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וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָי יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלַּכְתִּי לְפָנָיו יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכוֹ אִתָּךְ וְהִצְלִיחַ דַּרְכֶּךָ וְלָקַחְתָּ אִשָּׁה לִבְנִי מִמִּשְׁפַּחְתִּי וּמִבֵּית אָבִי

In context, the person being spoken to is masculine, hence the masculine endings on דַּרְכֶּךָ and וְלָקַחְתָּ. I would therefore expect אִתָּךְ to be pointed אִתְּךָ to reflect a masculine object.

Q: Is אִתָּךְ a known variant of אִתְּךָ?

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  • BDB has some explanation, but I'm not sure it answers in the depth that you want.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 15:09

2 Answers 2

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אִתָּךְ is the pausal form of the masculine pronoun אִתְּךָ, which appears at the end of a phrase or verse. The pausal form is described by Gesenius here (29.4.b):

[A]fter the prepositions בְ, לְ, (אֶת) אֵת the suffix ־ְךָ in pause becomes ־ָךְ, e.g. בָּךְ, לָךְ, אִתָּךְ.

Usually the pausal form appears at the end of a verse or on the etnachta. However, sometimes (as in this verse) it can appear on the pashta despite the fact that it is one of the weaker dividers (29.4):

Apart from these principal pauses (the great pause), there are often pausal changes (the lesser pause) with the lesser distinctives, especially Segolta, Zaqeph qaṭon, Rebhîaʿ, and even with Pašṭa, Tiphḥa, Gereš, and (Pr 304) Pazer.

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The Massoretic Text (MT), which most of us accept as canonical, has specialized forms (allomorphs) for many words that indicate the end of a semantic unit, either a clause or verse1. These forms are usually called "pausal forms" in English, because of the custom to lengthen the vocalization of such words, and, if they occur at the end of a verse, to stop briefly after the word.2

When a Hebrew word has a pausal form, the "regular" form used at the beginning or middle of a phrase is the contextual form. The contextual forms have a contracted vocalization because the words are pronounced in a flow with other words, but since the vast majority of occurrences in the OT corpus, of words that have pausal forms, is the contextual form, the psychological impression is that the contextual form is the "normal" or "regular" form. Modern Hebrew grammar assumes the contextual form to be the normative form.3

The system of pausal forms in the MT is apparently a late development in the vocalization of the text, associated with the Tiberian tradition of diacritics and vocalization. Pausal forms appears to a much lesser degree in the Babylonian tradition of diacritics, and are completely absent in the Dead Sea Scrolls4

There has been a debate regarding whether the contextual or the pausal form of a word represents the base or "original" form of the word. With the discovery of the apparently late advent of the pausal form, it now appears that the base or original form of a word could possibly be a different, third form, from which both the contextual and the pausal forms derived.3

Most of the Tiberian tradition pausal form allomorphs do not conflict either with modern Hebrew grammar, or with the simplified rules of classical Hebrew grammar taught in beginning Hebrew courses. For example:

  1. Exodus 15:22 pausal: וַיַּסַּע מֹשֶׁה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִיַּם סוּף וַיֵּצְאוּ אֶל מִדְבַּר שׁוּר וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים בַּמִּדְבָּר וְלֹא מָצְאוּ מָיִם, Exodus 12:23, contextual: וַיָּבֹאוּ מָרָתָה וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לִשְׁתֹּת מַיִם מִמָּרָה כִּי מָרִים הֵם עַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמָהּ מָרָה
  2. Genesis 40:1 contextual, pausal: וַיְהִי אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה חָטְאוּ מַשְׁקֵה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם וְהָאֹפֶה לַאֲדֹנֵיהֶם לְמֶלֶךְ מִצְרָיִם

Because there is only a slight variation in vocalization, and the vocalization is not taught with the cantillation, we tend to gloss over these forms as archaic or literary allomorphs. That is, since the meaning isn't changed, we generally ignore these forms.

However, in the case of words ending with the HEBREW LETTER FINAL KAF (ך) used to mean second person pronoun "you", the pausal form does conflict with a grammatical rule taught in Hebrew courses and in modern Hebrew, and therefore, these pausal forms stick out and beg for explanation while other pausal forms do not. In other words, these forms do not appear to be allomorphs, they appear to have a different meaning, a changed gender. And that is the reason for the OP question.

The explanation of how the contextual form בְךָ becomes the pausal form בָךְ, how לְךָ becomes לָךְ, how אִתְּךָ becomes אִתָּךְ and others is that the base form of this pronoun suffix is aikha (masculine) or aaikh (feminine), as if written איכה or איך with a long hard a sound before the KAF. For example, the base form laaikha (לֵךָ) is shortened in the contextual form to leckha (לְךָ) and in the pausal form to laakh (לָךְ). The final vowel vocalization ("ah") after the KAF was shortened and finally dropped out completely over time because the accent is on the first syllable.5

The general rule is that when the vowel in the syllable before the final KAF is a hard a sound, the pausal form is akch, soft a before the KAF, and when the vowel is e the pausal form of the KAF is unchanged from the contextual form5

With this development in vocalization of the final KAF form, the gender can become ambiguous. The answer to this problem is twofold. First, in actual fact, the context disambiguates the gender. But in theory, if the pronominal suffix could be plausibly read as either gender, the traditional understanding of the meaning of the text that predates the advent of the pausal form disambiguates the meaning.

My thanks to b a for challenging me to do the research necessary to answer this question. I always wondered about it but I never bothered to look beyond the popular explanations of the phenomenon until now.


Notes

  1. An Introduction to the Syntax of Biblical Hebrew (in Hebrew), Steven E. Fassberg, Bialik Institute, Jerusalem, 2019, ISBN 978-965-536-260-2, page 17.
  2. In fact, the term "pausal form" is a misnomer, as the pause is not the purpose of the form, it is the result. The purpose of the form is syntactic, to indicate the end of a semantic unit.
  3. Elisha Qimron, The Nature of the Pausal Form (in Hebrew), published in "SHAR'AREI LASHON, Studies in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Jewish Languages Presented to Moshe Bar-Asher", Bialik Institute, Jerusalem, 2007, ISBN 978-965-342-945-1
  4. Elisha Qimron, Studies in the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls (in Hebrew), published in "Hebrew Linguistics", Volume 33-34-35, June 1992, Bar Ilan University Press. It might be objected that there are no diacritics in the Dead Sea texts. Qimron presents a very large number of examples that show how vocalizations can be derived from these unpointalized texts.
  5. This explanation is proposed by Elisha Qimron in The Nature of the Pausal Form (see previous notes)

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