Page images

to the predominance of experience or faith founded


the past, or of hope, fear, or desire in reference to the future.

In respect to the relative forms, the author makes every thing to depend upon a right understanding of the leading tense. Being in their nature merely consecutive, they are to be regarded as past, present, or future, according to the time of the principal verb to which they stand related. Careful attention must here be given to the rules laid down by the author, in order to a proper appreciation of the truth of his theory. But, there is one difficulty in respect to the relative future or Bup; form which we do not think is sufficiently explained. He regards it as inversely analogous to the relative past. To be completely so, however, it should represent a future nearer to the actual present than the leading verb; that is, a future to which this leading verb is still more remotely future. There are doubtless many cases to which this view of the matter would be applicable, and in which the particle Vau may be rendered by the connective when, denoting that the verb to which it is prefixed, although subsequent in the order of construction, either actually precedes the other in time, or is simultaneous; being brought in by way of explanation, or as constituting the cause, of which the preceding verb denotes the effect. Thus, Then shalt thou delight (ason) thyself in the Lord, and I will feed ( 7mx?;) thee with the inheritance of Jacob (as it is in our translation), would be better rendered: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, when I shall have fed thee with the inheritance of Jacob. Is

. 58: 14. The majority of cases, however, will not submit to this explanation." The relative future will often be found to be strictly consecutive. Why then should not the open form be used to denote succession in the future, as well as in the past, since this is its natural office, and since it depends for its actual time on the leading verb? The truth is, that it is often used in this manner, when, as our author tells us, the succession of future events is to be set forth with great emphasis and solemnity, as: I will call thee in righteousness, and I will hold thee by the hand, just as we repeat the auxiliary will in like cases. But in ordinary predictions, there seems to be a propriety in the avoidance of the bispo form, in consequence of its being constantly used to denote the succession of past events. On this account, for the prevention of ambiguity, there seems to be a change to an apparently opposite mode, and hence the origin of the bopy form or relative future.

[ocr errors]

“If a clause,” says our author, commence with


other word"(than Vau), the connection is broken, and the absolute form is again made use of.” The spirit of his whole grammar has produced in us such a habit of seeking for reasons, and given us such an aversion to regard any thing in the syntax of a language as arbitrary, that we feel as though he should have gone farther, and not simply have referred to the change of expression, but have given us the reason on which it is founded. May it not be that in such cases, the use of the consecutive future or relative past would not have conveyed the meaning intended; which may have been to express simultaneous acts, or parts forming a whole, instead of consecutive events ? As, in the example given : And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night, there is evidently but one act of calling, although consisting of two parts, such as we could express by one verb; and he called the light day, and the darkness night. But suppose would it not have represented them as consecutive, instead of concurrent parts of one great act ? Whether the same explanation would apply to all similar cases, we are not prepared to say. Sometimes the descriptive may have been adopted instead of the narrative style, and events may have been conceived of, as passing together before the mind, although actually consecutive. Had the author given his attention to this point, his investigations would doubtless have resulted in a certain and satisfactory rule. *

,וַיִּקְרָא לָאוֹר יוֹם וַיִּקְרָא לַהעֶךְ לָיְלָה the Hebrew had been thus

After the general statement of the nature of the absolute and

* Some examples of this kind seem very much to resemble the change in Greek from a series of consecutive aorists to the imperfect. There is in both cases a stoppage in the flow of the time, a going back, or a recapitulation and bringing up, of some event which was coextensive with all that were mentioned before. And they took (179??) Absalom, and (after that) they cast him (wa) into a pit, and after that) they placed upon him (+5xa) a heap of stones ; (70; bor-377) and all Israel

relative forms, the various modifications which arise from them are clearly set forth. A general proposition, which always holds true, is expressed in other languages by a present or an aorist. In Hebrew, the past or future is used, according as it is regarded as a maxim founded upon experience, or an inference of necessary consequences. We have another modification in what may be styled the habitual future, denoting habitual or constantly repeated acts. This is evidently an elliptical substitution for a more extended phraseology, which, if given in full, and with the repetitions which are peculiar to the Hebrew, would consist of a series of consecutive futures depending on a leading preterite. In the full expression, the future form being predominant, in the ellipsis, it is put for the whole.

Besides the bop form the author admits of a species of relative past, not depending on a leading preterite, but on a particle of time, such as Te, , 7 etc. It is regarded as substantially the same with the ordinary relative past; the particle of time standing in the place of the leading verb, so as to commence an order of succession without the connecting Vau. Cases, however, yet remain, in which the future, although apparently absolute and unconnected with any stand-point of either kind, seems to denote a past, and can hardly be rendered otherwise, without a harsh violation of the context. We are told that in such examples, “the narrator speaks of an action that has already taken place as passing before his mind; in which case he employs the future form with the force of the present.” This explanation does not seem satisfactory, or, rather, it does not go far enough. It opens the door to arbitrary exceptions in a system, otherwise completely guarded against them. It seems to countenance a theory to which our author is opposed, viz. that what is commonly styled the future is primarily and radically a present. It does not explain why in those cases there is often a mixture of preterites. Would it not be more in accordance with the whole spirit of our author's theory, to regard such cases as really expressing a species of past futurity; or as examples of the relative past, in respect to which the stand-point is neither in a leading verb, nor in a particle of time, but is to be assumed as

in words of another language, yet the mind may acquire the habit in silent reading of thus connecting the form with a conception so modified ; and it does seem to us, that by such a process, the Hebrew poetry is invested with a power, a life and beauty which can be realized in no other way.

We would illustrate our meaning by a reference to the vision of Eliphaz, Job 4: 13. Most of the verbs here are preterites. They are mingled, however, with three futures. In the ordinary version all are alike regarded as past. Although necessity may compel us thus to render them in a concise and plain translation, we contend that the reader of the original ought to vary his conception, in the case of the three futures, and to feel that the writer intended such variation instead of a mere arbitrary change of expression. It should be regarded not as the future used for the present, and then that present used for the past, whilst preterites are strangely mingled in the description, but as a carrying back of the mind in medias res—to a point at which some of the feelings, which go to make up the compound emotion, partake of the characters of experience, and others, of fear or apprehension. In such cases, events are not so much narrated or described, as the state of soul which sulted from, or existed in anticipation of them. In the passage selected, the scene opens with the period, when the first mysterious presentiment of the approaching vision was coming upon the narrator. This is expressed by the future. It was stealing upon me (=p3:), or it was about to steal upon me, and mine ear received a hint (or whisper) thereof. His bodily state is described by preterites: Fear came upon me and trembling which made all my bones to shake. A return to the vision itself, and to the mention of the approaching spirit, arouses the feeling of apprehension or foreboding fear, and the tense, true to the subjective state of the soul, changes to the future. A spirit was about to flit (932) before my face, the hair of my flesh began to rise ; it was about to assume a form (or position Toya), yet I could not discern its appearance ; an image was before mine eyes, and I heard a voice, &c. Job 4: 13. This seems to be in accordance

with the idea of Jarchi in a note which the author has given on

lar example may be given from Ps. 107: 4. They wandered (37) in the wilderness, &c.; their soul was on the point of being overwhelmed (opnn). So also, in the language of prophecy, a most exquisite beauty is sometimes conferred upon a passage, by thus taking a position in medias res, from which the soul views events as at the same time advancing and receding. Joy and gladness shall overtake them (77272), sorrow and sighing have fled away (+b). Is. 51: 41. We fully believe that these views result directly from the principles laid down by our author, and that when properly applied, they leave but very

few apparent anomalies in the use of the Hebrew tenses, that will not readily admit of an easy and satisfactory solution.

There is an immense advantage derived to the reader from this habit, into which our author leads him, of viewing the Hebrew poetry, not so much as setting forth events, as the narrator's feelings in reference to them. We are too much in the habit of regarding the Psalms and other devotional parts of the Bible, as a record of the past devout feelings of others, rather than as those into which we ourselves are called to enter. The church has too much neglected them as liturgical exercises, applicable to all times and circumstances. The Psalms express, not merely the hopes and fears and prayers of David, but of the Head of the church while on earth, and through him of its members until the end of time. In reference to such a use of them, nothing can be more valuable than those views of our author, which seem to pervade every part of his work, and to form its actuating spirit.

In a highly commendatory review of the first volume, an objection is made to the names which the author has applied to the tenses. It is contended, in accordance with the theory of Professor Lee of Cambridge, that what has heretofore been universally called the Hebrew future is, in reality, a present, and that its frequent use as a future is only a secondary application. Notwithstanding many plausible arguments for this view, drawn from the analogy of other languages, we are still inclined to the old nomenclature which our author retains. Although the other presents a plausible solution of some apparent difficulties, it leaves many others entirely unexplained. We can only here allude briefly to the objections, and state what appear to us the corresponding answers. It is true, that in the occidental tongues the present has more the appearance of an original tense than the future; but it should be borne in mind, that in those lan

« PreviousContinue »