BIBLICAL HEBREW VERBAL SYSTEM IN POETRY

1. A Verbal Theory for Prose and Poetry
When I wrote the final chapter of my Syntax of the Verb as well as my paper “Analysing
Biblical Hebrew Poetry,”
1
I thought that verbal forms in BH poetry did not play precise func-
tions, or rather that their functions were not the same as in prose. In addition, it was and still is
fairly common opinion among scholars, although not always openly declared, that the verbal
forms in poetry, more than in prose, can be taken to mean everything the interpreter thinks ap-
propriate according to his understanding and the context. In recent years I changed my mind. I
think now, first, that different verbal forms need play different functions in BH poetry as is the
case in prose and, second, that the functions of the verbal forms in poetry are basically the same
as in prose, more precisely in direct speech.
2
For convenience, here is a summary table of the functions of the verbal forms of direct
speech in prose.
TEMPORAL
AXIS
MAIN LEVEL OF COMMUNICATION
(FOREGROUND)
SECONDARY LEVEL OF COMMUN.
(BACKGROUND)
Past (X-) qatal → continuation wayyiqtol
(coordinated, main level)
cf. Deut 1:6 ff.; 5:2 ff.
→ x-qatal, non-verbal sentence,
x-yiqtol, w
e
qatal
(background)
Present Non-verbal sentence with /
without participle
cf. Gen 42:10-11
→ Non-verbal sentence with /
without participle
Future Indica-
tive
Non-verbal sentence
(esp. with participle)
→ continuation w
e
qatal
cf. Exod 7:17-18; 7:27-29
or:
Initial x-yiqtol → continuation
w
e
qatal (in a chain)
→ x-yiqtol (background)
Future volitive Imperative → w
e
yiqtol
(foreground)
cf. Num 6:24-26
or:
(x-) yiqtol cohortative/jussive
→ w
e
yiqtol (= foreground)

→ x-imperative
(background)
→ x-yiqtol (background)
Note:
Imperative → w
e
yiqtol = purpose (‘in order to’)
Imperative → w
e
qatal = consequence (‘thus, therefore’)
cf. Exod 25:2 → 8
2
The main difference is that direct speech, as prose in general, consists of pieces of infor-
mation conveyed in a sequence, while poetry communicates segments of information in paral-
lelism. The result is linear vs. segmental communication.
3
As a consequence, poetry is able to
switch from one temporal axis to another even more freely than direct speech. This results in a
greater variety of, and more abrupt transition from, one verbal form to another.
If so, it is inappropriate to smooth the asperities of a text as far as the verbal forms are
concerned—e.g., by translating everything with present tense except the cases where a different
time reference is clearly implied. We should rather do our best to carefully consider the verbal
forms and to interpret them in a consistent way. On the other hand, the difference between prose
and poetry may help understand some peculiarities in the functioning of the verbal system in the
latter. With this approach, the analysis of poetry becomes much more difficult but, as I think,
more respectful of the text and more fruitful.
1.1. Alternating Qatal/Yiqtol
Two main approaches to BH poetry can be mentioned. Most scholars fairly disregard the
verbal forms appearing in the texts and translate according to their own understanding, while
some assume archaic peculiarities in the use of verbal forms, especially an alternating occur-
rence, or variation, of qatal and yiqtol for the same event or information. This phenomenon has
been studied, among the first, by U. Cassuto and M. Held in the sixties-seventies on the basis of
Ugaritic and archaic Hebrew poetry. W. Moran also widely contributed to illustrating the
Northwest Semitic background of Hebrew. S. Gevirtz further suggested that the conjugational
variation qatal/yiqtol is a Canaanite peculiarity, also found in the Amarna letters.
4
In recent
years, a rather influential assessment of the situation following the pioneer research of W.
Moran is due to A.F. Rainey.
5
In principle, I would observe that, first, a phenomenon of a given language can not
automatically be applied to another language without appropriate control within the framework
of the verbal system of that language. Second, one should expect different verbal forms to play
different functions and analyze the texts accordingly on a synchronic level, rather than make the
analysis depend on comparative, diachronic considerations. Of course, diachrony is not ex-
cluded but one should make appropriate use of it, and in any case synchrony is crucial.
Now, in BH x-yiqtol and w
e
qatal occur along with qatal and wayyiqtol in prose texts re-
3
ferring to the past not only in historical narrative but also in direct speech (see table in § 1
above). Besides, w
e
qatal and wayyiqtol are not equivalent to the respective “nude” verbal forms
plus a prefixed waw. In other words, w
e
qatal is not the coordinate continuation form of qatal,
nor is wayyiqtol the coordinate continuation form of yiqtol; rather, in direct speech w
e
qatal is
the coordinate continuation form of discourse-initial indicative x-yiqtol, while wayyiqtol is the
coordinate continuation form of discourse-initial qatal or x-qatal. As a consequence, coordinate
waw with finite verbal forms does not have a place in BH syntax despite the common opinion of
the grammarians.
6
This situation is peculiar to BH as compared, e.g., to Ugaritic.
7
1.2. Yiqtol in the First Place of the Sentence
Besides the variation qatal/yiqtol (§ 1.1), a second major problem concerns yiqtol.
8
Ac-
cording to the theory presented here, sentence-initial yiqtol is volitive, or jussive, even though
its vocalization is not distinctively jussive or is not jussive at all. The problem is that a volitive
meaning is not always clear—sometimes it may even appear excluded, e.g., when it refers to the
past. Yet, the clear cases that are abundantly available and the consistency of the verbal system
encourage us to consider this issue seriously because, of course, the exact intention of the texts
is at stake.
This problem is seen differently by those scholars who, on the one side, regard as jussive
only the verbal forms morphologically marked as such, and by those who, on the other side, re-
gard as jussive also the sentence-initial yiqtol forms. A further problem arises, as already men-
tioned, when the context is past. A comparative, widely accepted solution is to regard jussive
yiqtol, or short prefix conjugation, occurring in a past context as a survival of ancient Canaanite
yaqtul, and the long form as survival of the ancient Canaanite imperfect yaqtulu (see no. 5
above).
In my view, a correct solution takes into account the distinctiveness and reciprocal rela-
tionships of verbal forms in BH direct speech in prose texts in the different temporal axes. First,
I think that morphology is not a sufficient criterion to identify volitive or jussive yiqtol forms
because, on the one hand, in many cases such verbal forms are not distinguishable from the in-
dicative ones and, on the other, morphology is not always rigorously respected even where dis-
tinctive verbal forms are possible.
9
Second, sentence-initial position alone identifies a yiqtol as
jussive, although second-place jussive x-yiqtol are also clearly attested.
10
4
The synchronic solution that I am proposing is based on the contention that the BH ver-
bal system attested in direct speech in prose basically applies to poetry.
11
From the table above,
it follows that a narrative yiqtol corresponding to the jussive yaqtul typically used in Ugaritic
poetic narrative is not attested in BH. In BH, yiqtol does not narrate, i.e., it is not employed to
convey historical information in the main line; it is only used to comment, specify, detail, or de-
scribe an event in some way. The absence of a narrative yiqtol in BH combined with the ab-
sence noted above of “inverted/converted” verbal forms in Ugaritic makes me suspicious of any
quick comparison between the two verbal systems.
A major problem in this connection is to identify the temporal reference of yiqtol in the
different occurrences since, as indicated above, it can refer to the axis of the future as well as to
that of the past. In the former case, indicative yiqtol corresponds to the future tense of the Latin
languages, while in the latter it corresponds to the imperfect tense of the same languages. Jus-
sive/volitive yiqtol, on its part, mostly refers to the axis of the future, but occasionally is also
found in the axis of the past, and in the latter case it signals finality (§ 2.4 below).
2. Analysis of Poetic Texts
In the following exposition I will try to illustrate the different functions of the two syn-
tactic constructions mentioned above, i.e., variation qatal/yiqtol, and first-place yiqtol. From
what has already been said, it follows that in BH one should speak, on the one side, of verbal
forms of the past axis rather than simply of qatal, because also wayyiqtol is attested, and, on the
other side, of verbal forms of the future axis rather than of yiqtol alone because w
e
qatal and
w
e
yiqtol are also attested. I will suggest that, first, qatal and yiqtol may refer each to its specific
time axis—past and future, respectively—and therefore simply represent a shift from past to
future information (§ 2.1); second, when both qatal and yiqtol refer to the axis of the past, they
signal a shift from main-line, punctual information (qatal) to secondary-line, repeated/habit-
ual/explicatory/descriptive information (yiqtol) (§ 2.2); third, sentence-initial yiqtol can be
functionally a non-initial yiqtol, i.e., a <x->yiqtol, because of a “double-duty modifier” (§ 2.3);
fourth, sentence-initial yiqtol plays volitive function (§ 2.4); and fifth, volitive yiqtol can play
the function of protasis (§ 2.5).
5
2.1. Variation Qatal/Yiqtol with Reference to Past/Future
In some Psalms the variation, or alternating occurrence of (a) qatal or (→a) continuation
wayyiqtol/(b) indicative x-yiqtol epitomizes a past intervention of God as the basis for the
psalmist’s hope for a similar intervention in the future. See Psa 4:4:
12
(a) ·¬¬·c¬¬·¬◊·¬¬c¬·:…·:√¬…· But know that the lord has set apart the godly for himself;
(b) ··¬×·×√¬∂¬::::ˆ·¬·¬◊· the Lord will hear me when I will call to him.
13
Similarly in Psa 6:9-10:
¡‰·×·¬:c¬:·ˆ…:::…·¬…·c
(9)
Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
(a) ·ˆ·::¬·¬¬·¬◊·:::·: for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
(a) ·:…:¬:¬·¬◊·:::
(10)
The Lord has heard my supplication;
(b) ¬∂¬ˆ··:¬c:¬·¬◊· the Lord will accept my prayer.
The variation from (a) qatal or (→a) continuation wayyiqtol to (b) x-yiqtol refers to dif-
ferent pieces of information both in Psa 4:4 and in 6:9-10 and the meaning is that God’s favor in
the past is the basis of confidence for the future. However, when that variation refers to the
same piece of information, it creates a kind of merismus
14
and the meaning is that what hap-
pened in the past will also happen in the future. See, e.g., Psa 8:6-7 (Engl. 8:5-6):
(→a) :·¬¬×:c::…·¬¬c¬:·
(6)
You have made him little less than God,
(b) …·¬¬c::¬∂¬¬◊·¬·::◊· and with glory and honor will you crown him—
(b) ¬·¬··::::…·¬¬·:::
(7)
<you> shall give him dominion over the works of thy hands;
(a) ··¬◊:¬:¬:¬::¬: everything you have put under his feet.
Because …·¬¬·::: in v. 7 parallels a waw-x-yiqtol construction in the previous line, it is
most probably to be analyzed as a similar construction with an elliptic element, maybe a pro-
nominal subject, i.e., <x-> yiqtol (see § 2.3 below). Note the pattern past-future (→a-b) // future-
past (b-a) in the sequence of the verbal forms.
The reverse occurrence (b) x-yiqtol/(a) qatal is also attested. See, e.g., in Psa 9:8:
(b) ::·:¬·:¬¬·¬·· But the Lord will sit enthroned for ever;
(a) ·×c:cc::¬¡:·: he has established his throne for judgment.
The psalmist states that the Lord is going to judge the world and he has already set up his
throne (as previously stated in v. 5). Contrast: “But the Lord sits enthroned for ever, he has es-
tablished his throne for judgment” (RSV), or “But the Lord abides forever; He has set up His
throne for judgment” (JPS).
6
Indeed, as I have tried to show elsewhere,
15
the whole Psa 9 is structured in three levels
of communication established by specific verbal forms: the level of prayer, with volitive
forms—imperative and jussive yiqtol; the level of God’s action in the past, mostly with qatal;
and the level of the consequences for the just and the wicked, mostly with x-yiqtol. This dy-
namic three-level structure continues in the following Psa 10, which constitutes a unit with
Psalm 9 (see the LXX). The aim of this composition is to show that just as God intervened in
the past in favor of the poor, the same he will do in the future, and this faith constitutes the basis
of the prayer.
16
2.2. Variation Qatal/Yiqtol with Reference to Past
As already mentioned, in BH the phenomenon of the variation of (a) qatal/(b) indicative
yiqtol concerns not only these two verbal forms but also their continuation forms (→a) way-
yiqtol and (→b) w
e
qatal. A good example is Psa 78 which shows different such cases. Let us be-
gin with vv. 12-15:
(a) ׬c¬::::·:׬‰:‰:
(12)
In the sight of their fathers he wrought marvels
¡::¬¬::ˆ·¬::¡¬×: in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
(a/→a) :¬·::··:·:¬:
(13)
He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
(→a) ¬:·:::ˆ·::…:·· and made the waters stand like a heap,
(→a) ::··¡::::¬◊:··
(14)
and led them with a cloud in the daytime,
:׬·×:¬¬◊·¬¬¬:◊· and all the night with a fiery light.
(b) ¬:√¬:::·¬::¬:◊·
(15)
By cleaving (‘<While he> was cleaving’) rocks in the wilderness,
(→a) ¬:¬:·:¬::¬:·· he gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
V. 12 opens with (a) x-qatal, which is a usual way of starting an oral narrative. This is
followed by a parallel (a) qatal in v. 13—actually, both x-qatal and initial qatal are attested at
the start of an oral narrative to begin the main line of communication in the past (see table in § 1
above). The main line goes on with continuation (→a) wayyiqtol in vv. 13-14. Then there
comes, as a surprise, a (b) first-place yiqtol in v. 15. The surprise is actually double: first be-
cause yiqtol used with past reference indicates repetition, habit, explication or description, while
both qatal and wayyiqtol indicate punctuality; second, because first-place yiqtol has volitive
function (see table in § 1 above).
The translation above assumes that the sentence-initial yiqtol in v. 15 is not volitive but
actually an elliptic indicative <x-> yiqtol construction (see § 2.3. below). However, before ex-
plaining this analysis let us get a broader picture of the situation by considering other cases oc-
7
curring in Psa 78. Indeed, the sequence of the verbal forms in vv. 25-26 is similar to that of the
previous passage, i.e., (a) x-qatal in v. 12 and (b) <x-> yiqtol and (→a) wayyiqtol in v. 15, as is
that of vv. 46-47:
(a) :·×¬:×:·¬·:×:¬¬
(25)
(→a) :¬…·:◊·¬·c¬¬¡:ˆ··
(46)
(a) :::¬:¬¬¬¬:¬∂¬·: ¬:√¬×¬::·ˆ:·ˆ·
(b) :ˆ·::::·¬∂¬:c·
(26)
(b) ::c…:¬∂¬:::¬¬·
(47)
(→a) ¡:·:·Ω·:::¬:◊·· ¬::¬:::·:¬:◊·
(Psa 78:25) Man ate of the bread of the angels; / he sent them food in abundance. / (26) By caus-
ing (‘<While he> was causing’) the east wind to blow in the heavens, / he led out by his power the
south wind.
(46) And he gave their crops to the caterpillar, / and the fruit of their labor to the locust, / (47)
<while he> was destroying their vines with hail, / and their sycamores with frost.
Another sequence in Psa 78 is (→a) wayyiqtol/(b) x-yiqtol in vv. 29 and 36 along with
(b) <x-> yiqtol, (a) negative qatal and (a) x-qatal in vv. 49-50:
(→a/→a) ¬×:…·:::ˆ··…·¬:×··
(29)
(→a) :¬·c:…·¬…·:c◊··
(36)
(→a) :∂¬·::¬∂¬:¬¬…:c··
(48)
(b) :¬¬×:·::·×:◊· (b) ·¬…·:◊Ω·:◊·::·:¬:…· :·c:√¬¬:¬·:¬:…·
(b) ·cס·¬¬::¬¬:◊·
(49)
¬∂¬:◊·::··¬∂¬::
:·:∂¬·:׬::¬¬::
(b) ·c׬:·::c¬c◊·
(50)
(a) ::c::‰·::¬:¬×¬
(a) ¬·ˆ…:c¬¬:¬¬::·¬◊·
(Psa 78:29) And they ate and were well filled, / indeed, what they craved he was giving them.
(36) Then they flattered him with their mouths, / while with their tongues they were lying to him.
(48) Then he gave over to the hail their cattle, / and their flocks to thunderbolts. / (49) By letting
loose (‘<While he> let loose’) on them his fierce anger, / wrath, indignation, and distress, / a
company of destroying angels; / (50) by making (‘<while he> made’) a path for his anger, / he did
not spare them from death, / while their lives to the plague he gave over.
A third sequence in Psa 78 is similar to the previous two, i.e., (→a) wayyiqtol/(b) x-yiqtol
in v. 44 and (b) <x-> yiqtol/(→a) wayyiqtol in v. 45:
(→a) :¬·¬×◊·:∂¬¬¬c¬··
(44)
Then he turned to blood their rivers,
(b) ¡…··::ˆ·¬::¬·¬◊·:◊· while as a result of their streams they were not able to drink any more;
(b→a) :¬:×··:¬::¬:¬¬:◊·
(45)
By sending (‘<Since he> was sending’) among them swarms of flies,
they devoured them,
(/→a) ::·¬::·:¬√¬c:…· and frogs, they destroyed them.
These passages (also see Psa 78:34-40) show rather clearly the descriptive/habitual/ex-
plicatory/descriptive function of x-yiqtol (along with its continuation form w
e
qatal) and its
8
negative counterpart (b) ¬:/× ¬ + yiqtol in a past context. They also show by contrast the punc-
tual value of (a) qatal, of its continuation form (→a) wayyiqtol (and their negative counterpart
׬ + qatal).
What I am saying means that the line of information with x-yiqtol/w
e
qatal does not stand
on the same level with the line of information with qatal/wayyiqtol but the former is subservient
to the latter—it specifies it in different ways according to various context situations.
17
Above, I
rendered Psa 78:44 as follows: “Then he turned [wayyiqtol] to blood their rivers, / while as a
result of their streams they were not able to drink any more [x-negative yiqtol].” The first sen-
tence conveys a single/punctual piece of historical information while the second expounds the
ensuing continuous situation, i.e., the first narrates (foreground), the second describes (back-
ground). Other similar cases in Psa 78 are as follows:
(v. 20) :ˆ·:…·:…····¬…·:¬:¬¡¬ Behold, he smote the rock and water gushed out,
…·cc:ˆ·:·¬¬◊:…· indeed, streams were overflowing.
(v. 58) ::·:::…·¬…·c·::·· And they provoked Him to anger with their high places
:¬·¬·cc:…·…·¬…·×·ˆ:¬· indeed, <they> were constantly moving him to jealousy with
their idols.
(v. 64) …·¬c::¬¬:··:¬: Their priests fell by the sword,
¬:·:::׬··:::¬×◊· while their widows were making no lamentation.
(v. 72) ·::¬:::::√¬ˆ·· And (David) tended them according to his upright heart,
:¬◊:···c::·:…·:::…· while with his skilful hands he was guiding them.
2.3. First-Place Yiqtol as <x-> Yiqtol—Double-Duty Modifier
More difficult to explain in the framework of my proposal are the cases with sentence-
initial yiqtol, which in prose texts has volitive force but in several poetic passages referring to
the past volition is unlikely. One could, of course, suppose that specific poetic criteria, such as
prosody or rhythm, might allow some flexibility in the otherwise rigid word order of BH prose.
However, it seems to me that such poetic criteria are fairly elusive and maybe impossible to de-
fine.
A more verifiable characteristic of poetry is ellipsis, i.e., the omission of a given element
that is grammatically expected. In poetry, this phenomenon is particularly frequent, especially in
the form of a technique called “double-duty modifier.” This designates a grammatical element
that serves two or more lines although it does not appear in every case but only in the first line
or, more difficult to recognize, only in the subsequent parallel lines of a poetic unit.
18
A clear
9
case is Psa 2:1-2:
19
(1a) :ˆ··:…·:◊:∂¬ ¬:¬
(1)
Why did the nations conspire,
(1b) ¬·¬…·…:¬‰·:·:׬…· while the peoples were plotting in vain?
(2a) ¡¬×·:¬:…·:…:·:ˆ·
(2)
< > <Why> were the kings of the earth setting themselves,
(2b) ¬¬·…·¬c·::·ˆ:◊··¬◊· while the rulers took counsel together,
·¬·::¬:◊·¬·¬◊·¬: against the Lord and his anointed?
Initial ¬:¬ modifies not only the qatal immediately following but also the yiqtol of v.
2a,
20
while the x-yiqtol in v. 1b and the x-qatal in v. 2b are circumstantial constructions (back-
ground) linked each to its preceding verbal form (foreground). Actually, we discover a chiastic
disposition of the verbal forms, i.e., in v. 1 qatal-yiqtol // yiqtol-qatal in v. 2. The yiqtol con-
structions convey repetition/habit/explication/description and do not stand on the same level
with the qatal constructions, which convey single information. In combination with the chiastic
disposition of the elements, the alternation of qatal and yiqtol is likely intended to add depth of
field to the presentation of the event. In my opinion, this relief function is likely to be a mean-
ingful explanation for the phenomenon of the alternation qatal/yiqtol in general, even when no
chiastic pattern is attested (see § 3 below).
21
The solution of a double-duty modifier, however, does not seem to apply in cases where
no common element is available, e.g., in Psa 78:15, 26, 45, 49, 50, 58 analyzed above (§ 2.2). I
would suggest as a suitable solution the ellipsis of a pronominal subject in these and similar
cases. e.g., in Psa 78:44 as it were ¬¬:◊· <×…·¬◊·>. This analysis is supported by a chiastic paral-
lelism, i.e., wayyiqtol (main event, foreground) + x-yiqtol (result, background) in 78:44 // <x->
yiqtol (cause, background) + wayyiqtol (main event, foreground) in 78:45.
The best model I can find for the ellipsis of a pronominal subject is Psa 9:9:
¬¬::¬::cc:ˆ·×…·¬◊· And he [i.e., the Lord] will judge the world with righteousness,
:·¬:·:::·:׬¡·¬· <he> will judge the peoples with equity.
One may suggest that the omission of a pronominal subject is intended to speed up the
parallelism. Let us consider the following examples in which yiqtol refers to the future:
(Psa ·¬…·::¬··×¬¬: All who see me will mock at me—
22:8) :׬…·:·ˆ:·¬c::…·¬·cc· will make mouths at me, will wag their heads.
(Hab ··c…·c:·¬:◊…::…·¬¬◊· Their horses will be swifter than leopards,
1:8) :¬:·:×◊Ω·:…·¬¬◊· they will be more fierce than the evening wolves,
··:∂¬c…·:c…· and their horsemen will press proudly on;
10
…·×:·¬·¬∂¬:··:∂¬c…· indeed, their horsemen from afar will come—
¬·:׬:¬¬:‰::…·c:· will fly like an eagle swift to devour.
22
(Psa ¬¬√¬:¡:c·¬¬:¬: On the lion and the adder you will tread—
91:13) ¡·ˆ…::◊·¬·c:c:√¬: will trample under foot the young lion and the serpent.
For the cases where yiqtol refers to the past, Driver, like H. Ewald and others, assumed
an ellipsis of <way->.
23
Yet, I prefer a different kind of ellipsis—that of a pronominal sub-
ject—that is in keeping with the usual values of yiqtol in BH. On the one side, as already men-
tioned, sentence-initial jussive yiqtol plays totally different functions from narrative wayyiqtol,
although the latter is usually composed of a short-form yiqtol. On the other side, clear cases of
x-yiqtol constructions are attested indicating repetition/habit/explication/description in the axis
of the past, in parallelism with wayyiqtol and qatal forms. In my view, this situation also renders
improbable the other solution mostly favored today, i.e., that initial yiqtol is simply an archaic
remainder of the Canaanite narrative yaqtul.
24
2.4. Volitive Functions of Yiqtol
In many cases initial yiqtol and its continuation form w
e
yiqtol clearly play a volitive
function as expected, e.g., in Psa 9:2-3 (Engl. 9:1-2):
·:¬¬::¬·¬◊·¬¬·×
(2)
I want to give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
¬·:·×¬cˆ:¬:¬∂¬cc× I want to tell of all your wonderful deeds.
¬:¬:¬:×◊·¬¬::×
(3)
I want to be glad and exult in you,
¡··¬:¬::¬∂¬:·× I want to sing praise to your name, O Most High.
25
Besides cases like this in which yiqtol occurs the first place of the sentence, there are
cases in which (1) first-place yiqtol and (2) second-place x-yiqtol forms alternate though clearly
being both volitive. The difference is one of level of communication—(1) main level, or fore-
ground, vs. (2) secondary level, or background. Consider Psa 20:2-6 (Engl. 20:1-5):
(1) ¬∂¬::··:¬·¬◊·¬◊::·
(2)
(1) ¬::¬:¬¬¡:ˆ·
(5)
(1) :¬:··¬¬×::¬:‰…::◊· (2) ׬:◊·¬:::¬:◊·
(1) :¬¬:¬√¬◊·:¬¬:ˆ·
(3)
(1) ¬::…·:·:¬:◊…:¬◊:
(6)
(2) ¬¬:cˆ·¡··…::…· (2) ¬…:√¬ˆ:…·:·¬¬×:::…·
(1) ¬:¬◊::¬:¬:◊·ˆ·
(4)
(1) ¬·:·¬×::¬:¬·¬◊·×¬:◊·
(2) ¬‰::¬◊·¬:¬·:◊·
(Psa 20:2) May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! / May the name of the God of Jacob
protect you! / (3) May he send you help from the sanctuary, / while from Zion may he give you
support! / (4) May he remember all your offerings, / while your burnt sacrifices may he regard
with favor! / (5) May he grant you your heart’s desire, / while all your plans may he fulfil! / (6)
11
May we shout for joy over your victory, / while in the name of our God may we set up our ban-
ners! / May the Lord fulfil all your petitions!
More rarely but clearly, yiqtol plays volitive function also in contexts referring to the
past, in which cases it expresses finality. In prose this function is mostly played by w
e
yiqtol (and
by waw-x-yiqtol as well).
26
It is a characteristic of poetry that also “nude” initial yiqtol, i.e.,
without prefixed waw, can play this function.
27
Let us consider 2 Kgs 19:23-25 (// Isa 37:24-26),
a passage from an oracle against Sennacherib in which God first puts words into the mouth of
Sennacherib, then addresses him directly:
28
(23a) ¡·::¬·::√¬·:·¬¬:·¬:·:·¬:·ˆ:× (…)
(23)
(…) I have ascended the height of the mountains, the
uttermost part of Lebanon,
(23b) ··:¬:¬·¬::···∂¬×::·¬:¬:×◊· that I may cut down the tallness of its cedars, the choice
of its cypresses,
(23c) ·¬:√¬:¬:·¬…:¬¡·¬:¬×·:×◊· and that I may come to the shelter of its border, to the
forest of its orchard.
(24a) :·¬·:ˆ·:·:·::◊··:√¬¬·ˆ:×
(24)
I have dug so that I could drink foreign water,
(24b) ¬·::·¬×◊·¬:·::c¬:::¬¬×◊· that I may dry up with the sole of my feet all the rivers of
Egypt!
(25a) ·:·::¬:׬·¬∂¬:¬::::׬¬
(25)
Have you not heard? Long ago I have done this,
(25b) ¬·:√¬:·ˆ·:¬¬·:·:¬ from old days I was planning it;
(25c) ¬·:×·:¬¬:: now I have brought it to pass,
(25d) :·…:ˆ::·¬…::·:¬¬·¬:…· that there may be destroyed into waste heaps—
(25e) :·¬:::·¬: fortified cities.
In vv. 23b-c, 24b, and 25d, instead of w
e
yiqtol, the ancient versions read wayyiqtol forms
because they translate with past tenses. However, the volitive forms of the MT can be inter-
preted as conveying the purpose of the two main pieces of information expressed with x-qatal
(vv. 23a, 24a and 25c).
29
One could, of course, as most scholars do, vocalize the text differently,
translate the verbal forms with past tenses and be satisfied with that; still, in my opinion the
problem remains of why did the Masoretes vocalize that way and what they intended.
30
2.5. Protasis Function of Volitive Yiqtol
As already noted by classical grammarians, sentence-initial jussive yiqtol can play the
function of the protasis.
31
One good example is Psa 139:8-10:
32
(8a) ¬:×:::ˆ·::¬c×:× If I should ascend to heaven, you are there;
(8b) ¬…:¬¬·×:¬:·…:×◊· should I make Hades my resting-place, there you are.
(9a) ¬¬:·c◊::×:× Should I raise the wings of the morning,
12
(9b) :·:·¬¬×:¬:::× should I settle at the extremity of the sea,
(10a) ·ˆ:¬◊::¬√¬·:::…: even there let your hand guide me,
(10b) ¬‰:·:◊··ˆ:·¬×:◊· and let your right hand lay hold of me.
The first protasis in v. 8a is explicit (with :× + yiqtol) while the second in v. 8b (with
volitive w
e
yiqtol, ¬:·…:×◊·), the third in v. 9a and the fourth in v. 9b (with sentence-initial volitive
yiqtol, ×:× and ¬:::×, respectively) are implicit protases, simply with volitive verbal forms.
33
Similar cases are Psa 46:3-4 (Engl. 46:2-3); 91:7; 93:3-4; 146:4:
(46:3a) ¡¬×¬·:¬:×∂¬·ˆ:׬¡:¬: Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change
(3b) :·:·:¬::·¬¬c·::…· and the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
(4a) ··:·:…·¬:¬‰·…·:¬‰· should its waters roar and foam,
(4b) ·:·×:::·¬¬…·::√¬ˆ· should the mountains tremble with its tumult.
34
(91:7) ¬¬×¬¬…::¬cˆ· Should a thousand fall at your side
(7b) ¬‰:·:·:¬::√¬…· and ten thousand at your right hand,
(7c) :…:ˆ·×¬¬·¬× none will reach you.
(93:3a) ¬·¬◊·:·¬¬◊:…·×:: The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
(3b) :¬·¬:·¬¬◊:…·×:: the floods have lifted up their voice.
(3c) :·:∂¬:·¬¬◊:…·×:ˆ· Should the floods lift up their roaring,
(4a) :·:¬:ˆ·::·¬¬: more than the thunders of many waters,
(4b) :··¬::::·¬·¬× of the mighty ones, of the breakers of the sea,
(4c) ¬·¬◊·:·¬::¬·¬× mighty is the Lord on high!
35
(146:4a) ·::√¬×¬::··¬…·¬×:: When his breath will depart, he will return to his earth;
(4b) ··:::::…·¬:××…·¬¬:··: on that very day his plans will have perished.
36
3. Conclusion – Poetic Peculiarities
In BH the different verbal forms play basically the same functions in poetry as in prose,
specifically in direct speech (see § 1 above). I do not see any justification for taking qatal and
yiqtol as equivalent verbal forms and translate them in the same way. This also applies to their
respective continuation forms—wayyiqtol and w
e
qatal (indicative) or w
e
yiqtol (volitive). I think
that:
(3.1) Qatal/wayyiqtol are to be translated with the simple past tense, and indicative x-
yiqtol/w
e
qatal with the future. This supposes the fact that each group of verbal forms refer to its
own temporal axis, i.e. qatal/wayyiqtol to the axis of the past, x-yiqtol/w
e
qatal to the axis of the
future (§ 2.1).
(3.2) When x-yiqtol/w
e
qatal alternate with qatal/wayyiqtol and refer to the axis of the
past, the former indicate repeated/habitual/explicatory/descriptive information (background)
13
while the latter punctual/single information (foreground) (§ 2.2).
(3.3) Sentence-initial yiqtol (occasionally also x-yiqtol) and its continuation form w
e
-
yiqtol convey volitive information. Occasionally they also appear with reference to the past axis
to indicate purpose (volitive consequence) (§ 2.4). Sentence-initial volitive yiqtol is also well
attested with the function of protasis (§ 2.5).
Further, certain guidelines are to be followed in order to arrive at a correct analysis. On
the one hand, the functions of the verbal forms are to be evaluated in the framework of the text.
Much too frequently passages are analyzed in isolation, with little or no consideration of their
context. On the other hand, the peculiarities of poetry are to be considered.
What makes poetry different from prose, even from direct speech, is its segmental char-
acter (§ 1). In other words, poetry develops by segments of information disposed in parallel
lines rather than by coordinate pieces of information linked in a linear sequence. Thus certain
peculiarities become understandable. First, in poetry a sequential verbal form like wayyiqtol is
much less frequent than in prose. Second, when it appears, usually as a continuation form of
initial (x-)qatal, wayyiqtol is found in alternation with x-yiqtol and w
e
qatal. Third, the phe-
nomenon of a “double-duty modifier” is much more attested in poetry than is in prose.
I call “merismus” the alternating occurrence of qatal/yiqtol in poetry. It comprises two
forms according to different coordinates: qatal for past vs. yiqtol for future information when
each verbal form refers to its specific temporal axis (§ 2.1); and qatal for narrative-punctual vs.
yiqtol for habitual-descriptive information when both verbal forms refer to the axis of the past
(§ 2.2). Merismus is a way of expressing totality in abbreviated form. Here, the coordinates past
vs. future are intended to express totality, perpetuity while the coordinates punctuality vs.
habit/description add depth perspective and contribute to a graphic representation of the events
that is characteristic of poetry.
Indeed, the fact that a tense transition from qatal/wayyiqtol to x-yiqtol/w
e
qatal with past
reference is frequent in poetry while it is rare in prose reflects a characteristic attitude of the
poet vs. the historian towards past events. While the historian narrates past events in a sequence
of successive bits of information conveyed by a chain of coordinated wayyiqtol, the poet cele-
brates them with frequent resort to description, or graphic representation of multiple bits of in-
formation that follow one another in parallel lines. This is obtained by a recurring shift from
verbal forms of punctual information qatal/wayyiqtol to verbal forms of habitual, descriptive in-
14
formation (x-)yiqtol/w
e
qatal.
The phenomenon of the “double-duty modifier” helps detect the exact function of appar-
ently sentence-initial yiqtol forms that are actually second-place <x-> yiqtol constructions (§
2.3).
In several cases where yiqtol/w
e
qatal verbal forms occur along with qatal/wayyiqtol it is
not easy to decide whether the yiqtol/w
e
qatal refer to the axis of the future and are to be trans-
lated with future tense (§ 2.1), or to the axis of the past and are to be translated with the imper-
fect (§ 2.2). Sentence-initial yiqtol and w
e
yiqtol can express finality in the axis of the past (§
2.4). Only close attention to the context at large can help decide.
One should also note that, particularly in poetry, second-place indicative yiqtol expresses
habitude, custom not only in the axis of the past, where it is a background verbal form (§ 2.2),
but also in the axis of the future, where it is a main-line verbal form. In fact, in some cases i n-
dicative yiqtol is used to express habitual present—while actual present is usually expressed by
nonverbal sentence— especially in proverbial sayings like, e.g., Prov 10:1-2:
(1) :׬::◊·::¬¡: A wise son will always make glad his father,
·:×::…·:¬·c:¡:…· while a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
(2) ::¬:·¬:·×…·¬·:··×¬ Treasures gained by wickedness will never profit,
:‰·::¬·…::¬∂¬∂¬:…· while righteousness will always deliver from death.
37
The issues presented here indicate a way of analyzing poetry in the framework of BH
verbal system in general, especially in direct speech. This analysis poses a challenge not easy to
face; however, I have tried to suggest that the effort is worthwhile. The result may be a fresh
interpretation of passages, even of complete Psalms.
38
The alternative, more common solution is to admit in BH poetry a narrative yiqtol as an
archaic residue of ancient Canaanite-Ugaritic yaqtul. However, on the one side, a phenomenon
of a given Semitic language, even a well established one, is not automatically applicable to an-
other language without proper control of how it fits within the verbal system of that language.
On the other side, there are two main differences between Ugaritic and BH verbal systems (cf. §
1.2). First, the so-called “inverted,” or “converted verbal forms” are well attested in BH, both in
prose and in poetry, while they seem to be almost non existent in Ugaritic (cf. no. 7 above).
Second, jussive yiqtol with narrative function on the model of Ugaritic yaqtul does not have a
place in BH verbal system, nor has indicative x-yiqtol full narrative function, because it does
15
not convey main-line information in the past like qatal/wayyiqtol but rather off-line information
like w
e
qatal.
For these reasons, I think that the Semitic-comparative, diachronic solution is not suit-
able for BH poetry.
Footnotes
1
Syntax of the Verb in Classical Hebrew Prose (Sheffield 1990; originally published in Italian in
1986); “Analysing Biblical Hebrew Poetry,” JSOT 74 (1997) 77-93. Hereafter, well-known grammars are
quoted with the names of the authors/revisers only, i.e., Gesenius-Kautzsch, and Joüon-Muraoka. The se-
ries Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes (ed. C.F. Keil - F. Delitzsch; Grand Rapids [MI],
repr. 1980-1981) is referred to as: Keil-Delitzsch.
2
A first attempt in this direction is a short study on the poetic section in the Book of Jonah (2:3-
10; see “Syntactic Analysis of Jonah,” Liber Annuus 46 [1996] 26-31, pp. 26-31). Another of my essays
concerns Psalms 9-10 (together with E. Cortese, “L’attesa dei poveri non sarà vana: Il Sal 9/10 attualiz-
zato,” in Biblica et semitica. Studi in memoria di Francesco Vattioni [ed. L. Cagni; Napoli-Roma 1999]
129-149, pp. 139-149). Also see my analysis of Proverbs 22:17-24:22 published in three installments
(“Proverbi 22,17-23,11,” Liber Annuus 29 [1979] 42-72; “Proverbi 23,12-25,” ibid. 47 [1997] 33-56;
“Proverbi 23,26-24,22,” ibid. 48 [1998] 49-104), and “Poetic Syntax and Interpretation of Malachi” (to
appear in the same review, vol. 51 [2001]).
3
As I have tried to show by comparing Judg 4:19-21 and 5:25-27, two passages in which the
killing of Sisera at the hands of Jael is first narrated in prose, then celebrated in poetry (see “Analysing
Biblical Hebrew Poetry,” 78-80).
4
U. Cassuto, The Goddess Anath. Canaanite Epics of the Patriarchal Age – Texts, Hebrew
Translation, Commentary and Introduction (Jerusalem 1971; Hebr. orig. 1951), 46-48; M. Held, “The
Yqtl-Qtl (Qtl-Yqtl) Sequence of Identical Verbs in Biblical Hebrew and in Ugaritic,” in Studies and Es-
says in Honor of Abraham A. Neuman – President, Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning,
Philadelphia (ed. A.A. Neuman - M. Ben-Horin - B.D. Weinryb - S. Zeitlin; Leiden 1962), 281-290; S.
Gevirtz, “Evidence of Conjugational Variation in the Parallelization of Selfsame Verbs in the Amarna
Letters,” JNES 32 (1973) 99-104.
5
A.F. Rainey, “The Prefix Conjugation Patterns of Early Northwest Semitic,” in Lingering over
Words. Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran (ed. T. Abusch - J.
Huehnergard - P. Steinkeller [Atlanta, GA, 1990] 407-420; more recently in Canaanite in the Amarna
Tablets: A Linguistic Analysis of the Mixed Dialect Used by the Scribes from Canaan, vols. 1-4 [Leiden
1996]). For a discussion of Rainey’s position, particularly by J. Huehnergard and E.L. Greenstein, see
16
“Symposium: The yiqtol in Biblical Hebrew,” HS 29 (1988) 7-42 (with contributions by E.L Greenstein,
J. Huehnergard, Z. Zevit, and A.F. Rainey himself). See more recently P.J. Gentry, “The System of the
Finite Verb in Classical Biblical Hebrew,” HS 39 (1998) 7-39; J. Joosten, “The Long Form of the Prefix
Conjugation Referring to the Past in Biblical Hebrew Prose,” HS 40 (1999) 15-26; T.D. Andersen, “The
Evolution of the Hebrew Verbal System,” ZAH 13 (2000) 1-66; J.A. Cook, “The Hebrew Verb: A Gram-
maticalization Approach,” ZAH 14 (2001) 117-143.
6
In his treatment of archaic BH poetic texts on the basis of Ugaritic, U. Cassuto maintained that
in Isa 60:16 “Wäw conversive [i.e. consecutive] (…) in effect does not alter the sense at all,” and that
“particularly from this passage in Amos [i.e., 7:4, AN] it can be seen that the Wäw does not ‘convert’
anything. This enables us to ascertain the origin of this Wäw, and to understand correctly the form of
verses like Genesis i 5…” (The Goddess Anath, 46, and no. 39). Now, in Isa 60:16 we find in parallel
lines w
e
qatal and x-yiqtol, which are perfectly compatible verbal forms because the first is the usual main-
line verbal form for the future axis and the latter its usual off-line counterpart in the course of direct
speech (see § 1 above); in this case, therefore: “You shall suck the milk of nations (:ˆ·· …: :¬¬ :¬:·◊·), / even
the breast of kings you shall suck (·¬:·: :·:¬: ¬:◊·).” Things are more complicate in Am 7:4 because it
comprises wayyiqtol and w
e
qatal that are not homogeneous verbal forms but the former signals main line
and single event in the past while the latter signals, when it refers to the axis of the past, off line and
repetition/habit/description/specification (see § 2.2 below); in this case: “and (the fire) devoured the great
deep (¬:¬ :· ¬::× ¬:× :·), / while it was eating up the land (¬¬¬¬:× ¬¬:×◊·).” In any case, the waw does
convert the BH verbal forms, or better, w
e
qatal and wayyiqtol are individual verbal forms as such because
they possess distinctive morphology and distinctive functions. Cassuto’s position regarding waw was
shared by M. Held, “The Yqtl-Qtl (Qtl-Yqtl).”
7
It is commonly held that the so-called “inverted” verbal forms do not exist in Ugaritic poetic
texts while they exist in later prose texts. Thus already C.H. Gordon, who however noted that “Ug[aritic]
poetry has one clear case of qtl with w conversive… (67 : I : 24)…” (Ugaritic Textbook – Grammar,
Texts in Transliteration, Cuneiform Selections, Glossary, Indices [Roma 1965] 115, § 13.29). More re-
cent grammars like that of S. Segert (A Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language, With Selected Texts
and Glossary [Berkeley - Los Angeles - London 1984]), E. Verreet (Modi ugaritici: Eine morpho-
syntaktische Abhandlung über das Modalsystem im Ugaritischen [Leuven 1988]), and D. Sivan (A
Grammar of the Ugaritic Language [Leiden - Boston - Köln 1997]), do not address the issue of inverted
verbal forms. J. Tropper, on the one side, mentions a few cases of verbal formations that “typologically”
resemble the Perfectum consecutivum of BH grammar (Ugaritische Grammatik [Münster 2000] 716, §
76.541); on the other side, he states: “Geht der PK
K
i [i.e., the indicative short-form yqtl] die Konjunktion
w (‘und’) voraus, ändert sich ihre aspektuell-temporale Funktion nicht. Eine Differenzierung zwischen
PK
K
i einerseits und w-PK
K
i anderseits ist im Ug. nicht notwendig und sachlich nicht sinnvoll” (pp. 695-
17
696). However, in his review of Segert’s grammar A.F. Rainey suggested that “The ubiquitous examples
of the short form *„ny in poetic contexts after the w conjunction remind one of the narrative preterite con-
tinuative of biblical Hebrew…” (“A New Grammar of Ugaritic,” Or 56 [1987] 391-402, p. 398).
8
S.R. Driver wrote what is until today one of the most accurate treatment on “the use of the jus-
sive form” (A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew and Some Other Syntactical Questions [Ox-
ford 1892] §§ 170-175; see esp. § 170, p. 212). Driver stressed the need of not disregarding the morphol-
ogy of the jussive. Some clear cases of jussive vs. indicative yiqtol forms have been discussed recently by
A. Shulman (“The Function of the ‘Jussive’ and ‘Indicative’ Imperfect Forms in Biblical Hebrew Prose,”
ZAH 13 [2000] 168-180). Like Driver, Shulman only considers the verbal forms that are morphologically
identified as jussive; she does not seem to consider the initial position of yiqtol to be a mark of the jussive
character of the verb although she mentions E. Qimron and P. Gentry (pp. 168-169) who emphasize the
importance of the initial position of yiqtol in the sentence. E. Qimron also stresses the importance of the
initial position of yiqtol although his approach to syntax is different from mine (“A New Approach to-
ward Interpreting the Imperfect Verbal Forms in Early Hebrew,” L≤åonénu 41 [1998] 31-43).
9
Consult, e.g., Joüon-Muraoka § 114gN, and my Syntax of the Verb, § 55.
10
On these issues, see my Syntax of the Verb, § 55, and my paper, “A Neglected Point of Hebrew
Syntax: Yiqtol and Position in the Sentence,” Liber Annuus 37 (1987) 7-19.
11
According E.L. Greenstein, poetry is direct discourse (“Direct Discourse and Parallelism,” in
Studies in Bible and Exegesis, vol 5 [Ramat-Gan 2000; Hebr.] 33-40; Engl. abstract on p. VII; and “Be-
tween Ugaritic Epic and Biblical Narrative: The Role of Direct Discourse,” in Annual Meeting of the So-
ciety of Biblical Literature [Atlanta, GA, 1993]). For my part, I will suggest that BH poetry, as maybe
poetry as such, shows a “dramatic” character in the use of the verbal forms (§ 3 below), i.e., it describes
or celebrates an event rather than simply narrating it as does prose (§ 1 and no. 3).
12
Unless explicitly indicated, the English translations are taken from the RSV with modifications.
13
Contrast M. Dahood, who translates both verbal forms with the future: “Yahweh will work
wonders… Yahweh will hear me…” and notes: “Perfect hipläh is balanced by imperfect yiåmä„, a very
common sequence in Ugaritic and Hebrew poetry” (Psalms I, 1-50 – Introduction, Translation and Notes
[New York 1966] 24). Among “good examples” of this phenomenon Dahood lists Psa 6:10, 9:8, and 93:3,
but I will propose a different analysis (see §§ 2.1 and 2.5 below).
14
On this phenomenon in poetry, consult W.G.E. Watson (Classical Hebrew Poetry. A Guide to
Its Techniques [Sheffield 1984] 321-324). F. Rundgren called merismus the shift from wayyiqtol to waw-
x-qatal found in Gen 1:5 (Das althebräische Verbum [Stockholm-Göteborg-Uppsala 1961] 103; see no. 6
above). I would rather reserve this designation to cases in which the same item is referred to with both
past and future verbal forms in parallelism. A similar case of merismus is when a given item is referred to
in parallel lines as punctual information with qatal/wayyiqtol and as repeated/habitual/explicatory/de-
scriptive information with yiqtol/w
e
qatal (see §§ 2.2 and 3 below).
18
15
In my paper, “L’attesa dei poveri non sarà delusa,” 139-140.
16
I would insist on this point: if we do not care to take the verbal forms seriously, we run the risk
of missing the dynamic and precise intention of many Psalms and other poetic materials. E.g., the alter-
nation qatal/jussive yiqtol and w
e
yiqtol is a characteristic structuring device of Psa 85. Indeed, we find
qatal in vv. 2-4; prayer with imperative, then indicative x-yiqtol, and again imperative in vv. 5-8; prayer
with jussive yiqtol, then a non-verbal sentence (present tense), qatal, and again jussive yiqtol in vv. 9-14.
Note that the constructions x-yiqtol in vv. 13-14 are jussive because they are followed by ::·◊·. which is a
jussive w
e
yiqtol formation with distinctive morphology. See on this my paper, “A Neglected Point of He-
brew Syntax,” 9-10.
17
Rainey quoted Judg 21:25 as an example of yiqtol expressing “continuous action in the past,”
which is one of the function of imperfect yaqtulu of the el-Amarna letters from Byblos (“The Prefix
Conjugation Patterns,” 411-412). This is certainly correct; note, however, that this is a descriptive rather
than a narrative function of yiqtol. In other words, this yiqtol—expressing background, or secondary line
of communication—is not interchangeable with narrative wayyiqtol—expressing foreground, or main
line. See table of verbal forms in § 1 above.
18
On ellipsis and various double-duty modifiers, consult Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 303-
306. A large list of passages that in the author’s opinion show this phenomenon in its various forms has
been drawn by M. Dahood, Psalms III, 101-150. Introduction, Translation and Notes (New York 1970)
428-444. Also see C.L. Miller, “Patterns of Verbal Ellipsis in Ugaritic Poetry,” UF 31 (1999) 333-372.
19
In Job 40:15-32 is also a good example. It can be subdivided into grammatical units on the ba-
sis of the particles that are used in the description of Behemoth: the presentative particle ¬…:¬ “behold” in
vv. 15 and 16, its variant ¡¬ in v. 23, and the interrogative particle ¬ in vv. 26-29 and 31. The particle ¬…:¬
of v. 16 also affects the first-place yiqtol in vv. 17 and 22 as well as the intervening lines (vv. 19-21); the
particle ¡¬ also governs the following x-yiqtol (v. 24) and first-place yiqtol (v. 25); and finally the particle
¬ also governs the first-place yiqtol of v. 30, which is the only one without that particle in vv. 26-31. For
his part, A. Gianto quotes Job 40:25-26 and then 40:26-28a without mentioning the governing particles
nor caring about the position of yiqtol in the sentence—first or second. He assigns to the “imperfect”
forms in 40:25-26 an “epistemic” value and to those of 40:26-28a a “deontic” value (“Mood and Modality
in Classical Hebrew,” Israel Oriental Studies 18 [1998] 183-198, pp. 185-186). However, such semantic
specifications can hardly be the basis for syntactic analysis without the support of more objective criteria.
20
Cf. Hab 1:2: :·:· : × ¬◊·/ c:¬ ¬·¬× ¬:◊·×/ :::: × ¬◊·/ ·::…·: ¬·¬◊· ¬:׬: “How long, o Lord, I
have cried for help, / and you will not hear? / <How long> shall I cry to you ‘Violence!’ / and you will
not save?”; 1:13: …·…::: ¬·¬: ::∂¬ :¬::/ :·¬¬: :·¬◊:· : c·:: ¬:¬“Why will you look on faithless men,
<why> will you be silent / when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”
21
Similar cases of double-duty modifiers are Psa 4:3 (Engl. 4:2), 88:15 (Engl. 88:14), and 139:13.
This phenomenon is more rarely attested in prose, e.g., Gen 15:15: “As for yourself, you shall go
19
(×· :: ¬:×◊·) to your fathers in peace; <and as for yourself> you shall be buried (¬:∂¬: <¬:×◊·>) in a good
old age.”
22
A waw-x-yiqtol construction in the previous line (…·× :· ¬· ¬∂¬: ··:∂¬c…·) breaks the sequence of
three indicative future w
e
qatal. Its function is to describe the previous information (note the repetition of
the same subject, “their horsemen,” respectively at the end and the beginning of the two lines). I have
rendered this function with “indeed.” A <x-> yiqtol construction (…·c:·) parallel to the preceding waw-x-
yiqtol speeds up the description. The hypothesis of ellipsis is supported here by the close sequence of two
parallel verbal forms belonging to the same subject at the end and the beginning of the respective lines
both here (…·×:· and …·c:·) and in the next example, Psa 91:13 (¬¬√¬: and c:√¬:).
23
Driver, Treatise §§ 172-174.
24
Rainey quoted Deut 32:8 and 32:10 to prove that “Biblical Hebrew poetry still employs yaqtul
as a Preterite” (“The Prefix Conjugation Patterns,” 410). Actually, while :…:· (32:8) is morphologically
marked as jussive yiqtol, …·¬×::ˆ· (32:10) is not. Further, a look at the text will show that other yiqtol
forms occur in 32:8-13 side by side with the two quoted by Rainey, and that one of them is morphologi-
cally marked as non jussive form, i.e., ¬·:· in 32:11. In my view, this is a good case to show that the mor-
phology of yiqtol is not fully in agreement with the syntactic function; and this is the reason why I think
that morphology is not a sufficient criterion to distinguish jussive from indicative yiqtol, but the principle
of the initial position in the sentence is to be invoked as a more basic criterion (see no. 8 above). Further,
:…:· (32:8) is preceded by two circumstantial phrases in the same verse that can not be disregarded, i.e.,
:ˆ··…: ¡· ·¬: ¬¬◊:¬: and :∂¬× ·:: ·¬·¬c¬:. This fact suggests, in my opinion, the correct analysis. The two cir-
cumstantial phrases function as an extraposed element, or protasis, and :…:· as the main sentence, or
apodosis (see similar constructions in my Syntax of the Verb, § 102, esp. Exod 40:36 on p. 134). In other
words, the two prepositional phrases govern all the series of yiqtol forms in 32:8-13 and as such they act
as a kind of “double- (or rather multi-) duty modifier.” As a consequence, these yiqtol are not jussive in
function since they are not actually initial. They are not narrative, either. Indeed, they describe (§ 2.3) or
represent the events “graphically” (§ 3), rather than narrating them (see no. 11 above). Therefore, I would
translate Deut 32:8 and 10 as follows: “(8) When the Most High portioned out the inheritance to the na-
tions, / when he separated the children of men, / he would fix (:…:·, apodosis) the boundaries of the nations
/ according to the number of the sons of Israel… / (10) Should he find him/When he would find him
(…·¬×::ˆ·, protasis, cf. § 2.5 below) in the land of the desert, / and in the wilderness, the howling of the
steppe, / would surround him (…·¬◊:::c◊·, apodosis), take care of him (…·¬:◊:·:◊·, coordinate), / protect him
(…·¬◊:¬…:ˆ·, coordinate) as the apple of His eye.”
25
Psa 72, a prayer for the king, consists almost entirely of volitive forms.
26
See examples in Driver, Treatise §§ 62-64, and 174.
27
The fact that I propose here a functional equivalence between volitive “nude” yiqtol and w
e
-
yiqtol does not oblige to accept the ellipsis of <way-> proposed by previous scholars for yiqtol in narra-
20
tive (see § 2.3, no. 23 above). In fact, while yiqtol and w
e
yiqtol are homogeneous verbal forms, both be-
ing volitive, yiqtol and wayyiqtol are not because a narrative yiqtol does not exist in BH (§ 1.1 above).
28
Translation adapted from Keil-Delitzsch, III/1, 450-452.
29
After x-qatal in v. 24a we find w
e
qatal, a verbal form that according to rule is not coordinate to
x-qatal but rather expresses a non-volitive consequence (rendered here with “so that I could…”) or a cir-
cumstance as in v. 22: :c¬ˆ:◊· :c¬¬ ·::× “Whom have despised while you were blaspheming?” This
function of w
e
qatal contrasts that of w
e
yiqtol which expresses a volitive purpose (rendered here with “that
I may…”). See table in § 1, last row.
30
Given the fact that our knowledge of BH is basically dependent on the Masoretic redaction of
the Hebrew Bible, this problem can hardly be ignored. Even if we may prefer a different vocalization, the
task remains of trying to understand what the Masoretes meant by their reading. Further, we have to take
into account the fact that 2 Kgs 19:23-25 is not the only text in which we find qatal/wayyiqtol along with
yiqtol/w
e
yiqtol; see, e.g., Psa 104:14, 15, 20 (no. 38 below).
31
See, e.g., Gesenius-Kautzsch § 108e-f; Joüon-Muraoka § 167a.
32
Translation adapted from Keil-Delitzsch, V, 342, 347.
33
A difference between the conditional sentences in v. 8 and those in vv. 9-10 is that both the
apodoses in v. 8 are non verbal clauses while those of v. 10 have volitive forms as the protases. The x-
yiqtol in v. 10a is also most probably a volitive construction because it is parallel with and coordinate to
an explicit volitive w
e
yiqtol in v. 10b; lit. “Let me raise the wings of the morning, / let me settle at the
extremity of the sea; / even there, let your hand guide me, / and let your right hand lay hold of me” (cf.
Joüon-Muraoka § 167a/2).
34
The function of the two volitive yiqtol in Psa 46:4 is similar to that of …·×:ˆ· in 93:3c (see next
note). The only difference is that in 46:3-4 the order of the clauses is reversed since the apodosis
(×∂¬·ˆ:׬ ¡:¬:) precedes the protasis. Indeed, the protasis comprises four clauses—two with beth + in-
finitive (¡¬× ¬·:¬: / :·¬¬ c·::…·) and two with sentence-initial yiqtol in v. 4 (lit. “let its waters roar… let
the mountains tremble…”).
35
Translation from Keil-Delitzsch, V/3, 72, 75-76 with modifications. Psa 93:3 is one of the main
texts quoted by both Cassuto and Held in order to show the equivalence of the “perfect” and the “imper-
fect” forms of the same verbs in parallel lines. However, Cassuto translated as present (“the floods lift up
their roaring”: The Goddess Anath, 46) while Held translated as past (“The floods lifted up, O Lord, the
floods lifted up their voices, the floods lifted up their…”: “The Yqtl-Qtl,” 281). In my opinion, the analy-
sis above is not only defendable but also makes better sense in the context of the Psalm. The “many wa-
ters” of chaos have roared in the past and may roar at their wish in the future; still, God the Almighty sits
enthroned and is in total control of the universe.
36
Lit. “Let his breath depart, let he return to his earth,” with sentence-initial yiqtol both as prota-
sis and as apodosis (see no. 33 above). Another good example is Psa 91:15-16: “(15) When he will call to
21
me, will I answer him (…·¬::×◊· ·ˆ:×∂¬¬ˆ·, both volitive forms; lit. ‘Let him call me and I will answer him’); / I
will be with him in trouble, / I will rescue him and honor him (…·¬¬::×·…·¬:¬¬×, both volitive). / (16)
With long life I will satisfy him (…·¬:·::×, volitive x-yiqtol because it is linked to a series of clearly vo-
litive verbal forms) / and show him (…·¬×√¬×◊·, volitive) my salvation.”
37
Similar cases are, e.g., Deut 32:11; Psa 18:26-28 // 2 Sam 22:26-28, and Psa 115:5-7.
38
E.g., on the basis of the verbal forms used, Psa 104 comprises three sections: vv. 1-23, 24-30,
and 31-35, and three motives: first, blessing and praise to God, with imperatives, exclamatory phrases, or
jussives; second, God’s epithets, with participles and qatal forms describing God’s works of creation; and
third, purpose of creation, with first-place yiqtol or x-yiqtol, sometimes with lamed + infinitive. Psa 107
also shows an alternating sequence of three motives: praise of the Lord, description of a critical situation
of the people, and cry to the Lord for help.

2

The main difference is that direct speech, as prose in general, consists of pieces of information conveyed in a sequence, while poetry communicates segments of information in parallelism. The result is linear vs. segmental communication.3 As a consequence, poetry is able to switch from one temporal axis to another even more freely than direct speech. This results in a greater variety of, and more abrupt transition from, one verbal form to another. If so, it is inappropriate to smooth the asperities of a text as far as the verbal forms are concerned—e.g., by translating everything with present tense except the cases where a different time reference is clearly implied. We should rather do our best to carefully consider the verbal forms and to interpret them in a consistent way. On the other hand, the difference between prose and poetry may help understand some peculiarities in the functioning of the verbal system in the latter. With this approach, the analysis of poetry becomes much more difficult but, as I think, more respectful of the text and more fruitful.

1.1. Alternating Qatal/Yiqtol
Two main approaches to BH poetry can be mentioned. Most scholars fairly disregard the verbal forms appearing in the texts and translate according to their own understanding, while some assume archaic peculiarities in the use of verbal forms, especially an alternating occurrence, or variation, of qatal and yiqtol for the same event or information. This phenomenon has been studied, among the first, by U. Cassuto and M. Held in the sixties-seventies on the basis of Ugaritic and archaic Hebrew poetry. W. Moran also widely contributed to illustrating the Northwest Semitic background of Hebrew. S. Gevirtz further suggested that the conjugational variation qatal/yiqtol is a Canaanite peculiarity, also found in the Amarna letters.4 In recent years, a rather influential assessment of the situation following the pioneer research of W. Moran is due to A.F. Rainey.5 In principle, I would observe that, first, a phenomenon of a given language can not automatically be applied to another language without appropriate control within the framework of the verbal system of that language. Second, one should expect different verbal forms to play different functions and analyze the texts accordingly on a synchronic level, rather than make the analysis depend on comparative, diachronic considerations. Of course, diachrony is not excluded but one should make appropriate use of it, and in any case synchrony is crucial. Now, in BH x-yiqtol and weqatal occur along with qatal and wayyiqtol in prose texts re-

widely accepted solution is to regard jussive yiqtol. A comparative. 5 above). morphology is not always rigorously respected even where distinctive verbal forms are possible. Besides. e. when the context is past. while wayyiqtol is the coordinate continuation form of discourse-initial qatal or x-qatal. or short prefix conjugation. The problem is that a volitive meaning is not always clear—sometimes it may even appear excluded. to Ugaritic. regard as jussive also the sentence-initial yiqtol forms. In my view.g. a correct solution takes into account the distinctiveness and reciprocal relationships of verbal forms in BH direct speech in prose texts in the different temporal axes. rather. First. nor is wayyiqtol the coordinate continuation form of yiqtol. 8 According to the theory presented here. I think that morphology is not a sufficient criterion to identify volitive or jussive yiqtol forms because. the clear cases that are abundantly available and the consistency of the verbal system encourage us to consider this issue seriously because.9 Second. when it refers to the past. or jussive. regard as jussive only the verbal forms morphologically marked as such. Yiqtol in the First Place of the Sentence Besides the variation qatal/yiqtol (§ 1. although second-place jussive x-yiqtol are also clearly attested. and by those who.6 This situation is peculiar to BH as compared. on the one hand. Yet.. a second major problem concerns yiqtol. In other words.g. occurring in a past context as a survival of ancient Canaanite yaqtul. even though its vocalization is not distinctively jussive or is not jussive at all. we qatal is not the coordinate continuation form of qatal. and the long form as survival of the ancient Canaanite imperfect yaqtulu (see no.1). coordinate waw with finite verbal forms does not have a place in BH syntax despite the common opinion of the grammarians.. in many cases such verbal forms are not distinguishable from the indicative ones and. the exact intention of the texts is at stake. in direct speech we qatal is the coordinate continuation form of discourse-initial indicative x-yiqtol.10 . on the one side. A further problem arises. on the other side. e. sentence-initial yiqtol is volitive.2. sentence-initial position alone identifies a yiqtol as jussive. This problem is seen differently by those scholars who. as already mentioned. 7 1. As a consequence. on the other. of course.3 ferring to the past not only in historical narrative but also in direct speech (see table in § 1 above). we qatal and wayyiqtol are not equivalent to the respective “nude” verbal forms plus a prefixed waw.

because of a “double-duty modifier” (§ 2. mostly refers to the axis of the future. third. sentence-initial yiqtol can be functionally a non-initial yiqtol. of verbal forms of the future axis rather than of yiqtol alone because w e qatal and we yiqtol are also attested.e. i.4). fourth. I will suggest that. In BH. it is only used to comment..e. A major problem in this connection is to identify the temporal reference of yiqtol in the different occurrences since. but occasionally is also found in the axis of the past. second. of verbal forms of the past axis rather than simply of qatal. and in the latter case it signals finality (§ 2. i. punctual information (qatal) to secondary-line. they signal a shift from main-line. sentence-initial yiqtol plays volitive function (§ 2. on the one side. on the other side. it follows that a narrative yiqtol corresponding to the jussive yaqtul typically used in Ugaritic poetic narrative is not attested in BH. a <x->yiqtol. and fifth.2). variation qatal/yiqtol. first.. while in the latter it corresponds to the imperfect tense of the same languages. 2. and. respectively—and therefore simply represent a shift from past to future information (§ 2. specify..4 The synchronic solution that I am proposing is based on the contention that the BH verbal system attested in direct speech in prose basically applies to poetry. it follows that in BH one should speak. and first-place yiqtol. when both qatal and yiqtol refer to the axis of the past. From what has already been said. Jussive/volitive yiqtol. repeated/habitual/explicatory/descriptive information (yiqtol) (§ 2.3). qatal and yiqtol may refer each to its specific time axis—past and future. it is not employed to convey historical information in the main line. it can refer to the axis of the future as well as to that of the past. indicative yiqtol corresponds to the future tense of the Latin languages.11 From the table above.5). volitive yiqtol can play the function of protasis (§ 2.e. In the former case. or describe an event in some way. as indicated above. The absence of a narrative yiqtol in BH combined with the absence noted above of “inverted/converted” verbal forms in Ugaritic makes me suspicious of any quick comparison between the two verbal systems. on its part.4 below). . yiqtol does not narrate. Analysis of Poetic Texts In the following exposition I will try to illustrate the different functions of the two syntactic constructions mentioned above.1). because also wayyiqtol is attested. detail. i.

3 below). when that variation refers to the same piece of information.k fDÚpVvI.k …wo√d…w But know that the lord has set apart the godly for himself. Psa 8:6-7 (Engl.1. all you workers of evil. He has set up His throne for judgment” (JPS).k yItÎ…nIjV. 5). The psalmist states that the Lord is going to judge the world and he has already set up his throne (as previously stated in v. 8:5-6): (→a) (b) (b) (a) MyIhølTaEm fAoV.g.tAv lO. it creates a kind of merismus 14 and the meaning is that what happened in the past will also happen in the future. wyDlEa yIa√r∂qV. The reverse occurrence (b) x-yiqtol/(a) qatal is also attested. the Lord will accept my prayer. See. The Lord has heard my supplication. See.k But the Lord will sit enthroned for ever. for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. or “But the Lord abides forever. However.k Because You have made him little less than God. 7 parallels a waw-x-yiqtol construction in the previous line.t hÎwh◊y oAmDv (10) j∂.e. it is most probably to be analyzed as a similar construction with an elliptic element. in Psa 9:8: (b) (a) bEv´y MDlwøoVl hÎwhyÅw wøaVsI. <x-> yiqtol (see § 2. Note the pattern past-future ( →a-b) // futurepast (b-a) in the sequence of the verbal forms.t r∂dDh◊w dwøbDk◊w ÔKy®dÎy yEcSoAmV. …whElyIvVmA. he has established his throne for judgment.b oAmVvˆy hÎwh◊y the Lord will hear me when I will call to him.m …whérV. or alternating occurrence of (a) qatal or (→a) continuation wayyiqtol/(b) indicative x-yiqtol epitomizes a past intervention of God as the basis for the psalmist’s hope for a similar intervention in the future.mIm …wr…ws (9) yˆyVkI..g.13 Similarly in Psa 6:9-10: (a) (a) (b) N‰wDa yElSoOÚp_lD. Variation Qatal/Yiqtol with Reference to Past/Future In some Psalms the variation. everything you have put under his feet. Contrast: “But the Lord sits enthroned for ever. The variation from (a) qatal or (→a) continuation wayyiqtol to (b) x-yiqtol refers to different pieces of information both in Psa 4:4 and in 6:9-10 and the meaning is that God’s favor in the past is the basis of confidence for the future.b lwøq hÎwh◊y oAmDv_yI..lIpV.mAl N´nwø.qˆy yItD.b …whElyIvVmA. e. i.t hÎwh◊y Depart from me.tÅw (6) …whérVÚfAoV.t in v.5 2. he has established his throne for judgment” (RSV). See Psa 4:4:12 (a) (b) wøl dyIsDj hÎwh◊y hDlVpIh_yI. and with glory and honor will you crown him— <you> shall give him dominion over the works of thy hands. e.k yˆ…nR.. maybe a pronominal subject. .t (7) wyDl◊går_tAjAt hD.sAjV.

below). second. both x-qatal and initial qatal are attested at the start of an oral narrative to begin the main line of communication in the past (see table in § 1 above).16 2. This dynamic three-level structure continues in the following Psa 10. a (b) first-place yiqtol in v. in the fields of Zoan. Then there comes. mostly with x-yiqtol. The main line goes on with continuation (→a) wayyiqtol in vv. Variation Qatal/Yiqtol with Reference to Past As already mentioned. habit. 13-14. while both qatal and wayyiqtol indicate punctuality. By cleaving (‘<While he> was cleaving’) rocks in the wilderness.15 the whole Psa 9 is structured in three levels of communication established by specific verbal forms: the level of prayer. before explaining this analysis let us get a broader picture of the situation by considering other cases oc- . mostly with qatal. because first-place yiqtol has volitive function (see table in § 1 above). 15. and made the waters stand like a heap.b MyîrUx oå. Let us begin with vv.b√dI.k MˆyAm_bR…xÅ¥yÅw (→a) MDmwøy NÎnDoR. V.bår twømOhVtI. 12-15: (a) aRlRp hDcDo MDtwøbSa d‰g‰n (12) NAoOx_hédVc MˆyårVxIm X®rRaV.b hDl◊yA.qAb◊y (15) (→a) hD.b (a/ →a) MéryIbSoÅ¥yÅw MÎy oåqD. he gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. The surprise is actually double: first because yiqtol used with past reference indicates repetition.b MEj◊nÅ¥yÅw (14) vEa rwøaV.lAh_lDk◊w (b) rD. The translation above assumes that the sentence-initial yiqtol in v. 15 is not volitive but actually an elliptic indicative <x-> yiqtol construction (see § 2.b (13) (→a) d´n_wømV. 13—actually. and the level of the consequences for the just and the wicked.3. and this faith constitutes the basis of the prayer. which is a usual way of starting an oral narrative. A good example is Psa 78 which shows different such cases. the level of God’s action in the past.2. However. and led them with a cloud in the daytime.mA. as I have tried to show elsewhere. The aim of this composition is to show that just as God intervened in the past in favor of the poor.6 Indeed. and all the night with a fiery light. in BH the phenomenon of the variation of (a) qatal/(b) indicative yiqtol concerns not only these two verbal forms but also their continuation forms (→ a) wayyiqtol and ( →b) weqatal. with volitive forms—imperative and jussive yiqtol. 12 opens with (a) x-qatal. the same he will do in the future. explication or description. as a surprise. This is followed by a parallel (a) qatal in v.k VqVvÅ¥yÅw In the sight of their fathers he wrought marvels in the land of Egypt. which constitutes a unit with Psalm 9 (see the LXX). He divided the sea and let them pass through it.

the sequence of the verbal forms in vv. and distress.b …wh…w. / while their lives to the plague he gave over. what they craved he was giving them. A third sequence in Psa 78 is similar to the previous two. / and their flocks to thunderbolts..tˆ¥yÅw (46) hR. 25-26 is similar to that of the previous passage. 49-50: (→a/→a) dOaVm …woV.bVcˆ¥yÅw …wlVkaø¥yÅw (29) (b) MRhDl aIbÎy MDtÎwSaAt◊w (→a) (b) MRhyIpV. / wrath. indignation.lAv◊y (49) h∂rDx◊w MAoÅzÎw h∂rVbRo MyIo∂r yEkSaVlAm tAjAlVvIm wøÚpAaVl byItÎn sE.e. MElVkaø¥yÅw bOrDo MRhD. (→a) wayyiqtol/(b) x-yiqtol in v. / he did not spare them from death.b MRhyEl◊zOn◊w while as a result of their streams they were not able to drink any more. / while with their tongues they were lying to him.d√rApVx…w they devoured them. (a) negative qatal and (a) x-qatal in vv.lAv◊y (45) By sending (‘<Since he> was sending’) among them swarms of flies. as is that of vv. 29 and 36 along with (b) <x-> yiqtol. they destroyed them.tVvˆy_lA. / he sent them food in abundance. / and their sycamores with frost.sÅy (26) (b) NDmyEt wøΩzUoV.dAl MDtÎ¥yAj◊w (Psa 78:29) And they ate and were well filled. 46-47: (a) (a) (b) (→a) vyIa lAkDa MyîryI. / and the fruit of their labor to the locust. Indeed. (46) And he gave their crops to the caterpillar. 45: (→a) (b) (b→a) (/→a) MRhyérOa◊y M∂dVl JKOpShÅ¥yÅw (44) Then he turned to blood their rivers.b_jA. / (50) by making (‘<while he> made’) a path for his anger.b√rAaDl MDoyˆgyˆw MÎnVpÅ…g d∂rD.. i. Another sequence in Psa 78 is (→a) wayyiqtol/(b) x-yiqtol in vv. / indeed.b d∂rD.tAp◊yÅw (36) wøl_…wb◊ΩzAk◊y MÎnwøvVlIb…w (→a) (b) (b) (a) (a) M∂ryIoV.b Myîd∂q oA.bAl r´…gVsÅ¥yÅw (48) MyIpDv√rDl MRhy´nVqIm…w wøÚpAa NwørSj MD. / a company of destroying angels. (48) Then he gave over to the hail their cattle. i. / (26) By causing (‘<While he> was causing’) the east wind to blow in the heavens. N…wyD.b gEhÅn◊yÅw MDl…wb◊y lyIsDjRl NE. 44 and (b) <x-> yiqtol/(→a) wayyiqtol in v. / he led out by his power the south wind. 15. (36) Then they flattered him with their mouths.tÅw Aoé.b MDtwømVqIv◊w (Psa 78:25) Man ate of the bread of the angels. MEtyIjVvA. and frogs.b gOrShÅy (47) lAmÎnSjA. / (49) By letting loose (‘<While he> let loose’) on them his fierce anger. / (47) <while he> was destroying their vines with hail.e.bAa MRjRl (25) (→a) oAbOcDl MRhDl jAlDv h∂dyEx MˆyDmDÚvA. 12 and (b) <x-> yiqtol and (→a) wayyiqtol in v. These passages (also see Psa 78:34-40) show rather clearly the descriptive/habitual/explicatory/descriptive function of x-yiqtol (along with its continuation form we qatal) and its .lAp◊y (50) MDvVpÅn t‰wD.mIm JKAcDj_aøl ryˆ…gVsIh rRb®. (a) x-qatal in v.b jA.bA.7 curring in Psa 78.

the omission of a given element that is grammatically expected. First-Place Yiqtol as <x-> Yiqtol—Double-Duty Modifier More difficult to explain in the framework of my proposal are the cases with sentenceinitial yiqtol.” This designates a grammatical element that serves two or more lines although it does not appear in every case but only in the first line or. it seems to me that such poetic criteria are fairly elusive and maybe impossible to define.18 A clear .8 negative counterpart (b) lA. And they provoked Him to anger with their high places indeed.k hÎnyR.” The first sentence conveys a single/punctual piece of historical information while the second expounds the ensuing continuous situation. 20) MˆyAm …wb…wzÎ¥yÅw r…wx_hD. <they> were constantly moving him to jealousy with their idols. / while as a result of their streams they were not able to drink any more [x-negative yiqtol]. In poetry. 64) Behold. 72) wøbDbVl MOtV. Other similar cases in Psa 78 are as follows: (v. They also show by contrast the punc- tual value of (a) qatal.k MEo√rˆ¥yÅw MEj◊nÅy wyDÚpA.b/aøl + yiqtol in a past context.. while with his skilful hands he was guiding them. However. What I am saying means that the line of information with x-yiqtol/we qatal does not stand on the same level with the line of information with qatal/wayyiqtol but the former is subservient to the latter—it specifies it in different ways according to various context situations. A more verifiable characteristic of poetry is ellipsis. more difficult to recognize. the first narrates (foreground). 2. One could. might allow some flexibility in the otherwise rigid word order of BH prose. indeed. the second describes (background).kVbIt aøl wyDtOnVmVlAa◊w (v. only in the subsequent parallel lines of a poetic unit. such as prosody or rhythm. I rendered Psa 78:44 as follows: “Then he turned [wayyiqtol] to blood their rivers. he smote the rock and water gushed out. 17 Above. 58) MDtwømDbV.e. i. Their priests fell by the sword. which in prose texts has volitive force but in several poetic passages referring to the past volition is unlikely. streams were overflowing. i.. while their widows were making no lamentation. And (David) tended them according to his upright heart. of its continuation form (→a) wayyiqtol (and their negative counterpart aøl + qatal). of course. especially in the form of a technique called “double-duty modifier.b …wh…wsyIoVkÅ¥yÅw MRhyElyIsVpIb…w …wh…wayˆnVqÅy …wlDpÎn b®rRjA.e.b wyÎnShO. suppose that specific poetic criteria.k twøn…wbVtIb…w (v.3.kIh NEh …wpOfVvˆy MyIlDj◊n…w (v. this phenomenon is particularly frequent.

2a. the Lord] will judge the world with righteousness. Let us consider the following examples in which yiqtol refers to the future: (Psa 22:8) (Hab 1:8) yIl …wgIoVlÅy yAaør_lD. foreground) in 78:45.e. e. wayyiqtol (main event.e.. This analysis is supported by a chiastic parallelism.g.mUaVl…w X®rRa_yEkVlAm …wbV…xÅyVtˆy (2) dAjÎy_…wdVswøn Myˆn◊zwør◊w wøjyIvVm_lAo◊w hÎwh◊y_lAo Initial hD. In combination with the chiastic disposition of the elements. Their horses will be swifter than leopards. 1 qatal-yiqtol // yiqtol-qatal in v. 2..k vaør …woyˆnÎy hDpDcVb …wryIfVpÅy wyDs…ws MyîrEm◊…nIm …w. Actually.låq◊w b®rRo yEbEa◊ΩzIm …w. 58 analyzed above (§ 2. while the peoples were plotting in vain? < > <Why> were the kings of the earth setting themselves. The best model I can find for the ellipsis of a pronominal subject is Psa 9:9: q®dRxV.b MyI. in v..mDl modifies not only the qatal immediately following but also the yiqtol of v. 1b and the x-qatal in v. in Psa 78:44 as it were jA. the alternation of qatal and yiqtol is likely intended to add depth of field to the presentation of the event. background) in 78:44 // <x-> yiqtol (cause.20 while the x-yiqtol in v. <he> will judge the peoples with equity. 50. One may suggest that the omission of a pronominal subject is intended to speed up the parallelism. foreground) + x-yiqtol (result. .9 case is Psa 2:1-2:19 (1a) (1b) (2a) (2b) Mˆywøg …wv◊g∂r qyîr_…w…gVh‰y MyI.2). they will be more fierce than the evening wolves. 26. while the rulers took counsel together. which convey single information. background) + wayyiqtol (main event. will wag their heads. and their horsemen will press proudly on. I would suggest as a suitable solution the ellipsis of a pronominal subject in these and similar cases.mDl (1) Why did the nations conspire.g.t_fOÚpVvˆy a…wh◊w MyîrDvyEmV.21 The solution of a double-duty modifier. i.lAv◊y  <a…wh◊w>. against the Lord and his anointed? hD.dAj◊w wyDv∂rDÚp …wvDp…w All who see me will mock at me— will make mouths at me.e. 2b are circumstantial constructions (background) linked each to its preceding verbal form (foreground).mUaVl NyîdÎy And he [i. even when no chiastic pattern is attested (see § 3 below). In my opinion.. we discover a chiastic disposition of the verbal forms. i. in Psa 78:15. 45. The yiqtol constructions convey repetition/habit/explication/description and do not stand on the same level with the qatal constructions..b lEbE. however. e. 49. this relief function is likely to be a meaningful explanation for the phenomenon of the alternation qatal/yiqtol in general. does not seem to apply in cases where no common element is available.

I want to tell of all your wonderful deeds. Ewald and others.25 Besides cases like this in which yiqtol occurs the first place of the sentence. / while all your plans may he fulfil! / (6) . that initial yiqtol is simply an archaic remainder of the Canaanite narrative yaqtul. Driver.22 On the lion and the adder you will tread— will trample under foot the young lion and the serpent.k rO. For the cases where yiqtol refers to the past. like H. On the one side. On the other side. 9:1-2): yI..mÅzSa I want to give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. I want to sing praise to your name.k hÎwh◊y aE.lAm◊y (Psa 20:2) May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! / May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! / (3) May he send you help from the sanctuary.b hÎwh◊y ÔK◊nAoÅy (2) bOqSoÅy yEhølTa MEv ÔKVb‰…gAc◊y v®dO.b hÎn◊…når◊n (6) lO…g√dˆn …wnyEhølTa_MEvVb…w ÔKyRtwølSaVvIm_lD.k◊zˆy (4) h‰nVÚvåd◊y ÔKVtDlwøo◊w (1) (2) (1) (2) (1) ÔKRbDbVlIk ÔKVl_NR. I want to be glad and exult in you. / while from Zion may he give you support! / (4) May he remember all your offerings.b hÎwh◊y h®dwøa (2) ÔKyRtwøaVlVpˆn_lD. Consider Psa 20:2-6 (Engl. their horsemen from afar will come— will fly like an eagle swift to devour.g. I prefer a different kind of ellipsis—that of a pronominal subject—that is in keeping with the usual values of yiqtol in BH. sentence-initial jussive yiqtol plays totally different functions from narrative wayyiqtol. clear cases of x-yiqtol constructions are attested indicating repetition/habit/explication/description in the axis of the past. O Most High. i. in Psa 9:2-3 (Engl.K®dDoVsˆy Nwø¥yI…xIm…w ÔKRtOj◊nIm_lD.qIm ÔK√r◊zRo_jAlVvˆy (3) D.e.k …wpUoÎy (Psa JKOr√dI. this situation also renders improbable the other solution mostly favored today.tˆy (5) aE. vs. 20:1-5): (1) (1) (1) (2) (1) (2) h∂rDx MwøyV.4..lAm◊y ÔKVtDxSo_lDk◊w ÔKRtDo…wvyI. The difference is one of level of communication—(1) main level. or foreground. assumed an ellipsis of <way->.bIl_lDkV. (2) secondary level.24 2.23 Yet. in parallelism with wayyiqtol and qatal forms. e.k h∂rVÚpAsSa JKDb hDxVlRoRa◊w hDjVmVcRa (3) NwøyVlRo ÔKVmIv h∂rV. or background. / while your burnt sacrifices may he regard with favor! / (5) May he grant you your heart’s desire.t NRtRpÎw lAjAv_lAo 91:13) Nyˆ…nAt◊w ryIpV.k sOm√rI.t indeed. as already mentioned. Volitive Functions of Yiqtol In many cases initial yiqtol and its continuation form weyiqtol clearly play a volitive function as expected. there are cases in which (1) first-place yiqtol and (2) second-place x-yiqtol forms alternate though clearly being both volitive. In my view. although the latter is usually composed of a short-form yiqtol.10 …waøbÎy qwøj∂rEm wyDv∂rDp…w lwøkTaRl vDj rRv‰nV.

can play this function. without prefixed waw.tAo MyI…xˆn MyI.k rAoÅy hO…xIq NwølVm hDawøbDa◊w MyîrÎz MˆyAm yItyItDv◊w yI.k√rÅy MyîrDh MwørVm yItyIlDo yˆnSa (…) (23) (…) I have ascended the height of the mountains.tVoAmDv_aølSh (25) DhyI. However. from old days I was planning it. should I make Hades my resting-place. Protasis Function of Volitive Yiqtol As already noted by classical grammarians. there you are. as most scholars do.t√rAxyˆw M®d®q yEmyImVl DhyItayEbSh hD.k yAmDoVÚp_PAkV.sRa_MIa D.KR…nIh lwøaVÚv hDoyI…xAa◊w rAjDv_yEp◊nAk aDÚcRa If I should ascend to heaven. yiqtol plays volitive function also in contexts referring to the past. . then addresses him directly:28 (23a) (23b) (23c) (24a) (24b) (25a) (25b) (25c) (25d) (25e) NwønDbVl yEtV. that there may be destroyed into waste heaps— fortified cities. still.26 It is a characteristic of poetry that also “nude” initial yiqtol. 23b-c. translate the verbal forms with past tenses and be satisfied with that. vocalize the text differently.b rwøjVbIm wyÎz∂rSa tAmwøq tOrVkRa◊w wø. instead of weyiqtol.5. the wyDvOrV.e.. to the forest of its orchard. the volitive forms of the MT can be interpreted as conveying the purpose of the two main pieces of information expressed with x-qatal (vv.b MyîrDo uttermost part of Lebanon.hDtOa qwøj∂rEmVl D. you are there. in which cases it expresses finality. 24a and 25c). 23a. the choice of its cypresses. of course.lÅ…g twøvVhAl yIhVt…w twørUxV. i. now I have brought it to pass.31 One good example is Psa 139:8-10:32 (8a) (8b) (9a) hD.lIm√rA.29 One could. In vv. that I may cut down the tallness of its cedars. and that I may come to the shelter of its border. 24b.tDa MDv MˆyAmDv qA. Should I raise the wings of the morning.11 May we shout for joy over your victory. a passage from an oracle against Sennacherib in which God first puts words into the mouth of Sennacherib. / while in the name of our God may we set up our banners! / May the Lord fulfil all your petitions! More rarely but clearly. I have dug so that I could drink foreign water. the ancient versions read wayyiqtol forms because they translate with past tenses.t√råq yˆnSa (24) rwøxDm yérOa◊y lO.30 2. and 25d. in my opinion the problem remains of why did the Masoretes vocalize that way and what they intended.27 Let us consider 2 Kgs 19:23-25 (// Isa 37:24-26). sentence-initial jussive yiqtol can play the function of the protasis. In prose this function is mostly played by we yiqtol (and by waw-x-yiqtol as well).b bîrVjAa◊w yItyIcDo . that I may dry up with the sole of my feet all the rivers of Egypt! Have you not heard? Long ago I have done this.

on that very day his plans will have perished.dAa (146:4a) wøtDm√dAaVl bUvÎy wøj…wr aExE.12 (9b) (10a) (10b) MÎy tyîrSjAaV. Should the floods lift up their roaring.qIm (4b) MÎy_yérV. and indicative xyiqtol/we qatal with the future. The first protasis in v. respectively) are implicit protases. simply with volitive verbal forms. (3. qatal/wayyiqtol to the axis of the past. even there let your hand guide me. of the mighty ones. I think that: (3. he will return to his earth. hDoyI…xAa◊w). 91:7.d twørDh◊n …waVcˆy (4a) MyI.36 3. I do not see any justification for taking qatal and yiqtol as equivalent verbal forms and translate them in the same way.34 Should a thousand fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand. 8b (with volitive weyiqtol.k_lAo (3b) MyI. This also applies to their respective continuation forms—wayyiqtol and we qatal (indicative) or w e yiqtol (volitive). 8a is explicit (with MIa + yiqtol) while the second in v.b ryî. O Lord. the third in v.bVvIm Myîryî.1) Qatal/wayyiqtol are to be translated with the simple past tense.bår MˆyAm twølO.e.b a∂ryˆn_aøl NE. more than the thunders of many waters. specifically in direct speech (see § 1 above).kVvRa yˆnEj◊nAt ÔK√dÎy MDv_MÅ…g ÔK‰nyIm◊y yˆn´zSjaøt◊w should I settle at the extremity of the sea. none will reach you. the former indicate repeated/habitual/explicatory/descriptive information (background) .2) When x-yiqtol/we qatal alternate with qatal/wayyiqtol and refer to the axis of the past.b MyîrDh_…wvSo√rˆy (91:7) PRlRa ÔKV. should the mountains tremble with its tumult.1).b Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change and the mountains shake in the heart of the sea. should its waters roar and foam.b MyîrDh fwømVb…w (4a) wyDmyEm …wrVmVj‰y …wmTh‰y (4b) wøtÎwSaÅgV.t (4b) wyDtOnO.dI…xIm lOÚpˆy (7b) ÔK‰nyImyIm hDbDb√r…w (7c) vÎ…gˆy aøl ÔKyRlEa (93:3a) hÎwh◊y twørDh◊n …waVcÎn (3b) MDlwøq twørDh◊n …waVcÎn (3c) MÎyVk∂. mighty is the Lord on high!35 When his breath will depart.kVvRa. 9b (with sentence-initial volitive yiqtol.mÅy bElV.mA. x-yiqtol/weqatal to the axis of the future (§ 2. 9a and the fourth in v. and let your right hand lay hold of me. 46:2-3). The floods have lifted up. 93:3-4.33 Similar cases are Psa 46:3-4 (Engl.dAa (4c) hÎwh◊y MwørD. the floods have lifted up their voice. Conclusion – Poetic Peculiarities In BH the different verbal forms play basically the same functions in poetry as in prose. aDÚcRa and hÎnV.tVvRo …wdVbDa a…whAh Mwø¥yA.b hÎnV. This supposes the fact that each group of verbal forms refer to its own temporal axis. i. 146:4: (46:3a) X®rDa ryImDhV. of the breakers of the sea.

yiqtol for habitual-descriptive information when both verbal forms refer to the axis of the past (§ 2. Here. with little or no consideration of their context. Second. in poetry a sequential verbal form like wayyiqtol is much less frequent than in prose. future are intended to express totality. habit/description add depth perspective and contribute to a graphic representation of the events that is characteristic of poetry. the historian towards past events. or graphic representation of multiple bits of information that follow one another in parallel lines. Thus certain peculiarities become understandable. Sentence-initial volitive yiqtol is also well attested with the function of protasis (§ 2. On the other hand. While the historian narrates past events in a sequence of successive bits of information conveyed by a chain of coordinated wayyiqtol. the phenomenon of a “double-duty modifier” is much more attested in poetry than is in prose. certain guidelines are to be followed in order to arrive at a correct analysis. Indeed. Occasionally they also appear with reference to the past axis to indicate purpose (volitive consequence) (§ 2. perpetuity while the coordinates punctuality vs.13 while the latter punctual/single information (foreground) (§ 2. yiqtol for future information when each verbal form refers to its specific temporal axis (§ 2. wayyiqtol is found in alternation with x-yiqtol and w e qatal. This is obtained by a recurring shift from verbal forms of punctual information qatal/wayyiqtol to verbal forms of habitual. Much too frequently passages are analyzed in isolation. It comprises two forms according to different coordinates: qatal for past vs.1). even from direct speech. the fact that a tense transition from qatal/wayyiqtol to x-yiqtol/w e qatal with past reference is frequent in poetry while it is rare in prose reflects a characteristic attitude of the poet vs. poetry develops by segments of information disposed in parallel lines rather than by coordinate pieces of information linked in a linear sequence. I call “merismus” the alternating occurrence of qatal/yiqtol in poetry.3) Sentence-initial yiqtol (occasionally also x-yiqtol) and its continuation form we yiqtol convey volitive information. is its segmental character (§ 1). usually as a continuation form of initial (x-)qatal. when it appears.2). (3. Merismus is a way of expressing totality in abbreviated form. What makes poetry different from prose. descriptive in- . the functions of the verbal forms are to be evaluated in the framework of the text.5). Further. the coordinates past vs. the peculiarities of poetry are to be considered.4).2). the poet celebrates them with frequent resort to description. Third. First. On the one hand. In other words. and qatal for narrative-punctual vs.

37 The issues presented here indicate a way of analyzing poetry in the framework of BH verbal system in general.k NEb…w oAv®r twørVxwøa …wlyIowøy_aøl t‰wD. Prov 10:1-2: (1) (2) bDa_jA. on the one side. nor has indicative x-yiqtol full narrative function. One should also note that.2). custom not only in the axis of the past.” or “converted verbal forms” are well attested in BH.t lyIsV. The phenomenon of the “double-duty modifier” helps detect the exact function of apparently sentence-initial yiqtol forms that are actually second-place <x-> yiqtol constructions (§ 2.2). where it is a background verbal form (§ 2.4). particularly in poetry. This analysis poses a challenge not easy to face. in some cases indicative yiqtol is used to express habitual present—while actual present is usually expressed by nonverbal sentence— especially in proverbial sayings like.. especially in direct speech. because it does .1). I have tried to suggest that the effort is worthwhile. is not automatically applicable to another language without proper control of how it fits within the verbal system of that language. § 1.3). second-place indicative yiqtol expresses habitude. while a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.mAc◊y MDkDj NE. In several cases where yiqtol/w e qatal verbal forms occur along with qatal/wayyiqtol it is not easy to decide whether the yiqtol/we qatal refer to the axis of the future and are to be translated with future tense (§ 2. Sentence-initial yiqtol and weyiqtol can express finality in the axis of the past (§ 2. more common solution is to admit in BH poetry a narrative yiqtol as an archaic residue of ancient Canaanite-Ugaritic yaqtul. Only close attention to the context at large can help decide. there are two main differences between Ugaritic and BH verbal systems (cf.2). However. even a well established one. where it is a main-line verbal form.14 formation (x-)yiqtol/weqatal. jussive yiqtol with narrative function on the model of Ugaritic yaqtul does not have a place in BH verbal system. In fact. while they seem to be almost non existent in Ugaritic (cf. The result may be a fresh interpretation of passages. the so-called “inverted. On the other side. Second. or to the axis of the past and are to be translated with the imperfect (§ 2.b wø. while righteousness will always deliver from death. e. Treasures gained by wickedness will never profit. First.mIa tÅg…w. both in prose and in poetry. 7 above).g. however.38 The alternative.t h∂q∂dVx…w A wise son will always make glad his father. but also in the axis of the future.mIm lyI…xA. a phenomenon of a given Semitic language. no. even of complete Psalms.

e. then celebrated in poetry (see “Analysing Biblical Hebrew Poetry. A. see . originally published in Italian in 1986).F.” JNES 32 (1973) 99-104. i. 46-48. particularly by J.M. 2 A first attempt in this direction is a short study on the poetic section in the Book of Jonah (2:3- 10.S. For a discussion of Rainey’s position. Moran (ed. repr. “The Prefix Conjugation Patterns of Early Northwest Semitic. Commentary and Introduction (Jerusalem 1971. Gevirtz.11.22.17-23.26-24.” in Studies and Essays in Honor of Abraham A.F. Canaanite Epics of the Patriarchal Age – Texts. M. Keil .15 not convey main-line information in the past like qatal/wayyiqtol but rather off-line information like weqatal.. “Proverbi 23. 1-4 [Leiden 1996]). 3 As I have tried to show by comparing Judg 4:19-21 and 5:25-27. Grand Rapids [MI].” in Lingering over Words. GA. Huehnergard . For these reasons. and Joüon-Muraoka.A. Also see my analysis of Proverbs 22:17-24:22 published in three installments (“Proverbi 22. C. Cortese. Neuman . Huehnergard and E.F. 47 [1997] 33-56. “The Yqtl-Qtl (Qtl-Yqtl) Sequence of Identical Verbs in Biblical Hebrew and in Ugaritic. 4 U. “Analysing Biblical Hebrew Poetry. Leiden 1962). Napoli-Roma 1999] 129-149. pp. T. well-known grammars are quoted with the names of the authors/revisers only.L. pp.D. The series Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes (ed.” ibid.B. I think that the Semitic-comparative.” Liber Annuus 29 [1979] 42-72. Hereafter.” in Biblica et semitica. Studi in memoria di Francesco Vattioni [ed. 1980-1981) is referred to as: Keil-Delitzsch. 5 A. Cassuto. The Goddess Anath. diachronic solution is not suitable for BH poetry.” JSOT 74 (1997) 77-93. 26-31). 1990] 407-420.” ibid. Delitzsch. Footnotes 1 Syntax of the Verb in Classical Hebrew Prose (Sheffield 1990. Abusch . S. Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning.” 78-80). Gesenius-Kautzsch. Greenstein. Hebr. vols. Weinryb . more recently in Canaanite in the Amarna Tablets: A Linguistic Analysis of the Mixed Dialect Used by the Scribes from Canaan. two passages in which the killing of Sisera at the hands of Jael is first narrated in prose. Steinkeller [Atlanta. orig. “Proverbi 23. L.P. 1951).12-25. and “Poetic Syntax and Interpretation of Malachi” (to appear in the same review. see “Syntactic Analysis of Jonah. Cagni. Held. 51 [2001]). 48 [1998] 49-104). Neuman – President. Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Rainey.J. vol. Philadelphia (ed. 281-290. “Evidence of Conjugational Variation in the Parallelization of Selfsame Verbs in the Amarna Letters. “L’attesa dei poveri non sarà vana: Il Sal 9/10 attualizzato. Hebrew Translation. Zeitlin.” Liber Annuus 46 [1996] 26-31. 139-149). Another of my essays concerns Psalms 9-10 (together with E. Ben-Horin .

695- .541). 46.” ZAH 13 (2000) 1-66. “The Hebrew Verb: A Grammaticalization Approach. Thus already C. Held. and D. Cassuto maintained that in Isa 60:16 “Wäw conversive [i. and no.t  MyIkDlVm  dOv◊w). Gordon. T. Rainey himself).J. See more recently P. J. “The Evolution of the Hebrew Verbal System. E. on the other side. “The Yqtl-Qtl (Qtl-Yqtl). Cuneiform Selections. who however noted that “Ug[aritic] poetry has one clear case of qtl with w conversive… (67 : I : 24)…” (Ugaritic Textbook – Grammar.A. Andersen. ändert sich ihre aspektuell-temporale Funktion nicht. Segert (A Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language.” HS 29 (1988) 7-42 (with contributions by E. the waw does convert the BH verbal forms.Boston . do not address the issue of inverted verbal forms. With Selected Texts and Glossary [Berkeley . Texts in Transliteration. in this case. Glossary. or better. 7:4. Indices [Roma 1965] 115.16 “Symposium: The yiqtol in Biblical Hebrew. / even the breast of kings you shall suck (yIqÎnyI. Cassuto’s position regarding waw was shared by M. Zevit. in this case: “and (the fire) devoured the great deep (hD. 39). consecutive] (…) in effect does not alter the sense at all.tÅw).29). off line and repetition/habit/description/specification (see § 2.e.H. 6 In his treatment of archaic BH poetic texts on the basis of Ugaritic. and A. therefore: “You shall suck the milk of nations (Mˆywø…g  bElSj  V.tVqÅnÎy◊w). the indicative short-form yqtl] die Konjunktion w (‘und’) voraus.2 below).” Things are more complicate in Am 7:4 because it comprises wayyiqtol and w e qatal that are not homogeneous verbal forms but the former signals main line and single event in the past while the latter signals.” In any case.” HS 39 (1998) 7-39. weqatal and wayyiqtol are individual verbal forms as such because they possess distinctive morphology and distinctive functions. Z. § 76.Los Angeles . Eine Differenzierung zwischen PKKi einerseits und w-PKKi anderseits ist im Ug. Huehnergard.F.” HS 40 (1999) 15-26. Joosten.Köln 1997]). Tropper. / while it was eating up the land ( qRlEjAh_tRa  hDlVkDa◊w ).London 1984]).L Greenstein. in Isa 60:16 we find in parallel lines w e qatal and x-yiqtol. Now.bår  MwøhV.” and that “particularly from this passage in Amos [i.D. J. “The Long Form of the Prefix Conjugation Referring to the Past in Biblical Hebrew Prose. on the one side. mentions a few cases of verbal formations that “typologically” resemble the Perfectum consecutivum of BH grammar (Ugaritische Grammatik [Münster 2000] 716. J. Verreet (Modi ugaritici: Eine morphosyntaktische Abhandlung über das Modalsystem im Ugaritischen [Leuven 1988]). AN] it can be seen that the Wäw does not ‘convert’ anything.” 7 It is commonly held that the so-called “inverted” verbal forms do not exist in Ugaritic poetic texts while they exist in later prose texts. “The System of the Finite Verb in Classical Biblical Hebrew.. This enables us to ascertain the origin of this Wäw. Sivan (A Grammar of the Ugaritic Language [Leiden . nicht notwendig und sachlich nicht sinnvoll” (pp.t_tRa  lAkaø. he states: “Geht der PKKi [i. and to understand correctly the form of verses like Genesis i 5…” (The Goddess Anath. when it refers to the axis of the past. U. Gentry. § 13..e. J. More recent grammars like that of S.” ZAH 14 (2001) 117-143. Cook.e. which are perfectly compatible verbal forms because the first is the usual mainline verbal form for the future axis and the latter its usual off-line counterpart in the course of direct speech (see § 1 above).

Like Driver.R. 3). a very common sequence in Ugaritic and Hebrew poetry” (Psalms I. For my part. i. A Guide to Its Techniques [Sheffield 1984] 321-324).” Liber Annuus 37 (1987) 7-19.5 below). see esp. p.17 696).2 and 3 below). the English translations are taken from the RSV with modifications. On these issues. § 55. GA. as maybe poetry as such. 8 S. However. 9 Consult.E. in his review of Segert’s grammar A. F. 12 13 Unless explicitly indicated. I would rather reserve this designation to cases in which the same item is referred to with both past and future verbal forms in parallelism. indicative yiqtol forms have been discussed recently by A.” ZAH 13 [2000] 168-180). shows a “dramatic” character in the use of the verbal forms (§ 3 below). Gentry (pp. abstract on p. 9:8. Some clear cases of jussive vs. and 93:3. 11 According E. Shulman only considers the verbal forms that are morphologically identified as jussive. . Greenstein.G. Contrast M. and “Between Ugaritic Epic and Biblical Narrative: The Role of Direct Discourse.. Watson (Classical Hebrew Poetry.g. vol 5 [Ramat-Gan 2000. 1993]). and my Syntax of the Verb. 14 On this phenomenon in poetry. p. Driver wrote what is until today one of the most accurate treatment on “the use of the jus- sive form” (A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew and Some Other Syntactical Questions [Oxford 1892] §§ 170-175. Rundgren called merismus the shift from wayyiqtol to wawx-qatal found in Gen 1:5 (Das althebräische Verbum [Stockholm-Göteborg-Uppsala 1961] 103. § 55. e. Joüon-Muraoka § 114gN. who translates both verbal forms with the future: “Yahweh will work wonders… Yahweh will hear me…” and notes: “Perfect hipläh is balanced by imperfect yiåmä„. it describes or celebrates an event rather than simply narrating it as does prose (§ 1 and no. § 170. I will suggest that BH poetry. she does not seem to consider the initial position of yiqtol to be a mark of the jussive character of the verb although she mentions E.1 and 2.F. 168-169) who emphasize the importance of the initial position of yiqtol in the sentence.” L≤åonénu 41 [1998] 31-43). Engl. consult W. Rainey suggested that “The ubiquitous examples of the short form *„ny in poetic contexts after the w conjunction remind one of the narrative preterite continuative of biblical Hebrew…” (“A New Grammar of Ugaritic. 398). Hebr. VII. Dahood. Qimron also stresses the importance of the initial position of yiqtol although his approach to syntax is different from mine (“A New Approach toward Interpreting the Imperfect Verbal Forms in Early Hebrew.e..” in Studies in Bible and Exegesis. 212). Qimron and P. see my Syntax of the Verb.” Or 56 [1987] 391-402. Driver stressed the need of not disregarding the morphology of the jussive. Among “good examples” of this phenomenon Dahood lists Psa 6:10. A similar case of merismus is when a given item is referred to in parallel lines as punctual information with qatal/wayyiqtol and as repeated/habitual/explicatory/descriptive information with yiqtol/weqatal (see §§ 2. and my paper. poetry is direct discourse (“Direct Discourse and Parallelism. Translation and Notes [New York 1966] 24). 6 above). “A Neglected Point of Hebrew 10 Syntax: Yiqtol and Position in the Sentence. Shulman (“The Function of the ‘Jussive’ and ‘Indicative’ Imperfect Forms in Biblical Hebrew Prose.” in Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature [Atlanta. see no. E.] 33-40.L. 1-50 – Introduction. but I will propose a different analysis (see §§ 2.

” 9-10. pp. such semantic specifications can hardly be the basis for syntactic analysis without the support of more objective criteria. and finally the particle _Sh also governs the first-place yiqtol of v. consult Watson. Dahood. I have cried for help.” 411-412). Miller. 23. 13-14 are jussive because they are followed by MEcÎy◊w. or main line. 17 and 22 as well as the intervening lines (vv. A. 19 In Job 40:15-32 is also a good example. He assigns to the “imperfect” forms in 40:25-26 an “epistemic” value and to those of 40:26-28a a “deontic” value (“Mood and Modality in Classical Hebrew. Indeed.b / vyîrSjA. we find qatal in vv. I would insist on this point: if we do not care to take the verbal forms seriously. Classical Hebrew Poetry. In other words.g. 16 also affects the first-place yiqtol in vv. 9-14. 4:2).18 15 16 In my paper. or secondary line of communication—is not interchangeable with narrative wayyiqtol—expressing foreground.tVoÅ…wIv  hÎwh◊y  hÎnDa_dAo “How long. “L’attesa dei poveri non sarà delusa. 5-8. that this is a descriptive rather than a narrative function of yiqtol.” 139-140. 15 and 16. 26-31.” Israel Oriental Studies 18 [1998] 183-198. “Patterns of Verbal Ellipsis in Ugaritic Poetry. Gen 15:15: “As for yourself. and again jussive yiqtol in vv.. Translation and Notes (New York 1970) 428-444. For his part. 185-186).” which is one of the function of imperfect yaqtulu of the el-Amarna letters from Byblos (“The Prefix Conjugation Patterns.bAt  hD. 88:15 (Engl. its variant NEh in v. It can be subdivided into grammatical units on the ba- sis of the particles that are used in the description of Behemoth: the presentative particle h´…nIh “behold” in vv.t  Myîd◊gwø. However. Hab 1:2: AoyIvwøt  aøl◊w / sDmDj  ÔKyRlEa  qAo◊zRa / oDmVvIt  aøl◊w / yI.L.dAx  oDv∂r  oA. 2-4. Also see C. A large list of passages that in the author’s opinion show this phenomenon in its various forms has been drawn by M.b  fyI. we run the risk of missing the dynamic and precise intention of many Psalms and other poetic materials. 1:13: 21 …w…nR.mDl “Why will you look on faithless men. the alternation qatal/jussive yiqtol and weyiqtol is a characteristic structuring device of Psa 85. E. e. The particle h´…nIh of v.lAbV. 25). which is the only one without that particle in vv. 101-150. this yiqtol—expressing background. “A Neglected Point of Hebrew Syntax. the particle NEh also governs the following x-yiqtol (v. and 139:13. 30. 303- 306.g. note. 20 Cf. Psalms III. This is certainly correct. 18 On ellipsis and various double-duty modifiers. 19-21). Gianto quotes Job 40:25-26 and then 40:26-28a without mentioning the governing particles nor caring about the position of yiqtol in the sentence—first or second. 26-29 and 31.” UF 31 (1999) 333-372. / and you will not hear? / <How long> shall I cry to you ‘Violence!’ / and you will not save?”. o Lord. you shall go . 88:14). and the interrogative particle _Sh in vv. which is a jussive weyiqtol formation with distinctive morphology. then a non-verbal sentence (present tense). <why> will you be silent / when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” Similar cases of double-duty modifiers are Psa 4:3 (Engl. See on this my paper. prayer with jussive yiqtol. This phenomenon is more rarely attested in prose. qatal. See table of verbal forms in § 1 above. however. 24) and first-place yiqtol (v.. and again imperative in vv. Note that the constructions x-yiqtol in vv. then indicative x-yiqtol. Introduction. 17 Rainey quoted Judg 21:25 as an example of yiqtol expressing “continuous action in the past.mIm qyî. prayer with imperative.

esp.e. and this is the reason why I think that morphology is not a sufficient criterion to distinguish jussive from indicative yiqtol. / would surround him (…wh◊nRbVbOs◊y. / and in the wilderness.t <hD. bE…xÅy (32:8) is preceded by two circumstantial phrases in the same verse that can not be disregarded. this is a good case to show that the morphology of yiqtol is not fully in agreement with the syntactic function.” respectively at the end and the beginning of the two lines).t).” 410). they describe (§ 2. Actually. bE…xÅy (32:8) is morphologically …whEaDxVmˆy (32:10) is not. Therefore. <and as for yourself> you shall be buried (rEb∂. these yiqtol are not jussive in function since they are not actually initial. and that one of them is morphologically marked as non jussive form. Its function is to describe the previous information (note the repetition of the same subject. rather than narrating them (see no. i. and bE…xÅy as the main sentence.t  hD.b. Indeed. This fact suggests.e. apodosis) the boundaries of the nations / according to the number of the sons of Israel… / (10) Should he find him/When he would find him (…whEaDxVmˆy. ryIoÎy in 32:11. 8 above). coordinate) as the apple of His eye. § 2. Psa 91:13 (JKOr√dI.tAa◊w) to your fathers in peace.” A <x-> yiqtol construction (…wpUoÎy) parallel to the preceding waw-xyiqtol speeds up the description.5 below) in the land of the desert. take care of him ( …wh´n◊nwøb◊y . 23 24 Driver. in my opinion. either. or apodosis (see similar constructions in my Syntax of the Verb .” 22 A waw-x-yiqtol construction in the previous line (…waøbÎy  qwøj∂rEm  wyDv∂rDp…w) breaks the sequence of three indicative future we qatal. See examples in Driver. 134). I have rendered this function with “indeed. a prayer for the king.(or rather multi-) duty modifier. or protasis. “their horsemen. protasis. coordinate). Treatise §§ 172-174. / he would fix (bE…xÅy.qI. In my view. Rainey quoted Deut 32:8 and 32:10 to prove that “Biblical Hebrew poetry still employs yaqtul as a Preterite” (“The Prefix Conjugation Patterns. They are not narrative.. 11 above). consists almost entirely of volitive forms. The two circumstantial phrases function as an extraposed element. The fact that I propose here a functional equivalence between volitive “nude” yiqtol and we - yiqtol does not oblige to accept the ellipsis of <way-> proposed by previous scholars for yiqtol in narra- . Mˆywø…g  NwøyVlRo  lEj◊nAhV. / protect him (…wh◊n®rV…xˆy. Exod 40:36 on p. I would translate Deut 32:8 and 10 as follows: “(8) When the Most High portioned out the inheritance to the nations. In other words. § 102. the howling of the steppe. / when he separated the children of men.tAa◊w>) in a good old age. Treatise §§ 62-64. a look at the text will show that other yiqtol forms occur in 32:8-13 side by side with the two quoted by Rainey. but the principle of the initial position in the sentence is to be invoked as a more basic criterion (see no. The hypothesis of ellipsis is supported here by the close sequence of two parallel verbal forms belonging to the same subject at the end and the beginning of the respective lines both here (…waøbÎy and …wpUoÎy) and in the next example. Further.” As a consequence.19 (awøbD. Further. while marked as jussive yiqtol.” 25 26 27 Psa 72.3) or represent the events “graphically” (§ 3).b and M∂dDa  y´nV. the two prepositional phrases govern all the series of yiqtol forms in 32:8-13 and as such they act as a kind of “double.. the correct analysis.t and sOm√rI. and 174. i.b  wødyîrVpAhV. apodosis). cf.

e. / let me settle at the extremity of the sea.k_lAo) precedes the protasis. Psa 93:3 is one of the main texts quoted by both Cassuto and Held in order to show the equivalence of the “perfect” and the “imperfect” forms of the same verbs in parallel lines. a verbal form that according to rule is not coordinate to x-qatal but rather expresses a non-volitive consequence (rendered here with “so that I could…”) or a circumstance as in v. “Let me raise the wings of the morning. the floods lifted up their…”: “The Yqtl-Qtl. 38 below).20 tive (see § 2. 347. still.3. 75-76 with modifications. 4 (lit. the analysis above is not only defendable but also makes better sense in the context of the Psalm. 33 above).g. 450-452. V/3. 36 Lit. In my opinion. A difference between the conditional sentences in v. last row. 23 above). 35 Translation from Keil-Delitzsch. / and let your right hand lay hold of me” (cf. 10 have volitive forms as the protases.b / MyîrDh  fwømVb…w) and two with sentence-initial yiqtol in v. 8 are non verbal clauses while those of v. 72.tVpå. Translation adapted from Keil-Delitzsch. 28 29 Translation adapted from Keil-Delitzsch. Gesenius-Kautzsch § 108e-f. In fact. “Let his breath depart. III/1. yiqtol and wayyiqtol are not because a narrative yiqtol does not exist in BH (§ 1. 30 Given the fact that our knowledge of BH is basically dependent on the Masoretic redaction of the Hebrew Bible.1 above). let he return to his earth. The xyiqtol in v. Further.” with sentence-initial yiqtol both as prota- sis and as apodosis (see no. Joüon-Muraoka § 167a. 46) while Held translated as past (“The floods lifted up. 9-10 is that both the apodoses in v. 31 32 33 See. 34 The function of the two volitive yiqtol in Psa 46:4 is similar to that of …waVcˆy in 93:3c (see next note). See table in § 1. Joüon-Muraoka § 167a/2). no. The “many waters” of chaos have roared in the past and may roar at their wish in the future. 24a we find w e qatal. the floods lifted up their voices. V. God the Almighty sits enthroned and is in total control of the universe. e. 15.tVpårEj  yIm_tRa “Whom have despised while you were blaspheming?” This function of w qatal contrasts that of w e yiqtol which expresses a volitive purpose (rendered here with “that I may…”). the task remains of trying to understand what the Masoretes meant by their reading. we have to take into account the fact that 2 Kgs 19:23-25 is not the only text in which we find qatal/wayyiqtol along with yiqtol/weyiqtol. Another good example is Psa 91:15-16: “(15) When he will call to . let your hand guide me. 8 and those in vv. Indeed. while yiqtol and we yiqtol are homogeneous verbal forms. After x-qatal in v.” 281). both being volitive. However. 10b. this problem can hardly be ignored. 342. The only difference is that in 46:3-4 the order of the clauses is reversed since the apodosis (a∂ryˆn_aøl  NE. see. / even there. lit. 10a is also most probably a volitive construction because it is parallel with and coordinate to an explicit volitive weyiqtol in v. Even if we may prefer a different vocalization. 20 (no. Psa 104:14..g..dˆg◊w  D. “let its waters roar… let the mountains tremble…”). the protasis comprises four clauses—two with beth + infinitive ( X®rDa  ryImDhV. Cassuto translated as present (“the floods lift up their roaring”: The Goddess Anath. 22: e D. O Lord.

exclamatory phrases. description of a critical situation of the people. lit. and Psa 115:5-7.lAjSa.g.. on the basis of the verbal forms used.” 37 38 Similar cases are. Psa 104 comprises three sections: vv. / (16) With long life I will satisfy him (…whEoyI. and third. and 31-35.. with participles and qatal forms describing God’s works of creation. Deut 32:11. second. both volitive). will I answer him (…wh´nToRa◊w  yˆnEa∂rVqˆy.bAkSaÅw …whExV. sometimes with lamed + infinitive. both volitive forms. 24-30. ‘Let him call me and I will answer him’).bVcAa. volitive x-yiqtol because it is linked to a series of clearly volitive verbal forms) / and show him (…whEa√rAa◊w. . / I will be with him in trouble. and cry to the Lord for help. and three motives: first. or jussives. 1-23. blessing and praise to God. Psa 18:26-28 // 2 Sam 22:26-28. God’s epithets. E. / I will rescue him and honor him (…whédV.21 me. Psa 107 also shows an alternating sequence of three motives: praise of the Lord. with first-place yiqtol or x-yiqtol. with imperatives.g. e. purpose of creation. volitive) my salvation.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful