[b-hebrew] Re: Birthing stones

MarianneLuban at aol.com MarianneLuban at aol.com
Fri Aug 6 00:02:50 EDT 2004

In a message dated 8/5/2004 8:13:21 PM Pacific Daylight Time, 
huyxh8s02 at sneakemail.com writes:

> The word is 'oben, and it appears in only one other verse, Jeremiah 18:3, 
> where it refers to a potters' wheel.  It is plural (actually dual) in both 
> verses.   A potters' wheel is naturally plural, since there is the wheel the 
> clay sits on and a lower wheel that the potter turns with his feet.
> The translation of Exodus 1:16 in Friedman's The Bible with Sources 
> Revealed, is: "and he said, "When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you look at the 
> two stones, if it's a boy then kill him, and if it's a girl then she'll 
> live"."
> The KJV also has the notion that oben has something to do with 
> birthing-stools.   I do not know where either the idea that 'oben means stools, or the 
> idea that it means stones, come from.   So I would say that 'oben refers to 
> something of which there are two, which you look at to decide if a baby is a boy 
> or a girl, and which may have some similarity or connection with the double 
> wheels of a potters' wheel.

Since all this took place in Egypt, there can be a connection.  It is taken 
for granted that the Egyptian "birthing chair" was fashioned of bricks, but now 
I have looked at it, there are several words for "brick" and it is not even 
certain that they do mean "brick".  I have got to do research on where the 
saying "on the bricks" comes from and exactly what the Egyptian words are.  
Anyhow, dried mud bricks were the most common building material in Egypt.  Even the 
palaces of the pharaohs were made of them.  Stone was reserved for things that 
were meant to last forever--like temples, statues and the various stele the 
kings erected that had something important to say which people were intended to 
read for all time.  So, we'll see.  I never heard anything about "two stones" 
being connected with birth in AE--although, needless to say, there is much we 
don't know about the customs there.  However, a potter's wheel was definitely 
connected to birth there.  It was the god, Khnum, who fashioned mortals on a 
potter's wheel in the mythology--and this was a kind of metaphor, too.
In the "Admonitions of Ipuwer", a papyrus text, someone by that name tells an 
unidentified pharaoh of the terrible situation in Egypt (in case he hadn't 
heard, in his relative isolation).  People were starving and everything was 
topsy-turvy, no more law being in the land.  There is the line "Why, truly, women 
are dried up and cannot conceive.  Khnum cannot fashion mortals because of the 
state of the land."  There are many other such references to Khnum and his 
wheel, as well.  That is all I know for now.

Marianne Luban

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