The verb asar עָשַׂר(to take the tenth of, tithe, Strongs 6237) is used nine times in the OT, seven times in the Piel and two times in the Qal. My question is whether or not the use of this word in Jacob's vow in Genesis 28:22 has any indication of frequency?

When used in the Piel elsewhere (Deuteronomy 14:22, 26:12, Nehemiah 10:37-38) it seems to clearly indicate regularity/frequency as opposed to a one time event. When used in the Qal (1 Samuel 8:15,17) I am uncertain although it seems (to me) that it could also be repetitive.

In Waltke and O'Connor's Biblical Hebrew Syntax, page 414, they discuss the Piel used for fractional numbers and "to illustrate the frequentative aspect of Piel" they cite from Genesis 28:22. I've attached a picture of their comments, does this mean Waltke/O'Connor are arguing that the verb in Genesis 28:22 may indicate frequency (more than one time)?

I don't understand Waltke's comment that Jenni's "view seems dubious." Please see photo:

enter image description here

1 Answer 1


Yes, p. 414 is a bit tricky to read. The key to sorting this out is to make a distinction between repeating a fixed number of times vs repeating indefinitely according to a certain frequency.

Waltke and O'Connor argue that in numerical denominatives, the Piel stem carries a nuance of frequency. E.g., the Hebrew word for "tithe" is a numerical denominative. They apply this nuance to Genesis 28:22

and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

give You a tenth.”
אֲעַשְּׂרֶ֥נּוּ (’ă·‘aś·śə·ren·nū)
Verb - Piel - Imperfect - first person common singular | third person masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 6237: To tithe, to take, give a tenth

According to Waltke and O'Connor, Jacob tithed periodically.

According to Jenni, it was different. Jenni emphasizes on the resultative aspect of the Piel stem, not necessarily the frequency aspect. To Jenni, Jacob tithed a fixed number of times and not according to an orderly frequency. I'd go more with Waltke and O'Connor in this case because the resultative nuance is already somewhat reflected by the Imperfect.

Caveat emptor:
Nobody speaks like a mathematician on a daily basis. Language, despite its formal grammar, by nature, contains ambiguities. In each case, I'd weigh these two positions along with the context of the case to determine its more probable meaning.

Does this Hebrew verb for tithe in Genesis 28:22 indicate frequency?

Yes, according to Waltke and O'Connor.

No, according to Jenni.

I'd go more with Waltke and O'Connor in this case.

  • How do you think Jenni's argument would be applied to verses like Deuteronomy 14:22, 26:12, and Nehemiah 10:37-38 where the context clearly indicates regularity/frequency with the same verb asar of Gen 28:22 also in the Piel? If I understand your comment then I assume that Jenni would argue Jacob tithed only once but this reasoning doesn't make sense (to me) for other texts in Deuteronomy and Nehemiah. Thank you.
    – Derek
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 0:17
  • To Jenni, Jacob tithed a fixed number of times and not according to an orderly frequency.
    – user35953
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 13:26

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