אֲנִי וְלִבִּי‎ The Syntactic Encoding of the Collaborative Nature of Qohelet’s Experiment 1
Robert D. Holmstedt
University of Toronto, Canada


The language of the book of Qohelet has both intrigued and frustrated generations of scholars due to its abundant orthographic, morphological, syntactic, and lexical peculiarities. One linguistic feature that has not received proper attention, however, is the presence and syntactic position of the first-person subject pronoun אני‎, e.g., 1:16 דברתי אני עם־לבי‎. The independent subject pronoun is variously described as pleonastic, a strategy for emphasizing the subject, and a strategy for marking an important narrative point. However, none of these descriptions accurately describe its use in the book, and so in this essay I will address the syntax and function of Qohelet's use of the first-person subject pronouns.

1. Introduction

The language of the book of Qohelet has long puzzled scholars. After more than three centuries of critical study, terms like ‘aberrant’ (Seow 1997:11) and ‘idiosyncratic’ (Schoors 1992:1) continue to be used to characterize the book’s language. The linguistic profile of the book is indeed unique and appears to be a mix of styles, stages, registers, and dialects. For instance, the orthography has been linked with Phoenician, two words (פַּרְדֵּס‎ and פִּתְגָם‎) have often been identified as lexical borrowings from Persian, multiple other lexemes or grammatical features have been labeled Phoenicianisms, Aramaisms, and Grecisms, and some items (e.g., the use of the relative element שֶׁ‎ in addition to the more common אֲשֶׁר‎) have been associated with ‘late, vernacular’ Hebrew (see Seow 1996 for a concise overview of the linguistic features used in dating the book). With that said, the linguistic profile of every book in the Hebrew Bible is unique, and perpetuating the view that the grammar reflected in Qohelet somehow deviates fundamentally from other examples of ancient Hebrew may well keep us from grammatical insight into the book.

In this essay I will address one ‘idiosyncratic’ feature of Qohelet’s language—its use of the subject pronoun after a finite verb—and demonstrate that Qohelet’s pronominal syntax is fundamentally no different than that of any other ancient Hebrew text. Specifically, I will demonstrate how the author of Qohelet has used the post-verbal subject pronoun אֲנִי‎ to formalize grammatically a literary method to describe Qohelet’s thought experiment: he did not do it alone, but with his לֵב‎ as a partner.

2. The Problem of Post-Verbal Pronouns

Certain aspects of the first-person grammar of Qohelet figure prominently in commentary upon the book: the use of the first-person narrative voice and the choice of the first-person pronoun אֲנִי‎ over the longer form אָנֹכִי‎. One aspect that has not received due attention, however, is the use of a first-person subject pronoun with a finite verb, an example of which is given in (1).

(1) דּבּ֨רְתִּי אֲנִ֤י עִם־לִבִּי֨ לֵאמֹ֔ר אֲנִ֗י הִנֵּ֨ה הִגְדַּ֤לְתִּי וְהוֹסַ֨פְתִּי֨ חָכְמָ֔ה עַ֛ל כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־הָיָ֥ה לְפָנַ֖י עַל יְרוּשָׁלָ֑םִ וְלִבִּ֛י רָאָ֥ה הַרְבֵּ֖ה חָכְמָ֥ה וָדָֽעַת׃

I spoke, I to2 my לֵב‎: “I—look—I made myself great and added wisdom (to myself) over any who was before me over Jerusalem.” And my לֵב‎ has (also) seen much wisdom and knowledge (1:16).

Set within the context of the Hebrew Bible, there are two features that distinguish Qohelet’s use of the subject pronoun: its presence and its syntactic placement. The first-person pronoun אֲנִי‎ occurs twenty-one times in conjunction with a finite verb in the book. The book only has eighty-one first-person verbs within its 222 verses, so that more than one out of four verbs has an independent subject pronoun. A quick comparison with the rest of the Hebrew Bible, summarized in Table 1, suggests that Qohelet differs significantly from the Hebrew Bible in its use of the 1cs pronoun.

Table 1: Finite Verbs with 1cs Independent Pronouns in Qohelet and the Hebrew Bible


(222 vv in B19a)

Rest of HB

(22991 vv in B19a)

1st Person Finite Verbs

1st Person Pronouns with Finite Verb



 2 pre-verbal3

 20 post-verbal4



 412 pre-verbal5

 70 post-verbal6

The chart highlights a number of striking facts. First, the frequency of first-person pronoun with finite verbs is considerably higher in Qohelet than in the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Second, the position of the pronouns is opposite the dominant pattern elsewhere: Qohelet overwhelmingly places the pronoun after the verb whereas the first-person pronoun in other biblical books typically precedes the verb. The much more common pre-verbal placement of the pronoun in the Hebrew Bible is illustrated in (2).

(2) כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶה֣ עִמָּ֔ךְ וְזֶה־לְּךָ֣ הָא֔וֹת כִּ֥י אָנֹכִ֖י שְׁלַחְתִּ֑יךָ֤ בְּהֹוצִֽיאֲךָ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם תַּֽעַבְדוּן֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹה֔יִם עַ֖ל הָהָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה

Because I will be with you and this will be the sign for you that I have sent you: when you take the people out of Egypt you shall honor God upon this mountain’ (Exod 3:12).

In summary, while in general the use of the subject pronoun in the Hebrew Bible is a marked7 grammatical feature—relatively rare and used to signal a ‘topic’8 or ‘focus’9, in Qohelet it is strikingly frequent with the first-person verbs. Moreover, the post-verbal placement of the first-person pronoun in Qohelet contrasts both with the pre-verbal placement of second- and third-person subject pronouns in that same book10 and of all subject pronouns in the Hebrew Bible as a whole. All of this raises two closely-related questions: why is the first-person pronoun used so much in Qohelet and why is it consistently placed post-verbally?

Kautszch notes that the independent pronouns with a finite verb—which is already inflected for person, number, and gender, are ‘used, … as a rule, only to give express emphasis to the subject’ (1910:§135). On this feature in Qohelet, though, he includes a separate remark:

Different from this is the pleonastic addition of the separate pronoun immediately after the verb (according to Delitzsch on Song 5:5 perhaps a trace of popular language), e. g. 1 S 23:22(?), Ct 5:5, and (like other indications of the very late origin of the book) very frequently in Ecclesiastes, e. g. 1:16, 2:1, 11, 15, 3:17f. and thirteen other places; in Aramaic, Dan 5:16. (1910:§135, Rem. 1)11

Why would the independent pronoun “express emphasis” in most cases but be “pleonastic” in a handful of cases, including all the occurrences in Qohelet? The principle of parsimony suggests that if the independent pronoun used with a finite verb has a place within the linguistic system of most biblical books it is unlikely to be superfluous in one book and a few isolated verses elsewhere. Moreover, as Waltke and O'Connor aver, “it is doubtful that any major linguistic element can truly be superfluous or redundant” (1990:§16.3.2a).12 Pleonasm is best used to describe constructions or features that belong to the realm of usage rather than to the formal grammar of a language; for instance, the second, repeated prepositional phrase in Deut 2:27 (בַּדֶּ֥רֶךְ בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ אֵלֵ֑ךְ‎ “on the road, on the road I will walk;” cf. Waltke and O'Connor 1990:§§7.3–4) is formally superfluous even though it likely serves to signal focused information (i.e., Moses recounts how he told Sihon, the Ammonite king, that the Israelites would travel only on the road through the Ammonite territory). Syntactically, though, the ‘pleonastic’ repetition is an example of apposition. Indeed, since the repetition in Deut 2:27 has syntactic (apposition) and pragmatic (focus) descriptions, it suggests that pleonasm is a useless category.

There have been a number of non-pleonastic proposals for the use of the first-person pronoun in Qohelet. Driver suggests that the post-verbal pronoun highlights major stages in Qohelet’s ‘meditations’ (1892:202, n. 1) while Muraoka argues that in general it expresses emphasis on the subject and that in Qohelet in particular the pronoun expresses the ‘meditating ego of Qoheleth, as he observes and meditates upon the world around him and human life in it’ (1985:49; so also Joüon and Muraoka 2006:§146c). Isaksson, in his 1987 study of the verb in Qohelet, denies any ‘emphasis’ on the subject when the pronoun follows the verb in Qohelet (so also Schoors 1992:160–61). Rather, like Driver 1892, he suggests that ‘the pronoun is added in instances of greater importance, where the narrative halts for a moment to make a conclusion or to introduce a new thought’ (Isaksson 1987:171, and also 166–67). And, finally, Fredericks 1988 suggests an analysis quite different from the others:

When Qoh wished to describe an act or thought as simple past (preterite), he added אני‎ to the conjugated perfect, thus referring to his specific quest. This principle would show plausibly how Qoh tried to avoid a confusion in describing past and present acts and thought with only one verbal aspect, when a distinction was necessary. The implication for those first singular perfects without the subsequent pronoun is that they are allowed any tense within the normal scope of the BH perfect, i.e., perfective, pluperfective …, present …, as well as preterite. With this suggestion comes an intelligible translation with more direct means of determining the time to which Qoh refers when speaking of matters involving his past. Thereby he has expanded the options with which he may clearly indicate his intentions. (1988:69)

Fredericks' proposal that the pronoun is tied to the semantics of Qohelet’s verbal system finds no parallel in any other book and thus is highly unlikely unless we admit deep systemic—and unique—changes to the grammar of the book of Qohelet, that is, unless we consider Qohelet to have a unique grammar, distinguishing it from any other attested grammar of ancient Hebrew. The structural connection observed by Driver and Isaksson is coincidental since, while post-verbal אֲנִי‎ does appear at what are arguably literary transitions or high-points, it does not appear at all such locations in the book (compare the list of occurrences with the structural analyses reflected in, e.g, Seow 1997, Fox 1999, or Krüger 2004). This leaves us with only the emphasis-based proposal, which is essentially correct and could easily be re-cast in terms of recent information structure frameworks using the concepts ‘topic’ and ‘focus’ (a la Heimerdinger 1999, Shimasaki 2002, or Lunn 2006). Lacking from any current account of Qohelet’s use of the pronoun with the finite verb, though, is an account of the post-verbal position of the pronoun—and this is, in my opinion, the key to the puzzle.

3. Hebrew as a Pro-drop Language

Before I address the post-verbal position of the 1cs pronouns in Qohelet, it is necessary to consider some general characteristics of BH pronominal syntax. BH is a prototypical example of what is called a “pro-drop” or “null-subject” language (Naudé 1991, 1993; Holmstedt 2009b). The finite verbs are inflected with morphologically rich affixes (i.e., the verbal affixes are portmanteau morphs, carrying a bundle of person, number, and gender agreement features).13 In most languages with rich verbal morphology, overt subject noun phrases and pronouns are absent more often than not; that is, they are “dropped.” The way that this is articulated in generative syntax is that subject noun phrases and overt subject pronouns are in complementary distribution with a covert/null pronoun, typically referred to as “little pro.14 The pro-drop status of BH explains why the Hebrew Bible—from early to late literature—exhibits numerous clauses lacking an overt subject, as in (3) and (4).

(3) כֵּ֖ן תַּכְעִסֶ֑נָּה וַתִּבְכֶּ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תֹאכַֽל

thus pro (= Peninah) would vex her and pro (= Hannah) would weep and pro (she = Hannah) would not eat” (1 Sam 1:7).

(4) וַיְבִיאֵ֥ם אֶֽרֶץ־שִׁנְעָ֖ר בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהָ֑יו

and pro (= Nebuchadnezzar) brought them (to) the land of Shinar, (to) the house of his gods (Dan 1:2).

While it is most common for an overt subject noun phrase or pronoun to be dropped when the agent/patient subject of the verb is the most recently used verbal subject, the examples in (3) and (4) illustrate that even a distant subject may be filled by pro if the referent is apparent from the context. In (3) the previous agentive subject to be mentioned (in v 6) is Yhwh, but it is contextually clear that Peninah was the agent of vexation for Hannah. It is also clear that Hannah was the one who wept and not Peninah, even though Hannah has not been explicitly identified as an agent since v. 5. In both cases, the identity of the agent is sufficiently easy to reconstruct based on the context that the use of overt subject noun phrases is unnecessary. Similarly, in (4) the last explicit agentive subject in the context is אֲדֹנָי‎ “the Lord,” but it is contextually clear that Nebuchadnezzar is the agent of the exile, making an overt noun phrase or pronoun to mark the shift between agents unnecessary.

The two examples in (3) and (4) demonstrate that an overt subject noun phrase or pronoun is often lacking in BH and yet the lack is syntactically licensed.15 My explanation of (3) and (4) also illustrates how the identification of pro is related to the discourse: in BH pro is used when its ability to access its antecedent within the discourse is high, the referring noun phrase subject is used when the accessibility is low, and an overt pronoun is used when the antecedent is marked for topic or focus (see Gutman 1999, 2004 for a similar analysis of modern Israeli Hebrew).

Qohelet exhibits the same pro-drop syntax as the rest of the Hebrew Bible, as (5) demonstrates.16

(5) וְנָתַ֣תִּי אֶת־לִבּ֗יִ לִדְר֤וֹשׁ וְלָתוּר֙ בַּֽחָכְמָ֔ה עַ֛ל כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר נַעֲשָׂ֖ה תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם

and pro (I) set my לֵב‎ to seek and to investigate with wisdom concerning all that happens under the heavens (1:13).

The point at which Qohelet’s language use does differ is with the verb-pronoun constituent order, which the numbers in Table 1 suggest is a highly marked order.

4. Pre-verbal, Post-verbal, and Conjoined Subject Pronouns

By far the dominant order when pronouns are used with finite verbs is pronoun-verb (by at least four-to-one, with all pronouns), not verb-pronoun as we have in Qohelet. Moreover, since an overt pronoun in a pro-drop language marks the subject with topic or focus status, the expected (and statistically dominant) position is initial, i.e., located somewhere in the clausal area preceding the final position of verb, as in (6), repeated from (2).

(6) כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ וְזֶה־לְּךָ֣ הָא֔וֹת כִּ֥י אָנֹכִ֖י שְׁלַחְתִּ֑יךָ בְּהֹוצִֽיאֲךָ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם תַּֽעַבְדוּן֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹה֔יִם עַ֖ל הָהָ֥ר הַזֶּ‍ֽה

Because I will be with you and this will be the sign for you that I have sent you: when you take the people out of Egypt you shall honor God upon this mountain (Exod 3:12).

With that said, Hebrew clause structure does allow for post-verbal focus constituents, as the constituents preceded by רַק‎ and גַּם‎ in (7) and (8) demonstrate.

(7) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוּדָה֩ לְשִׁמְע֨וֹן אָח֜יו עֲלֵ֧ה אִתִּ֣י בְגֹורָלִ֗י וְנִֽלָּחֲמָה֙ בַּֽכְּנַעֲנִ֔י וְהָלַכְתִּ֧י גַם־אֲנִ֛י אִתְּךָ֖ בְּגֹורָלֶ֑ךָ

and Judah said to Simon, his brother: Go up with me into my allotment and let us fight against the Canaanite, then pro (I) shall go, I too, with you into your allotment (Judg 1:3).

(8) וַתִּפֹּ֤ל שְׁבָא֙ וַתִּקָּחֵ֔ם וְאֶת־הַנְּעָרִ֖ים הִכּ֣וּ לְפִי־חָ֑רֶב וָֽאִמָּ֨לְטָ֧ה רַק־אֲנִ֛י לְבַדִּ֖י לְהַגִ֥יד לָֽךְ

and Sheba fell (upon the livestock) and took them and they killed the servants by sword and pro (I) escaped, only I alone, to tell you (Job 1:15).

Post-verbal focus on the verbal subject, whether with pronouns or noun phrases, is much less frequent than pre-verbal focus. It is possible that this highly-marked combination of the use of the overt pronoun and the post-verbal placement, which is somewhat syntactically disruptive (with some similarity to interjections and vocatives), is used for an even higher degree of contrast than the more common pre-verbal focus. (Admittedly, though, the precise pragmatic function of post-verbal pronouns in Hebrew has not been investigated adequately and requires further examination.) Aside from the precise pragmatics of post-verbal subject focus in general, what is significant for this study is that the vast majority of post-verbal subject pronouns in the Hebrew Bible are of the type illustrated in (9) and (10).

(9) וַיִּשְׁתּ֗וּ ה֛וּא וְהָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים אֲשֶׁר־עִמּ֖וֹ

and pro (they) drank, he and the men that were with him (Gen 24:54).

(10) וַיַּכְבֵּ֥ד לִבּ֖וֹ ה֥וּא וַעֲבָדָֽיו

and pro (he) hardened his לֵב‎, he and his servants (Exod 9:34).

This type of construction is most often described as a way to highlight some feature of the subject, whether indicating a shift from a singular agent to a group, specified by the coordinate subject, as in (9), or emphasizing the primary agent-hood of the first constituent in the coordinate phrase, as in (10) (Waltke and O'Connor 1990:§16.3.2c; see also Revell 1993).17 This may be so, but it is not clear that the coordinate phrases are actually the syntactic subjects in these clauses. Naudé 1999 argues cogently that such coordinate phrases are verb phrase adjuncts rather than the subject constituents themselves. He appeals to examples like (11), which contains a similar coordinate phrase but also has an explicit subject noun phrase.

(11) וַיֵּצֵ֣א עֹוג֩ מֶֽלֶךְ־הַבָּשָׁ֨ן לִקְרָאת֜נֵוּ ה֧וּא וְכָל־עַמּ֛וֹ לַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה אֶדְרֶֽעִי

and Og, the king of Bashan, went out to meet us, he and all his people, for battle at Edrei (Deut 3:1).

In (11) the coordinate phrase הוּא וְכָל־עַמֹּו‎ cannot be the syntactic subject since that position is already filled by the overt noun phrase עֹוג מֶלֶךְ־הַבָּשָׁן‎. Nor can the coordinate phrase be right-dislocated, since it is positioned before another prepositional phrase adjunct לַמִּלְחָמָה‎.18 The phrase הוּא וְכָל־עַמֹּו‎ is instead “an adjunct that is generated in the position it occupies in overt syntax” (1999:91). By analogy with this type, Naudé suggests that the coordinate “subject” phrases, like those in (9) and (10), are also adjuncts instead of syntactic subjects; the syntactic subject of each clause is the null subject pro, which is resumed either by the entire coordinate phrase (9) or just the first conjunct of the coordinate phrase (10).19 In other words, verbs may have an overt subject, as in (11), or a covert (pro) subject, as in (9) and (10), and either type of subject may be qualified by a later coordinate phrase that specifies something about the subject.

5. A Syntactic Solution and a Literary Explanation

We may now return to Qohelet and its pronouns. Again, the primary question is, Why is the subject pronoun אֲנִי‎ used post-verbally, particularly if it is not the syntactic subject? If Qohelet wanted simply to emphasize that these are his observations and complaints, then why not use the more typical pre-verbal subject pronoun for focus? The answer lies in a specific contrast that Qohelet establishes and wants to keep in his audience’s mind. To see how this is accomplished, let us start with the data laid out in Table 2, in which I have listed and categorized the relevant clauses in Qohelet.

Table 2: The Use of the 1cs Independent Pronouns in Qohelet

Col 1: Verb + Pro

Col 2: Verb + Pro-PP

Col 3: Other

פָנִיתִי אֲנִי‎ (2:11, 12)

דִּבַּרְתִּי אֲנִי עִם־לִבִּי‎ (1:16)

סַבֹּותִי אֲנִי וְלִבִּי‎ (7:25)

רָאִיתִי אָנִי‎ (2:13, 24; 4:4; 5:17)

אָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי בְּלִבִּי‎ (2:1, 15; 3:17, 18)

וְסַבּ֥וֹתִֽי אֲנִ֖י לְיַאֵ֣שׁ אֶת־לִבִּ֑י‎ (2:20)

שַׁבְתִּי אֲנִי‎ (4:1, 7)

יָדַעְתִּי גַם־אָנִי‎ (2:14)

חָכַמְתִּי אֲנִי‎ (2:15)

שָׂנֵאתִי אֲנִי‎ (2:18)

שִׁבַּחִתִּי אֲנִי‎ (8:15)

אָמַרְתִּי אָנִי‎ (9:16)

In the first column are the occurrences of the first-person pronoun without any coordinate phrase. In the second column the pronoun is immediately followed by a preposition and the word לֵב‎ “heart, mind.” The third column presents what I consider to be the two linguistic and interpretive keys to the syntax and use of the first-person pronoun in Qohelet: the first example shows the pronoun coordinated with לֵב‎ by the simple conjunction ו-‎, the second example shows לֵב‎ as an accusative complement following a finite verb and the first-person pronoun.

Interestingly, at the center of the pronoun puzzle stands the לֵב‎. In Qohelet the לֵב‎ is used differently than elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.20 Rather than לֵב‎ used with verbs of speaking to express the idiom for internal speech, i.e., someone thinking or speaking to himself, it is used as a full-fledged character in Qohelet. The second-person imperative instead of the expected first-person cohortative in 2:1 suggests strongly that Qohelet treats his לֵב‎ as a external conversation partner. Thus, there is no internal monologue in Qohelet (contra Christianson 1998:195–97, Salyer 2002:175, and many others), Qohelet does use the לֵב‎ to observe himself exploring (contra Fox 1999:78), and he does not “invite the reader to explore and observe his inner person” (Christianson 1998:195). Rather, the לֵב‎ here is personified as an experiment partner distinct from himself (so also Fox 1999:267): two investigators can pursue different, even opposing, lines of inquiry better than one, thereby strengthening the conclusions that are ultimately drawn.

Let us now consider individual verses to see how the author has used the grammar of pronoun syntax for his rhetorical ends. The example in 7:25, given in full in (12), suggests in particular that neither the pronoun אֲנִי‎ nor the noun לֵב‎, with which אֲנִי‎ is coordinated, is the syntactic subject.

(12) סַבּ֨וֹתִֽי אֲנִ֤י וְלִבִּי֙ לָדַ֣עַת וְלָת֔וּר וּבַקֵּ֥שׁ חָכְמָ֖ה וְחֶשְׁבּ֑וֹן

pro (I) turned around, I and my לֵב‎, to understand and to investigate and seek wisdom and accounting (7:25).

Just as with the evidence adduced in Naudé 1999 and illustrated above in(9)–(11), the lack of agreement between the first-person-singular verb סַבֹּותִי‎ and the first-person-plural coordinate phrase אֲנִי וְלִבִּי‎ indicates the non-subject status of the coordinate phrase: אֲנִי‎ picks up and resumes the null pro syntactic subject of the verb and adds the information וְלִבִּי‎. Here we see most clearly Qohelet highlighting that while he was the instigator and is the primary reporter of the experiment, he was not alone in his quest. The coordinate phrase אֲנִי וְלִבִּי‎ must reside in a post-verbal focus phrase.21

The examples in the middle column in Table 2 add a syntactic complexity since the nominative pronoun and prepositional phrase are not coordinated; indeed, the prepositional phrase in these examples, illustrated in (13), should be taken as the indirect object (oblique complement) for the verbs of speaking דבר‎ and אמר‎.

(13) דִּבַּ֨רְתִּי אֲנִ֤י עִם־לִבִּי֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אֲנִ֗י הִנֵּ֨ה הִגְדַּ֤לְתִּי וְהֹוסַ֙פְתִּי֙ חָכְמָ֔ה עַ֛ל כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־הָיָ֥ה לְפָנַ֖י עַל יְרוּשָׁלָ֑םִ וְלִבִּ֛י רָאָ֥ה הַרְבֵּ֖ה חָכְמָ֥ה וָדָֽעַת

pro (I) spoke, I, with my לֵב‎: “I—look—I made myself great and added wisdom (to myself) over all who were before me over Jerusalem.” And my לֵב‎ has (also) seen much wisdom and knowledge (1:16).

Following basic generative linguistic theory, I make the assumption that a verb and its modifiers (whether complements or adjuncts) are adjacent at some point in the derivation of a clause. The implication for examples like (13), in which the subject pronoun intervenes between the verb דִּבַּרְתִּי‎ and its complement עִם־לִבִּי‎ is that the verb has raised higher than the subject pronoun. This verb-raising allows the pronoun and indirect object prepositional phrase to be combined into a single, complex constituent that may be marked for focus.22

The final set of examples, in the left column in Table 2, are to be explained similarly. They reflect verb-raising and the subsequent placement of the subject pronoun in a post-verbal focus phrase, although they do not have a conjunct or a prepositional phrase with לֵב‎ as do the previous two sets of examples.23 Even so, what is important to recognize in all three constructions is the use of the pronoun within a post-verbal focus phrase. When the pronoun is alone in the focus phrase, Qohelet is asserting that the following observations or conclusions are his alone; when the pronoun is accompanied in the focus phrase by a conjunct or a prepositional phrase Qohelet is emphasizing the collaborative nature of his investigation.

To see how this works out, consider 1:13, given in (14), Qohelet introduces his experiment partner, indicating in the first half of the verse that he commissioned his לֵב‎. Moreover, I suggest that the second half of the verse is actually Qohelet’s preview of his לֵב‎’s conclusion for the project.

(14) וְנָתַ֣תִּי אֶת־לִבּ֗יִ לִדְר֤וֹשׁ וְלָתוּר֙ בַּֽחָכְמָ֔ה עַ֛ל כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר נַעֲשָׂ֖ה תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם ה֣וּא ׀ עִנֲי֣ן רָ֗ע נָתַ֧ן אֱלֹהִ֛ים לִבְנֵ֥י הָאָדָ֖ם לַעֲנ֥וֹת בּֽוֹ

And pro (I) set my לֵב‎ to seek and to investigate with wisdom concerning all that happens under the heavens: it is an unfortunate task (that) God has given to men to be occupied with (1:13).

In the following two verses, given in (15), Qohelet notes his own participation and, I suggest, his ultimate conclusion.

(15) רָאִ֙יתִי֙ אֶת־כָּל־הַֽמַּעֲשִׂ֔ים שֶֽׁנַּעֲשׂ֖וּ תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ וְהִנֵּ֥ה הַכֹּ֛ל הֶ֖בֶל וּרְע֥וּת רֽוּחַ׃מְעֻוָּ֖ת לֹא־יוּכַ֣ללִתְקֹ֑ן וְחֶסְר֖וֹן לֹא־יוּכַ֥ל לְהִמָּנֽוֹת׃

pro (I) saw all the events that happen under the sun, and, see here—everything is absurd and (like) chasing wind! What is bent is not able to become straight, and what is lacking is not able to be counted (1:14–15).

It is in 1:16, provided again in (16), that Qohelet first uses the post-verbal phrase including the first-person pronoun אֲנִי‎ to reinforce grammatically that the experiment was carried out in partnership by Qohelet and his לֵב‎.

(16) דִּבּ֨רְתִּי אֲנִ֤י עִם־לִבִּי֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אֲנִ֗י הִנֵּ֨ה הִגְדַּ֤לְתִּי וְהֹוסַ֙פְתִּי֙ חָכְמָ֔ה עַ֛ל כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־הָיָ֥ה לְפָנַ֖י עַל יְרוּשָׁלָ֑םִ וְלִבִּ֛י רָאָ֥ה הַרְבֵּ֖ה חָכְמָ֥ה וָדָֽעַת

pro (I) spoke, I with my לֵב‎: “I—look—I made myself great and added wisdom (to myself) over any who was before me over Jerusalem.” And my לֵב‎ has (also) seen much wisdom and knowledge (1:16).

Moreover, in v. 16 Qohelet establishes that in addition to both parties engaging in the actual experiment, he and his לֵב‎ discussed their findings afterwards. Note how Qohelet distinguishes what is true about just him, by using אֲנִי‎ within the quote, and what is true of his לֵב‎ apart from him: his לֵב‎ had also seen much wisdom in the course of the experiment. In 2:1, given in (17), Qohelet addresses his לֵב‎ in the second person.

(17) אָמַ֤רְתִּֽי אֲנִי֙ בְּלִבּ֔יִ לְכָה־נָּ֛א אֲנַסְּכָ֛ה בְשִׂמְחָ֖ה וּרְאֵ֣ה בְט֑וֹב וְהִנֵּ֥ה גַם־ה֖וּא הָֽבֶל

pro (I) said—I with24 my לֵב‎: Come and I will have you experience joy; look upon goodness. See—this also is absurd! (2:1).

Qohelet does not directly address his לֵב‎ anywhere else in the book (the second-person address in the remainder of the book is apparently aimed at Qohelet’s audience), but he does admit in 2:20, provided in (18), that he tried to influence the conclusions that his לֵב‎ was drawing.

(18) וְסַבּ֥וֹתִֽי אֲנִ֖י לְיַאֵ֣שׁ אֶת־לִבִּ֑י עַל כָּל־הֶ֣עָמָ֔ל שֶׁעָמַ֖לְתִּי תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ

And pro (I) turned around, I, to put my לֵב‎ in a state of despair about all the acquisition(s) for which I have exerted myself under the sun. (2:20).

Here the pronoun אֲנִי‎ is used (without a prepositional phrase or second conjunct) in order to contrast Qohelet’s actions from that of his לֵב‎. Qohelet describes how he tried to convince his לֵב‎ that his toil was not enjoyable, apparently in response to the positive conclusion that the לֵב‎ had already drawn: כִּי־לִבִּי שָׂמֵחַ מִכָּל־עֲמָלִי‎ (2:10).

With the Qohelet-and-his-לֵב‎ framework in mind, the statements in 1:17 and 2:3, given in (19) and (20), make much better sense than they are typically credited with.

(19) וָאֶתְּנָ֤ה לִבִּי֙ לָדַ֣עַת חָכְמָ֔ה וְדַ֥עַת הֹולֵלֹ֖ות וְשִׂכְל֑וּת יָדַ֕עְתִּי שֶׁגַּם־זֶ֥ה ה֖וּא רַעְי֥וֹן רֽוּחַ

And pro (I) set my לֵב‎ to know wisdom; and knowing blindness and folly—I came to recognize that also this was wind-chasing (1:17).

For (19) I suggest that the use of two infinitive phrases indicates two investigative paths (cf. the NJPS translation and also Fox 2004:10).25 Qohelet directs his לֵב‎ “to know” wisdom and for himself he chooses the other—and ultimately unsatisfying—path of “knowing” foolishness. The difficult verse in (20) may be interpreted in a similar vein.

(20) תַּ֣רְתִּי בְלִבּ֔יִ לִמְשׁ֥וֹךְ בַּיַּ֖יִן אֶת־בְּשָׂרִ֑י וְלִבּ֞יִ נֹהֵ֤ג בַּֽחָכְמָה֙ וְלֶאֱ֣ ו̇זז בְּסִכְל֔וּת עַ֣ד אֲשֶׁר־אֶרְא֗הֶ אֵי־ז֨הֶ ס֜וֹב לִבְנֵי֤ הָאָדָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר יַעֲשׂוּ֙ תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם מִסְפַּ֖ר יְמֵ֥י חַיֵּיהֶֽם

pro (I) went about with my לֵב‎ (by dragging my flesh along with wine, though my לֵב‎ was guiding with wisdom) to grasp foolishness, until (the time) that I see what is good for humans, which they should do under the heavens the number of the days of their lives (2:3).

The first half of the verse in (20) presents some difficulty. The problems are what it means to תוּר בְּלֵב‎, what the root משׁךְ‎ means in the context, and how to relate both the infinitive phrase לִמְשֹׁוךְ בַּיַּיִן אֶת־בְּשָׂרִי‎ and following the conjoined participial clause וְלִבִּי נֹהֵג בַּֽחָכְמָה‎ back to the main clause headed by the verb תַּרְתִּי‎. The collocation of תור‎ and בְּלֵב‎ is often taken as another way to express mental activity: “Qoheleth is not examining material pleasures so much as his responses to them. Hence he goes about, meditates, within his heart” (Fox 1999:177, emphasis in original). Thus, the prepositional phrase בְלִבִּי‎ is often read as the mental space, “within my mind” (e.g.,Crenshaw 1987:69, 77; Longman 1998:87, 89), or is often read as the mental space, “within my mind” (e.g., Crenshaw 1987:69, 77; Longman 1998:87, 89), or the mental means, “with my mind” (see, e.g., Seow 1997:126–27). But if Qohelet treats his לֵב‎ as his experiment partner, then the בְּ-‎ preposition indicates accompaniment not location or means.26

The meaning of לִמְשֹׁוךְ‎ is best kept to its attested range, “pull, drag, draw,” rather than the guesses that are motivated by the context of this verse (“tempt” NJPS; “cheer” NRSV, Longman 1998:89, Provan 2001:65; “stimulate,” Barton 1908:77; “bathe,” Lohfink 2003:51). After all, the image of “dragging” oneself to do something is not all that opaque and in the context of Qohelet’s experiment it suggests that he forced himself to follow paths that he suspected might result in less than desirable experiences, all for the sake of determining אֵי־זֶה סֹוב לִבְנֵי הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשׂוּ‎.

On the final interpretative crux, the relationship of the main clause to what follows, numerous commentators take וְלִבִּי נֹהֵג בַּֽחָכְמָה‎ as a parenthetical clause (see, for example, Barton 1908:77; Lauha, 1978:48; and Crenshaw 1987:78) but not the first infinitival phrase לִמְשֹׁוךְ בַּיַּיִן אֶת־בְּשָׂרִי‎, as I do. I suggest that the more general intellectual nature of וְלֶאֱחֹ֣ז בְּסִכְל֔וּת27 makes better sense as the complement of תַּ֣רְתִּי בְלִבִּ֔י‎ and also that the contrast between how Qohelet induces his “flesh” to behave and the steadfast behavior of his לֵב‎ fits the dual nature of the experiment. Rather than a statement of “youthful bravado” (Seow 1997:127), this verse indicates that Qohelet was accompanied by his לֵב‎ in his investigation of foolishness, although in accordance with the division of labor in 1:17, he admits that his לֵב‎ continued to be a source of wisdom even while he used wine to induce himself (lit. his “flesh”) to explore the darker side.

Notably, Qohelet does not use the pronoun אֲנִי‎ after the verb תַּרְתִּי‎ in (20). As I have already demonstrated, the pronoun is syntactically optional and thus Qohelet is not compelled to use it to produce well-formed statements. Instead, as Table 2 helps to show, Qohelet’s pattern is to use the אֲנִי‎-plus-לֵב‎ construction when he engages his לֵב‎ in conversation (1:16, 2:1, 15; 3:17, 18) or when he and his לֵב‎ take action together (7:25). He omits the pronoun more often than not, which is expected.28 After the first instance of the אֲנִי‎-plus-לֵב‎ construction in 1:16, Qohelet repeats it to remind his audience that the experiment was carried out by the twosome. When he does not want to emphasize that the pair were engaged together, he omits the pronoun.

The final set that needs explanation is the type in the left column in Table 2: the thirteen that exhibit the subject pronoun following the finite verb but no mention of the לֵב‎. These are simple cases of the overt subject pronoun used to mark focus. Once he has established that he and his לֵב‎ carried out the experiment together, he is able to use the first-person pronoun alone to identify the majority of experiences and conclusions as his rather than his partner’s. In other words, when he states in (21) that

(21) וְרָא֨יִתִֽי אֲנִ֜י אֶת־כָּל־עָמָ֗ל וְאֵת֙ כָּל־כִּשְׁר֣וֹן הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂ֔ה כִּ֛י הִ֥יא קִנְאַת־אִ֖ישׁ מֵרֵעֵ֑הוּ

And pro (I) saw, I, all the acquisition(s) and all the skill of the work—that it is (out of) a man’s jealousy of his neighbor (4:4).

he indicates by the grammar—by the use of אֲנִי‎ by itself following the verb—that this was his experience and conclusion, not that of his לֵב‎. The preference for the post-verbal position for the pronoun over the pre-verbal position that is more common in BH makes sense only in the context of the אֲנִי‎-plus-לֵב‎ pattern: the post-verbal אֲנִי‎ evokes the fuller construction and ensures that the audience interprets the contrast appropriately: אֲנִי‎ (not my לֵב‎) did this.

6. Conclusion

Does Qohelet really exhibit a “peculiar use of the pronouns,” as Schoors asserts (1988:82)? Not at all. Qohelet’s use of pronouns reflects syntactic options that are well-represented throughout the biblical corpus of ancient Hebrew. The post-verbal pronoun allows the book’s author to present this structure, establish that Qohelet and his לֵב‎ work together but do not always share experiences or draw similar conclusions, and then manipulate the association created between the grammar and the rhetorical structure to present certain observations and conclusions as only Qohelet’s, not those of his לֵב‎. The I-and-my-לֵב‎ strategy appears mostly in the first two chapters of the book and while the basic cooperative nature of the experiment is not jettisoned, the author invokes it infrequently in the rest of the book. As a literary convenience this differs little from the monarchic-Solomonic persona that is also dropped after chapter two: once well-established as a part of the audience’s reception filter, the continued mention of such literary strategies is often uneconomical and even a distraction.

Why is Qohelet, the character (and perhaps the implied and real authors behind Qohelet) so interested in establishing that experiment was a cooperative venture? Because it allows Qohelet the character both to experience the wilder, seedier, even debauched side of life and keep himself, by virtue of the counter experiences of his לֵב‎, from becoming thoroughly distasteful to the audience. Without both sides of the experiment, Qohelet’s argument would be transparently facile. The post-verbal pronoun strategy reflects the author’s rhetorical skill and linguistic ingenuity; it is masterful use of language, neither odd nor ungrammatical.

Appendix A: The Hebrew 1cs Subject Pronoun Data

This appendix does not include the hundreds of cases of second- and third-person pronouns with finite verbs. Preliminary study indicates that the pre-verbal position with these pronouns outnumbers the post-verbal position by four-to-one in the Hebrew Bible. There is no clear reason that the syntax and pragmatics of the pronouns should differ depending on the person (first, second, third) and so the analysis of the first-person singular pronoun presented in this essay should apply to all other subject pronouns (see above, n. 9 9, for a list of the second- and third-person pronouns in Qohelet).

Subject pronoun (1cs)—Verb: 412x

There are 264 cases in which the 1cs subject pronoun and verb are immediately adjacent: Gen 14:23; 16:5; 18:13; 21:24; 22:5; 24:31; 31:39; 33:14; 38:17; 41:15; 42:37; 43:9; 46:4; 47:30; 48:22; 50:21; Exod 2:9; 3:12, 19; 4:12, 15, 21; 7:3; 8:24; 10:1; 33:19; Lev 17:11; 20:3, 24; Num 6:27; 11:12 (2x); 23:15; 32:17, 32; Deut 1:41; 10:10; 18:19; 31:23, 27; 32:21, 39; Josh 7:20; 8:5; 9:19; 13:6; 14:8; 23:2; 24:15; Judg 5:3; 6:8, 18; 11:9, 35; 16:5; 17:2, 10; 20:28; 21:7; 1Sam 10:18; 12:2; 14:40; 16:1, 3; 17:9, 10, 28; 19:3 (2x); 22:22; 23:17; 24:18; 26:6; 30:14; 2Sam 1:16; 3:13; 7:8, 14; 11:11; 12:7 (2x), 12; 13:28; 14:8; 16:19; 19:21, 39; 21:6; 24:17; 1Kgs 1:5, 14; 2:18; 5:22, 23; 12:11 (2x), 14 (2x); 18:12, 23, 24; 21:7; 22:8, 21; 2Kgs 6:3; 10:9; 19:23, 24; Isa 10:14; 13:3; 37:24, 25; 38:10; 41:13, 14; 43:4, 12; 45:12, 13; 46:4 (3x); 48:15; 49:4, 21, 25; 53:4; 54:16; 57:12, 16; 65:24; 66:9, 13; Jer 1:17; 2:21; 3:14, 19; 5:4; 10:19; 11:4; 23:3; 24:7; 27:5, 6; 29:11; 30:22; 31:32; 32:38; 34:5, 13; 35:14; 48:30; 49:10, 11; Ezek 4:5; 11:5, 20; 14:11; 20:31; 23:34; 26:5; 28:10; 29:3, 9; 34:15; 35:13; 36:7, 28; 37:23; 39:5; Hos 2:10; 5:3, 14 (2x); 7:13, 15; 10:11; 11:3; 13:5; 14:9; Amos 2:9, 10; Jon 2:5; Mic 3:8; 4:5; Zech 1:9, 15; 2:9; 8:8; 13:9; Mal 1:4; Ps 2:6; 3:6; 17:4, 6; 20:9; 30:7, 9; 31:23; 37:25; 39:11; 41:5; 51:5; 55:24; 59:17; 75:4, 10; 79:13; 82:6; 104:34; 109:25; 115:18; 116:10, 11; 118:7; 119:78; 124:7; 135:5; Job 5:3, 8; 6:24; 9:14, 29; 13:18, 22; 14:15; 19:25, 27; 21:3; 33:31; 35:4; 42:4; Ruth 4:4; Lam 3:42; Dan 8:2, 5; 9:23; 10:4, 8, 9, 12, 13; 12:8; Ezra 7:28; 10:2; Neh 1:1; 1:6, 8, 11; 5:8; 6:10; 9:33; 1Chr 17:7, 13; 21:17; 28:6; 2Chr 2:7, 15; 6:2; 7:14; 10:11, 14; 18:7, 20.

There are another 108 cases in which an element intervenes. Of these, 29 cases have a negative between the pronoun and verb: Gen 19:19; 28:16; 31:52; Exod 10:26; Num 18:8; Deut 1:41; 10:10; Judg 11:27; 21:18; 1Sam 25:25; Isa 49:15; 50:5; Jer 8:20; 14:15; 17:16; 23:24, 32; 29:31; Ezek 13:7, 22; Jon 4:11; Ps 18:23; 119:70, 87; Ruth 2:13; Esth 4:11; Neh 4:4; 5:15; 2Chr 20:12. The remaining 77 cases have some other elements, such as appositional proper names or raised object noun phrases: Gen 24:45; 43:14; Exod 31:6; Num 3:12; 14:35; 18:6, 8; Deut 31:18; 1Sam 4:16; 20:5, 20; 2Sam 13:13; 15:34; 1Kgs 20:34; Isa 41:17; 45:2; Jer 1:18; Ezek 5:13, 15, 17; 12:25; 14:5, 9; 16:43; 17:21, 24; 21:4, 10, 22, 37; 22:14, 22; 24:14; 26:14; 30:12; 34:24; 35:12; 36:36 (2x); 37:14; Hos 12:11; Jon 2:10; Mic 7:7; Hab 3:18; Ps 2:7; 5:8; 13:6; 17:15; 20:8; 26:1, 11; 31:7, 15; 38:14; 55:17; 56:4; 71:14; 75:3; 88:14; 102:10, 12; 119:69, 70; Job 13:3; Prov 8:12, 17; Ruth 1:21; Qoh 1:12, 16; Lam 5:7; Dan 8:27; 9:2; 10:2; Ezra 4:3; Neh 2:20; 5:14; 1Chr 29:17.

Finally, 40 cases include a focusing particle, such as גם‎ or אף‎ preceding the subject pronoun: Gen 20:6; 21:26; 44:9; Exod 6:5; Lev 26:16, 41; Josh 24:18; Judg 2:21; 1Sam 1:28; 2Sam 2:6; 2Kgs 2:3, 5; 22:19; Isa 66:4; Jer 4:12; 7:11; 13:26; 31:37; Ezek 5:11 (2x); 8:18; 9:10; 20:15, 23, 25; 21:22; 24:9; Amos 4:6, 7; Mic 6:13; Mal 2:9; Ps 71:22; 89:28; Job 7:11; 16:4; 40:14; Prov 1:26; Esth 4:16; 2Chr 12:5; 34:27.

VerbSubject Pronoun (1cs): 70x

There are 23 cases in which the verb and 1cs subject pronoun are immediately adjacent: Lev 20:5; 26:32; Num 11:14; Judg 8:23; 9:28; 2Sam 12:28; 17:15; 2Kgs 10:4; Isa 20:6; Jer 17:18 (2x); 21:5; Ezek 16:60, 62; 17:22 (2x); Hos 14:9; Job 13:13; Prov 24:32; Ruth 3:13; Song 5:5, 6; Dan 12:5.

There are another 25 cases in which the post-verbal pronoun is accompanied with a focus particle, such as רק‎, גם‎, or אף‎: Gen 20:6; 30:3, 30; Lev 26:24, 28; Deut 12:30; Judg 1:3; 1Sam 8:20; 20:42; 2Sam 18:2, 22; 1Kgs 19:10, 14; Hos 4:6; Zech 8:21; Job 1:15, 16, 17, 19; 13:2; 32:10, 17: 33:6; Dan 10:7.

Finally, there are 22 cases in which the subject pronoun is part of a conjoined phrase: Gen 31:44; 34:30; 37:10; 41:11; 43:8; 47:19; Exod 33:16; Num 20:19; Judg 7:18; 11:37; 12:2; 20:4; 1Sam 20:23; 1Kgs 1:21; Jer 3:25; 44:17; Esth 7:4; Ezra 9:7; Neh 2:12; 2Chr 32:13.

Appendix B: Qohelet’S Syntax in Comparative Literary Context

The position that the לֵב‎ is personified in Qohelet is certainly not a novel one; many students of the book have noted similarities between the use of the לֵב‎ in Qohelet and Egyptian wisdom literature:

The personification of the “heart” (Eg. ib) or “soul” (Eg. ba) is a literary device used in Egyptian pessimistic literature. So one reads in The Complaints of Khakheperre-Sonb: “He said to his heart: ‘Come, my heart, that I may speak to you, and that you may answer me … I speak to you, my heart, answer me! A heart that is approached must not be silent’ ” (see Gardiner, Admonitions, p. 105, line 1; p. 108, lines 5–6). A similar device is found in The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba (AEL I, pp. 163–69). Such texts typically present conflicting positions assumed, respectively, by the physical self and the heart or the soul. So, too, Qohelet speaks “with” (ʿim) his heart. Certainly the heart is personified in 2:1–3. (Seow 1997:123; see also Shupak 1997: 104, n. 13; 107, n. 9).

The text The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba is particularly worth comparing to Qohelet. Not only does it provide literary themes worth comparing to Qoheleh, the Egyptian text contains a certain repetitive pattern that may provide an analogue for Qohelet’s use of post-verbal pronouns.

The beginning of the Dispute is lost, but the existing text apparently starts with a bit of the ba’s first speech and then transitions to the man’s first response (see Faulkner 1956:21–22). In the first two exchanges, we expect to have the challenge and response fully introduced, even if the nature of the dialogue was fully specified in the lost narrative introduction. Appropriately, the opening of the man’s first response is, “I opened my mouth to my ba that I might answer what it had said” (Shupak 2002, ln. 4). Consider this first opening line of a speaker transition as well as all ensuing introductions:

(i) Speaker Transitions in The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba

Line 4: ỉw wpỉ.n.ỉ r.ỉ n b3.ỉ “I opened my mouth to my ba

Line 31: ḏ dt.n n.ỉ b3.ỉ “What my ba said to me”

Line 33: ḏ d.ỉ “I said”

Lines 55–56: ỉw wpỉ.n n.ỉ b3.ỉ r.f “My ba opened his mouth to me”

Lines 85–86: ỉw wpỉ.n.ỉ r.ỉ n b3.ỉ “I opened my mouth to my ba

Line 147: ḏ dt.n n.ỉ b3(.ỉ) “What my ba said to me”

Notice that the reader is not allowed to forget who is engaged in this exchange. More to the point, rather than reducing the introductory phrase after the first instance of each to “I said” and “he/it replied,” or something similarly concise, the reader is given the full—repetitive and superfluous—introduction at every transition (ll. 4, 31, 55–56, 85–86, 147) but one (ln. 33).30 This is similar to Qohelet’s frequent reminder in the first four chapters that he engaged his לֵב‎ to experiment with him. It is possible that the author of Qohelet had picked up from his knowledge of Egyptian literature both a topos in the use of the לֵב‎ parallel to the use of the ba and the textual and rhetorical strategy of repeatedly mentioning both experiment partners lest his audience forget the cooperative nature of his investigation.31


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[1] This essay is a revision of a paper, “Pronominal Syntax in the Book of Qohelet,” presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Jewish Studies, Toronto, December 16, 2007. I am grateful to John A. Cook, Matthew Lanser, Tremper Longman, John L. McLaughlin, Cynthia L. Miller, and Martin Shields for readingdrafts of this essay. I am particularly indebted to Michael V. Fox, not only for providing feedback on my argument in this essay but also for teaching me how to read Qohelet and other Wisdom books closely in the first place. Nonetheless, I bear sole responsibility for all opinions expressed and errors contained within this work.”

[2] As HALOT (s.v. דבר‎) indicates, the verb דבר‎ allows a number of prepositions to mark its complement, i.e., the person to or with whom the speaking is occurring: -לְ‎, אֶת‎, אֶל‎, and עִם‎ are the most common, but -בּ‎ is also used; see, e.g., Num 12:6, 8; 1 Sam 25:39; Hos 1:2; Hab 2:1; Zech 1:9, 13–14; 2:2, 7; 4:1, 4–5; 5:5, 10; 6:4; Song 8:8. Michael V. Fox has suggested (personal correspondence) that since the majority of the -דבר ב‎ collocations occur in prophetic contexts, it may signal both intimacy and one-way communication rather than a genuine dialogue. A one-sided conversation is precisely what takes place in Qohelet and thus I have translated the preposition as “to” rather than “with.”

[3] 1:12, 16 (2nd occurrence).

[4] 1:16 (1st occurrence); 2:1, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 (2x), 18, 20, 24; 3:17, 18; 4:1, 4, 7; 5:17; 7:25; 8:15; 9:16.

[5] See Appendix A.

[6] See Appendix A.

[7] Markedness theory developed out of the Prague School of linguistic analysis. The basic concept is, given two similar constructions, the one occurring more often and in a greater number of environments is unmarked while the one that occurs less often and in restricted environments is marked. See Battistella 1996 for an introduction to markedness theory in both Jakobsonian and Chomskyan schools of linguistics.

[8] I take topic to isolate one among multiple known entities in the discourse or to set the scene (e.g., with temporal or locative phrases). See Holmstedt 2009a for further discussion.

[9] I take focus to identify a constituent to be in a contrastive relationship with possible alternatives. A constituent is typically presented as carrying focus by syntactic position, intonation, or specific focus items (e.g., Heb רַק‎ “only”). See Holmstedt 2009a for further discussion.

[10] There are only six cases of a second- and third-person pronouns with a finite verb in Qohelet: pre-verbal, see 3:14 (3ms), 7:22 (2ms), 7:29 (3mp), 8:15 (3ms), 10:10 (3ms); post-verbal, see 9:16 (3ms). Although 7:22 includes both an overt subject pronoun and mention of the לֵב‎, the second-person address makes it clear that Qohelet is not speaking about himself or his לֵב‎, and thus this verse is not relevant for the “אֲנִי וְלִבִּי‎” argument. Even so, the function of the subject pronoun in 7:22 is worth examining: the overt, pre-verbal pronoun likely marks focus, communicating a contrast between the addressee and the servant mentioned in the preceding verse, e.g., כִּ֛י גַּם־פְּעָמִ֥ים רַבּ֖וֹת יָדַ֣ע לִבֶּ֑ךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר גַּם־אַתָּ֖ה קִלַּ֥לְתָּ אֲחֵרִֽים‎ “your לֵב‎ knows that also you [vs. your servant, from v. 21] have cursed others.” In 7:29 the preverbal subject pronoun marks a change in topic—the agent shifts from God to humankind. Thus, 7:22 and 29 both represent typical uses for pre-verbal subject pronouns in biblical Hebrew.

[11] Keeping to a purely structural explanation, van der Merwe et al. assert that the “independent personal pronoun follows the verb only in cases where a waw consecutive + imperfect or waw consecutive + perfect makes it impossible for the independent pronoun to precede the verb” (1999:§36.1). This is not descriptively accurate for Qohelet, though, since eight of the twenty cases in the book follow the perfect verb without a ו‎ on the front: 1:16; 2:1, 15, 24; 3:17, 18; 5:17; 7:25.

[12] In place of pleonasm as a linguistic explanation, Waltke and O'Connor offer three reasons for the use of the pronoun used with a finite verb. I quote the introductory paragraph here and follow it with a brief critique.

There are three reasons why an independent pronoun is used with a finite verb; in all three cases both possible word orders are found, pronoun + verb and verb + pronoun, although the former is much more common. The first reason involves a syntactic hole in the language—this is neither a pleonastic nor an emphatic use. The other two involve logical contrast and psychological focus—both of these may loosely be termed emphatic (1990:§16.3.2b).

The second two of Waltke and O'Connor's three reasons for the use of the pronoun with a finite verb deserve some comment. Although they distinguish between logical contrast and psychological focus, it is doubtful whether such a distinction is conceptually valid or even descriptively accurate for the examples they cite. Setting up a contrast is one of the functions of the linguistic notion of “focus.” Moreover, many of the examples they provide to illustrate the third reason—psychological focus—present a contrast. In fact, taking together all the examples that Waltke and O'Connor adduce for the second two reasons, it is possible to sort out those that are used to present the referent of the pronoun with focus and those that are used to mark one entity (the referent of the pronoun) among multiple choices as the topic of the ensuing predication. (See Holmstedt 2009a for an information structure model in which focus and topic in biblical narrative are described.)

The first type that Waltke and O'Connor address, the “syntactic hole,” is the use of the independent pronoun in so-called “coordinate subject” phrases; (i) provides an example with a first-person pronoun, which provides a closer parallel to the Qohelet data though it is less common than second- and third-person pronouns in coordinate structures.

(i) הַגִּבְעָ֙תָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְבִנְיָמִ֔ן בָּ֛אתִי אֲנִ֥י וּפִֽילַגְשִׁ֖י לָלֽוּן׃

to the Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin (I) came, I and my concubine, to spend the night (Judg 20:4; see also Judg 12:2; 1 Kgs 1:21; 2 Chr 32:13).

Waltke and O'Connor are correct that the pronoun in such cases is not pleonastic. The coordinate structure in (i), אֲנִי וּפִילַגְשִׁי‎, would be ill-formed without the pronoun. However, this ill-formedness is due to a requirement for more than one constituent in a coordinate phrase and Waltke and O'Connor are not correct in identifying the pronoun—indeed, the entire coordinate phrase—in such examples as the syntactic subject of the clause (see above § 4, for further discussion).

[13] The pro-drop parameter was formulated within the early Government-and-Binding framework of generative linguistics, although it is now recognized more broadly. The theoretical context of the pro-drop parameter is critical since, contrary to some non-generative linguistic approaches (particularly the early twentieth-century approach of Jespersen, which is sometimes still used within BH studies), the generative view of inflectional affixes on verbs, such as those in Hebrew, is that they differ syntactically and semantically from independent pronouns. That is, inflectional affixes on verbs are taken not as cliticized pronouns, which is sometimes the view in Hebrew studies, but rather as morphologically realized agreement features. The subject pronouns, in contrast, are full syntactic constituents.

[14] The null subject pro is present when an overt (pronominal or full noun) subject is absent in order to fulfill the “extended projection principle” (EPP) requirement (i.e., that every clause has a syntactic subject) and to check both person, gender, and number agreement and nominative Case features (see Haegeman 1994:19–25; 454–58; see Gutman, chp. 1).

[15] In generative terms, it is proposed that a syntactically real but phonologically empty pronoun, “little pro,” fulfills the general requirement for each clause to contain a syntactic subject. The requirement for a syntactic subject is the EPP (see previous note). I am not here concerned with how null subject pro is licensed and identified in BH, but simply that it is licensed and identified. It is of interest, but not directly relevant to this essay, that ancient Hebrew licenses null subject pro with both finite verbs and participles, although pro with the latter seems constrained to embedded contexts such as small clauses and relative clauses. See Rapoport 1987 for a discussion of small clauses in Israeli Hebrew, which exhibit constraints beyond those of ancient Hebrew. See Gutman 1999 and Sichel 2001 for the licensing of pro in Israeli Hebrew.

[16] For 1cs finite verbs without accompanying subject pronouns, see 1:13, 14, 17 (2x); 2:1, 2, 3, 4 (3x), 5 (2x), 6, 7, 8 (2x), 9 (2x), 10 (2x), 11, 15, 17, 18, 19 (2x), 20; 3:10, 12, 14, 16, 22; 4:1, 15; 5:12; 6:1, 3; 7:15, 23 (3x), 27, 28 (3x), 29; 8:9, 10, 14, 16, 17; 9:1, 11, 13; 10:5, 7. The same holds true of second- and third-person pronouns: the overt pronouns occur with finite verbs many fewer times (1:13; 3:14; 7:22, 29; 8:15; 9:15; 10:10) than the verb with null pro (too many to list).

[17] Contrary to Waltke and O'Connor (1990:§16.3.2b), I propose that such examples do contain “emphasis,” since there are ways of expressing accompaniment without using the independent pronoun and coordinate phrase. That is to say, the use of the coordinate structure with the independent personal pronoun is not the only syntactic option and as one among multiple options likely should be associated with a pragmatic function. Consider the unattested but grammatical rewriting of (i) from above in n. 11 11 to (ii) below, with a comitative prepositional phrase in place of the independent pronoun-coordinate phrase (see 1Kgs 16:17; 2Kgs 8:21; Ruth 1:7, 22; 2Chr 1:3; 12:1 for attested syntactic parallels).

(ii) הַגִּבְעָ֙תָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְבִנְיָמִ֔ן בָּ֛אתִי אֲנִ֥י וּפִֽילַגְשִׁ֖י לָלֽוּן׃

to the Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin I came, and my concubine with me, to spend the night.

Finally, I agree with Doron 2000 that comitative phrases like that in (ii) are likely “small clause adjuncts of the form [SC and DP with him]” (2000:93, n. 5).

[18] Right-dislocation, in which a constituent on the edge of a clause is coreferential with an overt constituent within the clause, is identical to left-dislocation except that the dislocated constituent follows, or is on the right edge, of the clause proper, as in (i) below. In the more common left-dislocation, the dislocated constituent precedes, or is on the left edge, of the clause proper, as in (ii).

(i) They came out to meet us, John and James.

(ii) John and James, they came out to meet us.

[19] See Holmstedt 2009b for more on coordinate subject examples and the apparent lack of agreement with many of their verbs.

[20] The noun לֵב‎ occurs forty-one times in the book of Qohelet: 1:13, 16 (2x), 17; 2:1, 3 (2x), 10 (2x), 15 (2x), 20, 22, 23; 3:11, 17, 18; 5:1, 19; 7:2, 3, 4 (2x), 7, 21, 22, 25, 26; 8:5, 9, 11, 16; 9:1, 3, 7; 10:2 (2x), 3; 11:9 (2x), 10. It is used as a syntactic subject (1:16, 2:3, 10, 23; 5:1; 7:3, 4 [2x], 22; 8:5, 11; 9:3; 10:2 [2x], 3; 11:9), accusative complement (1:13, 17; 2:10, 20; 7:7, 21; 8:9, 16), oblique complement (3:11; 7:2; 9:1), within a non-complement prepositional phrase (1:16; 2:1, 3, 15 [2x]; 3:17, 18; 9:7; 11:10), as a genitive/nomen rectum of a construct phrase (2:22; 5:19; 7:26; 11:9), and as a conjunct in an adverbial adjunct phrase (7:25). There are clear cases in which לֵב‎ is used in its more typical sense as one’s inner self; notably these are all in reference to a לֵב‎ that is not Qohelet’s specific one: 2:22, 23; 3:11; 5:1, 19; 7:2, 3, 4 (2x), 7, 21, 22, 26; 8:5, 11; 9:3, 7; 10:2 (2x), 3; 11:9 (2x), 10. There are also verses in which Qohelet references his partner-לֵב‎ but does not include the 1cs pronoun, since he apparently intends no contrast or does not need to highlight the collaborative nature of the experiment: 1:13, 17; 2:3, 10, 15; 8:9, 16; 9:1.

[21] To elaborate briefly within a generative framework, the focus phrase (FocP) is likely adjoined to the “tense” phrase (TP), which would place it above (and in front) of the verb. Thus, the verb must have raised out of TP into the complementizer phrase (CP) domain, resulting in the post-verbal placement of the focus phrase with אֲנִי וְלִבִּי‎. It is as of yet unclear to me how to motivate the raising of the verb into the CP.

[22] In generative terms, this construction exhibits verb-raising to the head of the CP, followed by the indirect object preposition phrase raising to merge with subject pronoun in the Specifier position of TP, and finally this complex then raises to FocP above the TP but below the verb residing in C.

[23] Syntactically the post-verbal pronoun shares features with non-canonical constituents such as vocatives and interjections. It is a non-argument constituent merged into the clause at the end of the derivation. Its pragmatic function is to mark the first-person subject of the verb, the speaker, with focus, viz. to contrast the first-person referent with the other participant in the investigation, the לֵב‎. In this way, Qohelet is able to distinguish his actions and conclusions from that of his לֵב‎.

[24] Elsewhere בְּ-‎ prepositional phrases are spatial or temporal adjuncts when collocated with the verb אמר‎. Qohelet, however, is manipulating the idiom אמר בְּלֵב‎, and so the nuance of the preposition must be taken from context. Here in 2:1 and also in 2:15; 3:17, 18, the preposition בְּ-‎ marks the goal (“with X”) or the indirect object (“to X”) of the speech activity. Also see above, n. 1 1, for a similar discussion on the collocation of דבר‎ and בְּ-‎.

[25] In (19), לָדַעַת חָכְמָה וְדַעַת הֹולֵלֹות וְשִׂכְלוּת‎ is often subject to emendation. The central question is whether the item וְדַעַת‎ is a second occurrence of infinitive “to know” or “knowing,” as I have taken it, or the homophonous noun “knowledge” (so the ancient versions and some modern commentators; see, e.g., Longman 1998:77, 84). For some of those who follow the versions and take דַּעַת‎ as the second in a sequence of four nouns, “wisdom and knowledge, blindness and folly,” the second pair “looks like an addition based on 2:12a or 7:25” (Fox 1999:173; cf. Seow, 1997:124–25). However, we need not emend or revocalize the conjunction in וְדַעַת‎ so that it is understood as the second noun in a word pair.

[26] The root תור‎ is used only twenty-four times according to HALOT: Num 10:33; 13:2, 16, 17, 21, 25, 32; 14:6, 7, 34, 36, 38; 15:39; Deut 1:33; Judg 1:23; 1Kgs 10:15; Ezek 20:6; Job 39:8; Prov 12:26; Qoh 1:13; 2:3; 7:25; 2 Chr 9:14. Used as a verb it selects an accusative complement, typically marked with אֶת‎, and rarely occurs with prepositional phrases: -לְ‎ to mark the indirect object in Num 10:33, Deut 1:33, and Ezek 20:6, אַהֲרֵי‎ to mark an oblique complement in Num 15:13, בְּ-‎ to mark the spatial confines of the activity in Judg 1:23, and בְּ-‎ to mark the means in Qoh 1:13.

[27] The conjunction -ו‎ on the front of the infinitival complement phrase is not an obstacle. Indeed, if it were not preceded by a -ו‎ it might be mistakenly taken with the immediately preceding material rather than with the initial finite verb תַּרְתִּי‎. This example is a case of the -ו‎ simply marking the front edge of a phrase or clause; when the -ו‎ functions in such ways, it serves a syntactic role alone (i.e., it is semantically vacuous). With this understanding of the infinitive phrase, I do not need to emend לֶאֱחֹז‎ to לֹא אֹחֵז‎, a change BHS suggests and Seow (1997:127) follows.

[28] For a main clause finite verb without the post-verbal pronoun אֲנִי‎ and collocated with לֵב‎ as a complement or adjunct, see 1:13, 17; 2:3, 10, 15; 8:9, 16; 9:1. For a main clause finite verb without the post-verbal pronoun אֲנִי‎ or לֵב‎ as a complement or adjunct, see 1:12, 14, 16; 2:2, 4–9, 17; 3:10, 12, 14, 16, 22; 4:15; 6:3; 7:15, 23; 8:9–10, 14, 17; 9:11, 13; 10:5, 7.

[29] I take focus to identify a constituent to be in a contrastive relationship with possible alternatives. A constituent is typically presented as carrying focus by syntactic position, intonation, or specific focus items (e.g., Heb רַק‎ “only”). See Holmstedt 2009a for further discussion.

[30] On the use of repetition in another Egyptian text, The Shipwrecked Sailor, see Rendsburg 2000. I am indebted to Ron Leprohon for bringing this to my attention. The lack of the expected, repetitive transition at line 33 in The Dispute, even though the context suggests that speaker must change by line 39 (Faulkner 1956, Shupak 2002; cf. Tobin 2003), is also likely a literary device: the omission serves to increase the speed of the text, thereby creating a sense of urgency or anxiety. I am grateful to both Ron Leprohon and Jadranka Bekcic at the University of Toronto for assistance in working with the Egyptian material.

[31] On the issue of literary influence, it is perhaps more than coincidence that there is a macro-structural similarity between The Dispute and Qohelet. The second half of The Dispute contains a long three-poem speech by the man followed by an abbreviated final response by the ba. Qohelet does not mention his לֵב‎ after 3:18 until 7:25, during which Qohelet shifts style, addresses the audience in the second person, and quotes a number of more traditional aphorisms, all starting at 4:17.