Sh'mos 9:21:

וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא שָׂם לִבּוֹ אֶל דְּבַר יהוה וַיַּעֲזֹב אֶת עֲבָדָיו וְאֶת מִקְנֵהוּ בַּשָּׂדֶה

And 13:17:

וַיְהִי בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת הָעָם וְלֹא נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא…‏

Ibn Ezra is struck by the somewhat unusual construction that adds a ו׳ at the start of the second clause in each pasuk: more natural would seem to be, for example:

וַיְהִי בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת הָעָם לֹא נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא…‏

This is how he explains it (with my own translation):

His 'short' commentary to Sh'mos 9:21 reads:

ואשר לא שם לבו ויעזב את מקנהו: וטעם הוי״ו כפ״א רפה בלשון ישמעאל ורבים כמוהו וכן ויאמרו החרטומים אל פרעה

The meaning of the ו׳ [of "ויעזב"] is like that of a weak fa' in Arabic. There are many like it; for example, "ויאמרו החרטומים אל פרעה" [I guess Sh'mos 8:15].

And his 'long' commentary there (the one in "mikraos g'dolos" volumes) reads:

יש בלשון קדר טעם לוי״ו ויעזב רק אין יכולת בנו לתרגם הדבר בלשון אחרת וככה ביום השלישי וישא אברהם את עיניו

There is, in Arabic, a meaning of the ו׳ of "ויעזב", but we're unable to translate it into another language. Similarly, "ביום השלישי וישא אברהם את עיניו" [B'reshis 22:4].

Finally, his 'long' commentary to 13:17 reads:

וי״ו ולא נחם כפ״א רפה בלשון ישמעאל

The ו׳ of "ולא נחם" is like a weak fa' in Arabic.

Can someone explain this, please? What is this fa' function in Arabic, what meaning does it have, and what meaning does the ו׳ have in these phrases (according to ibn Ezra)?

  • 4
    From here: Fāʾ-fatḥah (فَـ /fa/) is a multi-function prefix most commonly equivalent to "so" or "so that." For example: نَكْتُب naktub ("we write") → فَنَكْتُب fanaktub ("so we write").
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 5:47
  • 1
    FYI, you will find the same comment in the Kessef Mishna as regards the opening language in Rambam's Hilkhot Yesodei haTorah (specifically the word שם in שיש שם מצוי ראשון).
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 10:32

2 Answers 2


It seems the ו׳ is functioning to introduce the apodosis, or the result of a cause. Thus, "When Par'oh let the people go, then God did not lead them..."

See Wilhelm Gesenius' A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, on ו׳, p. 266, §bb.

As for the Arabic ف, see William Edward Lane's An English-Arabic Lexicon on the entry for ف.

Lane writes,

…the third thing that it denotes when used as an adjunctive to an antecedent is relation to a cause… this is the second of the three cases mentioned by J, who says, (TA,) it is when what precedes it is a cause of what follows it; and it denotes adjunction and proximate sequence without association… Used in this manner, i.e. to denote relation to a cause, it is generally such as adjoins a proposition, as in (the saying in the Qur'ān, Surah 28:14) فَوَكَزَهُ مُوسَىٰ فَقَضَىٰ عَلَيْهِ ("And Moses struck him with his fist, and consequently killed him"); or a qualificative, as in (the saying in the Qur'ān, Surah 56:52-54) فَشَارِبُونَ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الْحَمِيمِ ,فَمَالِئُونَ مِنْهَا الْبُطُونَ , لَآكِلُونَ مِنْ شَجَرٍ مِنْ زَقُّومٍ("Shall surely be eating from trees of Zakkoom, and consequently filling therefrom the bellies, and drinking thereon of hot water").


As the Ibn Ezra said, it's impossible to translate to any other language. The Mechokekei Yehudah, a supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, says that it connotes a beginning.

So in our case, it would mean something like:

And it was when Par'oh sent the nation, (new subject) G-d did not guide them ...

  • Did the Mechokekei Yehudah speak Arabic?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 5:57
  • This is apparently the author: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehuda_Leib_Krinsky He certainly didn't speak Arabic as his native tongue.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 6:01
  • 1
    @DoubleAA He obviously knew some Arabic. If he didn't, he wouldn't have said anything: סייג לחכמה שתיקה. (It's also possible he read that in a different commentator of the Ibn Ezra who knew Arabic even if he personally didn't know it.)
    – b a
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 6:35
  • It's just surprising that the subtleties of something which is impossible to translate can by reformulated effectively by a non-speaker.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 15:33
  • @DoubleAA It isn't impossible that he knew Arabic. There were probably many European academics who learned it.
    – b a
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 17:45

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