Preposition Definite Article¶
A preposition introduces a phrase that describes another word/concept within a sentence, usually a noun or a verb. However, like adverbs and particles, sometimes a prepositional phrase can describe the sentence as a whole. In Biblical Hebrew, prepositions can also be used with an infinitive construct verb to show its relationship to the main verb of a sentence.
When a word contains both a prefixed preposition and a definite article, the ה consonant of the definite article disappears and the shewa under the preposition lengthens, usually either to a pathah vowel or a qamets vowel.
Biblical Hebrew has four main prepositions: the prefix בְּ (in, at, by); the prefix לְ (to, for); the prefix כְּ (as, like); and the prefix מִ (which is a shortened form of the independent preposition מִן, meaning “from”). However, there is also a family of other prepositions in Biblical Hebrew. It is common in Biblical Hebrew for prepositions to be combined together or with a noun to form new words that have their own range of meanings (similar to compound conjunctions) that may or may not overlap with the meaning of the individual component terms.
In Biblical Hebrew, prepositions also have a specialized function of describing the relationship between a verbal complement (infinitive construct or participles) and the main verb of a sentence. In some of these instances, the preposition introduces a dependent verbal clauses and thus changes its typical meaning. These specialized uses of prepositions are listed in the article on infinitive construct verbs.
Of all the different kinds of words, prepositions are perhaps the most flexible in their meaning and are often translated in a variety of ways, or sometimes even left untranslated. For this reason, prepositions must always be translated with great sensitivity to the context of each use. A dictionary or lexicon will describe the various possible meanings of each preposition, but generally will not include a complete list of individual usages.
In Biblical Hebrew, there are 11 general types of prepositions: indirect object; spatial; locative; temporal; instrumental; correlative; comparative; directional; causal; explanatory; and direct object. However, this are also other types of prepositions in Biblical Hebrew. The specific meanings of individual prepositions can be found in a dictionary or lexicon.
|noun + preposition only||בְּנָהָר||benahar||in a river|
|noun + definite article only||הַנָּהָר||hannahar||the river|
|noun + preposition + definite article||בַּנָּהָר||bannahar||in the river|
Preposition before a noun starting with a normal shewa
|noun + preposition only||כִּמְרַגֵּל||kimraggel||like a spy|
|noun + definite article only||הַמְּרַגֵּל||hammeraggel||the spy|
|noun + preposition + definite article||כַּמְּרַגֵּל||kammeraggel||like the spy|
Preposition before a noun with a guttural first consonant
|noun + preposition only||לְאִישׁ||le’ish||to a man|
|noun + definite article only||הָאִישׁ||ha’ish||the man|
|noun + preposition + definite article||לָאִישׁ||la’ish||to the man|
Preposition before a noun starting with a composite shewa
|noun + preposition only||כָּאֳנִיָה||ko’oniyah||like a ship|
|noun + definite article only||הָאֳנִיָה||ha’oniyah||the ship|
|noun + preposition + definite article||כָּאֳנִיָה||ka’oniyah||like the ship|
|בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים|
|bereshith bara ‘elohim|
|In-beginning he-created God|
|In the beginning, God created|
|הֹ֛וי מַשְׁכִּימֵ֥י בַבֹּ֖קֶר|
|howy mashkime vabboqer|
|Woe those-rising-early in-the-morning|
|Woe to those who rise up early in the morning|
|וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים׀ לָאֹור֙ יֹ֔ום|
|wayyiqra ‘elohim la’owr yowm|
|And-he-called to-the-light day|
|God called the light “day”|
|וְלִמְשֹׁל֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה|
|welimshol bayyom uvallaylah|
|and to rule in the day and in the night|
|to rule over the day and over the night|