tohu vabohu (was: Re: new subscriber)

Jeffery R. Condit kcondit at
Tue Nov 30 12:41:50 EST 1999

Peter Kirk suggested a thought on "tohu webohu" (Gen. 1:2).  Perhaps an
English near equivalent might be "helter-skelter."

I've often wondered about the history of the knowledge of Hebrew (and other
ancient languages).  In English, isn't Gesenius sort of a father of Hebrew
lexica?  If there there a genealogy of lexica that one can trace?  How did
we come to the "modern" understanding of the meaning of a word like "bohu?"



> -----Original Message-----
> From: peter_kirk at [mailto:peter_kirk at]
> Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 7:43 PM
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Cc: michaelwm at
> Subject: Re[2]: tohu vabohu (was: Re: new subscriber)
> Another thought on "tohu webohu", espcially as the second word occurs
> only in close relationship with the first. In Azerbaijani, I think in
> Farsi, and also in Russian as spoken in Azerbaijan, there is a common
> colloquial idiom in which a word is repeated with its first consonant
> replaced by "m" on the second occurrence, with the meaning "and that
> sort of thing". The second word is thus actually a nonsense word if
> taken separately. For example, "harj" means "disorder" (weakened in
> Arabic from the Hebrew HRG = "kill"), and "harj-marj" means "time of
> disorder, chaos, anarchy"; and I heard "Andrey-mandrei" meaning
> "Andrei and people like him".
> Could it be that this sort of thing, which can easily spread from
> language to language as I have seen, may be happening with "b"
> (another bilabial consonant) rather than "m" in Hebrew? This would
> make "bohu" actually a nonsense word, and the hendiadys "tohu webohu"
> would be a close equivalent of "harj-marj".
> Peter Kirk

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list