Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/51. Niph˓al

Verba Derivativa, or Derived Conjugations.

§51. Niphʿal.[1]

a 1. The essential characteristic of this conjugation consists in a prefix[2] to the stem. This exists in two forms: (a) the (probably original) prepositive , as in the Hebrew perfect and participle, although in the strong verb the ă is always attenuated to ĭ: נִקְטַל for original nă-qăṭăl, participle נִקְטָל, infinitive absolute sometimes נִקְטוֹל; (b) the (later) proclitic in (as in all the forms of the corresponding Arabic conjugation vii. ʾinqătălă), found in the imperfect יִקָּטֵל for yinqāṭēl, in the imperative and infinitive construct, with a secondary ה added, הִקָּטֵל (for hinqāṭēl), and in the infinitive absolute הִקָּטֹל The inflexion of Niphʿal is perfectly analogous to that of Qal.

b The features of Niphʿal are accordingly in the perfect and participle the prefixed Nûn, in the imperative, infinitive, and imperfect, the Dageš in the first radical. These characteristics hold good also for the weak verb. In the case of an initial guttural, which, according to §22b, cannot take Dageš forte, the emission of the strengthening invariably causes the lengthening of the preceding vowel (see §63h).

c 2. As regards its meaning, Niphʿal bears some resemblance to the Greek middle voice, in being—(a) primarily reflexive of Qal, e.g. נִלְחַץ to thrust oneself (against), נִשְׁמַר to take heed to oneself, φυλάσσεσθαι, נִסְתַּר to hide oneself, נִגְאַל to redeem oneself; cf. also נַֽעֲנֶה to answer for oneself. Equally characteristic of Niphʿal is its frequent use to express emotions which react upon the mind; נִחַם to trouble oneself, נֶֽאֱנַח to sigh (to bemoan oneself, cf. ὀδύρεσθαι, lamentari, contristari); as well as to express actions which the subject allows to happen to himself, or to have an effect upon himself (Niphʿal tolerativum), e.g. דָּרַשׁ to search, to inquire, Niph. to allow oneself to be inquired of, Is 651, Ez 143, &c.; so the Niph. of מָצָא to find, יָסַר to warn, to correct, Jer 68, 3118, &c.

d (b) It expresses reciprocal or mutual action, e.g. דִּבֶּר to speak, Niph. to speak to one another; שָׁפַט to judge, Niph. to go to law with one another; יָעַץ to counsel, Niph. to take counsel, cf. the middle and deponent verbs βουλεύεσθαι (נוֹעַץ), μάξεσθαι (נְלְחַם), altercari, luctari (נִצָּה to strive with one another) proeliari.

e (c) It has also, like Hithpaʿēl (§54f) and the Greek middle, the meaning of the active, with the addition of to oneself (sibi), for oneself, e.g. נִשְׁאַל to ask (something) for oneself (1 S 206.28, Neh 136), cf. αἰτοῦμαί σε τοῦτο, ἐνδύσασθαι χιτῶνα to put out on (oneself) a tunic.

f (d) In consequence of a looseness of thought at an early period of the language, Niphʿal comes finally in many cases to represent the passive[3] of Qal, e.g. יָלַד to bear, Niph. to be born; קָבַר to bury, Niph. to be buried. In cases where Qal is intransitive in meaning, or is not used, Niphʿal appears also as the passive of Piʿēl and Hiphʿîl, e.g. כָּבֵד to be in honour, Piʿēl to honour, Niph. to be honoured (as well as Puʿal כֻּבַּד); כָּחַד Piʿēl to conceal, Hiph. to destroy, Niph. passive of either. In such cases Niphʿal may again coincide in meaning with Qal (חָלָה Qal and Niph. to be ill) and even take an accusative.

g Examples of denominatives are, נִזְכַּר to be born a male, Ex 3419 (from זָכָר; but probably הַזָּכָר should here be read); נִלְבַּב cordatum fieri, Jb 1112 (from לֵבָב cor); doubtless also נִבְנָה to obtain children, Gn 162, 303.

h The older grammarians were decidedly wrong in representing Niphʿal simply as the passive of Qal; for Niphʿal has (as the frequent use of its imperat. shows), in no respect the character of the other passives, and in Arabic a special conjugation (ʾinqătălă) corresponds to it with a passive of its own. Moreover, the forms mentioned in §52e point to a differently formed passive of Qal.—The form נְגֹֽאֲלוּ Is 593, La 414, is not to be regarded as a passive of Niphʿal, but with König and Cheyne as a forma mixta, in the sense that the punctuators intended to combine two optional readings, נִגְאֲלוּ, perf. Niph., and גֹּֽאֲלוּ, perf. Puʿal [cf. also Wright, Compar. Gramm., p. 224]. Although the passive use of Niphʿal was introduced at an early period, and became tolerably common, it is nevertheless quite secondary to the reflexive use.

i Rem. 1 The infin. absol. נִקְטוֹל is connected in form with the perfect, to which it bears the same relation as קָטוֹל to קָטַל in Qal, the ô in the second syllable being obscured from an original â. Examples are, נִכְסֹף Gn 3130; נִלְחֹם Ju 1125; נִשְׁאֹל 1 S 206.28, all in connexion with the perfect.

k Examples of the form הִקָּטֹל (in connexion with imperfects) are, הִנָּתֹן Jer 324; הֵֽאָכֹל Lv 718; once אִדָּרֹשׁ Ez 143, where, perhaps, the subsequent אִדָּרֵשׁ has led to the substitution of א for ה.—Moreover, the form הִקָּטֵל is not infrequently used also for the infin. absol.,[4] e.g. Ex 223, Nu 1531, Dt 426, 1 K 2039. On the other hand, כְּהִנָּדֵף should simply be read for the wholly abnormal כְּהִנְדֹּף, ψ 683 (commonly explained as being intended to correspond in sound with the subsequent תִּנְדֹּף but probably a ‘forma mixta’, combining the readings כְּהִנָּדֵף and כִּנְדֹף). l Elision of the ה after prepositions is required by the Masora in בִּכָּֽשְׁלוֹ Pr 2417 (for בְּהִכָּ׳), בֵּֽהָרֵג Ez 2615 and בֵּֽעָטֵף La 211; also in verbs ל״ה Ex 103 (לֵֽעָנוֹת); 3424, Dt 3111, Is 112 (לֵֽרָאוֹת); in verbs ע״וּ Jb 3330 (לֵאוֹר). It is, however, extremely doubtful whether the infin. Qal of the Kethîbh is not rather intended in all these examples; it certainly is so in La 211, cf. ψ 613.

m 2. Instead of the Ṣere in the ultima of the imperfect, Pathaḥ often occurs in pause, e.g. וַיִּגָּמַֽל Gn 218; cf. Ex 3117, 2 S 1215 (with final שׁ); 1723 (with ק); Jon 15 (with מ‍); see §29q. In the 2nd and 3rd plur. fem. Pathaḥ predominates, e.g. תִּזָּכַ֫רְנָה Is 6517; Ṣere occurs only in תֵּֽעָגֵ֫נָה Ru 113, from עגן, and hence, with loss of the doubling, for תֵּֽעָגֵ֫נָּה; cf. even תֵּֽאָמַֽנָה Is 604.—With Nûn paragogicum (see §47m) in the 2nd and 3rd plur. masc. are found, יִלָּֽכְדוּן, תִּלָּֽחֲמוּן, &c., in pause יִבָּֽהֵלוּן, תִּשָּֽׁמֵדוּן, &c.; but Jb 1924 (cf. 2424) יֵחָֽצְבֽוּן.

n 3. When the imperfect, the infinitive (in ē), or the imperative is followed in close connexion by a monosyllable, or by a word with the gone on the first syllable, the tone is, as a rule (but cf. וַיֵּאָֽבֵק אִישׁ Gn 3225), shifted back from the ultima to the penultima, while the ultima, which thus loses the tone, takes Seghôl instead of Ṣere; e.g. יִכָּ֫שֶׁל בָּהּ Ez 3312; וַיֵּעָ֫תֶר לוֹ Gn 2521; in the imperative, 139.—So always הִשָּׁ֫מֶר לְךָ (since לְךָ counts as one syllable) Gn 246, &c., cf. 1 S 192; and even with Pathaḥ in the ultima, תֵּעָ֫זַב אָ֑רֶץ Jb 184 (but cf. וַיֵּעָֽתֵ֫ר אֱלֹהִים 2 S 2114). Although in isolated cases (e.g. Gn 3225, Ezr 823) the tone is not thrown back, in spite of a tone-syllable following, the retraction has become usual in certain forms, even when the next word begins with a toneless syllable; especially after ו consec., e.g. וַיִּשָּׁ֫אֶר Gn 723; וַיִּלָּ֫חֶם Nu 211 and frequently, וַיִּצָּ֫מֶד 253; and always so in the imperative הִשָּׁ֫מֶר Ex 2321, Jb 3621, and (before Metheg of the counter-tone) Dt 248, 2 K 69. On the avoidance of pausal-forms in the imperative (Am 212 with Silluq, Zc 211 with Athnaḥ), and imperfect (Pr 244, &c.), see §29o, and note; on the other hand, always הִמָּלֵט, יִמָּלֵט, &c.

o In the imperative, נִקְבְּצוּ, for הִקָּֽבְצוּ, with the rejection of the initial ה, occurs in Is 439, and in Joel 411 in pause נִקְבָּ֑צוּ (cf. נִלְווּ Jer 505); but in these examples either the reading or the explanation is doubtful. The 2nd sing. imperat. of נִשְׁבַּע is always (with ־ָה paragogicum) הִשָּׁ֫בְעָה לִּי swear to me, Gn 2123, &c. (also הִשָּֽׁבְעָה לִי Gn 4731, 1 S 3015).

p 4. For the 1st sing. of the imperfect, the form אִקָּטֵל is as frequent as אֶקָּטֵל, e.g. אִדָּרֵשׁ I shall be inquired of, Ez 143; אִשָּׁבֵעַ I will swear, Gn 2124; cf. 162, Nu 2315, Ez 2036, and so always in the cohortative, e.g. אִנָּֽקְמָה I will avenge me, Is 124; cf. 1 S 127, Ez 262, and in the impf. Niph. of פ״ו (§69t). The Babylonian punctuation admits only ĭ under the preformative of the 1st person.

  1. Cf. A. Rieder, De linguae Hebr. verbis, quae vocantur derivata nifal et hitpael, Gumbinnen (Progr. des Gymn.), 1884, a list of all the strong Niphʿal forms (81) and Hithpaʿēl forms (36) in the Old Testament; and especially M. Lambert, ‘L’emploi du Nifal en Hébreu,’ REJ. 41, 196 ff.
  2. See Philippi in ZDMG. 1886, p. 650, and Barth, ibid. 1894, p. 8 f.
  3. Cf. Halfmann, Beiträge zur Syntax der hebräischen Sprache, I. Stück, Wittenb., 1888, 2. St. 1892 (Gymn.-Programm), statistics of the Niphʿal (Puʿal, Hophʿal, and qāṭûl) forms at different periods of the language, for the purpose of ascertaining the meaning of Niph. and its relation to the passive; the selection of periods is, however, very questionable from the standpoint of literary criticism.
  4. But, like הִקָּטֹל, only in connexion with imperfects, except Jer 79. Barth is therefore right in describing (Nominalbildung, p. 74) both forms as later analogous formations (in addition to the original Semitic נִקְטוֹל), intended to assimilate the infinitive to the imperfect which it strengthens.