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Tuesday, May 02, 2006  

Emphatic Hebrew

In Friday's post, we built a Simple Construct to find instances where the same Hebrew or Greek word was translated by two different English words in a text with Key numbers. The most interesting cases we found were phrases like "freely eat," "surely die," "greatly multiply," etc. In each of these phrases, an adverb and a verb were both tagged with the exact same Key number.

What's going on in these instances? To answer that, we need to look at the Hebrew. If we open a parallel text pane containing the tagged Hebrew text, we can see the Hebrew construction that's being reflected in the English Key Numbers.

Note: There's going to be a fair amount of Hebrew in the rest of this post. Even if you don't know Hebrew, I'd encourage you not to tune out. I'm going to try to explain things in a way that anyone can understand, and I think you'll find that there are some interesting insights ahead.

Now, even if my Hebrew is a little rusty (which it is), I need only drag my cursor over the Hebrew words to see an English gloss telling me what each word means. (Yes, I know it's cheating, but I'm weak!) Scanning through Genesis 2:17, I quickly locate the Hebrew phrase moth tamuth, which is translated into English as "surely die." Here's the information I get about each of those words in the Instant Detail Box:

Notice that both moth and tamuth come from the same lexical form mwt. So this is the same word in two different inflected forms. The first word (moth) is an infinitive absolute, while the second word ( tamuth) is an imperfect. Both words are in the Qal stem. Even if I don't understand all the nuances of what these grammatical terms mean, I can still construct a search to find other examples of this construction.

  1. Make sure you have a Search window open with the search text set to a tagged Hebrew text (BHS-W4, or the older HMT-T or HMT), and the Search for Words radio button selected.
  2. Hit the tab key to select the contents of the argument entry box, then choose Hebrew from the New Construct submenu of the File menu (or use the keyboard shortcut command-3).
  3. In the Construct window, drag a VERB element into the first (rightmost) column.
  4. In the dialog box which opens, select infinitiveAbsolute from the Aspect pop-up menu. Then click OK.
  5. Drag a second VERB element into the second column.
  6. In the dialog box, select imperfect from the Aspect pop-up menu. Then click OK.
  7. Drag a WITHIN item into the area above the two columns.
  8. Type a "5" into the first field of the dialog box that opens and click OK.
  9. Drag an AGREE item above the two columns.
  10. In the dialog box, check Lexical form and Stem, then click OK.

Your Construct window should now look like this:

Click OK in either the Construct window or the Search window to which it is linked to perform this search.

The results are interesting. In addition to instances such as "freely eat" and "surely die," this construction is used in places like Genesis 15:13, where God confirms his covenant with Abraham with the words, "Know for certain." (In fact, it appears to be used at almost every pivotal point in Abraham's life!) It is used no less than five times in Deuteronomy 15:8-14, where the Israelites are commanded to be generous to the poor, "opening wide" their hands. In every case, it is clear just from looking at the English translations that this particular Hebrew construction is used for strong emphasis.

Now, if you really want to explore the use of this construction, be sure to remember the Details button we talked so much about two weeks ago. If you look at a Graph of this search, you'll see that this construction is used most frequently in the laws catalogued in Exodus 22-23. Do an Analysis and count down the results, and you'll see that "die" and "know" are the verbs most frequently used in this intensive construction, followed by "live" and "return."

As I hope you can see, even though we're digging into the Hebrew with this search, developing a Hebrew construct isn't any harder than developing the Simple English constructs we did last week. There are certainly more items available to search for, but other than that, it's still a simple matter of drag-and-drop.

Cool. Thanks David.

Thanks, David. This stuff is priceless! I got 310 hits for the emphatic construct. When I add an English Parallel, such as a NIV-G/K, is there any way to make the English terms that correspond to the red highlighted Hebrew terms also be red?

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