Annihilation and Hermeneutics Part II

To begin this second piece, I would like to look at an argument put forward by Chris Date over at Rethinking Hell. I know it is odd starting with part 2 of a two part article, but there is a method to my madness, which will become quite apparent as I go through these articles. The issue has to do with this verse, which Jesus quotes in the NT in regards to hell:

Isaiah 66:24 “Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

The issue has to do with the second phrase “And their fire will not be quenched.” It poses a problem for annihilationists, since, if the fire is not quenched, it obviously must be eternal. However, Date presents an argument that he believes refutes this interpretation. First, he points out that the word “quenched” is semantically ambiguous:

This line of reasoning, however, is based on a very peculiar definition of the word quenched. As illustrated by Donnelly’s words above, traditionalists understand quenched in this passage to mean “went out.” Yet that is not how the word is typically used. When we speak of quenching things, such as a thirst, we are talking about extinguishing it. When firefighters are called upon to quench a house fire, they don’t typically arrive on the scene only to stand idly by and watch a family’s home burn to the ground; even if it were unquenchable, it would still go out naturally after it consumes its fuel. One might, in fact, be forgiven for doubting that traditionalists ever use quench to mean “die out” in any other context besides Scripture.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the English word primarily as, whether literally or figuratively, “to put out or extinguish the fire or flame of (something that burns or gives light).”4 Other definitions include “to put out, extinguish, douse,” “to destroy the sight of (an eye); to blind,” “to oppress, crush; to kill, destroy,” and “to put (a person) down; to reduce to silence; to quell.” Most definitions of quench likewise carry some form of the meaning “to put an end to.” Only a tiny handful of its many definitions connote something like “to go out.” (And those meanings are rare or obsolete.)

After pointing out the semantic ambiguity, Date then goes on to argue that there is an ambiguity in the Hebrew word as well:

Still, though very rare, this use of the English word quench does exist. The same appears to be true in the original biblical languages. The Hebrew and Greek words translated quench primarily mean something like “to extinguish,” but they are capable of being used to mean “to go out.” For example, Proverbs 26:20 reads, “For lack of wood the fire goes out [kabah]. And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” Matthew 25:8 reads, “The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out [sbennymi]’.” So which meaning, then, is intended in Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:48 and similar texts?

Then Date gives a survey of these usages:

In some texts where kabah connects to ordinary fire the Hebrew word, our English quench, might mean something like “die out.” Aside from Proverbs 26:20, it’s used twice in Leviticus 6:12-13 to say, “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out.” 1 Samuel 3:3 says, “The lamp of God had not yet gone out.” Proverbs 31:18 says of a good wife that “her lamp does not go out at night.” Although it could be argued to mean “put out” in these texts, the consensus among major translations might be reason enough to concede that it can occasionally mean “die out.”

In other places, on the other hand, and in a variety of contexts, kabah takes “put out” as its primary meaning. A widow tells the king that she fears the execution of her only remaining son and his heir, that in so doing “they will extinguish my coal which is left, so as to leave my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth” (2 Samuel 14:7). When David wearies in battle, risking being killed by a Philistine, his men swore to him, saying, “You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish the lamp of Israel” (2 Samuel 21:17). God promises to “extinguish” Pharaoh in Ezekiel 32:7. Hezekiah tells the priests and Levites in 2 Chronicles 29:6-7 that “our fathers have been unfaithful and have … put out the lamps.” Additional uses like this include Song of Solomon 8:7 and Isaiah 43:17.

Date then argues that the consensus of translations should tell us that we should avoid the meaning “to go out” here in Isaiah 66:24:

It is interesting to note at this point that the aforementioned consensus among translators—which might prompt one to concede that kabah can occasionally mean “go out”—is the same consensus which therefore ought to prompt traditionalists to concede that it does not carry that meaning in Isaiah 66:24. Major translations almost universally render it something like “go out” when it is believed to be used in that way, such as in Proverbs 26:20, otherwise translating it “put out,” “extinguish,” or “quench.” With few exceptions, the vast majority of these translations render kabah in Isaiah 66:24 as “put out,” “extinguished,” or “quenched.” Their consensus suggests the word carries its primary meaning there.

Date then presents his argument as to how we should understand Isaiah 66:24:

It is the remaining uses of kabah which are most useful for determining whether or not the consensus among most major translations of Isaiah 66:24 is correct, for their contexts are similar: the fiery, inextinguishable wrath of God. In Ezekiel 20:47-48, God tells Ezekiel to say,

47 … Behold, I am about to kindle a fire in you, and it will consume every green tree in you, as well as every dry tree; the blazing flame will not be quenched and the whole surface from south to north will be burned by it. 48 All flesh will see that I, the Lord, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.

The meaning of kabah in this text is clearly “put out.” Whether to be taken literally or not, although the fire “will not be quenched,” it is clear that the trees which fuel the fire will not burn eternally, for the fire will “consume” (‘akal) them. When the word translated “consume” describes what fire does, it means completely burn up. Hence the text of Exodus 3:2 uses it to say that although Moses saw that “the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed [‘akal].” The bush, though burning, was not burned up completely; but the green and dry trees would be, by the unquenchable fire of God.

Similarly, Jeremiah 17:27 reads, “If you do not listen to me … I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour [‘akal] the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched [kabah].” God did not threaten that the buildings of Jerusalem would burn perpetually forever, but that, unable to be extinguished, his fire would reduce them to rubble. Amos 5:6 likewise says, “He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it will consume [‘akal] with none to quench it [kabah].”

Even traditionalists often recognize that in these texts and others, in which the fire of God is not able to be quenched, it does not mean the object of God’s wrath will burn forever, but that the fire will burn unabated until its intended destruction is complete. John Gill, for example, writes of Ezekiel 20:47-48 that it refers to “either the succession of these calamities one after another; or the force and strength of them, which should not be abated until the ruin of the city was completed … no stop put to it by all the art and power of man” (emphasis mine).56 Commenting on Jeremiah 17:27 Gill wrote that the fire would not be quenched “until it has utterly destroyed the city: this was fulfilled by the Chaldeans” (emphasis mine).7 And of Amos 5:6 he wrote, “His wrath and fury break out like fire as the Targum, by sending an enemy to invade the land, destroy it … [they] would not be able to avert the stroke of divine vengeance, or turn back the enemy, and save the land from ruin.”8

God’s burning wrath which wouldn’t be quenched, prophesied in 2 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 34:25, found its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in the subsequent chapters of both books. Still other examples could be brought to bear, but from all of these it’s evident that the unquenchable fire of Isaiah 66:24 need not refer to a fire which burns forever because its fuel is never fully consumed, but can instead—and likely does, given these parallels—refer to a fire which cannot be extinguished prematurely before it completely consumes the wicked. And since the worm that won’t be prevented by death from fully consuming the wicked is the parallel to the unquenchable fire, we have every reason to believe that’s what the fire likewise does.

Now, having gone through Date’s argument, there are a number of things to say in criticism. First, I am concerned about the oversimplification of doing a word study on a verb in a Semitic language without reference to the stems. The Hebrew verb כבה occurs in the G stem [Qal stem], and the D stem [Piel stem]. Stems can change the meaning of the verb. For example, the Hebrew verb קום in the Qal stem means “to rise,” while it means “to erect” in the Piel stem. Stems of verbs are crucial to establishing the meaning of a verb. Date’s argument does not take that into account, and I believe that not doing so is fatal to his position.

Secondly, in terms of meaning, when we are dealing with verbs we must also take into account the notion of theta roles. Valency is crucial when you are dealing with word studies across stems, because the theta roles of a verb can change with a change in stem. For example, רום [to be high up] in the Qal stem is monovalent, requiring only one argument, a theme. However, in the hiphil stem [to lift up], the verb requires two arguments, an agent and a theme. To put it another way, the phrase, “I lifted up” is incomplete, requiring an theme to complete its meaning [I lifted up the vase], but the phrase “I am high up” is complete in and of itself.

The importance of theta roles, for our purposes, is that it provides a semantic distinction between “to go out” and “to put out.” To put out requires two theta roles, and agent and an experiencer. The phrase “I put out” makes no sense, because it is missing the experiencer [I put the fire out]. However, the phrase, “the fire goes out” is complete in and of itself, requiring only an experiencer to complete the meaning. We can also distinguish between these meanings by the fact that what is going out [the experiencer] is the subject of the verb “to go out,” and it is the direct object of the verb “to put out.” Hence, the case of the surrounding words is going to be crucial to determining the meaning of the verb in a given passage.

One might object at this point that I have left out the meaning “to be put out.” The reason why I have done so is because that is a passive verb. כבה is only found in the Qal and Piel stems in the Hebrew Bible, and the Qal and Piel stems are active stems, not passive stems. Now, I should say, there is such a thing as a “Qal Passive,” but the Masorites usually pointed it as either a Pual or a Hophal [see the form of לקח at Genesis 2:23]. Hence, in the MT, whenever the Qal pointing is used, it is dealing with a “Qal active,” and that is the only form found for כבה. Also, normally one postulates a Qal passive when you find no Piel, Hiphil, Pual, or Hophal form, and yet, you find a Piel form of כבה used in the MT. Because כבה occurs in the Piel, it does have an attested Piel form, and hence, even if we were to find an instance of כבה pointed as a Pual, it would be taken as a Pual, and not a Qal passive. One other argument against this notion will be presented at the end of this paper. Hence, although “to be put out” has one theta role, it does not fit with the stems that are used. This is another reason why not distinguishing between the stems is so problematic.

Let us begin by examining the instances of כבה in Isaiah, since that is the author of our target text. We begin with Isaiah 1:31:

וְהָיָ֤ה הֶחָסֹן֙ לִנְעֹ֔רֶת וּפֹעֲל֖וֹ לְנִיצ֑וֹץ וּבָעֲר֧וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֛ם יַחְדָּ֖ו וְאֵ֥ין מְכַבֶּֽה׃

In this text, מְכַבֶּֽה is a piel stem. It is a participle, probably substantive in character, meaning something like “there is not one who quenches.” “There is not one going out” would make no sense here. Now, as to the meaning of the term, remember that the subject is important here. What precisely is going out? It certainly isn’t the person doing the quenching! The direct object here is provided by conversational implicature, in this case the direct object being הֶחָסֹן implied from the first clause. The idea would then be “There is no one to extinguish the strong one.” If this is the case, then there is an agent and an experiencer, and this would be a clear instance where כבה means “to put out.”

The next instance of this term in Isaiah is at 34:10. Here is verses 9-10 for the context:

וְנֶהֶפְכ֤וּ נְחָלֶ֙יהָ֙ לְזֶ֔פֶת וַעֲפָרָ֖הּ לְגָפְרִ֑ית וְהָיְתָ֣ה אַרְצָ֔הּ לְזֶ֖פֶת בֹּעֵרָֽה׃
לַ֤יְלָה וְיוֹמָם֙ לֹ֣א תִכְבֶּ֔ה לְעוֹלָ֖ם יַעֲלֶ֣ה עֲשָׁנָ֑הּ מִדּ֤וֹר לָדוֹר֙ תֶּחֱרָ֔ב לְנֵ֣צַח נְצָחִ֔ים אֵ֥ין עֹבֵ֖ר בָּֽהּ׃

In this verse, תִכְבֶּ֔ה is a Qal stem. Notice, though, we only have a subject, with no direct object. The subject appears to be the זֶ֖פֶת בֹּעֵרָֽה from the previous verse, since תִכְבֶּ֔ה is feminine. However, if that is the case, then what what is going out would then be the subject, meaning that it is impossible for this verb to mean “to put out.”

The next instance of this term in Isaiah is at 42:3:

‏קָנֶ֤ה רָצוּץ֙ לֹ֣א יִשְׁבּ֔וֹר וּפִשְׁתָּ֥ה כֵהָ֖ה לֹ֣א יְכַבֶּ֑נָּה לֶאֱמֶ֖ת יוֹצִ֥יא מִשְׁפָּֽט׃

Clearly, since יְכַבֶּ֑נָּה has a pronominal suffix, the verb is at least transitive. It is interesting that, just like the last example of a transitive verb we looked at, not only is the object being burned found in the accusative case, [the antecedent of the suffix pronoun being פִשְׁתָּ֥ה כֵהָ֖ה], but it is also the experiencer, whereas the 3ms pronoun in the morphology of the verb is the agent. However, this is a Piel stem, which is what we find in Isaiah 1:31. Hence, we have two Piel stems which mean “to put out,” and one Qal stem which means “to go out.”

The next instance of this term in Isaiah is at 43:17:

הַמּוֹצִ֥יא רֶֽכֶב־וָס֖וּס חַ֣יִל וְעִזּ֑וּז יַחְדָּ֤ו יִשְׁכְּבוּ֙ בַּל־יָק֔וּמוּ דָּעֲכ֖וּ כַּפִּשְׁתָּ֥ה כָבֽוּ׃

Again, let us consider the subject of the verb, and whether it is the thing which is going out. The army is being compared to flax, and therefore, it is the flax that is being burned, and thus, the subject of the verb here. However, again, if the verb has a subject, and that subject is the experiencer, then the verb must mean “to go out” and not “to put out.” However, this is a Qal stem.

So, now we can make a summary of these four instances in Isaiah. Whenever you have a Qal stem, it always means “to go out,” and whenever you have a Piel stem, it always means “to extinguish.” While this is not enough to establish a pattern because of the paucity of examples, keep that in mind as we go through these instances.

Now that we have discussed Isaiah, let us go through the rest of the prophets, so that we can get a more general sense for how this term is used in the prophets. The first instance of this word in the prophets outside of Isaiah is at Jeremiah 4:4:

‏הִמֹּ֣לוּ לַיהוָֹ֗ה וְהָסִ֙רוּ֙ עָרְל֣וֹת לְבַבְכֶ֔ם אִ֥ישׁ יְהוּדָ֖ה וְיֹשְׁבֵ֣י יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם פֶּן־תֵּצֵ֨א כָאֵ֜שׁ חֲמָתִ֗י וּבָעֲרָה֙ וְאֵ֣ין מְכַבֶּ֔ה מִפְּנֵ֖י רֹ֥עַ מַעַלְלֵיכֶֽם׃

No surprises here. It is a participle functioning very much like Isaiah 1:31. Like Isaiah 1:31 it is substantival, and, most probably, the direct object is understood to be חֲמָתִ֗י. Also, the thing going out is the experiencer, and it is the direct object, again showing that we are right in taking the meaning “to extinguish” here. However, this is, like Isaiah 1:31, a Piel stem.

The next instance of this word in Jeremiah is Jeremiah 7:20:

‏לָכֵ֞ן כֹּה־אָמַ֣ר׀ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִֹ֗ה הִנֵּ֨ה אַפִּ֤י וַֽחֲמָתִי֙ נִתֶּ֙כֶת֙ אֶל־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה עַל־הָֽאָדָם֙ וְעַל־הַבְּהֵמָ֔ה וְעַל־עֵ֥ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה וְעַל־פְּרִ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וּבָעֲרָ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, we must find the subject. The subject of תִכְבֶּֽה is clearly חֲמָתִ, especially since it is mentioned as “burning” in the previous clause. Because the experiencer is the subject of the verb, that is, it the wrath is what is not going out, then the verb can only mean “to go out.” However, this is a Qal stem. Again, our pattern theta roles and the valency of these verbs in different stems is holding. If it is a Qal stem, it is monovalent, and thus means “to go out.” If it is a Piel stem, it is bivalent, and means “to extinguish.” That pattern is still holding up in Jeremiah.

The next instance in Jeremiah is at 17:27:

וְאִם־לֹ֨א תִשְׁמְע֜וּ אֵלַ֗י לְקַדֵּשׁ֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת וּלְבִלְתִּ֣י׀ שְׂאֵ֣ת מַשָּׂ֗א וּבֹ֛א בְּשַׁעֲרֵ֥י יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם בְּי֣וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת וְהִצַּ֧תִּי אֵ֣שׁ בִּשְׁעָרֶ֗יהָ וְאָֽכְלָ֛ה אַרְמְנ֥וֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם וְלֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, our first step is “find the subject.” In this case, we look at the gender and number of the verb, and it is feminine singular. The feminine singular noun, in this instance which best serves as the subject is אֵ֣שׁ. Is the fire putting something out, or is the fire going out? Clearly, it is the latter. If that is the case, then clearly, what is going out is the subject, and the experiencer of the verb. However, again, this is a Qal stem. Thus, our pattern is still holding with one more instance to go in Jeremiah, that being Jeremiah 21:12:

בֵּ֣ית דָּוִ֗ד כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה דִּ֤ינוּ לַבֹּ֙קֶר֙ מִשְׁפָּ֔ט וְהַצִּ֥ילוּ גָז֖וּל מִיַּ֣ד עוֹשֵׁ֑ק פֶּן־תֵּצֵ֨א כָאֵ֜שׁ חֲמָתִ֗י וּבָעֲרָה֙ וְאֵ֣ין מְכַבֶּ֔ה מִפְּנֵ֖י רֹ֥עַ מעלליהם מַעַלְלֵיכֶֽם׃

Again, this structure is much like Jeremiah 4:4 and Isaiah 1:31. Again, the wrath of the Lord is kindled, and there is no one to put it out. The same analysis from 4:4 and Isaiah 1:31 would then apply here as well. However, what is interesting is that this is a Piel stem, just like Jeremiah 4:4 and Isaiah 1:31. Hence, our pattern holds through the book of Jeremiah. Whenever you have a Qal stem, the verb is monovalent, and means something like “to go out,” and whenever you have a Piel stem, it is bivalent meaning something like “to extinguish.”

Now, let us move on to the prophet Ezekiel who uses the term three times. The first is in 21:3:

וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֙ לְיַ֣עַר הַנֶּ֔גֶב שְׁמַ֖ע דְּבַר־יְהוָ֑ה כֹּֽה־אָמַ֣ר אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֡ה הִנְנִ֣י מַֽצִּית־בְּךָ֣׀ אֵ֡שׁ וְאָכְלָ֣ה בְךָ֣ כָל־עֵֽץ־לַח֩ וְכָל־עֵ֨ץ יָבֵ֤שׁ לֹֽא־תִכְבֶּה֙ לַהֶ֣בֶת שַׁלְהֶ֔בֶת וְנִצְרְבוּ־בָ֥הּ כָּל־פָּנִ֖ים מִנֶּ֥גֶב צָפֽוֹנָה׃

Again, our first step is to find the subject. Again, it is feminine and singular, and the word directly after it, לַהֶ֣בֶת, fits the bill perfectly. Now, again, what is going out would be the subject, and hence, the experiencer of the verb. All of these facts fit with the notion that the verb means “to go out.” However, this is a Qal stem, so our pattern is still holding.

The next example in Ezekiel is in the next verse 21:4:

וְרָאוּ֙ כָּל־בָּשָׂ֔ר כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה בִּֽעַרְתִּ֑יהָ לֹ֖א תִּכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, we must find the subject. The subject appears to go back to the verse above, and is the same as the subject of כבה in the verse above, namely, לַהֶ֣בֶת. However, if that is the case, then the exact same analysis would apply to this passage as it would to 21:3. However, again we have a Qal stem, and thus, the pattern is still holding.

The next example is Ezekiel 32:7:

‏וְכִסֵּיתִ֤י בְכַבּֽוֹתְךָ֙ שָׁמַ֔יִם וְהִקְדַּרְתִּ֖י אֶת־כֹּֽכְבֵיהֶ֑ם שֶׁ֚מֶשׁ בֶּעָנָ֣ן אֲכַסֶּ֔נּוּ וְיָרֵ֖חַ לֹא־יָאִ֥יר אוֹרֽוֹ׃

Here we have a twist, and that is the infinitive construct preceded by the Bet preposition with the 2ms pronominal suffix. With this pronominal suffix, we are certain as to what the subject is: the pronoun “you.” The problem is, it doesn’t make any sense in the context. Earlier, as we have seen, God can use metaphors of fire in regards to his wrath, or the object which is kindled will allow for the assignment of the definition “to go out.” However, no such context exists at this point. However, as we have seen, “When you extinguish” is incomplete in its meaning. There is no easy answer to this problem. The Targum has באכהיותי which may introduce a confusion between a Kaph and a Yod, which would then mean that the “you” is a copy error for “I” [When I put [you] out…]. That is difficult on two grounds. First, the confusion of a Kaph and a Yod is something I would say is rare. More than that, the Targums are notorious for interpretation. Someone rightly called them “The Living Bible of ancient Judaism.” Is this yod an interpretation or a reflection of the original text? Nevertheless, with all of these questions, most translations I examined seem to follow the Targum. Finally, the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia wants to repoint it to a Qal, but, aside from the contextual difficulties, unless you have a good reason, it is not good to change vowel pointing too much. There are no easy answers to this question. Hence, given the text critical problems with this verse, it is grossly unwise for anyone to use it in support of anything.

The final prophet to use כבה is Amos in 5:6:

‏דִּרְשׁ֥וּ אֶת־יְהוָ֖ה וִֽחְי֑וּ פֶּן־יִצְלַ֤ח כָּאֵשׁ֙ בֵּ֣ית יוֹסֵ֔ף וְאָכְלָ֥ה וְאֵין־מְכַבֶּ֖ה לְבֵֽית־אֵֽל׃

This is like Isaiah 1:31 and Jeremiah 4:4, and hence, I will not repeat everything I wrote there. However, again, this is a Piel stem. So, our pattern still holds.

Hence, to summarize the data from the prophets, aside from Ezekiel 32:7 which poses exegetical and text critical difficulties, whenever you have a Qal stem, the verb is monovalent, requiring only an experiencer as the subject. When you have a Piel stem, the verb is bivalent, requiring two theta roles, an agent as the subject and an experiencer as the direct object. It sounds very much like the patterns we noticed earlier when we were distinguishing between the meanings “to go out” and “to extinguish.”

Now, continuing on classic distinctions in literature, we are now going to take the rest of the poetic books with two instances from the Proverbs, and one from the Song of Songs. The first is from Proverbs 26:20:

בְּאֶ֣פֶס עֵ֭צִים תִּכְבֶּה־אֵ֑שׁ וּבְאֵ֥ין נִ֝רְגָּ֗ן יִשְׁתֹּ֥ק מָדֽוֹן׃

It is fairly obvious what the subject of this verb is as the MT actually provides a maqqeph to link the verb to the subject אֵ֑שׁ. More than that, taking בְּאֶ֣פֶס עֵ֭צִים as a temporal clause, we would have another instance of a verb with one theta role, with the subject as an experiencer which goes out. Again, this is a Qal stem, so our pattern continues to hold.

The second passage from Proverbs is Proverbs 31:18:

‏טָ֭עֲמָה כִּי־ט֣וֹב סַחְרָ֑הּ לֹֽא־יִכְבֶּ֖ה בליל בַלַּ֣יְלָה נֵרָֽהּ׃

Again we must find the subject. The only possibility for the subject in the last clause is נֵרָֽהּ. Does her lamp go out, or does her lamp put something out? Clearly, it goes out. Also, there is only a subject, again perfectly fitting the pattern we used to distinguish these two terms at the beginning of this article. Also, as far as our pattern goes, this is again a Qal stem, so our pattern still holds.

We have one more passage in the poetic literature, and that is from the Song of Songs 8:7:

מַ֣יִם רַבִּ֗ים לֹ֤א יֽוּכְלוּ֙ לְכַבּ֣וֹת אֶת־הָֽאַהֲבָ֔ה וּנְהָר֖וֹת לֹ֣א יִשְׁטְפ֑וּהָ אִם־יִתֵּ֨ן אִ֜ישׁ אֶת־כָּל־ה֤וֹן בֵּיתוֹ֙ בָּאַהֲבָ֔ה בּ֖וֹז יָב֥וּזוּ לֽוֹ׃

Again, what is the subject of כבה, or, more specifically of יֽוּכְלוּ֙ לְכַבּ֣וֹת? There is, again, only one option: מַ֣יִם רַבִּ֗ים. Now, are many waters going out? No, of course not. They are putting something out, namely הָֽאַהֲבָ֔ה, as is indicated by the direct object marker. This is a Piel stem, so, again it fits our pattern.

So, if we consider all of poetic and prophetic texts in the Hebrew Bible, what we find is that, with the exception of Ezekiel 32:7, which has a text critical problem, all texts fall into this pattern of the Qal stem fitting with the meaning of “to go out” and the Piel stem fitting with the meaning of “to extinguish.”

Now, we will turn our attention to the prose texts. The first time this word is used in prose is in Leviticus 6:5:

וְהָאֵ֨שׁ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֤חַ תּֽוּקַד־בּוֹ֙ לֹ֣א תִכְבֶּ֔ה וּבִעֵ֨ר עָלֶ֧יהָ הַכֹּהֵ֛ן עֵצִ֖ים בַּבֹּ֣קֶר בַּבֹּ֑קֶר וְעָרַ֤ךְ עָלֶ֙יהָ֙ הָֽעֹלָ֔ה וְהִקְטִ֥יר עָלֶ֖יהָ חֶלְבֵ֥י הַשְּׁלָמִֽים׃

Again, we will begin by identifying the subject of כבה. There is only one possibility for that here, and that is הָאֵ֨שׁ. Now, we again ask the question as to whether הָאֵ֨שׁ is going out, or is putting something out. Clearly, fire goes out, it doesn’t put anything out. Hence, you have the subject as the experiencer, and, again, this verb is a Qal stem. Hence, our pattern still holds.

The second occurrence of this word in a prose text is in the very next verse:

אֵ֗שׁ תָּמִ֛יד תּוּקַ֥ד עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ לֹ֥א תִכְבֶֽה׃

Again, we must identify the subject of כבה. Again, there is only one choice here, and that is אֵ֗שׁ. So, again, we have the subject which is the experiencer of “going out,” and again, this verb is found in the Qal stem. Again, the pattern holds.

The next prose texts to use this word is 1 Samuel 3:3:

וְנֵ֤ר אֱלֹהִים֙ טֶ֣רֶם יִכְבֶּ֔ה וּשְׁמוּאֵ֖ל שֹׁכֵ֑ב בְּהֵיכַ֣ל יְהוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־שָׁ֖ם אֲר֥וֹן אֱלֹהִֽים׃

Again, the first step must be to find the subject of כבה. Again, there is only one option here for the subject, and that is נֵ֤ר. Again, to lamps go out, or do they put something out? Clearly, they go out. Hence, you have the experiencer of the verb “go out” as the subject, and, consistent with our pattern, this is a Qal stem. Also, this interpretation is strengthened by a possible intertextual connection between this passage and Leviticus 6:5-6, which we examined previously.

The next time this word is used in prose is in 2 Samuel 14:7:

וְהִנֵּה֩ קָ֨מָה כָֽל־הַמִּשְׁפָּחָ֜ה עַל־שִׁפְחָתֶ֗ךָ וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ תְּנִ֣י׀ אֶת־מַכֵּ֣ה אָחִ֗יו וּנְמִתֵ֙הוּ֙ בְּנֶ֤פֶשׁ אָחִיו֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָרָ֔ג וְנַשְׁמִ֖ידָה גַּ֣ם אֶת־הַיּוֹרֵ֑שׁ וְכִבּ֗וּ אֶת־גַּֽחַלְתִּי֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נִשְׁאָ֔רָה לְבִלְתִּ֧י שום־ שִׂים־ לְאִישִׁ֛י שֵׁ֥ם וּשְׁאֵרִ֖ית עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃

Again, the first step must be to find the subject of כבה. In this case, it must be a plural noun, because the verb is plural. In the main clauses, there is a switch from third person, to first person [for the quotation], and back to third person again. Hence, the verb is most likely the same as the subject of וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ and קָ֨מָה, and hence, the subject would be כָֽל־הַמִּשְׁפָּחָ֜ה. The plural verbs would then be ad sensum, and the singular verb קָ֨מָה would simply be to match the grammatical singular of כָֽל־הַמִּשְׁפָּחָ֜ה. Again, we must ask the question. Do clans put things like fire out, or are they put out? Clearly, since they are humans, they put things out, and hence, the subject puts something out. Also, there is a direct object which functions as the experiencer which is put out, גַּֽחַלְתִּי. And, again, consistent with our pattern, this is a Piel stem.

The next time this word is used in prose is 2 Samuel 21:17:

וַיַּֽעֲזָר־לוֹ֙ אֲבִישַׁ֣י בֶּן־צְרוּיָ֔ה וַיַּ֥ךְ אֶת־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֖י וַיְמִיתֵ֑הוּ אָ֣ז נִשְׁבְּעוּ֩ אַנְשֵׁי־דָוִ֨ד ל֜וֹ לֵאמֹ֗ר לֹא־תֵצֵ֨א ע֤וֹד אִתָּ֙נוּ֙ לַמִּלְחָמָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א תְכַבֶּ֖ה אֶת־נֵ֥ר יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Again, the first step must be to find the subject of כבה. In this case, it is easy since the verb itself gives the subject-the second person singular pronoun “you.” So, does a person put something out, or does a person go out? Well, it could be either [in the sense of a person dying], but most of the time, a person puts something out. And, consistent with this interpretation, we have a direct object נֵ֥ר יִשְׂרָאֵֽל marked with the direct object marker אֶת, and lamps most certainly do go out! Hence, the subject is the agent of the verb “to put out.” And, consistent with our pattern, this is a Piel stem.

The next instance of this term in prose is 2 Kings 22:17:

‏תַּ֣חַת׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עֲזָב֗וּנִי וַֽיְקַטְּרוּ֙ לֵאלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֔ים לְמַ֙עַן֙ הַכְעִיסֵ֔נִי בְּכֹ֖ל מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה יְדֵיהֶ֑ם וְנִצְּתָ֧ה חֲמָתִ֛י בַּמָּק֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, the first step is to find the subject of כבה. Again, there is only one option for the subject, and that is חֲמָתִ֛י. Does wrath, with fire being used as a metaphor for it, go out, or does it put something out? Quite clearly, it goes out. Hence, we have the experiencer of the verb “to go out” as the subject. Also, consistent with our pattern, this is a Qal stem.

The next instance of this term in prose is 2 Chronicles 29:7:

‏גַּ֣ם סָֽגְר֞וּ דַּלְת֣וֹת הָאוּלָ֗ם וַיְכַבּוּ֙ אֶת־הַנֵּר֔וֹת וּקְטֹ֖רֶת לֹ֣א הִקְטִ֑ירוּ וְעֹלָה֙ לֹא־הֶעֱל֣וּ בַקֹּ֔דֶשׁ לֵאלֹהֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Again, the first step is to find the subject of כבה. Again, we have a third person plural verb following another third person plural verb, probably going back to the אֲבֹתֵ֗ינוּ in the previous verse. Do forefathers put something out, or do they go out? Again, could be either, but we again have help from the context as we have a direct object, הַנֵּר֔וֹת. In this case, the verb has two theta roles, which makes it totally incompatible with the meaning “to go out” which only has one. And, consistent with this interpretation, it is much more likely for Hezekiah to be concerned about the people not burning the lamps rather than the fact that people are dying, since the concern in the context is the neglect of the law. And consistent with our pattern, we have a Piel stem.

The only instance of this term left to consider in prose and in the Hebrew Bible as a whole is 2 Chronicles 34:25:

‏תַּ֣חַת׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עֲזָב֗וּנִי ויקטירו וַֽיְקַטְּרוּ֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֔ים לְמַ֙עַן֙ הַכְעִיסֵ֔נִי בְּכֹ֖ל מַעֲשֵׂ֣י יְדֵיהֶ֑ם וְתִתַּ֧ךְ חֲמָתִ֛י בַּמָּק֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, the first step is to find the subject of כבה. Again, the only real option comes from the previous clause, and it is a word commonly used as the subject of כבה, and that is חֲמָתִ֛י. Again, does anger go out, or does it put something out? Also, remember, if the word means “to put something out,” the lack of a direct object makes no sense “my wrath will not put out.” “Not put out what?” is the immediate question. The sentence is totally incomplete. Hence, with as the subject as the experiencer of a verb that is monovalent, the only option is to see this word as meaning “to go out, and indeed, consistent with our pattern, this is a Qal stem.

So, now we have examined all instances of כבה in the Hebrew Bible. There is a clear, strong pattern here, and that is that whenever the subject of כבה is something that goes out [the subject is the agent of the verb], the verb only requires one theta role [an experiencer], and is in the Qal stem. However, when the subject *puts* something out, the experiencer of the verb is an accusative [i.e., is the direct object], and the verb is bivalent, and is found in the Piel stem. With the exception of Ezekiel 32:7 which is a text critical problem, this holds throughout the Hebrew Bible. The conclusion then would be that Qal stem means “to go out” and the Piel stem means “to extinguish.”

This conclusion is actually consistent with the relationship Hebrew grammarians are finding between the Qal stem and the Piel stem. For example, Bruce Waltke and Michael O’Connor in their advanced Hebrew grammar discuss the work of E. Jenni who used Albrecht Goetze’s work on the Akkadian D stem to discuss the relationship between the Qal and the Piel. They write:

Jenni begins his study by turning away from the venerable tradition behind Arabic and Hebrew grammars, looking instead to recent developments in Akkadian grammar, where Goetze established a close connection between the stative meaning of the G stem (~ Hebrew Qal) and the D stem. According to Goetze, the Akkadian D stem does not modify the verbal root, as is the case with the Akkadian sè and N stems (~ Hebrew Hiphil and Niphal). Rather, the D stem is to be associated with the adjectival use of the G stem. Among the finite forms of the Akkadian, five are important (the examples are from the root paraÒsu ‘to separate, cut’): present iparras ‘he is cutting,’ perfect iptaras ‘he has cut,’ preterite iprus ‘he cut,’ imperative purus ‘cut!’, and permansive or stative parts ‘he is cut.’9 The last of these is relevant here; the Akkadian permansive or stative verb form should not be confused with the class of stative verbs, that is, verbs which refer to a state or quality (22.2.1). The Akkadian permansive form is used when the subject has a quality or has undergone an action associated with the root. (In the latter case the form is rendered as a passive.) Goetze’s proposal associates the G stem permansive arik fit is long’ with the D stem urrukam ‘to make (to be) long.’ Wolfram von Soden, in his standard grammar of Akkadian, follows Goetze in describing the stem: “The chief function of the D stem is factitive, that is, it expresses above all the bringing about of a situation which would be designated by the permansive of the G stem, … (e.g., damiq ‘he is good’: dummuqum ‘to make good’; balit ‘he is alive’: bullutum ‘to make (to be) living, keep alive’; salim ‘he is friendly’: sullumum’to make (to be) friendly, reconcile’).”10 Thus, in von Soden’s grammar, the “intensive” concept is not used to explain the D stem.
[Waltke, Bruce K. O’Connor, Michael. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax Eisenbrauns Publications. Winona Lake, Indiana. 1990. p. 398]

Likewise, in discussing the meaning of the Piel in relation to Jenni’s work, they write:

He [Jenni] begins by insisting that each of the various stems in Hebrew is morphologically unified both in form and semantic function. Each functions in distinctive opposition to the other stems in the system. The meaning of the Piel stem is neither intensive nor causative (in the sense that it is practically equivalent in meaning to the Hiphil). Rather, it expresses the bringing about of a state. With Qal intransitive verbs the Piel is factitive: it designates without regard to the process the bringing about of the state depicted by an adjective. The object experiences this action as an “accident” (a philosophical term signifying that a quality or situation is not essential to the person or thing in question). The difference between a true factitive meaning and a declarative-estimative meaning consists in whether the effected state, described in terms of an adjective, is experienced externally (by the senses) or subjectively (in the mind). With Qal transitive verbs the Piel is resultative: it designates the bringing about of the outcome of the action designated by the base root, which action can be expressed in terms of an adjective, and without regard to the actual process of the event. The species of the resultative (metaphorical meaning, indirect action, summarizing successive action with plural objects, etc.) are to be understood in contrast to the actual action, which is presented by the base root. Denominative verbs in the Piel have either a factitive or resultative meaning. More specifically, the denominative expresses itself in terms of productive, or successive iterative, or privative verbal meanings, rather than in terms of an actual event or a causative meaning.

The Piel is associated with causation: the Piel causes a state rather than an action (as the Hiphil, for which we reserve the term causative, does). Since the object of causation is in a state of suffering the effects of an action, it is inherently passive in part. Both these features, emphasized earlier (21.2.2), comport well with Jenni’s analysis and continue that scholar’s basic project of discovering the “living” unity of the stem system. [ibid. pgs.399-400 Brackets mine]

In other words, if the Qal stem of כבה means “to go out,” then the Piel stem of כבה will mean “to cause to come into a state of going out,” or, more simply, “to put out.” What is interesting is that Waltke and O’Connor also mention examples of verbs for which we have no Qal or G stem in Hebrew, but we do in other languages. For example, in Hebrew, the verb גלח [to shave] only occurs in the Piel or D stem. However, in Arabic, you do have a G stem of this root [jaliḥa] which means “to be bald,” again consistent with the meaning “to bring about a state of being bald.”

You will likewise find this usage mentioned in Jouon/Muraoka’s grammar, although they do not believe Waltke, O’Connor, or Jenni have successfully distinguished the Piel from the Hiphil, another causative stem bringing about actions rather than states, and still believe that our knowledge of the relationship between the Qal and the Piel is still incomplete [Jouon, Paul. Muraoka, T. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew Two volumes. Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico. Roma, Italia. 2005 §52d]. While all of that may be true, our semantic analysis has demonstrated that it works for כבה, and, at very least, is consistent with way in which modern Hebrew scholarship is heading in regards to the relationship between the Qal and the Piel.

This also explains why any passive meaning “to be put out” is irrelevant to Isaiah 66:24. If “to be put out” were the meaning in Isaiah 66:24, then, on the basis of our study, you would expect to see a Pual stem, the passive stem of the Piel. For this, and many other reasons, I conclude that Date’s word study of כבה and its application to Isaiah 66:24 is in error.

Hence, we can now go back to Date’s article, and view his examples with new eyes. For example, he writes:

In other places, on the other hand, and in a variety of contexts, kabah takes “put out” as its primary meaning. A widow tells the king that she fears the execution of her only remaining son and his heir, that in so doing “they will extinguish my coal which is left, so as to leave my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth” (2 Samuel 14:7). When David wearies in battle, risking being killed by a Philistine, his men swore to him, saying, “You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish the lamp of Israel” (2 Samuel 21:17). God promises to “extinguish” Pharaoh in Ezekiel 32:7. Hezekiah tells the priests and Levites in 2 Chronicles 29:6-7 that “our fathers have been unfaithful and have … put out the lamps.” Additional uses like this include Song of Solomon 8:7 and Isaiah 43:17.

The problem is that every text on this list is in the Piel stem, except Isaiah 43:17, and even that doesn’t need to be taken as extinguish, as we have seen above.

Also, we can now deal with Chris Date’s use of the Septuagint as well. He writes:

Besides Matthew 25:8 where it may mean “die out,” and besides Mark 9:48 (because it is the verse in question), everywhere sbennymi (quench) is used in the New Testament it means “put out.”9 As we’ve seen, the best understanding of Isaiah 66:24 is that it likewise refers to a fire which, being inextinguishable, completely consumes. Lacking any indication that the meaning is being changed, it means the same thing when cited by Jesus in Mark 9:48. But what about the “unquenchable” (asbestos) fire in verse 43 and other texts?

The problem with Date’s argument here is that the verb in Matthew 25:8 and Mark 9:48 are the only examples of συβεννυμι that I can find that are middle/passive or passive forms in the NT. The real possibility exists then that, when we are dealing with these present tense middle/passive forms in Matthew 25:8 and Mark 9:48, the verb is to be understood as a middle [i.e., “the fire does not go out on its own accord”]. If these verbs are understood as a middle, it would likewise confirm all of our analysis of the Qal stem of כבה as well.

There is one more thing to clean up from Date’s article, and that is the objection that is summed up in this quote:

Similarly, Jeremiah 17:27 reads, “If you do not listen to me … I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour [‘akal] the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched [kabah].” God did not threaten that the buildings of Jerusalem would burn perpetually forever, but that, unable to be extinguished, his fire would reduce them to rubble. Amos 5:6 likewise says, “He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it will consume [‘akal] with none to quench it [kabah].”

In other words, Date’s objection is, if you say that “the fire/wrath will not go out” is the proper interpretation of both Jeremiah 17:27 and Isaiah 66:24, why do you say that the one verse is eternal fire and the other is not? This also relates to part 1 of Chris Date’s article in this series, and that is why I have chosen to address both part one of Date’s series as well as the above argument in the next post. In order to answer this argument from Date, we must discuss another aspect of meaning, that being pragmatics, and the notion of an intrusion of pragmatics into the semantic level of language. That will be the topic of our next post.


5 Responses to “Annihilation and Hermeneutics Part II”

  1. Glenn Says:

    Adam, when reaching for a technical point about something you’re not sure of, it’s a very good idea to use sources as supporting evidence. Once of the benefits of doing so is that if you’ve made a mistake, good sources can help you to realise this before you invest a lot of time writing something and making it public.

    As it turns out, there are many Qal verbs that do carry a passive meaning. Such meanings are not limited to stems that are characteristically passive. Realising this would have stopped you from continuing and presenting example after example where you had already ruled out the passive meaning. In fact, as all Hebrew lexicographers point out, the primary meaning of כבה in the Qal stem is passive, which is why our English translations give a passive translation virtually all of the time. Indeed, Isaiah 66:24 is just such an example, as “shall not be quenched” plainly carries a passive meaning in English.

    As I suspect you are unlikely to take my word for it, may I suggest that you check with your teachers at Trinity. I wrote a longer response to this, but have decided to use it as the basis of a blog post, shortly to appear at Rethinking Hell.

    All the best, Glenn.

  2. Glenn Says:

    Adam, I’m fairly sure you’ve read the above comment by now (no need to publish this one). I can see that you tend not to publish comments until you have written a response to them, and in this case I’m guessing that you may have looked into the matter I raised – and I presume you have discovered that Qal verbs often carry a passive meaning, and you may be wondering what to do. Respond? Persist? Retract?

    For what it’s worth, I think a making public acknowledgement of the error would be the right thing to do, given the public nature of your criticism and claim.


  3. otrmin Says:


    It is hard to know how to respond for several reasons. The primary reason is that what you have said is just simply untrue. The Qal, outside of the unique form of the “Qal passive” and the Qal passive participle [neither of which are relevant to Isaiah 66:24] *cannot* be a passive; what you are doing is confusing the passive *voice* and the *stative* which look identical in an English translation. כבה in Isaiah 66:24 is a stative, or, more precisely, an ingressive stative.

    As an illustration, there actually exists several uniquely stative forms in ancient near eastern languages which can turn an active verb into a stative verb. For example, my first ANE language outside of Hebrew was Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphic. James E. Hoch was the grammar I learned Egyptian from, and he states:

    With transitive verbs, apart from rḫ “to learn” (§89), the stative indicates that the person or thing has undergone the action, and is translated as a passive in English (although in Egyptian it was not considered a “passive” form): “clogged up,” “having been removed,” “is open,” “has been equipped with,” etc. [Hoch, James E. Middle Egyptian Grammar. SSEA Publications. The Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities. Toronto, Ontario. 1997. p.102]

    Akkadian likewise has the same kind of form. John Huehnergard likewise defines this in his grammar of Akkadian, calling it a “predicative”:

    It is important that the distinction in meaning between the predicative form of a Verbal Adjective and the finite tenses of the same verb be clear, especially when active-intransitive verbs and adjectival/stative verbs are involved. The tenses, (Preterite, Durative, and Perfect) all denote the process of a verbal root; the predicative construction, as its name implies, predicates the condition or state that is the result of the action of the verb. [Huehnergard, John. A Grammar of Akkadian Second Edition. Harvard Semitic Museum Studies 45. Eisenbrauns Publications. Winona Lake, Indiana. 2005. p.221]

    Huehnergard then goes on to give some examples, among which are:

    uššab-he was sitting.
    ušib-he sat down.
    wašib-he is/was seated.

    amraṣ-I got sick
    maraṣku-I am/was sick

    tadannin-you are going strong
    dannãta-you are/were strong

    Basically, this form in Egyptian and Akkadian says that the subject is in or entered a particular state. “The drain is clogged up” can look passive [the drain is being clogged up], but it can also be understood in a stative sense [the drain is in a state of having been clogged up]. The same thing with “The door was opened” [the door was being opened by someone (passive) vs. the door was in a state of being opened (stative)]. Hence, I would say you have confused the passive function of the Qal and the stative, as the two can look identical in English.

    The difference with Hebrew, of course, is that Hebrew doesn’t have such a form to transform action verbs. While earlier on in the history of Hebrew, before the time of the Bible itself, the Perfect conjugation may have been used for that function, as it probably derives from the Egyptian and Akkadian forms just mentioned, Hebrew does not have a stative/predicative form. However, many verbs that are stative in meaning found their home in the Qal stem. This is something that is pretty standard when you study Hebrew verbs. For example, in describing the Qal stem, the popular Basics of Biblical Hebrew says:

    The Qal is the simple or basic verbal stem. Qal verbs are active in voice, though a few passive forms do exist. The Qal stem also exhibits the simple or unnuanced type of action. An example of a verb in the Qal stem is קטל meaning “he killed.” The simple action action of the Qal stem is further divided into transitive, intransitive and stative:

    1. Transitive. Transitive verbs may take a direct object. In the example “the prophet wrote the book,” the word “book” is the direct object of the verb “wrote” because it is the verbal action.

    2. Intransitive. Intransitive verbs cannot take a direct object. In the example “the king perished in the battle,” the verb “perished” cannot take a direct object. Other examples of intransitive verbs include “to live,” “to die,” and “to fast.”

    3. Stative. Stative verbs are used to describe a state of being. In the example, “the priest is old,” the verbal construction “is old” describes the state or condition of the subject (the priest). In English, a stative (or state of being) idea is expressed with a form of the verb “to be” (is) and an adjective (old). In Hebrew, a stative idea is expressed through various verbs themselves such as כבד (to be heavy) and קטן (to be small). Most stative verbs are considered to be intransitive because they cannot take a direct object. [Pratico, Gary. Van Pelt, Miles V. The Basics of Biblical Hebrew. Zondervan Publishing. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2001. pgs. 138-139].

    Notice how, Pratico and Van Pelt acknowledge this existence of the Qal passive form, but, outside of that, only allow for the stative. My own beginning Hebrew grammar, Introducing Biblical Hebrew which I learned from back at Concordia University Wisconsin likewise teaches the Qal stem as the first major stem [chapter 10], and then introduces the stative in the Qal stem only a few chapters later [chapter 19]. In fact, the Qal passive form isn’t introduced until the end of the book [chapter 40], and I will never forget my professor saying “Right now, the only way you can form the passive is with the predicative Qal passive participle,” because we didn’t get into any stems other than the Qal until chapter 26. Page Kelly, in his introductory grammar, lists the Qal as “the simple active stem of the verb,”[§29.1] and allows for a stative [§29.3], but, again, no passive.

    And, if you go to the advanced grammars, they likewise say the same thing. For example, Waltke and O’Connor’s advanced Hebrew Grammar says:

    22.2.1 Fientive and Stative Verbs
    Verbs in the Qal stem (setting aside the rare passive forms) fall into two form/function groups. Grammarians have called them “voluntaria” (freiwillig) and “involuntaria” (unfreiwillig),1 “active” and “neutral” (neutrisch),2 and “active” and “stative.”3 Since the term “active” is also used for voice, it is inappropriate to use in referring to type of action, so we use the term “fientive” (20.2k, 30.2.3).4

    A fientive verb is one that designates a dynamic situation. With this kind of verb a clause answers the implicit question ‘What does X do?’, where X is a nominal expression and do is a fientive verb. A fientive verb may be either transitive or intransitive; a few, such as b’r, may be both…

    With fientive verbs the subject may be described as an “actor.”

    A stative verb is one that describes a circumstance or state, whether external and physical, or psychological, or perceptual. Sentences with this kind of verb implicitly answer the question ‘What is X’s characteristic, quality, circumstance, state (physical or mental)?’, where X is a nominal expression and the characterizing situation is a stative verb, for example, zaÒqeÒn daÒwiÖd ‘David was old.’ [Waltke, Bruce K. O’Connor, Michael. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Eisenbrauns Publications. Winona Lake, Indiana. 1990. pgs. 363-364]

    Again, Waltke and O’Connor acknowledge the Qal Passive form, but, outside or that, state only the fientive and the stative as alternatives. In fact, Waltke and O’Connor directly contradict your assertion that the Qal stem, as the masorites pointed it, can be passive in discussing the Qal passive form:

    The Masoretes recognized Qal only as an active stem, but there is much evidence that Biblical Hebrew also had a passive counterpart. [ibid. p.373].

    So, the masorites pointed כבה in Isaiah 66:24 as a Qal. The only logical conclusion is that it is a stative, rather than a passive.

    Other commonly accepted advanced Hebrew grammars such as Jouon/Muraoka likewise do not accept the passive for the Qal, but will accept the stative saying, “The Qal conjugation comprises of action verbs and stative verbs” [§41]. Likewise, John C. Beckman in his revision to Williams’ Hebrew Syntax lists the fientive [§134] and the stative [§133], but no passive. This is standard in Hebrew grammars from the earliest grammars to the most advanced. It is only the confusion of the stative and the passive, which can look so similar in English translation, that would ever lead one to conclude that the Qal can be passive.

    More than that, one would have to explain, if what you are saying were true, what the point of the Qal passive form and the Niphal form are. Why do you have two different forms developing as the passive counterpart to the Qal, if the Qal already has a passive meaning!? Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

    Finally, as far as Isaiah 66:24, it also explains why you have the relationship I described between the Qal and the Piel of כבה. If the Qal is an ingressive stative, that is, it refers to entering a state of being out, then it is easy to explain how the meaning “to put out” happens in the Qal. Again, Waltke and O’Connor write:

    Consider another pair involving a Qal intransitive.

    וַאֲבִימֶ֕לֶךְ לֹ֥א קָרַ֖ב אֵלֶ֑יהָ Now Abimelech had not gone near (Qal) her (Sarah). Gen 20:4

    קֵרַ֤בְתִּי צִדְקָתִי֙ I am bringing my righteousness near (Piel). Isa 46:13

    The glosses may be misleading. The Qal form, though it may be glossed ‘to go near, approach,’ represents an ingressive stative event; the burden of the story is that Abimelech did not infringe on Sarah’s protected status as a married woman by becoming near her. In the passage with the Piel example the object sÌdqty enters the state of ‘being near. [Waltke. O’Connor, p.402].

    In other words, the Piel is, as I said above, factitive. Its basic meaning is “to cause a state to come about,” or, in our case, “to cause the entrance into the state of being out to come about.” Hence, the gloss, “to put out” in the Piel. However, if the Qal simply refers to the entrance into the state, without any indication of whether it was caused or not, then, obviously, my point is clinched.

  4. Glenn Says:

    Adam, I won’t labour the point, which is fairly simple. Unfortunately it looks like in your response your position is ossifying and you’re resisting the evidence, which is unfortunate. I fear that by provoking you further I will only cause you to dig your heels in further, so this is my last comment on this particular blog entry.

    In your original blog article you did not say that the verb in Isaiah 66:24 was a stative verb, and you had no reason to. All of your argumentation was designed to say that the Qal form of this verb means simply meant “to go out.” Now you say that it is a stative verb, which if true would mean that the meaning here is “to be in (or enter) a state of going out” (assuming you are correct about the meaning of the verb it its Qal form). But if you were correct about the meaning of the verb in its Qal stem, “to go out,” then the stative would be redundant here: To enter a state of going out, which does not modify the (alleged) original Qal meaning at all – “to go out.”

    That being said: of course, redundancy occurs in Hebrew. But your new response is unsuccessful for two reasons

    In the first place even if this instance of kabhah is a stative verb, nothing would change.

    For the meaning of kabhah is the issue, and it means to be put out (to be quenched). Consult any reputable Hebrew Lexicon and observe what they say about the Qal form. Have you done this? If this is a stative form in Isaiah 66:24 then it would mean “to enter a state of being put out,” which agrees with what I have been saying: To be put out. So diverting attention to the question of whether or not this is a stative form does nothing to rebut the point. The stative verb can only modify the existing meaning. The point is that there are verbs that, in the Qal stem, have a passive meaning. This is not to say that they are in a specific form that indicates the passive voice, as you seem to think I have said – so your appeal to grammars that point out that Qal is active is slightly besides the point. Instead, this is to say that they do not need such a form. They carry a meaning that we would ordinarily call passive. I provided several other examples in my blog post (which you did not address), so you aren’t in a position to say that there are no such verbs in the Qal stem. We know that there are numerous (I will discuss some of those examples shortly). Whether the form is stative or not has no bearing on this.

    Although I didn’t ask them to do so, a colleague over at Rethinking Hell decided to pass your blog article, along with my article in response on to a couple of Hebrew experts (one of them being Professor Claude Mariottini, professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary) to see what they made of it. As it turns out, they fully agreed that what I was saying was well-known. You were not named in the article sent to them (you were called “Anonymous”). Upon reading my explanation, Professor M replied by saying “His argument is solid and correct. What Anonymous does not know is that many Hebrew verbs in the Qal have a passive meaning.” This is the issue – not whether or not the verb in Isaiah 66:24 is stative, but rather what the verb in the Qal form means. Some Qal verbs carry a passive meaning, and it is as simple as that.

    Secondly, the form in Isaiah 66:24 is not stative after all.

    Notice that תִכְבֶּה has the standard Qal imperfect form for Lamedh-he verbs (for other readers, that means the third consonant is a “he”). Check any standard introductory Hebrew textbook and check the verb paradigm for a Lamedh-he Qal verb, third person singular feminine. You will see the that form is identical to what we have here in Isaiah 66:24. And yet, as noted above, even if it was a stative verb it would make no difference, because the issue I raised with you is not over whether or not this is a stative verb, but rather over whether or not it has a meaning that we would ordinarily call passive.

    Recall (I’m assuming you read my blog post, given your comment here) that I gave several other examples of Qal verbs that carry a passive meaning (they indicate that something was done to the subject). None of these examples are stative verbs either. Here’s a very brief review – I’ll use just a couple of examples (you can review the other examples I used in my blog post.

    פָּתָה (pathah). The Qal form of the verb, I pointed out, means “to be deceived.” Of course, if you’re correct, then this is not compatible with the Qal stem, and it would mean something like “to deceive.” But is this what the word means? Not at all. Look at the example:

    Deut. 11:16, “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart not be deceived (יִפְתֶּה, Qal imperfect)…”

    So on the face of it, the meaning is passive, which you say is impossible for a verb in the Qal stem. But wait, is this a stative verb? Not at all, for if you were correct about the Qal always carrying an active meaning, then the stative verb would mean “to be deceiving” or to enter a state of deceiving. And clearly that is not what it means at all, for it refers to a person being deceived by another person, which has a passive meaning. And as it turns out – as we would expect – the form is the ordinary Qal imperfect for Lamedh-he verbs. So this is a Qal verb that has a passive meaning and is not a stative verb.

    גָּבַהּ (gabhah). The Qal form of this verb means “to be lifted up.” If you are correct, then this is not compatible with the Qal stem, so it would mean something like “to lift up.” But is that what the verb means here? No. Observe:

    And one more, Ezekiel 28:17, “Thine heart was lifted up (גָּבַהּ, Qal perfect) because of thy beauty.”

    And is this a stative verb? Again, no, for if the verb carried an active meaning and was a stative verb here, then it would mean “to be lifting up” or to be in a state of lifting up. And clearly that is not what it means, because it refers to a thing that is being or has been lifted up (“your heart”), which is passive. Of course, if you were to say that it is stative (contrary to its form) and means “to enter a state of being lifted up,” then you’d be acknowledging the passive meaning.

    So your assessment is mistaken. In fact these Qal verbs do carry a passive meaning, and they are not stative verbs when they express this passive meaning. Here too, as with kabhah, our lexicographers give a passive meaning for the Qal form of these verbs, and here too the translators all provide an English translation that is obviously passive.
    The same is true of kabhah. It has the ordinary form of a III-he Qal verb. Remember: Even if it was a stative verb, the meaning would still be passive (to be in a state of being extinguished), but there is no reason to think that it is a stative verb at all. So you most recent argument fails in two ways:

    Firstly, your claim that the verb is stative would not diminish its passive meaning at all.

    Secondly, the verb is not stative anyway.

    I’ll stop commenting on this blog entry now.

    [Incidentally, thank you for explaining what the stative verb is, but it wasn’t really news!]

  5. otrmin Says:

    I responded go Glenn’s comment here:

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