Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- transitive hifil

Some of you know enough Hebrew to object to something I said in the last lesson. I said that when the qal can’t be used transitively, it has a piel form to take on the transitive use.
Some of you know that there are verbs where the qal is intransitive but the transitive form of the root is hifil, the causative.
The best example is met, which can be either masculine singular progressive or 3rd masculine singular perfect aspect. But it always means “is dead.” Yes, you can think of it as “will die”.
The example used in Dr. Cook’s book is Genesis 44:22.
כב וַנֹּאמֶר אֶל־אֲדֹנִי לֹא־יוּכַל הַנַּעַר לַעֲזֹב אֶת־אָבִיו וְעָזַב אֶת־אָבִיו וָמֵת:
It’s the va-met at the end, which obviously has a future meaning. It’s an oblique modality, a subordinate clause of a future result.  Yehudah is telling Yosef why Binyamin is not with the brothers; based on that, he expects Yosef to believe in an event that would be the outcome of bringing Binyamin to Egypt, no matter how extreme the claim might be.
But when you say “kill,” you have to use hemit , the hifil. See Exodus 21:29.
וְאִם שׁוֹר נַגָּח הוּא מִתְּמֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם וְהוּעַד בִּבְעָלָיו וְלֹא יִשְׁמְרֶנּוּ וְהֵמִית אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה הַשּׁוֹר יִסָּקֵל וְגַם־בְּעָלָיו יוּמָת:
If the ox killed, etc., “and then it killed…”.
Now, from earlier lessons you know that there are three words for “kill”, harag, ratsach, and hemit. The first two are transitive in the qal binyan and the third is not. Notice that the first two have an issue of intent which separates them; a horeg did not have intent and can’t suffer the death penalty and the reverse is true of a ratschan.
With hemit we have two main uses. One is with the death penalty, mot yumat. Since the death penalty is allowed by Torah, we don’t worry about intent. An executioner cannot be taken to court for doing the job assigned to him by the court.
With the ox, there’s an issue called daat. The ox cannot form intent. It doesn’t have the capability. Likewise, Jewish law considers that underage people don’t have daat. Jewish law doesn’t punish when there is an absence of daat. So why does the ox have to die?
It’s not the ox against which the punishment is directed. It’s the owner. He owns the ox for hauling heavy loads, pulling a plow, running a mill, or threshing grain. Knowing that it can’t be trusted, he should have locked it up, but he didn’t. So he doesn’t get to keep the ox. Knowing that it’s dangerous, society can’t afford to just turn the ox over to somebody else; nobody else should be forced to take on this responsibility. The ox dies to secure the community from a deadly menace.   Now the former owner has to spend money  -- a lot  of  money – on a new ox if he wants to carry on his profession. Just because he failed to buy and use a two-dollar lock.
There’s another tiny ramification. The law is allowed to kill. But the law is abstract and it can’t have daat. That would be a good reason to use hemit for the death penalty. It’s also why the law can’t act without a court case. People have to speak for the law because only people have daat.
And that’s my homily for the day.   Now we’ll go on to the third kind of modality.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment