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New Perspectives in Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew

Aaron D. Hornkohl
Khan Geoffrey

III-Y Imperatives in Ancient Hebrew

E. Fassberg


The ms imperative of strong verbs in the qal and derived stems shows an alternation of final ø ∼ -å. This is so in the case of the ms imperative of weak verbs, too, with the exception of III-y verbs in the derived stems, where one finds final ø ∼ -ē. This study investigates the distribution of long and short forms of the ms imperative of III-y verbs in Biblical Hebrew, epigraphic Hebrew, the Hebrew of Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Samaritan Pentateuchal oral tradition, the Secunda, and Tannaitic Hebrew. The data from ancient Hebrew sources seem to indicate that the later the text, the greater the chance that one will find in it long ms III-y imperative forms in the derived conjugations.

Texte intégral

1.0. Introduction

1The final vowel of the masculine singular (ms) imperative of strong verbs in the qal and derived stems alternates between a zero morpheme and , e.g., ז ְ כ ְֹ ר ‘remember!’ (Exod. 32.13) vs. ז ָ כ ָ הר (Neh. 13.29), פ ְ ל ְ ט ‘deliver!’ (Ps. 32.7) vs. פ ְ ל ְ ט ְָ ה (Ps. 17.13), ה ְ ת ְ י ְ צ ְ ב ‘station yourself!’ (2 Sam. 18.30) vs. ה ְ ת ְ י ְ צ ְָ ב ְָ ה (Job 33.5). Most weak verbal classes also show this alternation, e.g., ׁ בש ‘sit!’ (Gen. 20.15) vs. ׁ בש ְָ ה (Gen. 27.19), םוק ‘arise!’ (Gen. 13.7) vs. מוק ְָ ה (Judg. 18.9), טיבה ָ ה ‘look!’ (Lam. 3.63) vs. ( בה ְ ט 1 Kgs 18.43). III-y verbs in the derived stems, however, show a different alternation in the final vowel of the ms imperative, namely, a zero morpheme and -ē.

2Some III-y verbal roots appear in the derived stems with short forms, some appear with long forms, and yet others show up with both short and long, e.g., וצ ‘command!’ (Lev. 6.2) vs. וצ ְ ה (Josh. 4.16), or טה ‘stretch forth!’ (Ps. 17.6) vs. הטה (Ps. 71.2). Are there conditioning factors responsible for the choice of the III-y forms or are short and long merely stylistic variants? In the light of the conditioning factors that have been argued for the employment of short and long imperative forms in the strong and weak (non-III-y) verbs (see below §3), I propose to re-examine the distribution of the short and long imperative forms in III-y verbs in Biblical Hebrew and the other ancient Hebrew corpora in order to see what factors, if any, regulate their use.

2.0. History of Scholarship

3Medieval and modern grammarians have noted the existence of two forms of the III-y ms imperative, but, with few exceptions, have not attempted (e.g., GKC, 214) to explain the difference in use and distribution. Ibn Janaḥ (Bacher 1896, 465) explained the lengthened form בר ּ ה ‘multiply!’ (Judg. 9.29) as ְ יווצ ְ דיחיל ְ אוהו ְ רמאמב הוצמ ְ הזה ְ לע ְ תובידנה ְ דסחהו ‘a singular imperative that indicates generosity and grace’. Elijah Levita wrote in his commentary to Moses Qimḥi’s ( ךלהמ ְ יליבש ְ תעדה 1563 ,74) on the inflection of III-y verbs:

יווצה ְ הלג ְ ומכ ְ הוק ְ לא ְ יי ְ’ יתהמתו ְ המל ְ אל ְ רמא ְְ וא ְ ןורסחב ְ ה " א ְ לג ְ ומכ ְ לג ְ יניע ְ הטיבאו ְ וצ ְ תא ְ ינב ְ לארשי ‘the imperative ְ הלג ‘reveal’ like הוק ‘hope in the Lord’ and I wonder why it is not defective without a he ְ לג like the verse לג ְ יניע ְ הטיבאו (‘open my eyes that I may behold!’ [Ps. 119.18]) or ְ וצ ְ תא ְ ינב ְ לארשי ‘command the children of Israel! ’

4The Karaite grammarians, who considered the imperative to be the base of most verbal and some nominal forms (Khan 2000, 39), also noted that some verbs had two forms, of which the shorter one was apocopated from the longer (Skoss 1936– 1945, II: 503; Khan 2000, 188, 278, 352, 370; Vidro 2013, 276). They did not, however, address the question of whether there was a difference in meaning or in use between the III-y ms imperatives.

  • 1 See also Suchard (2017, 213–17).

5In the modern period Ewald (1870, 588) thought that the vocalisation with ṣere was more poetic and Aramaic. Brockelmann (GvG, I: 628) viewed the short forms as older inherited imperatives and those with final  as new formations on the analogy of the imperfect. Bauer and Leander (1922, 414) attributed the existence of long and short forms of צ ְ ו / צ ְ ו ְ ה and ה ּּ בר / הברה to the merging of the III-y and III-w classes and considered the final ṣere (for expected ḥireq) in the derived conjugations to be the result of analogy to the qal imperative. Lambert (1931–1938, 371– 72, 374) was of the opinion that there was no clear distinction in use between צ ְ ו / צ ְ ו ְְ ה and ה ְּּ ר ְְ ף /ְ רה ְְ הפ , but wondered if the long forms הוק , הוצ , and בר ְּ ה (Judg. 9.29) were for marking entreaty, as he believed was the case with the lengthened imperative אצ ָ ה ‘go out!’, which followed בר ּ ה in the verse. Lipiński (2001, 357) commented that צ ְ ו / צ ְ ו ְ ה as well as י ְ צ ְ ו / י ְ צ ְּ ו ְ ה represent graphic and dialectal differences, but did not offer an explanation. According to Qimron (2018, 173, 235 n. 234, 252) the short forms found in Ben-Sira and the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect spoken speech during the Second Temple Period. In the most recent treatment of the subject, Suchard (2020, 135–36) concurs with Brockelmann and the consensus that the short imperatives are the historically inherited forms. Suchard views the long forms in the derived verbal stems as the result of analogy with qal forms.1

3.0. Biblical Hebrew

  • 2 Richard Steiner (2020) has recently argued that אּת־ in the notoriously difficult אּת־וָהֵבְ בסופָה (...)

6Qal III-y imperatives show no fluctuation: there are only long forms, all of which end in ṣere.2 Attested imperatives include ְ הלג ‘uncover!’ (Ezek. 12.3), ה ֱ הי ‘be!’ (also ;ּ היהו 13x), ּ היחו ‘live!’ (Gen. 20.7; Prov. 4.4; 7.2), החמ ‘erase!’ (Ps. 51.3, 11), הנמ ‘count!’ (2 Sam. 4.21), הטנ ‘stretch out!’ (11x), ע ֲ הל ‘ascend!’ (39x), ע ֲ הנ ‘answer!’ (Mic. 6.3; Prov. 26.5), ע ֲ הש ‘do!’ (62x), הנק ‘acquire!’ (20x), האר ‘see!’ (84x), הדר ‘have dominion’ (Ps. 110.2), ו ׁ ש ֲ הב ‘take captive!’ (Judg. 5.12), ׁ התש ‘drink!’ (8x). Only one nifʿal verb is attested and it is also with -ē: ה ָ האר ‘show yourself!’ (1 Kgs 18.1). The two examples of hitpaʿel imperatives are both short and without a final vowel: חתה ָ ל ‘feign illness!’ (2 Sam. 13.5), גתה ָ ר ‘contend with!’ (Deut. 2.24).

7It is in piʿel and hifʿil verbs that one finds fluctuation. Both short and long forms are found with the following verbs:

טה ‘stretch forth!’ (Ps. 17.6; 119.3; 144.5; Prov. 4.20; 5.1; 22.17) vs. ְ( הטה 2 Kgs 19.16; Isa. 37.37; Ps. 31.3; 71.2; 86.1; 88.3; 102.3; Dan. 9.18)

ךה ‘strike!’ (Exod. 8.12; 2 Kgs 6.18; 13.18; Ezek. 21.19; Amos 9.1; Zech. 13.7) vs. הכה (Ezek. 6.11)

וצ ‘command!’ (Lev. 6.2; 24.2; Num. 5.2; 28.2; 34.2; 35.2; Deut. 2.4; 3.28; 2 Kgs 20.1; Isa. 28.10, 13; 38.1) vs. ְ הוצ (Josh. 4.16; 1 Kgs 5.20; Ps. 44.5)

ה ּּ בר ‘increase!’ (Judg. 20.38; Ps. 51.4 qere) vs. הברה (Ezek. 24.10; Ps. 51.4 ketiv)

ה ּּ ףר ‘let go!’, refrain!’ (Deut. 9.14; 1 Sam. 11.3; 15.16; 2 Sam. 24.16; Ps. 37.8; 1 Chron. 21.15) vs. הפרה (Judg. 11.37; 2 Kgs 4.27)

  • 3 No morphological difference between the infinitive absolute and long form of the ms imperative is e (...)

8The hifʿil ms imperative of לע " י is attested with a short form three times: לעה ‘bring up!’ (Exod. 8.1; 33.12; Num. 20.25). There is one possible example of the long form: עה ֲ ל ֶ ה ְ ע ֲ היל ּ ם ְ ק ָ ה ָ ל ְ נו ָֹ ת ֹ ן ְ א ּ ת ּ ה ְֶ עזל ן ֲָ ו ֹ ה לו ָ ב ַ ז ‘Bring up a mob against them and make them an object of horror and plunder!’ (Ezek. 23.46), though some prefer to take the verb as an infinitive absolute (e.g., BDB, 749a).3

  • 4 Like רַוה the form נחֵת, can be taken as a piʿel imperative or infinitive absolute. See n. 2 above.

9Only short forms are found with the following piʿel verbs: לג ‘uncover!’ (Ps. 119.18; 22); לח ‘entreat!’ (1 Kgs 13.6); ְ ןמ ‘appoint!’ (Ps. 61.8); סנ ‘test!’ (Dan. 1.12). On the other hand, only long forms show up with the piʿel verbs ח ְ כ ְ ה ‘wait!’ (Hab. 2.3), הלכ ‘consume!’ (Ps. 59.14 [2x]; 74.11); הוק ‘hope!’ (Jer. 8.15; 14.19; Hos. 12.7; Ps. 27.14 [2x]; 37.34; Prov. 20.22); בר ּ ה ‘enlarge!’ (Judg. 9.29; with segol for expected ṣere). Another possible example is הור in ְָ לת ָּ מ ֵ הי ְָ ר ַ הו חנ ֵ ת ְ ודג ּ ד ֶ הי ‘Saturate its furrows, lower its ridges!’ (Ps. 65.11), though it is generally interpreted as an infinitive absolute ‘saturating’ (and ‘lowering’; e.g., BDB, 924a).4

  • 5 For discussions of politeness strategies in Biblical Hebrew, see, e.g., Estelle (2012) and Morrison (...)

10Are there conditioning factors at play? Different possibilities come to mind. In the case of the two forms of the ms imperative of the strong verb, טק ֹ ל and ְ ק ָ לט ָ ה , I believe the longer ones are marked forms indicating that the action is directed towards the speaker or for his benefit, whereas the short forms are usually used when the action is directed towards someone else (Fassberg 1999), e.g., ְ נת ָ יל־ה ‘give me! (Josh. 14.12) but תו ּ ל־ן ֵ ו ‘and give him!’ (Josh. 7.19). This conditioned used is evident from the fact that the longer imperatives are more often than not followed by particles and nouns with the 1 s. and pl. suffix pronouns, e.g., ְ גה ֶׁ ש ְָ ה יל ‘serve me!’ (Gen. 27.25), ֒ נה ֵ חי ָ ה יתוא ‘let go of me!’ (Judg. 16.26 מ ָ כל ָֹ ה ע ָ ל ַ וני ,) ‘rule over us!’ (Judg. 9.8 qere), ש ַ מי ָ ל־ה ָֹ ונ ‘give us!’ (1 Sam. 8.5), טלמ ְָֹ ה פנ ׁ ש ַ י ‘save my life!’ (Ps. 116.4). Further proof is found in the use of the long imperatives כל ָ ה , ה ָ ב ְָ ה , and מוק ָ ה as exhortations before verbs in first-person cohortative forms, in which the speaker includes himself in the performance of the action (Mann 1954), e.g., ה ָ ב ָ ה בלנ ָ נ ֵ ה ְ ל ְ נב ָ םי ‘let us make bricks!’ (Gen. 11.3), כל ָ֛ ה רכנ ָ ת ֹ ה רב ֶ תי ‘let us make a covenant!’ (Gen. 31.44), ק ֵ מו ָ ה ְ ׀ נו ָׁ ש ֵ ב ָ ה ‘let us return!’ (Jer. 46.16). On the other hand, a pragmatic conditioning factor of respect and politeness on the part of inferiors when addressing superiors has been argued for the long forms by some scholars (Lambert 1931– 1938, 255–57; Kaufman 1991, 198),5 and others have spoken of stylistic variants (GKC, 132; Joüon 1923, 108–9; Waltke-O’Connor 1990, 571) or emphasis (Ewald 1870, 583; Meyer 1992, 221).

11Do any of these interpretations fit the data of verbs III-y? As for direction towards the speaker, all eight occurrences of טה ְ ה are found involving direction to the speaker (2 Kgs 19.16; Isa. 37.17; Ps. 31.3; 71.2; 86.1; 88.3; 102.3; Dan 9.18), but טה is also attested in a similar context in five of the six occurrences (Ps. 17.6; 119.36; Prov. 4.20; 5.1; 22.17; but not in Ps. 144.5). There does not seem to be direction towards the speaker with the other verbs.

12As for being a polite form, וצ is used when God addresses Moses (Lev. 6.2; 24.2; Num. 5.2; 28.2; 34.2; 35.2; Deut. 3.28) and when Isaiah turns to Hezekiah in the name of God (2 Kgs 20.1 = Isa. 38.1), whereas הוצ is employed by God in speaking to Joshua (Josh. 4.16), Solomon to Hiram (1 Kgs 5.20), and man to God (Ps. 44.5). ְ ךה is used when God speaks to Moses (Exod. 8.12), Ezekiel (Ezek. 21.19), Amos (Amos 9.1), and a prophet (Zech. 13.7), and it is also used when Elisha addresses Joash, king of Israel (2 Kgs 13.18); הכה is attested when God turns to Ezekiel (Ezek. 6.11). ה ּּ ףר is found in the speech of God when talking to Moses (Deut. 9.14), God turning to a messenger (2 Sam. 24.16 = 1 Chron. 21.15), the elders of Jabesh to Naḥash the Ammonite (1 Sam. 11.3), and Samuel to Saul (1 Sam. 15.16); הפרה occurs when Jephthah’s daughter speaks with her father (Judg. 11.37), and Elisha with his servant (2 Kgs 4.27). הטה is spoken by man to God (2 Kgs 19.16; Isa. 37.17; Ps. 31.3; 71.2; 86.1; 88.3; 102.3; Dan. 9.18 טה ;) is also uttered by man to God (Ps. 17.6; 119.36; 144.5) as well as by a father to a son (Prov. 4.20; 5.1; 22.17). In short, it does not appear that either interpretation, direction to the speaker or politeness, applies to III-y imperatives.

13Is the choice of form dependent upon the collocation? א וצ ּ ינב־ת שי ָ לאר is common to Lev. 24.2; Num. 5.2; 28.2; 34.2; 35.2. There is no such collocation with א־טה ָ נז ָ ך . הוצ occurs in Ps. 17.6; Prov. 4.20; 5.1; and 22.17, yet הטה ְ( ילא ְ ) א ָ נז ָ ך can be seen in Ps. 31.3 ;71.2 ;88.3 ;102.3 הטה ְ ה ’ א ָ נז ָ ך ְ ; is found in 2 Kgs 19.16; Isa. 37.17; and Ps. 86.1; and ְ טה ְ֨ ה א ֱֹ הל ְֹ י ְ ׀ א ָ נז ָ ך in Dan. 9.18. The short form is attested with another part of the body: ל־טה ַ ב ְ י (Ps. 119.36). Due to the limited number of III-y ms imperatives, it is difficult to say more about the possibility of other collocations.

  • 6 According to most biblical scholars, the Pentateuch was the first section of the Hebrew Bible to ha (...)

14Further analysis of the data, however, hints at possible chronological conditioning. In those cases where there is a short and long pair of the masculine singular, the long form is absent from the Pentateuch and is attested only in the Prophets and the Writings. This suggests that the long form became more frequent as time went by.6 That is not to say, however, that the short form is restricted to the Pentateuch. Prosodic factors probably played a role in the choice of form, particularly in poetic contexts.

4.0. Other Ancient Hebrew Corpora

4.1. Epigraphic Hebrew

15Inscriptional material from the First Temple period yields no unequivocal examples of ms III-y imperatives. Although graphically interpretable as imperatives, the following forms have been taken contextually as 3 ms perfect forms: תעו . הטה [ ע ] כדב ְ[ ל ] הב ‘and now your servant has inclined his heart’ (Arad 40.4); תעו . נה . שע ְ ה . נדא ְ י ‘and now behold my lord has done’ (Arad 21.3); נכ . השע . תלדהלעיתבתככדבע ‘thus did your servant. I wrote on the door/sheet’ (Lachish 4.3). Another example, כרדשע ְְ כ ‘make your way!’, has been interpreted by Lemaire and Yardeni (2006, 197– 98) and Aḥituv (2012, 201) as a defective spelling for the qal imperative ע ְֲ ש ְְ ה , but by Bloch (2014) as the piʿel imperative שע , which is unattested in the Hebrew Bible.

4.2. Ben Sira

16The book of Ben Sira contains a number of III-y imperatives. All qal imperatives, as expected, are long: המד ‘be like!’ (38.5 MS B), היה ‘be!’ (4.10 MS A + 9x), הזח ‘see!’ (37.7 MSS B and D), ְ ההנ ‘yearn for!’ (38.16 MS B), הנע ‘answer!’ (5.12 MSS A and C; 9.14 MS A), שע ְ ה ‘do!’ (14.16 MS A; 51.30 MS C), ְ האר ‘see!’ (6.36 MS A + 3x), הער ‘graze!’ (34.15 MS B; 38.16 MSS B and D), נש ְ ה ‘repeat!’ (33.6 MS B). There is one nifʿal, which is long: צעיה ְ ה ‘seek counsel!’ (4.28; < צע " י ). Three short forms of piʿel verbs are attested: לכ ‘finish!’ (35.8 MS B; as opposed to MT הלכ Ps. 74.11), סנ ‘test!’ (37.27 [2x], cf. MT ְ נ ְ ס Dan. 1.12) and תפ ‘entice!’ (30.23 MS B; there are no biblical occurrences of the ms). There are also two long forms: הוק ‘hope!’ (6.19 MSS A and C + 2x) and נש ְ ה ‘change!’ (33.6 MS B). As for hifʿil verbs, the short form of טנ " י is attested three times, all in collocations containing parts of the body: ְ( טה ְ ינעל ךנזא 4.8 MS A), ְ ה ְ ט ךמכש ְ האשו ‘bend your shoulder and carry her’ (6.25 MS A), and ְ טהו נזא ְ ך רסות ‘and if you incline your ear, you will be disciplined’ (6.33 MS A). Qimron (2018, 173 n. 52) believes there is an additional example in ברה ‘increase!’ (30.38 MS E), though the reading is not certain. There might be one short hitpaʿel imperative, if the proposed reading and reconstruction by Ben-Ḥayyim are correct: ְ ה ְ[ ת ] ער ‘make friends!’ (11.1 MS A; Ben-Ḥayyim 1973, 281; so, too, Qimron 2018, 173 n. 52).

4.3. Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran

17One finds in the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran both short and long forms. In the biblical scrolls the imperatives correspond almost always to those attested in the Masoretic Text (Qimron, 2018, 173 n. 51). In the non-biblical manuscripts, the forms usually echo those found in biblical collocations. Here are the Qumran attestations:

( לג ְ יניע : לג 4QPsh [4Q90] 1–2, 18 = Ps. 119.18; 11QPsaa [11Q5] VII, 4 = Ps. 119.18)

( אטה ְ ה ’ְ הכנזוא : טה / הטה 1QIsaa XXX, 22 = ה ְ ט ְ ה Isa. 37.17); ( הטה ילא הכנזוא 4QPsa [4Q83] 9 II, 6 = Ps. 71.2); טה הכנזוא (11QPsaa [11Q5] XXIV, 4 = Ps. 144.3); ְ( טה ְ הכימש 11QPsaa [11Q5] XXIII, 15–16= Ps. 144.5)

( לחתהו ְ : לחתה 4QSama [4Q51] 102 I, 12= 2 Sam. 13.5)

ךה תא הערה ְ : ךה (CD XIX, 8 = Zech. 13.7); ךה [ ְְ פכה ְ ] רת (4QXIIg [4Q82] 65–68, 6 = Amos 9.1); ךה הצרא (PAM 43.682 l.2 = 2 Kgs 13.18)

( ךח ְ יתא ְ : ךח 4QTobc ] 4Q200] 4, 7; cf. הכח Hab. 2.3)
( הו ] לע ְ א [ ת םיעדרפצה : לעה 4QExodj [4Q20] 1–2, 4 = Exod. 8.1)

( וצ תא ינב [ לארשי ] : וצ 4QJubf [4Q221] 4, 3); ְ וצ ְ תא ינב לארשי (4QRPc [4Q365] 23, 4 = Lev. 24.2); ְ וצ תא [ ינב לארשי (4QLev–Numa [4Q23] 34 II, 47 = Num. 5.2); ְ יוצ ְְ הכתיבל (1QIsaa XXXI, 21 = ְ וצ Isa. 38.1)

( הברה ְ ינסבכ ְ : הברה 4QPsc [4Q85] 15 II–16, 32 = Ps. 51.4 ketiv); [ְ( הברה 4QPsj [4Q91] f8, 4–5 = Ps. 51.4)

( ףרה ְ ףאמ ְ בוזעו ְ המח : ףרה 4QpPsa [4Q171] 1–2 II, 1 = Ps. 37.8)

18Possible additional examples that occur in poorly preserved contexts include

[ְ( הטה 4QPapRit Pur B [4Q512] 106, 1); בורב ְ לכש ְ הלג ְ וננזוא (4QMysta [4Q299] 8, 6; perfect?);] ( הברהו ְ ימחר [ ו 4QBarkhi Nafshia [4Q434] 1 I, 7; adverb הברה ?).

4.4. Other Sites in the Judean Desert

19In the Judean Desert material from between the First and Second Jewish Revolts, there are two poorly preserved examples from biblical texts: ] ( טה [ ה ? ילא ךנזא 5/6Ḥev 1b 13 II, 5 = Ps. 31.3) and ] ךה כה ְ[ פ ] ת [ ר (Mur 88 VIII, 7 = Amos 9.1). Other instances are attested in the Bar Kosiba letters and only with the qal verb וה "ְ י : אוה םולש ‘be well!’ (Mur 44.8); יוהו םולש (Mur 46.11); הוהא ְ ולש ְ ם (Mur 42.7; the ʾalef is apparently an error); אוה ש ְ םול (Mur 48.6); אוה ש [ ל ] ם (Yadin 49.14). This imperative form is taken by many to be Aramaic and not Hebrew, as are the instances of ה ְ ו " י in Biblical Hebrew, Samaritan Hebrew, and Tannaitic Hebrew (Mor 2016, 158 nn. 855–57).

4.5. Samaritan Pentateuch

  • 7 Signs of the merger of verbs III-ʾ and III-y can be found already in Classical Biblical Hebrew (GKC (...)

20There are no short imperatives in the oral tradition of the Samaritan Pentateuch. All forms in all stems end in a final -i, e.g., ēli ‘ascend!’ (Samaritan Pentateuchal written tradition הלע Gen. 35.1 = MT ע ֲ הל ), ˁalli לעה ְ( לעה Exod. 33.12 = MT ה ְ ע ְ ל ). MT וצ ‘order!’ (e.g., Deut. 2.4) is realized as ṣābi (in the written tradition וצ ְ י ), and MT ךה ‘strike!’ (Exod. 8.12) as wakki) written tradition כהו ְ ה ; Ben-Ḥayyim 2000, 186–87). The III-ʾ verbs ְ למ " א ‘fill’ and רק "ְ א ‘call’ follow the inflection of III-y verbs:7 mēli ( אלמ Gen. 44.1= MT אלמ ), målli ( אלמ Gen. 29.27 = MT ְ אלמ ), qēri ( ארק Deut. 31.14 = MT ק ְָ ר ְ א ). The originally III-y verb nēṭå הטנ ‘stretch forth!’ (ְ הטנ Exod. 7.19 = MT הטנ ) always (11x) ends with an a-vowel, for it appears to have been treated as if from the root טנ " ע or תנ " ח , the Samaritan Targum equivalent of טנ ְ" י (Ben-Ḥayyim 2000, 146). arrəf ( ףרה Deut. 9.14 = MT ה ּּ ר ְ ף ) is derived in the Samaritan tradition from פר "ְ פ (Ben-Ḥayyim 2000, 186 n. 139).

4.6. Secunda

21Two imperatival forms are attested in the Secunda of the Hexapla, both of which correspond to the Masoretic Text (Brønno 1943 ,100): αίη ( ה ֱ הי Ps. 30.11; 31.3); εττη ( הטה Ps. 31.3).

4.7. Tannaitic Hebrew

22Tannaitic Hebrew evidences the long forms in all stems (Segal 1927 ,92; Haneman 1980, 385–87), e.g., הוצ (t. Ber. 6.13). Examples of short forms usually occur only in biblical quotes, e.g., ְְ ינממ ףרה דימשאו ְ ם ‘let me alone so that I will destroy them’ (Sifre 27, citing Deut. 9.14), טה ךנזא עמשו ‘incline your ear to hear!’ (Seder Olam Rabba, citing Prov. 22.17). An exception is ה ְ ע ְ ל ‘bring up!’, which is attested in ה ְ ע ְְ ל תא תוריפה ולאה םלשוריל קלחל ‘bring up these fruits to Jerusalem to distribute!’ (m. Maʿaser Sheni 3.1; t. Shev. 6.23).

5.0. Conclusion

23The distribution of long and short forms of the ms imperative of III-y verbs does not correspond to the conditioning factors that have been suggested for the short and long forms of the ms imperative of strong verbs and most weak verbs. The data from ancient Hebrew sources seem to indicate that the later the text, the greater the chance that one will find in it long ms III-y imperative forms in the derived conjugations. This is the case in the later books of the Hebrew Bible, in the oral tradition of the Samaritan Pentateuch, and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In Ben Sira one finds two short forms unattested in Biblical Hebrew as well as an unattested long form.

24It has been suggested by Qimron that the existence of short ms III-y imperative forms in Ben Sira and the Dead Sea Scrolls is proof that the short forms were used in speech in the Second Temple period. This interpretation of the data should be viewed in the light of Qimron’s general approach that the orthography of the Dead Sea Scrolls should often be taken at face value and may represent the ipsissima verba of the Qumran community. Such an explanation of the written data, I believe, underestimates the role of written classicisms in the Hebrew of the Second Temple period, a period when writers tried and, on the whole, succeeded in imitating the Hebrew of the First Temple period (Kutscher 1974, 31). Scribes knew the classical biblical system and generated new forms that were unattested in writings from the First Temple period. At times they were guilty of pseudo-classicisms (Joosten 1999). The existence of III-y short forms in Second Temple Period texts does not prove that Hebrew speakers continued to generate short forms in speech. It does prove, however, that they continued to write them.



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1 See also Suchard (2017, 213–17).

2 Richard Steiner (2020) has recently argued that אּת־ in the notoriously difficult אּת־וָהֵבְ בסופָה (Num 21.14) ְis a short ms imperative ‘come!’ from the root את"י.

3 No morphological difference between the infinitive absolute and long form of the ms imperative is expected in hifʿil III-y verbs: both end in - ē. One should also bear in mind that the infinitive absolute overlaps in function with the imperative at the beginning of a clause, e.g., ְזָכ֛ורְ אּת־ ְֹי֨ום השבֶָּת ‘Remember the Sabbath day!’ְ (Exod. 20.8). Those who prefer to analyse העֲלה as an infinitive absolute do so because of parallelism to the infinitive absolute ונָֹתֹן in the continuation of the verse.

4 Like רַוה the form נחֵת, can be taken as a piʿel imperative or infinitive absolute. See n. 2 above.

5 For discussions of politeness strategies in Biblical Hebrew, see, e.g., Estelle (2012) and Morrison (2013). Jenni (2002) proposes a further twist to the politeness strategy and suggests that the speaker adopts the long form when acknowledging the right of the addressee to refuse.

6 According to most biblical scholars, the Pentateuch was the first section of the Hebrew Bible to have crystallized. Therefore one may generally assume that its language is also older than that found in the Prophets and the Writings. This is certainly true when looking at the language of the exilic and post-exilic books. See Fassberg (2012, 173– 74).

7 Signs of the merger of verbs III-ʾ and III-y can be found already in Classical Biblical Hebrew (GKC, 206). The phenomenon increases in the Second Temple period, as seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Kutscher 1974, 343) and particularly Tannaitic Hebrew (Segal 1927, 90). The merger of III-ʾ and III-y is a salient feature of Aramaic.


Steven E. Fassberg (PhD, Harvard University, 1984) is Caspar Levias Professor of Ancient Semitic Languages in the Department of Hebrew Language at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Director of the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies. He is a member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language. His teaching and research have focused on Biblical Hebrew, the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Aramaic dialectology, and Northwest Semitic. His most recent book is An Introduction to the Syntax of Biblical Hebrew (Bialik Institute, 2019).


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