Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Gam

This use of the aspectless gerundive comes from the fact that gerunds can be used like nouns. Gerunds bear up under substantive usage.
Gam is usually translated “also” but it really is an emphatic. It appears with substantives and their substitutes, such as pronouns and participles. It never appears with anything formed from imperfect aspect – not imperatives, not narrative past, not a duplicate conditional. Probably the best example is Genesis 31:15.
הֲלוֹא נָכְרִיּוֹת נֶחְשַׁבְנוּ לוֹ כִּי מְכָרָנוּ וַיֹּאכַל גַּם־אָכוֹל אֶת־כַּסְפֵּנוּ:
Lavan got consideration in forming the marriage contracts between Yaaqov and his wives.  Instead of setting that consideration aside to return to them in case they were divorced or widowed, he has consumed it one way or another.  Otherwise they would want  to stay in the  jurisdiction where the contract was filed so that the court with which it was filed could handle their divorce or the division of Yaaqov’s estate if he died.  They have no reason to stay,  and they say so.
Now, if this was a simple duplicate conditional, it would read akhol yokhal but that’s not what is going on here; there’s no question that the money is gone. Using gam to emphasize what has happened requires insulating it from that imperfect aspect verb. It takes an aspectless gerundive to do that. Numbers 23:25 is a more extreme example, using aspectless gerundives to insulate gam from two different imperatives which, as you know, are formed from the imperfect aspect.
The point seems to be that gam requires something currently existing, like in Genesis 27:33, gam barukh yihyeh. The participle barukh refers to the blessing that Yitschaq has already given Yaaqov, and it emphasizes that this blessing is permanent. Permansive. Stative. The imperfect aspect never captures those attributes even when it is used with a past meaning. It’s a historical thing with Semitic languages; it’s illustrated in Delitzsch’s Assyrian grammar that he wrote for Hermann Strack’s Porta Linguarum Orientalium series in the late 1800s, after cuneiform had been deciphered and translated.
So now, look at Genesis 46:4.
אָנֹכִי אֵרֵד עִמְּךָ מִצְרַיְמָה וְאָנֹכִי אַעַלְךָ גַם־עָלֹה וְיוֹסֵף יָשִׁית יָדוֹ עַל־עֵינֶיךָ:
We’re insulating gam from the certainty epistemic aalkha which, like all epistemics, is based on imperfect. This hasn’t happened yet. Yaaqov is still alive. Gam aloh, with the aspectless gerundive, ignores the timing factor completely.
Of course, from the point of view of the narrator and his audience, this has already happened. The narrator can use the certainty epistemic because if it weren’t for the coming back to the Holy Land after the oppression, the narrator and his audience wouldn’t be in the Holy Land at the point where this grammar was fixed in the record.
But Yaaqov isn’t there yet. He has 17 more years to live. He won’t die in the Holy Land, unlike his father and grandfather. Gd is reassuring him that he really will occupy his niche in Makhpelah, where he buried Leah. Gd uses gam for this, and using gam, He has to use it with the aspectless gerundive because, as I keep saying, there’s no other grammar that will work here.
This explanation also helped me with Exodus 2:19.
וַתֹּאמַרְן ָ אִישׁ מִצְרִי הִצִּילָנוּ מִיַּד הָרֹעִים וְגַם־דָּלֹה דָלָה לָנוּ וַיַּשְׁקְ אֶת־הַצֹּאן:
After I realized what the duplicate unconditional did, I puzzled for a while over why there would be one here, because there’s no Jewish law involved with drawing water. Once I figured out the grammar of gam, I could see that the daloh was the other part of the gam phrase, and the dalah was the perfect verb for something that was over by the time R’uel’s daughters came back to tell him what happened.
And now the last lesson on “infinitives”.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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