Hebrew verb

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The Semitic language is characterized by words made up of three consonants (tri-consonantal root) . It is an inflexed language.[1] The three-root consonants carry the basic word meaning, while prefixed, suffixed, or internal additions show the syntactical function.[2] Vowels were added later so that the written word could be pronounced.

The normal word order to be expected would be:

VERB, PRONOUN, SUBJECT, OBJECT

with modifiers following subjects or objects respectively.


Qal or Kal is the most common and basic of all verb forms. It denotes simple action or a state of being. With no causation or specification implied the Qal is the basic non-flagged verb form.

Niphal or Nifal is the second most common form. It is often Passive but some teach that it may also function as reciprocal or reflexive with no causation or specification implied either.

The Piel verb form is active and expresses that the basic meaning of the Qal stem is now bringing through action something into a state of being.

Pual, this is the PASSIVE counterpart to the Piel. It is often expressed by a Participle.

There are other forms are said to be the Hithpael, which is supposed to be reflexive or reciprocal form of the Piel stem expressing frequentative or continuing action .

The Hiphil form may appear to refer to the how or cause of an event while what is called the Hophal is said to be its passive counterpart to the Hiphil and are seldom used.

While a clear and distinct definition for Nifal may be provided the Pual, Piel, and Hithpael forms may be both medio-passive and reflexive of Qal this anomaly is explained away by saying that the Nifal may, historically, have begun as a reflexive, but changed over time to cover the passive role; at the same time the Qal-Passive forms fell into disuse.

Friedrich Böttcher started a lot of this in 1860’ but the Masoretes made many Qal-Passives as Nifal and since the Nifal serves as a passive stem of Qal there is no way of identifying which apparent Nifals were originally Qal-Passive. Some Qal-passive suffix conjugations were pointed as Pual and some prefix conjugations as Hofal. Hence there are forms pointed as Pual or Hofal which have no corresponding Piel or Hifil forms, or have meanings incompatible with their Piel and Hifil forms.

In 1970, Ronald Williams identified sixteen such verbs with Hofal forms, and six with Pual forms. Forms with perfective aspect were pointed as Puals and forms with imperfective aspect were pointed as Hofals.[3]

Once these forms were recognized as Qal-Passives, they could be discounted when considering the semantic function of Pual and Hofal. Pual and Hofal have been confirmed in the opinions of some as the passives of Piel and Hifil respectively.

We may apply the word 'tenses' but this adds to the confusion for the ancient Hebrew mind and the written scripture is more concerned with the state of a noun or verb than the tense. It is presumed impossible to translate a Hebrew verb into English accepting the limitation that early Hebrew never thought of an action as past, present, or future. After all it is a Testament.

"There is no way of knowing whether modern scholars' reconstruction of semantic fields and sense relations in an ancient dead language are merely a reflection of their own intuition, or their own native language, or whether those fields existed in Classical Hebrew" Sue Groom, Linguistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew(p. 128).

Many prefer the inspiration of the consonantal Hebrew text rather than the Masoretic vowel points and comments that have been added by men with a religious agenda. While there is the Samaritan Pentateuch, and now the Dead Sea Scrolls, other than fragments, there is no parallel family of manuscripts to call upon to determine the understanding of the words and meanings themselves. The Masoretic[4] text may be technically similar based on comparison with the Dead Sea scrolls translations of a few texts the interpretations and varied English translations can alter our understanding of the original intent and message.

Methods of teaching Classical Hebrew fall into two basic categories, the Grammar Translation Method and the Inductive Reading Method Inductive method lends itself to conversation and since there is no native speakers to consult when one wishes to test out ones inter-language hypotheses we often must resign ourselves to endless grammar exceptions.

What you are seeing is conclusions based on what the linguist believes the words mean already.

These rules and exceptions are determined to alter the meaning of the words to fit what they already believe the words are supposed to mean and therefore are heavily dependent on theological prejudice. If the linguist or translator comes to a conclusion that counter consistently accepted theology they loose credibility and will need to find another job. But this does not guarantee that "consistently accepted theology" is even close to the truth.

We have to believe what God is writing on our hearts and minds or believe in men, whether they be scholars or priests.

Years of complex rules based on when something was written and assumptions about the transition of usage and meaning there still was left exceptions to the defined function of each stem. The numbers may be small which do not fit but again this is about fitting into existing theology and excused by saying all languages have exceptions to their grammatical rules. The grammarian gave the linguist and translators a more flexible mechanism to un cooperative exceptions into their theological prejudice.


Hebrew | Hebrew verbs | Masoretic |
Allegory | Metaphor | Sophistry |
Breeches | Fringes | Stoning | Sabbath | Altars
Messianic Judaism | Pharisees | Sadducees | Zealot |
Essenes | The Essene Gospel of Peace |Levites | Christians |
Aboda | Malchut | Levites | Early Israel | Corban
Modern Christians | Early Church | Religion | Fathers

We must always realize that flesh and blood, letters and symbols cannot reveal the truth of God’s kingdom. It is Revelation of the divine spark that comes from God that will truly reveal His name. Knowing God is about knowing Him in our hearts and minds because we let him in there. He makes a connection in us between realms of existence. Right now we have fallen to this realm of flesh and things. Things like language and letters and forms. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed has made that connection for us and send a spirit of that connection.

== Footnotes ==
  1. In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, mood, voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case. The inflection of verbs is also called conjugation, and the inflection of nouns, adjectives and pronouns is also called declension.
  2. A syntactic function is the grammatical relationship of one constituent to another within a syntactic construction.
  3. Geoffrey Stewart Morrison Thesis - History Page 16 Ronald J. Williams, “The Passive Qal Theme in Hebrew,” in Essays on the Ancient Semitic World, ed. J. W. Weavers 10 & D. B. Redford (Toronto: U of T, 1970)
  4. : The present Hebrew Bibles that we now possess are from the Massoretic Text. This text dates back as far as AD 900 and is called the Massoratic Text because it was a product of the Jewish scribes known as the “Massoretes”. (Alternative form of masorite found in some dictionaries.)
    The Massorets were Hebrew scholars between AD 500 and 950 who made determinations about pronunciation and grammatical form of the Old Testament text by inserting vowel points. Their opinion and criticism produced the modern day Hebrew Bible from what was an unpainted consonantal text we no longer have.