ἴσθι and ἴσθι

We have been asked about the imperatives of ‘know’ and ‘be’ being the same in Greek, and whether this had any connection with ‘Be still and know that I am God’.

It is true that a grammar book will give you ἴσθι (sing) and ἴστε (pl)  as imperatives from οἶδα  (I know) and  ἴσθι (sg), ἔστε (pl) from εἰμί (I am).

Unfortunately things then begin to get a bit complicated!  The verb οἶδα is interpreted as the perfect of some hypothetical verb *εἴδω (I see) with the idea ‘I have seen’ => ‘I know’, at least if we are working purely in terms of `Greek (reasoning with the corresponding Indo-European forms is probably better).  Normally there isn’t a perfect imperative in Greek any more than there is in English–ἴσθι and ἴστε look like root aorist imperatives formed from ἰδ- to me, but whatever.

So even though it exists one would feel a bit uncomfortable at using the imperative of οἶδα and would prefer to use some other verb for ‘know’ if possible.  Similarly, (on the one hand) it’s more idiomatic to have one verb to express the idea ‘be still’ and (on the other) if there wasn’t one and you needed two words you’d prefer keep + still, become + still, or something similar.

It’s really just a coincidence that the two singular imperatives coincide–the first root is ἰδ-, but *ἰδθι isn’t allowed in Greek, so you get ἴσθι.  The roots for ‘to be’ include ἰς-/ἐς-, so ἴσθι and ἔστε are comprehensible enough.

I think the phrase quoted comes from Ps 46:

הַרְפּ֣וּ וּ֭דְעוּ כִּי־אָנֹכִ֣י אֱלֹהִ֑ים אָר֥וּם בַּ֝גֹּויִ֗ם אָר֥וּם בָּאָֽרֶץ׃

LXX gives this as:

σχολάσατε καὶ γνῶτε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός ὑψωθήσομαι ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑψωθήσομαι ἐν τῇ γῇ.

So as we’d expect ‘be still’ is represented by one word and word other than οἶδα is used for ‘to know’.  And it all turns out to be plural anyway!
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