[b-hebrew] red heifer

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Dec 22 07:53:48 EST 2004

On 22/12/2004 09:14, George F Somsel wrote:

> ...
>I think you are correct so far as the Hebrew is concerned, but you may be
>mistaken in regard to the English.  1 Sam 6.7 reads
>W:(aT.fH QfXW. Wa(a:GfLfH Xa:Df$fH )eXfT W.$:T."Y PfRoWT (fLoT )a:$eR
>Lo)_(fLfH (a:L"YHeM (oL Wa)a:SaR:T.eM )eT_HaP.fRoWT B.f(a:GfLfH ***
>WaHa:$"YBoTeM B.:N"YHeM M")aXa:R"YHeM HaB.fY:TfH ***
>Thus it is clear that in Hebrew the PRH could have calved.  My English
>dictionary (which could stand to be updated) has the definition for
>"A young cow, especially one that has not yet given birth to a calf."
This is the definition in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the 
English Language: Fourth Edition.  2000, at 
http://www.bartleby.com/61/57/H0125700.html. But I note that English 
translations tend to use "cow" (or "kine") rather than "heifer" at 1 
Samuel 6:7, perhaps because "heifer" is considered inappropriate for a 
cow which has calved.

>By saying "especially" it would indicate that a young cow which had
>calved was not totally excluded.

Not totally excluded, maybe, but not generally included. I would expect 
that a dairy farmer, for whom the distinction between milch cows and 
heifers is a very important one, would soon find fault with a 
translation "heifer" in 1 Samuel 6:7.

But there are potentially tricky issues here. In Azerbaijani farming 
language, a one year old sheep cannot be called with the regular word 
for a lamb, but a special technical term must be used. But this 
technical term is unknown to city folk, who would use the regular word 
for a lamb. This meant that we had to choose in our translation between 
what was an error to the country folk and what was not understood by the 
city folk. There may be similar tensions in English, for example if the 
red heifer is called a "cow", for the sake of people who don't know the 
word "heifer", if the animal has clearly not given birth.

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

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