The ‘Effected Object’ in Contractual Legal Language: The Semantics of ‘If You Purchase a Hebrew Slave’ (Exodus 21:2a)
Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 56, pp. 485-504, 2006
Posted: 23 May 2011
Date Written: 2006
This article investigates the semantics of the protasis of the manumission law of the Covenant Code (Exodus 21:2a). Despite the proposal by John Van Seters that the slave there purchased must “already” have been a slave, such a restriction of meaning goes beyond the evidence. Critical for understanding the semantic issue is the overlooked distinction between two types of verbal object: “affected” and “effected” objects. Moreover, verbs of creation and appointment are frequently ditransitive. Such verbs may also leave the affected object implicit while specifying only the effected object. This construction emphasizes the change in status undergone by the grammatical patient, as in the case of the manumission law. Attention to the contractual language of biblical law permits, in turn, a more adequate concept of the grammatical concept of effected object.
Keywords: Exodus 21:2a, Manumission Law, Historical Linguistics, Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Hebrew Semantics, Effected Object, Transitivity, Grammatical Patient, John Van Seters, Biblical Slave Laws, Protasis, Covenant Code, Hebrew Slave, Albrecht Alt, Sara Japhet, Anton Jirku, Eckart Otto, Nisbe Form
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