sin -> samekh in OT/HB

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Thu Mar 1 13:46:33 EST 2001

This morning I happened to be reading Judges 12:6, about how the Ephraimites
would say "Sibboleth" (with samekh) instead of "Shibboleth" (with shin, or
originally sin?). This is an interesting indication of dialect diversity at
an early time.

Here are some examples of sin/samekh alternation (found in BDB, in all cases
the alternation is in the first root letter because that was easy to find!):

&:DIRFH (Kings, Chronicles) from root SDR (Job)
&WG (2Sa, Job, Is) = SWG
&IYG (1Ki) = SIYG
&"+ (Hosea) = S"+ (Ps)
&WK (Job, Hosea) = SWK (Job)
M:&UKFH (Prov) = M:SUWKFH (Micah)
&WR (Hosea) = SWR
&A(AR, &:(FRFH (Isaiah, Nahum, Job) = SA(AR, S:(FRAH
&PN (Deut) = SPN
&PQ (Job) = SPQ
&EPEQ (Job) from root SPQ

There is also at least one sin/tsade alternation:

YI&:XFQ (Jer, Ps, Amos) = YIC:XFQ

It is interesting that several of these less usual forms are found in Hosea
and Job. This may well suggest that these forms reflect dialect diversity.
But the evidence does not suggest a clear shift in one direction rather than
the other. Perhaps (as the Shibboleth evidence also suggests) the
sin/shin/samekh distinction was early lost in northern Israel and so the
letters were used interchangeably after that.

Presumably sin and shin were distinguished in writing only later, by the
Masoretes, according to the pronunciation current in their time.

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at]
Sent: 28 February 2001 22:17
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: sin -> samekh in OT/HB

I've just been reading E.Y. Kutscher's analysis of the Hebrew of 1QIsaA to
get more linguistic understanding of the problem of dialects implied in the
DSS and came across a statement he made that samekh (s) for sin ($), which
is to be noted in 1QIsaA, "already appears in the Bible, and is a common
phenomenon in Rabbincal Hebrew." His footnote here was to some work which I
couldn't locate. Does anyone know of examples in the OT/HB of $ -> s?



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