Book of Jonah Grammar Question
December 12, 2011 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Jonah 1:4: "the ship was like to be broken" - "וְהָאֳנִיָּה חִשְּׁבָה לְהִשָּׁבֵר" - what is the grammar of חִשְּׁבָה ?

Is חִשְּׁבָה an active or a passive verb? What is its binyan? What is its subject?
posted by Paquda to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's the Pi'el perfect 3rd feminine singular of חשב. The subject is the ship (אניה). In Qal the basic meaning of חשב is to think. In Pi'el it can mean to consider or plan, or as in this case, to be about to.
posted by greenmagnet at 9:01 AM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Thank you, greenmagnet. Your explanation works well.

I have a couple of hesitations, though: Is the pi'el form of חשב used elsewhere with a meaning of 'be about to'? I don't have a concordance to check this. I have seen it used to mean something like 'calculate.'. Also, isn't it bizarrely anthropomorphic to use a verb that basically refers to mental activity to talk about what a boat is doing?

I keep getting a vague intuition that the verb might be meant to be passive. I know the vocalization is a problem: the first vowel should be 'u' not 'i' if it were a pu'al construction, which is I guess what I want to take it as.

Looking at the Vulgate online, it seems like it might be taking it as a passive: 'et navis periclitabatur conteri', with 'periclitabatur', a passive imperfect, for חִשְּׁבָה.
posted by Paquda at 10:35 AM on December 12, 2011

periclitor is a deponent verb, so its passiveness is purely syntactic, not semantic, and doesn't imply that the translator thought the original was passive.
posted by stebulus at 12:54 PM on December 12, 2011

Okay, stebulus. Thank you for correcting me. My Latin is minimal, so I shouldn't have tried to use it.
posted by Paquda at 1:54 PM on December 12, 2011

From the שרש (root) of חשב we also get thinking, consider, calculation, reckoning, etc. You can also interpret this to mean the ship owners. Not that the ship considered its destruction, but that those on the ship considered it.

Ibn Ezra gives this additional example of using "the name of the vessel rather than the contents of the vessel:" From Isaiah "התנערי מעפר קומי שבי ירושלם" "Shake yourself from the dust, arise, sit down Jerusalem."

If you feel like translating a lot more, here you go.
posted by ariela at 3:16 PM on December 12, 2011

So, ariela, the page you linked to quotes Ibn Ezra and R. David Kimhi saying that 'ship' is a metonymy for the ship's personnel, in the way that 'when the land sinneth against me' in Ezekiel 14:13 is not referring to the ground itself but to the inhabitants of the land:

והאניה חשבה להשבר – ראב"ע: "כמו '...ארץ כי תחטא לי...' (יחזקאל יד, יג). רד"ק: על דרך הרחבת הלשון, כל אנשי האונייה חשבו שתשבר האניה

In this interpretation, חִשְּׁבָה is used in a sense that remains within the word's normal range of meanings, having to do with 'thinking' or 'reckoning', with the sailors being the ones doing the thinking/reckoning.

I'm not sure this reading is any smoother than greenmagnet's. For one thing, why is לְהִשָּׁבֵר in the infinitive? In a statement that so-and-so thought such-and-such, wouldn't you expect a relative clause with a verb in the imperfect, something along the lines of: חשבה שישבר hishshevah she-yishabber.
posted by Paquda at 8:08 AM on December 13, 2011

I think there may also be a poetic element. Maybe it could used the shoresh ayin-mem-dalet, but it wouldn't have sounded as nice with l'hishaber.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2011

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