A Hebrew Idiom -- By: Charles Eugene Edwards

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 090:358 (Apr 1933)
Article: A Hebrew Idiom
Author: Charles Eugene Edwards


A Hebrew Idiom

Charles Eugene Edwards

In his commentary on Matthew, D. J. A. Alexander refers to a Hebrew idiom (p. 408) “which combines a finite tense and an infinitive of the same verb to express intensity, repetition, certainty, or any other accessory notion not belonging to the essential import of the verb itself”. An illustration is in Is. 6:9, which is more literally quoted in Matt. 13:14, “Hearing ye shall hear”, and “seeing ye shall see”. And Dr. Alexander remarks, (p. 358) “The Hebrew idiom is retained, which uses two forms of the same verb for intensity or more exact specification”. Too literal a translation might sometimes be barbarous or absurd. For example, Joseph never meant to say (Gen. 40:15) “For stealing I was stolen but as it is properly rendered, “For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews”.

Often the margin gives a literal translation of this idiom; and sometimes the repetition appears in the text, and as Gesenius remarks, in connection with verbs of going (See 2 Sam. 15:30), “they went up, weeping as they went up”. Is. 3:16, “walking and mincing as they go”. 2 Kings 2:11, “as they still went on and talked”. 1 Sam. 6:12, “went along the highway, lowing as they went”. See also 2 Sam. 16:5 and Ezek. 38:7. At the close of this article a list of some of the renderings for this idiom is given, where scores of different adverbs are quoted, all of them used for one and the same Hebrew idiom, introduced, and wisely so, by translators. They reveal a wealth of diction, and skill and faithfulness in translating. And all these adverbial additions are lacking in the original, as some of the literal marginal renderings indicate. But while additions inserted by translators are clearly shown to the reader by means of italics, all these adverbs are printed in the usual type, excepting Judg. 9:8, in Jotham’s parable, “The trees went forth on a time”. The question occurs, why not use italics for these adverbial additions? If the argument is valid for the use of italics, why not use them

in connection with the additions to this idiom? Among the most frequent of these adverbs are, “surely”, “certainly” and their synonyms; and doubtless all those most commonly used are in t...

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