Issues in Nehemiah 9

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Jason Hare
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Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by Jason Hare »

In reading Nehemiah with Jonathan Beck, we are reading chapter 9 today. These are some real issues in the text that I want to ask if you guys can make sense of.

Nehemiah 9:8
וּמָצָאתָ אֶת־לְבָבוֹ נֶאֱמָן לְפָנֶ֫יךָ וְכָרוֹת עִמּוֹ הַבְּרִית לָתֵת אֶת־אֶ֫רֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִתִּי הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהַגִּרְגָּשִׁי לָתֵת לְזַרְעוֹ וַתָּ֫קֶם אֶת־דְּבָרֶ֫יךָ כִּי צַדִּיק אָ֫תָּה׃
In this verse, the word כָּרוֹת looks like an infinitive absolute, but it's being used instead of וַתִּכְרֹת (vav-consecutive).

Also, we have הַבְּרִית as definite instead of בְּרִית, as we would expect in this specific verse.

Also, לָתֵת is used twice. Shouldn't we see לְזַרְעֲךָ simply moved up after the first instance?

Nehemiah 9:13
וְעַל הַר־סִינַי יָרַ֫דְתָּ וְדַבֵּר עִמָּהֶם מִשָּׁמָ֫יִם וַתִּתֵּן לָהֶם מִשְׁפָּטִים יְשָׁרִים וְתוֹרוֹת אֱמֶת חֻקִּים וּמִצְוֺת טוֹבִֽים׃
Again, we have an apparent infinitive absolute דַּבֵּר instead of וַיְדַבֵּר.

Nehemiah 9:19
וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָֽרַבִּים לֹא עֲזַבְתָּם בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶת־עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן לֹא־סָר מֵעֲלֵיהֶם בְּיוֹמָם לְהַנְחֹתָם בְּהַדֶּרֶךְ וְאֶת־עַמּוּד הָאֵשׁ בְּלַיְלָה לְהָאִיר לָהֶם וְאֶת־הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵֽלְכוּ־בָֽהּ׃
The placement of אֵת here in both cases (אֶת־עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן... וְאֶת־עַמּוּד הָאֵשׁ) is odd. It's being used on the subject of the verb סָר.

Also, the presence of the heh in בְּהַדֶּרֶךְ and the vav on וְאֶת־הַדֶּרֶךְ.

Any comments?
Jason Hare
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Jason Hare
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by Jason Hare »

The כָּרוֹת passage I was thinking should be more like the following:
וְכָרוֹת כָּרַ֫תָּ עִמּוֹ בְּרִית לָתֵת לְזַרְעוֹ אֶת־אֶ֫רֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִתִּי הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהַגִּרְגָּשִׁי
What's going on that would make לָתֵת be repeated so unnaturally and כָּרוֹת be used on its own without a finite verb?
Jason Hare
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Schubert
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by Schubert »

Gesenius (para. 113z, page 345) has a list of examples when “the infinitive absolute sometimes appears as a substitute for the finite verb”. The list includes Nehemiah 9:8 and 13. (This is all courtesy of the very helpful Index of Passages at the back of the grammar.)

The other issues are beyond my grasp of Hebrew.
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by Jason Hare »

I should certainly have checked Gesenius before even asking. Thanks for pointing that out. ;)

I'll look around for more information on the rest of the issues. Kinda just wanted to share these as I was coming across them. There were other oddities from the chapter, as well.

For instances:

Nehemiah 9:36
וְהֵ֣ם בְּמַלְכוּתָם֩ וּבְטֽוּבְךָ֨ הָרָ֜ב אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֣תָּ לָהֶ֗ם וּבְאֶ֨רֶץ הָֽרְחָבָ֧ה וְהַשְּׁמֵנָ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֥תָּ לִפְנֵיהֶ֖ם לֹ֣א עֲבָד֑וּךָ וְֽלֹא־שָׁ֔בוּ מִמַּֽעַלְלֵיהֶ֖ם הָֽרָעִֽים׃
I don't know why וּבְאֶ֫רֶץ wouldn't be definite (וּבָאָ֫רֶץ). It would make so much better sense for it to be definite!

I finished up this chapter in frustration from all of the oddities, but there were a lot of other things that were very colloquial even for modern Hebrew (like כְּנוֹחַ לָהֶם, which springs to mind). It was a mixed bag of a chapter.
Jason Hare
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S_Walch
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by S_Walch »

I don't really have much to offer on this, so mainly just throwing this out there: are we possibly looking at the influence of Aramaic on the text of Nehemiah at all?

Just a suggestion for an avenue of enquiry; I have nothing else to say at the moment.
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by kwrandolph »

S_Walch wrote:I don't really have much to offer on this, so mainly just throwing this out there: are we possibly looking at the influence of Aramaic on the text of Nehemiah at all?
I second that.

After all, the native tongue of those Jews born during the Babylonian exile was Aramaic, not Hebrew. By Nehemiah’s time generations later, Hebrew was learned to read Tanakh, but nobody spoke it natively. Because Aramaic is a close cognate to Hebrew, it would sound natural to Nehemiah to include certain ways of saying things that are Aramaic when trying to write in Hebrew.

Now I don’t know enough Aramaic to point out what those influences may have been.

Karl W. Randolph.
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by ducky »

I don't see in these cases an Aramaic influence.
And these cases also appear in the early books.

*********************
וּמָצָאתָ אֶת־לְבָבוֹ נֶאֱמָן לְפָנֶ֫יךָ וְכָרוֹת עִמּוֹ הַבְּרִית
the absolute כרות is used as a verb, and it is one of his "roles".
Basically, when it comes after a verb, it continues his form
וכרות = וכרתָּ

**************************
וּמָצָאתָ אֶת־לְבָבוֹ נֶאֱמָן לְפָנֶ֫יךָ וְכָרוֹת עִמּוֹ הַבְּרִית
The word הברית is with a definite article
I don't see any problem with that.
Also, if I'm not mistaken, almost always (or always) after an absolute of a root that bears an object, the object is with a definite article.

**********************************
וְכָרוֹת עִמּוֹ הַבְּרִית לָתֵת אֶת־אֶ֫רֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִתִּי הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהַגִּרְגָּשִׁי לָתֵת לְזַרְעוֹ
The repetition of the verb is probably, that is what I think, because of the long object in the sentence, and it is more of a natural thing and not grammatical of a syntactic rule.

**************************************
וְעַל הַר־סִינַי יָרַ֫דְתָּ וְדַבֵּר עִמָּהֶם מִשָּׁמָ֫יִם
As the first case, ודבר = ודברת

******************************************
לֹא עֲזַבְתָּם בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶת־עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן לֹא־סָר מֵעֲלֵיהֶם בְּיוֹמָם
The word את usually comes before a definite object.
Sometimes, it comes before the subject, and for not one reason.
it can happen when the subject is an "illusion" as the object (I guess this is the case here).

And also, and I don't know if I'm right, it reminds me of the form of שב את שבותם which appear a few times. and as if the stative verb שב acts as an action verb (as if it was השיב).
(So maybe this is a similar case, but I checked on some books, and didn't find anyone point to that for some reason).

******************************
לְהַנְחֹתָם בְּהַדֶּרֶךְ
this expansion (actually the "true" form) is really an exception and I saw also בהשמים in Psalms.

***************
וּבְאֶ֨רֶץ הָֽרְחָבָ֧ה וְהַשְּׁמֵנָ֛ה
This case, of which the noun is not voweled and its modifier is, appears in other places in the bible
יום הששי
שער העליון
חצר האחרת

And it is found also in the Mishnaic as:
יצר הרע
עולם הבא
כנסת הגדולה
and more.
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by Jason Hare »

ducky wrote:וּמָצָאתָ אֶת־לְבָבוֹ נֶאֱמָן לְפָנֶ֫יךָ וְכָרוֹת עִמּוֹ הַבְּרִית
the absolute כרות is used as a verb, and it is one of his "roles".
Basically, when it comes after a verb, it continues his form
וכרות = וכרתָּ
Are there other examples (outside of Nehemiah)? It looks like it's being used here instead of a vav-consecutive [וַתִּכְרֹת].
ducky wrote:וּמָצָאתָ אֶת־לְבָבוֹ נֶאֱמָן לְפָנֶ֫יךָ וְכָרוֹת עִמּוֹ הַבְּרִית
The word הברית is with a definite article
I don't see any problem with that.
Also, if I'm not mistaken, almost always (or always) after an absolute of a root that bears an object, the object is with a definite article.
Technically, I don't see a problem either - except... this is a recounting of the history of the people of Israel. I think it would make better sense for the first mention of a covenant to be indefinite. If it had already been mentioned before, it's sensible that it would be definite here.
ducky wrote:וְכָרוֹת עִמּוֹ הַבְּרִית לָתֵת אֶת־אֶ֫רֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִתִּי הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהַגִּרְגָּשִׁי לָתֵת לְזַרְעוֹ
The repetition of the verb is probably, that is what I think, because of the long object in the sentence, and it is more of a natural thing and not grammatical of a syntactic rule.
Since it's a composition and not an ad hoc speech event, I would expect it to be cleaned up. A real-time speech might have something like this, but it is very unnatural for written composition. I'm just saying that it feels really strange.
ducky wrote:וְעַל הַר־סִינַי יָרַ֫דְתָּ וְדַבֵּר עִמָּהֶם מִשָּׁמָ֫יִם
As the first case, ודבר = ודברת
Same thing as you said above, that the infinitive absolute can be used instead of a consecutive finite verb. I'd really like to see this somewhere else in the biblical corpus.
ducky wrote:לֹא עֲזַבְתָּם בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶת־עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן לֹא־סָר מֵעֲלֵיהֶם בְּיוֹמָם
The word את usually comes before a definite object.
Sometimes, it comes before the subject, and for not one reason.
it can happen when the subject is an "illusion" as the object (I guess this is the case here).

And also, and I don't know if I'm right, it reminds me of the form of שב את שבותם which appear a few times. and as if the stative verb שב acts as an action verb (as if it was השיב).
(So maybe this is a similar case, but I checked on some books, and didn't find anyone point to that for some reason).
There were actually a few more instances of it in the same chapter. It's weird because I can imagine using it in spoken Hebrew upon occasion, but (again) we're dealing with a written text.
ducky wrote:לְהַנְחֹתָם בְּהַדֶּרֶךְ
this expansion (actually the "true" form) is really an exception and I saw also בהשמים in Psalms.
It reminds me of the appearance of the otherwise "theoretical" heh in the word יְהוֹשִׁיעַ that appears instead of יוֹשִׁיעַ in Psalm 116:6 and 1 Samuel 17:47.
ducky wrote:וּבְאֶ֨רֶץ הָֽרְחָבָ֧ה וְהַשְּׁמֵנָ֛ה
This case, of which the noun is not voweled and its modifier is, appears in other places in the bible
יום הששי
שער העליון
חצר האחרת

And it is found also in the Mishnaic as:
יצר הרע
עולם הבא
כנסת הגדולה
and more.
Interestingly, I was reading about this today quite by accident. I was going to update in that regard. I came across it in Gesenius §126w. There is mentioned כְּנֶ֫סֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה also, which used to drive me nuts when I read אַנְשֵׁי כְּנֶ֫סֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה.
Jason Hare
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Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
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Schubert
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by Schubert »

Jason wrote:
"Are there other examples (outside of Nehemiah)? It looks like it's being used here instead of a vav-consecutive [וַתִּכְרֹת]."
The answer appears to be yes. Gesenius 113z has examples from Genesis onwards.
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Re: Issues in Nehemiah 9

Post by ducky »

Hi Jason

ותכרת = כרתָּ
same thing.
my point was is that it continues the meaning of the previous verb.

*******************
הברית
It does talk about a known thing.
The known thing doesn't have to be in the same chapter. This thing is about a wide context and not about a narrow one.

The text refers to the covenant and Torah when it also says the same words of the כרת+ברית in the story of Abraham, and in the "giving of the bible", it refers to the same story when it is said thee ירד and דבר.
So he also makes that reference by the words he uses.

*********************
About the repetition of the verb.
You're right, we would expect for it to be clean, but it isn't. and that is what it is.
But even in a written text, since the object is very long, then I guess the writer saw it needed to repeat the verb.
And probably he saw it more understandable when the verb comes again after the long object.
(I didn't check if there are other cases like that)

***********************************
Absolute as a verb.
Examples:
Gen. 41:43 ויתנו = ונתון
Josh. 9:20 ונחיה = והחיה
Jer. 4:5 ועזבה = ועזוב

************************************
About the את
You're right, in Nehemiah it appears (I think) about 10 times more or less.
Probably this style was just more "popular" with this writer.
When we read the text, we just need to accept it.
And I don't know any external influence with this style.

and it does appear also in other books which are early, so we don't have to see it "that" weird" - just to accept that it happened.

*************************
The H in יהושיע is the original H of the Hiphil.
And there is also יהוסף and, as you said, the "original" H sometimes appears.

**************
כנסת הגדולה
you said it drive you nuts

But I guess you do say יצר הרע for example without feeling like you're going nuts.

And what about ים התיכון -
(like the song תחת שמי ים התיכון)

maybe some times you use that style without even noticing.

Also in prayers and poetries, there are אב הרחמן and אל המיחד and so on.
David Hunter
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