When should we use חָפֵץ + lamed + infinitive or חָפֵץ + bet + infinitive?

  • When should we use חָפֵץ + lamed + infinitive or חָפֵץ + bet + infinitive?

    Posted by Benjamin on February 1, 2023 at 10:10 pm

    I thought I’d kick off this discussion group with a question that I’ve asked before when teaching just to hear others’ experiences and perhaps explore different examples in the Bible that are relevant to the question.

    We often might say something like אֲנִי חָפַצְתִּי לְדַבֵּר ‘I want to speak’. There are numerous examples like this in the Bible, such as …

    ‏לֹ֥א חָפַ֖צְתִּי לְקַחְתָּֽהּ׃

    ‘I do not want to take her’ (Deut. 25.8)

    However, you can also use the preposition בְּ:

    ‏אִם־אֶחְפֹּץ֙ בְּמ֣וֹת הָרָשָׁ֔ע

    ‘I do not take pleasure in the death of the wicked’ (Ezek. 33.11)

    Generally speaking, it seems like if I want to take about action that I desire to do, חפץ + lamed infinitive seems more appropriate. However, if I am expressing the nuance of taking pleasure in a particular thing, then the preposition bet is more appropriate, whether with an infinitive construct or with a general noun or suffix on the preposition:


    ‏אִם־חָפֵ֥ץ בָּ֙נוּ֙ יְהוָ֔ה

    ‘if YHWH delights in us’ (Num. 14.18)

    Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts and experiences teaching with this phrase!

    Benjamin replied 1 month ago 2 Members · 2 Replies
  • 2 Replies
  • Sarah

    February 15, 2023 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks for starting the discussion! Makes sense, yes, though I might even suggest clarifying that חפץ before a verb should *only* use ל before the infinitive, at least assuming that the subject of חפץ is also the hypothetical subject of the desired verbal action (as you’ve said yourself, in different words). Did you find any examples of חפץ ב preceding an infinitive other than מות? On a quick search, it looks like the example you raised of חפץ במות הרשע is actually the only biblical attestation of חפץ ב before a possible infinitive construct, so I wonder if it might even be more appropriate to simply read מות there as the construct form of מָוֶת (since ב precedes other nominal objects of חפץ).

    Follow-up question: When חפץ precedes a noun, we have a number of examples of ב marking that object and no instances of את (unless I’ve missed one, in which case please point it out!), but we *do* see a few places in poetic texts where an indefinite object isn’t marked by any preposition at all (compare, for example, אחפץ מות רשע in Ezek. 18:23). Do you think there’s any significant difference in nuance here, or is this just a case of Hebrew poetry dropping prepositions that would likely be used in regular speech/narrative?

    • Benjamin

      February 21, 2023 at 12:34 am

      Excellent points and interesting questions about PREP vs. direct object after חפץ when not used with an infinitive. A few thoughts …

      Almost every instance of the subject of חפץ and the infinitive being the same has a lamed infinitive.

      There are some rare exceptions without lamed but still an infinitive:

      ‏וַיהוָ֞ה חָפֵ֤ץ דַּכְּאוֹ֙

      ‘and YHWH was pleased to crush him’ (Isa. 53.10)

      חָפַ֥צְתִּי צַדְּקֶֽךָּ׃

      ‘I want to justify you’ (Job 33.32)

      But all the other examples that I could find have lamed on the infinitive.

      I am not sure if there is a nuance between PREP vs. direct object in Ezekiel and Psalms. Parallel phrases in the same book make me wonder if the semantic distinction is not so strong:

      ‏אִם־אֶחְפֹּץ֙ בְּמ֣וֹת הָרָשָׁ֔ע

      ‘I do not take pleasure in the death of the wicked’ (Ezek. 33.11)

      ‏הֶחָפֹ֤ץ אֶחְפֹּץ֙ מ֣וֹת רָשָׁ֔ע

      ‘do I actually take pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ (Ezek. 18.23)

      Ezek 18.23 is especially interesting because it goes on to use the preposition bet in the second half of the verse: הֲל֛וֹא בְּשׁוּב֥וֹ מִדְּרָכָ֖יו וְחָיָֽה׃ ‘is it not in his turning from his ways and living [that I take pleasure]?’.

      I expect that there is a good deal of overlap with and without the preposition bet. But I do wonder if maybe without the preposition bet might have slightly more of a nuance of wanting something rather than taking delight in something. Note the following examples:

      זֶ֤בַח וּמִנְחָ֨ה ׀ לֹֽא־חָפַ֗צְתָּ

      ‘you do not want sacrifice and offering’ (Ps. 40.7)

      ‏הֵן־אֱ֭מֶת חָפַ֣צְתָּ בַטֻּח֑וֹת

      ‘you want truth in the inner man’ (Ps. 51.8)

      ‏לֹא־תַחְפֹּ֣ץ זֶ֣בַח

      ‘you do not want sacrifice’ (Ps. 51.18)

      But I don’t think this distinction would consistently hold throughout. Any further thoughts are welcome…