Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/155. Relative Clauses

§155. Relative Clauses.
See V. Baumann, Hebräische Relativsätze, Leipzig, 1894 (cf. the heading of § 138 above); G. Bergsträsser, ‘Das hebr. Präfix שׁ,’ ZATW 1909, p. 40 ff.[1]

155a 1. By §138a, e, relative clauses are divided into two classes: those which are used for the nearer definition of a noun (substantive or pronoun), and those which are not dependent on a noun. The former may be called incomplete, the latter complete relative clauses.

155b Complete relative clauses, as a rule (see the exceptions under n), are introduced by the originally demonstrative pronoun אֲשֶׁר; see further in §138e. Similarly, incomplete relative clauses may also be introduced by אֲשֶׁר, or by some other demonstrative pronoun; see further in §138a and g–k. Very frequently, however, especially in poetic style, the attributive relation is expressed by simple co-ordination.[2]

155c The governing substantive or pronoun is frequently (in certain cases always) resumed by a pronominal suffix or an adverb. The resumption may, however, be omitted, just as in relative clauses introduced by אֲשֶׁר, &c.; see §138f.

155d In Arabic a distinction is made between relative clauses used for the nearer definition of a determinate substantive (ṣila), and those which are attached to an indeterminate substantive (ṣifa). The former must be introduced by the demonstrative pronoun allaḏî, the latter are always simply co-ordinated. The same distinction was no doubt originally observed in Hebrew, since simply co-ordinated relative clauses are most commonly found after indeterminate substantives (see the examples below), and in cases like Dt 2849 (גּוֹי אֲשֶׁר לֹֽא־תִשְׁמַע לְשֹׁנוֹ a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; cf. Is 6613, and especially 1 S 311), the addition of אֲשֶׁר is explained from the special stress laid on the indeterminate substantive,[3] a nation of such a kind, thou understandest not their tongue. On the other hand, in poetic style at least, אֲשֶׁר is somewhat frequently omitted even after a determinate noun, but only rarely in prose (except by the Chronicler; cf. 1 Ch 922, 1223, 291 (read prob. אֲשֶׁר for אֶחַד), 2 Ch 1511; after כָּל־ 1 Ch 293, 2 Ch 1823, 3017, 3119, Ezr 15, but also Gn 394; for further instances, see Driver, Introd.8, p. 537, no. 30); so Ex 1820, Ju 81, 2015, 1 K 1312 (=which way), so 2 K 38, 2 Ch 1823; Neh 1323; after a pronominal subject, 1 S 69. In Jer 5212 for עָמַד read עֹמֵד with the LXX.

155e 2. If the nearer definition of a substantive or pronoun is effected by simple co-ordination of the relative clause, it may take the form—

(a) Of a noun-clause, e.g. 2 S 2021 a man of the hill country of Ephraim שֶׁ֫בַע שְׁמוֹ whose name was Sheba; Zc 612, Jb 11, 315 with princes זָהָב לָהֶם that had gold; ψ 114, Pr 2211; when referring to a noun-suffix, e.g. ψ 4914 זֶה דַרְכָּם כֵּ֫סֶל לָ֫סוֹ this is the way of them who have (self-)confidence.—On periphrases of this kind to express negative attributes, as in Jb 3826 עַל־אֶ֫רֶץ לֹא־אִישׁ on a land where no man is, see §152u, and cf. for this very short form of the relative clause, Gn 1513 בְּאֶ֫רֶץ לֹא לָהֶם in a land that belongs not to them; Dt 3217 (לַשֵּׁדִים לֹא אֱלֹהַּ); Hb 16, Pr 2617 (לֹא־לוֹ).

155f (b) Of a verbal clause.

Here we must distinguish the cases in which the retrospective pronoun—

(1) Is the subject of the relative clause, and is contained in the verb; so after a determinate substantive, ψ 349 happy is the man יֶֽחֱסֶה־בּוֹ that trusteth in him; Jb 33 b הַלַּ֫יְלָה אָמַ֫ר the night which said; after כָּל־ ψ 7118; referring to a vocative, which is determinate in itself even without the article, Is 541, or to a noun-suffix (see under e), ψ 164; after an indeterminate substantive, e.g. Jb 3112 it is a fire (that) devoureth unto Abaddon; Dt 3217 b, 1 S 69, Is 5513, 562, ψ 6831, 786, Pr 3017, La 110, 2 Ch 289; referring to the suffix in הִנְנִי Is 2816, prop. behold me, who have laid, &c., but perhaps the participle יׄסֵד is to be read; 29:14, 38:5 (but probably again the participle יוֹסֵף should be read instead of the imperfect); Ez 257. The relative clause is used in this way especially to supply the place of an adjective, e.g. Gn 4927 זְאֵב יִטְרָ֑ף a wolf that ravineth, i.e. a ravining wolf; Is 5112; to express a negative quality, e.g. Is 4020, Ho 414 עָם לֹֽא־יָבִין an undiscerning people.

155g Rem. Very frequently such relative sentences are attached to substantives which have the particle of comparison כְּ‍, e.g. Jb 72 כְּעֶ֫בֶד יִשְׁאַף־צֵל as a servant that earnestly desireth the shadow, &c.; Dt 3211, Is 621, Jer 2329, Ho 63, ψ 422, 8315, Jb 926, 1116; so also after כְּמוֹ ψ 585; after a determinate substantive, e.g. Is 537 (but the better reading is כְּשֶׂה without the article), 61:10 f., Hb 214, ψ 4913, 21, 125:1; see also the examples under h. Sometimes it seems simpler in such cases, to take the verb directly as predicate to the preceding substantive, and to explain כְּ‍ (for כַּֽאֲשֶׁר; see Comparative Clauses, §161b) as a conjunction—a view which even Hupfeld was ready to accept, at least as regards ψ 905, 1251, Is 537, 6111, but it can hardly be right.

155h (2) The cases in which the retrospective pronoun represents an accusative of the object, or would do so if not suppressed, as it usually is in such cases in relative clauses with אֲשֶׁר, cf. §138b. Examples with the retrospective pronoun are, Dt 3217 אֱלֹהִים לֹא יְדָעוּם gods whom they knew not (see also the end of the verse); after a substantive with בְּ(see above, g), Jer 239, Jb 1328. Without a retrospective pronoun, after a determinate substantive, Ju 81, ψ 3312 (preceded by a relative clause with אֲשֶׁר); Jb 281. Other examples of this kind, though the article is omitted according to poetic usage, are Is 157 (יִתְרָה עָשָׁה, for which Jer 4836 יִתְרָת עָשָׂה with the substantive in the construct state governing the relative clause, see §130d), ψ 716, 5110, La 121.—Without the retrospective pronoun, after an indeterminate substantive, e.g. Is 66 רִצְפָּה בְמֶּלְקָחַ֫יִם לָקַח מֵעַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar; Ex 1517, Is 4216 (48:17, ψ 2512, all after בְּדֶ֫רֶךְ; but ψ 328 בְּדֶ֫רֶךְ־זוּ תֵלֵךְ); Is 642; Ec 105 (in 6:1 the same clause with אֲשֶׁר); moreover, in Jer 1418 read with the LXX אֶל־אֶ֫רֶץ לֹא יָדָֽעוּ into a land (that) they know not.

155i (3) The cases in which the retrospective pronoun is dependent on a preposition, or its place is taken by the adverb שָׁם, as in Jer 26 end. Thus after a determinate substantive, ψ 183 צוּרִי אֶֽחֱסֶה־בּוֹ my rock in which I take refuge; Ex 1820, Is 421; in Jb 33 a also, the omission of the article with יוֹם is only a poetic licence. After an indeterminate substantive, Jer 26, last clause but one; ψ 322.

155k In this case also the retrospective word is not infrequently suppressed, giving rise to extremely short, bold expressions, such as Is 511 look unto the rock חֻצַּבְתֶּם (whence) ye were hewn, and to the hole of the pit נֻקַּרְתֶּם (whence) ye were digged; Jb 2127 the devices (where-with) ye act violently against me.—A retrospective adverb is suppressed in Jb 3819 where is the way (to the place where) the light dwelleth? cf. 38:24.

155l Rem. 1. The omission of the retrospective word occurs most frequently in relative clauses which are governed by the construct state of a preceding substantive (especially an expression of time) and hence are virtually in the genitive. In addition to the instances already given in §130d, cf. the following: after בְּיוֹם Lv 735, ψ 5610; after מִיּוֹם Jer 362; after simple יוֹם ψ 564 (יוֹם אִירָא on the day when I am afraid); after בְּעֵת 2 Ch 2927 (בְּעֵת הֵחֵל הָֽעוֹלָה at the time when the burnt offering began); 20:22, 24:11, Jb 617; after לְעֵת Dt 3235; after עַד־עֵת Mi 52; after מֵעֵת ψ 48 thou hast put gladness in my heart more than (their gladness) at the time (when) their corn and their wine are increased.

155m 2. The agreement (§138d) of the retrospective pronoun with a pronominal regens in the 1st or 2nd person also takes place in a simple co-ordinated relative clause in 1 S 2614 who art thou (that) criest? Cf., however, Is 6319 we are become as they over whom (בָּם not בָּ֫נוּ) thou no longer bearest rule.

155n 3. Occasionally—chiefly in poetic or otherwise elevated style—even independent relative clauses are simply co-ordinated with a regens, whereas we should expect them always to be preceded by a demonstrative pronoun, on the analogy of the examples in §138e. The suppressed pronoun would stand—

(a) As subject, Is 4124 an abomination (is he) that chooseth you (but read perhaps לִבְחֹר); Jb 3013, cf. §152u.

(b) As object, Is 412, with a retrospective pronoun; Mal 216 וְכִסָּה and him that covereth (or read וְכֹסֶה ?); Jb 2912 I delivered... the fatherless also, and him that had none to help him.

(c) In the genitive governed by a substantive (cf. §130d), Ex 413 שְׁלַח־נָא בְּיַד־תִּשְׁלָֽח send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send, i.e. by the hand of some one else; ψ 655 and Pr 832, verbal-clauses after אֵשְׁרֵי O the happiness of the man, &c.; ψ 816, 1419, Jb 2916, La 114; after כָּל־ Gn 394, but we must certainly read here, with the Samaritan and LXX, כָּל־אֲשֶׁר יֶשׁ־לוֹ as in verses 5 and 8; Ex 94; verbal-clauses after כָּל־ 1 Ch 293, 2 Ch 3019, 3119, Ezr 15.

(d) Governed by a preposition; so verbal-clauses after אַֽחֲרֵי Jer 28; after אֶל־ (=to the place where), 1 Ch 1512, but Ex 2320 before the same verb אֶל־הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר; after בְּ Jer 211, 2 Ch 14 (בַּֽהֵכִין=בְּהַֽה׳=to the place where); after לְ Is 651 לְלוֹא שָׁאָ֫לוּ by them that asked not for me... לְלֹא בִקְשֻׁ֫נִי them that sought me not; Ez 133 that which they have not seen, but the text is hardly correct; after עַל ψ 119136, cf. §158b; after עִם 2 Ch 169.—A noun-clause follows לְ in Neh 810. An analogous instance in Aramaic is Ezr 514 to one whose name was Sheshbazzar [so in the papyri, see the Lexicon, p. 1116a].

  1. In this exhaustive article the author shows that between שׁ (on the pronunciation see § 36) and אֲשֶׁר there is syntactically no primary difference, but only a secondary distinction which arose in the course of the development of the language, namely that אֲשֶׁר is preferred in combinations which are customary in the old literary language, and שׁ in those which are derived from the popular language or from Aramaic.
  2. The old view that all these cases arise from the omission of אֲשֶׁר is incorrect. These co-ordinated attributive clauses are rather a mere subdivision of the various kinds of circumstantial clauses (see § 156) which may be attached to a nomen regens. Cf. in English this is the letter (which) he wrote to me.
  3. So Baumann, op. cit., p. 14 f., following Böttcher, Lehrbuch, ii. 80.