Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tears and Kisses 2 - Ruth 1:10-14

This is part 4 of the story of Ruth being used as an aid to finding grammatical forms in context of a close reading of the story. Note these are my annotations of grammatical forms and surmises on meaning - and I may be mixed up.
 וַתֹּאמַרְנָה-לָּהּ כִּי-אִתָּךְ נָשׁוּב לְעַמֵּךְ
vatomarna-lah ki-attak nashuv l`imek
and they said to her for with you we will return to your people

We have heard pronomial suffixes and here we note (though this has occurred already in the story) that pronouns attach to prepositions also. לָּהּ to her, אִתָּךְ with you. There are more to come in these 5 verses - hear them as we go. You will remember we started this story several months ago while round a campfire. The fire may have died down, but perk up, hear the original tongue and the story and its grammar too will sink in. (I restore an approximate transliteration to help with hearing.)

וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי שׁבְנָה בְנֹתַי לָמָּה תֵלַכְנָה עִמִּי
va-tomer na`omi: shovnah vanotai. lamah telaknah imi?
and Naomi said: turn back my daughters. Why would you go with me?

Imperative turn back and modal go following the interrogative lamah. It is the opposite order of these verbs to Naomi's initial plea in verse 8: לֵכְנָה שֹּׁבְנָה

הַעוֹד-לִי בָנִים בְּמֵעַי וְהָיוּ לָכֶם לַאֲנָשִׁים
ha`od-li vanaim bemei`ai lakem la'anoshim?
are there yet to me sons in my body that they might become husbands for you?

Another masculine plural ending (lakem) with feminine subject (or archaic feminine dual). Sons become husbands for wives who are childless through the living brother's taking responsibility to raise up children. The nature of this speech by Naomi is either comic or bitter. Would in fact the children of another father qualify in any case? Perhaps Ruth as story is undermining this tribal custom for as we will see, the near kinsman declines lest he damage his own children's inheritance and Boaz does not qualify as a brother either - though in claiming that relationship, he both undermines it and redefines it, perhaps eliminating the cause of casuistry.

שֹׁבְנָה בְנֹתַי לֵכְןָ כִּי זָקַנְתִּי מִהְיוֹת לְאִישׁ
shovnah vanotai, lekna, ki zaqanti mihyot l'ish
turn back my daughters, go, for I am too old to have a husband

Repeated imperatives - again opposite in order to verse 8. (Note the missing letter from לֵכְןָ - compare vs 8 לֵכְנָה). And the infinitive of 'to be' preceded by a mem (from) and used as a noun, and in construct form with the next noun, itself preceded by a lamed. Hebrew can string just about anything together to make a phrase of the form a of b. And it seems that the preposition 'to' is often used following a form of the verb 'to be'. (I may have to revise this observation - see Putnam chapters 15 and 16 where I can't find this example exactly).

כִּי אָמַרְתִּי יֶשׁ-לִי תִקְוָה גַּם הָיִיתִי הַלַּיְלָה לְאִישׁ וְגַם יָלַדְתִּי בָנִים
ki 'amarti yesh-li tikvah gam haiyiti halailah l'ish vgam yaladtu vanim
for had I said there is hope for me even if I had tonight a husband and even I bore sons?

Tone of voice indicate a question. She is straining credulity, as if to ask if there is any use at all for the Torah concerning brother-marriage for her. הָיִיתִי - haiyiti is first common singular form of Qal perfect - rendered here as conditional pluperfect, I had, in English - taking gam as conditional.

הֲלָהֵן תְּשַׂבֵּרְנָה עַד אֲשֶׁר יִגְדָּלוּ
halahen tsabernah ad asher yigdalu
For them? You could wait till such had grown?

תְּשַׂבֵּרְנָה is apparently of the Piel form. The doubled (the dot = dagesh) middle consonant tells you - but I can't distinguish Qal from Piel using the consonants only (except maybe for participles). The diacritical marks were not added till a 1000 years after the story was written. What am I missing?

הֲלָהֵן תֵּעָגֵנָה לְבִלְתִּי הֱיוֹת לְאִישׁ
halahen te`agenah lvilti heyot l'ish
For them? You would remain shut up without there being a husband?

הֲלָהֵן has a long note in Campbell. Is it the interrogative followed by 'to them'? No - it can't be a feminine 'them' since we are waiting for boys. Does it mean 'unless' or some conditional (so BDB p 530)? Or is it direct speech to God - as in the psalms? Naomi's prayer for her daughters.

אַל בְּנֹתַי כִּי-מַר-לִי מְאֹד מִכֶּם כִּי-יָצְאָה בִי יַד-יְהוָה
'al banotai ki-mar-li m'od mikem ki yats'ah yad-hashem
no my daughters for bitterness to me is great that for you

 the hand of יְהוָה has come out against me
The idiom of this speech is difficult to hear - what modifies what? It makes good sense that Naomi should be bitter that her 'place' has involved the two daughters-in-law. Hence my third option for halahen.

 וַתִּשֶּׂנָה קוֹלָן וַתִּבְכֶּינָה עוֹד וַתִּשַּׁק עָרְפָּה לַחֲמוֹתָהּ
vatisnah qolon vativkenah `id vatishaq `arpah lehamotah
and they lifted up their voice and wept further and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law

Wept and kissed here closes the opening of kissed and wept in verse 9 - 
 וַתִּשַּׁק לָהֶן וַתִּשֶּׂאנָה קוֹלָן וַתִּבְכֶּינָה

וְרוּת דָּבְקָה בָּהּ
verut davqa bah
but Ruth stayed close to her.
If Ruth had not stayed close, we would not still be telling this story.And she would not be in the New Testament as one of two examples of how God used the Levirate law before the Sadducees made such mockery of it..

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