Translation Notes, Ruth 2:4-16

This week is week 5 from the syllabus: Ruth 2:4-16. Wordplay in the Tanakh, Hebrew grammar (Hophal verbs, jussive forms of the verb). Reading: Esekenazi lii-lv, 31-42.

VERSE 4: יהוה עִמָּכֶם is a verbless clause (so the verb “is” is understood) and could be rendered “the Lord is with you.” Since the context is a blessing, it is reasonable to understand it as: “May the Lord be with you.” יְבָרֶכְךָ is the Imperfect (in a Jussive or “may he” sense) 3ms of ברך with the 2ms suffix and “the Lord” is the subject (with Boaz as the implied object).

VERSE 5: לְנַעֲרוֹ is the preposition ל before the noun נַעַר with the 3ms suffix. הַנִּצָּב is a Niphal Participle (being used as a noun) with the definite article from נצב. The idea is “he who was given charge.” עַל־הַקּוֹצְרִים means “over the” קוֹצְרִים (a word you should know now from vs. 3). לְמִי is לְ plus מִי (“to whom, whose”) and is a question word. הַנַּעֲרָה is the feminine singular of נַעַר with the definite article. הַזֹּאת means “this” (feminine form) and Hebrew uses demonstratives (“this, these”) the same way it uses adjectives (thus, זֹאת has the definite article to match the noun it modifies).

VERSE 6: וַיַּעַן is the vav-conversive 3ms of ענה. In the phrase נַעֲרָה מוֹאֲבִיָּה הִיא there is an understood “is” between the second and third word, so that “she” is the subject. הַשָּׁבָה is a Participle fs (used as a noun) with the definite article, from שׁוב.

VERSE 7: וְאָסַפְתִּי is a vav-conversive 1cs (but this kind is the Perfect form with the ו, and so a “past” becomes a “future”) from אסף. Ruth has asked to gather בָעֳמָרִים, which is the preposition ב attached to the plural of עֹמֶר. There is a description of a duration of time which begins with מֵאָז and continues with וְעַד and means “from” such and such time “until” so and so. הַבֹּקֶר is a noun with the definite article. עַתָּה means “now.” As for the זֶה, even scholars do not understand what it is doing here. Does it go with the previous phrase (“until this now”) or with the final phrase (“this [one] has rested [in] the house a little”)? שִׁבְתָּהּ is also unusual and scholars debate whether the vowels have been wrongly placed. It is the Infinitive construct from ישׁב (used as a noun, “sitting”) with the 3fs suffix (“her sitting”). Since the entire final phrase is awkward, I suggest the beginner simply go with “she has rested in the house a little.”

At this point in the class, I feel no need to list and explain every word. I am choosing only to explain words that may give the student some trouble.

  • הֲלוֹא This word will give novice Hebrew learners fits. You will not find it listed in the Holladay lexicon under this spelling or even under לֹא or לוֹא. The student should first notice that this is the interrogative ה (as the vowel marks it as something other than the definite article). The similarity of לוֹא to לֹא is your clue that this is what the word means (so this is the plene [full] spelling of a word usually with the short spelling). The meaning of this word is further obscured by most English translations which choose not to render Boaz’s statement as a question. הֲלוֹא שָׁמַעַתְּ בִּתִּי should be rendered as a question, such as: “Have you not heard, my daughter?”
  • שָׁמַעַתְּ Perfect 3fs שׁמע.
  • בִתִּי The noun בַּת with the 1cs suffix.
  • אַל־תֵּלְכִי Begins with negation (אַל negates Imperfect forms of the verb). תֵּלְכִי Imperfect 2fs.
  • לִלְקֹט The presence of ל before a verb is a sign of an Infinitive Construct (the “to” form of a verb). The root here is לקט.
  • תַעֲבוּרִי This is an unusual spelling (but it is listed in Holladay). Imperfect 2fs עבר.
  • מִזֶּה = “from this” and is used as a complement to the verb, better rendered “from here.”
  • תִדְבָּקִין Imperfect 2fs דבק with extraneous נ used at the end (called a “paragogic” nun, scholars debate whether it enhances the meaning or is simply a speech pattern).
  • נַעֲרֹתָי The noun נַעֲרָה with the 1cs suffix.

VERSE 9: עֵינַיִךְ בַּשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר־יִקְצֹרוּן Starts with a verbless clause. The second part has a verb, יִקְצֹרוּן, but it seems as if the first part needs one as well. The verb “is” or “are” can be indicated without being written. So the first two words could be translated “your eyes are on the field.” Some think such a verbless clause (a “null copula” clause) can have a Jussive meaning (“[let] your eyes be on the field”). יִקְצֹרוּן Imperfect 3mp קצר. The next verb, וְהָלַכְתְּ, is a vav-conversive with the Perfect 2fs הלך being reversed into a future or imperative sense. אַחֲרֵיהֶן is simply the 3mp suffix added to a familiar word. For הֲלוֹא see above on 2:8. צִוִּיתִי Perfect 1cs צוה. The particle לְבִלְתִּי negates the verb which follows it. נָגְעֵךְ is the Infinitive Construct (the “to” form) of נגע with the 2fs suffix as object of the verb. וְצָמִת is another difficult one since the third root letter has disappeared, א which does not typically disappear, and there is no sh’va under the ת at the end as one would expect. It is the Perfect 2fs of צמא. Similarly וְשָׁתִית vav-conversive of Perfect 2fs שׁתה but with unusual spelling. יִשְׁאֲבוּן has a paragogic nun, but as you have grown used to these, you should be able to figure out the root and parsing (person, gender, number, form).

VERSE 10: This verse requires less explanation and I will give simply a few hints. וַתִּפֹּל is from the root נפל. The 3fs suffix has been added to פָּנֶים in construct form (drop the מ). וַתִּשְׁתַּחוּ will give you fits until you get used to this unusual form. Some call it a Hishtafel verb. You could simply know for now it is vav-conversive 3fs and the וּ at the end is a contraction of ווּ. It means “she prostrated herself.” In אָרְצָה the locative ה has been added to the end to indicate that is is a direction of movement. לְהַכִּירֵנִי Hiphil Infinitive Construct (the “to” form) of נכר with 1cs suffix. The JPS commentary explains this as part of a wordplay as the root נכר means both “show favor” and “foreigner.” Thus, she asks Boaz, “Why have I found favor in your eyes to favor [from נכר] me though I am a foreigner [from נכר]?”

VERSE 11: הֻגֵּד is a Hophal Infinitive Absolute (the rare Hophal form is the passive of a Hiphil) and right after it comes הֻגַּד (different vowel under ג) which is the Hophal Perfect 3ms. It is something like “reporting, it has been reported” and the לִי makes it “reporting, it has been reported to me”). It probably means “it has been throughly reported to me.” וַתַּעַזְבִי vav-conversive from the Perfect 2fs עזב. Many nouns are used here with the 2fs suffix including מוֹלַדְתֵּךְ which is from מוֹלֶדֶת (listed in Holladay). If you look up תְּמוֹל in Holladay you’ll see that תְּמוֹל שִׁלֹשׁוֹם together is an expression for “heretofore, before.”

VERSE 12: יְשַׁלֵּם Imperfect 3ms שׁלם in the Piel form generally means complete or pay. In this case the meaning is pay, as in reward. וּתְהִי is a shortened form (Jussive) which is deceiving and is really a vav-conversive 3fs of היה (so in Jussive sense “may it be”). It is feminine because the subject of the verb is the next word מַשְׂכֻּרְתֵּךְ (“your wages”), which is feminine. In מַשְׂכֻּרְתֵּךְ שְׁלֵמָה there is an understood “are” between the two words. מֵעִם need not be translated “from with,” but simply “from.” לַחֲסוֹת Infinitive Construct (the “to” form) of חסה.

VERSE 13: נִחַמְתָּנִי Piel Perfect 3fs with 1cs suffix as object of verb. Ruth thanks Boaz for speaking עַל–לֵב (unusual use of עַל here, more like לְ) followed by שִׁפְחָתֶךָ which is שִׁפְחָה with 2fs suffix attached as a possessive. לֵב is a word pair (construct) with שִׁפְחָתֶךָ. The אָנֹכִי in the final clause makes it emphatic since אֶהְיֶה is 1cs Imperfect and already has “I” in it. כְּאַחַת is the preposition כ in front of the construct (word pair) form of אַחַת (“one”).

In this explanation of the words and grammatical forms of Ruth 2:14, I will proceed somewhat differently than in previous lessons. I will list first the dictionary forms of the less common words in the verse and then explain some features of the grammar and syntax.

  • The following are dictionary forms of words used in vs. 14 which the novice student (and in some cases even more advanced readers) may need to look up. עֵת (time, season), אכל (eat), נגשׁ (step up, come near, approach), הֲלֹם (adverb of place, here), טבל (dip, immerse, note in modern usage this is the verb for baptizing/immersing in Jewish and Christian rites), פַּת (piece, bit, morsel esp. of bread), חֹמֶץ (vinegar, note that חָמֶץ is leaven in general), ישׁב (sit), צַד (side, and Holladay lists מִצַּד as “at the side of”), צבט (pass something to someone, note that Holladay shows this verb as used only in Ruth 2:14 and nowhere else in the Bible), קָלִי (parched grain), שׂבּע (be satiated, have had enough, not to be confused with שׁבע, swear), יתר (in the Hiphil it means “to have left over”).
  • וַיֹּאמֶר לָה בֹעַז לְעֵת This vav-conversive verb clause has two complements. The subject is Boaz. The first complement לָה indicates to whom he is speaking and the second, לְעֵת, indicates when he did so (with the next word, a participle indicating which עֵת is meant).
  • הָאֹכֶל is a participle being used as a noun and it modifies/explains the previous word.
  • גֹּשִׁי is an imperative fs (command verb) of נגשׁ. When a word has nun in the first letter of the root, it disappears in many of its forms. Even so גֹּשִׁי is unusual in having the kholem (o-vowel) in the first position and is hard to recognize. The student can determine the conjugation of a verb by looking through the listed forms in Holladay in the definition of the root (and this form is listed in Holladay under the imperatives).
  • וְאָכַלְתְּ While the conjugation of the verb is Perfect 2fs, the vav is conversive. The common pattern for vav-conversive is vav+Imperfect=past. Yet vav+Perfect=future (or in this case imperative) is also a vav-conversive. The simplest rule in dealing with the confusing decision of tense (which tense to translate the verb into) is to use the context to judge. In this case, because of the imperative verb used just prior to וְאָכַלְתְּ, the meaning is imperative and not future.
  • וַתֵּשֶׁב מִצַּד הַקּוֹצְרִים The speech of Boaz has ended. The scribes who copied the text place accent marks above and below the words. For those who wish to learn these accents, they can help the student determine where sentences should be divided. The mark under בַּחֹמֶץ in the printed text is an atnach and it signifies a strong break in the sentence, usually dividing it in half. Besides the accent marks, the clue for readers that Boaz’s speech has ended is context and grammar. וַתֵּשֶׁב is a vav-conversive marking the past tense, so we can tell the syntax has returned to narrating the story.

VERSE 15: וַתָּקָם The root of this vav-conversive is קוּם, which is an example of a “hollow” verb: the middle root letter is a vav (interchangeable with yod) and the middle letter tends to disappear in most verb forms (hence it is called hollow). It is valuable to familiarize yourself with the various “weak” letters in verbs (3rd hey, 1st nun, 1st vav/yod, hollow, and geminate [2nd and 3rd root letter the same]). לְלַקֵּט is listed as a Piel Infinitive Construct (the “to” form of the verb). וַיְצַו is a 3rd hey verb (צוה, one of the “weak” letter root types just mentioned above). נְעָרָיו is a noun with 3ms ending. Note in הָעֳמָרִים the “o” vowel under the ayin, which is a shortening of the vowel (because of the added syllable at the end marking this noun as plural) from עֹמֶר. Learning the syllable rules and how adding syllables to the end of words changes vowels is helpful. תַכְלִימוּהָ has as its root כלם and it is a Hiphil form, as you can tell by the khireq vowel (the i-class vowel which makes the “ee” sound) between the 2nd and 3rd root letter. It is an Imperfect 2mp and has the 3fs ending attached.

VERSE 16: שֹׁל־תָּשֹׁלּוּ Is a hard verb pair to recognize at first for two reasons. First, it is a geminate root, שׁלל, which means the 2nd and 3rd root letter are the same. Thus, in most of its forms, the 3rd root letter will disappear. Second, this is a pair of verbs and that sort of double verb is not used in English. It is a fairly common phenomenon in Hebrew, however. If you look up שׁלל you will find that שֹׁל is the Infinitive Absolute (usually an “-ing” form) and תָּשֹׁלּוּ is the Imperfect 2mp. You might render it “in pulling you will pull.” This Infinitive + Imperfect (or Perfect) verb pair in Hebrew tends to have an emphatic meaning (“you will surely pull” or “you must pull”). הַצְּבָתִים is the definite plural form of the noun צֶבֶת. We then have two vav-conversives in a row, וַעֲזַבְתֶּם וְלִקְּטָה, with the first being 2mp and the second 3fs converting Perfects into imperatives (“you will ___ and she will ___”). תִגְעֲרוּ־בָהּ is the Imperfect 2mp of גער and it is followed by the preposition ב with the 3fs suffix (but you can leave the ב untranslated and simply render it “her”).

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