[b-hebrew] 'Prophesying' 1 Samuel 18:10

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Tue Jul 6 23:46:28 EDT 2004

Dear Brian

>There seem to be two different, though related, problems here.
>First, is the question I originally raised as to the meaning of the 
>word NB) in the Hithpael in this verse.
>Secondly, we have the problem of 'an evil spirit from the Lord'.
>In relation to the first problem, I am looking to find a word in 
>Manobo (the Philippine language that I'm trying to translate into) 
>that carries the idea of ecstatic speaking in the style of a 
>prophet. At present I have not found a suitable word that really 
>fits this idea. I will try to research if there is another word when 
>I next return to the village where I can ask several language 
>The words that I have as options so far are;
>'tagna' which means to prophesy with the basic idea of predicting an outcome.
>'tagna-tagna' which means to pretend to 'tagna', or to predict 
>without any real certainty of the outcome being fulfilled.
>'babansagon' which means to shout / rage
>'pabailan' which means to act like a spirit priest
>'nangon-nangon' which means to give a discourse / preach
>Any ideas of how I might use one of these?

HH: In the Niphal it occurs 87 times, and in the Hithpael 28. I 
mistakenly said earlier that the Qal was the standard form; I mean 
the Niphal. The word generally means to speak for God but it usually 
involves foretelling. Is there any way that you could modify the verb 
somewhat the way NIV added the word "frantic" to the word 
"prophesying" at 1 Kings 18:29? That is, could you add other words? 
The Hithpael of NB) often seems to involve continuing activity. The 
speaking is ongoing, perhaps for hours and hours. Waltke and O'Connor 
give "appear as a prophet" as a meaning for the Hithpael of NB) 
(though not necessarily at this verse). Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar says 
that the Hithpael of NB) means "to act in an excited manner like a 
prophet, to rave." Perhaps to give the feel of it you could say 
something like "prophesying in a wild way."

>In relation to the second problem of 'RUAX RA`AH ME'ET YHWH' I am 
>struggling with the concept of this (as have scholars for 
>generations). In the 'Bible Speaks Today' commentary on Samuel, Mary 
>Evans sees this as a way of expressing 'episodes of bleak 
>depression' which God sent to Saul, seeing God as the ultimate 
>source of everything that comes into our lives whether good or bad. 
>In Manobo, there is no generic word for a spirit. A person has a 
>spirit or 'spiritual double' as it is described in some 
>anthropological textbooks, which is what leaves the body when one 
>dies, and is what is seen in dreams. There are also demons, and 
>there is God's Spirit.
>On the other hand, the seat of emotions in Manobo is the breath, 
>where in English it is mostly seen as being the heart.  So, if one 
>were to translate the idea of a depression sent by God to Saul into 
>Manobo it would read something like 'a bad breath sent by God'. 
>(Nothing to do with halitosis!)
>So far in my translation I have been using such a phrase, with a 
>footnote explaining that it could also be interpreted to mean  'a 
>demon from God'. I don't know though whether this is a legitimate 
>translation. I was influenced unduly perhaps by the similarity of 
>'RUAX' in Hebrew meaning both 'breath' and 'spirit' and the Manobo 
>word which means both 'breath' and 'emotions'.

HH: Keil felt that both in Judges 9:23 and in 1 Sam 16:14 it is a 
demon. See the NET Bible on Judges 9:23:

God sent a spirit to stir up hostility45 between Abimelech and the 
leaders of Shechem. He made the leaders of Shechem disloyal to 

45tn Heb "an evil spirit." A nonphysical, spirit being is in view, 
like the one who volunteered to deceive Ahab (1 Kgs 22:21). The 
traditional translation, "evil spirit," implies the being is 
inherently wicked, perhaps even demonic, but this is not necessarily 
the case. The Hebrew adjective hu*r* (r*u*h) can have a nonethical 
sense, "harmful; dangerous; calamitous." When modifying j^Wr (rW^j, 
"spirit") it may simply indicate that the being in view causes harm 
to the object of God's judgment. G. F. Moore (Judges [ICC], 253) here 
refers to a "mischief-making spirit."

On 1 Sam 16:14 the NET Bible has:

16:14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had turned away from Saul, and an 
evil spirit21 from the Lord tormented him.

21tn Or "an injurious spirit." The phrase need not refer to an evil, 
demonic spirit. The Hebrew word translated "evil" may refer to the 
character of the spirit or to its effect upon Saul. If the latter, 
another translation option might be "a mischief-making spirit."

HH: So the NET Bible is internally inconsistent in its notes due to 
the different views of different translators.

HH: The NIV Study Bible says about Judg 9:23 that it perhaps it is a 
spirit of distrust and bitterness. It says, "The Hebrew for 'spirit' 
is often used to describe an attitude or disposition." So it is the 
opposite of NET Bible on this verse. On 1 Sam 16:14ff., the notes 
includes these words:

"evil spirit from the Lord." This statement and similar ones in 
Scripture indicate that evil spirits are subject to God's control and 
operate only within divinely determined boundaries."

HH: So the NIV Study Bible, understanding demonic spirits in 1 Sam 
16:14, also takes the opposite position of the NET Bible on this 
passage, but in the other direction from the first time. My own 
thinking is that demonic spirits were probably active in both 
situations, in Judges 9:23 and 1 Sam 16:14. The wording is similar to 
that in 1 Kings 22:22, where it is a demonic spirit who influences 
people, probably suggesting evil thoughts which the prophets find 
enticing. A demonic spirit could do the same to create hostility 
between two groups (Jdg 9:23) or to create extreme depression (1 Sam 

					Harold Holmyard

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list