Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- "Next!"

Biblical Hebrew has a volitive morphological form which expresses a wish contrary to fact.  It adds a syllable to an imperfect aspect verb; the syllable is “ah” with a heh at the end, for a verb which is not part of the lamed heh class.
If you have continued reading Torah independently after lesson 97 of this series, you might have seen verbs with the “ah” ending that are based on perfect aspect, not imperfect, but are not 3rd singular feminine verbs.
The earliest example is one you came across when we read Genesis 3:12.  Adam says, “the wife you gave me….”
וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הָֽאָדָ֑ם הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָתַ֣תָּה עִמָּדִ֔י הִ֛וא נָֽתְנָה־לִּ֥י מִן־הָעֵ֖ץ וָֽאֹכֵֽל:
I’m still trying to figure out why this verb happens in Torah so many times.  It’s in the entire Tannakh a total of 65 times.  The closest thing I can come up with is that it means something that can’t happen until something else happens.  There is a cluster of examples in Exodus, in the making of the tabernacle.  In half a dozen of the instructions, it says natatah. Exodus 25:12 says:
יב וְיָצַקְתָּ לּוֹ אַרְבַּע טַבְּעֹת זָהָב וְנָתַתָּה עַל אַרְבַּע פַּעֲמֹתָיו וּשְׁתֵּי טַבָּעֹת עַל־צַלְעוֹ הָאֶחָת וּשְׁתֵּי טַבָּעֹת עַל־צַלְעוֹ הַשֵּׁנִית:
These are the instructions about the aron, the box in which the tablets will be kept.  The point is that you don’t cast the rings for the staves as part of the gold covering for the ark.  You cast them separately and then fasten them to the gold covering. 
So back on Genesis 3:12, what Adam is really saying is that Gd gave the woman to him as a wife after something else.  What is that?  Read the whole story.  Gd told Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and only after that did He create woman.  Had the two actions been reversed, Eve would have heard the commandment from Gd’s own mouth.  As it was, she heard it from Adam, and by the time the serpent caught up to her, she had gotten it mixed up in her mind.  And the rest is history.
The sequential natatah feeds into one more subject which I’ll discuss next because it rounds off another recent discussion.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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