Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Syntax of 2 Ki 23:3?

This post belongs in the category "pernickety Hebrew grammar questions."

In 2 Ki 23:3 we have a verb (כָּרַת, in green) and a string of three infinitive constructs with ל (in red below):

וַיִּכְרֹ֥ת אֶֽת־הַבְּרִ֣ית׀ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֗ה לָלֶ֜כֶת אַחַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ וְלִשְׁמֹ֨ר מִצְוֹתָ֜יו ... בְּכָל־לֵ֣ב
...לְהָקִ֗ים אֶת־דִּבְרֵי֙ הַבְּרִ֣ית הַזֹּ֔את

Most of the translations I'm aware of translate each infinitive construct as expressing the purpose of the making of the covenant. Thus, the ESV reads:

"and [he] made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments ... with all his heart ... , to perform the words of this covenant."

A distinction, however, is made between the last infinitive ("to perform") and the previous two by the insertion of a comma. The NIV goes its own way by translating it as "thus confirming." The NRSV translates the second infinitive as a gerund "keeping," again introducing a distinction for the last infinitive.

When I first read this sentence, I thought that all three infinitives equally expressed the purpose of the forming of the covenant. However, the Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker analysis tags the first two infinitives as "object complements" (i.e. they "complete" the object of the verb "covenant") whereas the final infinitive is set apart as expressing the "aim" of the verb. To me, this would mean that walking after the Lord and keeping his commandments represent the content of the covenant whereas performing the the words represents goal of the covenant. It would also mean that "the words of the covenant" does not refer to words in addition to the commandments, witnesses etc., but is rather a summary of such things (which is typically Deuteronomistic, by the way).

If that is right, it would seem that the NIV's translation, unique as it is, is better than the others (though I would translate "thus performing" rather than "thus confirming"). The Elberfelder also makes the distinction by inserting the word "um": "und schloß den Bund ... dem HERRN nachzufolgen und seine Gebote ... zu bewahren ... , um die Worte dieses Bundes zu erfüllen."

Two questions:

1) how would you translate it?
2) how is לְהָקִ֗ים set apart from the other infinitives? Is it just the semantics of the clause, or are there syntactic indications (e.g. there is no waw beforehand)?

1 comment:

Bob MacDonald said...

How nice to see a question on someone else's blog - have you tried a question on Joel Hoffman's about page - he has some lovely answers. This is more than a string of a bunch of things together. Are they a list of similar things, or does one summarize the others? It's the Sesame Street game - one of these things is not like the others. And in this case it differs materially. The first two are qualified and have specific objects related to the people's hearing (shades of Psalm 119). But it seems to me that the final infinitive does more than sum up the other two because the verbal human side of the covenant is from hearing, but the final infinitive is pointing to the written book.

The verse also has a double envelope. 'berit' acts as inner envelope and 'stand' as outer envelope.

And the king stood by the standing pillar.
And he made a covenant in the presence of יְהוָה to follow יְהוָה and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes in every thought and in every action in order to carry out the words of this covenant, those written in that book.
And every one of the people stood in the covenant.

These are a few first thoughts - I learn - I don't really translate!