2 Ki 2:23-24

Charles David Isbell cisbell at home.com
Mon Jul 16 14:55:34 EDT 2001

Dear David,
Please note that I did not argue that ALL vocabulary variants are
meaningless.  I cited merely one example where two words refer to the same
person at the same time in his age.  This indicates to me that a sharp wall
of distinction cannot be built between na`ar and yeled, specifically if one
imagines such a referential wall to be at work in every instance.  I have
written a good deal about the structure of various biblical texts, trying to
notice the use of vocabulary, formal differences, and even synonyms that
narratives exhibit.  You are right that this is not an either-or.  Each
passage deserves to be treated on its own.  My objection to Shoshanna's
explanation was that in giving precise definitions of the two words about
which the original question was raised in 2 Kgs 2:23-24, one is [a]
introducing rabbinic distinctions back into a biblical text, and [b]
ignoring the possibility of simple good style.  I don't think biblical words
can be defined from dictionaries or from a later corpus of Hebrew material.
We are talking about two passages [Kings and Exodus] where any precise
distinction between na`ar and yeled seems difficult to sustain simply
because in each context, both terms are used to describe the same males at
one age in their lives.  In other words, there is no time for growth between
term one and term two in the text, they are describing the same people on
the same day of their lives.  I am well aware of the Talmudic discussions in
which the rabbis made careful distinctions among such terms to set into
place rules governing various levels of halakhic responsibility.  None of
these discussions has any relevance for the BIBLICAL function of the terms.
Dear Shoshanna,
I am well aware of the belief that you are articulating about the precision
of the Torah and the idea that every word, yea every letter, has a specific
meaning.  I respect your adherence to such a belief.
Charles David Isbell
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Stabnow" <dstabno at lifeway.com>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2001 12:21 PM
Subject: Re: 2 Ki 2:23-24

> > Charles David Isbell wrote: What is wrong with the assumption that the
> author was simply trying to avoid monotony, and used synonyms to make the
> narrative flow?
> > Shoshanna Walker wrote: In the Torah, every single word is there for a
> reason, even some words are missing letters, etc. - it is all very
> We ought neither to dismiss too quickly word variation as meaningless, nor
> go to absurd lengths to find differences in nuance that the author did not
> intend.  If there is a difference in nuance between ne'arim qetanim and
> yeladim that the author intended, then bring it out in translation and
> interpretation.  If they are essentially synonymous in this context, and
> the variation is merely stylistic, then leave it at that.  The danger
> be to approach the text with one of two extreme presuppositions: ALL
> variation is meaningful, or ALL variation is merely stylistic.  While most
> scholars have tendencies toward one or the other, we should all be aware
> both viewpoints and willing to investigate their proposals.
> Dave Stabnow
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