The Niphal stem generally expresses passive or reflexive voice, but it can also express other kinds of action depending on the context and the specific verb.
The Niphal form is a verbal stem formation in Biblical Hebrew, usually indicated by a נִ prefix before the 1st radical of the verb. (This נ changes in multiple conjugations, see paradigms below.) The Niphal stem is extremely flexible in its use in Biblical Hebrew. Generally speaking, the Niphal stem expresses either passive or reflexive voice; but it can also express middle voice, reciprocal voice, simple action, or even stative action, depending on the context and the specific verb. Some verbs express passive voice in the Niphal stem; some verbs express reflexive voice in the Niphal stem; for some verbs, the Niphal stem might express either passive voice or reflexive voice, depending on the context; and so on.
It is recommended to always check a dictionary or lexicon for the meaning of a specific verb, because this stem may express many different kinds of action in different contexts.
|masculine singular third person||נִקְטַל||niqtal||he was killed|
|feminine singular third person||נִקְטְלָה||niqtelah||she was killed|
|masculine singular second person||נִקְטַלְתָּ||niqtalta||you were killed|
|feminine singular second person||נִקְטַלְתְּ||niqtalt||you were killed|
|common singular first person||נִקְטַלְתִּי||niqtalti||I was killed|
|common plural third person||נִקְטְלוּ||niqtelu||they were killed|
|masculine plural second person||נִקְטַלְתֶּם||niqtaltem||you were killed|
|feminine plural second person||נִקְטַלְתֶּן||niqtalten||you were killed|
|common plural first person||נִקְטַלְתֶּנוּ||niqtaltenu||we were killed|
|masculine singular third person||יִקָּטֵל||yiqqatel||he will be killed|
|feminine singular third person||תִּקָּטֵל||tiqqatel||she will be killed|
|masculine singular second person||תִּקָּטֵל||tiqqatel||you will be killed|
|feminine singular second person||תִּקָּטְלִי||tiqqatli||you will be killed|
|common singular first person||אֶקָּטֵל||‘eqqatel||I will be killed|
|masculine plural third person||יִקָּטְלוּ||yiqqatlu||they will be killed|
|feminine plural third person||תִּקָּטַלְנָה||tiqqatalnah||they will be killed|
|masculine plural second person||תִּקָּטְלוּ||tiqqatlu||you will be killed|
|feminine plural second person||תִּקָּטַלְנָה||tiqqatalnah||you will be killed|
|common plural first person||נִקָּטֵל||niqqatel||we will be killed|
|masculine singular third person||וְנִקְטַל||weniqtal||(and) he will be killed|
|feminine singular third person||וְנִקְטְלָה||weniqtelah||(and) she will be killed|
|masculine singular second person||וְנִקְטַלְתָּ||weniqtalta||(and) you will be killed|
|feminine singular second person||וְנִקְטַלְתְּ||weniqtalt||(and) you will be killed|
|common singular first person||וְנִקְטַלְתִּי||weniqtalti||(and) I will be killed|
|common plural third person||וְנִקְטְלוּ||weniqtelu||(and) they will be killed|
|masculine plural second person||וְנִקְטַלְתֶּם||weniqtaltem||(and) you will be killed|
|feminine plural second person||וְנִקְטַלְתֶּן||weniqtalten||(and) you will be killed|
|common plural first person||וְנִקְטַלְתֶּנוּ||weniqtaltenu||(and) we will be killed|
|masculine singular third person||וַיִּקָּטֵל||wayyiqqatel||(and) he was killed|
|feminine singular third person||וַתִּקָּטֵל||wattiqqatel||(and) she was killed|
|masculine singular second person||וַתִּקָּטֵל||wattiqqatel||(and) you were killed|
|feminine singular second person||וַתִּקָּטְלִי||wattiqqatli||(and) you were killed|
|common singular first person||וָאֶקָּטֵל||wa’eqqatel||(and) I was killed|
|masculine plural third person||וַיִּקָּטְלוּ||wayyiqqatlu||(and) they were killed|
|feminine plural third person||וַתִּקָּטַלְנָה||wattiqqatalnah||(and) they were killed|
|masculine plural second person||וַתִּקָּטְלוּ||wattiqqatlu||(and) you were killed|
|feminine plural second person||וַתִּקָּטַלְנָה||wattiqqatalnah||(and) you were killed|
|common plural first person||וַנִּקָּטֵל||wanniqqatel||(and) we were killed|
|Infinitive Construct||הִקָּטֵל||hiqqatel||be killed|
|Infinitive Absolute||הִקָּטֹל / נִקְטֹל||hiqqatol / niqtol||be killed|
|masculine singular||הִקָּטֵל||hiqqatel||you must be killed|
|feminine singular||הִקָּטְלִי||hiqqatli||you must be killed|
|masculine plural||הִקָּטְלוּ||hiqqatlu||you must be killed|
|feminine plural||הִקָּטַלְנָה||hiqqatalnah||you must be killed|
The jussive form in the Niphal stem is recognizable only for select verbs. Here the sample verb is גָּלָה (to uncover), where the 3rd radical (ה) has dropped out.
|masculine singular third person||יִגָּל||yiggal||may he be uncovered|
|feminine singular third person||תִּגָּל||tiggal||may she be uncovered|
|masculine singular second person||תִּגָּל||tiggal||may you be uncovered|
|feminine singular second person||תִּגָּלִי||tiggali||may you be uncovered|
|masculine plural third person||יִגָּלוּ||yiggalu||may they be uncovered|
|feminine plural third person||תִּגָּלְנָה||tiggalnah||may they be uncovered|
|masculine plural second person||תִּגָּלוּ||tiggalu||may you be uncovered|
|feminine plural second person||תִּגָּלְנָה||tiggalnah||may you be uncovered|
|common singular||אֶקָּטֵלָה||‘eqqatelah||let me be killed|
|common plural||נִקָּטֵלָה||niqqatelah||let us be killed|
|masculine singular||נִקְטָל||niqtal||being killed|
|feminine singular||נִקְטָלָה||niqtalah||being killed|
|masculine plural||נִקְטָלִים||niqtalim||being killed|
|feminine plural||נִקְטָלוֹת||niqtaloth||being killed|
The Niphal stem can express any of the following kinds of verbal action:
Expresses passive voice¶
Passive voice means that the subject of the verb is receiving the action rather than performing the action. In English, passive voice is expressed using the helping verb “to be.” In Biblical Hebrew, the passive nature of the verbal action is expressed by the Niphal form of the verb itself without any helping verbs.
|and he was buried in the garden of his own house|
Expresses reflexive voice¶
Reflexive voice means that the subject of the verb is both performing and receiving the action. In English, reflexive voice is expressed using a reflexive pronoun as the object of the verb, “I tell myself”. In Biblical Hebrew, the reflexive nature of the verbal action is expressed by the Niphal form of the verb itself without any additional words.
|הִבָּ֣דְל֔וּ מִתּ֖וֹךְ הָעֵדָ֣ה הַזֹּ֑את|
|hibbodlu mittokh ha’edah hazzoth|
|Separate-yourselves from-midst-of the-congregation the-this|
|Separate yourselves from among this community|
Expresses middle voice¶
Middle voice means that the subject receives the action but also is (partially) involved in performing the action. This kind of action stands somewhere between passive voice and reflexive voice.
|your eyes will be opened|
Expresses reciprocal voice¶
Reciprocal voice means that multiple subjects are in view who are both performing the action for another and receiving the action from another. In English, reciprocal voice is expressed using the phrase “each other” as the object of the verb, “They tell each other.” In Biblical Hebrew, the reciprocal nature of the action is expressed by the Niphal form of the verb itself without any additional words.
Reciprocal voice must be distinguished from reflexive voice. The phrase “They tell themselves” is reflexive: the subject “they” is a unified group and the action could be expressed reflexively for each individual as “he tells himself, and he tells himself, and she tells herself, etc.” The phrase “They tell each other” is reciprocal: each member of the group is telling something to another member of the group, and each member of the group is being told something by another member of the group.
|the kings have killed each other|
In Biblical Hebrew, some verbs express different meanings in different stem formations. A good example is the Hebrew verb רָאָה. In the Qal stem, the verb רָאָה expresses the simple action “to seֶe”. But in the Niphal stem, the verb רָאָה expresses the simple action “to appear”. A dictionary or lexicon will indicate the different meanings for these verbs in the various stem formations.
|וַיֵּרָ֤א יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם|
|wayyera yehwah ‘el-‘avram|
|And-he-appeared Yahweh to_Abram|
|Yahweh appeared to Abram|
In Biblical Hebrew, some verbs express stative action in the Niphal stem rather than the Qal stem. This is a very rare use of the Niphal stem. Stative action is expressed most often using the Qal stem in Biblical Hebrew.
|וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהוָ֔ה כִּֽי־עָשָׂ֥ה אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ|
|wayyinnahem yehwah ki-‘asah ‘eth-ha’adam ba’arets|
|Yahweh regretted that he had made mankind on the earth|