I've been reading through the Old Testament in my Japanese Bible (新共同訳). A phrase I've seen about a million times is

[主]{しゅ}はモーセに仰せになった → The Lord commanded Moses

I know what 仰せ(る) means, but I'm trying to understand the structure of 仰せになる. I can't find it in any dictionaries. It seems like it could have just as well been 仰せられた・仰せ付けられた (keigo). Here's what I have been toying with:

  1. It doesn't appear to be the basic "become" meaning of ~になる

The Lord became/became as/was as the command (un)to Moses

  1. I thought it was possibly the ~になる keigo. However, that form is お+連用形の語幹+になる, so it would need to be [お]{L}仰せになる.

    2a. Unless there is some rule where you cannot have the honourific お directly preceding another お sound (although I have never heard of such a rule).

  2. I also thought maybe it is just a set phrase, possibly an antiquated one. But if so, why can't I find it in any dictionaries?

What exactly am I seeing with this form?

  • 「お教えください」is a thing, so I don't think there's any rule about not using お in such cases – Angelos Mar 18 at 8:24
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    Does it need お considering 仰せ is already honorific? – flowsnake Mar 18 at 11:15

I'm pretty certain this is basically お + 連用形 + になる. Actually we can find many instances of お仰せになる on the net, although I don't know if it's a typo, a misuse, or an uncommon but acceptable usage.

Then why is お normally dropped? As Angelos pointed out, we say お教えになる, お思いになる and お納めになる, so just because a verb starts with お does not mean it refuses another お.

However, as flowsnake suggested, there may be exceptions when the main verb already has an honorific sense alone. So which (inherently) honorific verb has the (お +) 連用形 + になる form, too?

  • おおす - おおせになる (usually refuses extra お)
  • おぼしめす - おぼしめしになる (refuses extra お)
  • おわす - おわしになる (rare; refuses extra お)
  • めしあがる - おめしあがりになる (requires お)
  • めす - おめしになる (requires お)

Unfortunately, these are the only pairs I could come up with, so it is difficult to conclude something. Still, we may hypothesize "if the main verb is inherently honorific AND starts with お at the same time, the お before the 連用形 is dropped".

(Plus, おおおせになる is difficult to pronounce, of course!)

  • (Plus, おおおせになる is difficult to pronounce, of course!) No more difficult than [覆]{おお}おう or [装]{よそお}おう (使役形). 🤣🤣 – istrasci Mar 18 at 17:33

When I read the question, I was a little surprised to see the verb form of 仰せる. I did a little search of this verb form on the net, but in vain. 仰せ is a derived form of 仰す, which was rarely used as a verb in various forms except 仰せ. And 仰せ became used almost as a noun: 仰せの通り, 仰せ聞ける, 仰せつかる。For other examples, please have a look at this very interesting site 「仰せ」の使い方、ほかの品詞の結びつき. It can be presumed, as the next step, 仰せられる was coined on the basis of 仰す.

The phrase 仰せられる is more natural to me than 仰せになる, even though these phrases are both antiquated, but often used in the translation of the Bible. Why is the latter form is employed even in the translation? The same motive must be working as おっしゃられる, which is banned by some specialists of Japanese grammar because of its double Keigo. They urge us to use おっしゃる, which I don't like but prefer to use いわれる or 話される instead. They must label the expression お仰せられる as the case of triple Keigo.

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