na`arah

George Athas gathas at mail.usyd.edu.au
Thu Sep 30 00:09:08 EDT 1999


John Ronning wrote:

> But a widow could also be described as the "woman" i.e. wife
> of her dead husband

Yes - though that usually implies that she had children and had no need to return to her paternal house
to be offered for marriage again. Her eldest son became the paterfamilias.

> > The root N(R does still imply "inexperience". That is why it is used in a range of situations
> > with meanings such as "apprentice", "junior", "acolyte", "lad", "girl", etc. Eg, at 40 years old,
> > Rehoboam was a _na`ar_. The word commonly translated as "maiden" or "virgin" has its etymology in
> > this understanding.
>
> Can't we also include "youth"?  E.g. the little girl
> (na`arah qetannah) captured by the Arameans (2
> Kings 5:2) - I think it's her youth, not sexual experience
> or marital status or eligibility that's
> the point. We shouldn't be trying to prove anything by
> etymology anyway.

That's partly my point, John. I regret that people have assumed that what I've given as the *etymology*
of the word _na`arah_ is necessarily also the _meaning_ of this word. We do need to destinguish between
the two. The word _na`arah_ is derived from root N(R which denotes "inexperience". However, the word
itself doesn't always have that meaning now.

In the case of _na`arah q:Tannah_, the author obviously found it necessary to supply the adjective
_q:Tannah_ to elucidate exactly what kind of _na`arah_ they were talking about. The word _na`arah_ is
certainly a legal term, but it's not necessarily always used in a legal sense. More often than not,
though, I think the word does imply the legal status also - ie, how the wider community understood a
person's status.

> Na`arah may usually be used of a single girl, but it doesn't
> "mean" single girl, as is clear from the fact that it is
> used of the Levite's concubine (Judges 19),

A concubine, though, is not a "wife". A concubine is not "married" to her master, so technically, she
is still "single". Nevertheless, you're right in suggesting that the word may be used in Jdg 19 simply
to denote "girl".

Best regards!
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GEORGE ATHAS
 Dept of Semitic Studies,
 University of Sydney
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Tel Dan Inscription Website is at
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