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The King James Bible has Job 30:2 as “Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was perished?” which I understood to mean, “What use are their hands to me, men whose strength is sapped?”

And indeed I’ve found translations since in which “in whom old age was perished” becomes “men whose vigor is gone” (English Standard Version) or “in whom old vigor hath perished” (Darby Bible), but I still can’t help but find that phrase, “in whom old age was perished,” just a bit odd. I’m to think of it, I suppose, as an auxiliary, like “He is risen.” But if I didn’t know better, I’d say it sounds as if old age itself were “perished,” which can’t be right. Would a “hath” in this case have been so foreign to translators of the King James Version, and is there something missing from my understanding?

Thank you!

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    Does this answer your question? Is it acceptable to use "is become" instead of "has become"? Many other version of this question also appear here on ELU.
    – GEdgar
    Aug 1, 2020 at 23:00
  • @GEdgar, it does, but is “perish” being used transitively (old age hath perished [their strength])? Aug 2, 2020 at 0:00
  • Seems to me, changing “whom” to “whose” makes the sentence clearer.
    – Jim
    Aug 2, 2020 at 1:34
  • Of course you find it odd; it's the KJ Bilble, not Harry Potter! Incidentally (with only one minor exception) the verb "be" is always an auxiliary, even when it's the only verb in the clause.
    – BillJ
    Aug 2, 2020 at 7:39

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The English used by the King James version is mid-16th century English. It is Early Modern English in which it not was uncommon to use "to be" as the auxiliary to form the past tense of verbs of motion and of change of state - to perish is a verb of change of state:

M't:12:43: When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.

M't:8:1: When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.

Ezr:9:6: And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

Le:13:16: Or if the raw flesh turn again, and be changed unto white, he shall come unto the priest;

Ge:24:35: And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses.

See the OED at

Modal and auxiliary verbs

to be

The present tense of the verb to be has be-forms alongside the forms (am, are) used in current English: I be, thou beest, we, you, or they be. These were quite common in the sixteenth century, but became rare in the seventeenth, and were ultimately limited to regional dialect. The perfect of intransitive verbs, especially verbs of motion, continued (as in Middle English) to be frequently formed with to be rather than to have. Shakespeare normally uses to be with creep, enter, flee, go, meet, retire, ride, and run.

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  • Thank you. So has old age perished (transitive) their strength, or in old age has their strength perished? Aug 1, 2020 at 21:53
  • As I said it not was uncommon to use "to be" as the auxiliary to form the past tense of verbs of motion and of change of state and as per the OED The perfect of intransitive verbs, especially verbs of motion, continued (as in Middle English) to be frequently formed with to be rather than to have." Thus in “in whom old age was perished” perished is used intransitively, and intransitive verbs have no passive. OED a. intransitive. Of a person, animal, or plant: to suffer a violent, sudden, or untimely death; to die; to be killed.
    – Greybeard
    Aug 2, 2020 at 7:45

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