[119a] 1. In general. As is the case with regard to the looser subordination of nouns to the verbal idea (§ 118), so also their subordination by means of prepositions is used to represent the more immediate circumstances (of place, time, cause, purpose, measure, association, or separation) under which an action or event is accomplished. In the case of most prepositions some idea of a relation of space underlies the construction, which then, in a wider sense, is extended to the ideas of time, motive, or other relations conceived by the mind.
On the origin of the prepositions and the original case-relation in which they stand to the nouns governed by them, cf. § 101, where a list of the prepositions is given with their original meanings. Cf. also § 102 on the prefixes, and § 103 on the union of prepositions with suffixes.
[119b] 2. A not unimportant part is played in Hebrew by the compounding of prepositions to represent more accurately the relations of place, which either precede or follow the action. In the former case מִן־, and in the latter (which is not so frequent) אֶל־ occurs before other prepositions of place; cf. e.g. Am 715 the Lord took me מֵאֽחֲרֵי הַצֹּאן from behind the flock; 2 K 918 turn thee אֶל־אַֽחֲרָי to behind me, i.e., turn thee behind me; מֵעִם־, מֵאֵת from being with ..., as in French de chez, d’après quelqu’un. For further examples, see c.
[119c] Rem. 1. We must not regard as combined prepositions in the above sense either those substantives which have become prepositions only by their union with prefixes, as לִפְנֵי before, מִפְּנֵי, לְמַ֫עַן on account of (but e.g. מִלִּפְנֵי from before, Gn 416, &c., is such a compound); nor adverbs, which are also formed by combining words which were originally substantives (also used as prepositions) with prepositions, as מִחוּץ without, מִתַּ֫חַת in the sense of below, מֵעָל
- In other cases French, as well as English and German, can only emphasize one of the two combined ideas; thus, such expressions as il prend le chapeau sur la table, German and English er nimmt den Hut vom Tisch, he takes his hat from the table, all regard the action from one point of view only; the Hebrew here brings out both aspects of it by means of מֵעַל־ from upon, cf. e.g. Is 66.
- Hence not to be confounded with מִתַּ֫חַת from under, in such examples as Pr 2227, which is a real compound preposition. In the above-mentioned adverbs also the מִן־ was originally by no means pleonastic; מִתַּ֫חַת denotes properly the locality, regarded primarily as a place from beneath which something proceeds, and so on. This original sense of the מִן־, however, has become so much obscured by its regular combination with words of place to form independent adverbs, that it is even prefixed (evidently only on the analogy of such common adverbs as מֵעַל־, מִתַּ֫חַת) in cases where it is really inadmissible, owing to the meaning of the adverb, e.g. in מִבַּלְעֲדֵי, מִלְּבַד without, cf. also such examples as מִבְּלִי, מִמּוּל, מִנֶּ֫גֶד, מִשָּׁם (there), &c. Since a מִן־ is not usually repeated after מִלְּבַד, it appears as if מִלְּבַד by a transposition of the מִן־ stood for the usual לְבַד מִן־. In reality, however, the preposition which forms the adverb into a preposition is omitted here, as in מֵעַל, מִתַּ֫חַת without a following לְ (see above). Properly מִלְּבַד has a purely adverbial meaning=taken by itself, like מִלְּמַ֫עְלָה מִמַּ֫עַל (Syriac men le‛ēl) above (adv.), as distinguished from מִמַּ֫עַל לְ or מֵעַל־לְ (Syriac le‛ēl men), over, upon something.—Also לְמִן־ from ... onward is not for מִן־לְ, but the לְ serves merely (just like the Latin usqus in usque a, usque ad, usqus ex) to indicate expressly the starting-point, as an exact terminus a quo (of place or time).