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התפעל – The Seventh Hebrew Conjugation Form

The seventh Hebrew conjugation form presents an intriguing aspect of the language. Why did Hebrew allocate seven verb conjugation forms, and why does the number seven hold such significance throughout Hebrew literature? Could it simply be a coincidence, or is there a deeper pattern at play?

Let’s explore it:

  • Binyanim (Verb Forms) in Hebrew:
    • In Hebrew grammar, there are seven identified binyanim (patterns) according to which verbs are formed. Each pattern has its unique characteristics and usage.
    • These patterns help express different nuances of action, causality, and voice.
  • The Seventh Binyan: Hitpa’el (התפעל):
    • The Hitpa’el binyan is the seventh and final one.
    • It is used to express reflexive or reciprocal actions. In other words, it describes actions that a subject performs upon his or herself, or actions that two or more subjects perform upon each other.
    • The root letters undergo specific changes in the Hitpa’el form.
  • Examples:
    • התלבש (hitlabesh) – “he dressed himself”
    • התקדש (hitkadesh) “he sanctified himself”
    • הִתְרַחֵץ (hitrachatz) “he washed himself”
  • Usage:
    • The Hitpa’el form often conveys a sense of introspection, self-involvement, or reciprocity.
    • It appears in various contexts, including verbs related to communication, self-action, and inner reflection.

This pattern gains profound significance within the contrast between the “inner man” and “outer man,” or the “old man” and “new man,” as articulated in the New Testament, particularly by Paul. Imagine two distinct entities existing within one individual, conversing with each other. This challenges traditional linguistic norms; personal pronouns are typically singular, not plural. In standard language, there’s no provision for referring to oneself as multiple beings. Integrating personal pronouns and verb forms into a context where “yourself” encompasses two distinct realities presents a linguistic conundrum.

Consider, for instance, the dilemma of addressing oneself in such a scenario. Would it be appropriate to say, “I strike below the eye of myself, the body, and lead it as a bond slave” (1 Cor. 9:27 RBT)? While this may convey the idea, it risks losing context without a thorough understanding of the speaker’s perspective.

Enter the Seventh Form of Hebrew conjugation, symbolizing completion or perfection—the ultimate union. But how does a reciprocal verb contribute to perfection or completion? In the context of two “selves” in perfect harmony—one residing in timeless rest and the other bound by temporal constraints—could this not constitute a “whole person”?

And he is saying to himself, ‘Do you desire to become whole?’

(John 5:6 RBT)


Can dual entities walk in harmony except that they encountered one another?

(Amos 3:3 RBT)

The Hitpael form encapsulates this unique sense of reciprocity. For example, התרחץ (hitrachatz) – “he washed himself” – denotes a reciprocal agreement between two. (Which, as it happens, mirrors a particular narrative in the New Testament.) In Biblical Hebrew, expressing reflexive actions such as “he washed himself” often employs the Hitpa’el verb form. Unlike Hebrew, Greek lacks a dedicated reciprocal conjugation like Hitpael, relying instead on reflexive pronouns:

  • First person singular: ἐμαυτοῦ (emautou) – “myself”
  • Second person singular: σεαυτοῦ (seautou) – “yourself”
  • Third person singular: ἑαυτοῦ (heautou) – “himself,” “herself,” “itself”
  • First person plural: ἡμῶν αὐτῶν (hēmōn autōn) – “ourselves”
  • Second person plural: ὑμῶν αὐτῶν (humōn autōn) – “yourselves”
  • Third person plural: ἑαυτῶν (heautōn) – “themselves”

However, these reflexive pronouns in Greek do not adequately address the dichotomy of an “inner” and “outer” divided self. So how is this resolved? Through the frequent use of αὐτῶ “himself” after verbs, occurring over 5,600 times—a crazy high frequency for the size of the New Testament. Similarly, the word את (et) appears over 11,000 times in the Old Testament, primarily in the Torah consisting of the first and last letter of the alphabet. And what is its core meaning? “Self-eternal.”