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The Prefixed Perfective and the Dating of Early Hebrew Poetry—A Re-Evaluation

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image of Vetus Testamentum

This article takes issue with the theory that those Biblical Hebrew poems, which show an extensive use of verbal forms belonging to the short prefix-conjugation (Northwest Semitic yaqtul) to signify complete situations in the past without the conjunction w-, were composed at an early date (c. 13th-10th centuries B.C.E.). The article takes as its starting point the fundamental discussion by David A. Robertson (1972) and argues that Robertson's neglect of the Masoretic spelling and vocalization, which often help to distinguish between the short and long prefix-conjugations in Biblical Hebrew, is unjustified. Then, it is shown that although in those biblical poems, which are commonly identified as early, short prefixed verbal forms are used to signify complete situations in the past more frequently without the conjunction w- than with it, the use of such forms with the conjunction w- (in the wayyiqtol construction) is also attested in those poems. And on the other hand, a similar pattern of use of short prefixed verbal forms to signify complete situations in the past—more frequently without the conjunction w- than with it—appears also in two poetic texts that are commonly dated to the 6th century B.C.E.: Isa. 41:1-5 and Ps. 44.

Affiliations: 1: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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