Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/111. The Imperfect with Wāw Consecutive
a 1. The imperfect with wāw consecutive (§49a–g) serves to express actions, events, or states, which are to be regarded as the temporal or logical sequel of actions, events, or states mentioned immediately before. The imperfect consecutive is used in this way most frequently as the narrative tense, corresponding to the Greek aorist or the Latin historic perfect. As a rule the narrative is introduced by a perfect, and then continued by means of imperfects with wāw consecutive (on this interchange of tenses cf. §49a, and especially §112a), e.g. Gn 31 now the serpent was (הָיָה) more subtil... and he said (וַיֹּאמֶר) unto the woman; 41, 69 ff., 109 f., 1519, 1112 ff. 27 ff., 145 f., 151 f., 161 f., 211 ff., 241 f., 2519 ff., 362 ff., 372.
b Rem. 1. To this class belong some of the numerous imperfects consec. after various expressions of time, whenever such expressions are equivalent in moaning to a perfect (viz. הָיָה it came to pass), e.g. Is 61 in the year that king Uzziah died, I saw (וָֽאֶרְאֶה), &c.; Gn 224, 2734, Ju 1116, 1 S 419, 1757, 216, Ho 111; on the use of וַיְהִי to connect expressions of time, see below, g.—It is only in late books or passages that we find the simple perfect in a clause following an expression of time, as 1 S 1755 (cf. Driver on the passage), 2 Ch 127, 158, &c., Dn 1011, 1519; the Perfect after וְ and the subject, 2 Ch 71.
c 2. The continuation of the narrative by means of the imperfect consec. may result in a series of any number of such imperfects, e.g. there are forty-nine in Gn. 1. As soon, however, as the connecting Wāw becomes separated from the verb to which it belongs, by the insertion of any word, the perfect necessarily takes the place of the imperfect, e.g. Gn 15 and God called (וַיִּקְרָא) the light Day, and the darkness he called (וְלַח֫שֶׁךְ קָרָא) Night; verse 10, 2:20, 11:3 and frequently.
d 3. Of two co-ordinate imperfects consecutive the former (as equivalent to a temporal clause) is most frequently subordinate in sense to the latter, e.g. Gn 288 f. וַיַּרְא עֵשָׂו... וַיֵּ֫לֶךְ when Esau saw that..., he went, &c.; so also, frequently וַיִּשְׁמַע, &c., Gn 3721, &c. On the other hand, a second imperfect consecutive is seldom used in an explanatory sense, e.g. Ex 210 (וַתֹּ֫אמֶר for she said); cf. 1 S 712. Other examples of the imperfect consecutive, which apparently represent a progress in the narrative, in reality only refer to the same time, or explain what precedes, see Gn 225 (וַיִּֽהְיוּ they were; but Jos 49, 1 K 88 they are); Gn 3614 (וַתֵּ֫לֶד), 36:32 (וַיִּמְלֹךְ), 1 K 144. e 4. The imperfect consecutive sometimes has such a merely external connexion with an immediately preceding perfect, that in reality it represents an antithesis to it, e.g. Gn 3231 and (yet) my life is preserved; 2 S 38 and yet thou chargest me; Jb 108, 323; similarly in dependence on noun-clauses, Pr 3025 ff.
f 2. The introduction of independent narratives, or of a new section of the narrative, by means of an imperfect consecutive, likewise aims at a connexion, though again loose and external, with that which has been narrated previously. Such a connexion is especially often established by means of וַיְהִי (καὶ ἐγένετο) and it came to pass, after which there then follows either (most commonly) an imperfect consecutive (Gn 43, 8, 8:6, 11:2, Ex 1229, 1317, &c.), or Wāw with the perfect (separated from it), Gn 710, 1512, 221, 2730, or even a perfect without Wāw (Gn 813, 141f., 40:1, Ex 1241, 1622, Nu 1011, Dt 13, 1 S 1830, 2 K 821, &c.), or finally a noun-clause introduced by Wāw, Gn 411.
g Rem. 1. This loose connexion by means of ויתי is especially common, when the narrative or a new section of it begins with any expression of time, see above, b; cf., in addition to the above-mentioned examples (e.g. Gn 221 and it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham), the similar cases in Gn 1934, 2122, 1 S 1111, Ru 11. Elsewhere the statement of time is expressed by בְּ or כְּ with an infinitive (Gn 1214, 1917, 29 39:13, 15:18f., Ju 1625) or by an independent sentence with the perfect (equivalent to a pluperfect, cf. §106f), e.g. Gn 1517, 2415, 2730, or by a temporal clause introduced by כִּי when, Gn 268, 271, Ju 1616, כַּֽאֲשֶׁר when, Gn 1211, 2013, מֵאָזּ from the time that, Gn 395; or, finally, by a noun-clause (cf. §116u), e.g. 2 K 1321 וַיְהִי הֵם קֹֽבְרִים אִישׁ and it came to pass, as they were (just) burying a man (prop. they burying), that...; Gn 4235, 2 K 211 (the apodosis in both these cases being introduced by וְהִנֵּה); 1 S 710, 2 S 1330, 2 K 65, 26, 19:37 (=Is 3738).—In 1 S 1011, 1111, 2 S 223, 152 a noun standing absolutely follows וַיְהִי (as the equivalent of a complete sentence; see below, h), and then an imperfect consecutive follows.
h 2. Closely related to the cases noticed in g are those in which the imperfect consecutive, even without a preceding ויחי, introduces the apodosis either— (a) to whole sentences, or (b) to what are equivalent to whole sentences, especially to nouns standing absolutely. As in certain cases of the perfect consecutive (see §112x), so the imperfect consecutive has here acquired a sort of independent force. Cf. for (a) 1 S 1523 because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, וַיִּמְאָֽסְךָ he hath rejected thee (cf. Nu 1416, Is 484, where the causal clause precedes in the form of an infinitive with preposition), Ex 921; for (b) Gn 2224 וּפִֽילַגְשׁוֹ and (as to) his concubine..., וַתֵּ֫לֶד she bare, &c.; Ex 3824, Nu 1436f., 1 S 1419, 1724, 2 S 410, 1941 Keth., 21:16, 1 K 920f., 12:17, 2 K 2522, Jer 619, 288, 3324, 4425—In 1 K 1513, 2 K 1614 the preceding noun, used absolutely, is even regarded as the object of the following imperfect consecutive, and is therefore introduced by אֶת־. i 3. The imperfect consecutive serves, in the cases treated under a–h, to represent either expressly, or at least to a great extent, a chronological succession of actions or events; elsewhere it expresses those actions, &c., which represent the logical consequence of what preceded, or a result arising from it by an inherent necessity. Thus the imperfect consecutive is used—
l (b) To express a logical or necessary consequence of that which immediately precedes, e.g. Gn 392, Jb 23 and he still holdeth fast his integrity, וַתְּסִיתֵ֫נִי וג׳ so that thou thus (as it now appears) groundlessly movedst me against him; ψ 659 so that they are afraid ...; even a consequence which happens conditionally, Jer 2017 וַתְּהִי so that my mother should have been ... Another instance of the kind perhaps (if the text be correct) is Jer 389 וַיָּ֫מָת so that he dies (must die).
m Rem. Such consecutive clauses frequently occur after interrogative sentences, e.g. Is 5112 who art thou (i.e. art thou so helpless), וַהִּֽירְאִי that thou art (must needs be) afraid? ψ 1443 (cf. ψ 85, where in a very similar context כִּי that is used with the imperfect); Gn 1219 (וָֽאֶקַּח); 31:27 וָֽאֲשַׁלֵּֽחֲךָ so that I might have sent thee away.
4. As regards the range of time it is to be carefully noticed—
o (b) That the more precise determination of the range of time to which an imperfect consecutive relates must be inferred in each case from the character of the preceding tense (or tense-equivalent), to which it is attached, in a more or less close relation, as temporal or logical sequence. Thus the imperfect consecutive serves—
p (1) To represent actions, events, or states, which are past (or were repeated in past time), when it is united with tenses, or their equivalents, which refer to an actual past.
q Cf. the examples given above, under a and f, of the imperfect consecutive as an historic tense. The imperfect consecutive also frequently occurs as the continuation of a perfect (preterite) in a subordinate clause; e.g. Gn 271, Nu 1120, Dt 437, 1 S 88, 1 K 25, 1133, 1813, &c.; also in Is 497 וַיִּבְחָרֶ֫ךָּ is the continuation of a preterite, contained, according to the sense, in the preceding נִֽאֱמָן. אֲשֶׁר.—In Jb 3126, 34 the imperfect consecutive is joined to an imperfect denoting the past in a conditional sentence. An imperfect consecutive occurs in dependence on a perfect which has the sense of a pluperfect (§106f), e.g. in Gn 2618, 286f., 31:19, 34 (now Rachel had taken the teraphim, וַתְּשִׂמֵם and had put them, &c.); Nu 1436, 1 S 283, 2 S 223, Is 391. Finally there are the cases in which an infinitival or participial construction representing past time, according to §113r, §116x, is taken up and continued by an imperfect consecutive.
r (2) To represent present actions, &c., in connexion with tenses, or their equivalents, which describe actions and states as being either present or lasting on into the present (continuing in their effect); so especially,
(α) In connexion with the present perfects, described in §106g, e.g. ψ 169 therefore my heart is glad (שָׂמַח) and my glory rejoiceth (וַיָּ֫גֶל); Is 316 (parallel with a simple imperfect). Cf. also such examples as ψ 2910 וַיֵּ֫שֶׁב (prop. he sat down, and has been enthroned ever since), ψ 4113.
s (β) In connexion with those perfects which represent experiences frequently confirmed (see §106k), e.g. Jb 142 he cometh up (יָצָא) like a flower, and is cut down (וַיִּמָּל); he fleeth (וַיִּבְרַח) also as a shadow, וְלֹא יַֽעֲמוֹד and continueth not; Jb 2015, 242, 11, Is 4024, Pr 112.
t (γ) In connexion with imperfects which, in one of the ways described in § 107. 2, are used in the sense of the present; e.g. Jb 1410 but man dieth (יָמוּת) and becometh powerless (וַיֶּחֱֽלָשׁ), &c., i.e. remains powerless; Jb 45, Ho 813, Hb 19f., ψ 5518, 903, Jb 515, 718, 113 (when thou mockest), 12:25, 34:24, 37:8 (parallel with a simple imperfect); 39:15. In the apodosis of a conditional sentence, ψ 5916, so also after an interrogative imperfect, 1 S 229, ψ 426 (וַתֶּֽהֱמִי for which in verse 12 and in 43:5 we have וּמַה־תֶּֽהֱמִי and why art thou disquieted?).
u (δ) In dependence on participles, which represent what at present continues or is being repeated, e.g. Nu 2211, 1 S 26, 2 S 192 behold the king weepeth (בֹּכֶה) and mourneth (וַיִּתְאַבֵּל) for Absalom; Am 58, 95f., Na 14, ψ 348, Pr 2026, Jb 1222 ff., but cf. e.g. Jb 124 קֹרֵא לֶֽאֱלוֹהַּ who called upon God, וַיַּֽעֲנֵ֫הוּ and he answered him.
v (ε) In dependence on other equivalents of the present, as in Is 5112, ψ 1443 (see above, m); Jb 1022. So especially as the continuation of an infinitive, which is governed by a preposition (cf. §144r), Is 3012, Jer 1013, ψ 928, &c.
w (3) To represent future actions, &c., in dependence on—(α) an imperfect which refers to the future, ψ 4915, 9422f.;—(β) a perfect consecutive, or those perfects which, according to §106n, are intended to represent future events as undoubtedly certain, and therefore as though already accomplished (perf. propheticum); cf. Is 515 (parallel with a simple imperfect separated from ו); 5:16 (cf. 2:11, 17, where the same threat is expressed by the perfect consecutive); 5:25, 9:5, 10f., 1315.17 ff., 22:7 ff., Jo 223, Mi 213, Ez 334, 6, ψ 713, 648 ff.;—(γ) a future participle, Jer 416.
x Rem. An imperfect consecutive in dependence on a perfect or imperfect, which represents an action occurring only conditionally, is likewise used only in a hypothetical sense, e.g. Jb 916 אִם־קָרָ֫אתִי וַיַּֽעֲנֵ֫נִי if I had called, and he had answered me, yet ...; ψ 13911 וָֽאֹמַר if I should say (previously, in verse 8 f., hypothetical imperfects are used).—In Is 4818f. an imperfect consecutive occurs in dependence on a sentence expressing a wish introduced by לוּא utinam (וַיְהִי and it, or so that it were, equivalent to then should it be). Cf. also the examples mentioned above, under l (Jer 2017) and m (Gn 3127), where the imperfect consecutive expresses facts occurring contingently.
- On an apparent exception (the imperf. consec. at the beginning of whole books) see §49b note.
- Cf. Is 454, where the imperf. consec. is joined to an abrupt statement of the cause, and Jb 367, where it is joined to an abrupt statement of the place.
- Exhaustive statistics of the use of ויהי in its many and various connexions are given by König in ZAW. 1899, p. 260 ff.
- Cf. the Mêšaʿ inscription, l. 5 (Omri) the king of Israel, ויענו he oppressed Moab, &c.—The peculiar imperfect consecutive in Gn 3027 b (in the earlier editions explained as equivalent to an object-clause) arises rather from a pregnant brevity of expression: I have observed and have come to the conclusion, the Lord hath blessed me, &c.—In Gn 2734 read, with LXX, וַיְהִי before כִּשְׁמֹעַ.
- Also in Jer 5129 the imperfects consecutive are attached to the threat virtually contained in the preceding imperatives. On the other hand וַיָּחֵ֫לּוּ Ho 810 would be very remarkable as expressing a future; the text is, however, certainly corrupt, and hence the Cod. Babyl. and the Erfurt MS. 3 endeavour to remedy it by וְיח׳, and Ewald reads וְיָחִלוּ—In Ez 2816 (cf. Jer 156f.) וָֽאֲחַלֶּלְךָ appears to announce an action irrevocably determined upon, and therefore represented as already accomplished; cf. the prophetic perfects in verse 17 ff.