Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/141. The Noun-clause

§141. The Noun-clause.

141a 1. The subject of a noun-clause (see §140a) may be—

(a) A substantive, e.g. וְנָהָר יֹצֵא מֵעֵ֫דֶן and a river went out (was going out) of Eden, Gn 210.

(b) A pronoun, e.g. Gn 74 אָֽנֹכִי מַמְטִיר I will cause it to rain; 1418 וְהוּא כֹהֵן and he was priest; 223 (זֹאת before a feminine predicate, as אֵ֫לֶּה before a plural in Ex 324); מִי חָכָם who is wise? Ho 1410.—In 1 Ch 52 וּלְנָגִיד מִמֶּ֫נּוּ and of him one became a prince, the subject is contained in מִמֶּ֫נּוּ.[1]

141b 2. The predicate of a noun-clause may be—

(a) A substantive, e.g. Dt 141 בָּנִים אַתֶּם וגו׳ ye are children of the Lord your God; Gn 4213. Specially characteristic of the Semitic mode of expression are the cases in which both subject and predicate are substantives, thus emphasizing their identity (‘the thing is its measure, material, or equivalent’), e.g. Ez 4122 הַמִּזְבֵּחַ עֵץ ... וְקִֽירֹתָיו עֵץ the altar (was) wood ..., and the walls thereof (were) wood, i.e. of wood. Cf. below, c.

(b) An adjective or participle, e.g. Gn 212 וּֽזֲהַב הָאָ֫רֶץ הַהִיא טוֹב and the gold of that land is good; וְעֶפְרוֹן ישֵׁב now Ephron was sitting, &c., Gn 2310.[2] Very frequently such noun-clauses, attached by Wāw to a verbal-clause, are used to represent a state contemporaneous with the principal action; cf. e below.

(c) A numeral, e.g. Gn 4213 שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר עֲבָדֶ֫יךָ the twelve (of us) are thy servants. (d) A pronoun, e.g. Gn 1012 (הִיא), Ex 927 (אֲנִי), Gn 2465 (מִי), 1 K 913 (מָה).[3]

(e) An adverb or (esp. if formed with a preposition) any specification of time, place, quality, possessor, &c., which may be regarded as the equivalent of a noun-idea, e.g. שָׁם הַבְּדֹ֫לַח there is the bdellium, Gn 212; אֵי הֶ֫בֶל where is Abel? 4:9; לְעוֹלָם חַםְדּוֹ his mercy endureth for ever, ψ 1361 f.; ע֫שֶׁר בְּבֵיתוֹ riches are in his house, ψ 1123; לוֹ אֲנָחְ֑נוּ we are his, ψ 1003 Qe.

141c Rem. 1. The employment of a substantive as predicate of a noun-clause is especially frequent, either when no corresponding adjective exists (so mostly with words expressing the material; cf. §128o) or when the attribute is intended to receive a certain emphasis. For in all cases there is a much greater stress upon a substantival predicate,[4] since it represents something as identical with the subject (see above, b [a]), than upon an adjectival or verbal predicate; cf. Ct 110; ψ 2510 all the paths of the Lord are חֶ֫סֶד וֶֽאֱמֶת lovingkindness and truth (i.e. wholly lovingkindness, &c.; cf. Jer 1010); Ez 385, ψ 105, 1910, 235, 8819, Pr 317,[5] Jb 2212, 232, 2613, Ru 32. Sometimes the emphasis on the predicate is obtained by the use of the plural form (according to §124e), e.g. ψ 1103 thy people are נְדָבֹת altogether willingness; Ct 516, Dn 923.

141d Sometimes the boldness of such combinations is modified by the repetition of the subject, as regens of the predicate, e.g. Jb 612 אִם־כֹּחַ אֲבָנִים כֹּחִי is my strength the strength of stones? Pr 317. That the language, however—especially in poetry—is not averse even to the boldest combinations in order to emphasize very strongly the unconditional relation between the subject and predicate, is shown by such examples as ψ 459 myrrh and aloes and cassia are all thy garments (i.e. so perfumed with them that they seem to be composed of them); Ct 115 thine eyes are doves, i.e. dove’s eyes (but 5:12 כְּיוֹנִים);[6] ψ 235, 1094, Jb 89, 1212, Ct 213. In prose, e.g. Ex 931, Ezr 1013 הָעֵת גְּשָׁמִים the season is rain showers, i.e. the rainy season; with a bold enallage of the number, Gn 3430 וַֽאֲנִי מְתֵי מִסְפָּר and I (with my family) am persons few in number. For similarly bold expressions with הָיָה cf. Gn 111, 122, Ex 1712, Is 512, Jer 228, and again with a bold enallage of the number, Jb 2915 I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame, but in prose, Nu 1031 and thou shalt be to us לְעֵנַ֫יִם. 141e 2. The noun-clause connected by wāw copulative to a verbal-clause, or its equivalent, always describes a state contemporaneous with the principal action, or (when the predicate is a transitive participle) an action represented in constant duration (cf. §107d, as well as §116n and o), e.g. Gn 191 and the two angels came to Sodom at even, וְלוֹט ישֵׁב while Lot sat, &c.; 18:1, 8, 16, 22, 25:26, Ju 139, 1 S 19, 2 S 47, 114 (always with a participle); with an adjectival predicate, Gn 1812; with a substantival predicate, 18:27; with an adverbial predicate, 9:23. Not infrequently such a circumstantial clause indicates at the same time some contradictory fact, so that וְ is equivalent to whereas, whilst, although, e.g. Gn 152, 1827, 203, 4814 (although he was the younger); Ju 1615 how canst thou say, I love thee, וְלִבְּךָ אֵין אִתִּי whereas thine heart is not with me? 2 S 339, ψ 283 whilst mischief is in their hearts. These clauses describing a state are, however, only a subdivision of the large class of circumstantial clauses, on which see § 156.

141f 3. As the examples given under a and b show, the syntactical relation existing between the subject and predicate of a noun-clause is as a rule expressed by simple juxtaposition, without a copula of any kind. To what period of time the statement applies must be inferred from the context; e.g. 1 K 1821 יְהֹוָה הָֽאֱלֹהִים the Lord is the true God; 1 S 919; Is 312 גַּם־הוּא חָכָם yet he also is wise; Gn 4211; on the other hand, Gn 191 וְלוֹט ישֵׁב and (=while) Lot was sitting; Ez 2815; Gn 74 אָֽנֹכִי מַמְטִיר I am raining, i.e. I will rain. Sometimes even a jussive or optative is to be supplied as predicate, Gn 2713 upon me be thy curse; Gn 113, 2013, Ex 122. Cf. §116r, note.

141g Not infrequently, however, a connexion is established between subject and predicate (a) by adding the separate pronoun of the 3rd person singular or plural, expressly resuming and therefore strengthening the subject, or (b) (especially for the sake of a more exact specification of time) by the help of the verb הָיָה. The first of these will be a compound sentence, since the predicate to the main subject consists of an independent clause.

141h Examples of (a): Gn 4126 the seven good kine שֶׁ֫בַע שָׁנִים הֵ֫נָּה they are seven years; Dt 117, 424; Ec 518 זֹה מַתַּת אֱלֹהִים הִיא thisit is a gift of God; Nu 327 אֵ֫לֶּה הֵם; in a question, Gn 2738. Sometimes הוּא is used in this way to strengthen a pronominal subject of the first or second person, and at the same time to connect it with the predicate which follows,[7] e.g. אָֽנֹכִי אָֽנֹכִי הוּא Is 4325 I, even I, am he that blotteth out, &c.; 51:12; אַתָּה הוּא 2 S 728, Is 3716, ψ 445, Neh 96, 7; in an interrogative sentence, Jer 1422;[8] in Jer 4912 הוּא in a verbal-clause strengthens אַתָּה. 141i Of (b): naturally this does not apply to the examples, in which הָיָה, in the sense of to become, to fare, to exist, still retains its full force as a verb, and where accordingly the sentence is verbal, and not a noun-clause; especially when the predicate precedes the subject. On the other hand, such examples as Gn 12 and the earth was (הָֽיְתָה) waste and emptiness, can scarcely be regarded as properly verbal clauses; הָֽיְתָה is used here really only for the purpose of referring to past time a statement which, as the description of a state, might also appear in the form of a pure noun-clause; cf. Gn 31. This is especially true of the somewhat numerous instances in which הָיָה occurs as a connecting word between the subject and the participial predicate; e.g. Ju 17, Jb 114 (immediately afterwards a pure noun-clause). The imperfect of הָיָה announces what is future in Nu 1433, &c.; cf. §116r. However, especially in the latter case, הָיָה is not wholly without verbal force, but comes very near to being a mere copula, and this use is more frequent in the later books[9] than in the earlier.

141k Rem. On the employment of יֵשׁ existence, and אַ֫יִן non-existence, which were originally substantives (on their tendency to be used as verbs, equivalent to est, and non est, cf. §100o, and the Negative Sentences, § 152) as a connecting link between a pronominal subject and a participial predicate (especially in conditional and interrogative sentences, Gn 2442, 49, 43:4, &c.), see above, §116q, and the various kinds of subordinate clauses mentioned in §§ 150, 159.

141l 4. The natural arrangement of words in the noun-clause, as describing a state, is subject—predicate; the principal stress falls on the former since it is the object of the description. Very frequently, however (and not merely in poetry, where greater freedom is naturally allowed in the arrangement of words), the reverse order is found, i.e. predicate—subject. The latter order must be used when special emphasis is laid on the predicate,[10] or when it consists of an interrogative word; thus with a substantival predicate, e.g. Gn 319 עָפָר אַתָּה dust thou art; 4:9, 12:13 (my sister, not my wife); 20:2, 12, 29:14, Is 63 b, Jb 524, 612; with an adjectival predicate, e.g. Is 63 a, 28:21, Jer 106; with a participle, Gn 301, 3212; with an interrogative pronoun, e.g. Gn 2465;[11] with an adverbial interrogative, e.g. Gn 49.

141m Rem. On the above cf. the exhaustive investigations of C. Albrecht, ‘Die Wortstellung im hebr. Nominalsatze,’ ZAW. vii. 218 ff. and viii. 249 ff.; with a complete list of the exceptions to the order subject—predicate, p. 254 ff. The predicate must precede for the reasons stated (an adjectival predicate is particularly emphatic when it has the force of a comparative, e.g. Gn 413; the predicate expressed by means of a preposition precedes most frequently when it serves to convey the ideas of having, possessing, e.g. Gn 1814, 2916, &c.; cf. also 26:20, 31:16, 43).

141n The predicate may precede: (a) when the subject is a pronoun, for ‘the person assumed to be generally known, does not excite the same interest as that which is stated about him;’ (b) ‘in order not to be a mere appendage to a subject which consists of several words,’ e.g. 2 K 2019; (c) in interrogative sentences (with a substantival or adjectival predicate or one compounded with a preposition), e.g. 1 S 164; finally (d) in a relative clause, when the predicate is adverbial or compounded with a preposition, as a rule closely united (by Maqqeph) with אֲשֶׁר, e.g. Gn 211 אֲשֶׁר־שָׁם; 1:29 f. אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ.

  1. For other remarkable instances of ellipse in the Chronicler, see Driver, Introduction, ed. 8, p. 537, no. 27.
  2. Cf. the numerous examples in §116n–p.
  3. Why in these examples the pronouns, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, are to be considered as predicates and not as subjects, may be seen from what has been remarked above, §126k.
  4. The same naturally applies to most of those cases which are not pure noun-clauses, but have the substantival predicate connected with the subject by הָיָה (e.g. Gn 12 and the earth was a waste and emptiness; cf. ψ 356, Pr 830, Jb 34) or where a preposition precedes the substantival predicate, as ψ 294 the voice of the Lord is with power, i.e. powerful.
  5. שָׁלוֹם here, as in Jb 219, is evidently a substantive after a plural subject; on the other hand, it is doubtful whether שָׁלוֹם in such passages as Gn 4327, 2 S 209, ψ 1207, &c., is not rather to be regarded as an adjective.
  6. As a rule, in such comparisons כְּ‍ (which is then to be regarded as nominative) stands before the predicate, e.g. Is 632 wherefore are thy garments כְּדֹרֵךְ בְּגַת like those of one that treadeth in the wine-press? (prop. the like of one that treadeth, instar calcantis); Jer 509. The comparison is then much less emphatic than in the noun-clauses cited above.
  7. On a similar use of the separate pronoun of the third person in Aramaic (Dn 238, Ezr 511, &c.) see Kautzsch, Gramm. des Bibl. Aram., § 87. 3.
  8. This is of course to be distinguished from the use of הוּא (to be inferred from the context) as predicate in the sense of ὁ αὐτός; see above, §135a, note 1; or such cases as Dt 3239 see now כִּי אֲנִי הוּא that I, even I, am he; 1 Ch 2117.
  9. According to Albrecht, ZAW. viii. 252, especially in Deuteronomy and in the Priestly Code.
  10. For the same reason specifications of place (e.g. Gn 47) or other adverbial qualifications may stand at the beginning of the sentence.
  11. The only exceptions, according to Albrecht (see the Rem. above), are Ex 167, 8.