The Definite Article in Ruth 1:12e

In my video on Ruth 1:12e we saw that לַיְלָה had the definite article. We translated הַלַּיְלָה as “tonight” or “this night.” In this post I wanted to briefly describe this particular use of the definite article.

The definite article in biblical Hebrew has two uses: Particular and Generic. The Particular use of the definite article is familiar to us. In this use the article singles out a person or thing from its larger class. For example, when your friend says “Give me the ball” your friend is referring to a specific ball to the exclusion of all other balls. The Particular use of the article is also used when a formerly unknown character is mentioned again in a story. For example, when Elimelech is first mentioned in Ruth 1:1 it is said, “And a man went.” When he is mentioned again in 1:2, it is said, “And the name of the man. . . .”

The definite article on לַיְלָה in Ruth 1:12e is another use of the Particular article. The Particular article is often used when a noun is present to a speaker or writer. For example, in Genesis 31:48 Laban calls upon “this heap” הַגַּל הַזֶּה as a witness between him and Jacob. The heap is mentioned by the author Moses in the verses leading up to 31:48; however, it is spoken of by Laban for the first time in 31:48. The article is used on “heap” in Laban’s reported direct speech because it is present to Jacob and Laban and is therefore known to Laban’s audience.

The Particular use of the definite article, therefore, lends well to present time: “this day” or “today” הַיּוֺם and “this night” or “tonight” הַלַּיְלָה. In her plea to her daughters-in-law, Naomi offers up the question, “If I said I had a husband this night. . .” Naomi is referring to the present time, the time in which she is speaking.

The Generic use of the definite article will be saved for another time. But, for the time being it is good to be aware that there are some nuances to the use of the definite article, as we see here in Ruth 1:12.


  1. Fuller, Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, §34c
  2. Gesenius, §126.

The Participle

The participle shares characteristics with nouns and with verbs.  Like nouns, the participle has gender, number, definiteness, and case. Like verbs, the participle can take an object, has voice (active/passive), has tense (determined by context), and has aspect.

However, it must be kept in mind that the participle in biblical Hebrew (and in other Semitic languages, like Arabic) is not a verb; the participle is not part of the verbal system.  Rather, the participle in biblical Hebrew is a noun.   Continue reading “The Participle”

Ruth 1:8 – Ketiv Qere

This video introduces ‘ketiv qere’ – instances where the Masoretes noted the correct reading of a word in the margin of the text.  A ketiv qere occurs in Ruth 1:8.  This video is a little longer than normal.

For those who are interested in learning what the marginal notes mean in the BHS, Page Kelley has written a helpful book:

Page H. Kelley, Daniel S. Mynatt, and Timothy G. Crawford. The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.

The Accents

Below is a link to a PDF with a chart listing the disjunctive and conjunctive accents.

In the video for Isaiah 9:5e I mentioned a few disjunctive accents, and in future videos I’ll make mention of others.  This chart will be a helpful reference for you so you won’t have to dig out your books.

Accents Chart

As far as how the accents function, I’ve listed some works that go into greater detail.  In the videos I will be limited to generalities as the discussion could get detailed fast. Continue reading “The Accents”

The Qal Passive form and Isaiah 9:5

In the video for Isaiah 9:5b I noted that the verb יֻלַּד could be taken as a Pu”al Perfect of ילד or a Qal Passive Perfect of ילד.  In the video I stated that I believe the form is a Qal Passive Perfect, but then I proceeded to explain how it could be parsed as a Pu”al Perfect.  In this post I will briefly explain why I take the form יֻלַּד as a Qal Passive Perfect.

For my explanation I am leaning on Gesenius-Kautzsch (who in turn leans on the grammarian Friedrich Böttcher). Continue reading “The Qal Passive form and Isaiah 9:5”

Cases in Biblical Hebrew?

In my videos you will often here me use the terms ‘accusative,’ ‘genitive,’ and ‘nominative.’  You will also see these terms in your more traditional grammars, like Gesenius-Kautzsch and Joüon-Muraoka and even more linguistically informed grammars like Waltke-O’Connor.  But are these acceptable terms to use in describing Hebrew grammar? Continue reading “Cases in Biblical Hebrew?”