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Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/144. Peculiarities in the Representation of the Subject (especially in the Verbal-clause)

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§144. Peculiarities in the Representation of the Subject (especially in the Verbal-clause).

144a 1. According to § 40 ff. most forms of the finite verb include a specification of the subject in the form of personal afformatives (in the imperfect also in the form of preformatives). Not infrequently, however, masculine forms are used in referring to feminines, e.g. וִֽידַעְתֶּם Ez 2349; עֲשִׂיתֶם Ru 18; in the imperfect, Jo 222, Ct 27; in the imperative, Am 41, Zc 137 (for other examples, see §110k). On emphasizing the pronominal subject by the addition of the separate pronoun, see §135a and b.

On the masculine as prior gender, cf. §122g; on similar anomalies in the use of the personal pronoun, §135o, in the connexion between substantive and adjective, §132d, between subject and predicate, §145p, t, u.

144b 2. The third person singular is often used impersonally, especially in the masculine, e.g. וַֽיְהִי and it came to pass, וְהָיָה and it shall come to pass; חָרָה followed by לוֹ, &c., it became hot to him, i.e. he became angry, Gn 46, &c.; וַיֵּ֫צֶר לוֹ lit. and it became strait to him, he was distressed, Gn 328;[1] also in the feminine, e.g. 1 S 306 (Ju 109) וַתֵּ֫צֶר לְדָוִד Ju 1139, Jer 731, Ez 1225, Jb 1532 (unless תְּמֽוּרָתוֹ in verse 31 be the subject); cf. also the impersonal passives, Is 16 (רֻכְּכָה), 29:6 (תִּפָּקֵד). Somewhat different are the instances in which the 3rd singular feminine occurs as the predicate of a feminine subject which is not mentioned, but is before the mind of the speaker, e.g. Is 77, 1424, Jer 107, Jb 45, 1815 (in 2 K 247 כָּל־אֲשֶׁר is used in this way with a feminine predicate, and in Jer 195 אֲשֶׁר alone); different, too, are the instances in which the 3rd singular masculine refers to an act just mentioned, e.g. Gn 1711 וְהָיָה and this (the circumcision) shall be a token of a covenant, &c.

144c Rem. The expressions for natural phenomena may be either in the 3rd sing. masculine or feminine, e.g. אוֹר it becomes light, 1 S 2910 (but with an explicit subject, Gn 443); וַיֵּאוֹר and it became light; so also יַחְשִׁךְ it grows dark, Jer 1316; but וְחָֽשְׁכָה Mi 36; תָּעֻ֫פָה though there be darkness, Jb 1117; תַּמְטִיר it rains, Am 47 (where, however, the context requires the reading אַמְטִיר); ψ 503 נִשְׂעֲרָה it is tempestuous. 144d 3. The indefinite personal subject (our they, one, the French on, and the German man[2]) is expressed—

(a) By the 3rd person singular masculine, e.g. קָרָא one (sc. any one who named it, see the Rem.) called (or calls) it, Gn 119, 1614, 1922, Ex 1523; וַוִּקְרָא Gn 358, 10, 2 S 216, Is 95; וַיֹּא֫מֶר one said, Gn 481, 1 S 164;[3] other examples are Gn 3828 one put out a hand; Nu 2321, 1 K 2238, Is 610 וְרָפָא לוֹ and one heals them; 8:4 (יִשָּׂא); 46:7 (יִצְעַק); Am 612, Mi 24, Jb 2723; by the 3rd singular feminine (יָֽלְדָה) Nu 2659.

144e Rem. The Jewish commentators, following the Arab grammarians, usually explain these singulars by the addition of the participle (generally determinate) of the same stem, e.g. קָרָא הַקֹּרֵא. This view is supported by the fact that such a complement sometimes occurs, e.g. Is 1610 יִדְרֹךְ הַדֹּרֵךְ the treader treads out, for one treads out; 28:4, 24 (doth one plow continually?); Dt 176 (Ez 1832), Dt 228, 2 S 179 (Ez 334), Jer 923; with an indeterminate participle (as in Arabic, e.g. qāla qāʾilun, a sayer says, i.e. some one says), e.g. Nu 69, Am 91; cf. above, §116t, and, on the whole question, Driver on 1 S 164.

144f (b) Very frequently by the 3rd plural masculine, e.g. Gn 292 for out of that well יַשְׁקוּ they (i.e. people generally) watered the flocks; 26:18, 35:5, 41:14, 49:31, 1 K 12, Is 3816, Ho 129, Jb 1818, 3420, Est 22, Neh 27.

144g Rem. The 3rd plur. also is sometimes used to express an indefinite subject, where the context does not admit of a human agent or at least not of several, e.g. Gn 3427. In such a case the 3rd plur. comes to be equivalent to a passive, as very commonly in Aramaic (see Kautzsch’s Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., § 96. 1 c); e.g. Jb 73 wearisome nights מִנּוּ־לִי have they allotted to me (equivalent to were allotted to me; to make ‘invisible powers’ the subject is a merely artificial device); Jb 419, 62, 1818, 1926, 3420, Ez 3225, ψ 6311, Pr 222 (in parallelism with a passive); 9:11.

144h (c) By the 2nd singular masculine, e.g. Is 725 לֹֽא־תָבוֹא שָׁ֫מָּה one will (or can) not come thither (prop. thou wilt...); Jer 2337, Pr 1925, 3028 (unless the reading should be תִּתָּפֵשׂ). Cf. also עַד־בֹּֽאֲךָ or simply בֹּֽאֲךָ (Gn 1019, 30, 13:10 בֹּֽאֲבָה) prop. until thy coming, i.e. until one comes.

144i (d) By the plural of the participle, e.g. Jer 3823 and all thy wives and thy children מֽוֹצִאִים (prop. are they bringing out=) they will bring out, &c.; cf. Is 3212, Ez 137, Neh 610 (for some are coming to slay thee) and the passages discussed above, §116t.[4] In 1 K 51 the text is corrupt.

144k (e) By the passive, e.g. Gn 426 אָז הוּחַל לִקְרֹא then (was it begun=) began men to call upon, &c. (but read זֶה הֵחֵל he began).

144l 4. A peculiar idiom, and one always confined to poetic language, is the not infrequent occurrence of two subjects in a verbal sentence,[5] one of the person and the other of the thing. The latter then serves—whether it precedes or follows—to state the instrument, organ, or member by which the action in question is performed, and may be most often rendered in English by an adverb, as a nearer definition of the manner of the action. All the examples of this kind have this in common, that the subject denoting the thing takes a suffix in the same person as the personal subject.[6] They are thus distinguished from the accusatives treated in §117s, with which they are often confused.

144m (a) Examples where the subject denoting the thing precedes, אֶל־יְהֹוָה אֶקְרָא קוֹלִי my voice—I cry unto the Lord, i.e. I cry aloud unto the Lord, ψ 35, 277, 1422; פִּֽי־קָרָ֫אתִי my mouthI cried, i.e. I cried aloud, ψ 6617 (cf. 17:10); Is 269 נַפְשִׁי with my soul, i.e. fervently, and parallel with it אָף־רוּחִי; but נַפְשִׁי ψ 575 is rather a periphrasis for the 1st pers. I.

(b) Where the subject denoting the thing follows, צַֽהֲלִי קוֹלֵךְ crythy voice (i.e. aloud), Is 1030; so also after an imperative, ψ 1713 (חַרְבֶּ֫ךָ) and verse 14 (יָֽדְךָ); 60:7, 108:7 (יְמִֽינְךָ); after a perfect, Hb 315 (סוּסֶ֫יךָ); after a cohortative, ψ 1082 (אַף־כְּבוֹדִי). The subject denoting the thing stands between the personal subject and the predicate in ψ 443 אַתָּה יָֽדְךָ.[7]

144n Rem. 1. Sometimes (as in other languages) an action is ascribed to a subject which can only have been performed at his direction by another person; cf. e.g. Gn 4022 (41:13), 41:14, 43:34 (and he commanded to set before them, &c.); 46:29, 2 S 129.

144o 2. Supposed ellipses of a definite subject are due either to a misunderstanding of the passage, or to a corruption of the text. Thus in 1 S 2411 after וַתָּ֫חָס either עֵינִי has dropped out (through confusion with עָלֶ֫יךָ) or we should read with the LXX וָֽאָחֻס. In 2 S 1339 (וַתְּכַל דָּוִד) the text is obviously corrupt.

144p 3. In poetic (or prophetic) language[8] there sometimes occurs (supposing the text to be correct) a more or less abrupt transition from one person to another. Thus from the 2nd to the 3rd (i.e. from an address to a statement), Gn 494 (?), Is 316 (?), 42:20, 52:14, 61:7, Mal 215 (where, however, for יִבְגֹּד we should undoubtedly read תִּבְגּׄד); ψ 229 [and regularly after a vocative, Is 2216, 478, 481, 541, 11, Jer 2216, 494, 16, Am 56f., Mic 12 (=1 K 2228), Mal 39, 2 K 931; and after הוֹי Is 58, 2915, Jer 2213]. From the 3rd to the 2nd pers., Dt 3215, Is 129 (but read probably חֶמְדָּתָם for חֲמַדְתֶּם, which has caused the insertion of אֲשֶׁר), 5:8, Jer 2919, Jb 167, cf. also Dt 3217. From the 1st to the 3rd pers., La 31 (in a relative clause). In Jb 1328 the 3rd pers. וְהוּא is probably employed δεικτικῶς for the 1st.

  1. In Arabic and Ethiopic the masculine is commonly used in this case, in Syriac the feminine.—The forms חַם hot, טוֹב good, well, מַר bitter, צַר narrow, רַע evil (frequently joined by לִי, לוֹ, &c.), which many regard as impersonal, are no doubt to be regarded in most cases not as forms of the 3rd pers. sing. perf., but, with Hupfeld on ψ 187, as adjectives.
  2. In 1 S 99 הָאִישׁ (prop. the man) is used in exactly the same sense as our one.
  3. Elsewhere in such cases וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ usually occurs (but not in the perfect, e.g. 1 S 2322), so that it is doubtful whether the present reading of Gn 481, &c., would not be better explained according to §7d, note. In Gn 482 for the extraordinary וַיַּגֵּד the common form וַיֻּגַּד is to be read; so in 50:26 for וַיִּישֶׂם (after a plural) either וַיּוּשַׂם or the 3rd plur.; in 2 K 2126 וַיִּקְבְּרוּ.
  4. That this form of expression also (see g) comes to be equivalent to a passive is seen from the analogy of such Aramaic passages as Dn 422, which exclude any idea of human agency. Cf. Kautzsch, Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., § 76. 2 e at the end, and in post.-bibl. Hebrew, e.g. Pirqe Aboth 2, 16; 3, 5, &c.
  5. Two subjects occur in a noun-clause in ψ 8319.
  6. In Ex 63 שְׁמִי is subordinated to the following passive נוֹדַ֫עְתִּי (§121b); in 1 S 2526, 33 יָדִי, יָֽדְךָ are subjects to the infinitive absolute הוֹשֵׁעַ, according to § 113 gg. In ψ 6911 read וָֽאֲעַנֶּה for וָֽאֶבְכֶּה.
  7. In several of the above examples it might naturally be supposed that the subject denoting the thing (especially when it follows the verb) is to be explained rather as a casus instrumentalis, i.e. as an accusative, analogous to the adverbial accusatives in §118q. But although it is true that the subject denoting the thing often defines more closely the manner in which the action is performed, and although in similar (but still different) examples, ψ 892, 10930, Jb 1916, פִּי occurs with בְּ instrumentale, the explanation given above must nevertheless be accepted.
  8. In prose, Lv 28; but וְהִקְרִיבָהּ here is hardly the original reading. Different from this is Gn 267, where there is a transition to direct narration.