In 2 Kings 4:4 we read:

Erat autem Jonathae filio Saul filius debilis pedibus : quinquennis enim fuit, quando venit nuntius de Saul et Jonatha ex Jezrahel. Tollens itaque eum nutrix sua, fugit : cumque festinaret ut fugeret, cecidit, et claudus effectus est : habuitque vocabulum Miphiboseth.

The English translation has:

And Jonathan the son of Saul had a son that was lame of his feet: for he was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan from Jezrahel. And his nurse took him up and fled: and as she made haste to flee, he fell and became lame: and his name was Miphiboseth.

I highlighted the part that confuses me. It is unclear to me how we are to know that the individual who "fell and became lame" is the son of Jonathan and not his nurse. Both are third person singular so it could well be that cecidit, et claudus effectus est applies to the nurse. Is this identification purely based on context? Or am I missing a linguistical clue somewhere else in the verse helping out in the identification of the subject to which the verbs apply?

  • 2
    Translation could be "and when she (Nutrix) hurried so as to escape, she fell; and he became lame: and his name was M." But it must be "he became lame," as TKR says. – Hugh Jan 2 at 0:12

Claudus effectus est is masculine, so it can't be the nurse. And the previous sentence stated that it was the son, not the nurse, who was lame.

ETA: as Hugh and Cerberus point out, this doesn't apply to cecidit, which could refer to either one: "she fell [and dropped the child] and he was made lame", or "he fell [out of the nurse's arms] and was made lame". The latter seems more likely to me, but the grammar is ambiguous.

  • Even so, do we know who it was that fell, the nurse or the boy? Contextually, it could be either or both. Perhaps she fell and crushed him as she was holding him. Or he fell from her hands as she was hurrying. Or they both fell together, if she dropped him out of a reflex as she was falling. – Cerberus Jan 2 at 2:31
  • @Cerberus Good point, I've added an edit. (I don't think it can be both though or we'd have a plural verb.) – TKR Jan 2 at 2:40
  • Yes, or it would be...what is that figure of speech or syntactic construction called again? I think there was a Greek name, although perhaps I am thinking of something different. – Cerberus Jan 2 at 2:59
  • Thanks! I see I missed the claudus being masculine. You are right that the previous sentence indicates the boy was lame, but it's odd to describe him becoming lame after such sentence (well, it's the Vulgata; there are plenty of these oddities around). So, cecidit is subject-ambiguous. Interesting. – luchonacho Jan 2 at 14:26

As others have remarked, Latin cecidit could in theory refer either to the nurse or the child. But in the original Hebrew the corresponding וַיִּפֹּל is unambiguously masculine (verbs have gender in Semitic languages).

PS. The "2 Regum" of the Vulgate is "2 Sam." in the MT and KJV.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.