Remember my preference


Table of Contents

  Chapter  1
  Chapter  2
  Chapter  3
  Chapter  4
  Chapter  5
  Chapter  6
  Appendix I
  Appendix II
  Appendix III
  Appendix IV
  Appendix V
  Appendix VI
  Appendix VII
  Appendix VIII
  Appendix IX
  Appendix X
  Appendix XI
  Appendix XII
  Appendix XIII
  Appendix XIV
  Appendix XV
  Appendix XVI
  Appendix XVII
  Appendix XVIII
  Appendix XIX
  Appendix XX
  Appendix XXI
  Biblical References
General Bibliography

                             Chapter 3.


To my knowledge, there is no work in the English language dealing

specifically with the Hebrew verb comparable to that published in

1892 by S. R. Driver entitled, A Treatise on the Hebrew Tenses.

The expanded title as it appears on the first page is, "A Treatise on

the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew and some Other Syntactical Quest-

ions". As might be expected from a man with Driver's scholarship,

the treatment of tenses is thorough and precise, and massively

illustrated with innumerable examples taken from Scripture.

In the present Chapter, our primary concern is with the use of

the pluperfect in Hebrew and we shall not here enter into detailed

consideration of the other tenses, of such questions as the "waw

consecutive", the mode of expressing continuing present action, or

action in the future.   Nor will the philosophy of the Hebrew time-

sense be examined in any depth, remarkable as it is, in spite of the

fact that much of Driver's treatise deals with this aspect of the

subject. All these are of importance for the student of Hebrew, of

course, but they are explored here only to the extent that they con-

tribute to an understanding of the Hebrew use of the pluperfect.


pg 1 of 14       

Suffice it to say that the formal paradigm of the Hebrew verb

presents us with a perfect tense for describing completed action, and

an imperfect tense for describing incomplete action: and these two

tenses are by various means made to serve all the other tenses,

pluperfect, present, and future.    For example, the verb qatal

 ) "to kill" appear sin an appropriate form corresponding to "he

is killing": and it appears in an appropriate form "he is killed". The

verb also has the passive form, "he is being killed" and "he was

killed": and of course there are the usual participles, imperatives,

infinitives, etc., both active and passive.   Unlike English, the

verb has a specific form for the reflexive (which would mean "to kill

oneself, ie. , to commit suicide), as well as an intensive form "to

kill with violence" (ie. , to slaughter), and a causative form, "to have

someone put to death".    Thus in the matter of conjugations the

Hebrew verb is well enough supplied but in the matter of tense, that is

to say of time, Of it is limited to two forms only.

Clearly a single tense form has therefore to serve a much wider

range of meanings than in English. Shades of difference about the

timing in the past or the future do not seem to have been considered

sufficiently important to justify special forms for either a pluperfect

or a future tense. With respect to the latter, it has been suggested

that, like other non-Indo-Europeans, they held the view that to speak

of something which is to occur in the future is unrealistic since one

cannot really be sure about it.   Thus no specific verbal form was

ever "invented" to cover it. It can be a promise or an intention, but

as far as man is concerned it hardly constitutes a fact! With God,

of course, it is quite different. When He says. He will do something

in the future, it IS a fact, and the certainty that it will be done led

the Hebrew writer to use a perfect tense as if it were already a

fait accomplis.   Most divinely originated promises are treated

thus, and the verb is written in a form which is referred to by gram-

marians as the "prophetic perfect".

Brief mention must be made of one odd feature of Hebrew syntax

that has puzzled Indo-European readers since it seems an irrational

procedure.   It is this.   When a sentence or a clause begins with

the conjunction "and" (waw), the verb which immediately follows it

and to which it is joined as a prefix, has its tense converted!   A

perfect is treated as an imperfect and an imperfect as a perfect.

Thus the form for the English, "he is killed", if it happens to have

the waw prefixed to it, is converted as though it were no longer a

perfect and completed action but an imperfect and uncompleted action.

"He killed" becomes "and he is killing" or "and he kills" or even "and


     pg.2 of 14      

he will kill": ie., any one of the uncompleted modes of expression.

This is sometimes referred to by Hebrew scholars as the waw-

conversive" (ie. , waw which converts) and sometimes as the waw -

consecutive" (ie., verb following or consequent to what precedes).

We shall not have occasion to revert to this very much in the present

study except in quoting Driver to show what it can NOT be made to


Now evidently Hebrew writers did feel it desirable to have some

means of distinguishing between the implications of a perfect and a

pluperfect tense.   If there is only one verbal form to cover both

ideas, one necessarily has to adopt some "device" other than changing

the verbal form.    To convey the idea of a pluperfect as distinct

from a perfect, Hebrew writers adopted the practice of deliberately

changing the normal word order of the sentence.   It is this with

which we are primarily concerned in the present chapter.

The normal English sentence, in its simplest form, places the

subject first, the verb next, and the object after the verb. In Latin

the verb is placed at or near the end of the sentence, after both subject

and object.   In Hebrew the normal order is verb first, subject

next, and object after that.   Thus the order is:

In English: "The king appointed his ministers...."

In Latin: "The king his ministers did appoint...."

In Hebrew: "He appointed, did the king, his ministers..."

English, of course, allows changes or departures from the normal

in the interests of emphasis, contrast, euphemy, and by poetic

licence.   Hebrew is remarkably consistent and departs from the

norm with rather less frequency than does the English, though it

makes similar allowances in poetry and adopts rather similar rules

for emphasis or contrast.   In the latter case, it is customary to

place the subject ahead of the verb in order to emphasize a change.

"The king planned this but God determined otherwise" would be a

situation in which the Hebrew writer would place the second subject,

"God", ahead of its verb, the conjunction being read more approp-

riately as a disjunction than a conjunction in such a case. However

even in this kind of situation the Hebrew would not always change the

word order. It really depends upon how great the contrast is felt to

be and whether it is desired to draw special attention to it or not.

The reason for emphasizing this point is that the change of word order

in the sentence, ie., the placing of the subject ahead of the verb in-

stead of the reverse, is a device which happens also to serve the

purpose of converting a perfect into a pluperfect. Thus when

the word order IS changed one has to determine for which cause this


     pg.3 of 14      



has been done, although in some cases it may have been done for

both reasons.

The use of a pluperfect in a narrative has a special importance

because it frequently indicates a hiatus. When the second sentence

is not immediately connected with the one which precedes it, when

the narrator is reverting to an event or a circumstance that in point

of time is to be placed ahead of and distinct from the events recorded

in the subsequent narrative, then it is customary to place the subject

ahead of the verb and it is proper to render the verb as a pluperfect.

It is not the verb form which is changed but the word order; and since

there is disconnection or discontinuity intended by this device, it is

usual to preface the sentence with waw-disjunctive rather than waw-

conjunctive, which in an English translation would mean replacing

the "and" with "but" or "however" or "meanwhile". For example,

in such a sentence as, "The king came to the valley but the enemy

had fled", the Hebrew would place the subject "enemy" ahead of the

verb "fled", thus converting it to a pluperfect "had fled".

In a sentence of this kind, we have a situation in which both contrast

and discontinuity appear in a single context.   There is contrast

because, while the king planned one course of action confidently

looking for an engagement, the enemy had planned otherwise and had

already left in order to avoid one!   The situation is such that the

departure of the enemy was already completed before the king arrived

on the scene – and therefore the context calls for a pluperfect in the

translation.    The conjunction (waw) would properly be rendered a

disjunctive "but" or "however" or some such word, and whether we

look upon the inverted order as signifying contrast or discontinuity

matters little, for both views are equally correct. The context will

usually settle the matter in any case.   In such a sentence as "The

king planned this but the people planned otherwise", the inverted

order would be used to signify contrast primarily, but even here a

pluperfect might not be inappropriate: "but the people had planned

otherwise". Thus, in the present issue, the word order of Gen. 1.2

virtually demands a pluperfect if it is once allowed that the verb  

cannot be taken as a simple copula. "But the earth had become...."

is almost certainly the more appropriate rendering.

Now Driver writes at some length on this point.   In discussing

the usual idiom chosen by Hebrew writers for the purpose of express-

ing a pluperfect, he says: "Their custom, when they wish to do this

is to interpose the subject between the conjunction and the verb  ".

He then draws attention to Pusey's comments on the same subject and

advises the reader to refer to the well-known Lectures on Daniel


     pg.4 of 14      

where Pusey write sat some length on the inverted word order which

he says, "expresses a past time, anterior to what follows but

in no way connected in time with what precedes".

Driver then gives the following series of illustrations from the

Old Testament and comments upon each as indicated.   I have not

quoted his comments directly because his style is such as to demand

that one has read the text which preceded. I have merely summar-

ized his words.   But I have done so without in any way changing

his intended meaning.

Gen. 24.62: "Now, Isaac had come from the way of the well La-

hairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.   And Isaac went out to

meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes and

saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up

her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.....".

The opening verb is to be read as a pluperfect, for here the writer

wishes to combine two streams in his narrative; ie., he has (i) brought

Rebekah to the termination of her journey, but (ii) he also desires to

account for Isaac's presence at the same spot. In order to prepare

the way for their meeting, he is obliged to go back and to detail what

had taken place prior to the stage at which his narrative has arrived:

he therefore starts afresh with the words  (Now + the sub-

ject (Isaac) + the verb, in this order). The whole of verse 62 f.

bears reference to Isaac and the two streams which are terminated

respectively by  (verse 61)and   (verse 62) thus converge

in verse 64 which says, "And she lifted up, did Rebekah, her eyes"


So also in Gen. 31.19: (   ) "Now Laban had gone away to

shear his sheep, when Rachel stole the images that were her father's".

That is to say, the possibility of Rachel stealing the images was a

direct consequence of the fact that Laban had gone away.

To a reader who is unfamiliar with Hebrew, these illustrations

may be difficult to follow precisely, but Driver chose these examples,

among others, simply because they do exactly illustrate the point he

is making: namely, that the first clause is so constructed in the

Hebrew as to convey a pluperfect sense whereas the second clause is

not, and this construction is dependent entirely upon the interposition

of the subject between the conjunction and the verb.

Driver then clarifies the issue somewhat by providing the reader

with a number of biblical illustrations for which he gives the reference

and a key word or two. I have set forth these references much more

fully because probably not too many readers will take the time actually

to look them up - and the force of his observations will thus largely


     pg.5 of 14      

be lost.   I have added a note, where appropriate, relative to the

Revised Standard Version renderings.   Here is his list.

Gen.20.4: But Abimelech had not (actually) come near her.. ..."

The situation here is that Abraham, for fear of being put to death by

Abimelech whom he suspected would want to take his beautiful wife

Sarah, had posed as her brother instead of her husband. According-

ly, Abimelech had treated the supposed brother with extreme favour,

and then taken Sarah off to his palace.... But, as it happens, he had a

dream that came to warn him against his intended action and this

dream occurred providentially before the King "had come near her".

Hence the writer wishes the reader to know, since the narrative is

written in retrospect, that Abimelech meanwhile had not yet actually

abused Sarah - and so, as things turned out, had done her no harm.

It will be noted that both the Authorized Version and the Revised

Standard Version have translated the Hebrew as a pluperfect.

I Sam. 14.27: "Jonathan had not heard" that his father had given

the order forbidding the eating of a certain honeycomb. So Jonathan

disobeyed an order of whose existence he was ignorant. It will be

noted in this instance that the Authorized Version does not observe

the tense indicated by the Hebrew word order, whereas the Revised

Standard Version has done so. It should be underscored that in all

these, as well as in the following cases, the noun precedes the verb.

Num. 13.22: "Now Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan

in Egypt". The very sense of the narrative here would, one might

suppose, guide the translators - even if the Hebrew text did not

provide the clue.    Nevertheless, for some reason neither the

Authorized Version nor the Revised Standard Version translated this

passage correctly. This fact should be sufficient indication, as we

shall have reason to underscore later, that it is not enough in such

matters to appeal to two such standard translations and merely depend

upon how they dealt with the matter. Driver is right: this is quite

clear from the very nature of the context.    The Revised Standard

Version scholars were not sufficiently careful - and the Authorized

Version scholars may not even have been aware of the rule.   Both

mistranslated the text.

Josh. 6.22: "But Joshua had said unto the two men...."

Josh. 18.1: ".... and the land had (already) been subdued before

them". In Josh. 6.22 the Authorized Version observed the rule, the

Revised Standard Version did not. In Josh. 18.1 neither the Auth-

orized Version nor the Revised Standard Version observed it.

I Sam. 9.15: "Now, the evening before Samuel came, the Lord

had told Samuel...."    The Authorized Version and the Revised


     pg.6 of 14      

Standard Version are correct.

I Sam. 25.21: "Now David had said..."     So the Authorized

Version and the Revised Standard Version.

I Sam. 28.3: "Saul had put away all that had familiar spirits".

Both the Revised Standard Version and the Authorized Version obser-

ved the pluperfect here.

II Sam. 18.18: "Now Absalom, in his lifetime, had taken and

reared up a pillar unto himself...."  Both versions agree.

I Ki. 14.5: "Now the Lord had said unto Abijah...."    Here

neither the Authorized Version nor the Revised Standard Version (nor

the Berkeley translation, I notice) have observed the correct sense.

I Ki.22.31: "But the king of Syria had commanded his thirty cap-

tains....".   The Revised Standard Version agrees, but not the

Authorized Version.

II Ki. 7.17; "Meanwhile the king had appointed the lord, on whose

hand he leaned, to have charge of the gate...." This circumstance

was fatal to the king, hence it is a piece of information cast in retro-

spect by way of preparing the reader for what followed. The Revised

Standard Version noted the word order, but the Authorized Version

did not.

II Ki. 9.16: "Meanwhile, Ahaziah, King of Judah, had come down

to see Joram...."   Again, the Revised Standard Version agrees

with, but the Authorized Version has not observed, the rule.

It will be noted that in all these instances the sentence is best

introduced by the disjunctive particle in order to underscore the fact

that there is no immediate connection with what precedes. Driver

sometimes has "and" where I have substituted "but" or "now" or

"meanwhile". The point needs no defending for the Hebrew waw )

which stands at the beginning of each of these references has an almost

unlimited number of meanings,* so that one may adopt the meaning

most suitable to the sense without doing any injustice to the Hebrew


After concluding this list of illustrations, Driver adds that in each

of these passages, by separating the verb from the conjunction and in-

terposing the subject between the two, "the writer cuts the connex-

ion with the immediately preceding narrative, and so suggests a plu-

perfect" (his emphasis).    This is a most significant comment

when applied to Gen. 1.1 and 1.2.




*    See Appendix XIV.


     pg.7 of 14      

In A Resurvey of Hebrew Tenses, Frank R. Blake gives, as one of

the variant meanings of the "perfect" tense form in Hebrew, "a past

perfect (ie., pluperfect)" denoting something more than merely a

completed situation and "occurring normally only in multiple sent-

ences".   As an example, he refers to Gen. 31.33-34.   It will

be noted that the pluperfect element of the sentence, "but Rachel

had taken....", describes a past act which is pictured as having

occurred before Laban came to Rachel's tent.   By analogy, we

should assume, therefore, that the pluperfect is used to describe

something which occurred prior to the events which thereafter form

the main thread of the story. It describes a circumstance ancillary

to the rest of the narrative.   Accordingly, it seems likely that

Gen. 1.2 is ancillary in the same sense to what follows in Gen. 1.3ff.

We come now to an example, given by Driver, of a special kind.

He points out that in the normal course of events, when Ezekiel has

some message from the Lord to declare to his people, he introduces

his remarks with a kind of standard formula. This formula does not

always involve the same words but it does involve the same sentence

structure and word order.   Thus in Ezek.3.22 he says: "And the

hand of the Lord (was) upon me...." (   ). So

also in 8.1 he says, "The hand of the Lord fell upon me....", and in

14.2, "And it came to pass that the word of the Lord (was) unto me

saying...."  So 20.2 - exactly as in 14.2; and so on.

But there is a clear difference when we come to Ezek. 33.22 where

the text has   : ie., "Now the hand of the

Lord had been upon me in the evening".   Strictly speaking,  

should perhaps be rendered "unto me" rather than "upon me" but

there are textual variations and either would be acceptable.   The

point is not important in any case, except that one must be as accurate

as possible - which the Revised Standard Version has not been, as

we shall see. Now Ezekiel's full sentence is: "Now the hand of the

Lord had been upon me in the evening.... before he that had escaped

came to me: and He had opened my mouth until he came to me in the

morning; and my mouth was opened and I was no more dumb".

Thus the sentence opens with a word order which is similar to

that of Gen. 1.2, and the context shows clearly that the pluperfect is

required in order to make the order of events quite obvious to the

reader. And the Revised Standard Version is correct in so far as

it renders the verb in the pluperfect, though for some curious reason

(I can find no MS variant to justify it) the sentence has been rendered,

"Now the WORD (  , not    ) had come upon me the evening

before....".   The use of the substitute word is not serious, of


     pg.8 of 14      

course, for the meaning is clear enough.   Berkeley's version has

correctly translated this passage both as to the verbal form and the

word "hand".

So Driver underscores the fact that in all these cases the word

order is the only way in which Hebrew can indicate a pluperfect tense.

He denies that they could have expressed it in any other way, for he

points out that the normal word order (conjunctive - verb - subject)

"which is recognized by all grammarians, cannot easily be reconciled

with the idea of a pluperfect: for the construction inherent in the one

seems to be just what is excluded by the other.   Under these cir-

cumstances we shall scarcely be wrong in hesitating to admit it

without strong and clear exegetical necessity".   By which, in the

context of his words, he means that the Hebrew has no way of ex-

pressing the pluperfect EXCEPT by an inversion of the word order;

for the construction normally used implies a connection with what

precedes, whereas the inverted word order is to show precisely the

opposite - a disconnection.   In all the illustrations provided, the

intention of the writer is clearly to express what is properly conveyed

only by a pluperfect in English.

If there can be shown to be some other way whereby a Hebrew

writer can express the pluperfect, then the case for a pluperfect is

weakened somewhat in Gen. 1.2.   For one could always argue that

since the mere transposition of word order can, upon occasion, serve

rather for emphasis upon a new subject than to express a pluperfect,

the writer of Gen.1.2, had he really wished to express the pluperfect

without any ambiguity whatever, would have chosen the alternative

unambiguous method. Is there, therefore, any other way in Hebrew

of doing so?   The answer according to Driver is, No.   With his

usual moderation, Driver writes:

"It is a moot and delicate question how far the imperfect

with waw-conversive denotes a pluperfect.    There is, of

course, no doubt that it may express a continuation of a

pluperfect: for example, Gen. 31.34 'had taken and had plac-

ed them....'.   But can the imperfect with waw-consecutive

introduce it? Can it instead of conducting us as usual to a

succeeding act, lead us back to one which is chronologically

anterior? The imperfect with waw-consecutive is.... cert-

ainly not the usual idiom chosen by Hebrew writers for the

purpose of expressing a pluperfect: their usual habit, when

they wish to do so, is to interpose the subject between the

conjunction and the verb, which then lapses into the perfect, a


     pg.9 of 14      

form which we know allows scope for a pluperfect signif-


Driver uses the word allows rather than demands (his emphasis

throughout) because, as he has already pointed out, it may be simply

a means of giving contrasting emphasis against what preceded.

Now Driver was well aware that quite a few Hebraists were in the

habit of translating the simple waw-consecutive as though it were a

pluperfect, a practice which is to be observed also in a number of

cases in the Authorized Version.   This he feels is unwarranted.

He therefore proceeds to examine with care the supposed examples

as set forth by Kalisch (Gen.2.2; 26.18; Exod. 11.1), by Ibn Ezra

(Gen.4.23), by Keil (Gen.3.19, 22), by Hitzig (Isa.8.3; 39.1; Jer.

39.11; Jonah 2.4).   He also lists from Keil Gen. 2.19; I Ki.7.13

and 9.14, and from Delitzsch Isa.37.5.   Following this, certain

other passages from Ibn Ezra are cited.

After giving due attention to all the references listed, ie., those

above and some others cited by Jewish grammarians, Driver con-

cludes: "Such are the passages from which our conclusion has to

be drawn".   He sums up the situation by saying:

"All that a careful scholar like Mr.Wright (Lectures on

the Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages,1890)

can bring himself to admit with reference to the pluperfect

sense of any other construction than that of word order in-

version, is that while 'no clear instances can be cited in which

it is distinctly so used', there are cases in which 'something

like an approximation to that signification can be detected'.

And it is rejected unreservedly by Bottcher, Quarry, Pusey,

and Dillman."

Moreover, he notes that in the Revised Version the wrongly used

pluperfect renderings of the Authorized Version have normally been


It is reasonably certain, therefore, that word order inversion is

intended to direct the reader's attention to this chronological dis-

connection. It will be observed only otherwise in the case of poetry

and for contrast.    Since Genesis is not written as poetry in our

Massoretic text (whatever may be argued out of a desire to label it as

some kind of poetic allegory), one is left with no alternative but that

either the writer deliberately meant to separate the two verses and

to give the sense of a pluperfect or that he meant to effect a clear

contrast. And since the latter virtually always is indicated by the

introduction of a new subject to the verb, a circumstance not applic-

able in this instance, we really have no alternative but to render the


     pg.10 of 14      

verb "had become".

Some of those whom Driver quotes to the contrary drew their

support from Jewish grammarians. But on this point Driver writes:

"The authority of the Jewish grammarians, strange as it

may seem to say so, must not be pressed; for although they

have left works which mark an era in the development of

Hebrew grammar, and are of inestimable value for purposes

of exegesis, still their syntactical no less than their phonetic

principles have always to be adopted with caution, or even

to be rejected altogether. Their grammar is not the system-

atization of a living tradition, it is a reconstruction as much

as that of Gesenius or Ewald or Philippi, but often unfortun-

ately without a sound basis in logic or philology.    And a

question such as that now before us is just one upon which

their judgment would be particularly liable to be at fault."

In summary, therefore. Driver's position is that if the usual word

order ".... expressive of the smooth and unbroken succession of

events one after another is naturally abandoned as being alien to the

relation that has now to be represented.... the subject of the cir-

cumstantial clause is placed first" (emphasis his). Thus, we really

have a pretty firm rule, an almost open and shut case.*

Contrary to my own view in this instance, Edward J. Young, in

his excellent little book on Genesis One, has expressed the opinion

that this is an inverted word order because the author really did

intend to lay emphasis on the subject "the earth". He believes, in

fact, that this is a description of the earth as it came from the hand

of the Creator, and that the writer wished to convey to the reader

the idea that it was merely a condition pending further creative




*      I have been able to find only one possible exception:

Gen. 12.1 and 4: "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee

out....       So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto

him".      In neither instance is the word order inverted.

The Revised Standard Version seems, therefore, to have been

guided correctly in their rendering of verse 1 as "Now the

Lord said to Abram....", but not in verse 4 which they ren-

der as the Authorized Version does.    Neither Version has

observed the rule in verse 4.


     pg.11 of 14      

activity and on this account emphasis was used to draw the reader's

particular attention to what was to follow.   As he puts it, "Verse

2 states the condition of the earth as it was when created and until

God began to form from it the present world".   Young proposes

that the idea of emphasis has been picked up by the Septuagint which

has  , ie., "But the earth...."    However, of this word

  , Thayer remarks that it is a "participle adversative, distinctive,

disjunctive".   In a later paragraph he says, "It serves to make a

transition to something new, .... the new addition is distinguished

from and, as it were, opposed to what goes before".   This is how

the Septuagint seems to have understood the waw of verse 2 which

is, unfortunately, in virtually all English Versions rendered im-

properly as a con-junctive.

If the heavens and the earth were created a Cosmos, and if the

earth subsequently became a Chaos, we have just such a situation

as demands the construction that appears in the Hebrew of verse 2.

But Professor Young feels that God did not begin creation with a

Cosmos but with a Chaos ("Chaos", that is, in the classical Greek

sense of an "unformed" thing), a view which to my mind contradicts

the basic meaning of the Hebrew word   (create) in verse 1.

It is possible, of course, to read the pluperfect of the verb "to be"

as had been.    Thus Gen. 1.2 might have been rendered "But the

earth had been a desolation.... etc.".   However, I think the im-

plications of such a rendering would be of questionable validity.   In

his book The Semantics of Biblical Language, Professor Barr of

the University of Edinburgh has stated that the verb   used in

Gen. 1.2 because the intention of the writer is that "the earth was

waste and is no longer so".   Certainly this could be a truth; but

one wonders whether it is the truth the author had in mind when he

penned Gen. 1.2. And I think, personally, that it is equally doubtful

whether he meant that "the earth had been waste - but was no longer

so".   Altogether, the least strain is placed upon the original by

rendering the verb   simply as "had become", a rendering which

accords well with the position it occupies in the sentence and with

general usage of the verb elsewhere.

We have mentioned that Driver makes reference to Dr. Pusey in

connection with this question. Pusey, in his Lectures on Daniel,

wrote in several places on the subject.   In his Introduction, for

example, he says, "The insertion of the verb  has no force at all

unless it be used to express what was the condition of the earth in the

past, previous to the rest of the narrative, but in no conn-

ection at all with what preceded", I have already quoted a pass-


     pg.12 of 14    

age very much like this one, but Pusey's reiteration of the principle

involved serves here as an introduction to his much fuller treatment

of the circumstances surrounding the use of the pluperfect in Hebrew

which occurs somewhat later in his work on Daniel. Thus he says


"There are cases in which words arranged as they are

here* (the subject being placed before the verb    and joined

with the preceding 'and') form a parenthesis. But then the

context makes this quite clear."

He then says: "The idiom chiefly adopted in narrative to detach

what follows from what precedes, is that which is here employed,

viz: the placing of the subject first and then the past verb".

Then he lists the following references as illustrations: Gen. 3.1

which introduces what follows but is unconnected with the preceding;

Gen.36.12; Jud.11.1; I Sam.3.1; II Ki.3.4; II Ki.5.1; II Ki.7, 3;

Num.32.1; Jud.20.38; Gen.41.56; Ezek.33.21; and I Ki.14.30.

Since these references (with one exception) do not duplicate the series

given in illustration of the same point by Driver, it will be worth

looking at each one briefly.

Gen. 3.1: "Now the serpent had become more subtle...."

Gen. 36.12: "Meanwhile Timna had become concubine to Eliphaz"

Jud. 11.1: "Meanwhile Jepthah had become a mighty man...."

I Sam. 3.1: "Now the word of the Lord had become precious in

those days...."

II Ki.3.4: "Now Mesha, King of Moab, had become a sheep mas-

ter.... "

II Ki.5.1; "Now Naaman had become a great man".

II Ki. 7.3: "Now four lepers had come to be there".

Num. 32.1: "Now great wealth had come to the children of Reuben".

Jud.20.38: "And an appointed sign had been (arranged) by the

men of Israel" (a construction very similar to that of


Gen. 41.56: "Now the famine had come to be over the face of the

whole earth" (repeating a fact, antecedent to the com-

mand of Pharaoh).




*   He is referring to Gen.1.2.


     pg.13 of 14      



Ezek.33.21: "And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our capt-

ivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month,

that one who had escaped out of Jerusalem came to me

saying, The City is smitten!   Now the hand of the

Lord had been upon me in the evening before that he

that escaped had come, and had opened my mouth...."

I Ki.14.30: "Now there had been a war between Rehoboam and

Jeroboam...." (a construction very similar to that

of Gen. 1.2).

In all these instances, as with those in Driver's list, the word

order bears out the essential point being made - namely, that the

verb should be translated as a pluperfect, lending strong support to

the view that the best sense of the original Hebrew of Gen. 1.2 is that

which results from rendering    as "had become" rather than "was".

Thus, in summary, we have three situations involving the verb

"to be" in English which are handled by Hebrew in different ways.

The verb may be omitted: the verb may be included and placed at

the head of the sentence - which is usual: and the verb may be in-

cluded and placed after its subject.

In the first instance, the sense is purely copulative.   In the

second, the meaning is "to come to pass", "to happen", "to become"

and "to be" in the sense of existing or living. In the third, the tense

is pluperfect; "had been" or "had happened" or "had become".

The instances illustrating the first or simple copulative use are

legion, every page of the English Bible revealing many straightfor-

ward examples, such as "Darkness (was) upon the face of the deep" or

"And God saw that it (was) good" - in each of which the verb is omitted.

By way of illustrating the second, we may cite: "Cain became a

tiller of the soil", "Eve became the mother of all living", "Lot's wife

became a pillar of salt", "And it became light", "And it became a

custom in Israel", etc., etc.

Of the third usage, we may cite such passages as: "Now the

serpent had become more subtle"; "Now Nineveh had become a great

city"; "Now Nimrod had become a mighty hunter"; and, in my view

of course, "Now the earth had become a ruin and a desolation".*




*      In Appendix XV will be found further illustrations

from the Old Testament which show that the use of an in-

verted word order to express the pluperfect is by no means

a rare circumstance but occurs quite frequently.


     pg.14 of 14      


  Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved


Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter