Is there a justification for a "prophetic waw consecutive imperfect" as suggested somewhat, by NET Bible in Isaiah 9:6 as not "and he was called"?


Sometimes Isaiah 9:6 is translated in the past tense ".......and he was called...." or "and his name was called".

Putting aside who the subject is e.g. if the subject is "he" or if the subject is "the Wonderful Adviser, the Mighty God".

I'm asking about the tense of the wayiktol form aka the waw consecutive imperfect form. - where the vav has the patach vowel. So waw conversive imperfect.

Some say it's past tense. "was called" / "called his name".

Some say present tense "is called"

Some say shall be called.

I know there is such a thing as the "prophetic perfect", where since the future has already happened in the mind of a prophet, so the perfect (pretty much the past tense) can be used. But there isn't such a term as prophetic waw consecutive imperfect. No doubt the waw consecutive imperfect is normally the past tense. But a question becomes whether from the mouth of a prophet or it could be future.

The NET Bible says

The prefixed verbs with vav (ו) consecutive are used with the same rhetorical sense as the perfects in v. 6a.

So that's saying yes the waw consecutive imperfect, by which here it means waw with patach, so the waw conversive can be used for future events. Like how a prophet can use the perfect.

I'm wondering what other examples there are of that.

There are some unusual cases, in Proverbs 31, e.g. 31:13 "וַתַּעַשׂ, בְּחֵפֶץ כַּפֶּיהָ" she -works- willingly/with delight, with her hands.

So that's not past tense. And 31:15 "she gives food/meat to her household" וַתִּתֵּן טֶרֶף לְבֵיתָהּ

So that's waw consecutive imperfect, waw with patach and not past tense, though. And those cases are very rare. And also, it's not from a prophet. So, while those instances may be a case in themselves or an example of a case, of that form being future, it's different to that form being used as a prophetic waw consecutive imperfect.

So I'm wondering if there are instances of effectively a prophetic waw consecutive imperfect (I know the term doesn't exist, but effectively that's what I'm speaking of. Besides the debatable case of Isaiah 9:6's usage of the word Vayikra.

  • Is it seriously justifiable to make verse 6's verb H7121 past tense despite verse 7's final imperfect verb?
    – user21676
    Aug 17, 2021 at 11:33
  • @user21676 So v6 H7121(kara) (vayikra).. to justify past tense despite v7's final imperfect verse. One could say that the child has been born (past tense), and named/titled, but the promise to follow, the government being increased.. is future.
    – barlop
    Aug 17, 2021 at 15:34
  • This is precisely the point; there is no valid reason given for the question, in fact the question deliberately avoids common sense('Putting aside who the subject is') in interpreting the scriptures. What good is promoting a half-hazard theory if it overrides basic bible fundamentals/principles(2 Sa ch. 7)?
    – user21676
    Aug 17, 2021 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


Hebrew does not have absolute tense in the way English does. All Hebrew tense is relative to the other verbs around it, rather than relative to the time period of the speaker. Thus prophecies have many qatal and wayyiqtol verbs, even though the prophecy as a whole is happening in the future relative to the prophet. Similarly, the histories have lots of yiqtol and weqatal verbs as long as one event follows another in time.

The above have nothing to do with the genre of prophecy or history, the weqatal and wayyiqtol tenses are relative to the verbs preceeding them in Hebrew, rather than relative to the time period of the speaker as it is in English[J].

As an example, imagine a prophecy that a city will be conquered because the guards will forget to close the gates. Thus "forget to close the gates" would, in Hebrew be in wayyiqtol if it is mentioned after "the city will be conquered", or you can change the wording and say "the guards will forget to close the gates and the city will be conquered" in which case you would use weqatal or yiqtol. Likewise, if this was a history work, then "city will be conquered" could be in the future (weqatal) tense if it happened after the guards forgot to close the gates, irrespective of when it happened relative to the time period of the speaker.

This use of past tenses in prophecies of the future as well as the use of future tenses in the history stories creates a translation problem when the target language is English, and you see different choices made in translations, but this difference in translation choices does not reflect any differences in beliefs about Hebrew grammar.

Thus the verb here is an ordinary wayyiqtol verb. There is nothing unusual about this verb, nor about having a patach under the vav (see mounce). But as this is a prophecy of a future set of events, most English translations use a number of different tenses to convey the sense for English speakers:

"shall be called" (kjv, esv)
"will be called" (RSV)

"is called" (LEB, NET)
"is named" (NRSV)

"has been named" (JPS Tanakh)

Whereas the Hebrew uses narrative past to fit in the overall frame of this portion of the prophecy, which hangs off of "garment rolled in blood will be for burning", and the following verses refer to something happening before (really as pre-conditions) for the "burning":

[...] garment rolled in blood will be [weqatal] for burning—fire fuel.

For [pre-conditions follow]

    A child has been born [qatal]
    A son has been given [qatal]
the dominion will be [wayyiqtol] on his shoulders
And his name will be called [wayyiqtol] ...

Thus we can infer that the birth of the child and the giving of the name in verse 6 happen before or as pre-conditions to, the burning of the garments in verse 5, and this is why the narrative past and qatal verbs are being used here.

[J] See Joüon, P., & Muraoka, T. (2006). A grammar of biblical Hebrew. Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico.

  • §118c

The wayyiqtol form, like the qatal form of action verbs, is mainly used in the sphere of the past for a single and instantaneous action: Waw mainly adds the idea of succession. This form is very common in narratives; see 2Sm 12.20 with as many as ten wayyiqtols in a single verse(). Usually a narrative begins with a qatal (historic perfect) and continues with a wayyiqtol, which is followed, if need be, by other wayyiqtols, the series of which is never broken without some particular reason (§ d–g).

  • §119a

The w-qataltí form is mainly used for future action subsequent to another action.

  • great example you give from isaiah 9:6 right in front of me, besides vayikra.. vathee "the dominion will be on his shoulder" ! / alternative translation- "the authority is on his shoulder".. vathee(will be). Either way.. not past tense, so great example.
    – barlop
    Aug 16, 2021 at 23:38

Examples of the imperfect with wāw consecutive used as prophetic perfect:

        Warn the nations that he is coming; 
  announce to Jerusalem, 
              “Besiegers come from a distant land; 
  they shout [וַֽיִּתְּנ֛וּ ... קֹולָֽם] against the cities of Judah. 
               (Jer. 4:16, JPS Tanakh)

   God shall shoot [וַיֹּרֵ֗ם] them with arrows; 
     they shall be struck down suddenly. 
            (Psalm 64:8, JPS Tanakh)

     all men shall stand in awe [וַיִּֽירְא֗וּ]; 
     they shall proclaim [וַ֭יַּגִּידוּ] the work of God 
     and His deed which they perceived. 
            (Psalm 64:10, JPS Tanakh)

Isa. 9:5 in MT = Isa. 9:6 in English translations.

The full vowel under the waw in וַיִּקְרָ֨א instead of a Shewa means the waw is a waw consecutive.

Gesenius's Grammar lists the prophetic perfect (perf. propheticum) as a use of the imperfect with a waw consecutive.

§ 111. The Imperfect with Wāw Consecutive....

w (3) To represent future actions, &c., in dependence on—(α) an imperfect which refers to the future, Ps 49:15, 94:22f.;—(β) a perfect consecutive, or those perfects which, according to § 106 n, are intended to represent future events as undoubtedly certain, and therefore as though already accomplished (perf. propheticum); cf. Is 5:15 (parallel with a simple imperfect separated from ו); 5:16 (cf. 2:11, 17, where the same threat is expressed by the perfect consecutive); 5:25, 9:5, 10f., 1315.17 ff., 22:7 ff., Jo 2:23, Mi 2:13, Ez 33:4, 6, Ps 7:13, 64:8 ff.;—(γ) a future participle, Jer 4:16. -- Gesenius, F. W. (1910). Gesenius’ Hebrew grammar. (E. Kautzsch & S. A. E. Cowley, Eds.) (2d English ed., pp. 329–330). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

§ 49. (a) Vav impf. continues a perf. of experience,... (b) In continuance of prophetic perf. Is. 9:5 בֵּן נִתַּן־לָנוּ וַתְּהִי ··· וַיִּקְרָא ... -- Davidson, A. B. (1902). Introductory Hebrew grammar Hebrew syntax (3d ed., p. 73). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

  • Thanks.. Amazing examples. you write "The long vowel under the waw in וַיִּקְרָ֨א instead of a Shewa means the waw is a waw consecutive." <-- I'd say that the patah under the waw makes it the waw conversive /makes it the waw prefix that usually reverses tense of the imperfect.. Though A)re where you say "long vowel". Patah is a short vowel. Also, B)I wonder if waw consecutive is a general term so includes cases of waw-shwa and waw-patah. The waw-shva we agree meaning just conjunctive. And the waw-patah being the waw-conversive form of waw prefix.
    – barlop
    Aug 16, 2021 at 23:32
  • The grammar I got long from considered anything not Shewa as long. The examples are with the Jewish translation to avoid interpretation differences.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 17, 2021 at 0:11
  • Well, vocal shwa is a half vowel, and vowels that aren't shwa, are full vowels. Among full vowels there's long and short. What grammar is it that you read called any vowel not shwa, as long?! That is extremely bizarre
    – barlop
    Aug 17, 2021 at 1:24
  • since you mention davidson grammar, biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/e-books/davidson_ab/… i.imgur.com/ONzLP64.png see he gives examples of short vowels and long vowels.. maybe not clearly but clearly not saying anything like that anything not shwa is long!
    – barlop
    Aug 17, 2021 at 1:29
  • I changed long to full to make it less confusing.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 17, 2021 at 8:10

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