק just balances, Lv 1936.

q In a wider sense this use of the genitive also includes statements of the purpose for which something is intended, e.g. צֹאן טִבְחָה sheep for the slaughter, ψ 4423; מוּסַר שְׁלוֹמֵ֫נוּ the chastisement designed for our peace, Is 535; cf. 51:17 (the cup which causes staggering), ψ 11613; finally, also, the description of the material, with which something is laden or filled, e.g. 1 S 1620 חֲמֹר לֶ֫חֶם וְנֹאד יַ֫יִן an ass laden with bread and a bottle of wine (but probably עֲשָׂרָה is to be read for חֲמֹר); cf. Gn 2114, Pr 720, &c.

r Rem. 1. Certain substantives are used to convey an attributive idea in the construct state before a partitive genitive; thus מִבְחָר choice, selection, as in Gn 236 מִבְחַר קְבָרֵ֫ינוּ the choice of our sepulchres, i.e. our choicest sepulchres; Ex 154, Is 227, 3724; other examples are, Is 116 the evil of your doings, emphatically, for your evil doings; Is 174, 3724 (=the tall cedars thereof), ψ 13922, Jb 1526.—This is the more common construction with the substantive כֹּל entirety, for all, the whole, every, see § 127 b; it is also frequent with מְעַט a little, for few, 1 S 1728, &c.

s 2. To the periphrases expressing attributive ideas (see p above) by means of a genitive construction may be added the very numerous combinations of the construct states אִישׁ a man, בַּעַל master, possessor, בֶּן־ son, and their feminines and plurals (including מְתֵי men, used only in the plural), with some appellative noun, in order to represent a person (poetically even a thing) as possessing some object or quality, or being in some condition. In English, such combinations are sometimes rendered by single substantives, sometimes by circumlocution.


t (a) Of אִישׁ, &c.; אִישׁ דְּבָרִים an eloquent man, Ex 410 (but אִישׁ שְׂפָתַ֫יִם Jb 112 a man of lips, i.e. a boaster); אִישׁ לָשׁוֹן = a slanderer, ψ 14012; אִישׁ דַּ֫עַת a man of knowledge, Pr 245; אִישׁ חֵמָה a wrathful man, Pr 1518; אִישׁ דָּמִים a man of blood, 2 S 167, ψ 57; cf. further, 1 S 1618, 1 K 226, Is 533, Pr 196, 2621, 291, Ezr 818; also אֵ֫שֶׁת מִדְיָנִים a contentious woman, Pr 2715; in the plural, e.g. Gn 64 אַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם the men of renown, famous; cf. Gn 476, Is 4111, Jb 348, 10 (אַנְשֵׁי לֵבָב men of understanding); with מְתֵי, e.g. Is 513 (מְתֵי רָעָב famished men; but read probably מְזֵי רָעָב weak with hunger); ψ 264, Jb 1111, 2215.

u (b) Of בַּ֫עַל, &c.; בַּ֫עַל שֵׂעָר hairy, 2 K 18; בַּ֫עַל הַֽחֲלֹמוֹת the dreamer, Gn 3719; cf. Na 12, Pr 117, 189 (a destroyer), 22:24, 23:2 (disposed to eat, greedy), 24:8; feminine בַּֽעֲלַת־אוֹב a woman that hath a soothsaying spirit, 1 S 287; cf. Na 34; in the plural, e.g. בַּֽעֲלֵי חִצִּים archers, Gn 4923, בַּֽעֲלֵי בְרִית confederates, Gn 1413; בַּֽעֲלֵי שְׁבוּעָה sworn supporters, Neh 618.

v (c) Of בֶּן־, &c.: בֶּן־חַ֫יִל a hero, warrior, 1 K 152; בֶּן־מֶ֫שֶׁק heir, Gn 152; בֶּן־שָׁנָה yearling, Ex 125, &c.; בֶּן־מְאַת שָׂנָה centum annos natus, Gn 215; בֶּן־מָ֫וֶת worthy to die, 1 S 2031 (Luther, 2 S 125 ein Kind des Todes); cf. Dt 252 בִּן־הַכּוֹת worthy to be beaten. Feminine, e.g. בַּת־בְּלִיַּ֫עַל a wicked woman, 1 S 116; frequently also אִישׁ בְּלִיַּ֫עַל, בְּנֵי ב׳, אַנְשֵׁי ב׳ and even simply בְּלִיַּ֫עַל, like the Latin scelus for scelestissimus, 2 S 236, Jb 3418. Plural masculine, e.g. בְּנֵי מֶ֑רִי children of rebellion, Nu 1725. בֶּן־ is used poetically of things without life, e.g. Is 51 בֶּן־שָׁ֫מֶן a fat, i.e. a fruitful (hill); Jon 410 בִּן־לַ֫יְלָה i.e. grown in a night; Jb 4120 son of the bow (i.e. an arrow); so also בְּנֵי רֶשֶׁף = sparks, Jb 57; La 313; בְּנוֹת Ec 124 the daughters of song, probably meaning the individual notes.

There is another use of בֶּן־ or בְּנֵי to denote membership of a guild or society (or of a tribe, or any definite class). Thus בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים or בְּנֵי הָֽאֱלֹהִים Gn 62, 4, Jb 16, 21, 387 (cf. also בְּנֵי אֵלִים ψ 291, 897) properly means not sons of god(s), but beings of the class of אֱלֹהִים or אֵלִים; בְּנֵיֽ־הַנְּבִיאִיס 1 K 2035 (singular in Am 714) persons belonging to the guild of prophets; בֶּן־הָֽרַקָּתִים Neh 38 one of the guild of apothecaries, cf. 3:31 where בֶּן־הַצֹּֽרְפִים is to be read. Similarly בְּנֵי שִׁלֵּשִׁים Gn 5023 are most probably not great-grandsons but grandsons, i.e. those belonging to the third generation. Cf. also בְּנֵי הַגֵּֽרְשֻׁנִּי Nu 427 f. Gershonites, בְּנֵי הַקְּהָתִים 2 Ch 2019, &c., Kohathites; בְּנֵי קֶ֫דֶם dwellers in the East.

w 3. Special mention must be made of the not infrequent idiom by which adjectives (sometimes also ordinals, see § 134 o) are added in the genitive, like substantives, rather than as attributes in the same state, gender, and number as the noun which they qualify; thus, Is 284 צִיצַת נֹבֵל the flower of that which fades, for which verse 1 has צִיץ נֹבֵל the fading flower; cf. further, Is 2224, Jer 2217 (?), 52:13, ψ 7310, 7415 (but אֵיתָן may be a substantive), 78:49; also the use of רַע as a substantive, e.g. in Pr 214 b, 6:24 (אֵ֫שֶׁת רַע), &c., analogous to the New Testament phrase ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς ἀδικίας, Luke 16:8, and the French un homme de bien.[8]—Finally, an adverb (treated as a substantive) may likewise be used as an epexegetical genitive; cf. דְּמֵי חִנָּם blood shed without cause, 1 K 231; Pr 2428, 262; Ez 3016 (יוֹמָם).

x 3. The epexegetical genitives include finally the numerous nearer definitions which follow the coustruct state of adjectives (and of active and passive participles, or verbal adjectives, cf. § 116 f–l). For, while the word of nearer definition is added to the verb in the accusative (e.g. חָלָה אֶת־רַגְלָיו he was diseased in his feet, 1 K 1523), it may, with participles and verbal adjectives, be either in the accusative (§ 116 f and k) or in the genitive, the case of a word depending on a noun. Such a genitive relation is usually termed an improper annexion. The nearer definition contains a statement either of the material, e.g. Ex 38, &c., אֶ֫רֶץ זָבַת תָלָב וּדְבַשׁ a land flowing with milk and honey; or of the means, e.g. חַלְלֵי־חֶ֫רֶב slain with the sword, Is 222; or the cause, Ct 25 sick of love; or of the scope of the attribute,[9] e.g. Gn 396 יְפֵה־תֹ֫אַר fair of form; cf. Gn 412, 4, Ex 346, Is 14, Jer 3219, Na 13, ψ 1191, Jb 3716; or of the manner, e.g. ψ 596 בֹּֽגְדֵי אָ֫וֶן faithless ones of wickedness (wickedly faithless).

y Especially frequent is the use of this genitive to name the part of the body described as being affected by some physical or mental condition, e.g. ψ 244 נְקִי בַפַּ֫יִם clean as regards hands, &c.; 2 S 93, Is 65, Jb 179; Is 1910 אַגְמֵי־נָ֫פֶשׁ grieved in soul; 1 S 110, Jb 320. Also such examples as Am 216, Pr 191, where a suffix is attached to the substantive, must be regarded as instances of the genitive construction, on the analogy of Pr 142, see § 116 k.

  1. Very rare, and only possible in very rapid utterance, are such exceptions as Ez 3116 (מִבְחַר וְטֽוֹב־לְבָנוֹן); Pr 1611.—In Is 112 the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, דַּעַ֫ת may at any rate also be taken as an absolute genitive, so also סֵ֫פֶר Dn 14.
  2. In ψ 1141 a second genitive is added even without the copula, but the parallelism of the members renders any misunderstanding impossible.
  3. In almost all these instances the two (or three) genitives form one closely connected whole, as heaven and earth, sons and daughters.
  4. Halévy, J. A. xiv. 548, removes the difficulty by pointing עַרְכֹּךְ.
  5. The latter term is preferred especially by König, Theol. Stud. und Krit., 1898, p. 528 ff.
  6. Cf. in Latin a similar use of the genitive after iniuria (Caes. B. G. 1, 30), metus (hostium, Pompeii, &c.), spes, and other words. In Greek, cf. εὔνοια τῶν φίλων, πίστις τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ λόγος ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ, 1 Cor. 1:18.
  7. In the almost entire absence of corresponding adjectives (אָרוּז made of cedar, a denominative from אֶ֫רֶז, and נָחוּשׁ brazen are the only examples), the language regularly has recourse to the above periphrasis. On the form qāṭûl, as expressing an inherent property, cf. § 50 f; cf. also the proper name, בַּרְזִלַּי ferreus.
  8. On the other hand, in such passages as Is 362 (2 K 1817), Zc 144, Ec 810, &c., there is no apparent reason why the Masora requires the construct state instead of the absolute; hence חֵיל Is 362 and גֵּיא Zc 144 must be intended as forms of the absolute state, shortened in consequence of their close connexion.
  9. Cf. the Latin integer vitae scelerisque purus; tristes animi, &c.