Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- just do it!

So we have the aspects of verbs straight, and we know they apply to Biblical Hebrew. It does not use a tense system, even though modern Hebrew does. Now we’ll talk modality, which wouldn’t mean anything to you if you didn’t understand the aspect verb system.
Modality is related to what most languages call “mood” but they’re not identical, particularly not in Biblical Hebrew as you will see.
The class of modality you know best is deontic. This has to do with the way the speaker wishes the world was but isn’t.
The reason you are so familiar with the deontic is that it includes all the imperatives, the jussive and the hortative or cohortative.  In most languages, this is called imperative mood.  This is different from a commandment which as you now know may be in perfect or imperfect aspect.
An imperative is used to cause something to happen soon but it has one peculiar characteristic. Watch for the imperatives that don’t work out. One example is Genesis 14:21.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֶלֶךְ־סְדֹם אֶל־אַבְרָם תֶּן־לִי הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְהָרְכֻשׁ קַח־לָךְ:
The king wanted to bribe Avraham or make him a co-conspirator; Avraham refused to take so much as a sandal-tie.
In Torah, some people have a right to issue imperatives and some don’t. Gd does, of course. But He only uses imperatives when he’s talking to a person who will be responsible for personally carrying out the action, and who can be relied on to do it. This includes Noach and Avraham. In other situations, he uses the 2nd person perfect or imperfect.
Avraham uses imperative when talking to others, and his imperatives always take effect. Read the story of obtaining Makhpelah for burials, in Genesis 18. Notice that the imperatives used by the council of the Bney Chet and by Efron never go into effect but those of Avraham do. They haven’t the right to issue imperatives; they do not have as high a status as Avraham.
In an aspect verb system, you have to use an imperfect as the basis for an imperative because the world isn’t yet the way you want it. That’s why imperatives in Biblical Hebrew look like the imperfect aspect forms of verbs. This form has been inherited by Modern Hebrew although it has a tense verb system.
It’s also true that because imperatives don’t take effect unless the speaker has a right to issue imperatives, the uncertainty persists until you get to the verse(s) saying that the action did or did not take effect.
So in Torah there will always be a two-step process with imperatives: the speaker issues it, and a following verse shows whether it was carried out. By this you will know the Biblical attitude toward whoever issues the imperative.  This is quite different from the 2nd person commandments; the verb aspect relates to evidence of its being carried out.
There’s another deontic and while  you have probably used it, you don’t know what it looks like in Biblical Hebrew.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment