Abram’s Persistent Faith: Hebrew Verb Semantics In Genesis 15:6 -- By: Max Rogland

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 70:2 (Fall 2008)
Article: Abram’s Persistent Faith: Hebrew Verb Semantics In Genesis 15:6
Author: Max Rogland

Abram’s Persistent Faith:
Hebrew Verb Semantics In Genesis 15:6

Max Rogland

Max Rogland is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Erskine Theological Seminary in Columbia, S.C., and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

The purpose of this study is to draw attention to the significance of the Hebrew verbal forms used in Gen 15:6, והאמן ביהוה ויחשבה לו צדקה , a verse which is typically rendered along the lines of the English Standard Version: “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”1 Such a rendering of the verb ויחשבהis very fitting, as wayyiqtol (the so-called “waw-consecutive imperfect”) is used throughout OT narrative to indicate the simple or “non-imperfective” past.2 It will be argued here, however, that the weqatal form expresses repeated activity (i.e., an “imperfective” situation) and that והאמןwould be more accurately translated as “and he kept believing” rather than “and he believed.”

The “waw-consecutive perfect” or weqatal form was a productive member of the Biblical Hebrew verbal paradigm with a range of different functions. When referring to past situations, weqatal indicates various kinds of imperfective situations, in contrast to the qatal form, which marks a non-imperfective past tense.3 Thus, for example, the weqatal form is used to describe an activity that occurred repeatedly:4

Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing (ושמע) all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. (1 Sam 2:22)

In other instances, this “iterative” or “frequentative” use of wᵉqatal is extended to activities that occurred habitually or customari...

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