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What's the difference between רָדַף אֶת and רָדַף אַחֲרֵי?

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The kal verb רדף, "chase", appears many times in Tanach. But the preposition that follows it, to mark the object of the verb, varies:

  • Sometimes it's a direct object: it's marked either with no preposition at all, with אֶת, or with a direct-object suffix. Examples: וְרָדְפוּ מִכֶּם חֲמִשָּׁה מֵאָה in Leviticus 26:8, וּרְדַפְתֶּם אֶת אֹיְבֵיכֶם in Leviticus 26:7, and וַיִּרְדְּפֵם in Genesis 14:15.
  • Sometimes the preposition is אַחֲרֵי. Examples: וַיִּרְדְּפוּ מִצְרַיִם אַחֲרֵיהֶם in Exodus 14:9 and וְהָאֲנָשִׁים רָדְפוּ אַֽחֲרֵיהֶם in Joshua 2:7.

Is there a difference in meaning between these two uses of רדף, and, if so, what is it? If not, what reasons are given for its being written sometimes one way and sometimes the other? (That latter question is particularly about the Pentateuch; in later books, I can better understand that each prophet has his own style or that the context requires one way or the other for poetic or similar reasons.)

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2 comments

Wouldn't this cross over to a different question -- according to R. Shimon, what is the meaning of "et" in those r-d-F cases which use "et"? rosends 27 days ago

Off the top of my head (and based on the examples you bring), I'd say 'רָדַף אַחֲרֵי' would mean 'chased after [in order to catch]', whereas 'רָדַף אֶת' would mean 'chased [away]'. Any examples that don't fit my differentiation? Tamir Evan 27 days ago

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