Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/142. The Verbal-clause

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§142. The Verbal-clause.

142a 1. By §140f there is an essential distinction between verbal-clauses, according as the subject stands before or after the verb. In the verbal-clause proper the principal emphasis rests upon the action which proceeds from (or is experienced by) the subject, and accordingly the verb naturally precedes (necessarily so when it is in the perf. consec. or imperf. consec.). Nevertheless, the subject does sometimes precede even in the verbal-clause proper, in the continuation of the narrative, e.g. Gn 719, 1 S 181, 2 S 1912; especially so if there is special emphasis upon it, e.g. Gn 313 (it is not I who am to blame, but) the serpent beguiled me, cf. Gn 25, &c.[1] In the great majority of instances, however, the position of the subject at the beginning of a verbal-clause is to be explained from the fact that the clause is not intended to introduce a new fact carrying on the narrative, but rather to describe a state. Verbal-clauses of this kind approximate closely in character to noun-clauses, and not infrequently (viz. when the verbal form might just as well be read as a participle) it is doubtful whether the writer did not in fact intend a noun-clause.

142b The particular state represented in the verb may consist—

(a) Of an act completed long before, to which reference is made only because it is necessary for understanding the sequel of the principal action. If the predicate be a perfect (as it almost always is in these cases), it is generally to be rendered in English by a pluperfect; cf. the examples discussed above in §106f (1 S 283, &c.); also Gn 68 (not Noah found grace); 16:1, 18:17, 20:4, 24:1, 39:1 (and Joseph in the meanwhile had been brought down to Egypt); 41:10, Ju 116, 1 S 915, 1427, 2521, 1 K 11, &c.—In a wider sense this applies also to such verbal-clauses as Gn 26 (see further, §112e), since when they serve to represent an action continuing for a long period in the past, and thus to some extent a state.

142c (b) Of a fact, contemporaneous with the principal events or continuing as the result of them. To the former class belong all those instances in which the predicate is combined with הָיָה (provided that הָיָה has not, as in Gn 12, 31, &c., been weakened to a mere copula, in which case the precedence of the subject is fully explained from the character of the clause as a noun-clause; cf. §141i, and the examples of הָיָה, &c., with a participle, §116r); as an example of the second class, cf. e.g. Gn 1312 אַבְרָם יָשַׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־כְּנָ֑עַן וגו׳ Abraham accordingly continued to dwell in the land of Canaan, but Lot dwelt, &c. 142d Rem. 1. The close relation between verbal-clauses beginning with the subject and actual noun-clauses, is seen finally from the fact that the former also are somewhat frequently added with וְ (or subordinated) to a preceding sentence in order to lay stress upon some accompanying circumstance; on such noun-clauses describing a state or circumstance, cf. §141e. This is especially the case, again, when the circumstantial appendage involves an antithesis; cf. Gn 1818 seeing that nevertheless Abraham shall surely become, &c.; 24:56, 26:27, Is 2913, Jer 1415, ψ 5017, Jb 2122, and such examples as Gn 42,4, 29:17, where by means of וְ a new subject is introduced in express antithesis to one just mentioned. Moreover, in the examples treated above, under b and c (1 S 283, &c.), the subject is frequently introduced by וְ, which then corresponds to the Greek δέ, used to interpose an explanation, &c., see Winer, Gramm. des neutest. Sprachidioms, § 53. 7b.

142e 2. By a peculiar construction verbal-clauses may be joined by means of וְ and a following subject to participial clauses, e.g. Gn 3825 הִיא מוּצֵאת וְהִיא שָֽׁלְחָה she was already brought forth, when she sent, &c.; 44:3, 4, Ju 183, 1911, 2 S 208; for other examples, see §116u (where it is pointed out, note 1, that the apodosis also frequently appears in the form of a noun-clause, a further proof of the close relation between verbal-clauses beginning with the subject and noun-clauses proper). Without doubt there is in all these cases a kind of inversion of the principal clause and the temporal subordinate clause; the latter for the sake of greater emphasis being raised to an independent noun-clause, while the real principal action is added as though it were an accompanying circumstance, and hence in the form of an ordinary circumstantial clause. [Cf. Driver, Tenses, § 166 ff.]

142f 2. According to what has been remarked above, under a, the natural order of words within the verbal sentence is: Verb—Subject, or Verb—Subject—Object. But as in the noun-clause (§141l) so also in the verbal-clause, a variation of the usual order of words frequently occurs when any member of the sentence is to be specially emphasized by priority of position.[2] Thus the order may be:—

(a) Object—Verb—Subject: Gn 3040, 374, 1 S 151, 2 K 2319 and frequently. Naturally the examples are far more numerous, in which the object precedes a verbal form which includes the subject in itself, e.g. Gn 310,14,18, 6:16, 8:17, 9:13, Ex 1823, Ju 143, 1 S 1817, 209, 2110, 2 K 228, Pr 135, &c.

(b) Verb—Object—Subject: Gn 217, Nu 523, 1 S 1533, 2 S 2416 (but המלאך is probably only a subsequent addition); Is 1913, ψ 3422, Jb 1119, &c.

(c) Subject—Object—Verb: Is 317, 118, 1318, Ho 1211, ψ 610, 115, Jb 2925.[3] (d) Object—Subject—Verb (very rarely): 2 K 513, Is 517, 2817, ψ 515, Pr 1316 (read כֹּל).[4]

(e) A substantival complement of the verb היה is placed first in Is 185 וּבֹסֵר גֹּמֵל יִֽהְיֶה נִצָּה and a ripening grape the flower becometh.

142g Rem. Of specifications compounded with a preposition those of place stand regularly after the verb, unless they are specially emphatic as e.g. Gn 192, 3016, 325, Mi 51, Est 912; in Gn 2925 בְּרָחֵל with בְּ pretii precedes for the sake of emphasis. Cf., however, in Gn 3513 the order verb—specification of place—subject.—The remoter object precedes for the sake of emphasis, e.g. in Gn 1315 (26:3), 15:3; even before the interrogative. Gn 2737 (cf. Jer 2215 where the subject precedes an interrogative, and 1 S 208, Jb 3431 where a prepositional specification precedes). — Prepositional specifications of time, such as בְּרֵאשִׁית (Gn 11), בְּיוֹם, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, &c. (but not בָּרִֽאשֹׁנָה, nor the simple רִֽאשֹׁנָה, בַּתְּחִלָּה, לְעוֹלָם), stand, as a rule, before the verb, provided it be not in the perf. consec. or imperf. consec.; so also certain adverbs of time, such as אָז, עַתָּה, whilst others like עוֹד, תָּמִיד regularly follow the verb.

  1. This of course applies also to the cases, in which the subject consists of a strongly emphasized personal pronoun, e.g. Gn 3213 אַתָּה thou thyself; 33:3 הוּא he himself.
  2. Not infrequently also the striving after chiasmus mentioned in §114r, note, occasions a departure from the usual arrangement of words.
  3. This sequence occurs even in prose (Gn 179, 236, &c.); it is, however, more doubtful here than in the above prophetical and poetical passages, whether the preceding subject should not be regarded rather as the subject of a compound sentence (§ 143), the predicate of which is an independent verbal-clause; this would explain why the verbal-clause is usually separated from the subject by one of the greater disjunctives.—On the other hand, the sequence SubjectObjectVerb is quite common in Aramaic (e.g. Dn 27, 10); cf. Gesenius, Comm. on Is 4224, and Kautzsch’s Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., § 84. 1 b. The pure Aramaic usage of placing the object before the infinitive occurs in Hebrew in Lv 199, 2121, Dt 2856, 2 S 1119, Is 496, 2 Ch 2810, 317, 3619 (?).
  4. This sequence occurs more frequently in noun-clauses with a participial predicate, e.g. Gn 3716, 419, 2 S 134, &c., in interrogative sentences, e.g. 2 K 622, Jer 719; in all which cases the emphasized object is placed before the natural sequence of subject—predicate. [Cf. Driver, Tenses, § 208.]