[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53:8 lamo

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Dec 20 07:49:14 EST 2004

On 20/12/2004 12:31, Vadim Cherny wrote:

>>>To find out the
>>>meaning, we need to establish the etymology. ...
>>No, no, NO!!! Meaning is not established by etymology. Meaning is
>>established by usage in context.
>Everywhere but in Hebrew and to some extent in Chinese. Of course, modern
>languages, for one, deviated from etymological meaning, and for another,
>accumulated huge contexts. This does not work with Tanakh, ...

So, are you claiming that Hebrew was preserved by divine intervention 
from the processes which affected all other human languages? Hebrew 
already had centuries, maybe millennia of use before the Bible was 
written and had plenty of time to accumulate "huge contexts" and 
semantic shift. There are clear examples of semantic shift within 
biblical Hebrew, just as in English and all modern languages, including 
I am sure Chinese. One semantic shift within the Hebrew Bible itself is 
with the word SARIYS, which clearly refers to castrated eunuchs in 
Esther, but is used of married officials in Genesis e.g. 39:1. Perhaps 
others can suggest Hebrew words whose meanings contrast clearly with 
their apparent etymologies.

Well, `edut which we have been discussing is certainly an example of 
this if it is really to be derived from `wd "repeat".

>... where we have a
>handful of lamo, and where, as in isaiah 53:8, it is the context that
>depends on the meaning of lamo. Again, we have so little of the clear
>context that the relation is the opposite: etymological meaning of the word
>allows us to clarify the context. In this case, etymological meaning of lamo
>as lhemo shows that nega is to people, not to the character.
In extreme cases where we don't know enough from the context and the 
regular usage, we may have to look at the etymology as the best guide we 
have - although that is not much use when the etymology is disputable, 
as here. In this case the better guide is that lamo usually has a plural 
or collective meaning, which makes a strictly singular referent in this 
case less likely. But there is simply insufficient evidence to 
completely rule out a singular referent.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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