Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/108. Use of the Cohortative

Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar  (1909) 
Wilhelm Gesenius
edited and enlarged by Emil Kautzsch
, translated by Arthur Ernest Cowley
Use of the Cohortative

§108. Use of the Cohortative.

a The cohortative, i.e. according to §48c, the 1st pers.[1] sing. or plur. of the imperfect lengthened by the ending ־ָה,[2] represents in general an endeavour directed expressly towards a definite object. While the corresponding forms of the indicative rather express the mere announcement that an action will be undertaken, the cohortative lays stress on the determination underlying the action, and the personal interest in it.

Its uses may be divided into—

b 1. The cohortative standing alone, or co-ordinated with another cohortative, and frequently strengthened by the addition of the particle נָא:

(a) To express self-encouragement, e.g. Ex 33 אָסֻ֫רָה־נָּא וג׳ I will turn aside now, and see...! So especially as the result of inward deliberation (in soliloquies), e.g. Gn 1821, 3221 (rarely so used after אַל־, Gn 2116 let me not look...! Jer 1818), and also as a more or less emphatic statement of a fixed determination, e.g. Is 51 I will sing[3]...! 56, 318. Cf. also Gn 4630 now let me die (I am willing to die), since I have seen thy face; and ψ 318. In the 1st pers. plur. the cohortative includes a summons to others to help in doing something, e.g. ψ 23 נְנַתְּקָה come! let us break asunder! &c., and Gn 113.

c (b) To express a wish, or a request for permission, that one should be allowed to do something, e.g. Dt 227 אֶעְבְּרָה may I be allowed to pass through (let me pass through)! Nu 2017 נַעְבְּרָה־נָּא may we be allowed to pass through! Jer 4015 let me go, I pray thee! &c.; 2 S 169; so after לֹא 2 S 1814; after אַל־ 2 S 2414, Jer 1718, ψ 252 (אַל־אֵב֫וֹשָׁה let me not be ashamed; cf. ψ 312, 18, 71:1); 69:15. After אַל־נָא Jon 114.

d 2. The cohortative in dependence on other moods, as well as in conditional sentences: (a) In dependence (with wāw copulative; ψ 915 after לְמַ֫עַן) on an imperative or jussive to express an intention or intended consequence, e.g. Gn 274 bring it to me, וְאֹכֵ֑לָה that I may eat, prop. then will I eat; Gn 195, 234, 2456, 2725, 2921, 3025 f., 42:34, 49:1, Dt 321, Ho 61, ψ 28, 3914, Jb 1020 Qe; Is 519 and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, וְנֵדָֽעָה that we may know (it)! Gn 2628, 1 S 275. Also after negative sentences, Gn 1830, 32, Ju 639, and after interrogative sentences, 1 K 227, Is 4025, 4126, Am 85.

e (b) In conditional sentences (with or without אִם) to express a contingent intention, e.g. Jb 166 אִם־אֲדַבְּרָה should I determine to speak, my grief is not assuaged, וְאַחְדְּלָה and should I forbear, what am I eased? without אִם Jb 1918, 3026 (where, however, וָאיחלה is probably intended); ψ 7316 (unless וָֽאֲח׳ should be read), 139:8 f. After the 3rd person, Jb 1117 though it be dark, &c. So perhaps also 2 S 2238 אֶרְדְּפָה if I determined to pursue, then ..., but cf. ψ 1838.

f (c) Likewise in the apodosis of conditional sentences, e.g. Jb 317 f. if my step hath turned out of the way ..., אֶזְרְעָה then let me sow; cf. 16:4 f. I also could speak as ye do, if ...! So even when the condition must be supplied from the context, e.g. ψ 406 else would I declare and speak of them; 51:18 else would I (gladly) give it, i.e. if thou didst require it (cf. the precisely similar וְאֶשָּׂא ψ 5513); Jb 610. In the 1st plur. Jer 2010. To the same category belong the cohortatives after the formula expressing a wish מִֽי־יִתֵּן, מִֽי־יִתְּנֵ֫נִי, e.g. Jer 91 oh, that I had ..., וְאֶֽעֶזְבָה then (i.e. if I had) should I (or would I) leave my people, &c.; Ju 929; without Wāw Is 274, ψ 557, Jb 234 (cf. also verse 7).

g Rem. 1. The question, whether a resolution formed under compulsion (a necessity) is also expressed by the cohortative (so, according to the prevailing opinion, in Is 3810 אֵלֵ֫כָה; Jer 325, 419, 21, 6:10, ψ 553, 18 (?); 57:5, where, however, with Hupfeld, שָֽׁכְבָה should be read; 77:7, 88:16, and in the 1st plur. Is 5910), is to be answered in the sense that in these examples the cohortative form is used after its meaning has become entirely lost, merely for the sake of its fuller sound, instead of the ordinary imperfect. This view is strongly supported by the rather numerous examples of cohortative forms after wāw consec. of the imperfect (cf. §49e, as also ψ 666 שָׁם נִשְׂמְחָה there did we rejoice[4]; ψ 119163 וָֽאֲתַעֵ֑בָה; Pr 77), which can likewise only be explained as forms chosen merely for euphony, and therefore due to considerations of rhythm.

h 2. The cohortative is strange after עַד־ ψ 7317 until I went... אָבִ֫ינָה I considered their latter end; possibly a pregnant construction for ‘until I made up my mind, saying, I will consider’, &c. (but אָבִ֫ינָה Pr 77 is still dependent on the preceding וָ); עַד־אַרְגִּ֫יעָה Pr 1219 is at any rate to be explained in the same way (in Jer 4919, 5044 we have כִּי־א׳ with a similar meaning), as long as I (intentionally) wink with the eyelashes (shall wink). On the other hand, in Ex 3230 אֲכַפֵּר is to be read, with the Samaritan, instead of אֲכַפְּרָה after אוּלַי.

  1. For the few examples of cohortatives in the 3rd sing., see §48d.
  2. But verbs ל״ה, according to §75l, even in the cohortative, almost always have the ending ־ֶה; cf. e.g. in Dt 3220 אֶרְאֶה after אַסְתִּ֫ירָה.
  3. R.V. let me sing.]
  4. Analogous to this cohortative (as equivalent to the imperfect) after שָׁם is the use of the historic imperf. after אָז, §107c.