Thursday, June 22, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Rare verb forms

Genesis 1:4
 
ד וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ:
 
Translation:     Gd must have manifested the light for it was good, for Gd separated the light and the darkness.
 
Now, I have not been ignoring va-yavdel. I wanted to give you the regular-type material before I got to it. Yavdel is almost a hifil but not quite. I’ll show you.
 
Verb root class: STRONG, that is, none of the letters do any fancy tricks.
Binyan: almost hifil
Aspect: narrative imperfect
Person/gender/number: well, look at the subject and you tell me. Don’t peek at the table!!
 
hifil
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
אַבְדִיל
נַבדִיל
First
תַּבְדִיל
תַּבְדִילוּ
Second/masculine
תַּבְדִילי
תַּבְדֵלְנָה
Second/feminine
יַבְדִיל
יַבְדִילוּ
Third/masculine
תַּבְדִיל
תַּבְדֵלְנָה
Third/feminine
 
The yod inside the verb is the classic sign of the hifil. This yod is all that distinguishes the progressive of hifil and piel when written without vowels.
 
The problem is, it’s missing from the verb in this verse. What’s more, you don’t see a dagesh in the middle root letter in the table, just in the verse. Here’s what the piel looks like:
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
אֲבַדֵּל
נְבַדֵּל
First
תְּבַדֵּל
תְּבַדְּלוּ
Second/masculine
תְּבַדְּלִי
תְּבַדֵּלְנָה
Second/feminine
יְבַדֵּל
יְבַדְּלוּ
Third/masculine
תְּבַדֵּל
תְּבַדֵּלְנָה
Third/feminine
 
In piel we have the dagesh in the dalet and the right vowel under it, but the first two vowels are wrong.
 
The answer is, I don’t know what binyan this is supposed to be. This and one other in the creation story are the only examples in Jewish scripture.
 
But that’s no reason to call it either hifil or piel.
 
And it’s also no reason to call this a scribal error or anomaly.
 
I’ve found plenty of forms in Torah and Tannakh that I couldn’t classify according to what we currently know about Biblical Hebrew.
 
When I think of an anomaly, I think of things that have a notation on them in a standard print copy of the Tannakh. Those notations were made by Jewish scholars between 500 and 1000 CE, that is, right after the Talmud was put into writing and nearly at the same time that the commentaries called Midrash were collected. The annotated version of Tannakh is called the Masoretic text. I discuss it on my Fact-Checking blog.
 
When I think of a scribal error, I think of the fragments in Cave 4 at Qumran, which seems to be storage for scrolls that weren’t kosher for study. I also wrote about those on the Fact-Checking blog.
 
YMMV. 
 
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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