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Why is the word כטוב spelled sometimes with a Sheva (as in Ester 1:10), and sometimes with a Patach (as in Ester 3:11)?

Ester 1:10:

בַּיּוֹם, הַשְּׁבִיעִי, כְּטוֹב לֵב-הַמֶּלֶךְ, בַּיָּיִן--אָמַר לִמְהוּמָן בִּזְּתָא חַרְבוֹנָא בִּגְתָא וַאֲבַגְתָא, זֵתַר וְכַרְכַּס, שִׁבְעַת הַסָּרִיסִים, הַמְשָׁרְתִים אֶת-פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ.

Ester 3:11:

וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן, הַכֶּסֶף נָתוּן לָךְ; וְהָעָם, לַעֲשׂוֹת בּוֹ כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֶיךָ.

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    Why should it be with a Shva? Please edit your question to clarify why you need explained. – Double AA Feb 9 at 17:04
  • Updated the question. – Tesvov Feb 12 at 23:39
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There are nine instances where the prepositional phrase “כטוב” occurs in Scripture. In six instances the preposition occurs with the vowel patach, and in the other three instances the preposition occurs with the sh’wa.

Please click on the image below to enlarge.

This photo provide the nine instances in the Hebrew Scriptures where the phrase “כטוב” occurs.

What do we see? When the phrase “כטוב” occurs in Scripture with the patach under the kaph, the translation is comparable to “like” or “as.” However, when the phrase “כטוב” occurs in Scripture with the sh’wa under the kaph, the meaning carries an idea of temporal “when.” So the three verses with the sh’wa under the kaph appear as follows:

II Samuel 13:28 (Sefaria)

וַיְצַו֩ אַבְשָׁל֨וֹם אֶת־נְעָרָ֜יו לֵאמֹ֗ר רְא֣וּ נָ֠א כְּט֨וֹב לֵב־אַמְנ֤וֹן בַּיַּ֙יִן֙ וְאָמַרְתִּ֣י אֲלֵיכֶ֔ם הַכּ֧וּ אֶת־אַמְנ֛וֹן וַהֲמִתֶּ֥ם אֹת֖וֹ אַל־תִּירָ֑אוּ הֲל֗וֹא כִּ֤י אָֽנֹכִי֙ צִוִּ֣יתִי אֶתְכֶ֔ם חִזְק֖וּ וִהְי֥וּ לִבְנֵי־חָֽיִל׃

Now Absalom gave his attendants these orders: “Watch, and when Amnon is merry with wine and I tell you to strike down Amnon, kill him! Don’t be afraid, for it is I who give you the order. Act with determination, like brave men!”

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Hosea 10:1 (Sefaria)

גֶּ֤פֶן בּוֹקֵק֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל פְּרִ֖י יְשַׁוֶּה־לּ֑וֹ כְּרֹ֣ב לְפִרְי֗וֹ הִרְבָּה֙ לַֽמִּזְבְּח֔וֹת כְּט֣וֹב לְאַרְצ֔וֹ הֵיטִ֖יבוּ מַצֵּבֽוֹת׃

Israel is a ravaged vine And its fruit is like it. When his fruit was plentiful, He made altars aplenty; When his land was bountiful, Cult pillars abounded.

NOTE: Please note that the preposition occurs twice in this verse with the same meaning.

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Esther 1:10 (Sefaria)

בַּיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י כְּט֥וֹב לֵב־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ בַּיָּ֑יִן אָמַ֡ר לִ֠מְהוּמָן בִּזְּתָ֨א חַרְבוֹנָ֜א בִּגְתָ֤א וַאֲבַגְתָא֙ זֵתַ֣ר וְכַרְכַּ֔ס שִׁבְעַת֙ הַסָּ֣רִיסִ֔ים הַמְשָׁ֣רְתִ֔ים אֶת־פְּנֵ֖י הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֽוֹשׁ׃

On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine, he ordered Mehuman, Bizzetha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven eunuchs in attendance on King Ahasuerus,

In each of these verses, the sh’wa signals to the reader that this particular use of this preposition is not the usual meaning of “like” or “as,” but temporal, meaning “when.” Waltke and O’Connor (1990) allude to this nuance of the preposition kaph in their grammar.


SOURCE: Waltke, B. K., & O’Connor, M. P. (1990). An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 255.

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    Also Judges 16:25. – magicker72 Feb 10 at 2:41
  • What search engine can be used for such searches? – Tesvov Feb 11 at 14:01
  • @Tesvov - Logos Bible software (www.logos.com) – Joseph Feb 11 at 15:08
  • It seems Logos uses Christian texts to search Tanach. Are there any Jewish resources that can perform a similar search? – Tesvov Feb 11 at 15:14
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The kaf with a patach is a contraction of the preposition kaf (כ) with the hei haydiyah (ה הידיעה ). The tell-tale sign for that is the dagesh in the letter tet (ט). The hei haydiyah, which functions in a similar, but not identical, way to the definite article "the" in English typically takes a patach except when it precedes certain letters. In those few cases, the hei haydiyah can take a kamatz or even a segol. The hei haydiyah also causes the letter following it to take a dagesh chazak. Several other prepositions, such as kaf and lamed, can combine with the hei haydiyah. When they combine, they loose their normal sh'va and take on the patach (or kamatz or segol, if that's the case) of the hei haydiyah, and the following letter stills takes a dagesh chazak (for letters that can take a dagesh, of course). Interestingly, this can affect the English translation. If the pasuk you brought was saying "as is good in your eyes," it would have just been a kaf with a sh'va. But this is literally saying, "as is the good in your eyes," which we might translate more comfortably as "as is best in your eyes." Note also that the kaf here has a dagesh kal despite the preceding letter being a vav because there is a mafsik (separating) ta'am on the word bo. I'm getting all this from The Complete Torah Reading Handbook by Dr Ely Simon, Judaica Press, New York, 1996.

  • This answer explains Patach in כטוב to signify "as is best," whereas Joseph's answer explains it to signify "as is good" (versus temporal "when" when spelled with a Sheva). Does Joseph's answer seem to be more in tune with the simple meaning of the pesukim he cited as examples? – Tesvov Feb 11 at 14:25

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