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Hebrew—An Introduction to Reading the Old Testament
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Lesson 8: Prepositions, conjunctions and more
All the prepositions (step 2 of 8)
Stand-alone prepositions

We have already covered the most common prepositions in the Hebrew Bible, which are in fact prefixes and not completely distinct words. But besides these, there are a dozen or so stand-alone prepositions which you will certainly encounter.
stand-alone prepositions
אַחַר after
אֵל toward
אֵצֶל near, beside
אֵת with
בֵּין between
בְּעַד on behalf of
לִפְנֵי before
מִן from
מִפְּנֵי from, due to
עַד until
עַל upon, regarding
עִם with
תַּחַת under, in place of
Combined with a pronoun suffix

One way you will find many of these prepositions appearing is in combination with a pronoun suffix. As was the case with בְּ and לְ, the suffix acts as the object of the preposition, completing the prepositional phrase. For example, אַחַר with a 2mp pronoun suffix becomes אַחֲרֵיכֶם and means “after you all.”

Note also the י that is inserted before the suffix. This is something that you will find often (though not always) when stand-alone prepositions are combined with pronoun suffixes. In fact, two of the above stand-alone prepositions (אַחַר and עַל) at times contain this extra י at the end of their construct form, even when not combined to a pronoun suffix.
Prepositions by usage

In addition to “pure” stand-alone prepositions, the above list also contains two effective stand-alone prepositions—לִפְנֵי and מִפְּנֵי. Both these words are common and behave just like the other stand-alone prepositions. However, their origin is actually that of a prefix preposition combined to the word פָּנִים (in construct form). Thus, the word לִפְנֵי means “to the face of” according to its parts, but in effect carries the simpler meaning of “before.” Likewise, the word מִפְּנֵי literally means “from the face of” but is used to convey the idea of “from” or “due to.” 

It is important to note that some Bible software will treat these two words as the word פָּנִים with a prefix preposition, whereas others will treat it as a distinct stand-alone preposition. Either way, the sense it conveys is that of a stand-alone preposition.
Stand-alone prepositions in the songs we’ve learned

Note that in both these cases we have a prefix preposition attached to a stand-alone preposition. This is not uncommon.

מֵעַל כָּל־פָּנִים — “from upon every face”
מֵעַל כָּל־הָאָרֶץ – “from upon all the land”

We have discussed the first phrase before. Note, once again, that the word מִמֶּנִּי is actually the stand-alone preposition מִן with a 1cs pronoun suffix. Also note the form עֲלֵי has the extra י at the end as we mentioned was possible.

וְלֹא־הִלַּכְתִּי בִּגְדֹלוֹת וּבְנִפְלָאוֹת מִמֶּנִּי – “and I do not walked in things too great and wonderful for me”
עֲלֵי אִמּוֹ – “upon his mother”
כַּגָּמֻל עָלַי נַפְשִׁי – “as a weaned child upon me is my soul”
יַחֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל־יְהוָה – “wait, O Israel, for the Lord
מֵעַתָּה וְעַד־עוֹלָם – “from now and until eternity”

The range of meaning a preposition can hold, along with which verbs it goes along with, is something different in every language. For this reason, you will notice that we cannot always translate a preposition according to its dictionary definition. The dictionary definition is our starting place, but then we must fit that in with the particular usage and verb it stands in relation to. Hence, we have translated both עַל and אֵל below as “for.”

כְּאַיָּל תַּעֲרֹג עַל־אֲפִיקֵי־מָיִם – “as a deer pants for streams of water”
נַפְשִׁי תַעֲרֹג אֵלֶיךָ אֱלֹהִים – “my soul pants for you, O God”

וּכְבוֹד יְהוָה עָלַיִךְ זָרָח – “and the glory of the Lord upon you has shone”
וְעָלַיִךְ יִזְרַח יְהוָה – “and upon you the Lord will shine”
וּכְבוֹדוֹ עָלַיִךְ יֵרָאֶה – “an his glory upon you will be seen”

הֱבִיאַנִי אֶל־בֵּית הַיָּיִן – “bring me to the house of wine”
וְדִגְלוֹ עָלַי אַהֲבָה – “and his flag over me is love”

קוֹלִי אֶל־יְהוָה אֶזְעָק – “my voice unto the Lord I will cry out”
קוֹלִי אֶל־יְהוָה אֶתְחַנָּן – “my voice unto the Lord I will plead”
אֶשְׁפֹּךְ לְפָנָיו שִׂיחִי – “I will pour out before him my complaint”
צָרָתִי לְפָנָיו אַגִּיד – “my trouble before him I will tell”

יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת עִמָּנוּ – “the Lord of hosts is with us

כְעֵינֵי עֲבָדִים אֶל־יַד אֲדוֹנֵיהֶם – “as the eyes of slaves are unto the hand of their master”
כְּעֵינֵי שִׁפְחָה אֶל־יַד גְּבִרְתָּהּ – “as the eyes of a female servant are unto the hand of her mistress”
עֵינֵינוּ אֶל־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ עַד שֶׁיְּחָנֵּנוּ – “our eyes are unto the Lord our God until he shows us favor”