FW: Cover your feet, please!

Jonathan D. Safren yon_saf at bezeqint.net
Sun Feb 18 14:47:26 EST 2001

L'at is something like "cover", "hide". There's the expression la'at et
panayw, "he covered his face". So bal"at would mean "undercover", i.e.,
"secretly". This without a dictionary handy.
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
44905 Israel
----- Original Message -----
From: "Leeroy Malachinski" <Leeroy at cool.dk>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Sunday, February 18, 2001 1:20 AM
Subject: Re: FW: Cover your feet, please!

> In an earlier post Dan Wagner quoted an interesting problem. The problem
> concerned the meaning of the expression "to cover the feet" (mesik hu et
> raglav, Judg. 3:24 and lehasek et raglav, 1 Sam 24:3). In neither of the
> contexts is it 100% clear what is meant. Let me state up front that I do
> not believe there is enough data to know exactly what the expression
> means. Usually it is understood to mean "to relieve oneself" but in the
> aforementioned post it was argued that it might mean "to take a nap".
> >Some commentators have attempted to explain the etymology of "cover your
> >feet" by saying that a man's long robes would literally cover his feet
> >when he squatted down to do his business.
> This explanation could suffer from the problem of assuming that people
> would have pants or at least one kind of clothing for the upper body and
> one for the lower. Thus, when they would cover their feet they would pull
> down the lower body garment which would then cover their feet. It seems to
> me more likely that people wore some kind of tunic. Thus, when they would
> have to relieve themselves they would pull up that tunic. In that case
> they would actually "uncover their feet". In Ruth 3 we hear that Ruth
> should go and uncover Boaz' feet. Now, if to uncover the feet is the exact
> opposite of covering the feet, these passages might in fact throw some
> light on the passages in question. It seems to me that also here it is
> unclear what exactly is going on. :(  Certainly, she is not waking him up.
> While it could be understood that  the purpose would be to know him - in
> the biblical sense - again it does not seem to be what is going on.
> A case for sleeping should not be rejected a priori, however. For
> instance, whatever the expression in Ruth means, sleep is indeed present.
> Another detail in the 1 Sam 4 story says that David secretly cut off the
> corner of Saul's robe. The word for secretly is "lat" (24:4). In Judg.
> 4:21 Yael is also secretly ("lat") sneaking up on Sissera who is sleeping
> or at least lying down. And again in Ruth 3:7, Ruth is sneaking  secretly
> ("lat") up on the sleeping Boaz. So perhaps "lat" has something to do with
> sleeping, although not all occurrences include the theme of sleep. What is
> also interesting is that the root "lot" can mean "to cover", so perhaps it
> is a wordplay in all these instances.
> None of this, however, is conclusive (not to say highly speculative) and
> the expression might easily mean to relieve oneself or something else.
> Here one could note that in both the Judg. 3 and 1 Sam 24 Saul and Eglon
> seek to (or are thought) "to cover their feet" in a cool place and in
> privacy. This meaning is how tradition seems to have understood it (Some
> versions, and Jewish commentators).
> It would be interesting to hear if anyone know of a similar expression in
> a cognate language.
> I too would love to hear other interpretations.
> All the best,
> Leeroy
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