In Sh'mot, 4:24, the text reads, "וַיְהִ֥י בַדֶּ֖רֶךְ בַּמָּל֑וֹן וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁ֣הוּ יְהוָ֔ה וַיְבַקֵּ֖שׁ הֲמִיתֽוֹ׃ " and the English there (from the sefaria.org page, but the Stone chumash concurs) for the final 2 words is "and sought to kill him." Yirmiyahu 26:21 has a similar construction, for which the sefaria.org has "to put him to death." The only other instance of הֲמִיתֽוֹ is in Mishlei 19:18 which reads " וְאֶל־הֲ֝מִית֗וֹ " and is translated as "on his destruction" (removing any active participation in the killing).

But Tehillim 37:32 has the phrase "וּמְבַקֵּשׁ לַ הֲמִיתוֹ" ("seeking to put him to death") and the word with the lamed occurs 5 other times, always meaning "to kill/put to death."

It seems to me that for the word to be translated as an infinitive verb, "to kill", would require the lamed and that appears 6 times. And yet in two cases, the form without the lamed is still translated as that infinitive form.

Are there any commentaries that explore the difference between the form with and without the lamed or which explain how the form without the lamed can still be understood as the active infinitive verb (as opposed to the more passive sense)?

  • Is your interest specific to this verb, or are you also interested in other infinitive constructs separate from ל?
    – magicker72
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 2:43
  • @magicker72 I haven't done any research to expand it to other verbs. I just noticed this instance.
    – rosends
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 3:01
  • For other verbs, see Gen 4:12, Gen 8:10, or Ex 10:28-29, for example.
    – magicker72
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 3:46
  • 1
    My understanding is that without the lamed it means "his death" - i.e. it's a noun / gerund. With the lamed it's a verb with an infinitive and means "to kill him".
    – DanF
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 1:35

1 Answer 1


Forgive my English, but in Hebrew the original definitive form of a verb (contrary to the Modern Hebrew) is without ל, like דבר instead of לדבר etc. Four letters - בכל"מ can further constitute a pseudo-definitive form, like לדבר, בדבר, מדבר, כדבר. As you can understand the have slightly different meaning, and it is comparable to its English translations: ל meaning "to", מ meaning "from", כ being "like" and ב meaning "like".

Compare: "בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת ה"א אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם" (Ber 2, 4) like "ביום לעשות". In Hebrew those are basically same forms.

  • "like "ביום לעשות". In Hebrew those are basically same forms." I don't think that is how it would be said in Hebrew. Maybe biyom assiyat would be closer.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 25, 2017 at 22:58
  • In Hebrew this form is usually used with personal suffixes, like "מִדֵּי דַבְּרִי בִּכְבוֹדֶךָ" or בהסתכלותו or "כְּצֵאתִי אֶת הָעִיר אֶפְרֹשׂ אֶת כַּפַּי" compare to כצאת העבדים or צאת השבת. I agree this is not common in spoken modern Hebrew. I don't know those terms in English, but ל is like to in English which is not a real part of the infinitive form.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 20:12

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