Genesis 2: 17, where is the "not" in Hebrew text?


He Genesis 2: 17 *'akal *is translated into English as “shall not eat” or “must not eat.”

Might one of you great people explain the "not.’


Also, why is “shall” used and not “will”?




“You must not eat” is lō’ ṯō’ḵal. There’s the ‘not’ right there: lo’.

People who know Hebrew better are free to correct me here, but AFAIK in biblical Hebrew you form negative imperatives by combining 'al (אל) with a jussive verb or lo’ (לֹא) with the imperfect. (Biblical Hebrew never negates verbs in the imperative form.) In this case: lō’ + to’ (ת, second person future/imperfect prefix) + 'akal (‘to eat’). Speaking of which, lo’ imperatives are stronger in force compared to 'al imperatives. The nuance is thus close to: ‘Don’t ever eat from the tree.’

I guess you’re reading from an older translation - that, or a translation which renders God’s speech into old-fashioned English.


I think there might once have been two forms of the future, because they were mirror images in conjugating, and had slightly different meanings.

I/we shall, thou wilt/you will, and it/they will were “plain future,” it was just what would happen.

The mirror image: I/we will, thou shall/you shall, it/they shall, implied something of an obligation or statement of willing: I shall go to the store tomorrow because I always go on Thursdays vs I *will *go to the mall, and you can’t stop me!

These distinctions have pretty much died out these days, possibly because the contractions are all identical ('ll), but are still retained when we ask a question: what shall we do today? or legal papers when something is mandated: Records shall be kept on-site for a minimu of 3 years.

So: Thou shalt not … is an imperative rather than an expression of future tense.


In English, “shall” (or shall not) is a command, and “will” is a personal decision driven by choice and not directive…some will and some will not, but in the absence of a command.


I think it is good to keep these distinctions. Thanks. :thumbsup:


I think it’s more of a calque from Hebrew. As I mentioned, the lo’ negative imperative is formed by combining lo’ ‘not’ with a future/imperfect verb. So lō’ + ṯō’ḵal “you-will-eat” (second person future/imperfect prefix t- + verb 'akal) produces “you will not eat” - i.e. “Don’t ever dare eat,” and lō’ + tiḡənōḇ (t- + ganab) “you-will-steal” = “you will not steal,” i.e. “Don’t ever steal.” (“Thou shalt not steal.”)


You can see the placement of the “not” at Genesis 2:17 of this Hebrew-English interlinear Bible:

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the use of shall with you has to do with “expressing a strong determination” :

"The traditional rule in standard British English is that shall is used with first person pronouns (i.e., I and we) to form the future tense, while will is used with second and third person forms (i.e., you, he, she, it, they). For example:

I shall be late.
They will not have enough food.

However, when it comes to expressing a strong determination to do something, the roles are reversed: will is used with the first person, and shall with the second and third. For example:

I will not tolerate such behaviour.
You shall go to the ball!

In practice, though, the two words are used more or less interchangeably, and this is now an acceptable part of standard British and U.S. English."



I will have to study this.



I have read the answers, thanks!

Does this command involve a relationship to it being a promise?

I have often wondered what the connection is to the Ten Words and the fulfillment of the promises of the Gospel in Jesus and Romans.



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