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Exodus 18:26 (minor modif. to Sefaria English):

וְשָׁפְט֥וּ אֶת־הָעָ֖ם בְּכָל־עֵ֑ת אֶת־הַדָּבָ֤ר הַקָּשֶׁה֙ יְבִיא֣וּן אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה וְכָל־הַדָּבָ֥ר הַקָּטֹ֖ן יִשְׁפּוּט֥וּ הֵֽם׃

And they judged the people at all times: the hard matters they brought to Moses, and every small matter they judged themselves.

I was curious about the "strange" usage of the verb יִשְׁפּוּט֥וּ using the shuruq. I find an explanation by Shada"l, but I don't really understand what he's saying.

I'd appreciate if someone can summarize the main points. I don't need a literal translation.

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Shadal quotes ibn Ezra's explanation that this is a pausal form. This is the case even though the word is not the last in the verse: because the last word, 'הֵֽם', is a very short word, it somehow doesn't count as a separation between יִשְׁפּוּט֥וּ and the end of the verse. This case also differs from regular pausal usage in that the long vowel that is put in is a shuruk: one would expect the non-pausal form 'yishpetu' to become 'yishpotu', with a holam.

(A pausal form is a form that a word takes when it occurs at the end of a verse or at the end of a phrase, i.e., a place where a reader would pause slightly. Usually the change that occurs is that a short vowel becomes a long vowel, for example 'יכתבו / yikhtevu' becoming 'יכתובו / yikhtovu'.)

Shadal then goes on to disagree with ibn Ezra's application of this explanation to a few other specific instances in the Bible of verbs getting an unusual long vowel. I think that Shadal accepts ibn Ezra's explanation here, though, and lets that stand as the answer to the question of the unusual form of יִשְׁפּוּט֥וּ.

  • Yes. This helps, thanks. If you or anyone knows why this grammatical rule is there or some place where I can learn more about this, I'd appreciate it. This is, apparently, some nuance in Biblical grammar that "Modern" Hebrew doesn't follow, and I don't know how consistent even this rule is in the Bible, either. – DanF Jan 27 '16 at 15:39
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    @DanF In his Sefer Tzahut (linked below), Ibn Ezra gives the example of "יכסימו" from Shirat HaYam. Also the perush there explains that even though there's a "הם" as mentioned, the ta'am is continuous (mercha). books.google.co.il/… – Cauthon Jan 27 '16 at 16:24
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    I just realized that another anomaly here is that the accent is still on the last syllable and doesn't shift back one syllable. The accent shifting back is usually a key characteristic of pausal forms. – paquda Jan 27 '16 at 20:38
  • There's yet another anomaly, and this one REALLY makes Shadal's analysis strange... I assume that the "pausal form" would include an etnachta. If so, we should expect the same format in verse 22. Unless he is specifically referring to a mercha before the etnachta, which does not occur in verse 22. – DanF Jan 29 '16 at 17:58

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