Exodus 18:20:

וְהִזְהַרְתָּ֣ה אֶתְהֶ֔ם אֶת־הַחֻקִּ֖ים וְאֶת־הַתּוֹרֹ֑ת וְהוֹדַעְתָּ֣ לָהֶ֗ם אֶת־הַדֶּ֙רֶךְ֙ יֵ֣לְכוּ בָ֔הּ וְאֶת־הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר יַעֲשֽׂוּן׃

My translation - somewhat "exaggerated" to point the nuances, here:

You shall warn them about the statutes and laws and make them know about the path that they should walk in, and the work that they should do.

Why is a different verb (see the bolded words) used regarding each different area? It seems that there is some nuance in the meaning of the objects following each verb that necessitates a different verb.

3 Answers 3


The second verb-object is the simple amplification and expansion of nuance of the first verb-object. That is, both verb-objects are the main idea of their respective clauses. Thus the second verb-object (and what follows) modifies the first verb-object (and what follows).

According to the 19th Century mathematician and Hebraist Dr. William Wickes, the Hebrew Scriptures were written in verse dichotomy, which means that every verse appears in dyad form. In other words, the second half of every verse modifies the first half of every verse (with minor exceptions for example among verses containing genealogies). Wickes calls these verse divisions the logical and syntactical function of dichotomy by cantillation. For example, please click on the image below to enlarge, or view the source online.

enter image description here

The following diagram provides my own schematic depiction of the logical and syntactical relationship of these Hebrew words and phrases according to their dichotomy. In other words, the cantillation marks provide the audible and visual cues regarding the logical and functional relationship between each of the words and phrases.

Please click to enlarge.

enter image description here

In summary, the first verb-object is the main thought of the verse. The second verb-object comprises the main thought of the second half of the verse. In other words, each of the two verb-objects is amplified by what follows in each respective half of each verse. But since the second major dichotomy modifies the first major dichotomy of the verse, the second verb-object is the logical and syntactical amplification of the first verb-object.


The Malbim says that this is the usual split of "עשה" and "לא תעשה".

The form of "אזהרה" always comes regarding "לא תעשה" (since you warn someone of something that he shouldn't do). These too he splits into "חקים" which are "לא תעשה" for physical actions, and "תורות" which are "לא תעשה" of thoughts and teachings (pride, forgetting Hashem, etc.).

And for the "עשה", equivalently, "תודיע להם את הדרך" is parallel to the thoughts and teachings ("דרכי הנפש"), while "המעשה אשר יעשון" is the physical actions of "עשה".

By the way, the Malbim strongly opposes the view alluded to in Joseph's answer (that many verses in the Torah are formed in such a way that the second part is the equivalent, or slightly amplified version, of the first). His principle is:

  • מפרש דברי אלהים באופן שלא ימצא בשום מקום כפל ענין במלות שונות.‏
  • שכל מלה הבאה במאמר, מוכרחת לבא במאמר ההוא, על פי כללי הלשון והבדלי הנרדפים.‏
  • שלא נמצא מאמר ריק מרעיון נשגב.‏

The usage of diffrent verbs in this posuk seems to be a reflection of Synonymous Parallelism found in the Hebrew Bible in which each element of the second part of the verse or strophe are synonyms/explanations of the idea of its first part.

You shall warn them (A)
about the statutes (B)
and laws (C)

make them know (A)
about the path that they should walk in (B)
and the work that they should do (C)

  • Does this add anything to @Joseph's answer?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 3:57
  • Yes, my answer gives a technical name for this kind of occurrence and it clearly differentiates from the explanation given before of what that consists. Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 4:30

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