The root רפא, "heal", is used in various places in Tanach, sometimes in binyan paal and sometimes in binyan piel. I wonder what the difference is between these. Does any Tanach commentator, or the like, comment on the difference — in Tanach (i.e., ignore l'shon chazal) — between these two verbs?

I thought (based on a couple of examples) that when God is the agent, the verb is in paal, and that when a person is the agent, the verb's in piel. But that's not the case; for example:

  • B'reshis 20:17: וַיִּרְפָּא אֱלֹקִים אֶת אֲבִימֶלֶךְ: God is the agent, and the verb is in paal.
  • B'reshis 50:2: וַיְצַו יוֹסֵף אֶת עֲבָדָיו אֶת הָרֹפְאִים לַחֲנֹט אֶת אָבִיו: People are the agents, and the verb is in paal.
  • Sh'mos 21:19: רַק שִׁבְתּוֹ יִתֵּן וְרַפֹּא יְרַפֵּא: A person is the agent, and the verb is in piel.
  • M'lachim 2:21: רִפִּאתִי לַמַּיִם הָאֵלֶּה: God is the agent, and verb is in piel.
  • There are a bunch of verbs which sometimes switch kind of randomly between the two binyanim (רדפ דבר come to mind). The best I can suggest is that the Piel forms are meant to be "stronger". – Double AA Mar 3 '13 at 16:56
  • In your second example, where is the verb? (ha-)Rof'im ( plural of Rofe') is a noun. Both other examples you brought do follow the rule that you say "[is] not the case". – Tamir Evan Mar 3 '13 at 19:29
  • @TamirEvan, rof'im is a verb form, used as a substantive. – msh210 Mar 3 '13 at 19:44
  • @msh210 Technically true, but it is used here as a noun for 'physician(s)\doctor(s) in it's own right, so it needn't be bound by rules for proper conjugation of verbs. – Tamir Evan Mar 3 '13 at 19:55
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    @TamirEvan, even if you're correct that, because it's being used as a noun, rofe needn't have the usual meaning of the paal verb, I've added an example now from M'lachim that shows my conjecture to have been false. – msh210 Mar 4 '13 at 0:23

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