From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Mon Mar 31 1997 - 17:21:40 EST

Dear Lee,

Lee R. Martins wrote 19.03.97:

<the aspect of the vayyqtl is not the issue in Josh. 7:6;
<rather the Aktionsart of NaFaL is the problem. Is it
<possible that the Aktionsart of NaFaL is different from the
<English "fall," so that NaFaL can mean either "fall" or
<"lay prostrate?" Compare Judges 16:3 and the verb ShaKaB:
<"Samson lay (vayyqtl) until midnight." ShaKaB can also be
<bounded "to lie down" (Ruth 3:4). The nature of the verbal
<idea lends itself such a double Aktionsart. See Judges 5:27
<where both verbs are used.

Communication is that the sender by help of words conveys
the thoughts of his mind to the receiver. Words may however,
be ambiguous, so they serve as semantic signals, which must
be interpreted by the receiver, rather than fixed semantic
entities. A word represents a concept in the mind of the
sender, and by help of the context the receiver may be able
to ascertain which side of this concept that is made visible
through the word.
The concept behind the substantive `world` has to do with
the human family. In the following quotes three `sides` are
visible: (1) The whole human family, John 3:16; (2) The
humans outside the Christian church, John 17:14; (3) The
environment in which the human family lives, John 16:21 (See
thread `Sign, sense, concept and reference` february/march

The context also helps to find which side of the concept
that is made visible by a verb, but here the situation is
more complex, because there is another factor which sole
purpose is to make a part of the verbal action visible,
namely the aspect. So how can we ascertain the interplay
between lexis and aspect? The two Hebrew verbs mentioned by
Lee and their Greek equivalents are excellent examples,
because they complement one another.

NaFaL-PIPTW (= fall) is an act and signifies a downward
movement; only by implication can we add the notion of
lieing at rest. I have found no clearcut example with the
lexical meaning lie down/ lie prostrate. ShaKaB-KEIMAI
(=lie) is a state, and only by implication can we add the
notion of an act causing the state. Many verbs can be used
in a stative sense one time and as an action another time,
but one verb can hardly have both meanings at the same time.
To combine both the act and the state or to focus opon
something which only is implied by the lexical meaning,
aspects may be used. A perfective aspect combined with a
state may for instance give an inceptive meaning (not
bounded), as your example with Ruth 3:4 (LXX has future
passive) (Hebrew Hiphil (causative) may with ShaKaB focus on
the act of placing something somewhere. Greek uses aorist
with the same focus, 1 Ki 3:20;17:19; 2 Ki 4:21, 2 Chr
16:14). An imperfective aspect with a punctual or momentary
act may focus both on the act and the following state, as in
Joshua 7:6, the passage under discussion.

I made a study of the 408 occurrences of Hebrew NaFaL and
the LXX equivalents, and I think this material confirm the
claim that not lexis but only the imperfective aspect or
the participle may make visible both the act and the
resulting state.


There are 46 examples of NaFaL as ACTIVE PARTICIPLE. Of
particular interest are those occuring in past contexts. We
find the following translations in LXX:

(1) PERF ACT PART (singular subjects, Num 5:21, Deut 21:1,
Josh 7:10, Judg 3:25; 4:22; 19:27; 1 Sam 5:3,4), ( plural
subjects, Deut 22:4; Judg 8:10; 20:46; 1 Sam 31:8; 2 Ki
25:11; Ezek 32:22,23,24,27; 1 Chr 10:8; 20:24), (All
examples with PIPTW except Num 5:21 which has DIAPIPTW).
(2) PRES MID PART Ezra 10:1 (Hithpael)
(3) AOR ACT PART Josh 8:25, 1 Ki 20:25
(4) PERF ACT IND Esther 7:8
(6) PRES ACT IND Gen 15:12 (the H perfect of the verse is
translated by aor act ind)
Jer 38:26 (LXX 46:26 RIPTW)
(7) PRES MID IND Dan 9:20 (Hiphil)

There are 123 examples of H imperfect, and most of them
refer to the future. Examples with past meaning and LXX

(2) FUT ACT IND Is 26:18

There are 136 examples of H perfect, and at least 45 of
these have future meaning.
Two possible examples of stative meaning:
Gen 25:18 aor ind act KATOIKEW
Ex 21:18 aor pass sub KATAKLINW

There are 103 examples of imperfect consecutive. Most of
them are translated by aorist, but there are other very
interesting renderings:
(1) PRES ACT IND Ezek 1:28; 3:23; 9:8; 11:13; 43:3; 44:4 ;
1 Sam 31:1; 2 Sam 2:16, 23 /the renderings of the verbs in v
23 is particularly strange/.
(2) FUT MID IND Gen 49:17; 2 Sam 22:39; Ps 7:16
(3) AOR ACT PART Gen 45:14; 50:1; Job 1:20


(1) From our modern point of view it is strange that about
10% of the occurrences of thee verb NaFaL occur as
participles. With singular subjects a participle must either
indicate that the verb has inner constituency (not being
punctiliar) or that a continuing state follows.
The fact that 19 of these are translated by Greek perfect
participle, shows that the translators took the H participle
as indicating an act followed by a state (stressing the
state). The 6 examples of H imperfect consecutive in Ezekiel
(occurring between aorists!) which are rendered by G
present, also suggest the same view, and the same is true
with the other three examples of present renderings of the
imperfect consecutives.

(2) There can be no doubt that NaFaL in Josh 7:6 indicates
an action (Joshua fell on his face to the earth /NB he
locale/) resulting in a state ( and lay prostrate until the
evening). In view of the fact that two mechanisms of
visibility works on a verb, a lexical meaning of both an act
and a state in the same event must be demonstrated by H
perfect. The normal renderings are as in 2 Ki 25:11 (H
perfect= G aorist, H act part= G perf part).
The nonexistence of perfect participles as translations of
NaFaL perfect (except in Jer 45:19 where FEUGW is used)
confirms this. I found only two possible candidates of H
perfect of NaFaL (listed above) which MAY indicate states,
but they are not decisive (See Fanning p 114- on
aspect/lexical meaning).

(3) If we compare the 19 occurrences of G perf part with the
English tense system, what do we find? They are not present
perfects (have/are fallen), neither are they future perfects
(will have fallen) nor pluperfects (had fallen). But they
are `narrative` perfects, indicating an event in the past,
resulting in a state in the past (sometimes even holding at
`present`). Discarding the view that H imperfect consecutive
is perfective we get several hundred or even mora than a
thousand past events with imperfective punctiliar verbs (
MUT= die has 179 such events (action resulting in a state)
compared with 151 perfective ones). The LXX translators
often did not understand this. In Job 3:11 the H imperfect
of MUT and a synonym are rendered by aorists.

(4) The thoughts above may also add a new element to the
discussion of the nature of Greek perfect. In the H verbal
system, we find two opposing (equipollent) aspects, and
inside the imperfective aspect we find hundreds of events
where the end is reached, but still they are viewed as open
because the resultant state continues. The difference being
that these are `narrative perfects` while the Greek perfects
basically are present perfects. I do not believe that the
Greeks got their verbal system from the Hebrews, but such a
use of the imperfective aspect as the H one should at least
cause some reflection of a possible imperfective influence
on G perfect.

The conclusion is that all the meaning of a verb is
contained in its lexical form but aspect may focus on a
certain part of this meaning or even on an implicature of
that meaning.


Rolf Furuli
Ph.D candidate in Semitic languages
University of Oslo

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