Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- piel perfect and consequences

Now I’m going to drill down one more level and after this subject, I’ll back out and go to a higher level topic.  I said I had important information on piel that you might not have heard of from your teachers and I said I had more to tell you about Exodus 22:4.
Here it is again.
כִּי יַבְעֶר־אִישׁ שָׂדֶה אוֹ־כֶרֶם וְשִׁלַּח אֶת־בְּעִירֹה וּבִעֵר בִּשְׂדֵה אַחֵר מֵיטַב שָׂדֵהוּ וּמֵיטַב כַּרְמוֹ יְשַׁלֵּם:
It starts out with a conditional using imperfect aspect, a standard “if” clause.
Then it says v’shilach.  That’s not only a perfect aspect verb, it’s in piel binyan, not qal.  Why? I said before that piel sometimes appears when a verb either isn’t used in qal or the qal has only an intransitive meaning.  The verb shalach in qal is transitive in meaning so piel is not needed to get a transitive meaning. 
My suggestion is that this is an unintended consequence.  Another example uses the same verb, shilach; Genesis 28:6:
וַיַּרְא עֵשָׂו כִּי־בֵרַךְ יִצְחָק אֶת־יַעֲקֹב וְשִׁלַּח אֹתוֹ פַּדֶּנָה אֲרָם לָקַחַת־לוֹ מִשָּׁם אִשָּׁה בְּבָרֲכוֹ אֹתוֹ וַיְצַו עָלָיו לֵאמֹר לֹא־תִקַּח אִשָּׁה מִבְּנוֹת כְּנָעַן:
Yitschaq shilach Yaaqov.  He didn’t do it to send a message to Esav; he did it to save Yaaqov’s life.  But Esav heard that Yaaqov had been told to marry while away, and in verse 7 Esav marries a daughter of Yishmael, although his other two wives were local pagan girls.
Using piel for unintended consequences leads directly to using it in the legal code.  People sometimes do things on purpose to get benefits, but there’s a downside and they aren’t careful enough to keep it from having bad consequences.  The law wants people to think things through and take reasonable precautions.  So it punishes people who fail more than once to take reasonable precautions.  That repetition is piel all over, aside from the lack of intention.
The law doesn’t generally get involved in one-off incidents; it cares about the piel repetitions.  So even if a root has a transitive qal, Hebrew might use piel in Mishnah and Midrash Halakhah, to stress the fact that the case is not the first instance in history, or even the first time this individual did it.  He has established a pattern of behavior, which is undesirable because he regularly fails to think things through.  It’s time he suffered some consequences now that an innocent party has suffered.
Discussions of piel only as intensive don’t apply here.  The fire didn’t get out more intensely, it simply got out. 
Discussions of piel as transitive don’t work here.  Qal could have been used if a simple transitive meaning was intended. 
Something else went on that only the piel could capture.  That’s the repeated, unintended consequences for which the firestarter has to pay damages.

But there's one thing piel does better than almost any other morphology.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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