Dr Robert Young, who is author of Young’s Analytical Concordance and Hints To Bible Interpretation, (and possibly some others too) claims that some Hebrew verbs are in "permissive" rather than "causative" sense.

I did some research, and the way I see it is that the Hebrew does not have a "permissive" sense in of itself. But, rather, the permissive sense is derived from the context. Is my understanding correct?

An example:

What do you make from the Exodus 4:21 verse?

The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

How can we know if the "will" is in passive or active sense? In plain words, did god cause Pharaoh's heart to be hardened, or did he allow it?

  • If you need help framing a question, or scoping in order to see how to make it "on topic", do post a question for discussion in the Meta.Hermeneutics.SE site. | Also, a question about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart has already been closed as "off topic", so you will need to see how yours would be better for this site. | Hope this helps!
    – Dɑvïd
    Aug 12, 2016 at 7:45
  • @Davïd Hey. Would it help if i edited my second question into an example for the first question? Because question 1 and question 2 are on the same topic. Also, i believe that this question is on topic (please do correct me if im wrong).
    – Boriss
    Aug 12, 2016 at 7:56
  • @Davïd I edited it. Is it now better?
    – Boriss
    Aug 12, 2016 at 8:53
  • There is no such thing as a permissive sense in Hebrew. As mentioned, there is a passive form of a verb, but that is not the form used in your example.
    – bjorne
    Aug 13, 2016 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


By permissive and causative I assume you mean something like "God let Pharaoh's heart be hardened" and "God hardened Pharaoh's heart".

Your title question is "Do Hebrew words frequently express a permission", but the your post concluded with the questions:

How can we know if the "will" is in passive or active sense? In plain words, did god cause Pharaoh's heart to be hardened, or did he allow it?

In answer to these, I would suggest consulting the Septuagint. The Alexandrian Jews who translated the Hebrew of Exodus 4:21 into Greek definitely gave the verse a causative sense:

Exodus 4:21

ἐγὼ δὲ σκληρυνῶ [will harden] τὴν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ

σκληρυνῶ is in the future active indicative. The permissive sense, on the other hand, would have been translated along the lines of Genesis 1:3 using an aorist form, I think:

Genesis 1:3

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός Γενηθήτω φῶς [let come into being light]. καὶ ἐγένετο φῶς.

  • You certainly know your stuff - well done. I think that this answer is probably gonna be accepted. But ill wait a bit to see if i get any other answers. Thanks!
    – Boriss
    Aug 12, 2016 at 17:07
  • Btw, i have changed the tittle of the post and some of the content before you posted. I am not sure why do you see an old tittle.
    – Boriss
    Aug 12, 2016 at 17:17
  • Thank you for the undeserved praise. I am pretty weak in Hebrew, but since I am Orthodox Christian I am somewhat familiar with the Septuagint. BTW, the best resource I think for understanding what the Hebrew means in my opinion is the Oxford Jewish Study Bible. I should have noted that the editors comment that God "does not stiffen Pharaoh's heart initially, but only after Pharaoh has done so himself many times." On other occasions the text does, in fact, say his heart "stiffened" (passive voice), but eventually God Himself will harden his heart, preventing him from escaping punishment.
    – user15733
    Aug 12, 2016 at 17:33

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