3

It seems that whenever Tanach says ויאמר, "and he said," it almost never uses the word לאמר, "saying."1

Conversely, whenever Tanach says וידבר, "and he spoke," it almost always uses the word לאמר, "saying."2,3

לאמר is also used by other verbs, but this pattern is striking among these two verbs specifically.

  1. Does anyone comment on this phenomenon, that וידבר is almost always used in conjunction with לאמר, and that ויאמר and לאמר are almost always used exclusively?
  2. Are there any reasons brought as to why this is the case?
  3. (Bonus points!) Is there a general rule brought for why the cases below are exceptions?

1The exceptions seem to be Bereishis 9:8, 21:22, 34:4, 42:37, 43:3, 47:5; Shemos 7:8, 12:1, 31:12, 35:4; Bamidbar 7:4, 15:37, 20:23, 26:1, 27:6, 31:25, 32:25; Devarim 2:2, 9:13; Yehoshua 1:1, 2:2, 3:6, 4:1,15,21, 7:2, 17:17, 22:8; Shoftim 8:9, 20:28; Shmuel 1:7:3, 1:17:26,27, 1:24:10, 2:5:6, 2:17:6; Melachim 1:1:11, 1:13:31, 2:9:12; Yirmiya 26:12,18, 28:11, 32:6; Yonah 3:7; Chagai 1:13; Zechariah 1:14, 2:4, 3:4, 4:6,13; Divrei Hayamim 2:32:12. Yes, I know that seems like a lot, but when there are several thousand instances of ויאמר, a couple dozen of them being combined with לאמר is nothing.

2The exceptions seem to be Bereishis 41:17; Shemos 32:7, 33:1; Vayikra 10:12,19; Bamidbar 18:8, 21:5; Melachim 1:13:7,12, 1:21:6, 2:1:7,9-13,15,16; Yechezkel 40:4,45, 41:22.

3This does not include the times when וידבר does not immediately introduce a quote. Often the passuk uses וידבר...ויאמר, "and he spoke...and he said," as in Vayikra 16:1-2 et. al. Often it says that someone spoke something without providing the quotation, as in Shemos 6:9, וידבר משה כן, "and Moshe spoke thusly," et. al.

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    My understanding has been that vayedaber is typically translated as "spoke" for the very reason that it is a verb that is focused on the action of speaking rather than the content of what was said, in contrast to vayomer which is already focused on the content so should not typically require a lemor which would be redundant. – Loewian Jan 10 at 1:02
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    @Loewian Consider דבר אלינו קשות, the archetype from which we see that דבר is "harsh" speech. I'm not sure whether that necessarily disproves what you're saying, but something to think about. – DonielF Jan 10 at 1:03
  • I think that is in line with the distinction since its commenting on the action as opposed to the content. – Loewian Jan 10 at 1:04
  • ויאמר ה׳ אל משה לדבר – msh210 Jan 10 at 12:20
  • You already know about the "harsh speech" aspect. I think the 1st Rash"i in parshat Va'era explains why "Vayedaber" is used whenever G-d relates mitzvoth to Moshe. If you find it, inform me, please. Very thorough analysis you did, here, BTW. I have to delve into this, later. Good Q! – DanF Jan 10 at 16:59

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