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Hebrew—An Introduction to Reading the Old Testament
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Lesson 4: Verbs—stems
Qal and niphal (step 3 of 10)
Simple active and passive stems

We have already been working with the qal stem. It is the simple active stem. Its passive counterpart is the niphal. Let’s take a look at how these two stems look with the word מָצָא.

(You will notice that throughout this lesson there will be certain forms left blank. This is because those forms appear less than three times in the entire Hebrew Bible for any root.)
מָצָא
455x
find (verb)
qal & niphal perfect for מָצָא
1cs מָצָאתִי נִמְצֵאתִי I found / was found
1cp מָצָאנוּ נִמְצֵאנוּ we found / were found
2ms מָצָאתָ נִמְצֵאתָ you [sir] found / were found
2fs מָצָאת נִמְצֵאת you [ma’am] found / were found
2mp מְצָאתֶם נִמְצֵאתֶם you all found / were found
2fp מְצָאתֶן [ladies] you all found
3ms מָצָא נִמְצָא he found / was found
3fs מָצְאָה נִמְצְאָה she found / was found
3cp מָצְאוּ נִמְצְאוּ they found / were found
qal & niphal imperfect for מָצָא
1cs אֶמְצָא אֶמָּצֵא I will find / be found
1cp נִמְצָא נִמָּצֵא we will find / be found
2ms תִּמְצָא תִּמָּצֵא you [sir] will find / be found
2fs תִּמְצְאִי תִּמָּצְאִי you [ma’am] will find / be found
2mp תִּמְצְאוּ תִּמָּצְאוּ you all will find / be found
2fp תִּמְצֶאנָה [ladies] you all will find
3ms יִמְצָא יִמָּצֵא he will find / be found
3fs תִּמְצָא תִּמָּצֵא she will find / be found
3mp יִמְצְאוּ יִמָּצְאוּ they will find / be found
3fp תִּמְצֶאנָה תִּמָּצֶאנָה [those ladies] will find / be found
Not too complicated, right? The inflected suffixes and prefixes work the same in both stems. The niphal only adds the נִ to the beginning of each word in the perfect, and changes the vowels a bit. You would do well to also note the middle dot in the first letter of the root for the niphal imperfect. While this does not affect the way we pronounce the word, it will at times help you identify it as a niphal imperfect.

Finally, those with keen eyes may have observed that the niphal perfect 3ms (“he was found”) is identical to the qal imperfect 1cp (“we will find”). As with other examples of identical forms we have seen, the intended meaning of the author must be discerned from the context.

Let’s take a look at these two stems of the word מָצָא in action.
Genesis 44:16

Since this is not one of our formal readings, we will not learn all the new vocab. Instead, the purpose here is just to see the qal and niphal of מָצָא “in the wild.” So read what you can, clicking on the words only after you have parsed and understood everything you are able—especially the two forms of מָצָא you will find.
וַיֹּאמֶר
יְהוּדָה
מַה
נֹּאמַר
לַאדֹנִי
מַה
נְּדַבֵּר
וּמַה
נִּצְטַדָּק
הָאֱלֹהִים
מָצָא
אֶת
עֲוֺן
עֲבָדֶיךָ
הִנֶּנּוּ
עֲבָדִים
לַאדֹנִי
גַּם
אֲנַחְנוּ
גַּם
אֲשֶׁר
נִמְצָא
הַגָּבִיעַ
בְּיָדוֹ׃
Niphal verbs in the songs we've learned
קוּמִי אוֹרִי

We have only seen one niphal in the songs we have learned to this point in the course. It appears as the last word in this song, and, as expected, carries a simple passive meaning.

וּכְבוֹדוֹ עָלַיִךְ יֵרָאֶה — “and his glory upon you will be seen
כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ יֵעָשֶׂה לָּךְ

In our devotional step at the beginning of this lesson, we also saw a single verb in both the qal and niphal stems. Here, the verb עָשָׂה is presented with both its simple active and simple passive meanings. However, given that the root עָשָׂה ends in a weak letter (the ה), this letter is swapped out for a י in the perfect.

Can you parse the two instances of עָשָׂה in this phrase? Remember to identify all of the following: stem, aspect, person, gender and number. If you are having trouble, recall the meaning of the phrase to point you in the right direction.
Next up, two new stems.