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In Genesis 3:13

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Does the Hebrew word actually say "deceived me"? or is it possible it says deceives or just deceived?

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2 Answers 2

It means "deceived me" (or beguiled me, in some translations). The phrase is:

הַנָּחָשׁ הִשִּׁיאַנִי, וָאֹכֵל.

'The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.'

The "ni" suffix on the verb is the direct object. In Biblical Hebrew (perhaps other forms too), sometimes the personal pronoun, when serving as an object, is appended to the verb. It would be equally correct to write it separately (oti, "et" + yud, in this case). Hebrew is a very compact language; conjunctions and prepositions are prepended to words and objects are often appended.

It's past tense, not present. (Or, more properly, perfect, not imperfect; Hebrew doesn't exactly have tenses the way English does. But "perfect" meaning "completed action".)

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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I see now there's some question of ambiguity with Kate's question. I didn't catch that she was distinguishing between the presence of me or not, just whether the action was past or ongoing. –  Tim Gallant May 31 '13 at 3:11

It's a perfect, which is about the most definitive past "tense" you can get in Hebrew ("tense" isn't really an accurate general descriptor for how verbs work in Hebrew; language teachers tend to speak of "aspect" rather than "tense").

In any case, the perfect stands in prior relation to the other verb, "I ate," an imperfect which clearly refers to the past event of Eve's eating. So yes, "deceived" is definitely a better rendering than "deceives."

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Hi Tim. Looks like we were nearly-simultaneously answering different interpretations of Kate's question. I hadn't noticed that the title and the body had different foci. Oops. –  Gone Quiet May 31 '13 at 3:26

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